Rendering of the proposed multifamily, 100% affordable building, which would replace the vacant Red Cross building. Image by Bonstra Haresign Architects used with permission.

A plan to convert vacant offices into affordable housing in Arlington's Buckingham neighborhood is up for debate this weekend. Opposition is fierce, and now is your chance to speak up in favor. Sign this petition to let the Arlington County Board know you support this badly-needed affordable housing.

Sign the petition!

Last week, GGWash's housing organizer David Whitehead wrote about a plan to redevelop a site in Arlington's Buckingham neighborhood. An old office building that held a branch of the Red Cross would be torn down, and an apartment building would be built in its place. Townhomes would be built on what is currently two single-family homes. Most of the housing would be committed affordable housing for families making around 60% of the Area Median Income (around $66,000 for a family of four).

In a county where rents are very high, a chance to build almost 180 affordable homes is a big opportunity that shouldn't be wasted. But that hasn't stopped opposition from sprouting up. Claims about tree loss, traffic, and changing neighborhood character have dominated recent meetings.

Those complaints are serious, but also at odds with what is planned for the site and Arlington at large. Arlington actually has more trees now than in 2011, traffic levels have dropped across large parts of the county despite massive population growth, and the buildings aren't out of scale with the diverse types of buildings in the area. The area is transit-rich, with several bus lines running right by the planned site and Metro's Ballston station located only about a mile away. Capital Bikeshare has two stations within a block of the site as well.

Buckingham is near the corner of US-50 and Glebe Road, about a mile south of Ballston. It's a diverse neighborhood with a lot of detached homes, town homes, garden apartments, and high rises. What's planned at the Red Cross site is not any different from what is there in the neighborhood today. That's a good thing because the area already has a lot to offer and this proposal adds to that.

Transit options near the site. The Ballston Metro station is about a mile away, and there is frequent bus service as well.  Image by Arlington County.

I lived in the nearby Ballston Park apartments when I first got married. I got to know the area pretty well over a couple of years, but I eventually had to move when the rent was raised to something higher than we could afford at the time. I loved being able to walk to restaurants nearby (like the amazing Ravi Kabob) or to businesses in the dense corridor between Ballston and Rosslyn. If I decided I wanted to ride my bike on the W&OD trail, I would bike right by the proposed site or along other neighborhood streets lined with a mix of housing types.

I'm simply baffled at some of the objections raised by neighbors when everything I know about the area seems to be the total opposite of what they claim. One more apartment building and a few town homes certainly won't "severely damage" or "defile" the neighborhood like some neighbors claimed.

What's proposed will look almost exactly like what is already in Buckingham.  Image by the author.

The next hearing on the project is this Saturday, April 21. If you can make it to the meeting that's great! Email David Whitehead so he can get you resources at dwhitehead@ggwash.org. If you can't go, sign this petition to the Arlington County Board to show support for more housing in a place that would benefit from it.

Sign the petition!