Don’t wash affordable housing away


To the editor:

For the most part I agree with the statements Andrew Macdonald expresses in his article about the future of Alexandria’s waterfront (“What do you want Alexandria’s waterfront to look like?” March 18, 2010). The residents of Alexandria should participate in the waterfront planning process. The waterfront area should not be a purely commercialized endeavor. The waterfront should be utilized as a public space, with abundant open green space and should attract local consumer and tourism dollars. Historical and archeological and cultural sites should be preserved as well.

The one area where I disagree with Mr. Macdonald is on the geographical border constituting the waterfront plan. He states that the plan includes the entire Potomac River shoreline extending from Daingerfield Island to Jones Point. However, he overlooks a very large and prominently located waterfront area called Hunting Point, home of the Hunting Towers apartment complex.

Hunting Towers is directly south of Jones Point and is on the waterfront in the City of Alexandria’s jurisdiction. The parcel of land is currently owned and controlled by the Virginia Department of Transportation (in liaison with the Federal Highway Department), having been acquired to accommodate the Woodrow Wilson Bridge construction project. 

The land and buildings located on Hunting Point have been an affordable home to many Alexandrians throughout its long and rich history dating back to the early 1950s. Today Hunting Towers is one of the last bastions of affordable housing available for Alexandrians. Currently there exist more than 500 affordable units at the location, but for how long?

The City of Alexandria should encourage the Commonwealth of Virginia to cede the property to them once the bridge project is deemed complete. The property would then be owned by the city and could serve to facilitate multiple functions. First, the city would assist in maintaining the dwindling stock of affordable housing. Second, a portion of the units (preferably the first and second floors) could be converted into a much-needed affordable assisted living facility for the aging and disabled. Third, the open green spaces surrounding the complex would be preserved in perpetuity. Fourth, unnecessary and unwanted development impacting the waterfront would be forever halted. And fifth, the waterfront plan would then truly be an inclusive and well-devised plan, beneficial to all the people that call Alexandria home.

Finally, I have some questions for the City Council and those in charge of the waterfront plan. Who among the city administration can, or will, address these questions? What is the plan for Hunting Point in relation to the waterfront plan? When can we expect the current city administration to address these questions? Where is the courage and forethought needed to develop a plan suiting Alexandria’s needs? Why hasn’t a discussion relating to this property and its inclusion in the waterfront plan been brought to light before? Finally, how will the Hunting Point property best serve the community?

Lewis Simon