Editorials Opinion — 18 November 2011

A booming local and national economy is not on the horizon. The prospect is only getting dimmer as international markets continue to falter or altogether collapse, and the possibility of a more austere federal government threatens the stout economic posture Alexandria has enjoyed inside the Beltway.

While Alexandria’s government has weathered the recession intact, no resident or business owner should sit back while the rain continues to fall. It’s not up to the government to weather the financial gloom and doom; it’s up to business owners — the backbone of the city’s economy — to proactively defend against it.

Business improvement districts are an ideal mechanism for economic development — for certain pockets of the city. Del Ray has developed organically, from a rundown neighborhood to a vibrant enclave, with the help of hyper-local business organizations. But there are other parts of town that would benefit greatly from a BID.

As evidenced from its sparse foot traffic and vacant commercial and residential real estate space, the Carlyle neighborhood would prosper with a BID. Unlike Del Ray, Carlyle essentially was created from nothing when the city built a Metro station and lured the federal Patent and Trademark Office in to anchor the district. The government created the neighborhood, but the business owners should look to its success.

By banding together and pushing for a special tax in Carlyle, members of the BID could work with the city to bring special events, unique ideas and general vibrancy to the neighborhood. And, best of all, business owners would decide their own fate.

City Hall created special tax districts in Potomac Yard to pay for the future Metro station in an act that was not exactly condoned by current residents there, though it was entirely legal. This is another site, yet to be developed, that is ripe for a BID. Why wait for an imposed tax when business owners can impose it on themselves and have more say in what it pays for?

Parts of the West End also could benefit from a local BID. The redevelopment of Landmark Mall and the surrounding area seems stagnant, lost in the melee of development around the city. By forming a BID, businesses in the Landmark neighborhood have the opportunity to forge their own fortunes, while creating a partnership with the city to promote positive development.

While BIDs are not the answer for every pocket of Alexandria, there are certain neighborhoods where businesses would benefit from working together to mold their surroundings. As the backbone to the city’s economy, it only makes sense they take proactive steps in making sure their fiscal health — and the city’s — stand tall.

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Alexandria Times Staff

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