Early reactions to the proposed building were largely negative. The apartment complex’s proposed gleaming modern façade struck a dissonant tone with nearby homeowners, whose drab brick and wood homes would look backwards and outdated if compared to the new building. The conspicuous building materials would also stick out like a sore thumb on the Connecticut Avenue corridor, which is largely made up of brick buildings over fifty years old. The more urbane apartment building would seem out of place when surrounded by older single-family homes and understated brick apartment buildings. The Cafritz Company’s renderings of the building (ONE is shown to the right) tacitly do not picture any single-family residences around the apartment complex. Furthermore, the proposed building’s spacious buffer between its entrance and Connecticut Avenue would position it much further away from the street than neighboring buildings, resulting in a noticeably inharmonious streetscape.
Apart from its physical presence, the apartment complex would exert an influence on the neighborhood. It would, for example, alter the neighborhood’s demographic composition. Its contemporary design would attract young professionals to a traditionally older neighborhood. The complex’s anticipated average unit size (900 square feet), too, signals a move away from the previously upper middle class family-based neighborhood ambience.
For many Americans, home ownership is tied to an ideological commitment to the character of a neighborhood. The identity-forming nature of home location is well established. Development, especially when it attracts new people to an area, can meaningfully change a neighborhood’s atmosphere. Groups opposed to Cafritz’s apartment complex have seized on this genre of argumentation. The 5333 Connecticut Neighborhood Coalition (CNC), the most active opposition group wrote, on a fact sheet appended to a public presentation, that, “the proposed structure would destabilize and permanently alter the character of the neighborhood negatively.”
Pro-development arguments regarding the increase in property value that would come with the building’s construction end up feeding the flames of this concern. Positive changes in property value do not perfectly map onto positive changes in utility because of homeowners’ personal commitment to a particular way of living. A slightly more economically valuable house in a newly turned unattractive (from the homeowner’s point of view) neighborhood may well be worth less to a homeowner than his or her house prior to any development.
Concerned homeowners had more prosaic, material concerns as well. The apartment building, if fully inhabited, would meaningfully increase the population density of the surrounding area, which could potentially lead to a slew of neighborhood problems. Local parking, for example, would become more difficult to find, especially given that most houses close to the apartment...