Alexandria City Council’s May public hearing lasted for more than eight hours with members dealing with the redevelopment of Arlandria, two developments at Potomac Yard, political signs and what types of signs should be permitted on Washington Street.
Nearly everyone came to speak in favor of plans for Arlandria that have taken nearly three years to develop and have involved a wide cross-section of this diverse community.
Edgar Rivera represented the Tenant and Workers Support Committee. He said, “We have an agreement and we are looking forward to working with the city to recapture the wealth that will come from increasing the density. We do want concrete provisions that support affordable housing and retention of existing small businesses.”
Chris Hamilton, president of the Warwick Village Citizens Association said, “Rather than recite why this is a good plan, I’d like to say two things.” Thank you all for responding to our community when we asked for your help to revitalize our main street, Mt. Vernon Avenue. You responded with policy direction and staff resources to produce what is an excellent plan. We also want to say thank you to the city staff. They have all worked extremely hard. We have all been well served by these thoughtful folks. Working with our neighbors has been a wonderful experience.”
THE PLAN CALLS for extensive redevelopment of the area. The focal point of this development is the Safeway-Datatel site. The Safeway site is currently under lease to three different retail businesses for the next five years. The city purchased and demolished the old Datatel building last year. The goal is to make these two sites into a mixed-use development that will include commercial, retail and residential development with outdoor seating.
“By changing the zoning, we hope to encourage more development,” said Eileen Fogarty, the director of planning for the city. “By allowing businesses to expand without going through the full special use permit process, we also hope to encourage business growth. We will use an administrative process that will not take as long and will not be as complicated. This will, for example, allow restaurants to add outdoor seating without necessarily having to come back through the entire SUP process.”
Councilwoman Joyce Woodson expressed concern about retaining affordable housing and providing assistance to the existing small businesses. “I want us to find a way of recapturing the wealth that is going to come from this plan so that the people who live in this neighborhood can still afford to do so and that the small businesses that have been there can remain,” she said.
There was discussion about the effects of gentrification. “If you decide to rezone, as you consider the social policy goals, you need to balance those with the economics of motivating redevelopment to occur. If the expense outweighs the profitability, redevelopment will not occur,” said Jonathan Raq, representing some commercial property owners in Arlandria.
CITY MANAGER Philip Sunderland also spoke to the issue. He responded to Woodson’s desire to recapture the wealth that will come from redevelopment. “If you are asking if we can have any impact on slowing gentrification, the answer is ‘to some extent’,” he said. “However, we cannot stop it entirely. We can do certain things to protect affordable housing and to assist the small businesses in the area and we are going to do that.”
The plan passed unanimously.