Arlington’s historic-preservation panel has gone on record seeking formal recognition for a venerated leader in Arlington’s one-time Little Saigon community of Clarendon.
Members of the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) on June 15 voted to recommend some kind of “commemorative element” be provided in the neighborhood to mark the impact of Nguyen Ngoc Bich (1936-2016).
“That could mean a marker, it could mean public art, it could mean a sculpture,” said county historic-preservation staffer Cynthia Liccese-Torres, who suggested the phraseology adopted by HALRB members.
(“I like that,” the board’s vice chair, Omari Davis, said of using “commemorative element” in the resolution, pronouncing it “more general but a little more nuanced, as well.”)
HALRB members voted to formally recommend “11th Street Park” as the name for the existing park at 11th Street North and North Danville Street. That is in line with thinking of the Park and Recreation Commission; County Board members will get the final say.
The park is set for a refurbishment, which will include new signage and lighting, an increase in trees, replacement of furniture and improvement of paths, as well as a formal name.
Those who support the idea of providing an honorific to the memory of Nguyen said it will honor not only his legacy, but a 15-year history of the Clarendon area that has largely been eradicated through redevelopment.
“Little Saigon” was the name applied to parts of the Clarendon neighborhood starting in the 1970s, when refugees fleeing the fall of South Vietnam began moving into the area and starting businesses.
At the time, rents in the corridor were cheap, owing to disruption caused by construction of Metro’s Orange Line through the corridor, leading to a proliferation of immigrant businesses.
Once Metro-related construction was completed, rents soared, older buildings were razed and many of those who had moved in ended up decamping for points west, such as the Eden Center in Falls Church.
Nguyen arrived in the local area as a refugee in 1975, serving the local community as an educator, advocate and, for a time, a multi-cultural coordinator for the Arlington government.