Dr. Morton has been studying legacy businesses initiatives nationwide since 2017, originally supported by a grant from Virginia Tech’s Vibrant Virginia initiative.
In January 2022, the American Planning Association published her study Legacy Businesses: Emerging Directions as Planning Advisory Services Memo 109.
In Spring 2017, Masters students in Urban and Regional Planning explored the history of longstanding, or “legacy,” businesses in Arlington County, VA. Our study focused on two areas: the neighborhoods along the Langston Boulevard (formerly Lee Highway) corridor and the historically African American Green Valley neighborhood. The goal of the studio was to bring to light the stories and voices associated with places that may not be typically viewed as “historic” resources, but that nonetheless comprise an essential part of community character and vitality.
Students studied the small but impressive list of “legacy business” initiatives in the US and Europe, which use a variety of criteria to define legacy businesses and employ a broad range of strategies to promote them. We decided to document and map businesses over 10 years old and give special attention to businesses over 25 years old. We felt that Green Valley and Lee Highway were timely areas of study since they are undergoing redevelopment and/or community visioning processes.
Update: In 2021, the name of Lee Highway was changed to Langston Boulevard. The website and project documentation will be changed to reflect the new name.
Although this is a Virginia Tech-initiated and managed project, we have been fortunate to have strong support and input from Arlington’s Historic Preservation program, Community Housing and Preservation Division, Arlington Cultural Affairs, and Arlington Economic Development. We have also had valuable input from Portia Clark and Dr. Albert O. Taylor from the Green Valley community and from the Lee Highway Alliance.
Local Shop Radio Program
For her MURP Capstone project, Valeria Gelman synthesized our 2017 oral histories into a 10-part radio series, entitled The Local Shop. You can hear all the episodes on her Mixcloud site.
Lee Highway Legacy Businesses and Communities in Arlington
“I think it’s important as a family business, that’s the beauty of it because you can bring in your children and family members. It’s not like if you’re a lawyer and you’re gone for 12-14 hours a day and your kids never see you and they don’t know what you do. But when the family can come and be a part of it, they see that you’re working and they can understand a lot more.”
Carla Buchler, owner, Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe
Green Valley & Longstanding African American-Owned Businesses
“In the community you had a lot of businesses all around. You had the TV repair man, Mr. Moore down the street, you had Wilson Cleaners… everything was right there in the community, and the Drug Store. We really never had to leave the community to go anywhere. “
Wayne Crawley, Star Barber Shop