When I was a kid a magazine wrote about the proliferation of malls and the attendant diminishment of town and neighborhood quality of life by calling it the “Malling of America”. Something similar to that is happening in Burke, and reminds me that sometimes the purity of political philosophy has to give way to the practicality of everyday life…
We have a shopping center just off Va. 123 in Burke Centre that is the home of this little controversy. This shopping Center is currently home to a Safeway, a Kohls, a Subway, ABC store, a Coldstream Creamery ice cream. It is much like other shopping centers. It also has three freestanding banks, and a fourth through the Sun Trust bank outlet in a Safeway grocery store.
The shopping center is also home to a locally owned and operated restaurant named the Hopsfrog. The Hopsfrog is your typical hardwood bar, first cousin to Ruby Tuesdays and the like. It is a good corporate citizen, supporting several local charities and organizations. The Hopsfrog sits on a corner pad site and fronts onto Burke Centre Parkway.
It seems that the shopping Center ownership has a chance to put in a fifthbank, but to do it means the Hopsfrog has to go. The ownership has is prepared to raise the rent on the restaurant to a point Hopsfrog will have to close-just so they can put in a fifth bank…and, of course, make more money.
The project is sort of on hold, as there are questions about traffic impact that have not been answered…and if the traffic questions cannot be answered, then the permits needed to build a bank will not be available.
I am somewhat galled by the whole thing. Here you have a shopping center that is near if not at 100% occupancy. You have a restaurant that is a valued asset to our community, and offers a dining experience that you cannot get elsewhere in or near Burke. If you want your basic American cuisine in an grown-up atmosphere…the Hopsfrog is it.
Now I know that the shopping center management can do what they want with their property. They have every right to maximize their profits, land should be used for highest use…right up my alley in terms of economic alternatives. But you know…sometimes I wish that the absentee landlords and corporations that own the malls and shopping centers and the like would look beyond their pocketbooks and try to maximize community benefits rather than maximize profits.
That last thought surely is not conservative dogma, hence my observation of the conflict between political philosophy and the practicality of everyday life.
I hope the Hopsfrog survives this, because here in Burke we could use a good corporate neighbor with a proven record of political involvement more than another bank.