A new Metrorail station at Potomac Yard should be built close to the existing shopping center, the Alexandria City Council unanimously decided Wednesday night as members waxed nearly poetic about the economic development they say it is expected to bring.
The council endorsed “alternative B,” a $268 million station to be built between the CSX railroad tracks and George Washington Memorial Parkway, with no construction access from the parkway. Council members said they expect the station to bring 26,000 new jobs, 21,000 new homes and $1.5 billion in new tax revenue over the next 20 or 30 years.
“Today’s decision is a very significant step forward, not just for the construction of the station itself but for Alexandria as a whole,” said Mayor William D. Euille (D). “This project is critical to our future economic development, transportation needs and quality of life.”
The station, on the Blue and Yellow lines, will be built between the Reagan National Airport and Braddock Road stations. Officials said they hope it will do for Potomac Yard what the District’s New York Avenue Metro station did for what is now called the NoMa neighborhood: help trigger a multibillion-dollar boom in development.
The city plans to pay for the station with a variety of funds. A memo last week from City Manager Mark Jinks spelled it out: $72 million from developer contributions; $20.8 million from new tax revenue generated at Potomac Yard; $278.3 million from non-single-family developments; $20.3 million from single-family homes and condominiums near the station; $69.5 million from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA); and $1 million in federal urban funds.
But those sources are somewhat uncertain. JBG Cos., a major developer in Potomac Yard, wants to renegotiate its deal. The NVTA funds have not been voted upon. Jinks warned that if development occurs more slowly than expected, if real estate does not appreciate at the rate the city assumes or if construction costs are unexpectedly higher, the city’s general fund might need to make up some of the difference.
In addition, residents of the Potomac Yard area who would be part of a special tax district to help pay for the station have protested strenuously, and the council told Jinks on Wednesday to come up with options to reduce or eliminate the tax.
The neighborhood of new homes, between Potomac Avenue and Jefferson Davis Highway and south of Bluemont Avenue, was singled out for a property tax of 10 cents per $100 of assessed value on top of the base rate. That would cost each of the 400 or so homeowners between $705 and $1,200 per year and would bring in about $500,000 per year.
To build the Metro station, the city also needs to negotiate an agreement with the National Park Service, which operates the parkway, because 0.16 of an acre of federal land is needed for the construction. City officials said they expect to provide about $12 million in improvements to the federal land in exchange.
“This is the most complicated project the city has undertaken in our contemporary times, and we are only part way there,” Jinks said.
The council chose its preferred location, part of long process that is expected to result in the choice of a design-build contractor in about a year, with the station scheduled to open in late 2018 or early 2019. The property tax increases would not start until a year after the station opens, but council members said they will clarify the station funding before the main design-build contract is awarded.
“I’m less than satisfied, but the mayor and most of the council gets the unfairness,” said homeowner Robert Giroux, who with his wife, Cindy Xu, attended the Wednesday meeting. “The amount they would raise from us is trivial, and to single out 400 residents is not fair.”