Opinion: Letter to the Editor: The Flaws of Landmark

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: The Flaws of Landmark

Citizens of Alexandria, the Inova Hospital has decided to pull up stakes and move the hospital to the Landmark area of Alexandria to build a twin tower state of the art hospital of 230 beds, complete with a trauma center, a medical office building as well as 2,500 residential units including some retail. The bill for the city in this endeavor is $130 million, $76 million for the sewers and parks etc. as well as $54 million for the land which will be paid in bonds for 30 years by means of the taxes generated by the development of 2,500 residential units.

In a recent article it was stated by the city that this Landmark development would generate $778 million dollars over a 30 year term as a result of tax revenues from the Landmark project. Sounds like a winner doesn’t it? Well no not really.

I am concerned about the $130 million dollars that will be spent on this new Landmark project. I am concerned with the need of renovation of our two middle schools Francis Hammond and GW Middle School. I am concerned that our elementary and pre-schools have only two schools that have been renovated – Patrick Henry and Jefferson Houston. Douglas MacArthur next in line with 10 other schools to follow.

The city and school board have a penchant of excessive spending: Jefferson Houston was budgeted for $36 million allocated for the renovation. The final cost when completed was $44 million — 18 percent over budget. Patrick Henry, $44 million promised, finished at $62 million – 40 percent over budget. And the recent cost of Douglas MacArthur Elementary School is planned at $96 million vs the original $66 million – a 45 percent increase. Minnie Howard currently assessed at $180 M for construction. So the question remains – our remaining 12 schools need to be fixed, the price tag could be in excess of $1 billion Dollars. How can we reconcile laying down $130 million at Landmark when the schools are a mess? The return on the investment in the Landmark project for the city over 30 years is quoted as net $600 million, a partial payment at best. Where do the remaining funds for school construction come from?

I am concerned about the number of tenants that will occupy the 2,500 units that the city will build and the number of cars that these units will occupy. Let’s assume the units house 2 individuals with 2 cars, the 5,000 people with 5,000 cars will overtake the roads at Landmark and spill over to Duke Street creating severe congestion and gridlock. Duke Street is already the most congested street in the city and the city is seeking to make it worse. The city in an attempt to mitigate congestion will declare “eminent domain “over the Duke street corridor in order to tear up sidewalks and store fronts in order to place a new third bus lane east and west which will not mitigate the issue of congestion if these residential units are built in such mass numbers.

Where are the schools that will support this Landmark community? Tucker is at full capacity. Where do we build another school? There must be students in the residence of 2,500 units. However according to the city plan there is no need for a school at this location. How can this be?

While we are on the subject of schools, building another high school is an absolute necessity. T.C Williams alone is unable to support the capacity of current high school students. The addition of Minnie Howard is not the answer. The issue of T.C. Williams’s use of total virtual teaching during this pandemic was necessary due to the inability of sufficient distancing; the school is too small it can no longer function at this student level. The city needs to examine the placement of a new high school at the site of the old hospital which embraces some 30 acres of land.

The city has been negligent in its performance of school capacity and school academics. We build for high density; we build towers for apartments; towers for corporations and we let the schools crumble. Our taxes are high wherein does the money flow. Potential buyers look at homes then notice the academic level of our school and walk away—it shouldn’t be that way.

Bill Goff