Council endorses power plant redevelopment: Unanimously approves sustainability plan

Council endorses power plant redevelopment: Unanimously approves sustainability plan
The Coordinated Sustainability Strategy projection (L) and the Potomac River Generating Station (R). (Photos/City of Alexandria)
By Brianne McConnell |

The plan to redevelop the site along the Potomac River, where the old Potomac River Generating Station sits, has cleared another hurdle.

On Saturday, City Council unanimously endorsed the Coordinated Sustainability Strategy outlining the key strategies for short-and long-term energy and sustainability for the project.

According to documents outlining the redevelopment, the CSS lays out “a thoughtful set of targets to reduce the development’s impact on our planet, improve local environmental conditions and deliver healthy buildings within the Alexandria community.”

The CSS outlines five sustainability strategies including: site, energy and carbon, water, human health and climate resilience.

While presenting information to council, Dustin Smith, the city’s Green Building manager said, “At its core, the project is the removal and remediation of the power plant.”

Sitting just North of Old Town, the Potomac River Generating Station shut down in 2012 after 63 years of operation.

The former coal-fired power plant site has been closed off for more than a decade.

Hilco Redevelopment Partners purchased the 18.8-acre site in 2020. Current proposals call for reintegrating the property back into the Old Town North community.

Goals for the site include the creation of a mixed-use walkable development which will include residential, retail and entertainment opportunities, to connect people to the waterfront, and to create meaningful open space with improved cyclist and pedestrian connectivity.

The redevelopment is set to happen in three different phases, with the development likely happening south to north along the site.

The redevelopment is also expected to bring stormwater management and transportation improvements.

During the meeting, Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson questioned when the deconstruction of the old buildings could begin.

“When is the thing gonna knocked down? Today? Tomorrow?” Wilson asked.

“If you could advance all of the approvals necessary, we’ll get started even faster,” Mary Catherine Gibbs, an attorney for HRP, said.

However, it is likely deconstruction of the site will not begin until at least late 2024.

There are still several approvals needed for the project. Remediation of the site is ongoing.

According to HRP, the plant emitted approximately 3.15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually and approximately 200 million metric tons during the course of its operation, polluting the environment.

According to HRP, in 2013 a release of fuel oil from two underground storage tanks was identified.

The previous owner of the property began remediation activities. HRP took over once it acquired the property.

Ongoing soil remediation continues. Further samplings, currently in inaccessible areas including underneath buildings, will be performed.

“The redevelopment of the former power plant site was an ideal opportunity to work with the City of Alexandria to put their sustainable development vision into action. The CSS process has been a valuable exercise to educate stakeholders about what strategies are feasible on this site as the open space, infrastructure and construction plans take shape,” Executive Vice President of Mixed-Used Development Melissa Schrock said in a statement to the Times.

Next month, the Development Site Plan for the project, which lays out the proposed infrastructure improvements, will go before the planning commission.

Gibbs encouraged City Council to move the project along.

“It’s an anchor for this community and we need to keep it moving,” Gibbs said.

HRP has continued to ask for public input from the community. On May 24, they will host the 15th in a series of community meetings.

The meeting will provide a preview of the open space plans on and around the site and will be accessible via zoom. The community is also being asked to provide feedback via a new online survey.