A neighborhood is more than a bunch of houses that are close together. It’s also a shared experience. And in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., as in many cities around the country, that experience includes seeing, reacting to, and maybe participating in the teardown movement. In a fully developed town, there are no new building lots — so to build a new house, you have to tear down an old one. But when old homes, and the memories that go with them, are wiped away, people have mixed feelings.
Writer Kate Anderson Brower, who lives in the Bethesda, Maryland, neighborhood of Battery Park, took a look at the issue in a recent report for the Washington Post (see: “Teardowns: Tearing apart or building up the neighborhood?” by Kate Anderson Brower). “Beneath the bonhomie in this Bethesda neighborhood, sandwiched between Old Georgetown Road and Wilson Lane, tension simmers over the growing number of homes getting torn down and replaced with multimillion-dollar McMansions,” Brower writes.
Brower used to sympathize with the anti-teardown crowd, she says — “but lately I’m having my doubts.” Brower can see both sides of the story now that her kids are growing up and her own vintage house is starting to feel cramped. She’s a little more inclined to understand the point of view of Derek Huetinck, managing partner of BeaconCrest Homes, who told her, “There generally isn’t very much charm or value in what we’re demolishing.”
“I never forget how lucky my family and I are to live here,” writes Brower. “I love our three wood-burning fireplaces, and I’ve even grown accustomed to our creaky floors. But the allure of a mammoth open kitchen, a two-car garage and a walk-in closet in the master bedroom is hard to ignore.”