Arts Festival a Success

As members of the Alexandria City Council, we would like to express our great appreciation to all of our friends in the region who helped to make this year's Alexandria Festival of the Arts a huge success.

More than 60,000 people from around our region and beyond came to Old Town to celebrate the arts, enjoy outdoor dining and experience our unique ambiance. The success of the festival would not be possible without the uniting of many individuals and groups: the residents of Old Town and the entire city, more than 150 volunteers from around the region, and the hardworking city agencies, organizations and businesses that came together to make this happen. It also could not be possible without our wonderful friends from around the region who stopped by to view the art and to dine and shop.

In the coming months, we will review this year's festival and find ways to build on its success so our region will continue to have an outstanding fine-arts festival. And finally, we will remember that our success this year resulted from the teamwork of many organizations and interests working together. That is what "One Alexandria" is all about.

Rob Krupicka (D)

Paul Smedberg (D)

Alexandria City Council members

Get Potomac Yard Right

The Alexandria City Council's September 1999 approval of a plan to redevelop the old railroad tract at Potomac Yard marked a landmark in the history of development in the city. It did so by including detailed urban design standards that were intended to produce the highest-quality development possible. These standards were a major reason why the more than 5-million-square-foot plan was supported by citizens. I believe that the plan's design standards raised the overall bar for high-quality development in the city as a whole.

Much credit for the high-quality design standards must go to former owner Commonwealth Atlantic Properties, which proposed the approved plan, and its team of design professionals. The team closely examined the design principles that have made traditional neighborhoods such as Del Ray and Old Town so successful and applied them to Potomac Yard. The subsequent owner of Potomac Yard, Crescent Resources, also strongly supported the design principles and standards.

Now, Potomac Yard has been sold once again. The new owners, Pulte Homes and Centex Homes, have promised to jump-start development, which is good news, because the project has been languishing. But Pulte and Centex, despite the fact that they are two of the largest building firms in the United States, typically have not chosen to build in places that put a premium on design. A representative of Pulte has, however, made encouraging statements, and the new owners have hired a local architect to develop housing designs that are appropriate to Alexandria.

The long process leading up to approval of the Potomac Yard plan was highly contentious, marked by vociferous citizen opposition to and the defeat of plans to build a stadium for the Washington Redskins and relocate the headquarters of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Yet in a sense, approval of the plan was the easy part. Implementation will be more challenging. That's because the approved plan is only a "concept plan." It denotes where the major elements of the development -- roads, offices, housing, parks and so forth -- will be located but provides only illustrations as to how the completed project will actually look. The devil is in the details, and a large number of details will need to be worked out, especially if the plan is to conform to the new urbanist ideals of the designers.

Citizens will need to closely scrutinize the details of site plans for each land bay as they are presented. The Potomac Yard Design Advisory Committee (PYDAC), which is authorized by the City Council to review all development to ensure that it meets the design standards and of which I am chair, will be meeting in the coming months to review proposed changes to the approved plan by the new owners. The Planning Commission and the City Council will also hold work sessions on Potomac Yard. I urge citizens to attend these meetings and express their views.

Potomac Yard has the potential to be one of the finest developments in the Washington area and one that can make all Alexandrians proud. But we still have a lot of work to do.

Bill Hendrickson