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Rendering of outdoor plaza at Monumental Arena development (image courtesy of JBG SMITH)

Alexandria doesn’t have the resources to adequately cover the public safety aspect of the proposed Potomac Yard arena and entertainment district, sources in the Alexandria Police Department and Sheriff’s Office told ALXnow.

The city currently does not have the resources to cover the addition of the arena and entertainment district at Potomac Yard. The Alexandria Police Department has just over 300 officers, the Sheriff’s Office has around 165 deputies and the Fire Department has about 300 fire and rescue personnel.

The city is developing a “public safety and event services plan” to support large events while maintaining service for the rest of the city.

“The project team, which includes multiple city agencies, is developing a public safety and event services plan for the proposed entertainment district that will include deployment of City and regional resources to support the public during events in this area while maintaining full services for the rest of the City,” Ebony Fleming, the city’s director of communications, told ALXnow.

Last year, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals, hired an additional 20% of off-duty D.C. police officers to handle security at games and events.

In the meantime, the Alexandria Fire Department is undergoing a restructuring, or redeployment, of resources. In 2022, more than 70% of AFD incidents were medical and rescue-related and just 15% were fire alarm and fire-related. Fleming says that the AFD Forward plan, which would redeploy resources around the city, will not be impacted by the arena.

“The arena will not impact AFD Forward,” Fleming said. “The Entertainment District project will include a fire and emergency medical services event services plan that will be developed to support the public in this area while maintaining full services for the rest of the City.”

Fleming did not provide a deadline for completion of the public safety and event services plan.

Fleming said that the police department is leading the law enforcement planning and that the Sheriff’s Office is “willing to support APD should they identify specific needs where Sheriff’s Deputies can enhance the public’s safety.” She also said that Sheriff Sean Casey is “confident a thorough needs assessment will be requested and conducted as part of the overall process.”

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Rendering of outdoor plaza at Monumental Arena development (image courtesy of JBG SMITH)

I have bad news for anyone else tired of reading about the Potomac Yard arena: the city announced a three-month schedule of public engagement for the project.

The schedule includes community engagement events, listening sessions, project briefings, site tours and more.

According to the city release:

The City and all partners involved in the Potomac Yard Development Project are committed to listening to and understanding the needs and concerns of the community. Project partners will participate alongside the City throughout this process with the shared goal of bringing to life a collective vision for Potomac Yard and creating exceptional experiences and regional economic growth for decades to come.

We are at the beginning of our public process and eager to listen to and engage with Alexandria and surrounding communities. We invite Alexandria residents, business owners, and those seeking more information and engagement to sign up here.

The city said biweekly public updates will be released on every other Tuesday until March 26 and continuing as-needed after.

The city will also host weekly virtual listening sessions on various topics. According to the release:

Weekly Virtual Listening Series | Starting Thursday, January 18, the City of Alexandria will hold weekly virtual listening sessions on Thursday nights from 7-8 p.m., covering topics, including:

  • Financial proposal and economic impact: January 18, 2024
  • Schools, housing and other community benefits: January 25, 2024
  • Transportation and traffic management: February 1, 2024
  • Small business and economic opportunity: February 8, 2024

A town hall with a short presentation is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 27, at 9:30 a.m.

The release said the city will also host pop-up events, site tours, and meetings with civic and business organizations over the next few weeks and months.

In other Potomac Yard arena news: the plans have already gotten some pushback from local residents and Washingtonians, while the city-funded Alexandria Economic Development Partnership has hired lobbyists to advocate for the project at the general assembly.

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Rendering of outdoor plaza at Monumental Arena development (image courtesy of JBG SMITH)

The impact that the proposed Washington Wizards/Capitals arena at Potomac Yard will have on local businesses will be discussed in a virtual town hall meeting this week.

Stephanie Landrum, CEO of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP), will speak about the ramifications in a Zoom meeting at noon on Thursday (Jan. 21).

Reception of the news that the multi-billion dollar arena and entertainment district is coming to Potomac Yard has been tepid at best. While an AEDP report states that the development will result in 30,000 new jobs, the city is contending with a number of challenges before the deal can be sealed.

Last week, a group of residents from the Coalition to Stop the Arena at Potomac Yard rallied in protest outside the Potomac Yard Metro station — next door to the proposed development. Concerns ranged from the project’s transportation and financial impacts to parking and quality of life.

“An entertainment district is projected to generate roughly 2.5 times the economic output of what would otherwise be built based on current development plans,” according to an AEDP impact analysis.

Metro General Manager Randy Clarke also said that the newly opened Potomac Yard Metro station can’t handle arena-size crowds and will need an upgrade. In an effort to encourage alternative transportation to events at the proposed district, Mayor Justin Wilson says there will be minimal parking at the completed site, prompting some concern that neighboring communities will be affected by spillover parking.

Landrum recently said that the fate of the Target store at 3101 Richmond Highway in Potomac Yard is undetermined,  but that it is one of the most frequent questions she gets regarding the development.

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Rendering of aerial view of Monumental Arena development (image courtesy of JBG SMITH)

(Updated 12/27) An economic impact report released last Friday said the new Potomac Yard arena would create 30,000 jobs and more than double the economic output of previous development plans.

The report came from HR&A Advisors, a consultant hired by the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership AEDP in June as a technical advisor.

The memo to AEDP from HR&A Advisors notes that the findings are based on Monumental Sports & Entertainment operations information shared by AEDP that shows statistics from arena and performing arts venue events.

The report looks at the economic impacts of the development, from construction impacts to economic output and tax revenue.

According to the report:

Key takeaways from this analysis are provided here, with additional detail on
methodology and findings provided in in the sections below.

  • Development of an entertainment district would generate approximately 30,000 permanent jobs
    for the Commonwealth of Virginia.
  • An entertainment district is projected to generate roughly 2.5 times the economic output of
    what would otherwise be built based on current development plans.
Potomac Yard development without Monumental arena vs with the arena (image via AEDP)

The permanent annual economic output of Potomac Yard sans arena vs Potomac Yard with the arena, according to the report, is $3.5 billion vs $8 billion. Over the next 30 years, the report says the ongoing economic output is estimated at $93.8 billion with the arena as compared to $36 billion without the arena.

Some of that revenue to the city and the Commonwealth would go to paying off debt borrowed to build the arena. According to Mayor Justin Wilson:

The debt borrowed by this public entity will be paid by three streams of money.

First: a private stream. Ted Leonsis will pay, first of all, a $400 million downpayment and a rent payment. That rent payment will be used to pay off that debt.

Second: the city will take a portion of the new tax revenue that comes from this development and we will use it to pay off a portion of this debt borrowed by that authority.

Third: the Commonwealth will take a portion of its tax revenue coming off this use and they will use it to pay off the loans used to construct it.

This is exactly the way we funded the Potomac Yard metro. We funded it using the tax increment of development that happened in Potomac Yard.

The summary is available online.

Whether the arena goes forward remains to be seen, Alexandrians were quick to raise concerns about the transportation impact and local leaders followed suit in the days after the announcement.

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Rendering of aerial view of Monumental Arena development (image courtesy of JBG SMITH)

A new Change.org petition opposing the new Washington Wizards/Capitals arena at Potomac Yard is slowly gaining steam.

Last week, Ted Leonsis, the CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment and owner of both teams, announced the move alongside Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson. The $2 billion proposal would mean a new entertainment district for the area, which critics say will worsen traffic and decrease property values.

The petition, posted “on behalf of residents in the Alexandria and NoVA region,” launched on Dec. 13 and has garnered more than 300 signatures. It says that Virginia lawmakers are finalizing a deal that “will bring a new, disruptive entertainment and sports arena to Potomac Yard.”

“We call on our state and local officials to listen to their constituents and stop this initiative from ruining our communities,” the petition states. “Bringing this enormous commercial facility to the area will completely undermine what Alexandria is and the value it brings to residents, homeowners, families, and local businesses. Everything that makes this area great will go away.”

The petition says that the development will:

  • Greatly worsen traffic
  • Deteriorate integrity of historic communities
  • Disrupt lives of families & children
  • Decrease property values
  • Increase crime
  • Diminish small neighborhood dynamic
  • Negatively impact natural environment
  • Bring noise pollution
  • Put taxpayer money into billionaire pockets

A recent ALXnow poll on the subject garnered more than 2,500 votes, with 46% voting that the new arena plans are terrible, 31% voting that it’s a great idea and 23% reserving judgement until more plan details are released.

The development has raised serious transportation concerns, recently from Metro General Manager Randy Clark, who said that the nearby Potomac Yard Metro station can’t handle arena-size crowds.

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Target in Potomac Yards (image via Google Maps)

While people around the region have been discussing the proposal to move the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards to a new Potomac Yard arena, Alexandria Economic Development Partnership President and CEO Stephanie Landrum said one of the most popular questions she’s been getting from Alexandrians is “What will happen to the Target?”

The Target (3101 Richmond Highway) at Potomac Yard was controversial back when it opened, according to a Washington Post article from 1997.

Nearby residents quoted in the article said they were concerned the strip mall project would create more traffic for their neighborhood and clog Route 1. The article contains eerily familiar accusations that neither the developer nor the City of Alexandria have adequate plans to deal with traffic.

Some bemoaned the death of plans to bring the Washington Redskins (now the Commanders) to a new stadium at Potomac Yard; others said the shopping center was too large and unsightly.

The 1997 article notes that the shopping center was designed as an “interim” project to last around 20 years.

Now, with that interim use likely to be replaced with new development, Landrum said there’s widespread concern about Target going away.

“I don’t mean this facetiously; one of the biggest questions we’ve gotten is: what is going to happen to my Target?” Landrum said. “We want to acknowledge that our city loves our Target.”

Mayor Justin Wilson noted in an earlier meeting with the Del Ray Citizens Association that the Target at Potomac Yard “does extremely well” and will likely return in some capacity in the development process — though it might be scaled down.

“That was always an assumption, that we’d, in the future, have a more urban Target,” Wilson said. “What that looks like still needs to be determined in the future.”

Landrum said the plan was always, even pre-arena, to redevelop the current Target building.

“Our community, development partner, and Target are aligned in trying to find a future location for Target in a reimagined Potomac Yard,” Landrum said. “To be clear, that has always been the vision for the site, this project aside.”

During the same discussion, Landrum noted that tickets to Capitals and Wizards games might be slightly cheaper in Alexandria thanks to the city’s lower taxes.

“I don’t want there to be any confusion that somehow coming to events here is being structured as more expensive,” Landrum said. “Our admissions tax rate is a tiny bit lower than the current sales and tax use rate that people pay in D.C. So, that’s for the fans.”

Image via Google Maps

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The Potomac Yard Metro station (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

With WMATA announcing potentially drastic cuts to the Metro system, some Alexandria leaders are saying the Potomac Yard arena announcement can be leveraged to get Virginia to pony up more support.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, last week Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin took to the stage with local leaders and Washington Capitals and Wizards owner Ted Leonsis to announce plans to build a new arena in Potomac Yard.

State Sen. Adam Ebbin said on Twitter that the Potomac Yard plans are contingent on funding the Metro, which previously said the Potomac Yard Metro station was on the chopping block if WMATA can’t close it’s $750 million budget gap.

“Metro money is a PREREQUISITE for ANY serious consideration of the governor’s proposal,” Ebbin wrote.

Mayor Justin Wilson and City Council member Kirk McPike noted at the meeting that the Potomac Yard Metro station is integral to Potomac Yard plans, especially with the city pushing to minimize the amount of parking at the site.

At the same time, however, Wilson acknowledged that the Metro station is currently inadequate to handle arena traffic.

“There’s no way the current station can accommodate this use as is,” Wilson said. “A significant chunk of transportation investments will require improvements to the station.”

Wilson said the Metro station, which opened earlier this year, will need upgrades. Metro GM Randy Clarke confirmed that not only is the Potomac Yard station not up to handling arena traffic, but said no one contacted Metro before the Potomac Yard announcement.

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A new poster in Potomac Yard lampooning development by calling for the Washington Commanders football team to come to the area (courtesy photo)

Updated at 2:45 p.m. New posters are lampooning the recent announcement that the Washington Capitals and Wizards are moving to Potomac Yard by demanding one more thing — for the Washington Commanders to also move to the neighborhood.

“BUILD THE STADIUM COMPLEX,” headlines the five posters, which say, “We must act fast! This mega complex will be suitable for (football, basketball and hockey stick emojis) and T Swift concerts. The streets of Del Ray will become sanctuary for riotous celebrations of multiple championships. We must not lose out to suburban Maryland!! Let’s make our suburb great again!”

This week’s announcement was met with dismay by some Potomac Yard residents who say that moving the Capitals and Wizards will destroy the fabric of the neighborhood.

The poster’s creator, known by the X handle @ArlingtonAF, also created a number of other humorous work in Arlington, most recently with a pro-pickleball posters.

“My official position is, I’m glad Potomac Yard is in Alexandria and not Arlington, and it’s not like Jeff Bezos trying to put a football team in Pentagon City..err.. I mean Nala (National Landing),” @ArlingtonAF told us. “That said, I believe Alexandria is holding a royal flush of trump cards, they should be demanding Leonsis pay for solid gold libraries, and flying school buses, the city has the leverage.”

The Wizards/Capitals move also inspired an AI-generated parody of the proposed $2 billion complex’s transportation infrastructure.

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Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson speaks at the announcement of a new arena for the Washington Wizards and Capitals in Potomac Yard in Alexandria, Dec. 13, 2023 (staff photo by James Cullum)

Yesterday’s announcement of the possible new arena at Potomac Yard turned a previously scheduled conversation with Mayor Justin Wilson into one of the first public discussions of the contentious project.

The Del Ray Citizens Association was packed with 375 participants on a Zoom call to ask Wilson questions about the new project. Across social media — and at a small protest outside the announcement — concerns focused on the secrecy around the project, car congestion at the site, and the Potomac Yard Metro’s ability to handle the amount of traffic.

Wilson acknowledged that “traffic and transportation is the biggest unknown here.”

While some traffic improvements are planned for Route 1 as part of this project, according to City Manager James Parajon, Wilson said the city’s focus is on discouraging people from driving to the arena.

“The city’s interest in these early discussions has been in keeping the number of parking spaces on this site at a minimum because we do not want a lot of vehicles accessing this use,” Wilson said. “This is intended to be a transit arena, a transit operation, that’s why we invested in a Metro station.”

Wilson said the new Potomac Yard will have a “significant net reduction” in parking spaces at the site.

“The intent is to ensure that we do not have people beyond a small core accessing this by vehicle,” Wilson said. “We will continue to push to keep parking at a minimum.”

But at the same time, Wilson admitted that the current Potomac Yard Metro station isn’t up to the task of handling the types of traffic generated by a sports arena.

“There’s no way the current station can accommodate this use as is,” Wilson said. “A significant chunk of transportation investments will require improvements to the station.”

Wilson said the station, which just opened earlier this year, will need upgrades to handle the volume generated by Capitals and Wizards games.

“[We’ll be] ensuring that the bridges and things like that can handle that capacity of volume,” Wilson said. “WMATA is aware of this discussion.”

For adjacent neighborhoods, Wilson said the city will take another look at parking permit questions that fell off during the pandemic.

“The pandemic and lower levels of office workers made that not as big of an issue, but we did create a [residential parking permit] in Potomac Yard and Potomac Greens,” Wilson said. “We never want to see a situation where our neighborhoods become street parking for this or the Metro in general.”

One of the concerns about the project was funding, but Wilson said this wasn’t going to be a giveaway of taxpayer money to a billionaire.

“I’ve heard quite a bit about concerns that we are providing a billionaire with taxpayer money; that is not what is happening here,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the development will be more than just an arena, it will have a music venue, esports, a practice facility, and more, along with a corporate headquarters for Monumental Sports & Entertainment.

According to Wilson:

Virginia Stadium Authority will be issuing bonds for the construction for the arena. The land and arena will be owned by the public entity; it will be owned by a state agency. The debt borrowed by this public entity will be paid by three streams of money.

First: a private stream. Ted Leonsis will pay, first of all, a $400 million downpayment and a rent payment. That rent payment will be used to pay off that debt.

Second: the city will take a portion of the new tax revenue that comes from this development and we will use it to pay off a portion of this debt borrowed by that authority.

Third: the Commonwealth will take a portion of its tax revenue coming off this use and they will use it to pay off the loans used to construct it.

This is exactly the way we funded the Potomac Yard metro. We funded it using the tax increment of development that happened in Potomac Yard.

We are not using city tax dollars that would be used to pay police officers, firefighters, educators etc. We are using the new money generated by the project to pay off the debt.

Wilson acknowledged that there are some stadiums that are bad investments. In fact, many economic studies suggest sports stadiums don’t deliver on the promised economic impact.

“There are a lot of bad stadium deals around the country,” Wilson said. “That’s why, when we went into this discussion, we had to have private money in this… A public-private partnership should not be entirely public. There are stadium deals around the country, even in this region, that have been entirely public. We, as we went through this process, tried to ensure that we learned the lessons of those failed deals.”

Economic studies commissioned by the city, according to Wilson, said a new arena in Potomac Yard could beat the trend and provide a positive impact.

“Based on the analysis we have done, and we’ve brought in outside entities to analyze the financials of this project, this has the potential to be a very significant net positive for the city’s taxpayers,” Wilson said.

The alternative, Wilson said, is slow growth around the Metro station without a central anchor to spur development.

“If this doesn’t happen, we’ll continue to have a large surface parking lot and a suburban shopping center,” Wilson said. “Virginia Tech will come along, mixed-use projects close to the Metro would potentially happen, but the financial difference is dramatic. That’s why we pursued this, and that’s why we’re presenting it to the public.”

Touching on a few other topics, Wilson noted that the Target at Potomac Yard was always slated for redevelopment, though the store does “extremely well” and it’s likely that there will be another Target there as part of redevelopment.

“That was always an assumption, that we’d, in the future, have a more urban Target,” Wilson said. “What that looks like still needs to be determined in the future.”

Wilson also said a new school site has been in plans for Potomac Yard, but only once the project reaches certain development thresholds. Wilson said the hope is the arena development will be a catalyst for other development in the area.

Many local residents said they were blindsided by the decision, which only emerged as public reports of backroom deals earlier this week despite Senator Mark Warner saying discussions about the move have been ongoing in the higher echelons of power since earlier this summer.

“Obviously, for a lot of residents, this is a surprise; an announcement that nobody was expecting,” Wilson said. “Unfortunately [due to] the nature of competitive economic investments… it has to be confidential at the leadup of the process.”

Wilson said the city will be launching a public engagement process soon.

“Now we have entered the phase where we’ve got to hear from you,” Wilson said. “We have to hear from you about what would make this feasible, what would make this possible, what you think is missing, and how we could make it viable if you don’t feel it is. That’s the conversation we’re going to have over the next year and that’s how we’re going to address some very real concerns about infrastructure.”

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(Updated 11:10 a.m.) It’s official: the Washington Capitals and the Washington Wizards are moving to Alexandria’s Potomac Yard neighborhood.

The Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP) confirmed the news this morning ahead of a 9 a.m. announcement from Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and the team’s owner, Monumental Sports & Entertainment Chairman and CEO Ted Leonsis.

Washington Post first reported the development on Monday. The Post said that Virginia’s Major Economic Investment Project Approval Commission unanimously voted to approve a complex that was tantamount to a mini-city, with a music venue and hotel in addition to the sports center.

The project will be adjacent to the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus in the Alexandria portion of National Landing — the collective term for Potomac Yard, Crystal City and Pentagon City.

“After many years of dreaming, many years of discussion, I’m pleased to announce that right here, in Alexandria’s Potomac Yard, we have a plan to unleash a brighter, more extraordinary future,” said Youngkin. “We will build a spectacular $2 billion dollar sports and entertainment district.”

Leonsis said the move to Virginia is a “transformative step forward.”

“I have always believed there is a higher calling in sports — to unify our community, build a lasting legacy over multiple generations, and lift all our neighbors towards a shared sense of prosperity,” Leonsis said. “Today, we deepen that commitment as we enter a phase of rapid expansion in service to our fans, employees, and partners.”

Leonsis said starting a new stadium with a sense of tabula rasa was a big part of Potomac Yard’s appeal.

“When I saw 70 acres and the ability to start with a clean slate… to build a digital first experience, it really is a very romantic but also pragmatic vision that we can’t do anywhere else,” Leonsis said. “I got goosebumps again when I came here a week ago and looked at all of the expansion capabilities.”

As part of the deal, the construction and ownership of the arena would be overseen by a new Virginia stadium authority, and the arena would be leased to Monumental.

“Subject to legislative approval by the Virginia General Assembly, the Entertainment District will break ground in 2025 and open in late 2028,” said a press release from the governor’s office.

This morning’s announcement is being made in a large makeshift tent next door to the Potomac Yard Metro station and near the under-construction Virginia Tech campus.

“Pending completion of agreements and General Assembly and City Council approval, the new Entertainment District will feature an industry-leading arena for both the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards, the global business headquarters for Monumental Sports & Entertainment, an expanded esports facility, and a performing arts venue — in addition to new retail, restaurants, and conference and community gathering spaces,” AEDP said.

A map of the planned Monumental development, directly adjacent to the Metro station, also includes a fan plaza, a practice facility for the Capitals and Wizards, and a TV studio for the Monumental Sports Network — formerly NBC Sports Washington. The map also notes the future development of the current Potomac Yard shopping center.

AEDP said the development will still need to go through a community engagement process, with community meetings and workshops, which it said will kick off in early 2024.

In the release, Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson called the move a direct result of the work on the Potomac Yard Metro station.

“Alexandria’s ability to attract this ambitious project is a direct result of the success of previous investments made in Potomac Yard and across our City,” said Wilson. “A project this special will help the City realize our collective strategy and the vibrant vision for this neighborhood and for our City as a whole.”

The move comes with a $2 billion investment into the new entertainment district. AEDP said the new arena is estimated to generate 30,000 jobs and a total economic impact of $12 billion over the next few decades.

“This includes millions of dollars over the project term to create affordable housing, offer rental and homeownership assistance, and to invest in transportation improvements and education,” AEDP said.

“This exciting new project is the result of decades of thoughtful long-term strategic planning and a clear vision for growth across Alexandria,” said AEDP President and CEO Stephanie Landrum. “From the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus to the new Potomac Yard-VT Metro Station, Alexandria has created the ideal environment and location for this exciting project.”

Battles ahead in the arena

With large-scale development in Alexandria, though, comes arguments around density and traffic impacts. Some Alexandria residents already aren’t happy with the move, which comes 30 years after Alexandria leaders rebuffed a proposed football stadium for the Washington Redskins (now the Commanders).

“Imagine typical rush hour traffic on the George Washington Parkway and Route 1 and then throw in a playoff hockey game at 7 p.m.,” said Mark Haney, a local resident. “Madness.”

Fresh off a fight over single-family-only zoning, Roy Byrd, Chair of the Coalition for a Livable Alexandria, told WJLA there was real concern about gridlock and traffic along Route 1 that would be exacerbated with the new arena.

At the meeting, Youngkin’s speech was accompanied by a chorus of boos and jeers from outside of the tent.

“We want you here,” said Wilson.

“We don’t want you here,” someone outside of the tent shouted.

Some protestors gathered outside of the tent.

“There’s been no plans presented to the public,” said one Potomac Yard resident protesting the move. “What about the environmental impact? There are wetlands here. We found out about this plan this week. Where’s the transparency?”

One of the only acknowledgements of the battles ahead came from Senator Mark Warner.

“Our job is to make sure neighborhoods adjacent, here in Potomac Yard and in Del Ray, feel engaged and know their quality of life will be protected and, at the end of the day, their quality of life will be improved,” said Warner. “We’re going to need to be missionaries out in to the community to hear concerns, legitimate and otherwise.”

City Council members said after the announcement that transportation planning would be a major focus of the public planning process following the announcement.

“This is not a done deal yet,” said City Council member Kirk McPike. “There is a lot of negotiation and a lot of discussion, both between the people on the stage but also between Alexandria and our residents. Traffic conditions are going to be a major concern.”

McPike said the city will try to incentivize Metro use over driving, but there will also be improvements to the nearby roads to accommodate drivers.

“We will address transportation issues, a lot of our investments locally will be about improving the roadways and improving the flow of traffic, which we’ll have to do anyway as this area develops out.”

City Council member Sarah Bagley said the project will still need to have a public development special use permit process.

“[This project] is going to go through a similar public process, though the Planning Commission and public hearings,” said Bagley. “The public will have ample opportunities to weigh in with questions about transportation, about housing, about environmental impacts: all the normal SUP and DSUP processes.”

“Nothing here is finalized,” said City Council member Alyia Gaskins. “What we’ve presented is a framework and a concept, now begins the work to engage with our community to figure out what we need to protect against, what are the benefits people want to see, and what is the vision that the community wants integrated into this process.”

City Manager James Parajon said the city will continue to work on transportation planning.

“We have a pretty good game plan for how to manage the traffic and the amazing visitors and residents who will take part,” Parajon said. “It involves several hundred million dollars in improvements we’ll be working with the state on.”

Parajon said Potomac Yard was ideal because it featured multiple routes to get to the station: via driving, bus rapid transit, Metro and bicycle. At the end of the day, though, Parajon said the area was always going to see an uptick in traffic with new development.

“This has always been planned to be a fairly intensive and significant area for activity, which means there is going to be vehicular traffic in this area,” Parajon said. “But this site has been designed to offer maximum choice for people to get to and from the area.”

Parajon also said, like McPike, that the new arena was far from a done deal — though with the presence of every City Council member at the announcement, a future rejection of the arena development seems unlikely.

“What’s occurred is the development of a proposed framework that still requires multiple improvements, multiple approvals, by the legislature and by the city,” Parajon said. “It will be a robust and very involved public engagement process.”

Local residents outside the building had little faith in the city’s promises to address their concerns.

“We will tie this up in litigation,” said Adrien Lopez. “If this is being shoved down our throat without public consultation, we’re going to have to lawyer up and tie this up in litigation if they’re talking about bringing it here by 2028. That’s crazy.”

“Leonsis is worth billions of dollars and could finance his own stadium if he wanted to,” said Patrick Hedger. “If it’s such a great deal, taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to pay for it.”

Upon being told the new sports arena was going to be build next-door, a barista at a nearby Starbucks shook her head and muttered, “oh god.”

The broader impact

The topic came up at a meeting of the Local Emergency Planning Committee, on which ALXnow editor Vernon Miles serves. In the meeting, committee members said the arena could serve as both a hub and hurdle for emergency planning.

“In theory, it does offer a facility for such things as large mass care and large reception centers,” said Red Cross representative Paul Carden said. “At the last inauguration, the convention center in downtown D.C. brought together a medical team to set up 20,000 cots. It was a place to send large numbers of people that might need care.”

Others noted that the facility must be factored into the city’s emergency planning.

“It does add a [chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear] element to the city,” said Jerome Cordis from the city’s Public Health Advisory Commission.”How they staff up and what types of threats are things to be considered.”

While the discussion of the merits and costs of a new arena in Potomac Yard are just starting to be discussed among the Alexandria public, D.C. residents have already begun lamenting the loss of the teams — though Washington Wizards fans at least should be used to that.

What this means for Potomac Yard

Terry Clower, professor of public policy in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, said the proposed development is a game changer for the city’s Potomac Yard plans.

“Certainly, it is potentially a real changer for the visioning for what they were going to do in Potomac Yard,” Clower told ALXnow. “It is a spectacular amenity for the city of Alexandria and for folks that live nearby who happen to be basketball or hockey fans, or fans of concerts in the venue”

Clower said it remains to be seen whether the new development will bring new economic investment to the region or just cannibalize development from the Gallery Place area.

The impact to watch, Clower said, will also be on how the Monumental Arena affects the plans for Potomac Yard to be a technology hub.

“The interesting piece is — this might change, in some ways not necessarily good or bad — what was originally envisioned for development there,” Clower said. “Now you’re talking about a distinct shift into more entertainment, as opposed to technology businesses and residences.”

Clower also said protests from nearby residents aren’t particularly surprising, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t raising legitimate issues.

“One thing we have in this region whether we’re talking about data centers and arenas, you will definitely have folks who will bet in that ‘not in my backyard’ category,” Clower said. “But there are legitimate concerns. Traffic is not easy even today.”

Lastly, Clower said there’s little hope for a change to the Alexandria Wizards and the Alexandria Capitals.

“I don’t think there will be a name change,” Clower said. “This is not like moving them to some outer ring suburb, this is very much the team identity. It still remains a regional asset, in large part because they’re doing it at what amounts to an inner ring suburb Metro.”

The press release from the governor’s office is below.

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