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My Thoughts on the Landmark Mall Redevelopment

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Good afternoon, Alexandria City (and Northern Virginia) residents.  Hope you are all ready for a glorious Memorial Day Weekend.  The weather will be absolutely gorgeous this weekend.

Please accept my apology as this blog post is late (I intended to write this much sooner, but academics got in the way – this is a good thing), but I also think that you will find it very informative.  Everyone knows what an eyesore that Alexandria City has in the Landmark Mall.  If you are unfamiliar with the location, it’s at 5801 Duke Street.  Without question, the Landmark Mall is the worst shopping center in the Washington, DC metropolitan area – and might be the worst one between Northern Virginia and Baltimore (and that’s saying a lot).  The Howard Hughes Corporation owns the central section of the Landmark Mall site between the existing Sears and Macy’s stores (who both own their stores).

After much deliberation, the Alexandria, VA City Council, in June 2009, included the Van Dorn/Landmark Corridor Plan in the city’s master plan.  The plan discusses several important details, such as land use, transportation, development guidelines, and environmental sustainable – and I will not discuss those issues here.  The Alexandria City government planners have done an excellent job in these areas – and, as I said, there is no need for me to discuss that here.

What I will discuss is the urban design element.  In section six of the Van Dorn/Landmark Corridor Plan above, you can see that the original vision of the redevelopment was somewhat a cross between the Reston Town Center (in Reston, VA) – and the Ballston Common Corridor (in Arlington County, VA).  It was an ambitious proposal to make it a livable, freestanding community.  One that would be self-sufficient in that – in theory – everything that you need (e.g. grocery stores, restaurants, shopping, medical care, apartment residents) to live would be in this community – and you would not have to get in your car for any reason if you did not want to (FWIW, the Reston Town Center and Ballston Common Corridor areas are designed in this manner).

We fast forward to May 2013 – I attended the public forum, which was held at a vacated store in the Landmark Mall (here’s a copy of the meeting agenda).   The first part of the forum was an open house where attendees were given the opportunity to visit with Alexandria, VA City Planning personnel – and ask various questions about the Van Dorn/Landmark Corridor Plan (such as plans for the schools, traffic, parking, transit – that sort of thing).  The second part of the meeting was an open question and answer forum with representatives from the Howard Hughes Corporation, the owner and developer.

The Howard Hughes Corporation representative presented a much-scaled back version of the original development plan.  What you see now is something that is a closer version of the Village at Shirlington (in Arlington County, VA).  If you go to page 22 of the presentation right here, you’ll see that there are two floors planned for this development.  The first level will have areas for small retail spaces and sit-down restaurants.  The second level will also have areas for retail and there will also be a potential movie theatre (where you can also have an alcoholic beverage – the Howard Hughes representative mentioned that this is a new design in movie theatres – where you can have dinner, a beverage, and a movie – so it will be set up for those who are 21 and older).  Similar in concept to the Village at Shirlington, there will be apartment units on the 2nd level of this new mixed-use development.  It appears as though these apartments will be marketed toward young professionals – many who might be single individuals.  I will discuss this strategy later in this blog post.

In the May 2013 meeting, the Howard Hughes Corporation representative told the audience that he feels as though Sears and Macy’s have bought into the redevelopment plan – which is good news – because they did not buy in during the last effort in 2009.  Their buy-in is key to ensuring that the Landmark Mall area is redeveloped.

As I said, this is much scaled down from what I thought it was going to be.  I really thought that the Howard Hughes Corporation (in concert with Alexandria City) would try to attract a huge tenant, like a federal government agency, so that there would be a built in occupancy in establishing this mixed-use development.  This, in turn, would attract higher quality retail shops, restaurants, and other residential development.  But, those sorts of business activities do not appear to be planned for the mixed-use development until Phase 2 of the plan at the earliest – and more likely, Phase 3 (for more information, please see Phases 3 through 7 on pages 27-33 of the developer presentation right here).

That said, is half a loaf of bread (the developer’s much scaled down plan) better than no bread (e.g. the dumpster fire that is there now)?  For the most part, yes, it is better.  The developer plans to have several sit-down type restaurants in the new mixed-used development – this is music to the ears for several of us that live in the west end of Alexandria City.  I cannot tell you the number of times I have been asked for a recommendation of a high quality sit-down restaurant here in the west end of the city – and I have had to tell people many times that there are none – and that you either have to drive to Old Town Alexandria, Arlington County, Fairfax County, or Washington, DC.  I feel terrible that I have to tell someone that – but the truth hurts sometimes.  Am I disappointed that small-scale, one-bedroom type apartments are those that are being focused on by the developer?  Yes – because that encourages single people to live there without ties to the city – a transient sort of folk that might not care as much about the community as someone who is a homeowner.  Do I think that these people will have disposable income to spend?  Heck, yes – and that might bring in more development for future phases of this mixed-use development.

The developer mentioned that he was fond of keeping the name “Landmark” somewhere in the title of the new facility (in fact, he wanted to call it “Landmark Village.”).  I cannot tell you enough what a bad idea this is – it is horrific.  In fact, it is so horrific, I am planning a future blog post where I imbed the Tweets of Twitter users when I asked them what they would think of having Landmark even associated with the name of the new development. We need to abolish any memory of Landmark Mall.  It is a terrible, horrible place – and that includes the name of the mall.  You see, Landmark brings up thoughts of the infamous prostitution sting in the west end of the city.  Or the number of police calls that originate from Landmark Mall – here’s an example where you find it at #1 for a certain month – and there were/are several months where this “famous destination” (yes, that was sarcasm – that’s why it is in quotes) was #1.  As Satirical Alexandria says, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this mall!!”    And I would add, “NOW!!”

The next step for the Landmark Mall Redevelopment is a Planning Commission Public Hearing on June 4, 2013.  I would argue that the attainment of this development – that is to say, making sure that this happens, is important to the future electoral success of Mayor Bill Euille, Vice-Mayor (and City Council Representative) Allison Silberberg, John Chapman (a rising star - someone who I think has a good future), Timothy Lovain, Redella S. “Del” Pepper (who lives in my building and still can’t remember my name after a decade), Paul Smedberg, and Justin Wilson (who also has a great future - could be our next mayor).  West Alexandria has been losing out on too many tax dollars for far too many years and needs this development.  It is highly advisable that the mayor and the city council find a way to work with the developer – and make this happen.  Without this development, I think that you will find many people leave the west end of Alexandria for other parts of the city – or other parts of the Washington, DC metropolitan area – it’s that important.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!!!  And God Bless those soliders that have given their lives in service to our country - everywhere!!

George Allen is a hypocrite on national security issues

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George Allen has a series of radio ads on WTOP FM radio (the news talk rdio channel n the Washington, DC area) where he is criticizing the Obama Administration for defense cuts - saying that needs of soldiders should not be used as a ploy to raise taxes.

The problem with George Allen's argument, however, is that he is a hypcrite on national security issues.  You see, George Allen voted against giving our adequate body armor for their service in Iraq.

And that's all you need to know about George Allen's record on national security - who would try to send soldiers to Iraq with body armor made on the cheap?

 

 

 

Professor Boyer and World Regions class at Virginia Tech request President Barack Obama to...

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 How can the President say no to this? :)

 

 

Ohio GOP Goal Is to Set African Americans Back to Pre-Civil Rights Days

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The Columbus Dispatch had a very telling story about the restoration of in-person voting hours on weekends and later in evenings (I know this is a Virginia-based blog, but I thought this issue was important enough that it was important to report on).  This issue is obviously important because the majority of Ohio's minority voters work during the hours of 8 am to 5 PM.

If you're in a minority in Ohio (and America), you value your right to vote.  Many individuals are still old enough to remember the days when they had to fight for their civil rights (the major one being that right to vote!!).  

One of Deidre Reese’s most precious childhood memories is going to the polls with her family.

“It was a hard-fought-for right,” she says. “There was a time that we certainly could not do that.”

That’s one reason why Reese and many other African-American leaders across Ohio remain at the forefront of an uphill struggle to restore early in-person voting hours on weekends and later on weekday evenings. They plan to march to Monday’s special meeting of the Franklin County Board of Elections and ask for the additional hours.

That, however, is not the philosophy of the GOP in Ohio.

“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine,” said Doug Preisse, chairman of the county Republican Party and elections board member who voted against weekend hours, in an email to The Dispatch. “Let’s be fair and reasonable.”

He called claims of unfairness by Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern and others “bullshit. Quote me!”

 

What's even more interesting is that Speaker John Boehner isn't even trying to hide that he hopes blacks and Latinos won't show up this election.

SMDH.

This is why we need to elect President Barack Obama to a second term.  Sadly in 2012, we still have several people in this country that simply do not have a voice (one of their few voices is their vote - and the Ohio GOP is trying to take that away).  President Obama will stick up for those people when no one else will.

 

Bob McDonnell – Reaching a New Lower Level of Incompetence

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Every time I think Bob McDonnel can't hit new level of incompetence, he proves me wrong.

The Virginia School for the Blind and Deaf has a major shortage in of computers for its teachers and students... we're talking, oh, 50 computers for a total of 400 students and teachers.

Really, Bob McDonnell?  Do you think this is NCAA Football 2012 where the kids just play games in the classroom all day long?

The national AP wire also picked up this story.  This a major embarrassment.  The Virginia Governor and its government should be ashamed that it is treating its bind and deaf students in such a shoddy manner.  What happed to the Golden Rule?

We have to be the laughingstock of the country for this whacky kind of ish... how ridiculous is this?

The level of incompetence is astounding here and we need to see some state hearings on this issue.  I shake my head in disbelief.

Andrew Cuomo for President in 2016

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Andrew Cuomo just made himself a top-tier candidate for President of the United States of America in 2016. (h/t lowell for the link here)

Cuomo is left of center on many social issues (as you can see from above article), but has a reputation for being tough on crime during his tenure as the Attorney General of New York

Cuomo is a Clintonite on budgetary/fiscal issues, so the Hokie Guru sees some of the Democratic Leadership Council style in him... Cuomo understands that budget deficits harm the economy, but at the same time, would be balanced in in his approach (e.g. to fix the problem. he'd ensure that any solution would have a mix of tax increases and spending cuts).

I would be interested to see his positions on foreign policy and defense... I think his story is still in the making, but watch for Andrew Cuomo to make news in 2016...oh yeah, the dude will be able to tap some major fundrasing networks, too...

 

11:28 AM update - Looks like The Fix and I are on the same page lol.

Will a Government Shutdown Happen? I Pray Not.

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Hola!!  It's been a few weeks since the Hokie Guru has blogged here on Blue Virginia... I'm back for a little while... the Guru's been busy with all things named Georgetown Public Policy Institute (Master of Policy Management - Inspectors General Program).  But I'm back today to talk about a potential government shutdown (which is the nervous time for all federal employees... and realize that the Guru's opinions are his own and he's not speaking for the government)

Potential Government Shutdown



Want to know about the impact of a government shutdown?  Here is some required reading from the Congressional Research Service.  The report addressed some of the causes and effects of a government shutdown.  Several important funding streams, such as social security, veteran's benefits, and education funding, can be stopped (or at best, delayed substantially) during a shutdown.  Passport and visa applications go unprocessed, national parks are closed, and the federal hiring process (that many say is already broken) grinds to a halt. Ed O'Keefe from the Washington Post has a great article on the impact of a government shutdown in the Washington, DC/Maryland/Virginia (DMV) area.  



Federal employees (and many contractors) are not paid during the shutdown, but will most likely get back pay upon return to work.  You are not permitted to work during the shutdown and if you do, you will be fined (agencies cannot accept volunteer work). I was employed during the last shutdown (which should tell you how long I've been in government... smh, it's going to be 16 years in May 2011) and I really thought that no political party wanted to go there again.  However, partisan tensions are among the worst I've seen in Washington in several years.



How do you prepare for a government shutdown (knowing you might not get paid for a while)?  This is a good time to stop eating at restaurants, limit the use of your credit cards, institute that savings account, maybe not go on that big vacation you planned, don't make any big purchases, etc.  Realize I'm tell you to stop spending... and I shouldn't be doing that because consumer spending drives the economy, but in uncertain times, maybe one can hold off on some of the unnecessary purchases.  I have to think that cooler heads will prevail because a government shutdown would indeed have a debilitating impact on the economy. Pray for cooler heads.

Bob “Michele Bachmann” Marshall?

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Dude, are you serious?  It seems we have our own version of Michele Bachmann, only at the state level in Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall (if you don't know who Michele Bachmann is, well, she's the interesting Congressional representative from Minnesota's 6th district... you can see her Youtube video below):

Bob Marshall has the desire for the State of Virginia to coin it's own money.  Cletus has more on that here. Bob, dude, are you serious? Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution gives that sole authority to the Federal Government.

Governor Bob McDonnell agrees and will not back Marshall's currency bill.  I'm sure that the Governor thought the currency bill would make it more difficult to "trade with other states." SMH, LOL!!!

Progressives might not like what I have to say on this tax cut issue,...

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And thanks for finally following me on Twitter, Lowell.  What took you so long? lol.

I see the poll there to the left... should the Bush Tax Cuts be extended?  Of course, they shouldn't.  We should not be adding to our national debt to finance our tax cuts.  That is wrong on two counts:  1.) We strap future generations to pay for our fiscal irresponsibility and 2.) Quite frankly, it's bad for our national security (we shouldn't be borrowing money from our adversaries e.g. China to pay for our tax cuts).

Some say that the Democratic party should have taken care of this tax cut issue before the 2010 midterm elections. I disagree with that.  The party was already going to lose a massive number of seats and dealing with tax cuts would have been even more divisive (Democrats might have lost even more seats and would have had less power than we have now).

With all my heart, I don't want those tax cuts to be renewed all all.  As I said, it's not fair to have future generations pay our our fiscal irresponsibility.  Democrats were known in the 1990's as the party of fiscal responsibility. Borrowing money to finance these tax cuts throws that reputation out the window.  Further, I'm a strong believer in a progressive tax code.

But let's be serious for a moment.  In this political climate (we don't have the power we had in 2006 and 2008), an extension of the Bush tax cuts for two years as probably as good a deal as Obama will get (I agree with Bill Clinton on that).  In exchange, Democrats will get the extension of unemployment benefits that we requested.   Bill Clinton moved to the center in his second term and Obama is just doing it a little earlier (and for the record, no I don't think it's centrist to temporarily review all the Bush tax cuts... this might be right of center).

Tax cuts are not the only fiscal issues that this country has to deal with.  The explosive growth of Social Security and Medicare will crowd out any discretionary spending if action is not taken (that's an issue for another diary).  But, if you can get half of a loaf in this political climate, you have to accept it (I hate that I'm saying this).  Obama scored a big victory with Clinton's endorsement of the deal.  It's the best deal we can get and I think we need to be pragmatic about it.  

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