My View: Build it way up: A conversation between two fictional city employees circa 2040

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My View: Build it way up: A conversation between two fictional city employees circa 2040
Denise Dunbar. (Courtesy photo)
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By Denise Dunbar | ddunbar@alextimes.com 

City Employee #1: We’ve got to find a way to add more multi-family housing in Alexandria.

City Employee #2: Are you kidding me? We’ve spent the last 25 years building and rebuilding on every possible site. There’s no more space.

CE1: That’s what you said back in 2030 – but we got those nice six-story, multi-use complexes built where the Old Town Safeway and the Departmental Progressive Club used to be.

CE2: Yes but what a battle that was. It made national news when we had the police drag away those octogenarians who had chained themselves to the front railing. They made a really big deal about that man who had a stroke.

CE1: He had high blood pressure to begin with. Besides, that was bad planning on our part. We should have done a stealth teardown in the middle of the night when no one was looking. Remember how effective that approach was when we cut down the Witness Tree at the old T.C. Williams High School?

CE2: That was before my time.

CE1: Well, it wasn’t before mine, and I’ve learned a thing or two along the way.

CE2: Uh oh, like what?

CE1: Density is our destiny. We can’t ever forget that. It’s why we pushed through those 70-foot apartment buildings up and down Mt. Vernon Avenue. I think Pat Miller Square is nicer in full shade.

CE2: But haven’t we already accomplished our density goals? The city’s population is now 235,000 in 15 square miles. There’s only three cities in the country, and none in Virginia, that are denser than Alexandria. And we blew past the Council of Governments recommendations for housing growth years ago.

CE1: More is better. Especially now that we’ve banned individually owned cars and SUVs. Heh, heh, we left them with no choice but to use buses – and scooters – to get around town.

CE2: Ha, I personally think you’re a little old for scooter riding.

CE1: Oh, I’ve never ridden a scooter. I drive my city-issued car.

CE2: Well, that seems a bit unfair.

CE1: It’s perfectly legal since it’s not individually owned.

CE2: So where are we going to build next?

CE1: The cemeteries! There’s dozens of acres without a single building on them. All of that land is wasted on the dead. We need to house the living.

CE2: That’s a step too far, even for you. There’s no way the people, and the faith communities, in this city will let us build over the cemeteries.

CE1: There’s always a way. We control the zoning levers. Besides, they’re already multi-family.

The above column is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

The writer is publisher and executive editor of the Alexandria Times.

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