Metro is key to kingdom

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One of the most elusive elements of the entire Potomac Yard Development Plan has now become the controlling factor in not only the size and density of Alexandrias last major undeveloped land area but also in the time span of the development process. 

A future Potomac Yard Metro Station is now the key to the kingdom.

Last Saturday Alexandria City Council voted to approve the North Potomac Yard Coordinated Development District Conceptual Design Plan with the understanding that A Metrorail station is necessary to support the ultimate development proposed in North Potomac Yard.

If the proposed metro station comes to fruition it will bring with it an estimated $3 to $4 billion in development that calls for 7.5 million square feet of residential and commercial space for the 69-acre tract bordered by Jefferson Davis Highway, Potomac Yard Shopping Center and the Monroe Avenue bridge, officials said. 

The development spans the next quarter century.

However, as stated in the staff report of Alexandrias Department of Planning and Zoning, A Metrorail station is necessary to support the ultimate development proposed in North Potomac Yard. Until it is in place only a maximum of 2,000,000 square feet of development is permitted, including the existing 600,000 square feet of retail.

As our region becomes more urban, we have to build urban transportation systems, said Councilman Rob Krupicka. Cars just wont cut it. Cut-through traffic, regional traffic, already clog our roads. Krupicka proposed two years ago that any new development in Potomac Yard should be linked to a new metro station.

I understand that there are different views about density, but Id point out that Arlington is already building this kind of development right on the borders of Potomac Yard which forces us to build the transportation system that will enable us to address our need for non-car transportation solutions, he said.

The financing of this mega-plan is spelled out in a memorandum of understanding between the city and CPYR, the property owner of the desired Potomac Yard landbay. That MOU outlines mechanisms to finance the design and construction of the Metrorail station which has an estimated price tag of $190 million to $270 million.

Central to this financing plan is a $275-million bonded indebtedness by the city. Funds from the bond financing will go to pay hard and soft costs of construction, capitalize interest, and issuance costs necessary to place the new station in operation, according to the staff report. Repayment is based on anticipated revenues from increased tax revenues from the development plus developer contributions.

As highlighted by the report, without developer contribution there is a $9 million projected gap in initial financing. An investment advisor to the property owner has agreed to cover that shortfall with a $32 million payment. They have also agreed to contribute $10 per square-foot of construction with a cap of $49 million, as construction progresses.

The overall project is based on financing from taxes on new construction plus the establishment of two controversial special tax districts within Potomac Yard. According to city estimates, if established by City Council, those special districts could add up to 20 cents per $100 assessed value to property tax bills.

As for the exact location of the future Metrorail station, the parties will work together and with [the Metro board] and other affected regulatory agencies and stakeholders such as the National Park Service to resolve the final location. 

Presently the closest Metrorail stations to Potomac Yard are Braddock Road, Crystal City, and Reagan National Airport. The new station would add another stop on the Yellow and Blue lines.

    

Since the commencement of the Potomac Yard planning process a Metrorail station has been under consideration. In October 2008, City Council established the Potomac Yard Metrorail Station Feasibility Work Group. However, cost has been a major hurdle and there has been disagreement as to the stations necessity, as compared with other transit alternatives such as Rapid Bus Transit.

Plans for establishing RBT service along the Route 1 corridor adjacent to the Potomac Yard site has been underway for several years. A Metrorail station would not be a substitute for initiating such a service.

    

This project will support a new metro station as well as a dedicated high capacity bus or trolley transportation system. These two new transit systems are essential pieces of Alexandrias transportation master plan, Krupicka said.

    

As stated in the staff report, Once the Metrorail Station is operational, the full build-out of 7,525,000 square feet of the site may proceed. 

    

If, for what ever reason, the station does not come to fruition Potomac Yard takes on a far different status.

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