Tuesday, February 24, 2009

HeraldTrib Today: Feb. 24, 2009

Christian Dorsey is a natural host…

“Voice Box,” hosted by Arlington activist and politico Christian Dorsey, made its debut last Thursday night on Arlington Independent Media.

A call-in show of local issues with a global perspective, “Voice Box” aired live to homes and was live in front of a small, studio audience.

I was on the panel of guests with three really smart people, all of us discussing new media and democracy.

Other guests included Julie Germany, executive director of the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet; Adam Lynn, policy coordinator at Freepress; and Margaret Tseng, assistant professor of History and Politics at Marymount University.

I’ve got to say that Mr. Dorsey is a natural host. It was his first night with this show, and he handled it with aplomb. Bummer that no one called in, but the studio audience was great, a nice mix of people, and some nice questions.

“Voice Box” will air a new show monthly. If you missed the first, don’t sweat as rebroadcasts of the inaugural episode will run until March 19 (Comcast channel 69 and Verizon channel 38 in Arlington):

Tuesdays from 7:30-8:30p.m.
Thursdays from 6:30-7:30p.m.
Saturdays from 10:00-11:00p.m.

My take on the HALRB decisions…

The neighborhood has been hopping this week. The Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board fielded two big questions last Wednesday regarding redevelopment of the area.

One request pretty much killed the redevelopment of the Buckingham Shopping Center, and to the Village3 project, they gave a bit of the “go-ahead.” The county board votes on a portion of that redevelopment tonight (I’ll be watching that on TV starting at 6:45); see the story by clicking here or scrolling down.

A strong handful of people weighed in with comments on the story of the HALRB’s decision not to support the Buckingham Shopping Center redevelopment. Read the story and comments here before you read my take:

I can see both sides, and I write that not meaning to be politic or mealy-mouthed. I’ve watched this process since it began mid-2007; I’ve covered numerous meetings, and I have to agree with board member Gerald Laporte who said the vote shouldn’t surprise anyone. As early as their December 2007 meeting, the HALRB had trouble with the massing—the height, width and length of the buildings.

The HALRB never made any overtures to liking the scope of this project. It was always just “too big.” I think they could be convinced that something smaller could happen at that corner, but I don’t think that they would have ever liked what the developer, Georgetown Strategic Capital, was offering. I agree with them somewhat, too. I understand why they feel the buildings just were not right for that corner. Four-storeys of red brick and smallish rectangular windows look very institutional (read: prison-like), but that was what Georgetown Strategic felt was left to them.

That’s where I see Georgetown Strategic’s point. Although the board never showed any love for the plans, I never heard the board members say flat-out that they would not support four storeys on the buildings (recall that the plan was to raze the CVS, Glebe Market and El Paso buildings and replace them with two large buildings housing ground floor retail and three floors of apartments above).

It was as if the HALRB kept waiting for Georgetown Strategic to draw-up plans for significantly smaller buildings (something the developer says was economically unfeasible), while Georgetown Strategic kept hoping that the HALRB would learn to love a four-storey building if they could just find the right combination of design and materials. Neither was ever going to happen.

I think the HALRB was right that the buildings never really looked like "Buckingham" buildings--and I was not in love with the plans myself, but I see Georgetown Strategic's consternation.

The HALRB could have put the kaibosh on the fourth floor months ago when they first realized that the plans were not changing significantly and they weren't liking it.

Now the question is whether anyone (even Georgetown Strategic) will take another crack at it.

The Week’s Headlines…
As always, you can scroll down to see all the recent stories, or simply click the links below (if the link doesn't work, scroll down to find the story, and email to tell me what's busted: heraldtrib@gmail.com --Steve Thurston).

Headlines from Earlier in the Week:

  • Arlington to Enter Lease with Telesis for BV3
  • Police Warn Arlingtonians of Scams
  • Letter: Ashton Heights' Bilich Endorses Pat Hope for 47th House of Delegates Race
  • Buckingham Shopping Center Redevelopment Dies in HALRB Hands
  • ">Ethiopia Highlighted at Barrett Library Night
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