To the Editor:
Kerry Donley has made the Carlyle district, where I live, a centerpiece of his campaign for mayor of Alexandria. He touts the Patent Office as a boon to the the city. But he greatly overstates his case. Yes, the Patent Office contributes to the city's tax rolls, but no, it doesn't stimulate economic activity in the surrounding area. Anyone whostrolls through Carlyle will see that there is a lot of unoccupied retail space, and it's been that way for years. Patent office workers don't shop where they work, they shop where they live, and that's seldom in Alexandria. The Carlyle district does not have the population density to support much retail activity. Donley keeps saying how much better commercial buildings are than residential ones, but if you don't have the residential base you won't have people looking to spend their money (except, of course, for the tourists in Old Town).
With the National Science Foundation slated to join the Patent Office on Eisenhower Avenue in 2017, Donley claims that the Carlyle area can be marketed as a center of science and innovation. Again his case is overstated. The Patent Office attracts patent lawyers, not inventors, and the NSF won't attract anybody. NIH in Bethesda is surrounded by biotech companies because it houses a world-class community of biomedical researchers. There is no research done at NSF. Its role is to fund research in other places, which keeps science healthy across the country, but there is no particular reason why scientists would want to locate next to NSF.
It's disheartening when some of the mayoral candidates seem to be unaware of the real impact of their proposals. My choice for mayor is Allison Silberberg, whose call for thoughtful development, and whose evident concern for Alexandria's neighborhoods and residents' quality of life, is just what the city needs.