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Arlington's Clarendon underscores development debate

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A memorial to the men who gave their lives in defense of our country occupies the intersection of Wilson Boulevard and North Irving Street in Arlington, Virginia. A memorial plaque reads "1917-1918: 'To the memory of those who served in the world war and those who gave their lives: John Lyon, U.S. Army; Henry G. Smallwood, U.S. Army; Edward J. Smith, U.S. Army, Field Artillery; Oscar L. House, U.S. Army, Eng.' Erected by American Legion Arlington Post 139 and Auxiliary Unit 139 and the citizens of Arlington County. Dedicated November 11, 1931." The monument also contains the names of Arlington servicemen who served in World War II and in the Korean War.

The veterans memorial is part of the Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation. An architect designed the veterans memorial park, and a county supervisor dedicated it in March 1929.

This area is known as Clarendon. At one time a series of Vietnamese restaurants occupied its main street, Wilson Boulevard. A developer purchased the land and razed the buildings housing the restaurants. A CVS pharmacy, a photography studio, and a Starbucks store now occupy this space. Businesses begun in the 1960s--a shoe repair store, a Moroccan restaurant, an Indian restaurant--are now shuttered. A sign informs visitors a developer will be constructing a 16 story office building, to be completed in January 2016.

Clarendon is one of Arlington's oldest neighborhoods. Arlington Historical Society photographs show a streetcar traversing Wilson Boulevard in 1928.

The area at the intersection of Clarendon Boulevard and North Highland Street is now home to two commercial banks, a fitness center, and a condominium complex. Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies is located here, at 3101 Wilson Boulevard.

Clarendon is home in the summer to a farmers market. Produce vendors sell Bartlett pears, bosc pears, and golden delicious apples. Business owners market their products and services. "We make manicotti, scones, and cornbread," a bakery owner proclaims. "We cater office parties and wedding receptions. All of our baked goods are made the same day, and we provide delivery to our customers."

The real estate development company Penzance will be building a 300,000 square foot complex--complete with a ten story office building, an eight story office building, ground level retail, and a four level underground parking garage--at a site bounded by North Washington Boulevard, North Highland Street, North Garfield Street, and North Tenth Street.

A battle between Arlington's past and future is developing in Clarendon. Intelligent people are finding ways to accommodate historic preservationists and commercial developers. It is providing benefits to everyone.

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