To the editor:
After reading the April 16 article on the revised city budget, I was distressed by the lack of realism and unjustified collective optimism shown by our mayor, city manager and budget director.
The assumption that revenue will return to their 2019 levels by the start of 2022 is a bad joke. That is betting on a very short, sharp V-shaped recession. Are they aware even the big law firms downtown are cutting back?
Most likely there will be a long recession with many industries having a slow recovery. Alexandria may be less affected than other parts of the country, but we are dependent on tourism and restaurants, industries that are especially hard hit. They are uniquely affected by shelter-in-place and social distancing.
Will people come back quickly? Will they have the disposable income? How did the city make such poor judgements?
In this crisis there is one silver lining: We can solve the T.C. Williams capacity problem by buying Landmark Mall and possibly creating a second high school there.
Part of the funding would come from reallocating the Minnie Howard funds. This site has multiple advantages. First you have a willing seller. Howard Hughes is financially strapped and the recession will drag out any possible sale. They would probably be better off dumping the property versus holding out on price.
Next is the concept of creative re-use, which is most environmentally sound, and which the city has done before. I’m sure the mall can be greatly modified and not torn down. The homeless shelter demonstrates that point.
The food court would make a wonderful cafeteria. I’m sure the Macy’s and Sears sites can easily be adapted to other uses. Also, the site has all the existing infrastructure, probably needing only minimal updating. Infrastructure was a major issue for Howard Hughes and the city. In a recession, construction costs generally decline.
The difficult times ahead require honesty about how tough it’s likely to get – and some creative thinking.
-William L. Blumberg, Alexandria