To the editor:
I feel as if I’m living in a militarized zone. As I look out my front windows, all that I see are last fall’s brown leaves and trash that is piling up between two fences, fences that are literally blocking my egress to the street.
Across South Alfred Street, a long stretch of green tarp covers a portion of the now-deserted Heritage complex; many of the windows have remained open for months, and there, too, trash is building up, and who knows what else is inhabiting this decimated structure. This is not the Old Town living I bought into and have enjoyed for so many years.
When the Heritage redevelopment project was first proposed, I, along with many other concerned neighbors and area residents, fought hard against its approval, fearing that its density and the seeming lack of planning for the impact on traffic and parking on the 500 block of South Alfred Street would cause a serious deterioration in our neighborhood living. Sadly, our efforts failed, as plans were pushed forward and then were ultimately approved by City Council.
Last fall, a contractor working with the developer notified me that demolition was going to start in December 2022 and asked whether I wanted to have a vibration monitor installed in my home, purportedly so that they could monitor the impact of the demolition, as they dug the foundation. I agreed because I thought it would offer me some protection from cracks to my own foundation.
That box was installed in mid-November, but days and months went by without any sign of any demolition. In mid-February of this year, the contractor contacted me and informed me that they needed to remove the monitor, since there were permitting delays for the developer and that the project would not be started until this summer.
I was given the name of the developer’s community liaison officer and told he might be able to give me some updates. I contacted him and inquired about the purpose of the fencing and when it would be removed. His explanation was that the city had installed the fencing to protect my trees and that it wouldn’t be removed until the project was complete.
I’m all for protecting trees, but I don’t really understand the need for this fencing if there is a road that separates me from the development project, especially if it’s going to be in place for years.
And what about the people who were forced to move out of their homes at the Heritage last summer? They were my neighbors, some of whom had lived there for 30-plus years. So many promises made, so many lives disrupted. Oh, yes, the planners say that some will be given the chance to move back once the project is complete. But when will that be?
The Heritage Redevelopment website, www.heritageredevelopmentinfo.com, now says demolition won’t happen until November 2023, with completion in June 2026. What is driving this delay? What guarantee do I have that the project will ever move forward? And if not, who is responsible for the maintenance of this depressing structure?
Please do not tell me I must live with this eyesore for three or more years. And, yes, I know the worst is yet to come, whenever construction crews begin the blasting and pounding that will interrupt my family’s sleep for months to come.
I have been a homeowner in Old Town for more than 20 years. I love this community. But the manner in which our city government has handled this project leaves me questioning who is watching out for my homeowner interests.
What and why was the decision to approve this project made? Further, what has caused these construction delays? Does the city have a guarantee that the financing is in place to even make this project happen?
And Council members, why don’t you stroll by my home at rush hour? Can you even begin to imagine what this street will look like at that time with the added number of people living in those apartments? The building hasn’t even been constructed, and already the traffic stretches more than a block because commuters want to make an illegal right-hand turn onto Gibbon Street to get onto the beltway. Maybe someone in the city will look into that situation before 598 apartments are built and occupied.
As I sit here looking out my windows and considering what lies ahead, my future living here on South Alfred Street appears very bleak.
-Kim Burstein, Alexandria