This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on January 2, 2020.
Our region is humming. You can’t walk or ride down a street without noticing cranes and dodging construction crews. These are, for better or worse, the trappings of prosperity.
In addition to our talented workforce and strategic location, one of the selection criteria for Amazon’s and Virginia Tech’s choosing National Landing/Alexandria was the attention our region pays to its infrastructure.
The dust, noise and detours might strain our patience but with foresight we can bear with them and try to stay focused on the opportunities and enhancements they will bring. Recall the congestion and commotion around our waterfront redevelopment, including the oft-voiced fear that Old Town would become another National Harbor. Already, just in the first phase of that long-term project, we see that the newly created open space actually accentuates the significant character and charm of Alexandria. The subsequent phases will include landscaping, promenades, and amenities that lure locals and tourists alike to savor Alexandria’s historic waterfront setting.
Old Town North likewise has bustled with cranes and construction, and more projects are ahead. Earlier eyesore buildings and vacant lots now provide upscale residential, grocery, retail and dining options. Upcoming plans call for OTN to become an arts and cultural district that includes a new performance theater.
Street crews seem to be everywhere in the city. The silver lining to our having to endure those detours and delays is that, while they’re tending to sewer or transportation-related digs, they’re leveraging those underground projects to also install conduit and fiber to bring broadband capacity to Alexandria. That strategy is developing an underground fiber network that will enable Alexandria businesses and residents to receive the fastest Internet connectivity in the country.
Ground was just broken for the Potomac Yard Metro Station that will further the development of the Potomac Yard community as well as the world-class Virginia Tech Innovation Campus. It’s hard to exaggerate the tangible and reputational impact that scholastic stature will have on Alexandria and the Commonwealth of Virginia once that campus begins producing leading-edge talent and innovation.
With the Metro completion, the Potomac Yard community will flourish as a place to live, learn, work, shop, stroll and play. Enthusiastic Potomac Yard residents are engaged in planning efforts including the Metro station, community layout, amenities, paths and greenspace.
An estimated tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of tax revenue are expected to be generated on this once-abandoned rail yard. The new Metro station will also remove thousands of vehicles from one of the most crowded corridors in our city.
We can anticipate some angst as popular big box stores are closed and their current space becomes mixed use development. The expectation is that many of them will relocate to the ground level of commercial and residential buildings nearby. Yes, we’re facing many of the frustrations that thriving communities predictably endure as growing pains. But it’s thriving communities that attract the most creative minds and talent, and continue to flourish as exciting places to live. Alexandria indeed has great expectations!