Friday, November 24, 2006

Boo Boos

Ouch (I)

Old Town insiders are chortling up their sleeves about the plight of local businessman and preservationist Boyd Walker (son of former City Council member Lois Walker), who is currently in hot water with the City's Planning & Zoning Department over the partial demolition of the historic Ice House at S. Payne and Commerce Streets.

Last year Mr. Walker, who owns a chunk of valuable real estate in the neighborhood and served as Vice Mayor Andrew Macdonald's campaign manager, led the protracted protest against the demolition of historic buildings in the 1500 block of King Street. It was a righteous fight that the Growler supported.

Now, however, Mr. Walker is in the doghouse over what looks like an unsanctioned demolition of part of the Ice House, which he had hoped to turn into a breakfast restaurant. Normally a partial demolition like this would require a BAR hearing and various building permits, but apparently Mr. Walker did not obtain the paperwork and necessary approvals.

Mr. Walker claims in his defense that his workers were simply pulling down old plywood sheets that had covered the front of the derelict building for years. He says that no-one realized the plywood was supporting the building's canopy, which promptly fell off.

Nevertheless, neighbors are unhappy and the Alexandria Times had a field day with the story, running front page before and after photos of the structure under the caption "Preservationist Runs Afoul With The City." Mr. Walker responded with a long letter about the importance of the historic building and his future plans, but which curiously skirted the issue of why he didn't follow the City's procedures.

P&Z staff are prepared to do some dumpster diving to examine the fallen canopy pieces. If they confirm that historic material was destroyed, they may levy fines of $1,500 or more on Mr. Walker.

Meanwhile, Mr. Walker is organizing a new City preservation group, to be called the Greater Alexandria Preservation Alliance. The group will have a kickoff meeting on December 9 at Lloyd House from 1 to 3 pm.

Ouch (II)

Also in the category of "what were they thinking?," the Old Town Theatre on upper King Street has been shuttered by Code Enforcement for the past few weeks after city staff discovered that owner Roger Fons had put up an unauthorized second movie screen. The large screen was suspended from the second floor ceiling — a real no-no, since inspectors feared it would destabilize the roof.

Mr. Fons, who is a civil engineer, explained in an almost comically frank interview with the Washington Post that he took the stealth action in order to help his struggling non-profit operation. He hoped the revenue gained from a second theater would offset the cost of making things right with the City once the renovations were discovered, and that it was a calculated risk that failed.

Currently Mr. Fons is appealing for donations to help keep the Alexandria institution going.

Ouch (III)

The Alexandria Floral Company building, a landmark 1939 structure at Prince Street and Daingerfield Road, has just been demolished — indeed flattened — by its owners. City staff were powerless to stop the destruction of the showroom and greenhouse that constituted one of the last surviving mid-century buildings in the area, since the block is not part of any historic district. Most likely a new office building will rise on the site in the next few years.

It's all the more a pity given the recent successful renovation and reuse of the old Art Deco building at Prince and Peyton, formerly occupied by the Morris Katz car radio service.


Anonymous said...

So glad The Growler admits its causes "righteous" ones. So tell me, why
does The Growler care more about the demolition of the Alexandria Floral Company than the city's request for reduction in parking at the Charles Houston Center. Do you think poor folks only walk to such destinations? Let's deal with preservation, however it is defined, one neighborhood at a time.

Anonymous said...

"Do you think poor folks only walk to such destinations? "

From my experiences in walking by Charles Houston, there is always plenty of parking around the Center. The fact is, the Center is primarily used by the public housing residents of the area, and the City has concentrated 40% of its public housing population right around the Center.

So i don't get the rant against Growler...."poor folks" already live right there...why would they need a car to drive 2 blocks? This sounds more like the typical Alexandria "limousine liberal" rant about not helping poor folks than a coherent thought.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who references his every blog entry with words like "limousine liberal" is not someone I'm inclined to debate. The neighborhood has a history of parking problems. Did this blog not begin because The Growler felt inclined to oppose The Laundry project, parking reductions?

Anonymous said...

"parking reductions?"

Whoever you are tackle it! We're opposed to the city's granting repeated parking reductions. The apartment renovation at 1219 Oronoco will change the character of our block. The Monarch construction workers are also a problem, blessedly a temporary one.

Anonymous said...

"Anyone who references his every blog entry with words like "limousine liberal" is not someone I'm inclined to debate. "

Then don't. But don't expect not to be slapped down. You asked a stupid question and u should expect a direct answer.

As for the name, well u sound like some of the people that get on this blog and start mouthing off from their townhouse in Cameron Station or South Alexandria about the plight of poor people

Did u not realize that the Community Center is SURROUNDED BY POOR PEOPLE? Why would a parking reduction at the Community Center be such a problem? The majority of the people that use the center LIVE RIGHT NEXT TO IT!

The City had multiple community meetings on the parking reductions and few if any people complained. More complaints seemed to be made about how the lot attracted potential troublemakers and how the design change might help alleviate that problem.

"The neighborhood has a history of parking problems. "

Again the south part of Parker Gray has parking problems, as does King Street. The North part???? uh no.... our parking problem is the City doesnt enforce its parking rules in our area and is too boneheaded to have more than 15 spots at the Metro. So dont go comparing the Houston Center reduction to the Laundry project....

Anonymous said...

"Stupid" "Limosine liberal"

No wonder this neighborhood cannot get its political act together. I am glad someone finally has called you to account. I live on the north side and clearly we do not agree. Approval of the Center's reduction in parking was wrong.

Anonymous said...

"I live on the north side and clearly we do not agree. Approval of the Center's reduction in parking was wrong."

And as I asked before, WHY IS IT WRONG? Like the other clown; opinions are fine but back them up with some facts or reasoning. Too many times at Parker Gray meetings we get clowns from other pats of the City who give great speeches and sermons about the poor or parking problems but never state any facts o understanding of the area.

Are you aware of parking problems on the North side of Parker Gray? And why did the original poster inject "poor folks" into the debate? Explain the linkage between poor folks and parking.

Anonymous said...

I am new to the blog but on the suface is planning not about both present and future conditions? Maybe the person you are angry with is concerned that as the neighborhood changes, public housing is torn down and replaced or new apartment complexes constructed, the city has paid too little attention to issues related to future use. Or maybe the person knows that Black institutions like Hopkins House no longer depend only on walk ins for enrollment. Or maybe the person lives on US Route 1 and remembers how hard we aged residents fought to getting parking returned. If, in the future, US Route 1 becomes another mass transit corridor then our parking probably will be removed. Read the Braddock Road plan. The person's argument is not hard to understand. Maybe you just need to agree to disagree.

Anonymous said...

The problem with the argument is that the parking lost is being replaced with underground parking that does not exist at this time. The Monarch, Madison, and 600 Fayette all propose underground parking. Also, the loss of parking spots at the Center is more than made up by the potential gain of parking spaces around a redeveloped Bland. Many people are afraid to park their cars there now. A quick perusal of the daily Alexandria Crime Report shows why.

None of the original argument focused on "parking lost" it focused on "poor folks"

Anonymous said...

another north sider in agreement, parking has gotten much worse, not just the Monarch, but as our neighborhood grows income wise so do our multicar households. Reducing the parking at the Rec center further constrains the new structure to the old demographics of who is going to use it. It was short sighted and I agree lacking in proactive forethought about how we want the neighborhood to be in the future.

Anonymous said...

"Reducing the parking at the Rec center further constrains the new structure to the old demographics of who is going to use it. It was short sighted and I agree lacking in proactive forethought about how we want the neighborhood to be in the future."

And what is to say those demographics will change? You seem to be living in the dream world where Bland and Adkins no longer exist.

What u might want in the neighborhood is entirely different than what might be. When there are actually buildings in place that reflect the neighborhood u appear to believe exists then we can complain about parking.

You think if Woodson gets on the ARHA board that she is going to allow Adkins or Bland to change one iota from the way they are now?

Anonymous said...

I bought a home in the Parker Gray district about 5 years ago which I still own. I have to say thank-you to the Parker-Gray Growl. I believe this forum of communicatation has greatly improved the Parker-Gray area. Before the Growl, we could not get the attention of the City. The 15Million Dollar brand new community center will be enjoyed by all. The new condos at Montgomery and Washington Street will enhance the community. Every now and then I take a drive up to walk around my neighborhood there. So, I would like to say Thank You to the Growl.