Opinion Your Views — 20 June 2013
Supermarkets’ demise heralds coming gentrification

To the editor:

On June 6, the Giant food stores located along Beauregard Street and at the Bradlee Shopping Center closed. A little less than six months prior, the same happened to the Magruder’s in Seminary Plaza. And although the latter two establishments were listed as places to pick up the Alexandria Times, there was nary a word of lamentation in the local press.

These were businesses that, for the most part, served non-upscale communities in the city. They were within walking distance for their clientele and characterized by the relative longevity of their presence and the relationships between staff and shoppers. They were, in the words of the theme song to that iconic 1980s sitcom, “where everybody knows your name,” or at least your face.

Now they’re gone — and the jobs and small-town feel are as well. For their loyal patrons, grocery shopping necessitates a drive.

Alexandria touts itself as being close-knit as well as environmentally conscious. Yet what you find week after week in its newspapers is the extolling of “gentrification” — the destruction of established residential neighborhoods, a pushing out of the middle class and the economic and cultural diversity that made the city what it is today. Not to mention the raising of taxes — on residents — to pay for it.

If Alexandria is looking to spur economic growth, it would be far more sensible to exploit and emphasize its intrinsic and basic advantages — such as affordable housing close to D.C., deep historic ties and bucolic beauty — instead of courting a homogenized creative class by spending taxpayer money to attract only that element of society.

There have been failures in that endeavor, such as Detroit; Cleveland; Toledo, Ohio; Hartford, Conn.; and Rochester, N.Y., to name but a few. New and improved doesn’t necessarily mean better.

Instead, the city might want to follow the lead of Christine Quinn — who, in her run for mayor of New York City, is proposing 40,000 new units of affordable housing — before Alexandria becomes more akin to India, champion of the caste (off) system.

- Karen Ann DeLuca
Alexandria

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(2) Readers Comments

  1. I don’t see it as a gentrification issue really. But that is just me. I see it as the market getting rid of bad stores. Giant was not the best (or anywhere near it) grocery store.

  2. Magruder’s was not a nice store, nor did I feel like I was walking into Cheers when I had occasion to shop at that location. The Giant was not very nice, and long overdue for a make over. The floors were sticky, and the produce was never cool, always room temperature.

    The restructuring of Beauregard is a needed activity and will providing AMPLE affordable housing scattered throughout. Study after study show that breaking up poverty clusters such as the ones in this area is the fastest way to exit poverty for many people.

    As a “middle classer” myself, I’m excited for the change. My property will rise in value and we’ll see a rise in economic activity that will support better schools, etc.

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