Opposing Modern Construction in Historic Old Town
By Grace Billups Arnold
ALEXANDRIA, VA – The Heritage is an affordable housing complex in Old Town that was built in 1973. It is owned by Asland Capital Partners, a New York-based investment company.
Asland has proposed to replace the existing property with multiple buildings ranging from four to seven stories in height, with 750 underground parking spots. The plan includes 750 units, 188 of which will be affordable housing.
The City of Alexandria has approved demolition of the site. This decision has prompted Alexandrians to actively contest the proposal.
After several months of discussion, residents living near The Heritage created the Citizens Association of the South West Quadrant (CASWQ) to oppose this development. CASWQ created a website (www.caswq.org), recruited supporters, distributed flyers, and presented at Alexandria Board of Architectural Review meetings.
Adopting the tagline, “High rises don’t belong in Old Town,” CASWQ is fighting to preserve Alexandria’s historical integrity and charm. CASWQ member Stephen Hayes says, “This project would do real damage to Old Town in terms of livability and traffic congestion, and dramatically increased density. We are starting to see a groundswell of opposition to the Asland development.”
Hayes points out that a structure of this size and capacity would produce logistical complications. According to a CASWQ press release, Alexandria is already the most densely populated city in Virginia. Implementing a massive apartment complex would further overcrowd the city, the streets, and the skylines.
Chris Faranetta, a CASWQ member, adds, “We do not want The Heritage project to be rejected. We want a development that provides much needed affordable housing and fits into the scale of our neighborhood, a development that will not overwhelm our neighborhood school, street parking, and the already difficult traffic situation.”
Members of CASWQ implore the City to pause and consider the effect that a modern structure of this scope would have on Alexandria, its history, its people, and its identity. Old Town is steeped in brick and rooted in cobblestone. There are ways to accommodate the future while preserving the past.
To learn more and to stay abreast of developments, go to www.caswq.org.