Our View: The city taketh away, and the city sort of giveth

Our View: The city taketh away, and the city sort of giveth
An illustrated rendering of the South Union Street townhouses.

No one was surprised when City Council approved a six-townhome redevelopment project at the corner of Duke and South Union streets at Saturday’s public hearing.

The project, which received significant height and floor area ratio waivers in the development special use permit granted by council, will replace the current Solo parking garage. And there’s the second part of the problem: That Solo garage currently provides 72 parking spaces on three levels.

It’s increasingly difficult for residents and visitors alike to find parking within blocks of Alexandria’s waterfront. The very proximity to the Potomac River that makes Old Town a desirable location in which to live and visit is leading council to continue to approve inappropriately dense new developments – even on tiny parcels of land – that both increase population and eliminate parking. The combination of many more people and less parking is simply untenable.

Council sort of compensated for this decision by voting on Saturday to also allow the Hotel Indigo to rent out up to 45 spaces in its garage to the public. When the hotel was built, it was not allowed to let the public utilize these spaces. But as the garage has been underutilized by hotel guests, council has now reversed that restriction.

That’s a good thing, though “up to” 45 spaces does not replace the 72 lost parking spots in the Solo garage, many of which were leased by nearby residents who lacked off-street parking. Residents are concerned that even if Hotel Indigo makes these spaces available on a monthly rather than daily basis, the cost difference may prohibit them from being a viable replacement.

If that’s the case, where will these residents park? Judging by council’s unanimous vote to allow the Solo garage to be torn down, it doesn’t appear anyone in our city government cares.

Organizations that make a difference

There are dozens of national nonprofits and associations in Alexandria. These organizations utilize Alexandria’s proximity to our country’s seat of government to advocate for their members and causes through meetings with lawmakers and regulators.

There are so many of these organizations that Alexandria has been called “Association City.” Some of the organizations are familiar names, such as the National Sheriff’s Association. Others are less familiar, such as the Helicopter Association International.

While Alexandria’s associations and national nonprofits for the most part fly under the radar, many also quietly make a difference in our city. Some seek out local nonprofit organizations to support financially. Some encourage employees to help in the city’s volunteer efforts. Other associations use our city as a backdrop to highlight national issues.

This happened on Sept. 16, when the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children celebrated the end of its Ride for the Missing near its headquarters in John Carlyle Square. Cyclists had traveled 400 miles, from Utica, New York to Alexandria, to draw attention to the plight of missing and exploited children. For the full story, see page 1, “Ride for the Missing arrives in Alexandria.”

Alexandria is rightly known as a caring and philanthropic city. That spirit of giving back resides not just in our neighborhoods and local organizations, but also in the national associations and nonprofits that choose to use Alexandria as their base.