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Unit block of King Street pedestrian zone (image via City of Alexandria)

The City of Alexandria said a survey collecting feedback on the new expanded King Street pedestrian zone showed overwhelmingly positive.

After the 100 block of King Street was permanently converted into a pedestrian zone last year, the program was extended via pilot into the unit block of King Street — the one closest to the waterfront — and an adjacent stretch of road called The Strand.

The pilot started over Memorial Day weekend and was scheduled to shut down after Labor Day, but was extended into November.

In a release, the City of Alexandria said 78% of respondents rated the change as very positive and 12% as positive.

“Key findings from the survey show that the top three benefits respondents identified were: feeling safer as a pedestrian; a greater benefit to people using the public space; and more space to eat or shop outside,” the release said. The top three challenges respondents identified were: traffic backing up on Union Street; trash cans being fuller; and people riding bicycles in the pedestrian zone.”

The survey found that 89% of respondents would like to see the closure continue permanently. Extra public seating, more outdoor dining and public bathrooms were identified as the biggest needs moving forward.

“In terms of respondents from businesses, results were fairly similar,” the release said. “Of 25 respondents, 68% had a positive or very positive experience, and 76% would like to see the pedestrianization become permanent. Benefits, preferences and future desired changes were all very similar.”

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Unit block of King Street pedestrian zone (image via City of Alexandria)

A pilot project to convert the unit block of King Street — the part closest to the waterfront — into a pedestrian-only zone has been extended for another two months.

The pilot started over Memorial Day weekend and was scheduled to shut down after Labor Day, but Alexandria Transportation and Environmental Services announced on Twitter that the pilot was being extended to Nov. 20.

The extension is promising for fans of the pedestrian zone. Pedestrian zones, as the name suggests, close a block of the road to car traffic to make it accessible for pedestrians only. The trend has caught on in other parts of the region, with a pedestrian zone launching in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of D.C. late last month.

An ALXnow poll earlier this year indicated that 40% of readers supported a few more blocks being converted to pedestrian zones, with 33% saying everything up to the Metro station should be made a pedestrian zone.

The project follows the conversion of the 100 block of King Street to a pedestrian-only zone last year. The conversion of the 100 block also started as a pilot project before the City Council made the conversion permanent.

The City of Alexandria is still collecting feedback on the zone until the end of today.

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Rendering of the unit block of King Street with street closure, image via City of Alexandria

As the city approaches the end of a pilot program that saw the waterfront block of King Street converted into a pedestrian zone, the City of Alexandria is looking for public feedback on the pilot.

The conversion of the unit block of King Street (the start of the street east of Union Street) and the Strand started on Memorial Day weekend and is scheduled to run through Labor Day weekend early next month.

“If you visited the Unit Block of King Street and the Strand or operated a business in that area, we want to hear about your experience,” the city said in a release. “The City of Alexandria is asking the community for feedback on the King Street Place Pilot, which temporarily converted the unit block of King Street (between Union Street and the Strand) and the northern portion of the Strand (approximately between Wales Alley and King Street)…”

The pilot was an expansion of an earlier conversion of the 100 block of King Street to a pedestrian zone. That change was made permanent last year with the city eyeing expansion of the pedestrian zone program to other parts of King Street.

“The City has launched a short online feedback form to provide the public with an opportunity to share what they liked about the pilot, along with any thoughts or ideas for improvements,” the release said. “Feedback will be accepted through Tuesday, September 13, 2022 and will be used to help the City determine how to move the project forward.”

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Rendering of the unit block of King Street with street closure, image via City of Alexandria

Alexandria’s King Street pedestrian zone initiative is getting a boost this weekend as the zone’s size will double for the next few months.

The pilot was approved by the City Council in April and will run from this Friday, May 27, through Monday Sept. 5 — Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day weekend.

The pedestrian zone will be expanded to temporarily convert the unit block of King Street, between Union Street and the Strand, into a car-free zone with in-street dining similar to the zone on the 100 block of King Street. A release from the city said it will be closed to all vehicular traffic except emergency and municipal maintenance vehicles. Visitors are also encouraged to walk their bicycles and scooters in the area.

There’s precedent for the pilot project to become permanent if it goes well. The pedestrian zone on the 100 block of King Street started as a pilot project in 2020 but became permanent in 2021.

The full city release is below the jump:

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Some changes could be coming to the King Street pedestrian zone to make the block’s change a little more permanent.

The Board of Architectural Review is scheduled to review a certificate of appropriateness for new bollards at either end of 100 block of King Street at the Board’s Thursday (May 5) meeting. The use of bollards was already approved in January, but the type approved in January was not rated for withstanding vehicle crashes, so a new type needs to be approved for locations like the 100 block where they’re designed to block vehicles.

“This request is for a second bollard type that is rated for vehicle crashes and could be used on the block where needed, such as at the Lee Street end,” the application said. “The bollard will be black to be as similar in style as possible with the previously approved bollard. The previously approved bollard will remain an option for other areas, potentially the Union Street end. Final selection of the two bollards, quantity, and location will be determined after coordination with an engineer and the utility companies.”

Bollards planned for 100 block of King Street, image via City of Alexandria

The addition of 20 bollards are part of an effort to make the area safer for pedestrians to prevent vehicles from crashing into the zone.

“Manufacturer testing has determined that these proposed bollards provide the ability to arrest a 5,000 lb. vehicle traveling up to 20 miles per hour,” the application said. “In addition, they are removable, which offers the ability to maintain the bollard over time and increase its use-able life span. They can be easily replaced without having to go through the costly re-installation of the entire bollard unit.”

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Rendering of the unit block of King Street with street closure, image via City of Alexandria

Updated 7:45 p.m. — Christopher Ziemann, division chief for Department of Transportation & Environmental Services, said in an email:

What City Council approved last night was not the pedestrian zone directly. This requires an ordinance change, which requires a public hearing. That Council approved last night was the first reading of the item and to set it for public hearing on April 23. On the 23rd, there will be a public hearing on the topic, which will most likely involve a presentation, discussion, questions and public comments.

Alexandria’s City Council approved first reading of the temporary closure of the unit block of King Street and a block of the Strand to vehicle traffic, with a full hearing planned later this month.

The full public hearing is scheduled for Saturday, April 23.

If approved, the closure is set to last for three months, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, with staff checking in on local businesses and monitoring pedestrian traffic over that time to gauge the impact. The pilot follows a similar path to the closure of the 100 block of King Street, which was made permanent last year.

The new zone will bring outdoor dining to the sidewalk and parking areas if the restaurants get permits. Deliveries and loading will be shifted to Union Street. Movable barriers and movable bicycle racks will also be set up on the block.

The block had been the endpoint for the King Street trolley, though that was changed to the block outside City Hall after the closure of the 100 block.

In one of our recent unscientific polls, 40% of respondents they wanted the pedestrian zone to be expanded for a few more blocks, but not for the whole of King Street to be turned into a pedestrian zone. Around 33% said they wanted everything up to the King Street Metro station to be converted into a pedestrian zone.

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The pedestrian zone on the 100 block of King Street has been a hit, so much so that the city is looking to expand the program to the unit block, which prompts the question: what should be the ultimate extent of the pedestrian zone project?

Last year, the City Council voted unanimously to make the closure on the 100 block permanent. The city is also taking a look at ways to make the 100 block’s pedestrian zone “look” more permanent. A new proposal going to the Planning Commission and City Council in April will put a similar pilot project into effect for the end of King Street and The Strand by the waterfront.

City staff have said the unit block is a natural extension of the 100 block’s closure, with that permanent closing having already reduced vehicle traffic on the unit block, but should the program continue up to the 200 block? Should the pedestrian street program eventually extend up to the King Street Metro station, as some have suggested, or should it remain just a feature of the blocks closest to the waterfront?

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Rendering of the unit block of King Street with street closure, image via City of Alexandria

New city documents outline plans to close the end of King Street until at least November.

The closure of the unit block of King Street — the very end by the waterfront — to vehicle traffic is docketed for review at a Planning Commission meeting on Thursday, April 7.

“The City proposes to temporarily close the unit block of King Street, between Union Street and the Strand, and the northern portion of the Strand, between Wales Alley and King Street, to vehicular traffic between May 28 and November 20, 2022,” the staff report said.

The proposed temporary closure follows the permanent closure of the 100 block last year. Since that time, the report said vehicle traffic on the unit block has declined.

“Following the closure of the 100 block of King Street, an observable decline in through traffic on the unit block resulted,” the report said. “This decline, and the popularity of the new Waterfront Park, has led to an increase in pedestrian volume on the unit block and the Strand. In addition, based on the success of the closure of the 100 block, staff has received requests from the businesses along the unit block to assess the feasibility of closing this block as well.”

After the Planning Commission meeting, the closure will be reviewed by the City Council later in April.

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With the City of Alexandria closing off the 100 block of King Street for good, it’s looking to make some permanent additions to the street to signal that it’s closed to car traffic.

The city is applying to the Board of Architectural Review at the Wednesday, Jan. 5, meeting for approval of traffic-blocking bollards that will close off the ends of the 100 block of King Street. The city will be using the same type of bollards already in place along the Waterfront.

“These bollards are already approved as part of the Waterfront Common Elements Plan and used in the Waterfront Area,” the city said in its application. “This approval would extend that approval one block to the east to include the 100 block of King Street.”

In addition, the city is seeking permission to use existing types of furnishings on the waterfront — like benches, trash cans and water fountains — on the 100 block.

Waterfront furnishings, via City of Alexandria
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It was barely a footnote in the six-hour City Council meeting, most of which was consumed with a tense discussion on School Resource Officers, but towards the end City Council meeting last night the group expressed widespread support for permanently making the 100 block of King Street a pedestrian zone.

The closure of the 100 block of King Street into a pedestrian zone was an idea that Mayor Justin Wilson and City Councilman John Chapman spearheaded before the pandemic, but was fast-tracked to benefit local restaurants and businesses that needed the outdoor space for social distancing. The closure has been popular with local businesses and the community at large, a survey put out by the city indicated.

The primary criticism of the closure has been the potential impact on Captain’s Row, a cobblestone section of Prince Street parallel to the proposed pedestrian zone. Local residents expressed concern that the closure of the 100 block of King Street could put more wear and tear from the added traffic and parking on the street’s historic cobblestones. At the meeting, Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker asked about the Captain’s Row impact, but staff said data collected from over the last year suggests that traffic volumes have not notable increased on Prince Street — though it’s worth noting that much of the time since the pedestrian zone has opened has been anything but typical circumstances.

Still, at the Council’s urging, staff said on Saturday they would present options for how to alleviate the potential stress on Captain’s Row.

“I think specific to parking conditions, I think a lot of that is coming more from the very successful waterfront restaurants and less from the 100 block of King,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “It probably demands a response and I think we should definitely look at what we should do. There are options we can put into place shortly.”

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