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Braddock Plan On Hold

Community sessions have raised more questions than answers.

Once again consideration of the Braddock Metro Neighborhood Plan by the Alexandria Planning Commission and City Council has been postponed as a result of questions posed at several community meetings. The latest postponement was decided upon following the April 12 community information meeting at Jefferson Houston Elementary School.

Scheduled to be on the Planning Commission's May docket, with submission to City Council later that month, it is now in a state of limbo due to questions raised at various community sessions. No new date for either the Commission or Council to consider the plan has been established, according to the Department of Planning and Zoning.

Since its introduction, the plan's primary purpose has had the dual goal of enhancing the Braddock Road Metro Station and fostering high density development near that station to encourage use of Metro. However, the plan area also encompasses a part of Parker-Gray Historic District and a segment of Alexandria Redevelopment & Housing Authority's (ARHA) residences.

Both of these have contributed to the plan's controversial aspects. Those have been exacerbated by the Route 1 corridor which passes through the plan area as a primary north/south artery.

In the eyes of the Planning and Zoning Department this plan has the following objectives:

* Advance the vision of a new urban village with transit oriented development;

* Create new mixed-use development with affordable housing and retail uses in a pedestrian/bicycle friendly environment;

* Create new consolidated, usable public open space with enhanced trail connections; and

* Highlight the historic character of Parker-Gray and its neighborhoods.

Each of the public meetings have looked at the plan and discussed its various aspects within the following topic categories: Land use, density and zoning; development, form and scale; transportation; public housing; proximity to the Metro station; crime; open space; infrastructure; and Parker-Gray Historic District.

SOME OF THE COMMUNITY'S comments noted by Planning and Zoning staff within each of the topic areas following the meetings included:

Land Use, Density, Zoning:

* If protecting the integrity of Parker-Gray is a goal why not create all single-family townhouses.

* Public health concerns need to be addressed as to worsening air quality.

* There needs to be greater correlation between all the various elements of housing, density, retail and transit.

Development Form & Scale:

* The concept is not a plan — "it creates canyons."

* The future "Monarch" has a "cold and unfriendly" look from the street. What will be its final appearance?

* "This proposal shows soulless development, whose only motivation is to make a profit and increase tax revenue."

* There should be more focus on retail development to serve the neighborhood.

Transportation:

* The question was raised again about a possible Metro station at Potomac Yard. This was tied to the perception that more traffic congestion was being created on Route 1.

* There was opposition expressed toward Bus Rapid Transit service on Route 1.

* Some saw a lack of coordination between the Braddock Metro Plan and the work of the Transportation Task Force.

* Overall traffic safety considerations have been questioned.

Public Housing:

* Questions and comments on this subject ranged from why more analysis of public housing was not being incorporated into the plan to suggesting the removal of public housing altogether from the plan area.

Metro Station:

* It was suggested that if a hotel were located at the Metro Station, city police would pay more attention to crime in the area to protect tourists.

* There were concerns expressed about future transit needs and Metro's long term future.

Crime:

* There was a general feeling expressed that the plan area was of low priority to the Police Department.

Open Space:

* Some found the plan too low on dedicated open space and too dense which they predicted would exacerbate traffic congestion. They called for developers to "be forced to contribute to an open space fund."

Historic District:

* There were questions as to why Parker-Gray is not on the National Register of Historic Places and why the Samuel Tucker House, 901 Prince St., is not listed as an historic site.