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Ownership of Landmark’s streets could make a big difference down the road

The building blocks for what will become a sweeping mixed-use development replacing Landmark Mall are almost in place. A small discussion about street ownership could also have big implications for the future of the site’s identity.

The Eisenhower West Landmark Van Dorn Implementation Advisory Group met on Monday to put some of the finishing touches on some of the initial framework discussed over the last few months. One of the major points of discussion is over who will own the roads.

While The Wharf is cited as an inspiration behind some of the development concepts at the former Landmark Mall site, some at the advisory group meeting pointed to the city’s Carlyle neighborhood for inspiration.

“If it’s a private street, we would require public access easements so everyone has access, making sure it’s open and available to everyone,” said Jeff Farner, Deputy Director of Planning and Zoning for the City of Alexandria

Jonathan Rak, a partner at law firm McGuireWoods, said his leading preference would be for privately owned streets with public easements.

“All of these framework streets will have public access easements so that they function with the same types of access as any dedicated street,” Rak said. “As a comparison, all streets in Carlyle are privately owned but have public access easement and look, smell, and feel like any other public street.”

Rak said privately owned streets with public access easements can help give more flexibility with how the street is built and how it operates.

“In terms of why we’ve been asking for some private streets… one of the things we want to be able to do is enhance paving materials in those areas,” Rak said. “Having a private street gives us more flexibility in terms of paving materials. [If we] want to have the ability to close down some portions of those streets to make them into farmers markets, street festivals, those kinds of activating type uses, private street with public easement lets us do that.”

There are other questions and concerns moving forward that will need to be addressed down the road by the City Council and Planning Commission. Agnes Artemel said there are still lingering questions about sustainability and building heights — particularly minimum heights, as some developers have come back to the city saying they aren’t planning to go as high as some earlier estimates.

The Planning Commission is scheduled to review the early plans for Landmark Mall at the June 24 meeting, with those plans headed to the City Council on July 6.

Image via City of Alexandria

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