City looks toward the future

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In March 2006, Mayor William Euille and the Alexandria City Council convened an Economic Sustainability Summit. Eighteen months later, there was an Economic Sustainability Town Meeting to report on whats happened since then.

More than 150 people came to listen and participate in four small group discussions.

The members of this group gave many hours of their time and looked at a variety of issues, said Nigel Morris, chairman of the Economic Sustainability Work Group. We are here to present our findings and the options. We arent recommending one option over another but are providing a framework for decision-making and presenting the trade-offs that each option brings with it,

First, Morris presented a snapshot of Alexandria.

Unemployment is lower than the national and the state average, he said. Alexandria has a highly educated population with a median household income above the state and national average.

Over the past decade, property values have increased by an average of 20 percent a year. That is changing, although the real estate market inside the beltway, I am told, is fairly stable.

While most of this region has enjoyed tremendous job growth in the past six years, Alexandria has not. Also, in the 1990s, 50 percent of the Citys property tax revenue came from residential property and 50 percent from commercial. Now, 60 percent of our revenue comes from residential and 40 percent from commercial property taxes, Morris said.

Options
Morris told the audience, If Alexandria does not do something to attract businesses, Alexandria is going to become a bedroom community where people live but do not work. This is not a bad thing but should be a conscious decision.

Tourism brings a significant amount of revenue to the city. We have known about National Harbor for some time. It will open in April 2008, and can be good for Alexandria or it can be competition. I believe it will be both, Morris said.

To increase tourism and to attract jobs, Morris said Alexandria needs to develop coherent marketing and economic development strategies.

We are a historic community and we should take advantage of that because it is a large part of the reason many visitors come to Alexandria, he said.

One suggestion for branding was to change the names of the Metro stops to take advantage of destinations. For example, the King Street Metro station might become King Street/Old Town. Braddock might become Braddock/Del Ray. Van Dorn might be renamed Van Dorn/Landmark.

As for Landmark, Landmark Mall has lost half of its value since 1991. The city needs to make the redevelopment of this property a priority, Morris said.

Next steps
The Work Group will consider all of the input from the various groups at Saturdays town meeting and then will present a final report to City Council.

When we have that report, we will schedule a public hearing, probably in November, and then will move into the implementation phase. We are very serious about moving forward with these recommendations and not letting this report simply end up on a shelf somewhere. The future of the city depends on that, Euille said.

A full copy of the economic sustainability report is on the citys Web site, Alexandriava.gov.

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