Your Views: Yes, Old Town is for everyone

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(Photo by Aleksandra Kochurova)
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To the editor:

In reply to Nathan Macek’s letter in the Feb. 6 Alexandria Times, “Old Town is for everyone,” I would like to point out the following:

First, a “hip vibe” is already available around D.C., from Arlington to the Navy Yard to the Wharf. What makes Old Town unique is our history and the preservation of the architecture, cobbled streets and old feel that it embodies. A hip vibe is not what brings people to live and visit here. In 2018, when TripAdvisor ranked Alexandria the #1 place to visit in the U.S., was it because we are like Arlington, Bethesda or the Wharf? Of course not.

Also, people of every age love to learn and revel in our heritage. Few places in our country can compare with what Old Town has to offer. Where age does come into play is when the city impedes walkability for the elderly and handicapped by allowing scooters to be strewn about on sidewalks and in intersections. Scooters are a scourge to the city and have more to do with amusement than mobility.

I agree with Macek that Old Town is the city’s central business district because of its waterfront access – along with its historic streets and architecture. That is what draws people here. I also agree that we need a mix of retail, restaurants and businesses.

We have had, and continue to have, that mix today.

Macek also strives to “define the people we wish to attract.” Is that his job? The people who already live and pay taxes here came for what Old Town is. By what authority does he claim to speak for who “we wish to attract?” He is proposing a solution to a non-existent problem.

Development and change are not bad per se and are embraced by most people who live here. But with change, we must maintain the look and ambiance of our wonderful city. Preservation and redevelopment are not mutually exclusive.

Let’s play to our strengths and revel in our history rather than toss it aside. Let’s put permanent art in the form of a statue of George Washington in Waterfront Park. Our first president looking west toward his Masonic Temple would be a grand attraction and photo-op on the waterfront. This would appropriately bookmark each end of King Street with his image. Our first president created the first plat of our city, spent much time here and fills local history.

Being quaint rather than hip is not a bad thing – and it appeals to people of all ages. It’s wrong to assume otherwise.

-Scott Collins, Alexandria

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