With all due respect to the men and women who decided to invest our taxpayer dollars in order to construct a $1.5 million library in an upper-class subdivision with a population of less than 800 people (with the excuse of replacing a centrally-located library that served many subdivisions), WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?
Photo: The Town Talk
Let’s all get this straight: They are going to close and abandon the current (and unfortunately named) Fuhrer branch, which is located on Parliament Drive in between multiple neighborhoods and which serves more than 10,000 residents, in favor of a constructing, from the ground-up, a new (and beautiful) facility located on the outer reaches of town, in an area that is currently underdeveloped.
I guess I shouldn’t be criticizing: My uncle built all of the townhomes and condominiums in the neighborhood, and my mother owns a choice lot on the bayou (drainage ditch) there. And believe me, they didn’t decide to invest because of the prospect of a new library nearby.
But I still have to question the wisdom, the practicality, and the feasibility of constructing a new public library, a facility that is being built by public dollars in a predominately upper-class neighborhood whose residents, no doubt, do not and will never have any interest in patronizing a public library.
Alexandria, like its namesake, could be a city that celebrates libraries. But instead of investing in a centrally-located, state-of-the-art library, we’re more comfortable with using taxpayer dollars in order to increase value for sprawling, underdeveloped areas, serving investors, developers, and speculators before attempting to serve the folks who actually want to check out a book or two.
Although the Downtown library is outmoded and insufficient, the Lakes District gets a new, awesome library, and while City Park, Frank O. Hunter, and other inner city parks need reinvestment, Johnny Downs (a facility to which not a single child can walk or ride their bike) is sparkling, pristine, and, of course, remote.
To be sure, this has nothing to do with the decisions made during the past two years, and we all need to recognize and appreciate how these planning mistakes and misappropriations have contributed to disinvestment and blight within the inner core. It’s easy to claim that 28 West is the most significant growth corridor in Alexandria, considering that the area has been gifted with a publicly-funded, massive sports complex, a publicly-funded, brand-new, and completely out of the way golf course, and, now, a publicly-funded library (not to mention all of the money given to help offset infrastructure costs, even for Walmart), all within a period of five years.
The same people who claim that 28 represents Alexandria’s “free market” are those who believe that Downtown has somehow been overly subsidized– with its small-scale (and federally funded) streetscape project, its convention center, and the privately-funded performing arts center donated to the public. Somehow, Downtown is dead, and the future is 28.
Give me a break. Publicly-funded libraries, golf courses, roads, soccer fields, and baseball diamonds should, ultimately, directly serve the public, not simply the well-connected investors who buy up and develop cheap farmland on the edge of the City with the expectation of public subsidization, regardless of how beautiful the farmland is.
The adage is: If you build it, they will come; not we will build it, so they can get rich.