2024-07-19 11:08 AM

Arlington’s Broyhill Mansion Being Demolished, Replacement Uncertain 

  The 70-year-old hilltop mansion built by area home builder M.T. Broyhill is set to be torn down, the News-Press has confirmed. The required signage for demolition permits were recently posted in front of the spacious white-brick home at 2561 N. Vermont St., angering neighbors, though the new owner says the plans of himself and his wife are still taking shape.

    The mansion, once considered as a potential residence for the U.S. vice president, has 10 bedrooms and 11 bathrooms on 9775 sq. ft., and was owned in recent years by the Woodlawn Foundation of the Catholic Prelature of Opus Dei. It went on the market last fall and finally sold in January for $2.5 million to an entity called Family Home LLC.

     The purchasers, Mustaq Hamza and Amanda Maldonado, said in interviews, however, that so far their experience in the neighborhood has been unpleasant, in part because of the county’s current divisions over the just-enacted Missing Middle zoning reform. That has led them to question what they say was their original goal of replacing the old home with their own “forever house.”

     Hamza, 38, an entrepreneur who was raised in Fairfax County and is a Muslim of Sri Lankan descent, and wife Malodonado, a Puerto Rican-American currently raising their two children, both say they have encountered “vitriol” and “hostility” from neighbors who cut through the property and ask questions that imply “You owe us an explanation of what you’re going to do with the house.” Hamza interprets at least some of this as a reaction to his skin color, leading him to rethink. “I’m not sure I want to be in a place that doesn’t want me or people who sound like me.” It seems some neighbors, adds Maldonado, assume that he must be an agent or a worker “who couldn’t possibly be the owner.” Some promised to fight his plans.

   The couple met at Howard University Law School, and previously lived in Arlington’s Madison Manor neighborhood while owning the Falls Church Montessori child development center, Hamza says. After prospering in the commercial daycare operating space, he decided at age 38 to explore new opportunities for entrepreneurship.

      Neighbors the News-Press spoke to are upset about the pending demolition, the apparent speed with which the permits were granted, and speculation that the couple have a deal to construct townhomes. “Everyone is in shock,” close neighbor Kathy Sibert told the News-Press. “There was no notification until they saw the signs and began receiving certified letters. There was no public hearing.”

    Mary Rhoads, who grew up in the house before her mother died in February 2022, said, “Many of neighbors feel it’s disappointing to learn that a house that has so much history would even be considered to be replaced. I’m sure the family that bought it did what they felt was best. But it has two lots, and that will change the dynamics of neighborhood.”

    Jeanne Broyhill, granddaughter of the original builder and daughter of Republican Rep. Joel Broyhill (who served from 1953-74), said her grandmother and father are “rolling over in their graves.”

    Relator John Kirk of RLAH Real Estate said his team last year was excited about the experience of seeking a family to buy a home with such “historic significance to the neighborhood, “but only one buyer stood up, and in the end, the owner does what they want to do.”

    Hamza says he felt he “helped a charity that couldn’t find a buyer,” and stresses he has not abandoned his original plan of replacing it with a newer single-family mansion.

      Though the couple consider themselves nonpolitical, both couldn’t help but notice that the Missing Middle rezoning was adopted after the NAACP stressed how the existing “exclusionary” single-family zoning enforced segregation, associating the Broyhill family name with 1950s resistance to integration. Maldonado, the daughter of a teacher, said she is “offended that some people would be appalled at living next to townhouses for teachers.”

    Hamza is skeptical that the vocal opponents of the rezoning are a majority, noting that “many others are thrilled with Missing Middle.” But some “want to take us back to what worked 50 years ago, not what will work 50 years from now. And why wouldn’t it apply to North Arlington? We should be able to exercise our rights like everyone else.”

      Bill Richardson, president of the local Donaldson Run Civic Association, asked to address the demolition’s link to the Missing Middle debate, faulted the county for ignoring his volunteer group’s “serious concerns about the oversized lot coverage and height limits applicable to single family homes. These have led to accelerated McMansionization of our neighborhood, with resulting loss of mature trees and heightened stormwater runoff,” he said. He wanted the county to “fix this issue first, before encouraging Missing Middle multiplex homes. They declined to do so, and notwithstanding their pledge to limit lot coverage of Missing Middle to the limit for single-family homes, they added 5 percent more” for multi-family developments.    

Hamza considers his plan for a “forever home” a “warm story,” but is put off by people “who had a lot more opportunity than we did being vested in keeping people like us out.” Doing some “soul searching,” he said he is open to being proven wrong.

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