Columns Opinion Your Views — 25 July 2013
The Business Plan with Bill Reagan: Striking the right balance

Bill Reagan

By Bill Reagan
(Photo/Derrick Perkins)

Alexandria is blessed with amenities that most other communities envy. We have our beauty, historic charm and a prime location on the Potomac River with easy access to transit, like the airport and Metro. We also have great shopping and dining destinations.

While we relish our incredible attributes, it’s also important to recognize that these amenities bring unique challenges. That is the cost of being their stewards. The effectiveness of our stewardship often is measured by how well we deal with the challenges.

Our old and historic district is a treasure; it is why many of us wanted to live or work here and why so many people visit the city. But any property owner, resident or retailer will tell you that this designation makes changing or adding to a building more challenging — and often more expensive.

While business owners may face additional steps because of Old Town’s requirements and restrictions, they also take pride in the beauty of King Street and appreciate protecting the thoroughfare’s aesthetics.

Our small business community recognizes that these restrictions are not there to make things more difficult but exist to preserve the character and history that makes Alexandria unique. Small businesses are willing to work within the bounds of these regulations, because they know that they protect our business community and make Alexandria a special place to live, work and visit.

Another of Alexandria’s charms is the close proximity between our residential and shopping districts. Many of us can stroll a short distance from home to dine or shop. We already have the livable community that so many other cities and towns are mimicking.

The integrated nature of our community often brings together stakeholders with differing viewpoints. This includes residents who worry nearby businesses will bring noise and traffic and proprietors who are doing everything they can to ensure their businesses thrive. City staff works to balance all of these priorities, and it should encourage all of us to appreciate how much effort it takes to find the best solution for each situation.

Civic engagement is an important attribute in Alexandria. We all play an important role in staying engaged and presenting our cases, while still respecting those on the other side of an issue. We realize that — while we may not always get the exact outcome we were hoping for — our voices have been heard and Alexandria is a better place for its diversity of ideas and opinions.

The passion surrounding all of these issues, like historic preservation and neighborhood planning, stems from the fact that we care deeply about our city. Alexandria is distinguished by attributes and amenities that require great effort and cooperation.

The city is special because we are special, and we continue working to keep it that way.
- The writer is the director of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

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