To the editor:
The proposal to redevelop the defunct Landmark Mall site, to include an Inova medical campus, is an exciting development for the city, and I support the project – but with a major caveat.
The environmental sustainability aspects of the plan, as least as stated in the staff report, appear to be relatively weak, and seem likely to result in only incremental progress. This is surprising, given the widely recognized climate crisis and the city’s assertion that this is a high-priority concern.
There are certainly some good environmental measures in the plan, but what in total do they add up to? There is no analysis in the staff report indicating to what degree these measures would help the city meet its climate goals.
The plan seems to focus its sustainability efforts on a building-by-building approach, rather than an integrated, site-wide approach. This, too, is surprising, given that there are now many real-life examples of integrated environmental site planning in the United States and around the world. Documents such as those from the National Renewal Energy Laboratory make clear that integrated site planning has synergistic effects, such that the overall benefits are much greater than the sum of their parts.
At the Planning Commission hearing on this project, the applicants made it clear that they opposed any further climate change-related requirements, and even opposed a condition approved by the Planning Commission to collect data.
The applicants also said that the city’s highly touted Environmental Action Plan is not relevant to this project, because no specific city policies have been derived from the plan that would require a developer to take action.
Redeveloping the Landmark Mall site and building a new medical campus for Inova in Alexandria are high city priorities, so it would have been difficult to push the applicants further than they wanted to go. This project has many good features and will be a boon for the city and especially residents of the West End.
But this is a very large redevelopment site. If we can’t make significant progress here, how are we ever going to meet our climate change-related goals?
-Bill Hendrickson, Alexandria