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Notes: Historical preservation group labels Del Ray neighborhood ‘endangered’

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A group called Preservation Virginia has ranked Potomac — once an independent (and racist) town and now a sub-neighborhood within Del Ray — as one of Virginia’s endangered historic sites, Zebra reported.

The description of the threat to the neighborhood on the Preservation Virginia list echoes many of the concerns some Del Ray residents have said about plans to add density housing to the neighborhood in hopes of incentivizing more affordable housing.

According to Preservation Virginia:

The popularity of the neighborhood’s architecture, scale and walkability is jeopardizing the very characteristics that have attracted people to it for years. Many recent residents and developers in need of larger living space are demolishing the historic, mid-sized houses to build new, often outsized and out-of-character houses in their place. Approximately 75 houses in the Town of Potomac Historic District have been demolished in recent years, and the rate of loss is accelerating.

While the desire to build new, larger houses close to the nation’s capital is understandable, the demolition of the district’s historic houses is eliminating the multiple benefits of preservation, including environmental benefits. By adding less building debris and waste to landfills and reducing material consumption, rehabbing and reusing existing buildings almost always offers environmental and energy savings over demolition and new construction.

Preservation Virginia’s solution would be placing Del Ray under the same kind of architectural review board that oversees Old Town and the Parker-Gray Historic District. The Board of Architectural Review wields significant power over what can and cannot be built in Old Town and Parker-Gray.

According to the group:

Implementing a local overlay district would create a process in which the public could participate. A review process would not necessarily preclude demolition of historic buildings, but it would provide a thorough, transparent, and public process.

Historic Del Ray (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

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