To hear Alexandria officials tell it, there is no better place to enjoy Potomac Fever than in George Washington's historic home town. And tell it they did -- at a gathering last week of more than 500 area real estate agents.
As Republicans flock eastward to join the new Reagan administration, city and school officials were sending out this message:
Alexandria has the cozy flavor of a small town, amply spiced with the cosmopolitan touches that only the nation's capital can provide.
A wide range of housing options -- from historic Old Town homes to modern high-rise condominiums -- make the city an attractive buy for many people.
The public school system is improving and is complemented by a vareity of private schools.
Within the next few years, at least three Metro stations will open in the city, speeding transportation to the capital.
A cornucopia of shops and restaurants brighten an already bright landscape.
With the current slump in home sales, the real estate agents seemed more than willing to hear about the virtues of the city. And city and school officials openly admitted they were putting on a "hard sell" for the agents.
But more interesting that what the city officials told those 500 men and women was what they left out.
Californians used to stretching their arms to the wide open spaces may find that a quarter of a million dollars, which bought them a nice ranch-style house back home, will buy a townhouse so small that it only takes one hop to get from one side of the living room to the other. But at least it will be historic.
The housing prices themselves, although low for the metropolitan area, aren't exactly a bargain, especially for those Reaganites who may have something less than a cabinet-level post. The average price in Alexandria now stands at $92,000, although it certainly won't buy much, if anything, in historic Old Town.
There, of course, is the rental market for those who plan to be here through only one or two presidential terms. But finding an apartment is getting harder and harder, especially with the 2 percent vacancy rate described by city officials at the meeting last week. And like single-family home, bargains in apartments are few and far between. The going rate for a one-bedroom apartment in some parts of the city is $340 to $400.
Although Alexandria prides itself on its smalltown ambience and cosmopolitan setting, it is beginning to experience the growing pains of an urban area. In recent months three people have been shot, and two killed, in the downtown area during apparent robbery attempts in daylight hours. Police have no suspect in one of those cases. Police speculate they were committed by drug users, whose crimes were aided by unlocked doors and casual attitudes of people who didn't expect "it" to happen there.
Blacks moving to the city may find themselves thoroughly comfortable with the polished chrome and ferm plant atmosphere of Old Town restaurants and bars, but may be taken aback by the Confederate statute, forever facing south, in the midst of downtown, and by the Confederate flags that periodically are raised over the 231-year old city.
Then there are the smaller problems. For instance, shopping in Old Town can be terrific, but finding a place to park can turn Santa Claus into Scrooge. And the claim by a Chamber of Commerce spokesman that it takes no more than 10 minutes to get from anywhere in Alexandria to National Airport seemed to be a bit of oversell. That might be true at 3 in the morning going downhill at 90 miles an hour.
But Alexandria, as officials so correctly pointed out, also can be a city of immense charm.
It's a city where neighborhood associations are active, vocal and heeded, where the city council makes special efforts to lower the property tax rate each year, where parents get a postcard the moment a kid misses a class, where residents proudly celebrate their Scottish heritage and their ties to the founders of this country.
In short, Alexandria, like any city in the United States, even one with the magnificent and awe-inspiring view from across the Potomac, is a city with as many virtues an problems. And it is a city where truly concerned and involved citizens can still make a difference in the quality of life.
And that, more than anything, might be the best reason for members of the new administration to take a good look at Alexandria as a possible new home.