In the four years since the Mobil Corporation first proposed that Colonial Village in Arlington be converted to condominiums, tenants and the developer have fought a running battle over the fate of the historic garden apartments.
Now the conversion is all but guaranteed, but both parties show little sign of agreeing to a quiet end to the struggle.
Last week, in a meeting between 250 tenants and the developer, Colonial Village Inc., a Mobil subsidiary, residents of the 45-year-old apartments attacked Mobil for offering what tenants called "cheap" and "puny" discount prices on their apartments.
However, Gregory Friess, vice president of Colonial Village Inc., contended that several tenant activitsts, whom he refused to name, were attempting to thwart efforts toward a smooth conversion. "Their whole purpose," he said, "has been to deter and frustrate the (conversion) process at every juncture."
Lou Ann Frederick, executive director of the Arlington Housing Corporation, said the feuding is not unusual. "Raw nerves are the order of the day when you are talking about housing," she said.
Colonial Village is in north Arlington on 55 acres bordered by Wilson Boulevard, Lee Highway and North Queen, Scott and North Veitch streets.
Mobil's redevelopment plans include razing 128 apartments, constructing 750,000 square feet of office space, selling 150 units at $25,000 each for public housing and paying for all relocation costs within the development. They also have promised that no renters will be forced out of the development or placed in smaller units than they now occupy.
But at least one family, Philip Barry, his wife, Roberta, and their eight-year-old son are skeptical of Mobilhs plans.
The Barrys live in the only building with three-bedroom apartments that won't be torn down or sold for public housing. When the conversion begins, the Barrys will have to move termporarily and they don't know where they will find another three-bedroom apartment since there won't be one in the development during the rehabilitation.
"It's disconcerting not to know what's going to happen to the place where you live," Roberta Barry said. "I'm worried about how it will end, whether we will be thrown out or how we will manage."
Jim Todd, president of Colonial Village Inc., said the Barrys have an unusual problem. "We'll do our best to find a solution."
Mobil has offered the tenants $1,000 off of the market price if they buy their own unit or a $500 reduction for an apartment other than their own.
Bill Massa, president of the Colonia Village Tenant's Association, said they have hired a lawyer to renegotiate for higher discounts.
But Mobil says their offer is final. "Why do I owe then a deep discount in a rising real estate market so they can take an immediate cash windfall when they sell them?" asked Todd, who argues that Mobil's overall concessions to middle-income residents and public housing preclude higher discounts.
"Legally," said Todd, "we could give (tenants in) all 1,100 units a notice to go and they would have no alternative (but to leave)."