Readers of this blog know how much I love Old Town Alexandria. And it’s because of those strong feelings that we’re going to take a cue from “Greater Greater Washington,” and look at how the City can be even better.
Here then is a set of recommendations, specifically for Old Town. Where possible, we’ll provide best practices examples.
A Great Independent Book Store
Given the uncertain state of the book publishing industry, this recommendation seems rather odd. But on my visits to towns and cities in the region, I have enjoyed the fact that many of them have an excellent used book store.
Alexandria is perennially identified as a city with the most readers, so it’s a paradox that Old Town does not have a nice used book store. The historic district does have a few, but they’re not in the same class as some great ones in places like Annapolis and Fredericksburg.
The indie bookseller has to go beyond just books, and sell coffee, and hold community events, and become a third space.
Improve Market Square
Market Square is great for events and the farmer’s market is a grand tradition that must continue. But let’s discuss what small improvements can be made to Market Square.
I have an idea to get the ball rolling.
How about a statue for George Washington? And some potted plants, small landscaping improvement – something to add some flavor to this historic spot.
Turn 100 King into a Museum/History Store/Cultural Center
The reason I rarely complain about Old Town is the knowing I might be stepping on the foot of a friend or colleague. But I can’t hold back any longer on this one. The poor treatment of the Historic Alexandria Museum Store needs to be addressed.
A couple of months ago, it was moved to the Lloyd House, then moved back. The hours are very limited, which also frustrates visitors. I overheard a couple the other day who wanted to buy some things but couldn’t because they were closed.
Why not put the Museum Store in the 100 King Street spot, which has suffered from the “Curse of 100 King,” which refers to the failure of restaurants at this corner spot.
100 King, originally known as the “Corn Exchange Building,” is one of the most beautiful buildings in the City. Every time I see it, I think about the Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center, which commands a corner position. It’s a fabulous old building that contains collections, exhibits, programs and events.
100 King could be the permanent home for the Alexandria Museum and History Store. Visitors and tourists could learn about the museums in the city. A small café could be the answer when Starbucks and Firehook’s lines get too long and chairs fill up.
Pedestrian Only Areas
Used by vehicles, trucks, pedestrians and cyclists, the intersection of King and Union turns into a maelstrom in the warmer months, a disaster waiting to happen.
On peak weekends, it needs to be blocked off.
I wrote about the waterfront the other day.
Bottom line is that is extremely frustrating to walk along the waterfront at places like West Point and Lumley Point, knowing the roots of the city were planted there, knowing all the stories that could be told about it, and yet I wonder if I will not be around to see any of it.
Old Town Alexandria is a fabulous neighborhood and a wonderful place to live and visit. It citizens and workers are warm and friendly, and when it comes to historic preservation, the City is a nationwide model.
But as the old saying goes, one cannot rest on their laurels.
Alexandria is great. Let’s make it can be even better!