What was once a black theater on the corner of North Henry and Queen streets in the Parker-Gray historic district, is now one of the pieces to a larger revitalization project enveloping the whole area in this section of Old Town, breathing new li
fe into a community with a distinct heritage.
Developers took the building that once housed the Lincoln Theater and years later a pool hall, and transformed it into a commercial facility but kept the old theater facade. It is now divided into three separate retail space units that could be home to a grocery store, carryouts or coffee shops in the near future.
Local smaller businesses are going to be able to lease these spaces, said Stephanie Landrum, senior vice president of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership.
Landrum attended the ribbon-cutting at the revitalized building on Oct. 18 with Mayor William Euille, Realtor Scott Elkins, the Rev. James Buck of nearby Ebenezer Baptist Church, Vice Mayor Del Pepper and others.
Hopefully, this will open some eyes and inspire others to make a contribution, Elkins said.
Other parts of the revitalization project in this quadrant of the city include the Monarch condominiums and retail down the street, and the formation of the Queen Street Business Association, Landrum noted.
Buck, who opened the ribbon-cutting with a prayer, is vice president of the business association. He said he wants to see affordable housing included with the plans. Thats part of the discussion, he said.
Pepper noted that the whole revitalization effort, which is a mix of different projects, will take about 10 years. The Lincoln Neighborhood Center, as the new project is called, will bring some energy to this area, I see it happening, she said.
Growth, good; parking, not so good
Across Queen Street at the All American Unisex Barber, Booker T. Wilkins has been manning the shop for 40 years. Hes for growth but is also worried about parking.
Ive seen the town change quite a bit since Ive been here, he said. Parking is a serious problem around here.
Mark Latsios is a third-generation owner of the corner, housing the barber shop, carryout and book store, across from the theater.
Im all for anything they do to try to help the neighborhood, he said. Latsios grandfather first met Wilkins as a young man, reflecting the sense of history throughout the community. Booker is an institution in this neighborhood, Latsios said.
So far Elkins and the owners of the center are involved in talks with several potential tenants for the new store spaces, but nothing is final yet. There is office space above the stores that they are hoping to fill as well.
Were expecting an architect to take the upstairs, its kind of a creative space,Elkins said.
Leslie Zupan has lived in the immediate area for 28 years and is the author of the Parker Gray Growl, a blog about the revitalization of the area.
A lot of people have been waiting for the renaissance of this area, she said.