Your View: How dense can Alexandria be?

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Your View: How dense can Alexandria be?
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By Tom Walczykowski, Alexandria (File photo)

To the editor:
If you have cable, you have seen her — Kate Upton in the Game of War commercial. She struts behind two competing players in a plush forested background encouraging them: “Plan quickly. Build quickly or be destroyed quickly.” When I first saw it, I thought it was a Saturday Night Live parody of Alexandria’s political environment. Why would I think so? Let’s look at the data.

The 2011 census lists 15 cities with a population between 136,401 and 145,638 people. Alexandria was listed in that group with a population of 144,301 residents. Alexandria stood out among those cities as the city with the densest population — 9,370 residents per square mile. The average density for the other cities in that group is only 4,435 residents per square mile. Alexandria’s population density is 111 percent greater than the average city in the group.

So why have our leaders and city staff pressed for a constant program of build, build and build? They have claimed that the objective is to diversify the tax base and ease the burden on homeowners. They fixate on plans to build large mixed-use buildings near Metro stations. But the business environment has changed dramatically. Even large federal contractors are migrating to virtual teams with employees telecommuting from home in low cost areas, rather than housing large project teams in consolidated office space.

We already have lots of vacant office space and we will likely add to the vacant inventory. We also will end up with more compressed residents and more unfunded infrastructure needs like schools and sewers along with increased traffic gridlock.

We claim the title of “Eco City” but our leaders condone the ongoing construction of a citywide thermal mass of bricks, concrete and asphalt devoid of open green space. It is as if they never heard that irrational exuberance in real estate played a major role in the last economic downturn. Who benefits from all this construction? The developers, the contractors, the investors and the bankers all do, but certainly not the citizens.

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