Your Views: Old Town needs your help

Your Views: Old Town needs your help
(Photo by Aleksandra Kochurova)

To the editor:

When we first moved to Old Town in the 1970s, our City Council encouraged support of the history, architectural significance and the financial benefits of restoring and maintaining this gem we have in historic Old Town. The Old and Historic Alexandria District had been established in late 1940s to preserve and protect this unique section of our city and state.

While this OHAD had been a standard for decades, the current City Council has all but ignored the guidelines for development within the OHAD and is now openly poised to allow developers to increase the height of buildings to almost 80 feet from the established 45- to 55-foot height limit. The density permitted for the historic district will also be significantly increased.

To allow this height and density disaster in the southwest quadrant just plays into the hands of developers and abrogates council’s civic responsibility to preserve and protect the uniqueness of this historic area.

Asland Capital Partners is proposing to build four enormous six to seven-story monoliths between Wolfe and Gibbon streets and South Columbus Street and Route 1 to replace several blocks of charming garden apartments and the Heritage apartments. Some have characterized these proposed buildings as looking like “urban jails.”

The tree canopy currently is about 19% of the area involved and will be diminished to almost nothing as these new sidewalk-to-sidewalk buildings are erected. These buildings will dwarf the surrounding neighborhood.

The developers’ proposal will provide approximately 750 units to replace the current 250 units, resulting in a tremendous increase in traffic to an area already terribly congested during rush hours. There is great concern about the resultant congestion making it almost impossible for fire trucks and emergency vehicles to gain easy acess to the area.

The original 2018 Affordability Study stated on page one, “This Strategy balances the need for redevelopment with responsible design and height recommendations to ensure future development is not only compatible with the existing neighborhood but enhances it.”

This surely is not what is being presented to council by Asland this Saturday. Despite numerous objections by the Board of Architectural Review, which is charged with preserving our community’s charm and uniqueness, Asland remains determined to bring Crystal City high rises to our historic community.

This must not happen.

Let your voice be heard to save our community: Write to City Council now to vote ‘no’ at the public hearing this Saturday to Asland’s special zoning variance request which would allow these monoliths to be built in our historic district.

-Barbara Hayes, Alexandria