Alexandria Letter: Hidden Agenda Behind Project?

Alexandria Letter: Hidden Agenda Behind Project?

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

Meetings for the construction/remodeling of the Patrick Henry Recreation Center (PHRC) began around 2004, headed by the Patrick Henry Parent Advisory Board. Since that time, feasibility studies and other surveys have been conducted by the City of Alexandria. This project also included various architects, the former mayor, and present and former members of the City Council. During the construction of the Charles Houston Recreation Center, the Patrick Henry Recreation Center was put on the back burner and a portion of the Patrick Henry Capital Improvement budget was rerouted to help fund the construction of the new Charles Houston Recreation Center.

On 2008, the Parks and Recreation Cultural Activities Department (RPCA) began to seriously conduct public hearing for PHRC. The Patrick Henry School and PHRC were combined and considered as one project. In 2015, a Patrick Henry Advisory Council was established to act as liaisons for neighbors and the groups they represented to provide input on issues and opportunities throughout the planning and design process for the new school and recreation center. To support the project, RPCA conducted a PHRC Neighborhood Needs Assessment.

Programming options were:

  1. School Centered Scenario — Focuses on before and after school care and programs for the students and their families enrolled at Patrick Henry School, etc.

  2. Neighborhood Recreation Center Scenario — This model has a market focus of the 1-mile radius surrounding the site, in addition to the Patrick Henry School students and families.

  3. Community Recreation Facility Scenario — This model includes programs that attract users from the entire City.

Program option 3 was chosen based on the Feasibility Study Feedback from the community.

  • 78 percent of respondents chose the Community Recreation Center.

  • 24 percent of respondents chose the Neighborhood Recreation Center.

  • 52 percent of respondents chose the School Rec Center.

Although the vote for the Community Recreation Center was unanimous, the director, James Spengler, of RPCA recommended that a Neighborhood Recreation Center be built for the PHRC and his recommendation was approved by the City Council and presented to the public during the community meeting.

During the first community meeting, several designs were presented and discussed during the breakout sessions and concerns shared with the community group. Prior to the conclusion of the meetings, the community was asked which design they preferred. At this polling, Option A (bus routes coming off Taney Avenue with bus loop off Taney and easement off N. Latham for emergency equipment) was the preferred design.

At the second meeting, the design selected during the first meeting was not approved by the School Board. Again breakout sessions were conducted and Design Option A-1 was presented. Once again, the community polled the A-1 design as the preferred option. The bus loop is now coming off of Taney Avenue and N. Latham Street. Thepart of N. Latham Street that is affected consist of a two-block radius, not the entire N. Latham Street area. The eight buses will pick up and drop off for 20 minutes morning and afternoon.

Again, the results were unanimous.

This vote for Design Option A-1 was again overturned once presented to the School Board, yet another design has been developed and was presented at the community meeting on May 4. The community residents are attending these meetings faithfully. Is anyone listening to the community or just the N. Latham Street residents?

The area in question consists of a two-block radius, not the entire N. Latham Street area. The public was informed during this Community Meeting that the previous design (A-1) was not approved by the School Board. Instead, another design (Option C-1) was presented. Another breakout session was conducted and the community questions why Option A-1 was not approved since the polling at the previous meeting reflected that the majority voted for this design.

The Patrick Henry Recreation Center has always served a large, diverse community on the West End. There are more than 100 children currently attending the center’s after-school program, which includes Samuel Tucker, Polk and Hammond schools. PHRC should not be limited to a particular community as all Alexandria recreation centers have always been open to all city residents, regardless of their zip code.

It is becoming apparent that there is a hidden agenda for this project. The Patrick Henry School is the more expensive of the two projects. If this is a joint project, why is the recreation center being singled out?

Why do Latham Street residents have so much control and power over the PHS/Recreation Center project?

Clarice Chandler

Amanda Henderson