Gainesville is a paradox; steeped in history, yet essentially new.

"Gainesville is an emerging area, not necessarily an established one," says Jason Grant, a spokesman for Prince William County.

Once a changing point for stagecoach horses on the Fauquier and Alexandria Turnpike, the Manassas Gap Railroad reached the area in 1852 and the stop became known as Gainesville. According to, the town was a shipping point for grain, timber and cattle and remained so into the early 1960s. During the Civil War, nearby Thoroughfare Gap in the Bull Run Mountains served as a path for soldiers to reach the First and Second Battles of Manassas.

Yet it wasn't until 1994 that ground was broken for Gainesville's first town home community. Since then, it seems as if Gainesville hasn't stopped growing.

"With all the housing that's being built here, we figured we'd increase our lesson program dramatically, which we did," said Russ Craig, owner of Classic Axe Guitar Gallery in Atlas Walk, a shopping district that essentially is the community's downtown. "When I was looking at this location, I found that the average household income was over $100,000."

With a mixture of single-family homes, town homes and retirement communities, Gainesville has become a popular spot for people of all ages.

Though the 2010 census population statistics for the community aren't yet available, the growth can be documented through the continuing explosion of commuters in the area.

According to 2008 traffic counts by the Virginia Department of Transportation, Interstate 66 carries 82,000 vehicles a day between Route 29 and the Route 234 Bypass, and will carry more than 175,000 vehicles a day by 2028. Route 29 carries about 57,000 vehicles a day through Gainesville -- a number that is expected to jump to 87,000 by 2035.


At a glance     June 2010  Average sold price for homes sold in ZIP code 20155: $364,513 Average list price for homes sold in ZIP code 20155: $374,467 Average days on market for homes sold: 45  June 2009  Average sold price for homes sold in ZIP code 20155: $318,198 Average list price for homes sold in ZIP code 20155: $336,968 Average days on market for homes sold: 83    


  The state has responded by pouring $435 million into four major road projects. The largest is an ongoing one that will widen Route 29 and carry it over the Norfolk Southern Railroad crossing. That's scheduled to be completed in 2014 at a cost of $267 million. A widening of 3.3 miles of I-66 to eight lanes from Sudley Road to the Route 234 Bypass was finished in 2006, and 2.5 more miles of I-66 will be widened as well.


All this begs the question: Where are these Gainesville residents going?

"The work force primarily commutes into the Tysons Corner area and Washington," Grant said.

Anyone who's made the roughly 35-mile drive from Gainesville into the District knows it can be long. Yet marathon commutes appear to be a fact of life in such outer suburbs. In 2008, 39 percent of Prince William residents commuted an hour or more to work, as compared to just 15 percent in the United States, according to county statistics.

Perhaps that's why more and more Gainesville residents are remaining near home when they don't have to work. An influx of national chains, local ones like the Bungalow Alehouse, and boutique stores like Cork & Fork in Atlas Walk make staying put satisfying.

"We have a lot of customers who are young and just married and have one child or are expecting their first," said Antoinette Landragin, co-owner of Cork & Fork and a Gainesville resident. Her wine and gourmet food shop hosts tastings, live music and a local farmers market.

"It's a very safe neighborhood," she said. "A good neighborhood for families."

With golf courses, parks and homes with large yards, Gainesville provides its residents plenty of room to breathe.

"This is kind of the end of Northern Virginia," Craig said. "At least for the time being."

Top reasons to live in Gainesville   Shopping  

The Virginia Gateway shopping center and adjacent Atlas Walk have an impressive variety of stores, from behemoths like SuperTarget and Lowe's to smaller mom and pop businesses like the Cork & Fork and Classic Axe Guitar Gallery.


Road projects are booming in Gainesville. I-66 has been widened to eight lanes in some spots and soon will be in others, and Route 29 and Linton Hall Road will be overhauled to ensure traffic flows more smoothly.

Rebounding housing market  

In the Gainesville area, things are looking up housingwise. In June, the average home was on the market for just 45 days, nearly half the time as one year prior. Moreover, the average home sold for $45,000 more in June 2010 than it did in June 2009.