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Alexandria plan to include retail corridor, arts district

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Print this page by Stephenie Overman
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The plan will include incentives to property owners to carve out space
for art venues. Rendering courtesy City of Alexandria

A recently approved plan for an Alexandria neighborhood calls for corridors where properties are required to have ground-level stores and a pedestrian-friendly arts district along the Potomac River. The plan also includes acreage for a waterfront park.

The Alexandria City Council approved the mixed-use plan, Old Town North Small Area Plan, in June. It calls for development of 200-plus acres north of the city’s Old Town and guiding the neighborhood’s growth for the next 25 years.

The section of land is bordered by Slaters Lane to the north, the Potomac River to the east, Oronoco Street to the south and North Washington Street to the west. The retail corridor is planned on North Saint Asaph and Montgomery streets.

“Retail has more success when it’s concentrated,” says Heba ElGawish, the plan’s project manager.

The area now includes the Art League’s Madison Annex and MetroStage. ElGawish says incentives will be offered to encourage property owners to carve out space for various types of arts venues.

Creating an arts district “would continue to establish an identity for the area,” the small area plan draft says.

At the north end is a 25-acre site that housed the coal-fired Potomac River Generating Station, which closed in 2012. That parcel has been subdivided and a portion will remain as a Pepco switching yard.

The location has a number of transportation advantages, according to ElGawish. “A large portion of it is within walking distance of the Braddock Metro. And when the Potomac Yard Metro comes, it will be walking distance, too.” The Potomac Yard Metrorail station is scheduled to open in 2021.

The plan recommends a circulator bus and calls for a new north-south route into the power plant site, she says, adding that “pedestrians and bikes are served very well by the Mount Vernon Trail.”

Redevelopment of the power plant is considered a midterm project, to be completed in six to 10 years, ElGawish says. Work is going on to decontaminate the land and groundwater under the old plant.

In the long term, she says, the city hopes to convert the rail corridor there into a ground-level version of the High Line, the 1.45-mile-long elevated linear park in New York.

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