hit tracker <body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\x3d23615820\x26blogName\x3dCenLamar:+A+Blog+on+Life+in+Alexandri...\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\x26navbarType\x3dBLACK\x26layoutType\x3dCLASSIC\x26searchRoot\x3dhttp://cenlamar.blogspot.com/search\x26blogLocale\x3den_US\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3dhttp://cenlamar.blogspot.com/\x26vt\x3d7276229209213654946', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>

Is Downtown Alexandria Dead? Yesterday, KALB's Larry Collins filed a report about the business activity (or lack thereof) in Downtown Alexandria. The report actually featured a screenshot of a comment left on the beloved blog, Cenla Antics. One of the most well-written critiques, I believe, is this one: "Anonymous said...

What is so important about downtown? It is nothing but a bunch of old buildings, lawyers' offices, public buildings and a decaying hotel that just can't make it on its own (actually not even with many hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money). Why pump money in a crime ridden ghost town when there are other areas where people want to be. Why must we be going upstream when the flow will give us results much more beneficial to everyone. After 40 years of trying and millions of public money squandered on downtown, including stopping progress for years by diverting I-49 downtown, I have become a naysayer, just as any rational person would become in regards trying to use taxpayers' money to do the impossible. And actually I have been to all the cities mentioned other than Fairhope and I believe the money spent would have produced results a hundredfold in the areas where the cities growth occurs naturally. Baton Rouge has the state capitol bldg, a casino and a few millionaires working diligently and difficulty still haunts downtown. We ain't Atlanta with one of the largest airports in the world and growth that is phenominal and still the growth and given its citizens suburbs that offer far more than confines of an artficial revamped area called downtown. I think it is you who should try and think outside the box and consider other possibilities for growth in Alexandria. Let's try for the next 40 years to allow private industry to move with less burdisome taxation and keep the government who has never made a profit or accompllished anything out of our pockets and away from more glorious redevelopement schemes."

This blogger makes a few excellent points about the nature of revitalization and its role in the free market. Certainly, it can be argued that a more effective use of our resources would be to continuously follow the money. Unfortunately, in my humble opinion, this misses the point. The reason Downtown will continue to be an election-year issue (I wish it could be something more than that) is because Alexandria's growth is manic and arbitrary. Ask an urban planner about the importance of in-fill, the notion that in periods of growth and expansion it becomes imperative to focus equal attention to already developed areas that are threatened by draining resources. And to that end, the reason Downtown is important for our community is because it presents us with the best opportunity to capitalize on our location, and by following the models used by other similarly-sized cities (I've heard it argued that Downtown revitalizations NEVER work with cities our size, but empirically, it's just not true), we have the opportunity to turn Downtown into a destination again. And furthermore, due to the nature of our growth and expansion, it will become increasingly important for the community to have a shared third place. Now, I'm not arguing that Downtown is the ONLY location for this development; it's just the most logical. And that's why our local government decided to brick the sidewalks and that's why they're considering the installation of a trolley. If we were to install a trolley, it would allow tourists and convention guests the ability to explore the expanding resources of our downtown in a unique and memorable way.

I also believe that the argument that our city is spending money on downtown AT THE EXPENSE of other, more "worthy" locations is based on a fallacy. In fact, we've spent and earmarked far more spending for infrastructual improvements and additions off of 28-W than we have for Downtown. (Correct me if I am wrong. A City Councilman supplied me with that information).

In other words, let's put the scale of this revitalization effort in context: $1.8 million for sidewalk repairs, $250,000 for the installation of a trolley, and $2 or 3 million in real estate purchases still pales in comparison to the $12-$13 million Versailles expansion and Heyman lane overlay (And this doesn't even take into account the additional monies we'll have to spend to provide utilities and roadwork for the new residential and commercial developments around the Lakes District).

Another problem I have with all of the naysayers is that they fail to recognize the "type" of development that revitalization proponents support. We're not using the old model of downtown; a revitalization of Downtown will involve several mixed use developments.

Sure, the Hotel Bentley is closed, and as long as Mr. Dean continues to think he can get an outrageous $12.2 million for the building (not the business; remember, he closed the business, so there is absolutely no goodwill), the hotel will continue to be closed. While the Bentley is an important component of Downtown, the last two years, during which time the hotel has been closed, have witnessed several new service industries (two bars, a lounge, a restaurant, and an internet cafe), all located across the street from the Bentley. If we were to "follow the money," as you say, then we must also recognize the unique value of these businesses; often, they are the only places that tourists and guests to our city will visit. (The Holiday Inn and the Riverfront Convention Center are still in business, after all). As I have said before, an outside investor's impression of Alexandria will be shaped by two primary factors: our airport and our downtown.