Your Views: The new Alexandria

Your Views: The new Alexandria
Renderings of the northwest corner of the Heritage development from the July 15 BAR meeting (left) and the Sept. 2 meeting (right). (Renderings/Hord Coplan Macht)

To the editor:

Every city goes through an evolutionary process and there comes a time when it becomes critical for a city to revitalize one of its old neighborhoods. The Heritage at Old Town is one of the neighborhoods in Alexandria where revitalization has become more critical than ever.

The Heritage Old Town, which is also known as the Bottoms, was home to pioneering African American entrepreneurs in the 1800s and now is home to diverse multicultural communities who are enriching our city’s social fabric. Currently the area is under consideration for a redevelopment project which is designed to provide more than 180 affordable housing units. While this initiative has been supported by diverse community members, it has also raised concerns regarding its impact because of the scale and the design approach of the project.

I think it would help to zoom out of the focus area and consider how the entire city is evolving in a short time. Just in the past two years, Alexandria’s cityscape has been changing faster than before because of several big developments which are either completed, under construction or currently being envisioned. From the Muse Old Town, Robinson

Landing to Landmark Mall redevelopment, these projects are collectively creating the essence of the “New Alexandria” which we may not be familiar with yet but will learn to appreciate soon.

I think this is one of the most interesting times to live in Alexandria and witness revitalizing projects such as the Heritage at Old Town. In 2018, when the city’s Department of Planning and Zoning hosted a design charette to discuss a possible redevelopment project for the Heritage at Old Town, I found the experience to be a good opportunity to learn how large projects can help solve housing shortages.

As we continue to analyze the possible impacts of such development projects to our neighborhoods, I think it is also important to be ready to welcome much-needed changes when it’s necessary.

I believe that the objectives of the South Patrick Street Housing Affordability Strategy and the Heritage at Old Town development project can serve as a model for future development. This is why I urge Alexandria’s City Council to support and approve the objectives of both initiatives.

-Marta Ali, Alexandria