City leaders disagree on future of parking, transportation in Alexandria

City leaders disagree on future of parking, transportation in Alexandria
(File photo)

By Alexa Epitropoulos |

A request to eliminate 10 off-site parking spaces from the planned 270-unit Braddock Gateway development sparked an argument about the future of transportation in Alexandria at city council’s April 22 public hearing.

Council approved the request from the project’s developer to eliminate the spaces, but individual members disagreed about the potential precedent they set in doing so. The change required an amendment to a previously approved development special use permit for the property at 1225 First St.

“I have long-term reservations about reducing parking. This area will have much more development coming. Parking becomes a huge concern to residents and visitors,” Mayor Allison Silberberg said at the weekend meeting.

Silberberg said that, though the city is working to encourage alternative modes of transportation, including the Metro – which is a short walk from the planned Braddock Gateway development – and biking, the city still has a responsibility to encourage adequate parking facilities.

“I’m concerned that we might be inadvertently creating a problem. It’s the visitors coming to see the residents in the building that I often think about,” Silberberg said. “We do want to encourage all methods of transportation. We don’t want to have an abundance of parking, but some areas just don’t have enough space for parking.”

Councilor Tim Lovain, who describes himself as an advocate for making Alexandria more walkable, said the city should make a decision whether to encourage alternate modes of transportation or continue adding parking spaces.

“When you’re encouraging [all modes of transportation], you’re not encouraging any,” Lovain said. “If we’re going to encourage bicycling and transit usage, expanded parking is not the way to do it.”

The debate surrounding parking is particularly heated when it comes to areas of Alexandria where major development is arriving, such as the Braddock Road area and, further north, the Potomac Yard area, where a new Metro stop is in the works.

The major question facing city leaders is whether the city should encourage or discourage parking at new developments. For some council members, it’s a question of value.

“In the future, those complexes that have not been stingy about their visitor parking and their residential parking, those will be the ones that have the most value in the future,” Councilor Del Pepper said. “Those will be the complexes people want to visit. Those are the places where it will be easier to go to a party, easier to park. In this particular neighborhood, street parking is very limited already. With more buildings coming in, there will be a problem.”

Attorney Mary Catherine Gibbs, who represented Braddock Gateway developers Washington Real Estate Investment Trust and Trammell Crow, said the decision to eliminate the spaces is simple because there will be an excess of parking, particularly due to their proximity to a Metro stop.

“The Braddock Road Metro has had a significant impact. We’re eliminating these 10 off-site parking spaces because there is an excess remaining,” Gibbs said at the meeting. “There’s ample parking.”