Earlier this week, Alexandria’s City Council approved two major steps forward for plans to redevelop an abandoned power plant at the north end of Old Town’s waterfront.
The project faced some pushback from tenants and worker unions and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), but ultimately the city voted to approve a master plan amendment for the site and a coordinated development district (CDD) to encompass the project. The master plan amendment was unanimously approved, but the CDD was approved in a 6-1 vote with Council Member Alyia Gaskins voting against it.
The plan is to convert the site into a new mixed-use neighborhood with commercial and artistic spaces on the ground floors and residential units above. The project plans also include plans to prioritize pedestrian and cyclist traffic through the site.
Local workers said they were concerned the project would create more low-paying jobs that wouldn’t pay enough for the workers to live in Alexandria, while MWAA expressed concerns that the heights allowed in the redevelopment plans could interfere with traffic to and from National Airport. The MWAA later clarified that while those concerns still exist, they didn’t believe the project needed to be deferred.
Gaskins said at the meeting that her main concerns were around the public-private partnership that much of the site’s affordable housing hinges on. If the partnership falls through later in development, the city could be left with less housing than currently planned.
For others on the City Council, the potential benefits from the development outweighed that risk. Mayor Justin Wilson said the main benefit of the redevelopment is the extensive environmental rehabilitation required for the former industrial site.
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