“Places Worth Caring About” Focus of City-sponsored Presentation
The City of Alexandria retained Mr. Ed McMahon, Senior Resident Fellow at the Urban Land Institute, to give a presentation on October 20 on Livable Communities and Smart Growth. Illustrating his remarks with a series of slides, Mr. McMahon focused on the importance of respecting a community’s character in development and redevelopment projects. Development that takes into account a community’s prevalent architectural forms, accommodates human scale facades and features, and eliminates the ugliness of uncontrolled signage and infrastructure can be good for business, the environment, and the community.
Each community’s image is fundamentally important to its economy and well-being. Its history as a place, its special older structures, its walkability and people-friendliness, are features that make us love a community and individually contribute to the enhancement of that community.
Mr. McMahon asserts that it is possible to retain a community’s physical connection to the past, and to change corporate pressures for sameness. He showed examples of McDonald’s restaurants built in local styles, a five-story Target store that is not surrounded by a sea of parking and does not take up a huge amount of land, and attractive retail strip centers.
We in Old Town North already have a community that embodies many of the principles illustrated in the presentation. We have a mix of uses, so that we do not need to rely on our automobiles as extensively as other neighborhoods. After all, we can walk to grocery stores, restaurants, dry cleaners, and other services (even a theater!). We welcome all ages in our neighborhood, from the toddlers at St. Anthony’s Day School, to the teens at the T. C. Williams Boathouse, to the elderly at the Ladrey High Rise. We also have access to a variety of modes of transportation, DASH buses, taxis, private automobiles, bicycles, walking, and for some of our neighbors, even canoes and boats. And we could walk to Metro on a nice day!
So we are really pretty close to most measures of livability in the US today. What more do we need? Perhaps a little more beautification – undergrounding those power lines on Fairfax Street sure would be nice! A community center would be good, and OTNCP is working to make Montgomery Park more community friendly, as well as working with new and existing commercial properties to make community meeting rooms available in the future. We also need to emphasize our views and vistas to the waterfront, and reinforce the pedestrian friendliness of our streetscapes. These are ongoing efforts that we will focus on as new development projects are announced for our neighborhood.
An additional community forum is planned for November 14 at 7:00 pm in the Atrium of the PTO headquarters building; it will feature Daniel Burden, Executive Director of Walkable Communities, Inc.
Montgomery Park Plan continues to advance
The Parks and Recreation Department has applied for a special use permit to carry out the Montgomery Park improvement plan. This permit should be granted in December, and the work will be able to begin in the spring of 2006. Initial improvements will include removal of the chain link fence along Fairfax Street and construction of an east-west path north of the tennis courts. We have provided input to the Parks Department for selection of a 30-foot diameter gazebo structure that will serve as a community space for picnics, small concerts, and roofed shelter (with open sides).. A smaller community signboard structure has also been selected.
Motorcoach task force deletes short-term parking locations in Old Town North
In the September newsletter, we noted that several short-term parking locations had been proposed for our neighborhood to serve motorcoaches and their drivers. These included sites on North Fairfax Street and on North St. Asaph Street. After discussing these proposals with residents and businesses in Old Town North, OTNCP requested that the Motorcoach Task Force eliminate these sites as unworkable and not in keeping with the character of the neighborhood. The Task Force agreed, and forwarded to the City Manager its recommendation that the City consider a single large site with appropriate services to house the motorcoaches, and that this site not be in the tight urbanized areas of greater Old Town (the grid pattern streets)..
Events scheduled for OTN
MetroStage presents “For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again” through November 27, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 2 and 7 pm. The play is billed as “a son’s touching homage to his colorful, eccentric mother who nurtured his imagination and his love for the theater”. MetroStage is located at 1201 North Royal Street. For tickets call 800-494-8497, www.boxofficetickets.com.
November 16, 7:30 pm, Old Town North Community Partnership Board meeting, 300 Montgomery Street, 2nd floor.
Annual meeting of Old Town North Community Partnership, March 2006 (date and location to be announced).
2nd annual Taste of Old Town North, May 18, 2006, Montgomery Park.
What’s New, In Brief
The Mirant Power Plant continues to preoccupy the neighborhood. Seems there is a new element to the saga almost every day. In recent times, Mirant has restarted one boiler; the City has requested the Circuit Court to grant an injunction against the plant; and the Federal Aviation Administration has denied a request by Mirant to increase the height of the plant’s stacks. More info at http://ci.alexandria.va.us/tes/eq/draft_agenda092805.pdf.
We are still waiting for news on the Bus Barn and ABC sites, although it appears that there may be a contract announced soon on the ABC site. Meanwhile, in the future, we are awaiting the new residential project at the Postmasters site and initial plans for the Windows Catering site. The owners of Canal Center are working on a plan to spruce up the entrances to the office complex.
Some improvements have been made to our roads and traffic. Have you noticed Montgomery Street has been flowing better lately for those trying to cross Washington Street? We are working to rationalize the use of stop signs vs. traffic lights at intersections; small improvements are also being made on paving, crosswalks, and signage at the bicycle path. Please let us know which areas are experiencing pedestrian/bicycle/automobile conflicts or traffic and parking issues so we can try to get something done about them.
A La Lucia restaurant on Madison Street has been approved for an increased capacity to 120 seats. The restaurant has certainly been proven popular in our neighborhood, and helps liven up what would otherwise be a very quiet and dark block in the evenings.
The crew boathouse recently added brick paving to its entrance area at the foot of Madison Street…a much needed improvement so that parents no longer have to slog through mud to register their children for crew.
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Please send an email with your contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Or complete and mail the form below to Old Town North Community Partnership, c/o Montgomery Center, 300 Montgomery Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314.