Development Opinion Your Views — 31 December 2011
Opinion: In redevelopment, as in life, hindsight is 20/20

To the editor:

In 1967, newly married and new to Alexandria, I was anxious to open a retail shop. My husband and I began touring spaces and wandered into a small, empty building on the 300 block of King St.

The man sitting in the one chair in the center of the room turned out to be local real estate icon Welly Goddin. He told us the block, along with the 400 and 500 blocks, was to be destroyed to make way for “higher density, urban renewal development,” something city officials decided was necessary for Alexandria’s growth.

I later found a space a few blocks away and have been there for 44 years. In these past decades, I have watched the city change, but I can say the redevelopment of those blocks did not make the area more attractive to visitors and shoppers. Instead, those buildings broke the flow and charm of our Main Street. I am not even certain demolishing the existing buildings enabled the city to grow — whatever that means.

But there are lessons there, at least in my mind. Things don’t always pan out as planned. Developers bringing the promise of increased revenues aren’t necessarily acting in the best interest of the city and its residents.

Who can conclusively say implementing the waterfront plan won’t devalue the historic homes that make Alexandria so charming? How does increased density — whether it is along the waterfront, at Mark Center, or the strip mall slated for redevelopment in Arlandria — affect the quality of life of the city’s diverse residents?

Do we want to look back in four decades and wonder what happened to our lovely city?

Amanda Lasker
Gossypia

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Alexandria Times Staff

(2) Readers Comments

  1. Well said, and thank you for sharing your long term perspective. You are correct in your observation of the 300, 400 and 500 blocks of King Street. Another good example of why the City should not rush into the waterfront plan and instead, come up with a more authentic and less dense alternative.

  2. I’ve always wondered why the 300, 400, and 500 blocks are so different from the rest of King Street. As I walk through them, it feels like the street suddenly loses its shape and character, only to revive upon reaching the 200 and 600 blocks. It’s sad. On the other hand, if the architects had kept the architectural integrity of the street in mind, they could have made it just as nice, only more modern. It seems like urban planning in the 1960′s ruined many cities, not just Alexandria, and we can learn lessons from that debacle and reinvigorate the city with a better planning scheme that respects the past, even as it looks forward.

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