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City Council Approves Harris Teeter's Bid to Open in North Old Town

Residents of Alexandria House condominiums expressed concern with additional traffic challenges

Alexandria City Council on Saturday voted to approve a development bringing a Harris Teeter grocery store and multifamily housing to Alexandria's North Old Town.

The project will be located at the 700 blocks of N. St. Asaph and N. Pitt streets. The new building, which replaces a crumbling, vacant structure, will be owned by Buchanan Partners. That firm will lease it to Harris Teeter.

Harris Teeter will operate a full-service grocery store and pharmacy, with underground parking and outdoor seating. Multifamily housing will also be constructed, with 175 new rental units and underground parking for tenants.

Members of the Alexandria House condominiums, which are located next to the proposed development, filed a protest against the plan on Friday but it was rejected by the Planning and Zoning Department on the grounds they did not have the necessary amount of signatures to be officially accepted.

Some of Alexandria House residents spoke at the meeting expressing concern that a 52,000-square-foot store was going to spur density, traffic and safety challenges.

Rick Gutwald, who lives in the 400 block of Madison Street, spoke out against the plan. "The size, traffic and parking problems will negatively affect us," he said.

However, many North Old Town residents favor the plan. Some residents said they enjoy the Trader Joe's down the street, but considered it more of a specialty store rather than a full-service grocer. Additionally, North Old Towners consistently characterized the nearby Giant as "substandard."

Mark Boudreaux, a resident of Oronoco Street, said he was looking forward to shopping at the new Harris Teeter rather than biking over to the one in Arlington's Shirlington neighborhood. He added that a new Harris Teeter would allow him and his family to change their practice of driving to Fairfax to get a large amount of fresh fruits and vegetables not currently available in the neighborhood.

Developers for the project will make significant public contributions, including nearly $600,000 for affordable housing, $400,000 for improvements to and maintenance of nearby Montgomery Park, $40,000 for bus stop improvements, and a variety of streetscape improvements.

Buchanan Partners' lawyer at the City  Council hearing outlined the changes that his group has made to accommodate citizen requests, such as enlarging the loading dock area to ensure 18-wheel delivery trucks do not stick out into the street so that traffic can pass by more easily.

Buchanan Partners also had offered to provide a $40,000 bike share station, but it agreed to take that language out of the approval document because the city does not yet have a bike share plan in place.

The project also is expected to create 150 new jobs and generate $1 million in net, new tax revenue for the city.

DelRayRez June 29, 2011 at 04:18 PM
The city paid over $2 million to purchase two adjacent lots of land along E. Del Ray Ave. for a pocket park. Please convince me of the relative benefits of that "green space" over a new supermarket that surpasses the limited choices/cramped spaces currently provided by the Giant on the north side of town and the sub-standard one of Monroe Ave.
Logan July 03, 2011 at 10:24 PM
I very much look forward to this new store. My biggest complaint about living in Old Town has been the lack of a large grocery store. I am shocked at the remarks that Alexandria's parks are not sufficient. Alexandria has tons of parks for a city this size! And not a one of them is anywhere near half full when I am in them on weekends. Land area wise Alexandria is a rather small city so you are not going to see a park the size of central park in NYC or anything like that here. Ten or more years ago Arlington and Alexandria were considered suburbs. That is not the case today though. I second the comments that if you want open space, green space, to live somewhere that does not have commercial and retail space then move out because this is the city. No on living inside the beltway should ever complain about things like this.
Andrew Macdonald July 04, 2011 at 04:04 PM
Not enough grocery stores? Isn't Whole Foods large enough? Sufficient park land? The issue is not about whether or not we have enough park land in Alexandria to support the demands of a growing population, which we don't on either a per capita basis (etc) or from a neighborhood use perspective. it's more about whether this particular (plus 50,000 sf) store should have been located at this particular site in N. Old Town. Old Town is not Arlington's Ballston's corridor and I think that if we strive to develop like that I think we will lose our identity. I am not 100% against to adding another grocery store to the area, though personally I think we have a lot of choices already. I'm more concerned that we are making life-style decisions without considering it's larger impact on the community. I don't think this zoning decision was based on what the best location for a new grocery store would be for an entire community. Unfortunately, this debate has pitted those who want a "larger" grocery store against those who are perceived as more interested in keeping things as they are. Andrew Macdonald
Jason October 14, 2011 at 11:39 AM
I just really wish that the people that have all these problems with city things would just please move out to Loudon County! This is the city and if you do not want a grocery store in your neighborhood then move to Loudon County or West Virginia. I can guarantee you that they do not have grocery stores in neighborhoods there and you will have more open and green space than you ever know what to do with!
Jason October 14, 2011 at 11:45 AM
Whole Foods is not practical as an "everything" type grocery store. For example they lack many household and cleaning products. The selection of cleaning products at Whole Foods is very poor and many of the products do not work very well. In addition to this Whole Foods lacks a lot of products that are low fat, light, or non fat. I go to Whole Foods to buy vegetables, fruits, meats, etc. Then I go to Harris Teeter for the rest. No one single grocery store ever has 100 percent of what you want.

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