There are major obstacles in the way of reusing the now-closed power plant property in Old Town North. Perhaps the most daunting one is transportation.
The site is not near mass transit. Vehicles have only limited access. The only major access road is the already traffic-clogged George Washington Parkway.
Given these constraints, I am skeptical that large- or even moderate-scale development is possible.
The power plant property, with its commanding views of the Potomac River and the Washington skyline, would undoubtedly be a prize for a developer of luxury housing. But housing for the wealthy is the last thing we need. It already dominates much of the waterfront, and the semi-private enclaves that have been created make it difficult for much public activity to take place.
A determination that the site could support only relatively low-scale development would affect the property’s price, making it potentially affordable for public purchase.
It’s not too early for the citizens of Alexandria to begin to coalesce behind a position of primarily public uses at the power plant site.
My predilection is for some mix of parkland, arts and culture, boating, nature activities, and low-scale private development, including well-designed, small-scale cafes for riverfront dining.
The road to reuse of the power plant property will be a long one. A difficult, lengthy, and perhaps costly environmental cleanup may be needed. In addition, in a strong property rights state, the city faces limits on its own influence. Still, citizen support for primarily public uses at the site could help sway the outcome.