Opinion: In redevelopment, as in life, hindsight is 20/20

Opinion: In redevelopment, as in life, hindsight is 20/20

To the editor:

In 1967, newly married and new to Alexandria, I was anxious to open a retail shop. My husband and I began touring spaces and wandered into a small, empty building on the 300 block of King St.

The man sitting in the one chair in the center of the room turned out to be local real estate icon Welly Goddin. He told us the block, along with the 400 and 500 blocks, was to be destroyed to make way for “higher density, urban renewal development,” something city officials decided was necessary for Alexandria’s growth.

I later found a space a few blocks away and have been there for 44 years. In these past decades, I have watched the city change, but I can say the redevelopment of those blocks did not make the area more attractive to visitors and shoppers. Instead, those buildings broke the flow and charm of our Main Street. I am not even certain demolishing the existing buildings enabled the city to grow — whatever that means.

But there are lessons there, at least in my mind. Things don’t always pan out as planned. Developers bringing the promise of increased revenues aren’t necessarily acting in the best interest of the city and its residents.

Who can conclusively say implementing the waterfront plan won’t devalue the historic homes that make Alexandria so charming? How does increased density — whether it is along the waterfront, at Mark Center, or the strip mall slated for redevelopment in Arlandria — affect the quality of life of the city’s diverse residents?

Do we want to look back in four decades and wonder what happened to our lovely city?

Amanda Lasker