Arlandria

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About Arlandria

Arlandria is a neighborhood located in the north-eastern portion of Alexandria, just south of Amazon HQ and northwest of Potomac Yard. Its name is derived from its location on the border of Arlington County and Alexandria; a combination of the two names. Arlandria is bounded by Four Mile Run on the north, West Glebe Road on the south/south-west and Route 1 on the east. The neighborhood is centered on Mount Vernon Avenue between Four Mile Run and West Glebe Road.

Arlandria grew in the late 1930’s through 1950’s from the need for housing to accommodate DC’s expanding federal workforce, bolstered by national housing reform and the availability of FHA mortgages. Garden-style apartment buildings and single family homes in the area’s typical architectural styles of Colonial Revival, Cottage, Bungalow/Craftsman, twin homes and duplexes catered to lower and middle income workers.

The 1960’s brought fair housing laws and policies that encouraged desegregation. Arlandria’s demographics changed as a large number of black homeowners and renters moved into the neighborhood. Also during this time, a large degree of suburbanization was taking place along Four Mile Run, the large stream that emptied into the Potomac near Arlandria. This created a bottleneck for runoff water following storms, an issue that became deadly in 1972 when Hurricane Agnes hit the area, causing an Arlandria drowning death.

By the mid-1970’s, Arlandria was a diverse mix of native residents and immigrants from the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Iran, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, and Turkey. In the 1980’s, a significant influx of immigrants from El Salvador made the neighborhood home and Arlandria was nicknamed “Chirilagua,” for an El Salvador city.

1980’s Reagan administration cuts to social programs and services created hardship for lower-income residents throughout the region. As government-related jobs and industries grew, so did the number of developers cashing in by purchasing undervalued multifamily properties and converting them to condos or high-rent apartments, pushing out lower income residents. The local government supported mid-to-high-end redevelopment, believing it would increase the tax base. Few or no restrictions were placed on residential growth and no protections were enacted to shield low income residents from predatory landlords and developers. Artery Organization, Inc. alone, purchased over 1,000 apartment units in Arlandria in 1986. Potomack Development, Inc. and Freeman/Cafritz also purchased apartment complexes in the neighborhood which they would renovate and rent at higher rates. Combined, these purchases represented a whopping 74% of Arlandria’s apartment stock. The pending displacement of such a large number of residents with limited options led to racial violence and the creation of the Alexandria United Tenant Organization and Arlandria Community Campaign to Save Our Homes. A series of community meetings sought to address the issue, protests and marches raised public awareness, and tenants and their supporters demanded that city officials and developers be held accountable. Protesters shut down the City Council. By the end of summer 1986, a plan was worked out to reserve one-quarter of developers’ apartments for low-income tenants who received Section 8 subsidies for a five year period. The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) renovated 152 units for public housing, and a group of local Episcopal churches established non-profit Carpenter’s Lodgings (Community Lodgings) to address homelessness in Arlandria. CL also offered job training, childcare, and other social services. Many residents wanted cooperative housing, in which they owned units with support from public and private funds, so an organization called The Tenants Support Committee, used the bankruptcy of one of the developers to acquire 300 units, but it took over ten years to establish the Arlandria-Chirilagua Housing Cooperative.

Arlandria’s 1980’s housing problems led to lasting change in local government, which became more inclusionary and responsive to the needs of low-income residents. By the end of the decade, Arlandria had come together as a community and maintained its diversity.

Amenities in Arlandria include the Birchmere concert hall and Four Mile Run Park & Farmers and Artisans Market.