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Week in Alexandria

Demolishing the Past

Alexandria's historically black American Legion Hall may be headed for the wrecking ball soon.

Feb. 1 is the deadline for the potential sale of the building, which is located on North Fayette Street. Originally constructed in 1944 as the Carver Nursery School, the building was one of several schools that existed in the Alexandria area in the 1940s to provide preschool education and daycare service. Now the facility is an abandoned building that a developer wants to demolish in order to build high-end housing.

“We are in a time of great success for African Americans in Alexandria, but there seems to be little interest in preserving African-American history,” said Boyd Walker, historic preservation advocate who has fought to save the building. “The city is more interested in development and increasing the tax base.”

Developer William Cromley wants to demolish the old American Legion Hall and construct a modern condominium building, a plan he's been pursuing since 2010. That's when the Alexandria government granted him a demolition permit, although the plan was stalled when city officials decided that the property must be put on the market for a fair-market value to allow time for any potential buyer to step forward and offer to preserve the building. That hasn't happened, and now Walker is holding out hope that the city's elected officials might step forward with city money.

“There are some other options other than the city purchasing the building,” said Walker. “The city could negotiate with the owner to extend the agreement another six months.”

Mastering Duke

How specific should Alexandria's transportation master plan be?

That's a matter of debate at City Hall, where elected officials clashed last week about the level of detail that appears about the city's transit corridors. For example, part of the language added to the master plan last week stipulated that a reversible lane would be constructed along the Duke Street transit corridor between Jordan Street and Roth Street. It also included language about a dedicated curbside transit lane between Landmark Mall and Jordan Street between Roth Street and Diagonal Road.

“This corridor is probably not going to happen for another decade,” said Councilman Justin Wilson. “And so this type of specific language does not belong in a master plan.”

Wilson spoke out against amending the master plan with details, arguing that it should be a document written at the “30,000 feet level.” None of his colleagues on the City Council agreed, however, and they approved the master plan amendment over his objections. Wilson cast a lone dissenting vote during Saturday's public hearing.

“Ten or fifteen years from now, things may be very different along Duke Street,” said Wilson. “Why would we want to put language that specific into our master plan?”

Lefty Politics

For years, the intersection of King Street and Union Street has served as a sort of test case for anarchy.

The intersection features a maddening combination of pedestrians, automobiles and bicyclists - each jockeying for position. Now city officials have come forward with a series of proposals to make things better. The first step is eliminating all left turns. But some are urging caution. Old Town businessman Bert Ely appeared before council members last weekend to speak out against the new restrictions forbidding lefhand turns at the intersection of King and Union.

“The effect of those all-the-time restrictions will be to force these residents to travel further to reach their destinations at times when traffic is light on Union and King,” said Ely. “That would hardly be eco-friendly.”

Ely suggested that the 24-hour nature of the ban might be overkill.

“Is it really necessary to ban a left turn from northbound Union onto westbound King at 11 p.m. on a Wednesday evening or at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning?” he asked. “I doubt it.”