City and ACPS no longer exploring affordable housing at Douglas MacArthur

City and ACPS no longer exploring affordable housing at Douglas MacArthur
Photo/Cody Mello-Klein

By Cody Mello-Klein |

A heated discussion broke out in the community last month about the potential for co-located affordable or workforce housing at the new Douglas Mac Arthur Elementary School site, after the city said it was exploring options at the site.

Per a Jan. 31 memo from City Manager Mark Jinks and Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings, Ed.D., the city and Alexandria City Public Schools have made it clear that they are no longer exploring co-location at Douglas MacArthur.

“After much discussion between the City government and ACPS at many levels, we have jointly decided to direct our staff and consultants not to proceed further with analyzing afford- able and workforce housing co-location options at the proposed new MacArthur Elementary School,” according to the memo.

While housing options are no longer on the table, the city and ACPS will still explore the potential for smaller co-locations, like recreational facilities, at the site.

The decision not to explore affordable and workforce housing options came down to the tight timeline for the MacArthur rebuild. During the rebuild, MacArthur students will attend classes at the old Patrick Henry School building, which was originally set to be demolished and used for field space before it was designated as a swing space by the school board in April 2019.

The conversation around potential co-located housing came as a surprise to members of the MacArthur Design Advisory Group and ACPS when it was raised at a Jan. 15 community meeting.

The memo acknowledges that a contributing factor in the decision was the need for more time to analyze how housing co-location, especially workforce housing for ACPS employees, could work. It also acknowledges that, per a complaint from advisory group and community members, moving forward “non site-specific concepts” will be developed with “more community education and dialogue occurring before even getting to the stage of developing any site-specific brick and mortar plans.”