By Derrick Perkins
Frustration occasionally flared up during a town hall style meeting with Beauregard corridor residents at William Ramsey Elementary School on Saturday.
Hosted by city officials, the meeting was designed to outline efforts to relocate low-income residents facing displacement with the expected redevelopment of the neighborhood. But with the exception of a lone lukewarm endorsement of the Beauregard plan, which allows the neighborhood’s property owners to move ahead with redevelopment, most took the opportunity to castigate city officials and real estate giant JBG.
“We’re not opposed to progress … We’re not opposed to trees and parks for our children. We’re not opposed to the idea that people want to live in homes that are newer and better,” said Aurora Vasquez, co-executive director of Tenants and Workers United. “But we cannot, in good conscience, say it’s OK to displace thousands of people.”
Many of the roughly 150 people who attended the meeting at the West End school donned the bright orange TWU t-shirts. The Arlandria-based nonprofit has helped organize residents in the face of rising rent costs and talk of redevelopment.
The neighborhood comprises one of the city’s last bastions of natural affordable housing. Like south Old Town’s Hunting Towers, the area serves as home to many low-income and immigrant families.
The deal struck by city officials with area property owners last spring allows for developers to take advantage of denser zoning in exchange for setting aside more than 800 units of dedicated affordable housing. Without a deal, property owners like JBG could move ahead with redevelopment and eschew any affordable housing, officials argued at the time.
Regardless, residents fear the plan will force them out of their homes, leaving them either waiting years to return to the neighborhood or not at all. At the meeting, officials said they – and the developers – would help residents find new homes, either in the neighborhood or elsewhere in Alexandria.