3 thoughts

  1. Hey Lamar, thanks for trying. Until the revitalization of downtown Alex happens…you are pissing in the wind. Everything outside of MacArthur Drive should never have happened, and until it is stopped and downtown is revitalized…Alexandria is never going to be more than a ghost town. And I work and make my living in the middle of that vast vacuum… The Holiday Inn/Alex Fulton is a travesty along with the Convention Center. I’m embarassed to house anybody that’s affiliated with the Cathedral at the God forsaken fleabag!….Now…what do we do?

    1. Thanks for the comments, Lynn. With all due respect, I disagree with some of your assertions.

      First, not everything south of MacArthur Drive was dumb growth, and some of it, believe it or not, was planned with some forethought.

      I agree that downtown is key, but Alexandria is hardly a “ghost town.” 150,000 or so people conduct business within the city limits every day, and if you look at retail sales, it’s obvious that Alexandria serves as a multi-parish hub.

      I don’t think our Convention Center is a travesty, and I have seen noticeable improvements at the Fulton during the past few months. (I’m not trying to sugar-coat anything; I understand a hotel in bankruptcy across the street from another hotel that has been closed since 2004 does not reflect well. Even still, the complex has a ton of potential, if reused correctly, and the Convention Center is a fine facility).

      I guess what I am getting at is this: Most of us understand the situation the ground, but I believe that our inertia can also be directly blamed on a type of collective defeatism (coupled with a lack of imagination and a willingness to accept fragmentation as necessary).

      What do we do now?

      We begin asking the question “Why not?”.

  2. I can understand the “collective defeatism” as Lamar points out.

    I would think that after 20+ years of local government throwing money away on redevelopment many people have either lost interest or patience in the whole process.

    Of course, the problem is that despite their good intentions, the previous administration was working off of a totally flawed development model. It never succeeded because it was unsustainable, and even had they been able to make their plans work in the short term, the whole thing would have still died out down the road.

    Previous development plans focused on developing a car-centric downtown with more parking spaces than people. They wanted to tear down useful property and pile parking towers on top of it. The whole design was based on the idea of a government centre and arts centre but left out the key component of any vital downtown — people.

    Not only were residents not encouraged, they were hoped to be eliminated as an obstacle to what was seen as a functional common space. This was an idea of the 1950’s and 60’s and one that has been shown to fail in every city that tried it from New Haven to Brasilia (capital of Brazil).

    The sad part (and let me give some moral support to Lamar at this point) is that all of these people and bloggers who are constantly criticizing SPARC and other initiatives as hippy plans that are out of touch with the wants and needs of the people are sadly uninformed.

    Successful development (new or old) where ever you find it in the world is pedestrian-centric. It is based around easily walkable and bikeable areas connected to other areas with urban greenways.

    They are places where life takes place on the streets and (wide) sidewalks rather than locked away behind backyard fences in suburbs. It is development where shared public, retail, and hospitality spaces augment the personal living spaces of residents.

    They are places where you know your neighbors and shopkeepers because you see them and interact with them on a daily basis. They are places where the cost of living can actually be lower because fewer resources (time and money) are spent driving an hour or three to and from work everyday and where you don’t have to drive across town to buy your groceries because you can walk down the street.

    The model works. It works in NYC, it works in Boston, it works in New Orleans, Austin, Berlin, Nuremberg, London, Veracruz (I listed the last 4 because I have lived there and know that yes, it really works there). AND…a few decades ago, it worked in Alexandria, and it can work again.

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