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Alexandria found success in King Street pedestrian zones, but the 200 block could be trickier

200 block of King Street (via Google Maps)

While the city has had some success with pedestrian zones on King Street, city staff say less retail and sloping conditions could make it harder to add a similar zone along the 200 block.

Many residents have welcomed the pedestrian zones that the city added to the 100 and unit blocks of King Street, according to a survey. Motivated by this early support, Chris Ziemann, transportation division chief, said the city is focusing on improving the now-permanent pedestrian zones at the 100 block of King Street and the unit block — the block closest to the waterfront.

Ziemann told ALXnow that City Council voting to make the blocks permanently pedestrianized means the city can move forward with improvements like protective bollards. That will be part of the department’s focus in the near future, per an interdepartmental work plan for the 2024 fiscal year.

While the logical next step would seem to be a pilot converting the 200 block, Ziemann said it’s not quite so simple.

“There are still ongoing discussions about that, but there is no real ongoing consensus about that,” Ziemann said in a Planning Commission meeting earlier this month. “Things are moving, but moving slowly.”

Ziemann told ALXnow that the uses along the 200 block are different than those on the 100 block or the unit block.

“There’s not quite the density of restaurants there that there is on the 100 block,” Ziemann said. “On the 100 block, everything is a restaurant. It lends itself to outdoor seating.”

Retail and clothing stores could still make use of outdoor space with racks of clothing, but it isn’t as natural a fit as outdoor dining, he added.

Elevation is also a challenge on the 200 block.

“What makes it a little harder is the slope elevation,” Ziemann said. “It doesn’t make it impossible, but from the restaurant standpoint, it makes it harder to keep the tables level. There are also residential units on the 200 block that are not on the 100 block. There’s a whole different kind of group of stakeholders.”

Meanwhile, Ziemann said the city is also working on pedestrian-focused planning at the former Landmark development and the North Old Town power plant.

Image via Google Maps