The street was closed on Friday afternoon. Benches replaced the parked cars. Planters brought color to the block. The laughter of children could be heard from the restaurant tables that dotted the sidewalks. The 100 block of King Street was transformed — for the weekend, anyway — from 27 parking spaces into a pedestrian plaza. City officials expect to continue the plaza concept, a pilot program, for the next three weekends.
“I would say that it was an unqualified success,” said Brian Hannigan, director of communications for the city of Alexandria. “All the feedback we got was uniformly positive.”
The block — at the foot of King Street — was closed to traffic on at 3 p.m. on Friday. Pedestrians immediately started enjoying the newfound space. Caleb Englin, son of Del. David Englin (D-45), was one of the first on the scene. He dashed up and down the block, giggling wildly at the prospect of having free reign over the street.
“This is great,” he said. “I wish everything was like this.”
Janet Barnett, deputy director of the city’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities, was on the scene to oversee the transformation. She directed the placement of the benches — purchased by the merchants — into the proper location.
“The merchants and the city staff are working together to create a pleasant look and a relaxing atmosphere,” she said. “We’ve got the whole team here to make this work.”
Over the weekend, pedestrians ruled the block. Street musicians performed as shoppers lingered. Parents with strollers used the street, freeing valuable space on the narrow sidewalk. Several people took their lunch into the middle of the street, holding a picnic in territory that is usually no-man’s-land. The only complaints that may arise from the pilot project concern traffic and parking.
“I thought it went pretty well,” said Townsend Van Fleet, president of the Old Town Civic Association. “But I think there are going to be some questions on parking. It’s a four-week test, and we’re going to need all four weeks to find out.”