2006-12-27, 14:03

The mixed-use development that stole Christmas?

By: Jonathan Groner
These are the first few paragraphs of a Washington Post feature story, Dec. 23, 2006:

The Evanses' Christmas tree stretches to the ceiling, tinseled in silver and dotted with a few lists for Santa. "IPod, birds, bedroom, guitar, no brothers, long hair," reads the 8-year-old girl's.

On the floor just beyond, the 5-year-old is killing insurgents, the explosions from his video game machine gun punctuating the Evans family's grim holiday spirit:

This is the last Christmas they'll be together in this Howard County trailer park. It's their last Christmas in neighboring mobile homes, here where Christine Evans spent part of her childhood, where she bore two children and nursed her dying father and father-in-law. Her parents lived here for 13 years, across the street from where Christine and her husband and five kids have lived for the past six years.

By Sept. 5, everyone at Aladdin Village must move. The community's 40 acres along Route 1, just south of the U.S. 1 Flea Market and across the street from the Maryland State Police barracks, are about to become, as the sign at the edge of the property announces, Elkridge Towne Center, a "mixed-use development featuring townhomes, condominiums, retail & commercial." At the other end of the trailer park stands a blue sign as tall as a building, announcing the arrival of Ryan Homes' Village Towns, featuring "luxury garage and non-garage townhomes from under $310s."

Forty-three families already have left Aladdin Village, pulling out their trailers or leaving their homes behind to be destroyed. The remaining 165 families, including the Evanses and Christine's mother, Susan Hardy, are still making plans.

For Hardy, this time of family traditions and togetherness is being blown apart: "You're all trying to go separate ways, trying to find a place to live."

"It's like the whole spirit's gone this year," Christine Evans adds.

Interesting article, if somewhat predictable. In the long run, a mixed-use project may be a better use of 40 acres of suburban land than a trailer park. But new development often brings disruption of people's lives, and the "last Christmas" angle does tug at the heart strings. While mixed use is still fashionable among many journalists, politicians, charitable executives, and other opinion leaders, stories like this will emerge from time to time, focusing on the people who are displaced rather than on those who will eventually move in to the new development. Mixed-use developers, real estate lawyers, and publicists will need to be prepared with responses to this type of message.

The full story can be found at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/22/AR2006122201512_pf.html


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