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Is Virginia-Highland Affordability Bastion on Chopping Block?

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A "large collection of townhomes" could pulverize 1960s apartment enclave

Even folks who've frequented Virginia-Highland for years may have never stumbled on Briarcliff Terrace Apartments.

Built in the 1960s, it's a nondescript, quiet pocket of low-rise apartments due east of Diesel restaurant and bar, CVS, and other attractions on Va-Hi's Highland Avenue strip. It's a tucked-away bastion of affordability with almost no web presence. And its days could be numbered.

Officials with the Virginia-Highland Civic Association describe Briarcliff Terrace as follows:

For the last couple of decades, it has been very stable — mostly Latino, with lots of kids — and (according to anecdotal police observations) very little crime. Its relatively isolated site – accessible only from Briarcliff Place on the south and Rosedale Drive on the north — has been one reason for limited social interaction with neighbors on other streets; there’s also been very little conflict. The children in the community have been a notable and valued presence in both the SPARK and Inman communities.

According to a VHCA post earlier this month, the community's land has attracted a surge of interest from developers over the years, as there is "no other large tract of land remotely similar to it left in Va-Hi." Inquiries from builders have never moved forward for one reason or another, but a recent one just might.

The proposal: a large collection of townhomes.

As of early April, nothing was in writing (and details very sparse), but officials said changes to the land's R-4 zoning and the applicable NPU Comprehensive Development Plan were in the works. Both will be subject to "extraordinary scrutiny at the neighborhood and NPU level" if plans move forward, officials previewed.

A collection of townhomes would likely decrease the number of units on the site and bring an uptick in density. Thus, the usage changes would be necessary.

The VHCA's planner and land-use attorney had reviewed what few specifics were available early this month, and officials said they expect to hear more in coming weeks.