Rethinking Glebe Parks future


The Alexandria City Council approved funding for another study of the difficult intersection at Braddock, King and Quaker; accepted a proposed strategic plan from the Office of Historic Alexandria and the Historic Alexandria Resource Commission; identified projects to be funded by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authoritys new funds and signed off on a plan for funding and redeveloping Glebe Park.

Glebe Park approval
Since April, Council has heard from the public, argued with the Alexandria Housing and Redevelopment Authority, and twisted arms to get something resembling consensus over what to do about Glebe Park.

The 152-unit housing albatross is more than half vacant because of aging plumbing and heating systems, mold and mildew. ARHA also still owes $5.6 million on the mortgage and is facing foreclosure from the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development if no solution is found. The process that began more than a year ago became chaotic when the Virginia Housing Development Authority rejected ARHAs application for Low Income Housing Tax Credits to help fund the redevelopment of the project. Finally, Tuesday night, Council approved a redevelopment plan, a city loan to ARHA to pay off the mortgage and a memorandum of understanding between ARHA and Council that proscribes how the two entities will move forward to deal with the complex issues of public housing around Alexandria. 

There are public housing units in almost every neighborhood in Alexandria, said Mayor Bill Euille. As the federal government continues to change its policies and levels of funding from HUD decrease, it is important that ARHA and the city move forward together to maintain the public housing that we currently have. This has been complicated and has taken a lot of work but we are approving items that will take us into the future in a positive way.

ARHA and Eakin Youngentob and Associates, ARHAs development partner, will redevelop Glebe Park with a mixture of public housing, work force housing and market rate units. The entire project will increase from 210 bedrooms to 235 bedrooms but the number of publicly subsidized bedrooms will decrease from 210 to 188. The West Glebe site will contain only ARHA units, as will the site on the west side of Old Dominion. The site on the east side of Old Dominion will contain 12 ARHA units, ten work force units and eight market rate units. The city agreed to purchase one of the work force units to reserve for the use of a Residential Police Officer or an onsite manager. Should the city or its designee decide that the unit is no longer needed for this purpose at some time in the future, the unit will be sold to someone who is eligible for work force housing.

The city agreed to loan ARHA $5.6 million to retire the outstanding mortgage on Glebe Park. This money will be repaid with the proceeds of the sale of land when James Bland and James Bland Addition are redeveloped. Council agreed to approve the redevelopment of those properties by October of 2008 so that ARHA can apply for 2009 Low Income Housing Tax Credits to help finance the project.

Council and ARHA have agreed to work together on issues that arise involving the maintenance of public housing units and the rehabilitation, renovation and redevelopment of ARHA property as that becomes necessary. Both groups have agreed to invite appropriate staff to attend executive sessions when the issues being discussed involve both the city and ARHA.

ARHAs Board approved the memorandum of understanding and so did Council. We are pleased that the city has agreed to loan us the money to retire the mortgage on Glebe Park and that we now have an approved development plan, said A. Melvin Miller, chairman of the ARHA Board. We can now move forward to get these important units back in service for the people who need them.

NVTA projects identified
When the Virginia General Assembly approved a regional transportation package for Northern Virginia, it generated as much as $300 million a year to fund transportation projects in the region. NVTA will administer those funds, keeping 60 percent of the revenue for regional projects and dispersing the remaining 40 percent to member localities for their use for local transportation needs. The Alexandria City Council has now identified the regional projects that will be funded with the citys share of the 60 percent of the money that NVTA will administer.

In 2008, the city and Arlington County have asked for funds to develop the Crystal City/Potomac Yard transit way bus rapid transit. In 2009, the city wants to separate busses from automobiles at the King Street Metro and construct a pedestrian pathway that is safe. Also, Alexandria plans to add a fourth entrance to the north side of the Eisenhower Metro station so that pedestrians will not run across busy Eisenhower Avenue to get to the station. The King Street Metro station also needs renovation, another project on the list.

In 2010, the city would like to renovate the pedestrian tunnel under I-395 at Van Dorn Street to make it safer and more weather-proof. This will help in connecting the Holmes Run Greenway to Fairfax County, though it will not entirely complete the connection. The city also plans to widen Eisenhower Avenue.

Braddock, King and Quaker intersection
Everyone recognizes that the intersection at Braddock, King and Quaker is dangerous. Three years ago, a study led to new signals and some upgrades. Virginia Congressman Jim Moran has earmarked funds for redesigning this intersection but nothing substantive has been done. Now, the city will study the matter once again.

I really hope that you consider a traffic circle here because I think that might be the only way to solve this problem, said Councilman Rob Krupicka.

Strategic Plan for Historic Preservation
The Office of Historic Alexandria and the Historic Alexandria Resource Commission presented a proposed strategic plan for protecting and preserving the citys historic places.

We want to remove any impediment to our school children visiting and taking advantage of our museums and other historic sites, said Ellen Stanton, HARCs chair.

City Manager Jim Hartmann will review the proposed plan and its budget implications and will make recommendations to Council early next year.