Your Views: Developers are licking their chops on the West End

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To the editor:

As a member of the Beauregard Corridor Stakeholders Group, I find at meeting after meeting that citizens have been bombarded with questionable assertions by developer consultants and lawyers. A few of them have been aimed at convincing people of things that experience tells me just arent so. This letter hopes to straighten the record.

1. Assertion: There is a demand for the kind of development that the landowners are proposing.

Reality: There is no evidence of that demand beyond the desires of those who stand to enrich themselves by change. We have not seen any demographic or occupancy studies to bring a factual basis to demand claims. Residential and commercial spaces are going begging these days and banks appear reluctant to lend to new construction. The true and certain demand is for the workforce rental housing that currently exists on the sites.

2. Assertion: Traffic congestion will decrease because significant numbers of people will live near work and shopping destinations.

Reality: Every mixed-use project approved in Alexandria for the past 20 years has made that claim and it has occurred nowhere. Only a small fraction of residents can be expected to work at BRAC or other nearby buildings. Traffic consultants continue to give us estimates based on hope, not experience.

3. Assertion: The developer group generously has given away density to Southern Towers so that it can build to its plan, a plan that has been slower to mature. 

Reality: It is impossible to cede density from one tract to another, even if developers were willing. The claim appears to be that part of the additional 2 million square feet originally requested that would be allocated to Southern Towers.  That density is not owned by anyone presently. Its disposition depends upon the will of the public and authoritative public bodies not adjacent landowners. 

4. Assertion: The garden apartments now owned by JBG are of an age that they should be torn down and replaced by town houses. 

Reality: Several examples can be cited in the West End in which garden apartments of a similar age and style have been refurbished by new ownership and provide market rate housing in attractive settings: Encore, earlier Seminary Gardens and Foxchase (originally Shirley-Duke). They provide a viable model for restoring not knocking down places where many people currently live.

5. Assertion: The Beauregard Plan really does not mean too much because individual tracts will have to come back to the city later with plat plans and re-zoning and SUP requests.

Reality: The Plan will require approval by two official bodies, the Planning Commission and the City Council. Once they give their imprimatur, zoning and SUP changes may become largely pro forma since the assumption will be that the additional densities and changes already have been approved. This suggests that the concerned public must weigh in as early as possible in the planning process, not wait for re-zoning requests.

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