Trading flowers for stray butts


No one is saying Alexandria isnt beautiful already, but a group of private landowners and businessmen are eager to make her shine anew.

With their new initiative, Clean and Beautiful Alexandria, poised to jump off with a weekend of volunteer work on June 19 and 20, landlords and business leaders hope a more tidy, vibrant window to the city will make it a more successful locale.

There have been comments that Alexandria is not as clean as other cities like Charleston [S.C.] and Annapolis and so forth who have really coordinated programs with the private sector, said Val Hawkins, executive director of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership and a member of the CBA board.

Clean and Beautiful Alexandria will help businesses in the area but it will also raise the impression for visitors, the people who come here and see our beautiful city, Hawkins said.

Through voluntary contributions, CBA will provide resources to plant flowers and maintain tree wells and flower boxes, while also urging landlords and their primarily commercial tenants to keep their street-fronts free of eyesores like cigarette butts and stray trash.

They may seem like small nuisances, but, scattered here and there, they add up.

Sometimes these cigarette butts that are on the sidewalks, in the cracks, they turn people off, Hawkins said.

The idea originated with Old Town landlords Rob Kaufman and John Ariail. The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce soon joined forces and in recent weeks the coalition has studied the main drag along King Street.

According to CBA leaders, the goal is to increase the cleanliness and beauty of the King Street, Del Ray, North Alexandria and Cameron Street business districts and other areas on a case-by-case basis.

Within the heart of Old Town, the group is seeking roughly 60 block captains to lead the corner-to-corner beautification efforts.

The area includes 18 blocks on King Street from the Potomac waterfront to the King Street Metro Station, the 100 blocks on each side of King Street, two blocks on Cameron Street and the 200 block of South Union Street.

An inventory of the 500-plus tree wells lining the streets of the business district from the waterfront to the metro found that some are quite vibrant, while others could use some sprucing up, Hawkins said.

All of them need something, he said, so this program is geared toward identifying what those needs are and then soliciting support from volunteers to deal with them.

The trees, flowers, shrubs and baskets that make up the positive focus of the initiative will be provided to the CBA through donations and purchases from American Horticultural Society members.

CBA leaders have identified the block in front of Hotel Monaco as a model area upon which to base their efforts. While they acknowledge the city cant be expected to do everything especially under its current fiscal strains CBA officials said the key will be working together.

Its an attempt to really create a private-public partnership for the city, to really help the city, Hawkins said. Theres a lot of feeling that a lot of people wait around for the city to do things and there needs to be more ownership of this type by private businesses. It really needs to be a cooperative effort with the city.