- The Washington Times - Monday, May 8, 2000

Residents in the Culmore community of Fairfax County, Va., trying to save a soccer field from becoming a drugstore are now threatening to boycott a national department store and its drugstore subsidiary after construction crews resumed tearing up the field last week.
Neighborhood activists who represent the county's largest Hispanic community said late last week they were considering urging consumers nationwide to stop patronizing J.C. Penney department stores and Eckerd drugstores after they said the drugstore chain reneged on its agreement to temporarily suspend its construction.
The field is on the corner of Glen Carlyn Road and Leesburg Pike.
"This is just terrible," said Carlos Mejia, a Culmore resident who watched the bulldozers tear away at the field where he once played.
"I don't know what I'll do now," he added.
The activists said they thought they had reached an agreement with Eckerd Corp. last Monday to temporarily suspend any more work on the field until further discussions.
The crews had stopped construction the previous week. But they returned to the site Wednesday morning and began hauling earth and digging away at the site that once was a gathering place for residents to play soccer and chat away an afternoon.
"This just goes to show that you can't count on their word," said Robert Schreiber, a nearby resident who is chairman of Save the Playing Field at Culmore action group.
"We were told that we would have another conference call in a day or two and we were under the impression that the standstill was still in force," Mr. Schreiber said.
Mr. Schreiber said U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III and Virginia state Sen. Leslie Byrne, a Fairfax Democrat, also said they would use federal and state funds to help residents purchase the field from North Carolina-based Zimmer Development Corp., which leased the land to Eckerd, a Florida-based drugstore chain.
But Eckerd officials said last Thursday their company never agreed to temporarily halt construction and that they would proceed with their plans to build a drugstore on the land.
"There was never any agreement to stop work," said Tami Alderman, a spokeswoman with Eckerd.
Ms. Alderman said the crews did stop work on the site for several days because of the weather.
"With the heavy rains … we were waiting until the saturated ground dried out," she said. "There was just mud there."
Mr. Davis' spokesman, David Marin, said the congressman was not pleased that Eckerd resumed construction.
"Congressman Davis is greatly disappointed," Mr. Marin said. "This is a clear example where Eckerd could have opted to be a good neighbor to the community."
Eckerd officials said they will donate $180,000 to the county Park Authority to restore a soccer field at Baileys Elementary School. That field is two blocks away from the lot that is the center of contention.
Dozens of Culmore residents and neighbors from nearby communities have been working since last year to try to save the 1.45-acre lot, which local residents used to play soccer, hold picnics or just meet friends.
More than 3,000 children live within a quarter-mile radius, residents say, and their only park or playground was the lot where Eckerd is building the 11,200-square-foot, 42-foot-high pharmacy and convenience store that will be open 24 hours a day.
Local activists said the lot served as an outlet for residents who were stressed and needed a place to vent, to meet others and play sports. Before it was torn up, the field had goal posts at both ends that residents used to play soccer.
"It meant so much to us," said Ana Maria Garcia, a mother of three who lives in Culmore. "I could let my children out and play, but no more. Where will they go now?"
The lot, which is zoned for commercial use, has remained undeveloped since a Mobil gas station closed there in the mid-1980s. The lot has been sold and resold over the years to developers who sought unsuccessfully to build there.
Dr. Cyrus Katzen, owner of the neighboring Culmore Shopping Center, sold the field for $1.9 million in 1997 to a company that then sold it to Zimmer.

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