Let’s face it: 2016 was a rough year.
Between the seemingly harrowing number of deaths of well known celebrities and artists, local leaders and beloved residents, the bruising presidential campaign and contentious debates on local issues, we’re sure Alexandrians are happy to see last year in the rear view mirror.
That said, some of the very same issues that rankled residents and officials alike are still very much front and center in the New Year. Following last year’s protracted debate — and eventual resolution — of the Ramsey Homes redevelopment project, the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority plans to move forward with a number of plans to redevelop its affordable housing stock, starting with the Andrew Adkins property.
And following the uncertainty and infighting among artists and others regarding the future of the Torpedo Factory Arts Center, which came under city control last October, officials are planning an extensive outreach campaign to identify the community’s goals and priorities for the art enclave in order to determine how to structure its governing body.
While discussions around these two topics were fraught and contentious in 2016, there is ample opportunity to ensure this year’s work is thoughtful and constructive.
On the ARHA front, the Adkins project is not expected to come before the planning commission and city council until late this year. And as a result of the acrimony surrounding Ramsey Homes last spring, the authority has developed a more open and collaborative relationship with city staff and elected officials.
In the case of the Torpedo Factory, while much of the discussions of the center’s future were shrouded behind closed doors in 2016, the city department of recreation, parks and cultural activities will seek public feedback from residents, officials and artists beginning next month.
In both instances, the conditions and structures exist for more fruitful discussions and constructive work to find optimal solutions. But it will be up to the people involved in those conversations to put their best feet forward.
ARHA officials must build upon the improvements they made to outreach over the course of last year. And residents, advocates and city officials all must come to the table with an open mind as well.
Likewise, city officials must use the public outreach campaign they have planned to find a solution for the Torpedo Factory that is financially viable, feasible for the artists and attractive to residents and visitors. At the same time, residents and artists must be open to new ideas and constructive in their own input and critiques.
In short, let’s put the negativity that seemingly pervaded 2016 behind us. Let’s come to the table with open minds, new ideas and a positive outlook.
It’s important to remember that improving Alexandria’s affordable housing stock and preserving the Torpedo Factory as an art enclave are goals we all agree with. It is merely the question of how we achieve them where some may differ.