Tuesday, February 22, 2005

More on Latino New Urbanism

It turns out Alexandria has its own example of this phenomenon. According to the public/private Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, the Arlandria neighborhood (located, of course, on the city limits between ARLington and AlexANDRIA) is known to the locals as "Chirilagua", after the Salvadoran town some of them, perhaps, hail from. Is this mainly marketing-speak? Urban Mozaik reports, you decide:
'One lifetime resident of Alexandria responded to a question about Chirilagua with, "oh, you mean Arlandria, yeah, i think I've played soccer down there. What are you going to write about, though? I mean, what is there to say about that strip? " This person has never walked the sidewalks of Chirilagua, and unbeknownst to him he is missing out on a growing part of his own hometown.'
I confess I'd thought that area was part of Del Ray, maybe because I have friends who live a couple blocks away and have never referred to it as Chirilagua, or Arlandria for that matter. The mental firewalling between Latino, downscale "Arlandria" and mostly white, upscale Del Ray literally a block away is an interesting topic by itself, but one for another day.
But apparantly the residents (as much Peruvian as any other latin nationality, based on my personal culinary canvass of the neighborhood) have participated in "an extensive community visioning process [...] The result of this effort was the creation of a new form-based zoning category that identifies special opportunities and land-use incentives for developers and business investors." And the goals:
  • 'Fostering an urban, walkable, mixed-use community, capitalizing on the existing businesses and residents
  • Combining local and national retail to serve a diverse residential and office community
  • Promoting the State‚Äôs tax incentives for capital investment and job creation'
Of course, the place in question already is an urban, walkable community, (though with no mixed uses to speak of) and has been so since the time when Del Ray was built as a streetcar suburb. One rather feels the force of trendy new urbanist promotion behind the AEDP survey. 'Hey, you know how Latinos love walkable neighborhoods? Well here's one! Cool huh?'
And yeah, I think it's cool, but the overemphasis makes me wince, especially since AEDP's somewhat blinkered survey has one of my favorite concert venues on the block as a development site. Maybe it's not hispanic enough to fit their Big Idea for future development...