Opinion Your Views — 11 October 2012
Power plant’s location aids those seeking low-key development

By Bill Hendrickson, Alexandria

To the editor:

Major obstacles stand in the way of repurposing GenOn’s closed power plant property in north Old Town, and perhaps the most daunting is transportation. The site is far from mass transit. Vehicles have only limited access. The only major nearby thoroughfare is the already traffic-clogged George Washington Memorial Parkway.

Given these constraints, I am skeptical that large or even moderate-scale development is possible on the site.

The power plant property — with its commanding view of the Potomac River and the Washington skyline — would undoubtedly be a prize for a luxury housing developer. But housing for the wealthy is the last thing we need. It already dominates much of the waterfront, and the semiprivate enclaves already built make it difficult for much public activity to take place.

A determination that the site could only support relatively low-scale development would affect the property’s price, making it potentially affordable for public purchase. It’s not too early for residents to begin to coalesce behind a position of primarily public uses at the power plant site.

My predilection is for some mix of parkland, arts and culture amenities, boating, outdoors activities, and low-scale private development, such as well-designed, small-scale cafes for riverfront dining.

The road to reuse of the power plant property will be a long one. A difficult, lengthy and perhaps costly environmental cleanup may be needed. In addition, in a strong property rights state, the city faces limits on its influence. Still, early resident support for primarily public uses at the site could help sway the outcome.

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