After reading the numerous articles regarding the potential modernization of Alexandria as a result of Amazon’s HQ2 infusion, I was shocked, since not one single article touched on possible Amazon’s overall effect upon Alexandria’s historic heritage and irreplaceable architecture.
We have always taken great pride in ensuring that as a minimum, Old Town remains an example of historic preservation despite repeated onslaughts to its character and charm over the years. However, our newly elected mayor, Justin Wilson, has stated that we need an additional 100,000 housing units above what has already been planned for the area. In addition, he is advocating “granny flats” and up-zoning, both of which will greatly increase our overall density, resulting in increasing our already horrific traffic and parking woes. In my opinion, this is massive overkill.
First, the addition of 25,000 jobs to the area is planned over a number of years, and Amazon intends to hire locally when practical. It is not envisioned that this number of people will be added to the area in a single onslaught.
Second, Alexandria is both blessed and cursed to be so close to DC, since we lie in a major north-south and east-west commuter pattern which is already saturated. Alexandria also has weaknesses in its power grid that impacts the flow of traffic on major thoroughfares such as the George Washington Parkway during power outages.
It is therefore not in the best interest of Alexandria to pursue a knee jerk, dense, reactive urban model without a regional approach to planning for HQ2 implementation. Why not a spread-the-wealth, incremental approach in conjunction with Amazon? Perhaps Amazon could incentivize living in certain areas such as National Harbor, Bethesda, Baltimore? Perhaps tax breaks in surrounding jurisdictions could be provided for employees who do not add to the auto traffic and choose to live in these areas? We cannot keep thinking in the same old ways. Time to think outside the box. The golden egg is already gone — there is no need to strangle the goose.
Townsend A. “Van” Van Fleet