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Old Town North Demographics

 

Planning Considerations

Population growth
Population demographics
Revenue growth
Sustainable growth
Balanced growth
Density of development
Traffic and congestion
Neighborhood parking
Multi-modal transit
Walkability and streetscapes
Impact on schools
Affordable housing
Sufficient rental housing
Safety
Historic preservation
Support for art and culture
Public art
Demand for city services
Availability of community services
Environmental impact
Impact on infrastructure
Parks and open spaces
Public and community spaces
Economic development
Support for small businesses
Retail focus areas
Office priority areas
Urban design
Community hubs

 

Planning Tools

Zoning requirements
Character and use mandates
Character and use limitations
Height restrictions
Street set-back requirements
Off-street parking requirements
Density limits
Development restrictions
Developer off-sets

 

 

 

Local Planning

Watergate of Alexandria is located at the northern end of the historic Old Town district that forms the eastern edge of the City of Alexandria in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Colonial Old Town was originally founded in 1749, and incorporated 30 years later in 1779. The modern City of Alexandria was incorporated in 1852 and became an independent city (not part of any county) in 1870.

A young George Washington prepared one of the earliest known land surveys of Old Town sometime in 1748 or early 1749. At that time, Old Town encompassed 51 acres along the western shoreline of the Potomac River. Toward the middle of 1749, our country’s future founding father and Mount Vernon neighbor prepared a more detailed map of the town that included an annotated street grid for the first time. This latter plat, which was used in connection with the sale of town lots, represents the first known development plan for our fledgling community.

Today, Alexandria is spread across 15 square miles (9,600 acres) of land and is home to more than 150,000 residents. Our city is urban, compact, walkable, historic, picturesque and well-to-do.

Going back to Washington’s second city map and continuing to the present, Old Town has been laid out in a classic grid pattern, a method of land surveying and division perfected by the ancient Romans and widely used in urban planning since. A unique feature of Old Town is that all east-west streets terminate at or near the Potomac River, offering an abundance of river sightlines and an ever-present reminder that ours is a waterfront locality.

Our part of the city, referred to as Old Town North, comprises about 200 acres roughly bounded by the George Washington Memorial Parkway and North Washington Street to the west, Oronoco Street to the south, the Potomac River to the east, and Daingerfield Island to the north. As you can readily see from the map below, Watergate of Alexandria happens to be at the geographic center of Old Town North (click or tap on the map to see a larger version).

Old Town North’s population demographics are summarized in the chart to the left.

Development

All development in Alexandria is governed by a city-wide master plan that was drafted in 1974. For Old Town North, the master plan envisions – and has orchestrated for over 40 years – a deliberate transition away from mostly industrial land uses to a sustainable and inter-connected blend of commercial, residential and retail uses. In 1992, the city adopted the first small area plan for Old Town North, which reinforces and elaborates upon the master plan’s emphasis on mixed-use development for the neighborhood.

Last spring, the city began a two-year process to update our small area plan. City leaders want to continue the broad and purposeful move toward balanced development, while providing clear guidelines for new projects, redevelopment efforts and anticipated growth, including all work in coming years at the former NRG Potomac River Power Generating Station site two blocks to Watergate’s north.

To assist in updating the Old Town North small area plan, the city formed a 21-member advisory group comprised of city government employees, local business owners, and community representatives. Two long-time Watergate residents (both past presidents of our homeowners association) serve on the advisory group – Tom Soapes, head of the North Old Town Independent Citizens’ Association (NOTICe), and Marie Tavernini, a member of the city’s Urban Design Advisory Committee.

On June 24, 2017, after nearly two years of planning and community engagement, the Alexandria City Council approved a new Small Area Plan and associated Urban Design Standards and Guidelines for Old Town North, which will amend the 1992 Old Town North Small Area Plan Chapter of Alexandria's 1974 Master Plan.  Click here to see the final 2017 Small Area Plan.

What did the advisory group work on?

It’s complicated, but essentially the members of the advisory group attempted to collect, analyze and distill relevant and helpful information from local stakeholders – city government planners, property owners and developers, current and prospective business owners and managers, community organizations and residents – regarding past, present, planned, projected, desired and other likely development in Old Town North.

There are two lists to the left. The first summarizes some of the planning considerations that the advisory group reviewed, and the second summarizes some of the tools available to influence or control development.   City planners – operating through the advisory group – wanted to know what kind of urban development we and others want and don’t want, and what we and others are willing to accept or forbear in order to encourage the former and discourage the latter. Since folks have widely varying, and often conflicting, opinions and priorities, the ultimate task was to balance everyone’s interests to the greatest extent possible and drive consensus behind a final plan.

All things being equal, most rational people would probably agree that planning ahead is better than reacting after-the-fact. Many would also say that it’s not easy to prepare for the unknown, particularly in a dynamic and ever-changing environment. But the 1974 city master plan and the current 1992 Old Town North small area plan have both held up fairly well over a lengthy period of time, and there is nothing to suggest that the update to the latter won’t serve us equally well.

 

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