Your View: Alexandria’s development process is disheartening

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Your View: Alexandria’s development process is disheartening
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By Linda Couture, Alexandria (File photo)

To the editor:
It’s really disheartening to live in this wonderful city I call home and watch it slowly lose its historic charm, ambiance and cache. With each and every planning decision, we slowly are becoming just like every other city. And it’s all because current decision makers apparently have little concern about anything but getting things built.

This is also disheartening since the mayor of storied Charleston, S.C. told us at a conference here several years ago how to get the kind of development that protects the historic character of our city. Mayor Joseph Riley — again in the news with the recent horrific shooting and a 10-term mayor of the city — told conferees that he tells developers what he and Charleston want, demands it and, consequently, gets it. What Alexandria decision makers depend on instead is the property owners and developers dictating what we can have.

What is even more disheartening is that it continues in spades. A visiting professor from Cornell just told us that what we’re getting is not worth having — in so many words. Nothing will make me forget what a mother told a group of us in a local coffee shop as we were condemning this lack of good architecture. She said she and her 10-year-old son were driving by Potomac Yard when her son asked why we were building all those “jails.” Imagine. Out of the mouths of babes, someone who recognizes lousy design even at a young age.

Furthermore, it is disheartening when certain Alexandria residents keep asserting in the press that those of us who live in Old Town don’t want development, that in fact we like the run-down waterfront. Nothing is further from the truth. We do want development and redevelopment, but we want architecture that defines us, and does not take away what little historic fabric we have left.

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