Approximately five 76 year old garden apartment buildings in the historic district of Westover are being demolished this spring to make way for townhouses to be sold for close to a million dollars. These approximately 60 apartments (mostly one and two bedroom units) in these buildings were rented for moderate income renters. Even though these historic buildings are over 75 years old, well maintained graceful structures with many older trees surrounding (including some 100 year old trees), and are in the center of a National Historic District, they were bulldozed down to the red clay to make way for million dollar townhouses for the well to do.
These market-rate affordable garden apartments are privately owned; the owner demolished them and is putting up luxury townhouses that can be done “by right” under the existing zoning and since the county government refused to intervene to save them under its historic preservation ordinance. Last year about two blocks away another 4-5 historic garden apartment buildings were demolished to make way for similar high end townhouses. There are fewer than 3,000 private affordable rental apartment left in the entire Arlington County, and in one demolition, the county lost 60 more units.
The county board has stubbornly refused to use historic preservation status as a means to keep older apartments and older detached homes throughout Arlington.
Today developers routinely bulldoze off an entire property including all trees even if 100 years old and put up monstrous sized McMansions and ugly townhouses like these. The tree canopy and green space in many Arlington neighborhoods is much reduced; graceful 60 or 70 old houses are dwarfed by looming McMansions that are gigantic energy hogs and spew rainwater the used to percolate into the soil into the streets and onto neighbor’s properties.
An Arlington Green member asked the county board to designate to extend county historic preservation to the entire Westover Historic District to prevent future demolition of historic properties and surrounding green space. Under the county historic ordinance, an owner seeking to demolish a building must seek offer the property for sale for one year prior to such demolition allowing another owner to emerge to keep the property intact.