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Hallcrest Heights Showcases Home Improvements

As a single mother and a busy lawyer who serves as chief counsel to a congressional committee in Washington, Lisa Pittman sometimes needs a place to escape.

And her son, Graham, 12, a seventh-grader at The Langley School in McLean, needs a place to set up his “Army men” action figures, arranging tableaus that can go undisturbed for a few hours at a time.

Their needs are now met, since the highly organized Pittman undertook a project she named “A Moonlit Garden: Backyard Renovation I and II” at her Hallcrest Heights townhome in McLean.

Over two years, at a cost of less than $12,000, she transformed the back yard of her $252,000 townhome into a leafy, private retreat, where the sound of running water soothes away the stresses of the day.

She removed a concrete patio and replaced it with brick for $3,549, cleared debris, “amended” the soil and replanted 12 different varieties of plants having only white blooms that would be calm and soothing — particularly in the moonlight.

Given her work schedule, Pittman said, most of the hours she spends in the garden transpire in the evening.

She mounted a water feature on the rear wall of the townhouse, and a Hallcrest neighbor gave her a bird bath.

She showed off the results of the project during Hallcrest Heights Summer 2003 Home Improvement Tour on July 13.

After buying a former rental unit almost four years ago, Pittman first renovated the bathrooms and kitchen. Next year, she’ll do her basement, budgeting $36,000 for the project.

So far, the value of the 1972 townhouse house has increased to more than $400,000, Pittman said.

Such careful fiduciary stewardship of the 150 residences at Hallcrest have an accrued benefit for all the residents, says homeowners association (HOA) president Clark Tyler.

The homes were built in five stages in the early 1970s, using several different floor plans. The last residence sold for $425,000, he said.

Once a year, on a Sunday in July, the HOA organizes a home-improvement tour on a Sunday afternoon. “We try to stay away from the Redskins games,” Tyler said.

Residents show what they have done to improve their units, share names and referrals for service providers, and cross-pollinate ideas, according to Tyler.

“It gives people confidence to start their own projects. It generates more improvements.”

Hallcrest also started a clearinghouse to tackle common problems, and the HOA maintains a compendium of contractors who have worked for Hallcrest residents. It has become a sought-after possession, said Tyler.

“We give it out to all our residents at the annual meeting,” he said.