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ACBA Supports Shopping Center Redevelopment but Poses Gentrification Concerns

Proposal will go before City Council on Saturday.

Members of the Arlandria-Chirilagua Business Association expressed concerns that the proposed redevelopment of the Mount Vernon Village Center would spur gentrification in the neighborhood during a meeting Tuesday with project developers at .

The group’s board, however, unanimously backed the proposal. ACBA President Nelson Zavaleta spoke in support of the project at a Dec. 6 Alexandria Planning Commission meeting where the project was approved.

The proposal calls for razing the current shopping center—which houses businesses like , Fashion K City and a CVS—and constructing two, six-story mixed-use buildings that will include 53,000 square feet of street-level retail space and more than 480 multi-family housing units. Parking for residents and shoppers—a total of 940 spaces—would be available underground.

Twenty-eight affordable housing units will be maintained for 30 years within the structure, which would be at the heart of the ethnically diverse Arlandria neighborhood along Mt. Vernon Avenue.

Attorney Duncan Blair, who represents developer PMI, said the project presents the first new housing in the area in three decades.

“From a commerce standpoint, [the project] creates a new vitality in the Arlandria area,” Blair said. “It really brings it to the 21st century by bringing it to the street.”

Zavaleta told the Planning Commission the ABCA supported the project because it would improve the economic viability of the neighborhood and increase the customer base for businesses. He also said his organization, which is heavily supported by the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, works to maintain diversity in the neighborhood.

Representatives from PMI said the there is a preference toward finding local businesses to fill the retail space at the shopping center. Negotiations are ongoing to keep MOM’s as a tenant, as well as the CVS.

Some attendees at Tuesday’s meeting questioned if the project wouldn’t raise rent in the area and drive out low-income residents.

“How is this not gentrification?” asked Rev. Patrick T. Crerar, associate rector at Grace Episcopal Church.

Blair responded, saying that the housing units in the development will not be luxury apartments and the project itself does not displace any residents.

“This is not intended to bring Old Town rents to the area,” Blair said.

Others raised traffic concerns, while some felt there wasn’t enough community outreach about the project.

“There are definitely some folk who feel like they haven’t had a voice in this plan,” Crerar said.

Crerar mentioned that while the city touts its eNews service as a reliable and effective way of disseminating information about meetings and planning, many Arlandria residents don’t have computers or smart phones.

Many at the Planning Commission hearing asked for the project to be postponed so more outreach could be done, including Gabriel Rojo, director of Tenants and Workers United.

Del Ray Business Association officers and members of the Arlandria Civic Association spoke in support of the project.

Nora Partlow, owner of , said she was concerned about how the project would alter traffic in Del Ray and potentially displace businesses and residents.

The proposal will go before City Council on Saturday morning.

To read The Arlandrian’s piece on the proposal, .

LaDonna Sanders December 16, 2011 at 01:04 PM
480 multi-housing units and only 28 designated as low income is ridiculous! Affordable housing in Alexandria is such a major issue that I feel continues to be placed on the back burner.
Jon Rosenbaum December 16, 2011 at 01:14 PM
Frankly we are doing much more than our fair share on affordable housing in Alexandria. We have the highest percentage of people living in poverty in the metropolitan area with the exception of DC. And these poor people are being housed. It may be that some are doubling up to survive and violating the zoning laws. However, the city probably does not wish to enforce these laws for political reasons. The so-called Arlandria community is not diverse. It is very transient and a majority of those residing there are from one El Salvadorian town. I am amazed that many have no problem with an area of the city declining economically but shudder when proposals are made for the evil "gentrification" or redevelopment.
Sigaro December 16, 2011 at 02:44 PM
I agree that we've already gone overboard with providing affordable housing. Let the market decide what rents are. Gentrification is not always a bad thing.
Peter December 16, 2011 at 03:53 PM
I agree that gentrification is not bad in this part of town, there are a few buildings that have been vacant and closed for a number of years. By investing in the area, it may spur a new group of businesses to come in and fill those vacancies. I would much rather see a vibrant community rather than dark closed buildings and a bunch of convenience stores.
Leland Ness December 16, 2011 at 06:16 PM
This will make traffic in Arlandria, particularly along Mt Vernon, absolutely miserable at rush hour. They will certainly need to install at least one additional traffic light to let residents in and out, further slowing through traffic on the road. Then you have all those additional people trying to travel on the road. It is already terrible northbound after about 7.45 AM (my personal record is 6 traffic light cycles at Glebe/Four Mile Run) and when you add several hundred more cars to the mix it will be even worse. Then, in the evening, you will have folks southbound on Mt Vernon turning left in this big new complex. They will also add traffic to the south, through Del Ray (who wants to get on US1 if you can avoid it) and also turning left onto Reed for Potomac Yard (already a bit of problem since the City cleverly installed traffic-obstructing bump-outs that make it impossible to get around a stopped car turning left). Two six-story apartment buildings with 480 units two miles from a metro stop? On old streets with no substantive planned traffic improvements? Really? And lets not forget that the new, expanded Calvert will start coming on line in about a year. Oh, well. The City wants the revenue and the planning board rubber-stamped it 6-0, so there is little than can be done in any event.

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