What is the Best Condo in Clarendon? A Comprehensive Ranking of the Top Clarendon Condos.

Clarendon Condos Metro

Note: This is part one of a four-part series that will take a look at the best condos along Arlington’s Orange Line. 

Over the past 10-15 years, Clarendon’s used car dealerships and sparsely-populated retail lots have made way for large residential buildings. While Clarendon does receive some occasional flack for having mixed-use developments and residential communities that look alike, the Clarendon condos that we will be discussing are in fact much different as we will soon find out. It is important to remember that most residential buildings in Clarendon are actually apartment complexes. For this article, we are going to be focusing in on just the condo communities in Clarendon.

We have already gone in-depth on overviews of the condos that call Clarendon home, but we have yet to match the condo communities up head-to-head. Until now. 

The eligible communities are Cardinal House, Clarendon 1021, Clarendon 3131, The Residences at Lyon Hill, The Residences at Station Square, The Hartford, and The Phoenix. Yes, a few of these condos are just outside what many would consider to be Clarendon proper, but since they are still in the vicinity and are just a short walk from the Clarendon Metro Station, they will be included. 

The rankings are broken down into five categories: location, amenities, ambiance, floor plans, and condo fees. Each community will receive a score based on a 10-point scale. The scores will be tallied and averaged to get a final score out of 10. The higher the better.

Without further ado, let’s get into the best condos in Clarendon:

7. Cardinal House (6.2/10)

Cardinal House

Location

Cardinal House is about a 15-minute walk to the Clarendon Metro. Strictly from a front door-to-Metro platform location basis, this condo will be the least convenient. That’s not to say that the location is bad or trouble-some otherwise. Cardinal House is right across the street from Giant Food, Starbucks, CVS Pharmacy, The Italian Store (of course), and a few other shops. Cardinal House is also across the street from Lyon Village Park which flaunts a spray-ground, two tennis courts, a basketball court, and a play ground. Even though Metro is going through some tough times right now, the closer a community is to the Metro, the better. Cardinal House’s score reflects this sentiment. 3/10

Amenities

This score would likely have been a 10 if it was not for one specific item. Washer and dryer are not in-unit, and instead, these appliances are located in the common laundry room on each floor. If you can get over this one aspect, then you might be pleasantly surprised at the amenities offered at Cardinal House. The community has a fitness center, an outdoor pool, and a community room, to go along with on-site management. There is also a plenty of surface parking available. The amenities within the community are almost the full package, but the washer/dryer and surface parking instead of garage parking knocks Cardinal House’s score down a few notches. 7/10

Ambiance

Cardinal House is a well-established community with a great reputation. Recently, the community put forth a rental cap to limit the number of units that are being rented out. There have not been significant issues; it is more of a preemptive measure to ensure Cardinal House does not turn into a renter-heavy community. Renovated common spaces like the lobby and community room help to encourage buyers that are maybe looking for more modern condos in Clarendon, without paying Clarendon prices. Hallways are long but at only 6 floors, you can explore the building and find stairwells that lead to shortcuts if you are perturbed by a longer lead-up to your unit door. Since the community is located further from the Metro, there are much more green areas and the campus’ footprint is a lot larger than some other high-rises. Inside the community residents enjoy the solid construction between units. Outside, residents enjoy a much greener atmosphere since the community is located a bit further from the Metro, the benefit is more trees, more green space, and a larger campus footprint that will not feel crammed up against other surrounding buildings. 6/10

Floor Plans

I have no qualms with the one-bedrooms layouts at Cardinal House. Even the studios at 424-488 square feet are fine as we are starting to see the micro-unit trend begin (although I would never call these micro-units). The issues I have with the floor plans at Cardinal House are solely on the two-bedroom layouts, none of which top over 1,000 square feet. The two-bedroom layouts are going to range from 866 square feet to 994 square feet, which is a bit small in my book. Another downside is that the two-bedrooms only have one bathroom. Completely reasonable for a community that was originally built in 1959, but it is still a detractor. The layouts themselves are not necessarily bad. They all feature great closet space and usually a dining and living space for the (slightly) larger units. Kitchens will be small. An open kitchen will be really tough, if not impossible to find. Overall, one bedrooms rule Cardinal House. Two bedrooms are extremely affordable and can suit some purchasers, but with only one bathroom, a closed-off kitchen, and floor plans under 1,000 square feet, two-bedroom floor plans may be leaving a little more to be desired. 5/10

Condo Fees

Cardinal House wins condo fees. The community boasts some of the lowest condo fees in Arlington. The fees include all utilities so at first glance, they are nothing special, but dig a little deeper and we find a community association that has been able to upgrade, renovate, and provide stability all while keeping condo fees relatively low. Presently, one-bedroom condo fees come in around the mid $400’s, while two bedrooms are in the high $400’s. For the amount of amenities provided, the age of the community, the price of Cardinal House condos for sale, and the condo fee price per square foot, Cardinal House leads the pack in having and maintaining low condo fees. 10/10

6. Clarendon 3131  (6.4/10)

Clarendon 3131 Condo

Location

Clarendon 3131 is located at the corner of Irving Street and 9th Road and is two blocks from the Metro. Although seemingly close to Metro, this condo is firmly entrenched in the quiet Lyon Park neighborhood. Though Lyon Park is seen as a fantastic location, this part of Clarendon is a bit more inconvenient for condo owners and renters. Whereas most condos in Arlington are located along main strips of busy streets lined with restaurants and retail, Clarendon 3131 isolated from the rest of Clarendon. The location has a suburban vibe and even with its proximity to Metro, this condominium is not as well-positioned as it may seem. 7/10

Amenities

Featuring zero amenities, Clarendon 3131 puts up a goose egg in this category. For the rare condo purchaser that does not desire a single amenity, then you have found your match. But for seemingly everyone else, 3131 will fall just a bit short in this group. Officially, the ‘amenity’ listed for the community is the elevator. You get no points for an elevator. 0/10

Ambiance

Clarendon 3131 is still looking to define itself. The two townhouses in the community along with the suburban locale say it should have a relaxed atmosphere. But with the Clarendon Metro a six-minute walk away, residents still get to enjoy all that Clarendon has to offer without some of the noise that comes with living in the heart of the neighborhood. Alas, with only 14 units (16 if you count the two townhouses) and no amenities, the ambiance is much quieter and usually attracts a different clientele than most Clarendon condos. 7/10

Floor Plans

A majority of the condos at Clarendon 3131 will be of the two-bedroom and den variety. There are three units that do not have a den but even those layouts come in at a spacious 1,125 square feet. All units will come with a balcony and feature open kitchen layouts. The only downsides are that the two bedrooms will be located right next to one another. Some may prefer to have the living room split the bedrooms if there is a roommate situation or if there is a little person in the other bedroom. And another downside is that the master bathroom only has a shower, but no tub. There is a bathtub in the second bathroom, but none in the master bath. 9/10

Condo Fees

With zero amenities, you would expect a minuscule condo fee. While Clarendon 3131’s fee is low, one would expect it to be a bit lower. The double-edged sword here is that if you preach a low condo fee, you are putting yourself at risk should any assessments, unpaid water bills, litigation, or other unforeseen expenses come up. As of 2015, the condo fees run about $450/month. Clarendon 3131’s condo fees are about exactly where you would expect them to be. 9/10

5. The Residences at Lyon Hill (6.8/10)

Residences at Lyon Hill

Location

Situated right next to Cardinal House, The Residences at Lyon Hill also suffers location-wise by being a 15-minute walk away from the Metro. That being said, it could be argued that those buyers looking for two-bedrooms that start in the high $700,000’s and three-bedrooms into the millions do not put as much emphasis on being on top of Metro. Whatever the case may be, Lyon Hill is still a long walk to the shops and restaurants of Clarendon. Let’s just say that if this was a score based on proximity to The Italian Store, Lyon Hill would have a much higher ranking. 4/10

Amenities

Lyon Hill’s amenities consist of a small exercise room and an outdoor patio area. The community totals just 18 residences so the limited number of amenities makes sense. This condominium is much more low-key and private than many of the other Clarendon condos. The emphasis is put more into the quality of the residences, rather than focusing on community-oriented attributes. Amenities will not attract you to The Residences at Lyon Hill, but the amenities the community does feature are a nice added benefit of living at 2801 Lee Highway. 3/10

Ambiance

The most expensive Clarendon condos can be found at Lyon Hill. There is one exception at The Phoenix, but by in large, The Residences at Lyon Hill command the most money when condos come available for sale. Floor plans start at 1,400 for two-bedrooms and work their way up to 2,200 square feet for three-bedroom layouts. The interior of the community feels like a lavish hotel. And the insides of residences are nicely laid-out with open kitchens, dens, formal living rooms, large columns that separate rooms, and high ceilings among many other exquisite touches. Lyon Hill exudes luxury from the moment you walk in the front door. 10/10

Floor Plans

As mentioned earlier, Lyon Hill features solely two and three-bedroom floor plans. The main takeaway from Lyon Hill floor plans are that they feel more like that of a single-family home, rather than of a condominium. Even the smaller layouts will still feature almost 1,500 square feet and two bedrooms. Many two-bedroom condos in Clarendon will top out around 1,000 square feet. Floor plans at Lyon Hill are large, feature multiple rooms instead of a single general area for living and dining, and the layouts also have fantastic bathrooms. The master baths at Lyon Hill are not on the same tier as Turnberry Tower’s opulent marble bathrooms, but they are close in terms of layout, size, and (scaled-down) features. Bathrooms feature a double vanity sink, a separate shower and tub, and are spacious, but without feeling like they are stealing square feet from the living areas. 9/10

Condo Fees

Larger floor plans command a higher condo fee and Lyon Hill is no exception. However, on a price per square foot basis, Lyon Hill’s fees are reasonable. As of this article, the most recent sale in Lyon Hill was a three-bedroom unit at 2,100 square feet with a condo fee listed at $930 per month. That breaks down to $.44 per square foot. Compare that to a current Odyssey listing of a two-bedroom with 1,635 square feet and a condo fee of $905/month and we see The Odyssey’s fee accounts for $.55 per square foot. Sure, you get more amenities in The Odyssey. But there’s also hundreds of more units. We could go on showing examples of similar units but this one example goes to show that Lyon Hill’s condo fees are completely reasonable for the amount of square feet that are given to residences. 8/10

4. The Hartford (7/10)

The Hartford Clarendon

Location

Located at 1200 North Hartford Street, The Hartford is in the closest proximity of all Clarendon condos to the Clarendon Metro station. The building gets high marks not only because of its vicinity to the Metro, but also because it has a buffer from the bars and restaurants along Wilson Boulevard. Set one building back from Wilson Blvd, the community is much quieter than surrounding buildings that receive more foot traffic and inevitably more noise. The most noise that The Hartford will receive is from the James L. Hunter Dog Park which is located directly behind the building. The only reason The Hartford does not receive a perfect 10 is because of the occasional canine noise and because of its location relative to Trader Joe’s and the Metro. If you want to get your groceries after work (assuming you are exiting the Clarendon Metro), you have to walk south on Highland St to get to Trader Joe’s before doubling back and re-tracing your steps to get home. All-in-all, the location is ideal at The Hartford. 9/10

Amenities

Similar to Clarendon 3131, The Hartford features no overt amenities. That being said, the community scores a trifecta in this category simply because of its location to the Clarendon Dog Park. Yup, that’s right. The dog park is almost like an adapted amenity for residents of The Hartford. The park is located on the same block and best of all, there is no fee passed on for the residents to use it since the park and condo are independent of one another (compared to a situation where a ‘dog run’ or dog park is a condo amenity and therefore factored into the condo fee and yearly budget). Of course, Arlington County makes you pay indirectly for a $2 million dollar dog park, but maybe that is for a separate article… 3/10

Ambiance 8/10

The Hartford is a small, quiet building that houses just 70 residences. Compared with larger communities in Clarendon that hold up to 400 units, The Hartford has much more of a boutique feel to the community. There are no long hallways and the likelihood of running into a handful of your neighbors that are congregating in the lobby every time you exit the building is slim. Due to the proximity to the dog park, the community is amiable towards man’s best friend. Dogs are commonplace at The Hartford. A quiet and serene atmosphere bodes well for The Hartford in this category as the community puts up a solid 8 out of 10. 8/10

Floor Plans 6/10

The floor plans at The Hartford are functional and provide a good variety between one, two, and three-bedroom layouts. There are not many discernible characteristics regarding the layouts that would make you form a strong opinion one way or the other. All one-bedrooms are going to be 650 square feet. Two-bedrooms are either going to be 925 square feet or 1,110 square feet. And three-bedrooms are going to come in at 1,300 square feet. Points are taken away because the kitchens can be a little on the smaller side. Points are also taken away because the living room can appear somewhat narrow for floor plans that feature a gas fire place in the main living space 6/10

Condo Fees 9/10

For the amount of units at The Hartford, monthly condo fees are a reasonable amount. Currently one-bedrooms pay around $330 while two-bedrooms fork over around $500 per month. Fees are going to vary on the square footage of the specific unit and they may change in the future. You are paying a decent amount of money for receiving no amenities but this is not necessarily a bad thing. Reserves need to be built up, and once there is a healthy amount of funds stowed away (there might already be), then the fees could go down or upgrades could happen without calling on the residents to pay a special assessment. 9/10

3. The Residences at Station Square – (7.4/10)

Station Square Condos

Location

Station Square has the best location of all Clarendon condos. Located between Clarendon Blvd, Fillmore St, 11th St, and Garfield St, the three buildings that make up The Residences at Station Square all have a prime location. At Station Square, you are equidistant to almost every amenity in the neighborhood. Some other condos in the group are more on the outer rim of Clarendon so while you may be close to one specific amenity in that instance, the rest of the neighborhood is much further away. One potential downside of Station Square’s location is the noise from surrounding bars like Bracket Room, but this factor was not significant enough to alter Station Square’s perfect score. 10/10

Amenities

From the outset, it appears that Station Square has a superb amenity package. The community features on-site management, an outdoor pool, a package room, and a community room. However, since all the amenities are located in the 1201 N Garfield St building (here’s a quick video tour of the Station Square amenities along with a 2 BR floor plan), the services are a little less convenient than usual. Add that to the fact that there is no gym and no rooftop pool and Station Square amenities get knocked down a few points. The community does have a pool and owners can get a discount on a gym membership at the Gold’s Gym that is located in the 1220 N Fillmore St building. 6/10

Ambiance

The benefit of having three separate buildings is that the community feels much smaller in reality. Over 300 residents call Station Square home but since the community is split into thirds, the feeling of living in a behemoth condominium community is avoided. Station Square joins The Phoenix as the only two condos in Clarendon that have retail on the ground floor. Depending on which building you are located in, you could get a substantial amount of foot traffic and some restaurant and bar noise. Although seeing how the community is located in the heart of Clarendon, residents are choosing to live in a high-density area, and foot traffic along with some extra city noise are probably not the biggest concerns.  8/10

Floor Plans

Station Square floor plans feature tons of variety, some larger layouts, and a few loft-style units. Loft in this sense refers to higher ceilings and exposed duct work. Many apartments in Clarendon can seem cookie-cutter so it is nice to have this loft-style variety. Station Square features many condos that will have dens, half bathrooms, fireplaces, balconies, and other features that can be a little more tricky to find. Floor plans range from about 500 square feet to around 1,800 square feet so there is just about a layout for everyone in the community. 8/10

Condo Fees

The current pitfall of Station Square are the condo fees. The low monthly fees were once seen as advantageous until an incident involving an unpaid water bill to Arlington County arose. In 2015, it was made apparent that the community allegedly owed almost $1 million dollars to the County for an outstanding water bill (apparently, it was negotiated down from there). The community has since hired a new manager and elected new board members to ensure that an issue like this will not happen again in the future. It is unclear the amount of reserves the community has or if any special assessments will be levied on the owners. Be sure you are working with your local real estate professional to be up-to-date on any changes to condo fees, extra assessments, and any recent happenings that are documented in the Minutes section of the condo documents. Condominium associations work to ensure that rare, large expenditures can be covered by the Reserve Funds so it will be interesting to see how the community moves forward in the next few years. 5/10

2. The Phoenix – (8.4/10)

the phoenix arlington va

Location

The Phoenix is located two blocks south of the Metro along Highland Street and is just south of Washington Boulevard. Proximity to Metro notwithstanding, The Phoenix does struggle with a few location nuances. The community is located right next door to Fire Station 4. Yet, a more common noise complaint from residences seems to be coming from the loading dock of the adjacent post office that runs at all hours of the night. Clarendon is city-living and noise is to be expected. Be sure to understand your tier’s relative position in the community and take note of neighboring buildings. These may not be issues depending on what side of the building you are on so be sure to take a few extra minutes to take in the sights and sounds of the community. 7/10

Amenities

The amenities at The Phoenix are almost perfect. The only thing that you miss out on is 24-7 front desk concierge. Every other expected amenity is accounted for. The community features a fitness center, library, courtyard, conference room, on-site management, front desk concierge, a theatre room, a party room, and an outdoor pool. The amenities are in great condition and should suffice for the majority of residents and potential residents. 9/10

Ambiance

The Phoenix features about 180 residences on 11 stories making it a moderately-sized condominium community. The lobby is upscale and welcoming and while some have said that the lobby design leaves something to be desired, most will find no issues with the lobby entrance. Each floor contains around 20 units excluding the first level which is reserved solely for some of the community’s amenities. No first floor units is seen as an advantage as these residences usually fetch lower re-sale prices and can be more difficult to find a suitable tenant. The Phoenix combines upscale living with convenience and quality. 9/10

Floor Plans

What’s great about The Phoenix’s floor plans are not that they range from 500 to 2,000 square feet. It’s not that there is a good variety between studios, one bedrooms, and two bedrooms. And it’s not that there are different varieties of similar layouts. But it’s small touches inside each condo that make these floor plans excellent. Most condos will have a breakfast bar to optimize the kitchen and dining space. Balconies will be found throughout the community. And if a condo does not have a balcony, over-sized windows take its place and flood the living area with an abundance of natural light. Points are deducted because a few floor plans can feel a little narrow in the living room. 9/10

Condo Fees

For the numerous amount of amenities that residents are receiving while living at The Phoenix, the condo fee has remained at a modest fee. Sometimes we will see fees spike, or even increase swiftly over the course of a few years, but that is not the case at The Phoenix. Even though it is a newer building, the community appears to have a grasp on a reasonable amount to charge its residents. Low condo fees are not always a good thing as the Reserves can be depleted quickly if there has been a history of lower fees. The Phoenix is currently situated in a nice middle-ground where the fees are not too low where it could cause concern for the Reserves, and not too high where the fees would be turning away potential buyers while capping sales prices. 8/10

1. Clarendon 1021  (9/10)

Clarendon 1021 exterior

Location

Clarendon 1021’s location (1021 N Garfield Street) provides the convenience of being centrally-located without the throngs of foot traffic. Yes, part of the community is alongside Washington Blvd, but a majority of the community is located on the much quieter streets of Fillmore, 11th Street, and of course, Garfield Street. Convenient to both Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, 1021 embodies the ideal location in the neighborhood. 10/10

Amenities

Clarendon 1021 sets the bar for amenities in Clarendon. The community is the only condo building in the neighborhood that has 24-hour front desk concierge. In addition, 1021 also offers a conference room, party room, fitness center, on-site management, rooftop pool, rooftop hot tub, and a courtyard. Short of new age amenities like a dog washing station, or even valet parking, Clarendon 1021’s amenities are going to at least meet, if not exceed your expectations. 10/10

Ambiance

1021 has had the “it” factor for quite a few years now. Whether it’s the management, the location, the quality of life, or simply the type of residents the community attracts, people actively search out Clarendon 1021 condos for sale and for rent more so than other buildings. There are a fair amount of renters in the community, so that may be one thing to keep an eye on. 9/10

Floor Plans

A majority of Clarendon 1021 one bedrooms will be around 750 square feet, which sets a large precedent for floor plans in the community. While most of the layouts will offer the square feet and features you are looking for, there are a few floor plans that are still looking to define themselves. The layouts that are listed as 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom might have a second bedroom that is a bit on the small side. It has not really hurt the sales of this layout, but think again if you are trying to fit your second king set into the second bedroom (why do you have two king sets in the first place?). Three bedroom floor plans and larger two bedroom (1,200 sq ft +) can also be found in the community. 8/10

Condo Fees

Topping out at 419 residences, Clarendon 1021 is far and away the largest condo community in Clarendon. since we all know how condo fees work, we know that the fees are broken down by the number of units and the size of said units. Even though there are a lot of owners to spread out the costs, condo fees will come in at a moderate $330/month for one bedrooms (as of August 2016). Two bedrooms see a lower fee as well as fees barely hit $500/month. This is a bargain compared to similarly priced units in comparable neighborhoods like The Residences of Liberty Center in Ballston. Historically-speaking, the condo fees at Clarendon 1021 have increased a few percent each year over the past couple years. The good news is that sales prices have continued to trend upward as the value of living at 1021 continues to increase. 8/10

That is my definitive list of the best Clarendon condos. Market factors and changes to condominiums could alter this list in the future, but for now, this is my list and I’m sticking to it. 

How does your list compare? Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comment section below. And if you found this article interesting and think you know someone that will also get value from reading this article, go ahead and share it with that person. You’re awesome for doing so. Stay tuned for part two of four where we will take a look at the best condos in Ballston – Virginia Square.