Alexandria Mom's Calendar of Events

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Giant coming to Potomac Yard

FROM Bill Hendrickson, president
Del Ray Citizens Association

The Giant supermarket chain has applied to build a large supermarket in Potomac Yard, which makes it appear likely that the store on Monroe Avenue will be closed. Giant is not saying at this point, however, whether it will close that store. Meanwhile, the Audi dealership on Mount Vernon Avenue plans to move. These two developments will open up two key sites in the neighborhood, and it's important for us to be proactive and begin to think what we would like to see there.

The biggest news involving Potomac Yard is the decision by the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA), Alexandria's second-largest employer, to locate there. IDA had considered leaving the city, so this is good news. Even better news is that IDA's relocation could jumpstart commercial development in the southern portion of the Yard. The plan for this area was approved in 1999, but development has languished.

The Giant supermarket would be built on the ground floor of a new five-story residential building along Route 1 on a site adjacent to and north of the new fire station. This is part of the Yard known as land bay G or the town center. The new IDA office building would also be located in land bay G.

Both projects are expected to be considered by the Planning Commission and City Council this fall. But it will probably be at least two years from this fall before they will be ready to open.

The loss of the Giant store on Monroe would be a blow for the neighborhood. Although it is small and less than satisfactory in a number of ways (for example, the produce section), it is a convenient and easy-to-maneuver store that many of us use. 

During the planning process for what became the Mount Vernon Avenue Business Area Plan, I pushed hard for the city to allow redevelopment of the site to include a much-larger supermarket and pharmacy. The staff agreed with this recommendation and incorporated it into the plan.

The plan states that there are two appropriate directions for the long-term development of the Giant and CVS sites. The first option is to maintain the sites as commercial parcels with locally serving uses. The second is to redevelop the sites as a consolidated mixed-use project incorporating commercial uses on the ground floor and residential uses above. 

The site of the Audi dealership currently allows by-right, auto-related uses, but city staff and many neighborhood residents have stated in the past a preference for non-auto use at this location. The existing dealership building would seem to be problematic in terms of reconfiguring it for a non-auto use, and the best possible outcome could be redevelopment of the site.

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