Preserved & Developed is a weekly series of articles by Preservation Arlington highlighting local development projects that have involved both development of a site and preservation of historic resources. The projects highlight a wide range of challenges and solutions over many years. At the time they were completed the projects represented a commitment by the developer and the community to embrace the future and preserve the past. Preservation Arlington is awarding each project a gold, silver, or bronze star based on the extent to which the project protected historic resources within its particular constraints.
In 1934, Dr. Roland Bruner, a 1932 graduate of Howard University’s College of Medicine, and his wife Georgia Collins purchased a property on South Glebe Road in the Nauck neighborhood of Arlington County. According to the 1930 U.S. Census, only two African-American physicians were practicing in Arlington County at that time. Seeing a need for physicians for this segment of the community, Bruner opened a private practice in his house at 2018 South Glebe Road.
While his specialization was in obstetrics, and he regularly made house calls to deliver babies, he also offered general medical services to the community. In addition, Dr. Bruner was involved in the greater Arlington community and was instrumental in establishing a Planned Parenthood clinic for the County’s Department of Human Resources. In 1938, he was the only African-American doctor employed in the County’s prenatal clinics.
Dr. Bruner served the community up until a week before his death in 1978. The historical marker that now stands near his homesite states, in part:
“Dr. Bruner, who served greater Arlington for over thirty years, should not only be remembered for his commitment to medicine and generosity to the community and his patients but also for overcoming the limitations set forth by racism and segregation in an oppressive era of American history.”
In 2001, AHC (the Arlington Housing Corporation) purchased the almost half-acre site from the Bruner family to build a townhouse development. The property included two homes and was zoned R2-7, which allows for duplex and townhouses by-right, for a property of this size. The decision was made to relocate the existing structures within the site and incorporate them into the development. By repositioning the houses it allowed for a greater distance from Glebe Road, the ability to build garages underneath, incorporate community friendly front porches into the design, and provide an alignment and design to highlight the existing houses with new construction.
Bruner Place, as it has been named, is four affordable townhouses and three market rate townhouses, all of which were sold in the first quarter of 2005. The brick house at 2012 South Glebe Road was Dr. Bruner’s office and is now part of a new row of three townhouses, and the Bruner home, a frame house at 2022 South Glebe Road, is now part of a row of four townhouses.
The architect and developer paid extra attention to the design such that the exteriors of the homes are virtually indistinguishable from one another – not only successfully incorporating market-rate and affordable housing into one project but also moving, renovating, and incorporating buildings of historic and community importance into a new development.
At the October 2011 dedication of the historical marker, County Board Member Mary Hynes was quoted in the Sun Gazette saying that the historic preservation effort was “a wonderful confluence of preserving a place, and recognizing the person who made the place special.”
Preservation Arlington agrees and looks forward to more projects that incorporate preservation and affordable housing.