Neighborhood: Seminary Valley Sept. 13-21

Neighborhood: Seminary Valley Sept. 13-21

Seminary Valley residents are walkers, bikers, and enthusiastic users of public transportation. The City’s seven-person Transportation Policy and Program Task Force has released its draft "Comprehensive Transportation Master Plan" encouraging alternative modes of transportation and reducing dependence on the private automobile. The plan’s most detailed section relates to transit solutions and describes three alternative transit corridors. Two of the three directly impact Seminary Valley: one would extend along Duke Street from Carlyle/Patent and Trademark Office west past Landmark Mall and possibly as far as Fairfax City, and another along the western end of the city from Shirlington to Kingstowne.

Other sections of the plan examine bicycle transportation alternatives to increase the use of bicycles for short trips and improved pedestrian access, safety, and convenience to encourage walking. The Task Force did not address street improvements beyond those related to the safe accommodation of all forms of transit. The full report is available on line at:

Probably one of the most interesting pages of the report is page 4, a map detailing existing pedestrian and bike trails in the city and proposed improvements thereto. The "City of Alexandria Proposed Pedestrian Network & Infrastructure" map is a macro-level view of many updates including safety enhancements, nearly two dozen sidewalk projects, nine miles of new shared use trails, four new bridges for pedestrians and bicyclists only, and five underpass or tunnel improvement projects. I know that I, for one, would love to use the tunnel along Holmes Run that goes under I-395, but it is just too scary at any time of the day. Bring the improvements on, Alexandria!

Also close to home are recent decisions by the City’s Planning Commission regarding two neighborhood development projects. A decision to approve a proposed townhouse development, just north of Polk Street (near "Death Valley," to use neighborhood vernacular) has been deferred until the site plan more thoroughly explains how the developer will control water runoff, emergency vehicle access, and other issues. Nearby neighbors are mostly in opposition, although some testified at a recent hearing that developing the site would alleviate activities by teenagers with too much time on their hands. The lower part of the property, dug up last spring, is apparently in violation of agreements to keep old-growth trees, and construction of four single-family homes has been delayed.

Long-time Valley residents will know that the property encompassing Polk School north up to Hammond was a thriving farm just over 50 years ago. Mr. Kim Holien, a local historian who grew up in Seminary Valley and graduated from Hammond High School, reminisced with me recently about his "Tom Sawyer" days in the Valley. The houses west of Pickett Street were the last of three waves of construction, and the property was dominated by a large red barn at the crest of the hill near where the Syme house now stands. Polk Street was a dirt country road with lots of shade trees, and Polk School sits on the site of a former orchard. More tales from Mr. Holien in columns to come!

Don’t forget this weekend’s big Mile-Long Yard Sale on Taney Avenue. My family calls it "The Great Basement Transfer." No matter…it’s loads of fun, starting at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 15.

— Mia Jones