Tuesday, April 01, 2008

DOA

With the brazen daylight robbery of the Monarch's Starbucks late Sunday afternoon, the Growler must conclude that the Braddock Road Metro Small Area Plan is basically dead on arrival. It took less than a month.

It's a blow for all of those (including the politicians) who believe fervently in the dilution theory: that if you construct enough big, anonymous condo buildings with first floor retail near Metro, the crime and dysfunction will magically fade into the woodwork.

Looking back, the Growler believes the real story behind the recently-approved Plan is that despite all the window dressing — the talk of eyes on the street, transit-oriented development and smart growth — the City has once again failed to address the fundamental issue in the area closest to Metro that prevents its evolving into a "vibrant" community: public housing and the concentration of poverty the City has nurtured for generations.

The new Plan represents at best a new twist on the City's perennial wishful thinking. For decades, the City prayed for a renaissance at the Braddock Metro wrought by the private sector with no political intervention required. When the Metro arrived in 1983, there were hopes that it would help "clean up" the area. But that never happened. Braddock Place was built but was slow to lease, and its retail quietly died. The 1992 Plan, which like today's Plan was also approved at the outset of a recession, also anticipated change. But nearly seven years passed before a few additional buildings were constructed and who knows what their economic health is like these days.

With credit markets in disarray, a glut of unsold condos in the neighborhood and America entering a recession, the Growler thinks it's unlikely we're going to see much new in the next five to 10 years around Metro.

Paradoxically, the outlook for the Parker-Gray district to the south and east has never been brighter. Our historic community is infinitely safer, cleaner and more attractive than it was in 1992 — no thanks to the City, but to the efforts of private citizens. Homes are worth more — at one point both Del Ray and Parker-Gray had the fastest-rising property values in Alexandria — and there are significant changes underway that will make them more so in the coming years. That includes the proposed redevelopment of the James Bland project, which is being forced on the City by ARHA's financial imperatives.

Residents who bristled at the City's naked attack on "gentrification" in the Braddock Road Plan have nothing to be ashamed about. Unlike many urban areas, where "gentrification" involved the expulsion of low or moderate income renters for condo conversion, the free market operated in Parker-Gray, with the peaceful transfer of wealth from new arrivals to the old families who cashed in on their single-family homes (the majority of the housing stock here) and profited significantly.

No, residents need to understand that the Braddock Road Plan's nonsense about "gentrification" was part of the City's desperate attempt to find voices in the community — and they are becoming fewer and fainter — to justify keeping public housing and poverty entrenched here so the City can avoid the hard decisions it needs to make if it truly wants the area to the north of us to thrive.

And that failure of leadership is what will continue to hold the Braddock Metro area back.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

"and there are significant changes underway that will make them more so in the coming years. That includes the proposed redevelopment of the James Bland project, which is being forced on the City by ARHA's financial imperatives."

With the HUD application rejected, I am not sure where the funding for this will be found. Unless the idea is to apply for VHA credits again next year, with exctly the same application that was rejected a year ago.

The Growler said...

The Growler had the same questions about the HOPE VI application and asked EYA representatives about it at the last Braddock East meeting, before the news was out. According to them, the current plans for the James Bland redevelopment do not require the award of HOPE VI monies to be viable.

That's smart, because most observers were not convinced that ARHA's application was a shoo-in, given the priority for projects in Hurricane Katrina's path and the strong competition for the grants.

Apparently EYA will be seeking VHDA tax credits again. Presumably the application will be more competitive this time because with Bland (unlike Glebe Park) some 60 residents will be off-sited to Glebe Park or other future sites.

The Growler seems to remember hearing that VHDA gives more points in the scoring process for deconcentration, and Glebe Park on its own was not going to involve dispersals.

Anyone who knows this complex topic better is welcome to jump in with corrections or clarifications.

Anonymous said...

YESSSS!!!!

You got it, Growler!!

We are so much better off without the "help" of anything that smacks of "City of Alexandria."

Anonymous said...

Your posting is well stated!

Anonymous said...

"Presumably the application will be more competitive this time because with Bland (unlike Glebe Park) some 60 residents will be off-sited to Glebe Park or other future sites."

My understanding is that VHDA scores deconcentration not based on the movement of units but on the deconcentration within the City. 44 of the 60 units are being moved from one public housing complex to another public housing complex, even if that complex would be a mixed-income/ public housing complex.

According to Mr. Miller, the issue last year was that the application was also dependent on a site plan (which did not exist yet).

To me, ARHA's spin just keeps changing. I think they still will have to make additional changes to make this fly with VHDA.

And EYA's situation is only going to get worse as the land sales they are counting on from Bland arent necessarily holding their value.

If you have seen some of the assessments from Northeast, you will see they have dropped 10-15%.

This has the look of a drawn-out saga more than a possibility in the next 5 years.

People want to "HOPE" but if you look here at the VHDA website, there is nothing really special about the Bland application that seems to change the abysmal score from last year...

http://www.vhda.com/vhda_com/Template_a.asp?VHDA_COM_PAGE_NAME=2008QAPInformation

Anonymous said...

"500 block of North Fayette Street. 03/30 at 6:35 P.M. A suspect entered the business, produced a knife and robbed the clerk of business receipts. The suspect then fled on foot. The suspect is described as a black male, 35-45, 5”7”- 5’-8”, 180-200 pounds. He was wearing a blue sweatshirt and blue jeans. "

I guess none on the eyes on the street saw him flee....

You think Hamer or Dixon will offer any comments on how quickly the veil has been pierced on their plan. This will do wonders for the proposed Madison retail

Anonymous said...

Amen!!!

Anonymous said...

"Apparently EYA will be seeking VHDA tax credits again."

I wonder if this application would be more successful if they deconcentrated Bland further? Even moving 60 residents/units still leaves an awfully large concentration at Bland, particularly given all the other ARHA/assisted units nearby. Adkins is a couple of blocks away. So is Chatham Sq., Ramsey and Madden. Not to mention Pendleton Park, Old Towne West, etc.

According to the City's info, there are 194 units at Bland. Moving 60 doesn't really seem to achieve deconcentration. I wonder if this will be a factor in awarding the tax credits?

Also, are there fewer strings attached now that they won't be using Hope money? I seem to remember being stunned at all the requirements for relocating residents when I attended one of the Braddock Road meetings. Are these requirements particular to Hope money or are those just HUD rules, unattached to Hope money?

Anonymous said...

Can you share more details about the Starbucks robbery? Yikes.

Anonymous said...

FYI - Northeast Civic Association is very interested in the public housing issue. NECA has invited Planning & Zoning City staff to speak about the public housing redevelopment plans at their May 21meeting.

Anonymous said...

I too have been unable to find any details of this incident online anywhere. If someone has them, can you please post a link?

Growler, this is exceptionally well said. The problems generated by a high concentration of decrepit housing stock in one small place are simply not going to go away - unless the city decides to deconcentrate it. If gentrification is not part of the solution, then what is?

Anonymous said...

500 block of North Fayette Street. 03/30 at 6:35 P.M. A suspect entered the business, produced a knife and robbed the clerk of business receipts. The suspect then fled on foot. The suspect is described as a black male, 35-45, 5”7”- 5’-8”, 180-200 pounds. He was wearing a blue sweatshirt and blue jeans.

Anonymous said...

Starbucks -

There are not a ton more "eyes on the street" yet because the building is not even half full. This change is not going to happen overnight - give it a little time. The Plan was just passed and hasn't even begun implementation.

In the mean time, let's work through the Braddock East process as fast and diligently as we can and keep the pressure on the City regarding deconcentration of the public housing. Let's use incidents like these to bombard the City with letters of our concerns about crime resulting from the large concentration of public housing we have here.

Anonymous said...

"Deconcentration" in public housing - you mean density and more density, to increase the number of market rate units, thereby decreasing the "concentration" of public housing? Is that how you're using the term? That's how Hamer defines it. If you mean something else, as in "dispersal," then say so.

I do not want more density piled on top of the mess we already have unless part of the mess goes elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

I've personally been concerned about the night attendants at the Monarch front desk. All young women, clearly visible from outside. It cannot be safe for these women to leave for their cars at the end of their shift.

Hopefully construction will pick up again on the other retail units to get more activity in the area. A gym full of muscular people open into the night is a good thing. I think unless construction picks up and unless more apartment units are filled, I could see the Starbucks closing before too long. They cannot be making a profit right now with the little business I see it currently getting.

Anonymous said...

"I've personally been concerned about the night attendants at the Monarch front desk. All young women, clearly visible from outside. It cannot be safe for these women to leave for their cars at the end of their shift."

Don't you think such matters are between employer and employee? Bloggers can't always pick on the Monarch or no units will rent whatever the rates.

Anonymous said...

"Don't you think such matters are between employer and employee?"

No, a robbery is a matter of public concern, and so is the safety of my own neighborhood. If a barista gets whacked coming out of the Monarch, then I could get whacked coming out of my house a block from the Monarch.

"Bloggers can't always pick on the Monarch or no units will rent whatever the rates."

Not my fault the Monarch is a flop.

Anonymous said...

"Bloggers can't always pick on the Monarch or no units will rent whatever the rates."

According to a flyer in the Post, the Monarch is now offering $4,000worth of new furniture from Restoration Hardware to folks who sign a lease there.

Anonymous said...

"According to a flyer in the Post, the Monarch is now offering $4,000worth of new furniture from Restoration Hardware to folks who sign a lease there."

Maybe they should start offering 400 dollars worth of firepower

Anonymous said...

Starbucks is across the street from FBI offices. No help.

Anonymous said...

"Starbucks is across the street from FBI offices. No help."

What does that mean? I don't know of any FBI offices near that Starbucks.

Anonymous said...

We're the typical Starbucks customers who are considering moving to one of the new developments in the area. How safe it is to go from King Street Metro into PG at night? Anyone here walks from there or everyone drives?

trf said...

"How safe it is to go from King Street Metro into PG at night? Anyone here walks from there or everyone drives?"

From King Street Metro into PG at night is, in my experience safe and fairly easy. You can walk down King Street and then up Henry, both of which are well-lit and have a good bit of traffic at night (i.e., not secluded). There is also a free shuttle (was a bus, is now a trolley) running from King Street Metro to Market Square, so you could ride part way.

The Growler said...

"How safe it is to go from King Street Metro into PG at night? Anyone here walks from there or everyone drives?"

A walk from King Street Metro through Parker-Gray is quite safe, particularly if you stay clear of the public housing areas north of King Street Metro nearer the Braddock Road station.

But this is still an urban area, and caution should be exercised late at night and in the earliest hours or the morning. The Growler always advises women to get a ride or take a cab home from Metro after 10 or 11 PM

Anonymous said...

""How safe it is to go from King Street Metro into PG at night? Anyone here walks from there or everyone drives?""

From King St to PG is relatively safe. Just go down King and come up Henry.

Dont go up West (you have to pass Jefferson Village, which can be sketchy at times). and dont go up Patrick, as that will take you towards Bland and Ramsey.

Overall though, as long as you are with someone, there is little to worry about. Many of the "guests" make lots of noise and cause lots of trouble but they are harmless..they mostly bother each other and cause problems for each other. Plus the police presence as you move farther north of King St becomes much more noticeable.

Anonymous said...

""Deconcentration" in public housing - you mean density and more density, to increase the number of market rate units, thereby decreasing the "concentration" of public housing? Is that how you're using the term? That's how Hamer defines it. If you mean something else, as in "dispersal," then say so."

Better yet, lets talk about dispersal of concentrated poverty, that is really what I want when I talk about dispersal of public housing from Parker Gray.

I want the entire city of Alexandria to embrace this issue, as it should embrace the Fair Share philosophy the City adopted, felt good about for a few minutes, and then neglected. The idea that poverty creates a "neighborhood that must be preserved” has to be attacked head on. Bland is a family property, as opposed to an elderly property or a public housing property that caters to those with disabilities. Public housing family properties were never meant to be multi-generational in the sense that families were supposed to live their forever or for several generations. It was supposed to provide families an opportunity to get a leg up so that they could eventually transition to affordable housing and as their circumstances improved—homeownership. Alexandria's approach to public housing is an abysmal failure. It concentrates poverty, fails to provide EFFECTIVE rap-around services that help people to become employed in jobs that provide living wages that make other housing options possible and continues to be dumbfounded as to why schools that have an over concentration of students who are raised in poverty continue to under perform in our school district. (For a liberal bastion, I think our city leaders missed a few basic lessons in the handbook.)

City leaders have embraced this failure as a "community that must be maintained" and frankly I think that is bullshit and a total co-out to the kids who are stuck in the present situation. I can't fathom why any mother, being one myself, if given the opportunity, wouldn't move her kids to a mixed income property in a new building in the Eisenhower Valley, in Potomac Yard, at the new Town Center (Landmark mall) if the city would just make those opportunities available. This can happen it just takes political will.

As the Growler has already suggested more times than she should have been forced to, Parker Gray residents should mobilize collectively and individually contact their city officials routinely with concerns about what concentrated poverty means to our neighborhood on a daily basis.

Otherwise we are just spitting into the wind and blogging when we should be doing something more effective.

trf said...

Follow up to: "How safe it is to go from King Street Metro into PG at night? Anyone here walks from there or everyone drives?"

There is a reason why many of us use the King St vice Braddock Road metro station at night. About two to three times per year we get this type of activity:

*ALEXANDRIA POLICE DEPARTMENT*
*DAILY CRIME REPORT*
*Monday, April 7, 2008*
*ARMED ROBBERY:*
700 block of North West Street. 04/06 at 12:20 A.M. The victim, an
18-year-old Alexandria man, reports that approximately nine unknown suspects
robbed him of personal property at knifepoint. There were no injuries. The
suspects are described as black males, wearing dark hooded sweatshirts and
blue jeans.

Not that this could not happen near King Street, but it tends not to happen there while happening near Braddock Road. The Growler's advice to get a ride later at night is wise.

The Growler said...

Please note that the incident cited above was on the 700 block West Street which is directly in front of the Braddock Road Metro. A few houses facing the Metro are the only buffer between the station and the Andrew Adkins housing project.

An earlier commenter had worried about West Street and Jefferson-Village. The Growler has never had an issue walking down this stretch of N. West Street (which is the 300 block). In fact, N. West is one of the best street to walk at night. It's only the last block by Adkins that gets dicey. Nor has the Growler had any problems at all with Jefferson Village. In fact, it was years before the Cranky One figured out that it was public or assisted housing.

Anonymous said...

"Not that this could not happen near King Street, but it tends not to happen there while happening near Braddock Road. The Growler's advice to get a ride later at night is wise."

As a Loftie, I never allow myself or my wife to walk that route at all.

Instead, what I do is drive over to the Metro parking lot, park there, and Metro where I need to go at night. Then I get in the car and drive home.

Yes, I drive 1 block to park at the Metro lot to take the Metro. I know tons of people who do this.

And I would second Growler on West St. Jefferson Village and that area is relatively safe, its trying to get up to the Meridian or Lofts that gets dicey. The new way that everybody tries to use now is Henry or Fayette directly from King, now that it is a little better lit with the Monarch, Prescott, and new shops on Queen.

But I would NEVER recommend people take Wythe or Madison to the Metro at night, or be anywhere near the Metro after 11 PM. the regular blare of police sirens and incidents bears this out.

Anonymous said...

"There is a reason why many of us use the King St vice Braddock Road metro station at night. About two to three times per year we get this type of activity:"

2-3 times? Over this weekend, we had a drug sting at Bland, larceny at Ramsey, and domestic violence/trespass at Madden Uptown.

It is not safe to walk anywhere north of Pendleton and west of Washington at night. No matter what time of year...

Newbies have learned to just drive, take cabs, or in extreme cases, buy guns and pack heat.

Anonymous said...

A great book on how city planners can screw up a city with high density, mixed use development can be found here:

http://tinyurl.com/57agjn