Alexandria renters fight redevelopment plans

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Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland,Alexandria

Alexandria residents have started a last-ditch effort urging the city to abandon its plan to demolish 2,500 affordable housing units in the Beauregard area to create a more mixed-use community.

Their concerns stem from the city's long-term plans for the western portion of Alexandria that allow developers to replace apartments there with larger, more expensive housing units. The plan also calls for additional shops and green space.

But many residents fear the plan will force them out of their homes and into more expensive complexes that will significantly drive up their monthly rent payments or chase them from the area.

Aurora Vasquez, co-executive director of Tenants and Workers United, an Alexandria group that represents the Beauregard corridor's tenants, said the residents are "trying to outrun a bulldozer."

"This plan makes little room for and has little consideration for the people there now," Vasquez said. "There are a lot of low- to middle-income individuals there because the rest of Alexandria is not as affordable."

The group is planning protests and has sent letters to lawmakers and developers urging them to abandon their plans and instead replace each unit of affordable housing that's being lost.

Mayor Bill Euille said the city's vision for the area is being realized, however. The new Beauregard corridor will have more open space, a new fire station, upgraded traffic infrastructure and will allow for an improved quality of life, he said.

There are also plans to rebuild a portion of the 2,500 units set to be destroyed. Councilwoman Del Pepper said the city has negotiated to rebuild 800 units, or 30 percent of the original total, to continue to serve a portion of the area's residents.

The remaining 70 percent of residents, however, will likely be forced to relocate elsewhere.

"The plan allows us to get ahead of a substantial amount of change that would've happened regardless of whether we'd done anything at all," Councilman Justin Wilson said. "We expect there to be a lot of ways to expand [the number of affordable units] moving forward."

The JBG Cos., which owns six properties in the affected area, has already begun mailing out letters to current residents warning of its plan to "redevelop portions of the community in order to support future growth in Alexandria."

"Over time, they're going to push out many individuals," Vasquez said. "They're going to displace whole families."

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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