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City of Alexandria, VA City of Alexandria, VA
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Dave Cavanaugh (user 71) - Comments by Date

March 19, 2014

To: Fort Ward Advisory Stakeholders Group

From: Dave Cavanaugh

I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the Draft Fort Ward Park Museum Area Management Plan (Draft Plan). The Fort Ward Advisory Stakeholders Group is to be commended for taking on a unique challenge to improve overall management of Fort Ward Park and Museum.

I support efforts to provide a framework for recommendations improving overall management of the park. A resource management plan recommending actions necessary to maintain and protect the recreational, cultural and environmental resources in the park is a step in the right direction.

The park has suffered from neglect and conflicting ideas for long term management of the Park and Museum. The Draft Plan provides a reasonable assessment of the current conditions and establishes the need to fund and improve conditions in the park. Key to generating public support is a management plan that provides reasonable and achievable goals and minimizes controversy. I support recommendations to improve the overall attractiveness and health of the park. Fort Ward should be a premier park for residents and visitors.

The recent commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War has brought attention to a variety of themes not presented at Fort Ward Park and the Museum. As the anniversary period winds down it is important the Fort Ward Park and Museum stay relevant. This is a critical moment and plan recommendations will influence continued public support for the park itself and programs presented at Fort Ward Park and Museum in the future. A thoughtful and well written Management Plan outlining an action plan for long term sustainability of the park will hopefully generate public support for additional funding.

I suggest the following outline for restoring and sustaining public support for the historic park and museum.

1. Take steps to improve the health and conditions in the park. Restoring the health of the park, making the park more attractive and minimizing over use would improve public support for funding.
2. Mitigate drainage problems impacting the Oakland Baptist Church Cemetery.
3. Explore alternatives for improving utilization of the amphitheater. Renovating the amphitheater is important in providing a wider variety of entertainment, cultural programming and a venue for “storytelling.” It would also facilitate public and private funding for possibly enclosing the amphitheater.
4. Broaden and expand the interpretation of history and cultural events presented at the museum. This includes incorporating the role and involvement of U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War and the settlement by African Americans near the Seminary (now Virginia Theological Seminary) and Episcopal High School and on the site of Fort Ward.
5. Create a multidisciplinary Park Planning Advisory Group, including local citizen groups, to monitor implementation of an action plan for the park. The purpose of the Park Planning Advisory Group is to integrate operational planning and recommendations to improve public use of the park and museum. Potential topics include:

a. Park beautification
b. Restoring former maintenance yard to park use
c. Mitigating drainage issues near Oakland Baptist Church Museum
d. Evaluate operation of the MOU for maintaining the park
e. Improving utilization of the amphitheater
f. Implementing the American Disabilities Act
g. Provide comments on a proposed Comprehensive Interpretation Plan (see below) broadening the presentation of Civil War history presented at the museum and park.
h. Explore partnership arrangements to improve educational programs, displays and exhibits.

Introducing the struggle and role of African Americans and the community that settled near the Seminary during the Civil War has been made unnecessarily controversial. Until recently the contribution of African Americans and their struggle for freedom and equality has been overlooked. Their role and treatment is central to understanding American history and conditions faced by minorities. So it is not surprising there are divergent views on how best to tell the history and stories passed down through families.

The Office of Historic Alexandria (OHA) should organize a separate multi-disciplinary team to prepare a Comprehensive Interpretive Plan (CIP). OHA should contract with firms having the background and skills to assist in preparing the CIP. The plan should help guide and assist City staff in preparing displays and exhibits that allow visitors to connect in a meaningful way to the past. The CIP would be integrated with overall plans to improve the park and museum. A CIP would:

1. Encourage regional planning with other cooperating parks, museums and partner groups.
2. Improve chances for cost sharing when applying for grants.
3. Foster community involvement on themes, values and programs at the park and museum.
4. Facilitate research and development of new programs relevant to a broader audience.
5. Increase public support for a more meaningful public education program.

The current draft suggests interpretive themes that lack any context and unnecessarily provoke racial discord. Suggestions regarding themes (Civil War to Civil Rights”, “We’re Still Here”), the location and naming of trails (We’re Still Here Trail) and including themes associated with City of Alexandria acquisition of the land for Fort Ward or T.C. Williams, Jim Crow, segregation and the Civil Rights movement would significantly transform the character of the park. The management report should delete any recommendations or suggestions for presenting interpretive themes and the location and naming of trails until a CIP is prepared and submitted to staff for their consideration.

The multidisciplinary team should be comprised of (historians, educators, writers, archaeologist, anthropologists and naturalist) including citizens should be created to assist consultants in preparing a CIP. To the extent possible, the stories and experiences of African Americans that settled near the Seminary or at what is now Fort Ward Park could be used to support major historic and cultural themes.

Thanks again for the opportunity to comment. More specific comments were sent earlier. To be successful, we need to demonstrate that taxpayer money is being spent wisely and steps are being taken to make the park more attractive and provide a broader, more relevant and meaningful interpretation of history at the museum and park.

Sincerely,


Dave Cavanaugh

Dave Cavanaugh (71) | User | February 19, 2014 - 2:14 PM | Draft Fort Ward Park Management Plan

Thanks for the opportunity to comment on the June 2013 Preliminary Draft of “What’s Next Alexandria Civic Engagement Handbook.
I originally welcomed the opportunity to participate in a series of meetings. The “What’s Next Alexandria” initiative was billed as a conversation on civic engagement, how Alexandrians can best participate in public decisions that shape the City and reach agreement on principles that will guide civic engagement. This was a blatant attempt by City officials to quell the divisive debates surrounding the Waterfront Plan and the Beauregard Small Area Plan.
I was hoping for more given the length of time, City support and funding for the initiative. I was hoping the series of meetings would outline a process that would fundamentally improve public outreach, civic involvement, and collaboration. Instead, after nearly a year, the Preliminary Draft Handbook contains general guidelines and principles that are nice but do little to improve the current process. The Handbook advocates principles of behavior, City staff monitoring of the civic engagement process and reporting or recommending improvements, recruiting community members to play supportive roles and providing facilitation training, all of this pales in contrast to what could have been.
The City currently engages the community at times not in a constructive manner. Consequently, citizens feel decisions have already been made and commenting is futile. Citizens are not actively engaged in identifying issues, considering and understanding options, working with staff to resolve issues. Instead hard and fast timetables are set by City staff with limited or no consultation with the community; a variety of meetings (uncoordinated) are scheduled; often with short notices, in rapid succession, with no agendas, and limited public input. Meetings with the citizens are often dominated by staff presentation and they evolve into meetings informing the community of progress being made by staff and actions taken by various commissions.
I suggest the City not waste any more time or money on the Handbook. Staff was given an impossible task given the very limited scope of the public initiative started in September 2012. The Handbook is disappointing and not a major achievement.
Time and money would be better spent taking the information gathered at the meetings, recognize major dissatisfaction with current process. I suggest “What’s Next” include a recommendation creating a taskforce to evaluate the current process, consider alternatives for improvement and make recommendations on reasonable steps to reduce costs, confusion, delays and improve participation and the quality of citizen involvement. After several years of contentious debates on land use and planning issues that divided the community, a more serious effort is needed to improve public participation making Alexandria a more attractive and livable community.
Harnessing public involvement and support on issues important to the community is a difficult task. It is not easy. But it should not be so easily set aside with a handbook espousing platitudes that have little impact on improving civic involvement and participation.

Dave Cavanaugh (71) | User | July 24, 2013 - 3:47 PM | Civic Engagement Handbook Comment Board

Attached are the written comments I prepared for Monday's Town Hall Meeting.

To accommodate the planned growth in the BSAP, a major public transit center with local circular buses should be considered for the BSAP. This would define the area, make it transit oriented, provide continued economic development and create a more distinctive community. The plan would build off of the current strengths of the community--a willingness to use public transit to Pentagon Metro and other nearby employment centers. Without a major focus on creating a public transit hub at Southern Towers, growth in the area will likely be limited, especially if there is no connection to public transit in Arlington and Fairfax counties. The current vision for transportation and transit in the plan area is insufficient. There is a need for a more integrated, comprehensive transportation plan that considers future plans for population growth in the Beauregard Corridor.

The collection of ideas centered around a BRT in dedicated and mixed lanes (not so rapid), the unknown destination of Corridor C on Beauregard, a potential regional transit hub at Mark Center Station, the Ellipse and a major bus station in Southern Towers don't fit into a cohesive efficient transportation and transit system.

Comments: Town Hall Meeting, April 9, 2012

My name is Dave Cavanaugh and I live in Seminary Ridge. I am a 38 year resident of the City of Alexandria.

I have witnessed the growth of the Beauregard/Seminary Road area and like most people was shocked by the City’s assessment of traffic that resulted in DoD selecting Mark Center as the BRAC site for the Washington Headquarters Service. More alarming is the effort by the City and developers to double down by substantially increasing density in an already congested area without any real integrated traffic, transit, bike and pedestrian plan.

Without a comprehensive plan we are potentially wasting money, jeopardizing the vitality and character of the community we are attempting to create and making conditions in the plan area worse, not better. More importantly, we are missing an economic opportunity to create a major bus transit center at Southern Towers providing convenient access for commuters living and working in the Mark Center area and traveling to Pentagon Metro.

My comments address transportation only—the different ways of moving people through the plan area; automobiles, public transit, bicycles and walking.

The transportation plan for the Beauregard Corridor can only be described as lacking vision and haphazard. It fails to provide a multi-modal approach to managing circulation within the plan area and providing convenient access to the Pentagon Metro Station and other nearby employment centers.

The proposed redevelopment is based on a significant increase in streets, a new street paralleling North Beauregard through the proposed town center, a dedicated high capacity transit corridor, a traffic ellipse at the corner of Seminary Road and North, and a transit way in regular traffic lanes through Southern Towers and Mark Center. There are a number of transportation elements that are missing or have been overlooked in the draft plan, they include:
• How will the proposed HOV reversible ramp at I-395 and Seminary, if approved, impact traffic including buses?
• How will reestablishing the transportation hub at one location at Southern Towers impact transit service? A hub must provide shelter for passengers platform areas for commuters arriving, departing or transferring to other routes.
• What are the design features for a public transit hub at Southern Towers that will accommodate the increased demand for commuter services over the next 30 years?
• How will the proposed new hub at Southern Towers be integrated with the transit hub at Mark Center Station?
• How will the proposed ellipse at Seminary Road and North Beauregard Street function to handle the expected increase in transit service? Will it impair local public transit service?
• How and to what extent will the short and mid-term traffic improvements already approved be incorporated into the transportation plan?

• What pedestrian and bicycle facilities will provide convenient accessibility for residents and employees to the bus transit hubs and retail centers envisioned in the plan?

The Transportation provisions in the Draft Plan should be reevaluated for the following reasons:
• The VDOT Chapter 527 review has not been completed. The report was submitted to VDOT in February 2012.
• VDOT has not made a final decision regarding the HOV ramp. If approved, this will create a major regional transportation hub at Mark Center Station, a feature that has not been considered in the current transportation analysis or the plan.
• There is insufficient information available to the public to sufficiently evaluate safety, functionality, size and impacts of the proposed ellipse on public transit, pedestrian and bicycle circulation.
The ellipse should be discussed as one option, along with others, for relieving traffic congestion. The Beauregard Small Area Plan should not approve or endorse the Ellipse until a comprehensive multi-modal study has been completed and reviewed by an independent group; including citizens.
The purpose and need for the ellipse may be reduced as a result of the short and mid-term improvements that have been approved and the early success of DoD’s implementation of their Transportation Management Plan.
• The Alternative Analysis initiated in October 2011 for Corridor C has not been completed. It is essential the alternatives analysis be completed to better understand the costs and impacts on land use.

• An origin and destination study should be completed on the Beauregard segment of Corridor C. At present there are no heavily used transit routes from Mark Center to Van Dorn Center. This is not a major destination for residents living in the plan corridor.
The Beauregard Small Area Plan process is being rushed and public comments regarding transportation plan proposals are being summarily dismissed. The technical studies performed do not consider other realistic options and are prepared to support predetermined outcomes. The history of transportation planning in the west-end and more recent studies engenders a complete lack of confidence in the analysis and conclusions reached in the technical reports.
Without a thoughtful comprehensive integrated transportation plan we cannot justify indirect or direct expenditure of funds for road improvements, potentially wasting money and impacting future development in the area.

Dave Cavanaugh (71) | User | April 11, 2012 - 3:39 PM | Beauregard Small Area Plan

March 19, 2012
To: The Alexandria Park and Recreation Commission
From: Dave Cavanaugh
Subject: Alexandria Park and Recreation Commission Public Hearing on Beauregard Small Area Plan Open Space and Recreational Components March 22, 2012
I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the park and recreation issues related to the Beauregard Small Area Plan Working Draft dated January 23, 2012. I am concerned with the potential impact of the large scale redevelopment proposal. It is my hope the Alexandria Park and Recreation Commission would defer action approving the working draft and instead request additional clarifications and changes to the current working draft.
The proposed Beauregard Small Area Plan Working Draft, unless modified, will dramatically change the character of the area within the plan boundaries. The Working Draft envisions a more densely populated, urban, mixed use, transit oriented community. The proposed redevelopment includes a new framework of streets, bus rapid transit in both dedicated and mixed lanes, a new intersection (ellipse) at Seminary and Beauregard, hotels, new retail, and a 24% increase (2,384,285 square feet) in currently allowed zoning. The current area includes 5,500 apartment units of which 2,519 will be torn down. The proposed plan will add 3,894 units to the remaining units (2981) bringing the total number of units to approximately 6,500 units. Over the development period apartments will be vacated and residents displaced.
I offer the following comments for your consideration in advising the City Manager, Mayor and City Council.
1. The developers (JBG Properties, Home Properties, and Southern Towers) in the plan area provide a variety of on-site recreational amenities for apartment residents. As an example, JBG Properties has two swimming pools, a club house with exercise equipment, three tennis courts, a volley ball court and a tot lot. The current Beauregard Small Area Plan working draft that would more than double the allowable square footage does not include any provision for similar recreational amenities, placing more pressure on existing recreational facilities at the Ramsey Elementary School, the recreation center, Chambliss Park and John Adams. A rewrite of the working draft should include replacement of on-site amenities for prospective residents.
2. The Developer Contribution includes $8,150,500 for a new artificial turf athletic field near the Ramsey Elementary School. It is my understanding approximately $1.0-1.5 million would be for the proposed athletic field and the remainder to be used at John Adams and Hammond Schools. I suggest the Alexandria Park and Recreation Commission request additional information regarding the proposed use of the funds for recreation purposes to better understand the scale of park and recreational services needed to accommodate the increased densities.
3. The 55 acre Dora Kelley Nature Park is an outstanding environmentally sensitive area. Plans for an athletic field could increase human activity near the park boundaries, damaging plants, trees and wildlife habitat and increase the erosion on the side slopes into the nature park. I recommend the proposal for any athletic field be thoroughly and independently evaluated before City officials endorse an athletic field in a small area plan.
4. The proposal for a multi-purpose athletic field at Ramsey Elementary School does not provide convenient off street parking. The field is intended to be used by local leagues, community groups, and families as well as tournament play. The parking behind the school is heavily used for school events and does not provide sufficient parking for after school athletic events. In addition the parking lot is not in close proximity to the proposed athletic field.
Also, the on-street parking is close to the proposed fire station and an “optional” retail area proposed in the plan. This would add to traffic congestion and make it even more difficult to find parking for athletic events.
The availability of parking is essential for parents, children and spectators to athletic events. A more comprehensive study is necessary before automatically accepting developer contributions for an athletic field in the Beauregard Small Area Plan Working Draft. Any plans for a proposed multipurpose athletic field must consider the potential volume of use, the impact on the Dora Kelley Nature Park and the added traffic congestion in the after school hours.
5. JBG Properties has agreed to provide 7.2 acres of land as an addition to Dora Kelley Nature Park. The additional land would benefit the park, remove current apartment buildings from intrusion into the wooded area and provide a buffer from proposed buildings. I support the added acreage, but not at the cost of providing increased density that would reduce the existing tree canopy.
6. The Beauregard Small Area Plan Working Draft references 45 acres of new open space. The working draft does not provide sufficient information regarding the dispersal and location of park, recreation and publically accessible open space. Park, recreation, and publicly accessible open space is inadequate in the Duke Realty, Home Properties and Hekemian-Foster Fairbanks Properties. The Alexandria Park and Recreation Commission should request additional provisions be provided for attractive open areas and the additional acreage be identified in the revised draft.
7. The Working Draft includes “greenway” in the most unlikely places; the proposed ellipse. The ellipse would create a traffic circle. East and west bound traffic on Seminary Road crossing Beauregard Street would go through the middle of the traffic circle and cross signalized intersections for north and south bound traffic on Beauregard. Traffic signals would also control traffic within the circle. Drivers on Seminary Road west wanting to go to North Beauregard Street would make right turns into a signalized circular maze and merge into an exit lane on the other side of the ellipse. The “greenway” in the proposed ellipse will not be “green” and should not be counted as a greenway or open space for purposes of providing additional zoning densities or concessions for developers.
8. The public open spaces are not incorporated into attractive pedestrian walkways connecting major destinations within the plan area (see page 65). A goal of the plan is to foster a healthy and active lifestyle for residents and employees in the plan area. One of the ways of doing that is providing attractive public spaces, paths, sidewalks, bike paths connecting people to the transportation hubs at Southern Towers and Mark Center Station and to retail and employment centers in the plan area. The Park and Recreation Commission should request the working draft be revised to include open space, parks and greenways as part of an integrated pedestrian network.
9. The working draft recognizes the redevelopment will result in the potential loss of a significant amount of tree canopy. To mitigate the loss it recommends the percent of canopy coverage be met through a combination of on-site and/or off-site improvements. The loss of tree canopy in any of the proposed neighborhoods is a permanent loss and is not replaced with additional tree canopy elsewhere. This is especially important in redeveloping the former Hamlet Apartment complex owned by JBG Properties. To protect the distinctive natural character of the Hamlet Apartment area and the nearby parks and nature areas, the Park and Recreation Commission should reaffirm request the revised draft Beauregard Small Area Plan support maintaining the current percentage of tree cover.
10. The working draft extends Sanger Avenue past Ramsey School along the property boundary of the 7.2 acres of land to be dedicated to the City as an addition to Dora Kelley Nature Park. The extension of Sanger Avenue and the 7.2 acres would provide a buffer between the street and Dora Kelley Nature Park. To discourage traffic into an environmentally sensitive area, the Park and Recreation Commission should recommend the revised plan allow on street parking and be narrowed to slow traffic. To further reduce the amount of traffic, the street should be designed as a one-way street.
11. The working draft creates a new street paralleling Beauregard Street from Mark Center Drive. The new street would connect to the new town center area on North Beauregard. The street would increase car and pedestrian traffic adjacent to John Adams Elementary School potentially creating a safety hazard for children crossing streets to attend the school or participate in recreation programs. The new street would also impact access to the school and the tot lot on the south side of the school would likely have to be moved. To ensure the safety of the children attending the school and using the recreation facilities at John Adams and to avoid any unexpected costs the revised plan should provide an evaluation of the likely impacts of the new street.
12. The proposed redevelopment of the JBG Properties will result in the demolition of all of the apartments with the possible exception of 49 units at Linwood. This would result in a significant in the tree canopy and potentially increase storm water run-off impacting Holmes Run and the Dora Kelley Nature Park. The working draft mentions the loss in tree canopy but provides very little assurance that the increased water flows will be adequately controlled. The Park and Recreation Commission should insist the revised draft will contain information on mitigation of storm water run-off and how it will be controlled to protect the Winkler Preserve (private property), the Dora Kelley Nature Preserve and the Holmes Run drainage.
13. The developers have tentatively agreed to provide $3,000,000 for landscaping and streetscape, primarily for Beauregard Street and $8,150,000 for an athletic field and enhancements. The Park and Recreation Commission should not just accept these amounts as being sufficient to mitigate the impacts of the proposed development by JBG Properties. There should be an accounting to ensure the funds promised will cover the additional costs of accommodating a large increase in population and ensure the City has not traded away amenities e.g., tree canopy, that make the Beauregard/Sanger Avenue area beautiful and distinctive.
I recommend the Park and Recreation Commission defer action on the working draft and recommend provisions that will protect the Dora Kelley Nature Preserve, the Holmes Run drainage, and ensure the tentatively promised funds for parks and recreation fully mitigate the impacts of redevelopment.
Thank you.

Dave Cavanaugh (71) | User | March 18, 2012 - 8:55 PM | Beauregard Small Area Plan


The Traffic Ellipse

Does the proposed $30 million traffic ellipse improve traffic flow and pedestrian crossing at Seminary Road and North Beauregard? Should other safer, less costly options be explored?

City Transportation and Environmental Services staff members have touted the “ellipse” as being necessary to improve traffic conditions for employees working at the new BRAC office towers. City officials also argue the “ellipse” would improve opportunities for better urban design and provide a more attractive gateway for the proposed town center development on Beauregard Street.

The “ellipse” revives the concept of a round-about or traffic circle. However there are significant differences. Traffic on Seminary Road would go through the middle of the traffic circle and traffic signals would be installed at intersections within the circle. Drivers using North Beauregard Street would make right turns into a signalized circular maze and merge into an exit lane.

The ellipse was proposed prior to VDOT the HOV ramp at I-395 and Seminary Road. If approved the ramp will provide bus and HOV-3 drivers more direct access to and from the BRAC site. This would significantly reduce the distance and numbers of vehicles projected to use the triple left turn lanes on Seminary Road to access Mark Center Avenue off of Beauregard Street.

The idea behind the proposed ellipse is that it would replace the recently constructed triple left at Seminary Road and North Beauregard. It would reduce left turns requiring drivers to turn right off of Seminary to go either north or south on Beauregard Street. Given the potential volume of traffic, design speeds, site distances and maneuvering, safety could be an issue. The design does nothing to alleviate current traffic congestion and queuing during the afternoon rush hour associated with I-395 on and off ramps and the traffic lights at Mark Center Drive.

The proposed ellipse creates a real barrier to pedestrian and bicyclist and will impact local bus service, including plans for the Bus Rapid Transit route through Southern Towers. Pedestrian crossings at Seminary and Beauregard are currently bad and the ellipse would make it even worse. An argument can be made that if we are trying to create a transit oriented, walk-able community, with enhanced transit and local retail the ellipse is the wrong way to go.

The ellipse is a $30 million engineering experiment. Although the cost of the ellipse would be borne by the developers, it is likely the cost would be offset by additional concessions allowing more development granted by the City through its zoning process.

If the HOV ramp is approved, the City should reevaluate the need for the ellipse. As an option the City should consider eliminating the third left lane since the proposed HOV ramp would alleviate much of the traffic at the Seminary and Beauregard intersection destined for the BRAC Mark Center site.

I suggest the City staff evaluate the option of eliminating the third left turn lane and returning the intersection to a more conventional intersection. Improved signalization, restriping would be less expensive and more importantly, it would provide opportunities for more direct, safer pedestrian crossing at this important intersection.

Dave Cavanaugh

Dave Cavanaugh (71) | User | March 5, 2012 - 4:57 PM | Beauregard Small Area Plan

February 12, 2012

City of Alexandria
Planning and Zoning
Alexandria, VA

I appreciate the opportunity to comment.
General Comments:

I appreciate the efforts made by City staff to prepare a Working Draft within a very short of period of time. However the Beauregard Corridor Small Area Plan Working Draft (Working Draft) is unsatisfactory, promotional, and incorporates little analysis to support recommendations and guidelines to implement a small area plan. It should be completely rewritten.

A draft Beauregard Small Area Plan (BSAP)) should better explain the purpose, need and the underlying planning concepts that are relevant to redeveloping the plan area. Stating the current plan is outdated or surrounding land uses have changed is not enough to build public support for a massive transformation of the plan area to a much larger, upscale, urban development. This is absolutely essential if the City staff is to be successful in building public support for dramatic changes in the proposed plan area.

The Working Draft should focus on using public space to create a multi-model network connecting people to the transit stations at Mark Center Station and Southern Towers as well as the retail stores, cafes and coffee shops. Providing convenient options to move from one place to another will reduce the dependency on cars and local traffic congestion. The small area plan should ensure that streets, sidewalks, shared spaces redesigned to operate together for all users

Residents living at Seminary Park should be able to safely cross Seminary Road to a bus stop or using internal sidewalks and public space be able to walk, ride or bike through the proposed Hekemian development to Southern Towers. The public spaces used to get from one place to another should be safe, attractive and interesting—not parking lots or garages. Once on the Southern Towers property, pedestrians should be able to make their way to the proposed retail areas and proposed BRT station at Southern Towers and the Mark Center Station. Passengers arriving at Southern Towers from the District of Columbia, Skyline, Bailey’s Crossroads should be able to walk to the Mark Center Station to catch the bus to Woodbridge or connect to a carpool.

The Beauregard Corridor Small Area Plan Working Draft includes several ideas not fully supported by members of the community. In a rush to complete the small area plan process, City officials and developers have not adequately addressed some of the major concerns expressed by residents. The mishandling of Corridor “C”, the push for a Bus Rapid Transit system, the unexplained rationale for an ellipse all perplex residents. Part of the problem is unfamiliarity with the City’s planning process, the concepts embedded in new urbanism and a perceived threat to the character of the community. A draft BSAP should be partly based on efforts to reconcile the outstanding issues and improving the environment for public involvement.

The Beauregard Corridor Open House held on Saturday February 11 provided an opportunity to understand concepts being incorporated into the planning process and be able to envision what is being proposed. It was relaxing, informative and a variety of residents that do not normally show up at meetings attended the open house. Although the developers have been persistent in advocating a need for increased density to make their projects work financially, they have demonstrated a wiliness to work with the community.

Specific Comments:

The primary purpose of preparing a Beauregard Corridor Plan is to outline goals, objectives, and provide specific recommendations on land use, zoning, transportation and urban design. City officials, developers and the community are and should be involved in that process. Redevelopment in the proposed plan area includes 395.25 acres, an estimated 5,500 housing units-mostly rental, of which about 3,000 (?) would be directly impacted.

Major property owners involved in the planning process include JBG Properties (129.64 acres), Southern Towers (40.81 acres, Home Properties (22.31 acres), Duke Realty 19.18 acres and Hekemian and Private (8.18 acres), Shirley Gardens-Fairbanks/Foster) and WRIT (1.94 acres). The property owners are seeking additional development rights in addition to what is allowed under existing zoning with a DSUP.

1. Prepare a draft Beauregard Small Area Plan (BSAP) without referencing earlier individual comments and suggestions of members of the Beauregard Corridor Stakeholders Group. Most of the individual comments were modified by staff and are virtually indistinguishable from the original comment. We had an opportunity to engage in an informal process and now it is for the City to draft a more comprehensive small area plan for public comment.

2. The primary focus of the Working Draft is on the JBG Property. This focus obscures the details necessary to evaluate guidelines and recommendations for the other properties being considered for redevelopment. The Working Draft should have specific goals, objectives and recommendations that generally apply to the all properties including a major commitment to improve interconnectedness within the plan area and ensuring families displaced are provided relocation and financial assistance. The draft BSAP should include a more current description of the other proposed redevelopment projects and how they are integrated into the plan area.

3. “The Existing Land Use Approvals—A Starting Point” infers the City has is unable to place conditions on design, open space, phasing or affordable housing. Although there are no standards, the City is not powerless in placing conditions on development through the Developmental Special Use Permit (DSUP) process. This item should be clarified to more accurately describe the City’s authority under the DSUP process.

4. The working draft should incorporate information on the existing conditions within the plan area, population, transit use, parks, schools, current landlord provided amenities, and natural environment, especially in the Lower Hill Zone on the JBG Properties. An analysis of the current conditions will confirm the current plan area is a vibrant, diverse, mixed use community, adjacent to parks and schools and is a transit oriented community.

5. This is a functioning community. However, a more transit oriented community, an attractive network of local streets, sidewalks and public and private spaces, increasing local retail and commercial services, would rejuvenate and enhance the long term economic sustainability of an attractive area.

6. The stated need for a new plan is really insufficient and misleading (p.5).

The need is not based on updating an old plan, changes in surrounding land uses (with the exception of BRAC, no land uses have changed), a desire to create developmental standards and phasing (?), or a need to provide dedicated affordable housing (not an issue until redevelopment proposed).

The Working Draft should provide better written justification for embarking on a major redevelopment of an area built during the 1960s and 70s. The draft BSAP should evaluate conditions in the existing community and develop recommendations and guidelines for a semi-urban development that retains and builds on the character of the community. This would make the planned development in the plan area more distinctive, differentiate it from other similar projects and reinforce the sense of place the original Mark Winkler plan created.

7. The proposed plan for the JBG properties envisions transforming a park-like suburban apartment complex into a large scale, urban mixed use development with tree wells, retaining walls, fountains paved community areas and parking garages. This is a dramatic change in the character of the area and is not compatible with the scale of the Greenway and Garden Districts outlined in the Working Draft.

The Working Draft should be revised to ensure the JBG property on Beauregard and Sanger is designed as a semi-urban development. The scale, building mass, streets and setbacks should be incorporated into the wooded landscape and not overpower the park like, natural setting. Development should ensure at least 40 percent tree canopy coverage in the lower (Garden and Greenway) sections of the proposed plan.

The proposed building heights of 45-70 feet for the Garden District and Greenway are too high. The draft BSAP should use environmentally responsible methods for mitigating surface water run-off, the loss of trees, and appropriately scaled buildings for a hillside exposure that overlooks a Dora Kelley Nature Park.

8. Many of the photos showing urban streets similar to areas on Connecticut and Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D.C. This is not what many of us in the community envision. The Working Draft should incorporate photos of other nearby Town Center, mixed use, life style, communities more indicative of a semi-urban plan.

9. The Working Draft introduces a variety of unexplained concepts or terms. These concepts include “garden city”, “shared parking”, “Urban Design Standards and Guidelines”, “Contemporary Style”, “Signature Building” “a 10’ sidewalk trail” and “required retail and optional retail”. These terms and others should be defined and references provided to “Urban Design Standards and Guideline”. This would help citizens evaluate the criteria for recommended guidelines and in many cases help build support for recommendations and guidelines in the Working Draft.

10. The building setback for new buildings on Beauregard should be at least 30 feet from the curb, excluding “bulb-outs”. The Urban Design Recommendations (3.3 on page 31) provides exclusion for retail area “to enable a double row of street trees and 10ft. sidewalk trail”.

11. The building heights proposed in the Working Draft for signature buildings in the town center area or hotels framing the proposed ellipse are too massive, overpower adjacent development, would add to traffic congestion and potentially reduce the walkability of the nearby areas. The building heights for townhouses, mid-rise multi-family, office, hotel, and signature buildings should be addressed in a more comprehensive manner in a draft BSAP.

12. The proposed ellipse has been promoted as a more elegant design for accommodating traffic through the Beauregard/Seminary Road intersection. Schematic drawings depict an intersection squeezed into an area where there will be transit, pedestrian and bicycle entrances, exits and crossings.

There have been no on the ground preliminary design plans that show the right-of-way a configuration that will be functional. The ultimate reconfiguration of the intersection must consider safe, efficient car, transit, pedestrian and bicycle crossing and circulation through the intersection. Because of the potential impacts on Seminary Heights (corner Beauregard and Seminary Road) and on planning the proposed Hekemian project, more information is needed to evaluate the design and function of the ellipse. A preliminary design plan to scale is necessary before including the ellipse as a reasonable option into the Working Draft. The first question to be asked is “what are the overall objectives we trying to accomplish?”

13. The proposed parking ratios may be too low. BRT and local buses cannot substitute for the convenience of living near a metro station. This area is and will be a semi-urban area and time, instant mobility will continue to be part of our way of life. The primary advantage for living in the Beauregard Corridor is the quick, efficient bus service to the Pentagon Metro Station and that is not likely to change.

Hopefully the Working Draft will not discourage local Alexandrian’s from outside the plan area using cars to shop and patronize restaurants by making access and parking too restrictive. I suggest reevaluating the parking ratios and selecting ratios that are more indicative of an area in transition to a semi-urban development.

14. Open space is often described as a community gathering place. Open space can have many meanings and serve different purposes. It is important that the spaces are functional, serve a useful purpose and not be contrived to satisfy perceived planning requirements.

In many town center developments the town center is used to attract non-residents to the adjacent restaurants and shops, e.g., Shirlington, Pentagon Row.

15. The JBG Properties proposed development overlooks public parks, Chambliss, Dora Kelley Nature Park and playgrounds and tennis courts near William Ramsay Elementary School. The Working Draft should include a separate section on existing parks and recreational facilities and provide recommendations and guidelines to address potential impacts of the proposed small area plan on existing public resources.

16. The existing apartment development provides a club house, tennis courts, two swimming pools, a volley ball court and a toddler area. This is in addition to the tennis courts and play field at Ramsay School and the playground at John Adams. The Working Draft does not include any plans for replacing these facilities, placing more demand on public parks and resources. The Working Draft should ensure adequate on site recreation facilities are available to replace or enhance what is currently available.

17. The location of the fire station and whether the City should rely on a developer to pay and build it as a condition of getting approvals for increased densities raises ethical questions. There is also an issue of whether the City is appropriately allocating financial resources through an off budget process that distorts the planning process. This is an outstanding issue that should be discussed as part of draft BSAP. The fire station should be in a location that can serve the needs of the City of Alexandria, but also help meet our obligation under mutual service agreements with other jurisdictions.

18. The Working Draft does outline a plan for tenant assistance to be reviewed by the Housing Landlord Tenant Relations Board. The draft BSAP should require a tenant plan be approved prior to City approval for the project.

19. The implementation Plan should include the amount of City, State and Federal funding necessary to start planning, design and construction of an enhanced BRT system that may be superfluous to the transportation needs of the plan area. The primary destination for residents living in the area is to the Pentagon Metro station. Residents also rely on local service to nearby shopping and employment locations. There is no real demand for residents in the plan area to go to Van Dorn Metro Station that would justify an upfront expenditure for a BRT system. The primary focus should be on improving the existing network of streets, sidewalks, shared space that will increase transit use in the corridor from 34% to 60 or 70%.

20. The Working Draft assumes a high capacity transit service being built between the Pentagon and Van Dorn Metro Station. It assumes a dedicated transit “guideway” along most of the running way and mixed use in the more congested areas in the plan area. The City has already allocated funding in its 10-Year Transportation Improvement Program toward the design and construction of the Transitway—a project that is still conceptual, with no connections to adjacent jurisdictions, no defined terminus, and inadequate funding for anything at that scale.
Until the origin and destination of the proposed BRT is established and an integrated transportation, transit, pedestrian framework is established for the plan area, the Working Draft should refer to the BRT as being conceptual.
21. The working draft proposes a new street adjacent to the Seminary Heights and Seminary Park residential communities connecting to Mark Center Drive. Although this would help disperse traffic, it would become a street that would by-pass Beauregard and be in the backyard of the townhouses. This is likely a major concern of residents and efforts to resolve the potential conflict should be part of drafting a BSAP.
22. Historical Context: It is important the historical context be accurate. The Terrett family was very large and members of the family owned lands into the 1950s. The Working Draft should identify the Terrett family that owned “Oakland”. Ownership of the “Oakland” residence may not even be relevant.

The “West End” referenced on page 157 is not the same as the West End referenced in the Working Draft. The original west-end was just outside the boundaries of the District of Columbia, near present day Carlyle which up until 1847 included Alexandria. Check with Amy Bertsch on Lance Mallemo’s staff.

If there are any questions regarding the above comments, please contact me.


Sincerely,


Dave Cavanaugh

Dave Cavanaugh (71) | User | February 12, 2012 - 2:13 PM | Beauregard Small Area Plan

I attended the January 20, 2011 meeting and have the following comments.

1. Appreciate efforts to upgrade and provide a better ridership experience on public transit. This should be a major focus if the City plans to encourage use of transit. I have taken Dash and buses and the overall experience is bad. Traffic, delayed and crowded buses, air conditioners that don't work, small contoured seats that don't fit normal size people, stopping, starting and turning motions all make riding to and from work miserable. If we are going to change perceptions and encourage people to use buses, we have to have a real focus on making that experience—waiting, boarding, exiting—more enjoyable.
2. I would encourage you to develop different options. Most of the options involved Beauregard-Sanger-Van Dorn. This does not provide any real relief in the short and midterm.
3. The focus in the "Beauregard Corridor should not be solely on moving traffic off of the Interstate on to Beauregard. There should be a better focus on local residents and improving use of transit for local shopping, e.g., Seminary Plaza, Landmark, Landmark Plaza, Skyline.
4. As the area becomes more densely populated, expanding the "choice" market for transit will make the area more livable.
5. As mentioned by a speaker, there should be an origin/destination study. This would help estimate ridership, but also help set priorities.
6. Transit planning has to include Fairfax and Arlington Counties as cooperating jurisdictions. People living at Southern Towers, the retirement homes, and Alexandria residents use those streets to shop at Landmark, Landmark Plaza, Skyline, and Seminary Plaza. It would be short sighted to adopt a proposal that serves Alexandria only and does not improve overall transportation for nearby residents in those close-by neighborhoods.
7. Transit planning for year 2035 should be strategic with short and intermediate steps. An interim planning goal (2020) would be more realistic and facilitate community support. The initial goal should be to facilitate transit use that provides improved connectivity to nearby places of employment as well as to the Pentagon and Metro stations. Improving east-west bound traffic on Seminary from Beauregard to Skyline with connections to the Arlington-FFX County transit facilities should be one of the first priorities. There has to be something in the plans that benefit local residents who ultimately pay the upfront costs.
8. Funding will be an issue. Support for project funding will depend on a realistic, phased program that provides results--improved transit for users living and working near Southern Towers, Mark Center and Skyline.
8. The options that involve Sanger Avenue are very problematic. They involve turning motions, backups on Beauregard and at Van Dorn, and an overpass that would be very expensive to widen for traffic on Sanger Avenue. It would also potentially have impacts on drainage and the natural and environmental conditions along Holmes Run.
9. Approval of any plans for a town center type of development on the Winkler property should be dependent on City support and funding of transit that connects with transit projects in Arlington and Fairfax County.
10. The rating chart--Consumer Report-is misleading. The ratings applied to Option F were inconsistent from those used to rate other options. The criteria should be expanded and ratings more consistently applied. We should not just consider upfront costs without considering operation and maintenance estimates.
As one person at the meeting said, the options outlined at the meeting were a beginning draft. I believe there should be more discussion of options, advantages and disadvantage. It is too premature to adopt preferred options from the current list without further input from other jurisdictions and members of the community.
Thank you.

Dave Cavanaugh (71) | User | January 21, 2011 - 3:19 PM | Transitway Corridor Feasibility Study Comment Board

The strategic goals seem poorly structured and difficult to understand in terms of setting goals and policy.
Although it is intended to involve residents, very few actually attend the meetings or provide comments.
The goal: Alexandria is a Caring Community That is Affordable and Diverse with a Rich History and Culture incorporates very divergent interests and groups. Housing and social services should be separate. This is a major responsibility of City government and can impact Strategic Goals 1, 2, 3, 5 & 6.
History and culture provide a sense of place and contribute to the quality of life for all residents. It should not be in the same category as social and community services and affordable housing.
City promotion of history and culture would more appropriately be part of Strategic Goal #1. History and culture can attract business, new residents, and tourists.
Consideration should be given to consolidating and redrafting the Strategic Goals. The emphasis should be on "who are they for and what real purpose do they serve".
Thank you

David Cavanaugh (71) | User | December 8, 2009 - 7:37 PM | Strategic Planning Process: Goal 7

Dave Cavanaugh (user 71) - Comments by Board

Strategic Planning Process: Goal 7

The strategic goals seem poorly structured and difficult to understand in terms of setting goals and policy.
Although it is intended to involve residents, very few actually attend the meetings or provide comments.
The goal: Alexandria is a Caring Community That is Affordable and Diverse with a Rich History and Culture incorporates very divergent interests and groups. Housing and social services should be separate. This is a major responsibility of City government and can impact Strategic Goals 1, 2, 3, 5 & 6.
History and culture provide a sense of place and contribute to the quality of life for all residents. It should not be in the same category as social and community services and affordable housing.
City promotion of history and culture would more appropriately be part of Strategic Goal #1. History and culture can attract business, new residents, and tourists.
Consideration should be given to consolidating and redrafting the Strategic Goals. The emphasis should be on "who are they for and what real purpose do they serve".
Thank you

David Cavanaugh (71) | User | December 8, 2009 - 7:37 PM

Beauregard Small Area Plan

Attached are the written comments I prepared for Monday's Town Hall Meeting.

To accommodate the planned growth in the BSAP, a major public transit center with local circular buses should be considered for the BSAP. This would define the area, make it transit oriented, provide continued economic development and create a more distinctive community. The plan would build off of the current strengths of the community--a willingness to use public transit to Pentagon Metro and other nearby employment centers. Without a major focus on creating a public transit hub at Southern Towers, growth in the area will likely be limited, especially if there is no connection to public transit in Arlington and Fairfax counties. The current vision for transportation and transit in the plan area is insufficient. There is a need for a more integrated, comprehensive transportation plan that considers future plans for population growth in the Beauregard Corridor.

The collection of ideas centered around a BRT in dedicated and mixed lanes (not so rapid), the unknown destination of Corridor C on Beauregard, a potential regional transit hub at Mark Center Station, the Ellipse and a major bus station in Southern Towers don't fit into a cohesive efficient transportation and transit system.

Comments: Town Hall Meeting, April 9, 2012

My name is Dave Cavanaugh and I live in Seminary Ridge. I am a 38 year resident of the City of Alexandria.

I have witnessed the growth of the Beauregard/Seminary Road area and like most people was shocked by the City’s assessment of traffic that resulted in DoD selecting Mark Center as the BRAC site for the Washington Headquarters Service. More alarming is the effort by the City and developers to double down by substantially increasing density in an already congested area without any real integrated traffic, transit, bike and pedestrian plan.

Without a comprehensive plan we are potentially wasting money, jeopardizing the vitality and character of the community we are attempting to create and making conditions in the plan area worse, not better. More importantly, we are missing an economic opportunity to create a major bus transit center at Southern Towers providing convenient access for commuters living and working in the Mark Center area and traveling to Pentagon Metro.

My comments address transportation only—the different ways of moving people through the plan area; automobiles, public transit, bicycles and walking.

The transportation plan for the Beauregard Corridor can only be described as lacking vision and haphazard. It fails to provide a multi-modal approach to managing circulation within the plan area and providing convenient access to the Pentagon Metro Station and other nearby employment centers.

The proposed redevelopment is based on a significant increase in streets, a new street paralleling North Beauregard through the proposed town center, a dedicated high capacity transit corridor, a traffic ellipse at the corner of Seminary Road and North, and a transit way in regular traffic lanes through Southern Towers and Mark Center. There are a number of transportation elements that are missing or have been overlooked in the draft plan, they include:
• How will the proposed HOV reversible ramp at I-395 and Seminary, if approved, impact traffic including buses?
• How will reestablishing the transportation hub at one location at Southern Towers impact transit service? A hub must provide shelter for passengers platform areas for commuters arriving, departing or transferring to other routes.
• What are the design features for a public transit hub at Southern Towers that will accommodate the increased demand for commuter services over the next 30 years?
• How will the proposed new hub at Southern Towers be integrated with the transit hub at Mark Center Station?
• How will the proposed ellipse at Seminary Road and North Beauregard Street function to handle the expected increase in transit service? Will it impair local public transit service?
• How and to what extent will the short and mid-term traffic improvements already approved be incorporated into the transportation plan?

• What pedestrian and bicycle facilities will provide convenient accessibility for residents and employees to the bus transit hubs and retail centers envisioned in the plan?

The Transportation provisions in the Draft Plan should be reevaluated for the following reasons:
• The VDOT Chapter 527 review has not been completed. The report was submitted to VDOT in February 2012.
• VDOT has not made a final decision regarding the HOV ramp. If approved, this will create a major regional transportation hub at Mark Center Station, a feature that has not been considered in the current transportation analysis or the plan.
• There is insufficient information available to the public to sufficiently evaluate safety, functionality, size and impacts of the proposed ellipse on public transit, pedestrian and bicycle circulation.
The ellipse should be discussed as one option, along with others, for relieving traffic congestion. The Beauregard Small Area Plan should not approve or endorse the Ellipse until a comprehensive multi-modal study has been completed and reviewed by an independent group; including citizens.
The purpose and need for the ellipse may be reduced as a result of the short and mid-term improvements that have been approved and the early success of DoD’s implementation of their Transportation Management Plan.
• The Alternative Analysis initiated in October 2011 for Corridor C has not been completed. It is essential the alternatives analysis be completed to better understand the costs and impacts on land use.

• An origin and destination study should be completed on the Beauregard segment of Corridor C. At present there are no heavily used transit routes from Mark Center to Van Dorn Center. This is not a major destination for residents living in the plan corridor.
The Beauregard Small Area Plan process is being rushed and public comments regarding transportation plan proposals are being summarily dismissed. The technical studies performed do not consider other realistic options and are prepared to support predetermined outcomes. The history of transportation planning in the west-end and more recent studies engenders a complete lack of confidence in the analysis and conclusions reached in the technical reports.
Without a thoughtful comprehensive integrated transportation plan we cannot justify indirect or direct expenditure of funds for road improvements, potentially wasting money and impacting future development in the area.

Dave Cavanaugh (71) | User | April 11, 2012 - 3:39 PM

March 19, 2012
To: The Alexandria Park and Recreation Commission
From: Dave Cavanaugh
Subject: Alexandria Park and Recreation Commission Public Hearing on Beauregard Small Area Plan Open Space and Recreational Components March 22, 2012
I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the park and recreation issues related to the Beauregard Small Area Plan Working Draft dated January 23, 2012. I am concerned with the potential impact of the large scale redevelopment proposal. It is my hope the Alexandria Park and Recreation Commission would defer action approving the working draft and instead request additional clarifications and changes to the current working draft.
The proposed Beauregard Small Area Plan Working Draft, unless modified, will dramatically change the character of the area within the plan boundaries. The Working Draft envisions a more densely populated, urban, mixed use, transit oriented community. The proposed redevelopment includes a new framework of streets, bus rapid transit in both dedicated and mixed lanes, a new intersection (ellipse) at Seminary and Beauregard, hotels, new retail, and a 24% increase (2,384,285 square feet) in currently allowed zoning. The current area includes 5,500 apartment units of which 2,519 will be torn down. The proposed plan will add 3,894 units to the remaining units (2981) bringing the total number of units to approximately 6,500 units. Over the development period apartments will be vacated and residents displaced.
I offer the following comments for your consideration in advising the City Manager, Mayor and City Council.
1. The developers (JBG Properties, Home Properties, and Southern Towers) in the plan area provide a variety of on-site recreational amenities for apartment residents. As an example, JBG Properties has two swimming pools, a club house with exercise equipment, three tennis courts, a volley ball court and a tot lot. The current Beauregard Small Area Plan working draft that would more than double the allowable square footage does not include any provision for similar recreational amenities, placing more pressure on existing recreational facilities at the Ramsey Elementary School, the recreation center, Chambliss Park and John Adams. A rewrite of the working draft should include replacement of on-site amenities for prospective residents.
2. The Developer Contribution includes $8,150,500 for a new artificial turf athletic field near the Ramsey Elementary School. It is my understanding approximately $1.0-1.5 million would be for the proposed athletic field and the remainder to be used at John Adams and Hammond Schools. I suggest the Alexandria Park and Recreation Commission request additional information regarding the proposed use of the funds for recreation purposes to better understand the scale of park and recreational services needed to accommodate the increased densities.
3. The 55 acre Dora Kelley Nature Park is an outstanding environmentally sensitive area. Plans for an athletic field could increase human activity near the park boundaries, damaging plants, trees and wildlife habitat and increase the erosion on the side slopes into the nature park. I recommend the proposal for any athletic field be thoroughly and independently evaluated before City officials endorse an athletic field in a small area plan.
4. The proposal for a multi-purpose athletic field at Ramsey Elementary School does not provide convenient off street parking. The field is intended to be used by local leagues, community groups, and families as well as tournament play. The parking behind the school is heavily used for school events and does not provide sufficient parking for after school athletic events. In addition the parking lot is not in close proximity to the proposed athletic field.
Also, the on-street parking is close to the proposed fire station and an “optional” retail area proposed in the plan. This would add to traffic congestion and make it even more difficult to find parking for athletic events.
The availability of parking is essential for parents, children and spectators to athletic events. A more comprehensive study is necessary before automatically accepting developer contributions for an athletic field in the Beauregard Small Area Plan Working Draft. Any plans for a proposed multipurpose athletic field must consider the potential volume of use, the impact on the Dora Kelley Nature Park and the added traffic congestion in the after school hours.
5. JBG Properties has agreed to provide 7.2 acres of land as an addition to Dora Kelley Nature Park. The additional land would benefit the park, remove current apartment buildings from intrusion into the wooded area and provide a buffer from proposed buildings. I support the added acreage, but not at the cost of providing increased density that would reduce the existing tree canopy.
6. The Beauregard Small Area Plan Working Draft references 45 acres of new open space. The working draft does not provide sufficient information regarding the dispersal and location of park, recreation and publically accessible open space. Park, recreation, and publicly accessible open space is inadequate in the Duke Realty, Home Properties and Hekemian-Foster Fairbanks Properties. The Alexandria Park and Recreation Commission should request additional provisions be provided for attractive open areas and the additional acreage be identified in the revised draft.
7. The Working Draft includes “greenway” in the most unlikely places; the proposed ellipse. The ellipse would create a traffic circle. East and west bound traffic on Seminary Road crossing Beauregard Street would go through the middle of the traffic circle and cross signalized intersections for north and south bound traffic on Beauregard. Traffic signals would also control traffic within the circle. Drivers on Seminary Road west wanting to go to North Beauregard Street would make right turns into a signalized circular maze and merge into an exit lane on the other side of the ellipse. The “greenway” in the proposed ellipse will not be “green” and should not be counted as a greenway or open space for purposes of providing additional zoning densities or concessions for developers.
8. The public open spaces are not incorporated into attractive pedestrian walkways connecting major destinations within the plan area (see page 65). A goal of the plan is to foster a healthy and active lifestyle for residents and employees in the plan area. One of the ways of doing that is providing attractive public spaces, paths, sidewalks, bike paths connecting people to the transportation hubs at Southern Towers and Mark Center Station and to retail and employment centers in the plan area. The Park and Recreation Commission should request the working draft be revised to include open space, parks and greenways as part of an integrated pedestrian network.
9. The working draft recognizes the redevelopment will result in the potential loss of a significant amount of tree canopy. To mitigate the loss it recommends the percent of canopy coverage be met through a combination of on-site and/or off-site improvements. The loss of tree canopy in any of the proposed neighborhoods is a permanent loss and is not replaced with additional tree canopy elsewhere. This is especially important in redeveloping the former Hamlet Apartment complex owned by JBG Properties. To protect the distinctive natural character of the Hamlet Apartment area and the nearby parks and nature areas, the Park and Recreation Commission should reaffirm request the revised draft Beauregard Small Area Plan support maintaining the current percentage of tree cover.
10. The working draft extends Sanger Avenue past Ramsey School along the property boundary of the 7.2 acres of land to be dedicated to the City as an addition to Dora Kelley Nature Park. The extension of Sanger Avenue and the 7.2 acres would provide a buffer between the street and Dora Kelley Nature Park. To discourage traffic into an environmentally sensitive area, the Park and Recreation Commission should recommend the revised plan allow on street parking and be narrowed to slow traffic. To further reduce the amount of traffic, the street should be designed as a one-way street.
11. The working draft creates a new street paralleling Beauregard Street from Mark Center Drive. The new street would connect to the new town center area on North Beauregard. The street would increase car and pedestrian traffic adjacent to John Adams Elementary School potentially creating a safety hazard for children crossing streets to attend the school or participate in recreation programs. The new street would also impact access to the school and the tot lot on the south side of the school would likely have to be moved. To ensure the safety of the children attending the school and using the recreation facilities at John Adams and to avoid any unexpected costs the revised plan should provide an evaluation of the likely impacts of the new street.
12. The proposed redevelopment of the JBG Properties will result in the demolition of all of the apartments with the possible exception of 49 units at Linwood. This would result in a significant in the tree canopy and potentially increase storm water run-off impacting Holmes Run and the Dora Kelley Nature Park. The working draft mentions the loss in tree canopy but provides very little assurance that the increased water flows will be adequately controlled. The Park and Recreation Commission should insist the revised draft will contain information on mitigation of storm water run-off and how it will be controlled to protect the Winkler Preserve (private property), the Dora Kelley Nature Preserve and the Holmes Run drainage.
13. The developers have tentatively agreed to provide $3,000,000 for landscaping and streetscape, primarily for Beauregard Street and $8,150,000 for an athletic field and enhancements. The Park and Recreation Commission should not just accept these amounts as being sufficient to mitigate the impacts of the proposed development by JBG Properties. There should be an accounting to ensure the funds promised will cover the additional costs of accommodating a large increase in population and ensure the City has not traded away amenities e.g., tree canopy, that make the Beauregard/Sanger Avenue area beautiful and distinctive.
I recommend the Park and Recreation Commission defer action on the working draft and recommend provisions that will protect the Dora Kelley Nature Preserve, the Holmes Run drainage, and ensure the tentatively promised funds for parks and recreation fully mitigate the impacts of redevelopment.
Thank you.

Dave Cavanaugh (71) | User | March 18, 2012 - 8:55 PM


The Traffic Ellipse

Does the proposed $30 million traffic ellipse improve traffic flow and pedestrian crossing at Seminary Road and North Beauregard? Should other safer, less costly options be explored?

City Transportation and Environmental Services staff members have touted the “ellipse” as being necessary to improve traffic conditions for employees working at the new BRAC office towers. City officials also argue the “ellipse” would improve opportunities for better urban design and provide a more attractive gateway for the proposed town center development on Beauregard Street.

The “ellipse” revives the concept of a round-about or traffic circle. However there are significant differences. Traffic on Seminary Road would go through the middle of the traffic circle and traffic signals would be installed at intersections within the circle. Drivers using North Beauregard Street would make right turns into a signalized circular maze and merge into an exit lane.

The ellipse was proposed prior to VDOT the HOV ramp at I-395 and Seminary Road. If approved the ramp will provide bus and HOV-3 drivers more direct access to and from the BRAC site. This would significantly reduce the distance and numbers of vehicles projected to use the triple left turn lanes on Seminary Road to access Mark Center Avenue off of Beauregard Street.

The idea behind the proposed ellipse is that it would replace the recently constructed triple left at Seminary Road and North Beauregard. It would reduce left turns requiring drivers to turn right off of Seminary to go either north or south on Beauregard Street. Given the potential volume of traffic, design speeds, site distances and maneuvering, safety could be an issue. The design does nothing to alleviate current traffic congestion and queuing during the afternoon rush hour associated with I-395 on and off ramps and the traffic lights at Mark Center Drive.

The proposed ellipse creates a real barrier to pedestrian and bicyclist and will impact local bus service, including plans for the Bus Rapid Transit route through Southern Towers. Pedestrian crossings at Seminary and Beauregard are currently bad and the ellipse would make it even worse. An argument can be made that if we are trying to create a transit oriented, walk-able community, with enhanced transit and local retail the ellipse is the wrong way to go.

The ellipse is a $30 million engineering experiment. Although the cost of the ellipse would be borne by the developers, it is likely the cost would be offset by additional concessions allowing more development granted by the City through its zoning process.

If the HOV ramp is approved, the City should reevaluate the need for the ellipse. As an option the City should consider eliminating the third left lane since the proposed HOV ramp would alleviate much of the traffic at the Seminary and Beauregard intersection destined for the BRAC Mark Center site.

I suggest the City staff evaluate the option of eliminating the third left turn lane and returning the intersection to a more conventional intersection. Improved signalization, restriping would be less expensive and more importantly, it would provide opportunities for more direct, safer pedestrian crossing at this important intersection.

Dave Cavanaugh

Dave Cavanaugh (71) | User | March 5, 2012 - 4:57 PM

February 12, 2012

City of Alexandria
Planning and Zoning
Alexandria, VA

I appreciate the opportunity to comment.
General Comments:

I appreciate the efforts made by City staff to prepare a Working Draft within a very short of period of time. However the Beauregard Corridor Small Area Plan Working Draft (Working Draft) is unsatisfactory, promotional, and incorporates little analysis to support recommendations and guidelines to implement a small area plan. It should be completely rewritten.

A draft Beauregard Small Area Plan (BSAP)) should better explain the purpose, need and the underlying planning concepts that are relevant to redeveloping the plan area. Stating the current plan is outdated or surrounding land uses have changed is not enough to build public support for a massive transformation of the plan area to a much larger, upscale, urban development. This is absolutely essential if the City staff is to be successful in building public support for dramatic changes in the proposed plan area.

The Working Draft should focus on using public space to create a multi-model network connecting people to the transit stations at Mark Center Station and Southern Towers as well as the retail stores, cafes and coffee shops. Providing convenient options to move from one place to another will reduce the dependency on cars and local traffic congestion. The small area plan should ensure that streets, sidewalks, shared spaces redesigned to operate together for all users

Residents living at Seminary Park should be able to safely cross Seminary Road to a bus stop or using internal sidewalks and public space be able to walk, ride or bike through the proposed Hekemian development to Southern Towers. The public spaces used to get from one place to another should be safe, attractive and interesting—not parking lots or garages. Once on the Southern Towers property, pedestrians should be able to make their way to the proposed retail areas and proposed BRT station at Southern Towers and the Mark Center Station. Passengers arriving at Southern Towers from the District of Columbia, Skyline, Bailey’s Crossroads should be able to walk to the Mark Center Station to catch the bus to Woodbridge or connect to a carpool.

The Beauregard Corridor Small Area Plan Working Draft includes several ideas not fully supported by members of the community. In a rush to complete the small area plan process, City officials and developers have not adequately addressed some of the major concerns expressed by residents. The mishandling of Corridor “C”, the push for a Bus Rapid Transit system, the unexplained rationale for an ellipse all perplex residents. Part of the problem is unfamiliarity with the City’s planning process, the concepts embedded in new urbanism and a perceived threat to the character of the community. A draft BSAP should be partly based on efforts to reconcile the outstanding issues and improving the environment for public involvement.

The Beauregard Corridor Open House held on Saturday February 11 provided an opportunity to understand concepts being incorporated into the planning process and be able to envision what is being proposed. It was relaxing, informative and a variety of residents that do not normally show up at meetings attended the open house. Although the developers have been persistent in advocating a need for increased density to make their projects work financially, they have demonstrated a wiliness to work with the community.

Specific Comments:

The primary purpose of preparing a Beauregard Corridor Plan is to outline goals, objectives, and provide specific recommendations on land use, zoning, transportation and urban design. City officials, developers and the community are and should be involved in that process. Redevelopment in the proposed plan area includes 395.25 acres, an estimated 5,500 housing units-mostly rental, of which about 3,000 (?) would be directly impacted.

Major property owners involved in the planning process include JBG Properties (129.64 acres), Southern Towers (40.81 acres, Home Properties (22.31 acres), Duke Realty 19.18 acres and Hekemian and Private (8.18 acres), Shirley Gardens-Fairbanks/Foster) and WRIT (1.94 acres). The property owners are seeking additional development rights in addition to what is allowed under existing zoning with a DSUP.

1. Prepare a draft Beauregard Small Area Plan (BSAP) without referencing earlier individual comments and suggestions of members of the Beauregard Corridor Stakeholders Group. Most of the individual comments were modified by staff and are virtually indistinguishable from the original comment. We had an opportunity to engage in an informal process and now it is for the City to draft a more comprehensive small area plan for public comment.

2. The primary focus of the Working Draft is on the JBG Property. This focus obscures the details necessary to evaluate guidelines and recommendations for the other properties being considered for redevelopment. The Working Draft should have specific goals, objectives and recommendations that generally apply to the all properties including a major commitment to improve interconnectedness within the plan area and ensuring families displaced are provided relocation and financial assistance. The draft BSAP should include a more current description of the other proposed redevelopment projects and how they are integrated into the plan area.

3. “The Existing Land Use Approvals—A Starting Point” infers the City has is unable to place conditions on design, open space, phasing or affordable housing. Although there are no standards, the City is not powerless in placing conditions on development through the Developmental Special Use Permit (DSUP) process. This item should be clarified to more accurately describe the City’s authority under the DSUP process.

4. The working draft should incorporate information on the existing conditions within the plan area, population, transit use, parks, schools, current landlord provided amenities, and natural environment, especially in the Lower Hill Zone on the JBG Properties. An analysis of the current conditions will confirm the current plan area is a vibrant, diverse, mixed use community, adjacent to parks and schools and is a transit oriented community.

5. This is a functioning community. However, a more transit oriented community, an attractive network of local streets, sidewalks and public and private spaces, increasing local retail and commercial services, would rejuvenate and enhance the long term economic sustainability of an attractive area.

6. The stated need for a new plan is really insufficient and misleading (p.5).

The need is not based on updating an old plan, changes in surrounding land uses (with the exception of BRAC, no land uses have changed), a desire to create developmental standards and phasing (?), or a need to provide dedicated affordable housing (not an issue until redevelopment proposed).

The Working Draft should provide better written justification for embarking on a major redevelopment of an area built during the 1960s and 70s. The draft BSAP should evaluate conditions in the existing community and develop recommendations and guidelines for a semi-urban development that retains and builds on the character of the community. This would make the planned development in the plan area more distinctive, differentiate it from other similar projects and reinforce the sense of place the original Mark Winkler plan created.

7. The proposed plan for the JBG properties envisions transforming a park-like suburban apartment complex into a large scale, urban mixed use development with tree wells, retaining walls, fountains paved community areas and parking garages. This is a dramatic change in the character of the area and is not compatible with the scale of the Greenway and Garden Districts outlined in the Working Draft.

The Working Draft should be revised to ensure the JBG property on Beauregard and Sanger is designed as a semi-urban development. The scale, building mass, streets and setbacks should be incorporated into the wooded landscape and not overpower the park like, natural setting. Development should ensure at least 40 percent tree canopy coverage in the lower (Garden and Greenway) sections of the proposed plan.

The proposed building heights of 45-70 feet for the Garden District and Greenway are too high. The draft BSAP should use environmentally responsible methods for mitigating surface water run-off, the loss of trees, and appropriately scaled buildings for a hillside exposure that overlooks a Dora Kelley Nature Park.

8. Many of the photos showing urban streets similar to areas on Connecticut and Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D.C. This is not what many of us in the community envision. The Working Draft should incorporate photos of other nearby Town Center, mixed use, life style, communities more indicative of a semi-urban plan.

9. The Working Draft introduces a variety of unexplained concepts or terms. These concepts include “garden city”, “shared parking”, “Urban Design Standards and Guidelines”, “Contemporary Style”, “Signature Building” “a 10’ sidewalk trail” and “required retail and optional retail”. These terms and others should be defined and references provided to “Urban Design Standards and Guideline”. This would help citizens evaluate the criteria for recommended guidelines and in many cases help build support for recommendations and guidelines in the Working Draft.

10. The building setback for new buildings on Beauregard should be at least 30 feet from the curb, excluding “bulb-outs”. The Urban Design Recommendations (3.3 on page 31) provides exclusion for retail area “to enable a double row of street trees and 10ft. sidewalk trail”.

11. The building heights proposed in the Working Draft for signature buildings in the town center area or hotels framing the proposed ellipse are too massive, overpower adjacent development, would add to traffic congestion and potentially reduce the walkability of the nearby areas. The building heights for townhouses, mid-rise multi-family, office, hotel, and signature buildings should be addressed in a more comprehensive manner in a draft BSAP.

12. The proposed ellipse has been promoted as a more elegant design for accommodating traffic through the Beauregard/Seminary Road intersection. Schematic drawings depict an intersection squeezed into an area where there will be transit, pedestrian and bicycle entrances, exits and crossings.

There have been no on the ground preliminary design plans that show the right-of-way a configuration that will be functional. The ultimate reconfiguration of the intersection must consider safe, efficient car, transit, pedestrian and bicycle crossing and circulation through the intersection. Because of the potential impacts on Seminary Heights (corner Beauregard and Seminary Road) and on planning the proposed Hekemian project, more information is needed to evaluate the design and function of the ellipse. A preliminary design plan to scale is necessary before including the ellipse as a reasonable option into the Working Draft. The first question to be asked is “what are the overall objectives we trying to accomplish?”

13. The proposed parking ratios may be too low. BRT and local buses cannot substitute for the convenience of living near a metro station. This area is and will be a semi-urban area and time, instant mobility will continue to be part of our way of life. The primary advantage for living in the Beauregard Corridor is the quick, efficient bus service to the Pentagon Metro Station and that is not likely to change.

Hopefully the Working Draft will not discourage local Alexandrian’s from outside the plan area using cars to shop and patronize restaurants by making access and parking too restrictive. I suggest reevaluating the parking ratios and selecting ratios that are more indicative of an area in transition to a semi-urban development.

14. Open space is often described as a community gathering place. Open space can have many meanings and serve different purposes. It is important that the spaces are functional, serve a useful purpose and not be contrived to satisfy perceived planning requirements.

In many town center developments the town center is used to attract non-residents to the adjacent restaurants and shops, e.g., Shirlington, Pentagon Row.

15. The JBG Properties proposed development overlooks public parks, Chambliss, Dora Kelley Nature Park and playgrounds and tennis courts near William Ramsay Elementary School. The Working Draft should include a separate section on existing parks and recreational facilities and provide recommendations and guidelines to address potential impacts of the proposed small area plan on existing public resources.

16. The existing apartment development provides a club house, tennis courts, two swimming pools, a volley ball court and a toddler area. This is in addition to the tennis courts and play field at Ramsay School and the playground at John Adams. The Working Draft does not include any plans for replacing these facilities, placing more demand on public parks and resources. The Working Draft should ensure adequate on site recreation facilities are available to replace or enhance what is currently available.

17. The location of the fire station and whether the City should rely on a developer to pay and build it as a condition of getting approvals for increased densities raises ethical questions. There is also an issue of whether the City is appropriately allocating financial resources through an off budget process that distorts the planning process. This is an outstanding issue that should be discussed as part of draft BSAP. The fire station should be in a location that can serve the needs of the City of Alexandria, but also help meet our obligation under mutual service agreements with other jurisdictions.

18. The Working Draft does outline a plan for tenant assistance to be reviewed by the Housing Landlord Tenant Relations Board. The draft BSAP should require a tenant plan be approved prior to City approval for the project.

19. The implementation Plan should include the amount of City, State and Federal funding necessary to start planning, design and construction of an enhanced BRT system that may be superfluous to the transportation needs of the plan area. The primary destination for residents living in the area is to the Pentagon Metro station. Residents also rely on local service to nearby shopping and employment locations. There is no real demand for residents in the plan area to go to Van Dorn Metro Station that would justify an upfront expenditure for a BRT system. The primary focus should be on improving the existing network of streets, sidewalks, shared space that will increase transit use in the corridor from 34% to 60 or 70%.

20. The Working Draft assumes a high capacity transit service being built between the Pentagon and Van Dorn Metro Station. It assumes a dedicated transit “guideway” along most of the running way and mixed use in the more congested areas in the plan area. The City has already allocated funding in its 10-Year Transportation Improvement Program toward the design and construction of the Transitway—a project that is still conceptual, with no connections to adjacent jurisdictions, no defined terminus, and inadequate funding for anything at that scale.
Until the origin and destination of the proposed BRT is established and an integrated transportation, transit, pedestrian framework is established for the plan area, the Working Draft should refer to the BRT as being conceptual.
21. The working draft proposes a new street adjacent to the Seminary Heights and Seminary Park residential communities connecting to Mark Center Drive. Although this would help disperse traffic, it would become a street that would by-pass Beauregard and be in the backyard of the townhouses. This is likely a major concern of residents and efforts to resolve the potential conflict should be part of drafting a BSAP.
22. Historical Context: It is important the historical context be accurate. The Terrett family was very large and members of the family owned lands into the 1950s. The Working Draft should identify the Terrett family that owned “Oakland”. Ownership of the “Oakland” residence may not even be relevant.

The “West End” referenced on page 157 is not the same as the West End referenced in the Working Draft. The original west-end was just outside the boundaries of the District of Columbia, near present day Carlyle which up until 1847 included Alexandria. Check with Amy Bertsch on Lance Mallemo’s staff.

If there are any questions regarding the above comments, please contact me.


Sincerely,


Dave Cavanaugh

Dave Cavanaugh (71) | User | February 12, 2012 - 2:13 PM

Transitway Corridor Feasibility Study Comment Board

I attended the January 20, 2011 meeting and have the following comments.

1. Appreciate efforts to upgrade and provide a better ridership experience on public transit. This should be a major focus if the City plans to encourage use of transit. I have taken Dash and buses and the overall experience is bad. Traffic, delayed and crowded buses, air conditioners that don't work, small contoured seats that don't fit normal size people, stopping, starting and turning motions all make riding to and from work miserable. If we are going to change perceptions and encourage people to use buses, we have to have a real focus on making that experience—waiting, boarding, exiting—more enjoyable.
2. I would encourage you to develop different options. Most of the options involved Beauregard-Sanger-Van Dorn. This does not provide any real relief in the short and midterm.
3. The focus in the "Beauregard Corridor should not be solely on moving traffic off of the Interstate on to Beauregard. There should be a better focus on local residents and improving use of transit for local shopping, e.g., Seminary Plaza, Landmark, Landmark Plaza, Skyline.
4. As the area becomes more densely populated, expanding the "choice" market for transit will make the area more livable.
5. As mentioned by a speaker, there should be an origin/destination study. This would help estimate ridership, but also help set priorities.
6. Transit planning has to include Fairfax and Arlington Counties as cooperating jurisdictions. People living at Southern Towers, the retirement homes, and Alexandria residents use those streets to shop at Landmark, Landmark Plaza, Skyline, and Seminary Plaza. It would be short sighted to adopt a proposal that serves Alexandria only and does not improve overall transportation for nearby residents in those close-by neighborhoods.
7. Transit planning for year 2035 should be strategic with short and intermediate steps. An interim planning goal (2020) would be more realistic and facilitate community support. The initial goal should be to facilitate transit use that provides improved connectivity to nearby places of employment as well as to the Pentagon and Metro stations. Improving east-west bound traffic on Seminary from Beauregard to Skyline with connections to the Arlington-FFX County transit facilities should be one of the first priorities. There has to be something in the plans that benefit local residents who ultimately pay the upfront costs.
8. Funding will be an issue. Support for project funding will depend on a realistic, phased program that provides results--improved transit for users living and working near Southern Towers, Mark Center and Skyline.
8. The options that involve Sanger Avenue are very problematic. They involve turning motions, backups on Beauregard and at Van Dorn, and an overpass that would be very expensive to widen for traffic on Sanger Avenue. It would also potentially have impacts on drainage and the natural and environmental conditions along Holmes Run.
9. Approval of any plans for a town center type of development on the Winkler property should be dependent on City support and funding of transit that connects with transit projects in Arlington and Fairfax County.
10. The rating chart--Consumer Report-is misleading. The ratings applied to Option F were inconsistent from those used to rate other options. The criteria should be expanded and ratings more consistently applied. We should not just consider upfront costs without considering operation and maintenance estimates.
As one person at the meeting said, the options outlined at the meeting were a beginning draft. I believe there should be more discussion of options, advantages and disadvantage. It is too premature to adopt preferred options from the current list without further input from other jurisdictions and members of the community.
Thank you.

Dave Cavanaugh (71) | User | January 21, 2011 - 3:19 PM

Civic Engagement Handbook Comment Board

Thanks for the opportunity to comment on the June 2013 Preliminary Draft of “What’s Next Alexandria Civic Engagement Handbook.
I originally welcomed the opportunity to participate in a series of meetings. The “What’s Next Alexandria” initiative was billed as a conversation on civic engagement, how Alexandrians can best participate in public decisions that shape the City and reach agreement on principles that will guide civic engagement. This was a blatant attempt by City officials to quell the divisive debates surrounding the Waterfront Plan and the Beauregard Small Area Plan.
I was hoping for more given the length of time, City support and funding for the initiative. I was hoping the series of meetings would outline a process that would fundamentally improve public outreach, civic involvement, and collaboration. Instead, after nearly a year, the Preliminary Draft Handbook contains general guidelines and principles that are nice but do little to improve the current process. The Handbook advocates principles of behavior, City staff monitoring of the civic engagement process and reporting or recommending improvements, recruiting community members to play supportive roles and providing facilitation training, all of this pales in contrast to what could have been.
The City currently engages the community at times not in a constructive manner. Consequently, citizens feel decisions have already been made and commenting is futile. Citizens are not actively engaged in identifying issues, considering and understanding options, working with staff to resolve issues. Instead hard and fast timetables are set by City staff with limited or no consultation with the community; a variety of meetings (uncoordinated) are scheduled; often with short notices, in rapid succession, with no agendas, and limited public input. Meetings with the citizens are often dominated by staff presentation and they evolve into meetings informing the community of progress being made by staff and actions taken by various commissions.
I suggest the City not waste any more time or money on the Handbook. Staff was given an impossible task given the very limited scope of the public initiative started in September 2012. The Handbook is disappointing and not a major achievement.
Time and money would be better spent taking the information gathered at the meetings, recognize major dissatisfaction with current process. I suggest “What’s Next” include a recommendation creating a taskforce to evaluate the current process, consider alternatives for improvement and make recommendations on reasonable steps to reduce costs, confusion, delays and improve participation and the quality of citizen involvement. After several years of contentious debates on land use and planning issues that divided the community, a more serious effort is needed to improve public participation making Alexandria a more attractive and livable community.
Harnessing public involvement and support on issues important to the community is a difficult task. It is not easy. But it should not be so easily set aside with a handbook espousing platitudes that have little impact on improving civic involvement and participation.

Dave Cavanaugh (71) | User | July 24, 2013 - 3:47 PM

Draft Fort Ward Park Management Plan

March 19, 2014

To: Fort Ward Advisory Stakeholders Group

From: Dave Cavanaugh

I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the Draft Fort Ward Park Museum Area Management Plan (Draft Plan). The Fort Ward Advisory Stakeholders Group is to be commended for taking on a unique challenge to improve overall management of Fort Ward Park and Museum.

I support efforts to provide a framework for recommendations improving overall management of the park. A resource management plan recommending actions necessary to maintain and protect the recreational, cultural and environmental resources in the park is a step in the right direction.

The park has suffered from neglect and conflicting ideas for long term management of the Park and Museum. The Draft Plan provides a reasonable assessment of the current conditions and establishes the need to fund and improve conditions in the park. Key to generating public support is a management plan that provides reasonable and achievable goals and minimizes controversy. I support recommendations to improve the overall attractiveness and health of the park. Fort Ward should be a premier park for residents and visitors.

The recent commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War has brought attention to a variety of themes not presented at Fort Ward Park and the Museum. As the anniversary period winds down it is important the Fort Ward Park and Museum stay relevant. This is a critical moment and plan recommendations will influence continued public support for the park itself and programs presented at Fort Ward Park and Museum in the future. A thoughtful and well written Management Plan outlining an action plan for long term sustainability of the park will hopefully generate public support for additional funding.

I suggest the following outline for restoring and sustaining public support for the historic park and museum.

1. Take steps to improve the health and conditions in the park. Restoring the health of the park, making the park more attractive and minimizing over use would improve public support for funding.
2. Mitigate drainage problems impacting the Oakland Baptist Church Cemetery.
3. Explore alternatives for improving utilization of the amphitheater. Renovating the amphitheater is important in providing a wider variety of entertainment, cultural programming and a venue for “storytelling.” It would also facilitate public and private funding for possibly enclosing the amphitheater.
4. Broaden and expand the interpretation of history and cultural events presented at the museum. This includes incorporating the role and involvement of U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War and the settlement by African Americans near the Seminary (now Virginia Theological Seminary) and Episcopal High School and on the site of Fort Ward.
5. Create a multidisciplinary Park Planning Advisory Group, including local citizen groups, to monitor implementation of an action plan for the park. The purpose of the Park Planning Advisory Group is to integrate operational planning and recommendations to improve public use of the park and museum. Potential topics include:

a. Park beautification
b. Restoring former maintenance yard to park use
c. Mitigating drainage issues near Oakland Baptist Church Museum
d. Evaluate operation of the MOU for maintaining the park
e. Improving utilization of the amphitheater
f. Implementing the American Disabilities Act
g. Provide comments on a proposed Comprehensive Interpretation Plan (see below) broadening the presentation of Civil War history presented at the museum and park.
h. Explore partnership arrangements to improve educational programs, displays and exhibits.

Introducing the struggle and role of African Americans and the community that settled near the Seminary during the Civil War has been made unnecessarily controversial. Until recently the contribution of African Americans and their struggle for freedom and equality has been overlooked. Their role and treatment is central to understanding American history and conditions faced by minorities. So it is not surprising there are divergent views on how best to tell the history and stories passed down through families.

The Office of Historic Alexandria (OHA) should organize a separate multi-disciplinary team to prepare a Comprehensive Interpretive Plan (CIP). OHA should contract with firms having the background and skills to assist in preparing the CIP. The plan should help guide and assist City staff in preparing displays and exhibits that allow visitors to connect in a meaningful way to the past. The CIP would be integrated with overall plans to improve the park and museum. A CIP would:

1. Encourage regional planning with other cooperating parks, museums and partner groups.
2. Improve chances for cost sharing when applying for grants.
3. Foster community involvement on themes, values and programs at the park and museum.
4. Facilitate research and development of new programs relevant to a broader audience.
5. Increase public support for a more meaningful public education program.

The current draft suggests interpretive themes that lack any context and unnecessarily provoke racial discord. Suggestions regarding themes (Civil War to Civil Rights”, “We’re Still Here”), the location and naming of trails (We’re Still Here Trail) and including themes associated with City of Alexandria acquisition of the land for Fort Ward or T.C. Williams, Jim Crow, segregation and the Civil Rights movement would significantly transform the character of the park. The management report should delete any recommendations or suggestions for presenting interpretive themes and the location and naming of trails until a CIP is prepared and submitted to staff for their consideration.

The multidisciplinary team should be comprised of (historians, educators, writers, archaeologist, anthropologists and naturalist) including citizens should be created to assist consultants in preparing a CIP. To the extent possible, the stories and experiences of African Americans that settled near the Seminary or at what is now Fort Ward Park could be used to support major historic and cultural themes.

Thanks again for the opportunity to comment. More specific comments were sent earlier. To be successful, we need to demonstrate that taxpayer money is being spent wisely and steps are being taken to make the park more attractive and provide a broader, more relevant and meaningful interpretation of history at the museum and park.

Sincerely,


Dave Cavanaugh

Dave Cavanaugh (71) | User | February 19, 2014 - 2:14 PM