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New Development

Overview
Giant/ABC Site
2nd Street Green Project
Power Plant Site
Old Colony Inn Site
National Airport North
Metro Bus Barn Site
Travel Lodge Motel Site
The Towns at 1333
Powhatan Potomac Yard
Mount Vernon Trail
Robinson Terminal North
Robinson Terminal South
Old Dominion Boat Club
The Thornton
Hoffman Town Center
Landmark Mall
Potomac Yard Metro
Alexandria Sewer
Craddock/Smoot Lumber
Potomac Yard

Redevelopment

Montgomery Street
Crowne Plaza
Waterfront Center
Holiday Inn
Beach Drive

Park Development

Montgomery Park
Windmill Hill Park
Jones Point Park
Potomac Yard Park

Completed Projects

National Airport South
Canal Center Plaza

 

Potomac River Power Generating Station Site

The GenOn coal-fired electric power generating plant (previously owned by Pepco and Mirant) permanently closed on October 1, 2012 after nearly 70 years of operation.  GenOn is a subsidiary of NRG through merger, which is why government documents and news reports refer to both GenOn and NRG interchangeably as the owner of the former power generating plant.  Redeveloment of the site is complicated by several factors, which are discussed below and to the right.

Decommissioning

Since 2012, NRG and GenOn have been engaged in the government-monitored closure and decomissioning of the plant.

Site Remediation

NRG and GenOn have also been working to clean-up and remediate the 25-acre site.  In April 2016, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) posted the following update on its webpage regarding the clean-up of a petroleum release from two 25,000 gallon underground heating oil storage tanks at the decomissioned power plant: 

"Since NRG’s Corrective Action Plan was approved by DEQ on March 17, 2015, NRG’s consultants have been working to verify the extent of petroleum contamination, install remediation wells, and construct the remediation equipment. By February 2016, the required wells and the remediation systems had been installed and tested and the system was ready to go into operation once final permits were received for a discharge of treated water to the sanitary system. The remediation system is expected to start up in March 2016.  Work carried out during 2015 broadly confirmed the extent of contamination identified in the corrective action plan."

GenOn Bankruptcy

In mid-June 2017, Forbes and other news outlets reported that GenOn filed for bankruptcy in order to restructure its $1.75 billion in debt and reorganize its business operations.  It is anticipated that GenOn will emerge from bankruptcy by the end of 2017.

Divided Ownership

Control of the Potomac River site is divided between two separate owners with different rights.  Pepco owns the site, retains the right to operate a separate power transmission substation on the site (see related discussion below), and owns all the transmission substation equipment at the site.  GenOn holds an 88-year lease to the site (subject to Pepco's right to operate its transmission substation) and owns the power generating plant and all the machinery and equipment that comprises the plant.  Both owners would have to agree to any redevelopment of the site.

The diagram immediately below highlights some of the foregoing development features.  The photos above and below provide Potomac River views of the power station.

Government Regulations

The site's redevelopment is subject to the City of Alexandria's planning and zoning requirements.  In this regard, on June 24, 2017, the city adopted an updated Old Town North Small Area Plan (OTNSAP) and associated Old Town North Urban Design Standards and Guidelines, which together amend the 1992 Old Town North Small Area Plan Chapter of the Alexandria Master Plan (please see the City Planning page of this website for more details on zoning and planning).   

Relevant portions of the OTNSAP address the city's general parameters for redevelopment of this site, including the following expectations and concepts:

  • The Potomac River waterfront areas along the easternmost edge of the property would remain open to the public and be greatly expanded and enhanced.
  • The existing railway spur right-of-way would be cleared and converted into an extended "linear" park.
  • Using modern technology and design concepts, Pepco would reorganize, compress, substantially reduce the geographical footprint of, and architecturally screen or conceal its power transmission substation.
  • The existing Old Town North street grid would be extended into (North Fairfax, North Royal and North Pitt Streets) and connected to (Slaters Lane and Abingdon Drive) the site.  According to the historical records, these road changes would actually restore the area to how it looked before the power plant was built.
  • The redevelopment would be anchored by an "innovation project" such as an arts district, academic institution, business incubator, culinary institute or museum.
  • The development would be mixed use, including office high rises and other commercial space, ground-floor restaurants and retail shops, multi-family housing, some affordable housing, and parks and recreation facilities.

 

 

New Dominion Virginia Power/Pepco Substation Transmission Line

As part of its ongoing responsibilities as a public utility to provide safe and reliable electric power to its customers, and satisfy its obligations to other utilities and regional transmission organizations, Dominion Virginia Power continuously assesses the robustness -- condition, capacity and reliability -- of its electrical grid to satisfy both present and projected demand.  Dominion's current studies estimate that by the summer of 2020 its "existing transmission facilities in the City of Alexandria and Arlington County will no longer adequately meet demand and mandatory North [American] Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) reliability criteria."

In response to this finding, Dominion is proposing to build a new two-mile-long underground 230 kilovolt electric transmission line to connect its own Glebe Substation, located at the intersection of South Glebe Road and South Eads Street close to where Four Mile Run crosses U.S. Route 1, and Potomac Electric Power Company’s Potomac River Substation (also known as Substation C), located at the corner of Slaters Lane and East Abingdon Drive a few blocks north of Watergate (see photos to the left).

Substations are an integral part of the electrical transmission and distribution system -- they interconnect power transmission (long distance) and power distribution (local) systems, serve as switching and routing stations, sometimes collect power directly from generating sources, typically include transformers that adjust the voltage and/or current levels between different lines, often contain circuit breakers designed to prevent system overloads, and have equipment that allows network managers to monitor and control portions of the electric grid remotely and in real time.

Substations range in size from self-contained mobile vehicles to facilities that occupy many acres of land.  The two substations that Dominion wants to connect fall into the latter category.  To a casual observer, Pepco's Potomac River Substation appears to be part of NRG's now-closed Potomac River Generating Station.  That's because Pepco's equipment is virtually indistiguishable from NRG's facility (the combined complex was once owned entirely by Pepco). 

When the NRG site is redeveloped in coming years (see discussion above), the Pepco substation will remain.  This will come as a surprise to most people because they see a single industrial installation instead of two adjacent ones owned by different companies serving different purposes.

The controversy surrounding Dominion's project involves the proposed route of the proposed transmission line.  In recent years, Alexandria and Arlington have, at considerable cost, widened, re-built, re-aligned and re-surfaced U.S. Route 1 from the northern edge of Old Town to the southern edge of Crystal City.  This work included construction of the new Monroe Avenue Bridge, and the insertion of dedicated travel lanes, signal lights and passenger shelters for the new Metroway express bus service.  At one point, Dominion's preferred route for the transmission line was along U.S. Route 1, which would require this newly completed transit corridor to be torn up again. 

Under prevailing rules, Dominion need not pay deference to the views of local governments in selecting a transmission route.  For the autocrats running Alexandria's City Hall, who are used to being bullies and not being bullied, this is too much to bear.  However, Dominion now appears willing to consider an alternative route more acceptable to local authorities -- the line would largely follow CSX railroad rights-of-way and then cross under the George Washington Memorial Parkway near the Glebe substation.

 

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