Alexandria Letter: Importance of Neighborhoods

Alexandria Letter: Importance of Neighborhoods

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

At present Alexandria is going through a process to develop a set of “Strategic Plan Goals” for 2016-2022. This is an activity that takes place every five years as a means of updating guidelines for where the city in aspiration would like to be five years out. Although city staff has been working hard at the effort, I fear we are on the wrong track.

Prior to 2006 similar city goals statements had an emphasis on neighborhoods. That has been lost in subsequent formulations, the latest being in 2010-2016. Eliminating from the goals any mention of preserving, protecting and enhancing neighborhoods, I believe, has been a factor contributing to the development excesses of recent years.

Current planning efforts do not remedy that omission. Thus far the goals have been expressed in eight “vision” themes that raise more questions than they answer. None mention neighborhoods or even historic preservation. I am particularly concerned — confused — about one theme. It reads: “In 2022, Alexandria has a unique identity.” What does this mean? Immediately Old Town comes to mind when “unique identity” is mentioned. What about other neighborhoods? Where do they fit?

For an authentically visionary approach to strategic planning, we should look down the road to Norfolk. That city and its residents embarked on a planning effort several years ago that has focused primarily on neighborhoods. The city has taken practical efforts to achieve their nurturing, including creating a new Department of Neighborhood Development. While following the exact example of Norfolk may be not appropriate here, the concept of neighborhood preservation, protection, and enhancement should be at the top of city goals and the centerpiece of Alexandria’s vision for the next five years and beyond.

Jack Sullivan