Your Views: The Potomac River Generating Station

Your Views: The Potomac River Generating Station
The Mt. Vernon Trail narrowly separates the shuttered GenOn power plant from the Potomac River. (Photo/Luke Anderson)

To the editor:

It was with much interest that I watched the demolition phase of redeveloping the Robinson Terminal and the Regal Theater sites. The former will make room for the Alex Renew water project while the latter will be the new location for Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus.

This article provides commentary based on a tour of the Potomac River Generating Station facility, the next site to be taken down and made ready for redevelopment. We start with a bit of background.

PRGS was decommissioned in 2012. Prior to that, this coalfired plant generated about 500 mega-watts of power, enough to help meet the needs of D.C. and parts of Maryland and Virginia. Today, it is a perfect site for redevelopment. Enter Hilco Redevelopment Partners.

In late 2020, this company, experienced in building large industrial and commercial redevelopment projects, purchased the PRGS property for redevelopment – though a small power grid area owned by PEPCO and bordering the much larger PRGS property was not part of the purchase.

Recently, HRP conducted a well-organized tour of the PRGS property they purchased. This tour, held in groups of about 10 interested Alexandria citizens each, started at the North Royal Street gate, from which tour participants walked a short distance to the south coal yard. The group then received a briefing on how the coal was received, stored and then transported as needed to the power plant.

This was followed by a second briefing along the Potomac at the PRGS pump house. Here, the group also had an excellent view of the conveyor belts and the several towers that made up the heart of PRGS power plant. The group then proceeded around the PEPCO property noted above and back to the tour’s starting point, with a walk along an empty rail yard that at one time was populated with coal-carrying hopper cars brought in by the Norfolk Southern Railroad.

The entire tour lasted about 30 to 40 minutes. It was time well spent, as many questions about the workings of the power plant were asked and answered.

We also learned that demolition of the power plant will most likely start next year. Much like the Robinson Terminal North and Regal Theater sites, the clean-up that follows the demolition will leave the former PRGS site ready for the planned redevelopment.

The redevelopment of this area of Old Town North that will provide additional housing as well as dining and retail options, is something to look forward to.

-Dick Chait Alexandria