Monday, June 13, 2011

Arlington To Deem Old Strip Malls "Essential"?

Reports the Arlington Sun Gazette:
County Board members in early July are expected to formally designate 23 properties where preservation efforts are “essential.” But how far the county government will be able to go, beyond moral support and persuasion, to keep those 23 intact remains to be seen. [...]

Eleven garden-apartment complexes - some since converted to condominiums - are ranked as “essential” for preservation: Arlington Village (built in 1939), Barcroft Apartments (1939-53), Buckingham Village (1937-53), Calvert Manor (1950), Courthouse Manor (1936-55), Fairlington (1943-45), Fillmore Gardens (1942-48), Lee Gardens/Woodbury Park (1949), Lee Gardens/Sheffield Court (1942) and Wakefield Manor (1943).

Two shopping centers, Arlington Village (1939) and Colonial Village (1937), also are on the list, along with commercial buildings that range from the Arlington Cinema ’n’ Drafthouse on Columbia Pike to the G.H. Rucker Building on Wilson Boulevard.
Every community should strive to identify and protect things that help define its identity and if an iconic building like the Cinema & Drafthouse ever disappeared, I think we can all agree something would be lost. And as the National Trust for Historic Preservation points out, in many cases the greenest building is the one that's already built.

But to pick on just one of the glaringly questionable listed properties ... Colonial Village Shopping Center? Really? Sure, its current tenants are cool, what with Ray's Hell Burger and one of Arlington's few remaining non-Starbucks coffee shops. But is it really "essential" to have an old strip mall with a large surface parking lot on a prime spot on Wilson Blvd. between Rosslyn & Courthouse?

If a developer wanted to put an apartment complex there so lots more people could live close to Metro, with new space for Ray's & the coffee shop at ground level, would Arlington be worse off for it? Or would that be an improvement on how the space is currently used? Is it in the community's best interests for the County Board to be trying to persuade developers to keep their hands off our essential strip mall & surface parking lot?
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