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Clarendon
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Photo: Mauricio Brik
Clarendon is an urban village, located in Alexandria, Virginia. It is a study in contrasts, and its history reflects many of the cycles that have challenged city neighborhoods.

A November 13, 2006, profiled featured in the Washington Post described the crossroads at which this community finds itself. “Today, the Arlington enclave is a walkable medley of quirky shops and premium national retailers, older tree-lined neighborhoods and soaring new condominiums, a few office buildings, a wide selection of restaurants and a Metro [subway] stop. Tucked between the mini-metropolises of Rosslyn and Ballston, it combines homey friendliness with convenient commerce and a 20-minute commute to downtown Washington.

“But the neighborhood’s character is changing, both driven by and reacting to a shift in its commercial real estate. More affluent, less workaday, more trendy, less mom-and-pop, Clarendon has become such a retail and residential magnet that is may be losing the ambience that made it such an appealing place to live, work, and shop.

“It’s starting to look a lot more urban and less village.”

The profile examines the mixed blessing of a cohesive neighborhood with lots of local entrepreneurs and increasing retail sales. Add the steepest rate of growth in Arlington County, and you understand why national retailers are competing to establish stores within Clarendon.

In the 1930s, people traveled via trolley and train to reach national chain stores such as Sears, J. C. Penney and G.C. Murphy that were located in Clarendon. Within 30 years, enclosed malls nearby attracted the customers. Clarendon went into decline until the late 70s when a Metro subway station was opened. Strong community involvement directed redevelopment of the area.

In June 2006, new guidelines were drafted for a new phase of development in Clarendon. For instance, developers are being offered “incentives to rent to small businesses and preserve historic structures.”

The article ends with insights for communities facing similar development pressure. Nick Langman, co-owner of the Clarendon Ballroom, summed it up, “You can’t buy charm. . . . .You can’t rebuild the sense of place that’s already here.”

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