Letter to the Editor: Redevelopment will exacerbate displacement

Robert Ray at his Old Town shop, Cavalier Antiques (Photo Credit: Alexa Epitropoulos)

To the editor:

Whole blocks of Old Town are to be torn down and redeveloped, likely with greater density. The planned Route 1 south redevelopment will include Heritage at Old Town at 431 South Columbus St. and Olde Towne West III at 500 South Alfred St. The redevelopment has been triggered both by HUD-funded subsidized housing contracts that are due to expire and the proposed Alfred Street Baptist Church expansion.

To help the community make the transition, the City of Alexandria Planning Commission applied for a grant from the Virginia Housing Development Authority. The commission received $140,000 to have a week-long event promoting involvement in the development, called a “community charette.”

Last week the charette took place at the Nannie J. Lee Center. Planning staff studied the site and created design guidelines and drawings. They have involved the public through presentations of what could be built, receiving input and producing video. To see what they have done, go to: alexandriava.gov/Housing.

I commend the planning commission’s efforts to help the community and residents with the transition and to feel that they are involved. However, the process will not change the large-scale outcomes of this redevelopment. The Route 1 South redevelopment will cause displacement and uncertainty for the residents of the subsidized properties and require the development’s neighbors to adjust to greater density and increased mass and scale.

This development is a microcosm of the city at large. Alexandria is in an ongoing process of displacing the poor and those who cannot keep up with rising rents and rising taxes. Those who remain have to continually make adjustments and allowances for increasing
density and intensity of use. Our job is to pay attention and to protect who and what we can.

-Robert Ray, candidate for city council



  1. Candidate seems to not know or care about the difference between the planning commission and the city department of planning and zoning. There is no planned redevelopment, at least yet, and I fail to see how ASBC plans are a “trigger”. Candidate misses the point of the exercise, to understand the tools available to retain housing affordability and mitigate displacement to the extent possible, given regional and national economic forces.

  2. Correction. Instead of writing:”..City of Alexandria Planning Commission applied for a grant”, I should have written: “..the City of Alexandria’s Planning and Zoning Department applied for a grant”.

  3. Regarding ASBC’s expansion, ASBC owns some of the subsidized properties. I remember seeing preliminary ASBC expansion plans that included the demo of some of those properties. It is fair to say that the expiration of the HUD-funded subsidized housing contracts is the largest factor a triggerring the redevelopment. As an aside, The proposed expansion of ASBC will also increase density of use to in the Route 1 South area.

  4. I agree with Mushypeas that it is the responsibility of activists, Planning Dept and Commission, Council and City Management to try to use all the tools available to…mitigate displacement to the extent possible”. Of course, all those residents will have to move to make way for the development. I believe that that it is our responsibility to pay attention to all those impacted by “the regional and national forces” driving development and to protect those we can..