By Dino Drudi, Alexandria (File photo)
To the editor:
Parker-Gray BAR vice chairwoman Purvi Gandhi Irwin’s plea to preserve one of the four Ramsey Homes buildings (“Reconsider the Ramsey Homes decision,” July 14) is a well-intentioned, but misplaced attempt to unscramble an egg. Mayor Allison Silberberg did the best she could with her last-minute compromise to make sense of the hash her colleagues created out of a series of non-sequitors.
Last year, the Parker-Gray BAR did the right thing by voting 5-0 to deny the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s request to demolish Ramsey Homes. But not only did ARHA appeal to city council, the agency provided an entirely different justification than it had presented to the BAR.
Instead of making ARHA wait a year to present the new justification to the Parker-Gray BAR or removing that half-block site from the Parker-Gray Historic District, city council approved demolishing Ramsey Homes without affording the BAR an opportunity to consider ARHA’s new justification. ARHA’s new justification implied that under the Parker-Gray BAR’s recent reforms, any post-1932 structure like Ramsey Homes was less historically significant than pre-1932 structures and therefore could be torn down, despite the property’s wartime significance.
Many blocks in the Parker-Gray neighborhood contain only post-1932 structures, so city council implied, by accepting ARHA’s new justification, that much of the neighborhood was a historic district in name only. The next person who wants to tear down a 1940s structure in the Parker-Gray neighborhood will have city council’s ill-conceived precedent upon which to rely, unless the BAR moves quickly to beef up protections for post-1932 buildings, without reverting to the overly burdensome former restrictions.
City council could then adopt them, rendering the precedent of the Ramsey Homes decision moot.
Absent a lawsuit, which Silberberg’s last-minute compromise may have averted, there are only two ways to save Ramsey Homes: a letter-writing campaign to state and federal authorities who will need to sign off on the disposition of these properties, or physically relocating one or more of the structures elsewhere.
Ramsey Homes are structurally sound and could be relocated, were there the will to provide the necessary funding. Once relocated, they could be entered into the private housing stock as workforce housing in exchange for the city or some private charity bearing the cost of their relocation.