Potomac Yard should benefit from Carlyles mistakes


To the editor:

I take exception to your December 2 article, Carlyle neighborhood models Potomac Yards future.

Its an exaggeration at best to say that Carlyle has served as a model for development at Potomac Yard. Indeed, in certain respects Carlyle serves as a model of what not to do in planning transit-oriented development.

Carlyle began as a planned high-density development to take advantage of the nearby King Street Metro station. But the plan was in large part scuttled when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decided to locate at Carlyle.

The Carlyle that you see today is to a large degree the result of the planning that was done to accommodate the PTO and affiliated businesses that followed it to the site. The PTO got what it wanted an essentially closed campus, with other uses relegated to the periphery.

Truly successful transit-oriented development carefully integrates multiple uses office, hotel, residential and retail in ways that create dynamic, 16 to 24-hour-a-day neighborhoods.

To be sure, Carlyle has all these uses, but because of the PTO planning decisions, the various development pieces havent come together in a way that even comes close to adding up to a vibrant community, except perhaps during weekdays when there are many office workers.

Case in point: Although retail uses are increasing, most are still dependent on office workers and thus shut down at night and on the weekends.

In short, Carlyle is more of a traditional office park, dominated by the PTO and affiliated businesses.

Despite my remarks above, Carlyle appears to be a very pleasant place to work and to live and it will probably become more so over time. Its not easy to get high-density, multi-use development right. Sometimes you must seize opportunities when they present themselves, as the Alexandria City Council did with the PTO.

City planners certainly learned some lessons from Carlyle. But in planning Potomac Yard, they looked to successful transit-oriented developments elsewhere as models. The recently adopted North Potomac Yard Plan is exceptionally promising and exiting and I urge everyone to read it. I just hope that the city council doesnt mess it up by being too accommodating to a large federal government client.

The writer is a member of the Potomac Yard Planning Advisory Group.