Our View: Supporting smart development on the West End

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(Photo Credit: Alexa Epitropoulos)
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Vibrancy. The elusive word is carefully woven into special use permit applications, crops up on countless city staff reports and is repeated at various meetings, usually preceded by the word “more”:

“This [insert business concept/development/small area plan] will bring more vibrancy to the area.”

While we think it’s time to consult a thesaurus and come up with more creative, perhaps more tangible, terminology, we want to take a moment to applaud recent efforts to bring “vibrancy” to the West End.

Alexandrians have been pushing for years to bring more interesting business concepts, mixed-use developments and walkable neighborhoods to the West End. Certainly, the West End is known for various gems, from the cozy Cameron Station community to Dora Kelley Nature Park, but when it comes to destination neighborhoods, the West End is often overshadowed by Old Town and Del Ray.

As Amazon already has real estate prices skyrocketing in neighborhoods in eastern Alexandria, it only makes sense that we focus more effort on the West End. Plus, if we focus on the West End in our future plans for growth, that should help appease some of the congestion culminating in Old Town and Del Ray.

A prime example is our story starting on page 16, “Psychedelic ‘80s meets Scandinavian industrial at Aslin.” If that vibrant headline doesn’t make you want to check out the newly opened Aslin Beer Company, maybe its atypical location will.

The new 27,000-square-foot brewery and tasting room is located at 847 S. Pickett St., in the heart of Alexandria’s West End.

Since opening in July, Aslin has already gained popularity throughout the city, especially from its West End neighbors, some of whom can walk to the trendy new hang-out spot, according to Aslin’s brand manager, Erik Raines.

The Aslin team had nothing but good things to say about the city, and it’s encouraging to see a new business feel so comfortable and welcomed in Alexandria.

Another of our articles this week, “Virginia Paving Company to close Alexandria plant in 2027” starting on page 12, shows that city leaders are thinking about the future of the West End.

While the asphalt plant has been located on Courtney Avenue for decades, a review of its special use permit went before city council at Saturday’s public hearing, during which the majority of discussion revolved around the future of the Eisenhower West region.

It’s heartening to see city staff, the planning commission and city council agree that the plant is inconsistent with the neighborhood’s small area plan, which is shifting from industrial usage to more residential and mixed-use properties.

We’re still a long way from the plant closing – council voted to sunset it in 2027 – but the vote was a step in the right direction.

In an ever-growing city, we support smart development, but as always, we think there’s a right way for it to be done, one that prioritizes quality of life and adequate parking. After all, how can we expect residents to patronize our vibrant new businesses if there’s not a place for them to park?

Warnings aside, we give our props to council for making a smart decision on Saturday, to Aslin for bringing some much-needed life to a desolate area and to everyone else who’s working to enliven and include the West End in plans for Alexandria’s future

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