Pantops condo: Living 'round the bend"/>

REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- <span class="s1">Pantops condo: Living 'round the bend</span>

ADDRESS: 320 Riverbend Drive #18


ASKING: $246,620

COUNTY ASSESSMENT: coming in spring 2007


SIZE: 1,180 fin. sq. ft.

LAND: n/a

CURB APPEAL: 7 out of 10

LISTED BY: Carrie Slaughter of Real Estate III, 434-977-3033

Pantops may never make it onto the A-list of housing hotspots. Seeming ever more like Northern Virginia with its sprawling proximity to downtown Charlottesville, most of what one sees is asphalt. The sites of 50s-era motels have transmogrified into car dealerships, and the juke joints and dive bars have been quashed in favor of [insert favorite fast food eatery here]. Maybe all that needs to happen, but why did Ski Land have to go? (Was it Ski Land? In the early seventies, outdoor trendsetters could take a date to Pantops, anytime of the year, to slide down a slope of plastic in a winter wonderland simulation.) Ah, progress.

But lurking around some of those cement bends lies some pretty interesting real estate. The Rivanna River borders the 110-acre Darden Towe Memorial Park on one side of Free Bridge and snakes slowly past this condominium complex on the other. As development up there continues to obliterate pieces of the past, the river remains a welcome reminder of the glory days of greenery and fresh air. And what better way to view it than from your own balcony?

 Riverbend Condominiums hug the back the Pantops shopping center. While that may conjure images of loading docks and dumpsters, in reality, it's a lovely spot. Situated on the river and across from Riverview Cemetery, the views are all green. And the fact that of 125 units, only 49 have sold lends an added air of quietude. Nevertheless, preparing to tour a ground-floor, two-bedroom condominium did not register high on the excite-o-meter. But the unadorned stairwells and doors belie the grandeur of the spaces within.

In this beautifully decorated unit, we immediately felt like kicking off our shoes, heading for the built-in wine rack, and settling in for the evening. A wide entrance allows for easy movement with a spacious closet to one side and a laundry room on the other (housing a full-sized washer and dryer that convey with all condos).

 Two hallways off the foyer each lead to a master suite. One of the perceived drawbacks of condo living may involve the lack of space necessary for communing. Here, each of the bedrooms has a kind of separate entrance section with two doors to fully insulate residents for privacy. Walk-in closets, twin vanities, and garden bathtubs make the privacy even more palpable.

The open living room seems ample for comfort with a requisite built-in computer nook. The larger-than-average dining area has a huge table set up for 10, and the fully serviceable kitchen with bar has enough room to prepare a feast for all those guests.

A small covered patio and storage room add the outdoor element and, depending on the floor, seem like the best way to view the greenery. From the ground level, though, one might choose to add some potted plants for a little screening.

The benefits of this particular condominium do rest, however, in the great beyond. As it's situated right next to the Clubhouse, amenities abound. State-of the-art (whatever that means!) fitness room, business center, and conference capabilities are no more than a hop, skip, and jump away. For the more leisurely inclined, a huge second floor deck could be the ideal spot to unwind with friends, a novel, or a drink while enjoying the panoramic majesty of the Rivanna. The swimming pool, positioned behind big trees, might be the biggest boon of all.

From the parking lot, one can step onto the Rivanna trail, a 20-mile urban trek that connects six city parks as it encircles Charlottesville. One can also walk to the grocery store, pick up dry cleaning, and go out to dinner without ever putting the key in the ignition.

Even though having to navigate several stop lights, an auto supply store, the shopping center, and all those hideous asphalt car corrals might strike some as unpleasant, Riverbend Condominiums embody much of what puts Charlottesville on must-do lists. Where else can you get this much green space, a swimming pool, and spacious living quarters so close to town?

Photos courtesy of the agent