To the Editor:
When I opened my April 1 edition of the Gazette Packet and read the article entitled “Selling Alexandria’s City Hall,” I assumed that the newspaper was paying homage to April Fool’s Day. Reading on, I found that the article was chronicling a real City Council debate — one held on March 17. At that meeting, Mayor Euille was promoting the option of selling City Hall or entering into some type of “public-private partnership” to commercialize it so that the city could extract a “pot of gold” measured in “hundreds of millions of dollars.” In addition to exploring the sale of City Hall, the mayor suggested that the city should consider replacing the “plaza” next to City Hall — Market Square to all of us — with a revenue-producing building.
We have many complex development debates ongoing in Alexandria, between those who seek to maximize the dollars out of every economic growth opportunity and those who argue that future growth be done in a manner that protects the integrity of our existing communities. Issues of preserving open space, providing for development of appropriate scale and architectural consistency are central to almost all of these discussions from the West End to the Waterfront. Through all of that, I never thought we would hear an elected leader muse about selling City Hall or building on our central town square.
I agree with Vice Mayor Silberberg’s statement at the meeting. City Hall “is the heart and soul of Old Town.” If we need to fix it we must. Renovations can make the space more efficient and open parts of it up to new uses. The mayor’s comments that we are sitting on “a pot of gold” at City Hall and ought to consider selling it will strike a disturbing chord with many Alexandrians. Many of us do not live in Old Town, but we look to City Hall and the Historic District as our core. We find it an important part of what makes our city special. Many other communities in our region have designed town centers that seek to create what Alexandria has — and has had for more than 150 years. City Hall and Market Square are not “Pots of Gold” — they are central to the core of our City. We must credit Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg for speaking promptly, strongly, and clearly on this issue.
Both Vice Mayor Silberberg and the current mayor are running for mayor in 2015. The choice as to who best represents the balance that most Alexandrians want is clear. We don’t need leadership that speaks cavalierly about “Pots of Gold” or speculates about new commercial buildings on our central town square. We need new vision for Alexandria and someone who will restore confidence in our leaders. For the past three years, Allison Silberberg has worked to provide that vision and that confidence. Her reaction to selling City Hall for a pot of gold was yet another example of her making the right call. We should all remember that this important primary is June 9 and early voting starts on April 24.