Monday, February 23, 2009

Arlandria Revitalization on the Alexandria City Council Docket

This has been an active few days on the Arlandria Revitalization front. Residents are currently working to organize efforts to get things done in Arlandria and get them done sooner rather than later. This is a long post, but I wanted to give those who were not at the two meetings this weekend an idea of how much we're starting to move forward in Arlandria. We're really seeing action on this for the first time in a long time.

There were two meetings. The first was a City Council Meeting on Saturday, Feb 21. The second was a coffee with Councilman Justin Wilson held at a Lenox Place residence (many thanks to Paul Cox) on Feb 22. Here are the pertinent highlights from the two meetings.

First, the City Council meeting:

If you want to listen to the audio and view the docket, go here. It's the meeting listed as Feb 20, 2009 (it actually was on the 21st). The audio about Arlandria is approximately half an hour into the meeting and lasts about half an hour. The audio link takes a few minutes to load. Here's a summary of what was said:
  • Mayor Euille and Council wants to move forward on exploring ways to make Revitalization feasible, largely due to Councilmen Krupicka and Wilson. They do not doubt the study that says Revitalization of the Safeway/Datatel site is infeasible as is currently written based on current market conditions. Councilman Krupicka mentioned that City Council has the power to relax the guidelines if there is an interested party with a solid plan (can be flexible with taxes, zoning, parking, density, etc.).

  • Concilman Krupicka mentioned creating an Arts District so we encourage revitalization. Doesn't want to lose Birchmere and wants to move forward.

  • City Council voted for forming an implementation group (similar to the one created for Braddock Rd) consisting of citizens and businesses to focus on implementing the action plan, developing a new one, and keeping Arlandria on the front burner.

  • 12 Arlandria citizens showed up for the meeting and 4 Arlandria citizens spoke in favor of moving forward. The main points by citizens were:

    • Arlandria is an important gateway to Alexandria and should not be looked at in a vacuum. It affects the whole city's image.

    • The perceptions of Arlandria should not stop the city from pushing forward because DC has numerous models of how new and positive development can cause an area to improve.

    • We're behind in the Arlandria plans and other developments seem to be moving forward due to flexibility and lower requirements for low income/affordable/work-force housing. We need to relax the limitations in the Arlandria plan.

    • The citizens and citizens associations are willing to do some legwork to get wayfinding signs and other improvements done ahead of the city's schedule. Arlandria needs a real brand. Right now, many people don't know we exist and we intend to change that.

  • New head of Alexandria Economic Development Partnership spoke with us after our docket item. She's very interested in our efforts.
Second, the Coffee with Councilman Justin Wilson (I'm just going to focus on his points about revitalization):

  • Councilman Wilson (I'll use CW from here on out) mentioned the triangle project is moving forward at long last and that this should be good for Arlandria. There may be other nearby buildings revitalizing soon.

  • CW mentioned that city staff is trying to get a request for interest posted by this summer to see if any developers have interest in the site with slightly different ideas (more floors, bigger site, etc.). CW also mentioned that other pieces of land could be incorporated into the final project (between Russel Rd and Mt Vernon Ave). They're trying to leave the door open. The Arlandria small area plan was the first of it's kind in Alexandria and they've learned through subsequent projects that they need to keep things more flexible. West End and Potomac Yard re-development has been more successful because of the built in flexibility. This is in line with Councilman Krupicka's comments at the City Council meeting.

  • CW also mentioned a carrot to developers of partnering with them on the Datatel site since it's currently bringing in no revenue and redevelopment would bring in revenue to the city.

  • CW thinks Potomac Yard Metro will come within the next 10 years b/c of help from the current Potomac Yard site owners and their desire to redevelop as a more urban site.

  • CW discussed many other topics (transit, Verizon Fios, city's cable agreement, Potomac Yard development, density, traffic, etc.). This was just the Arlandria-related discussion.
I hope this gives residents and business-owners hope that change is indeed coming, or at least the city is willing to try! Please let us know if you'd like to get more involved with attending meetings, talking to Arlandria businesses, etc.

Kevin Beekman E-mail Kevin

Nick Partee E-mail Nick

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