Once again the City of Alexandria is left high and dry by developers for whom they bent over backwards. With the news that JBG is planning to sell its properties in the West End — the properties that comprised the bulk of the Beauregard Small Area Plan — the city is left with another up-in-the-air development plan. The city’s cozy relationship with the developers didn’t inoculate them from being blindsided by this news.
I drive past the Mount Vernon Village Center every day with its boarded up, empty storefronts. Despite concerns of low-income residents in the community who would be directly impacted by the ambitious redevelopment of this Arlandria strip mall, the city again bent over backwards for developers who planned a large mixed use development on the site. So the once-busy local shopping mall emptied out and turned into a largely abandoned eyesore.
The residents in the Beauregard area made their concerns clear, too. They were being squeezed out of their homes by ever-increasing rents and utility costs levied by the very same developers who planned to evict them one day to make room for an upscale development designed to accelerate gentrification in one of the last affordable communities for working Alexandrians.
In 2012, the City Council approved a mega development for the West End that gave the developers tens of millions of dollars of extra value. City Council members claimed to have secured over 800 units of affordable housing. Now five years later the developer is selling out and to date we have gotten nothing. And it is unclear whether we will ever get anything.
The newly released Alexandria budget does not include sufficient funds to either save existing affordable housing under threat from development or to bring new housing on line. With ambitious new development planned for the Oakville Triangle, Landmark, and Hoffman Center, will this City Council leverage opportunities it has with developers to obtain and protect affordable housing?