On June 6, the Giant Food stores located on Beauregard Street and at Bradlee Shopping Center closed. A little less than six months prior, ditto for the Magruders in Seminary Plaza, when the local chain went out of business. And there was nary a word of lamentation in the local press.
These were businesses that, for the most part, served other than upscale communities within the larger city, within walking distance for their clientele, characterized by the relative longevity of their presence and the relationships between staff and shoppers. In the words of the theme song to that iconic 1980s sitcom, “where everybody knows your name” — or at least your face. Now they’re gone ... and the jobs and small town feel are as well. For their loyal patrons, grocery shopping necessitates a drive.
Alexandria touts itself as being close knit and proud of it, environmentally conscious, yet what you find week after week in its newspapers is the extolling of “gentrification” — the destruction of established residential neighborhoods, a pushing out of the middle class and the economic and cultural diversity that made the city what it is today. And the raising of taxes — on the current residents — to pay for it.
If Alexandria is looking to spur economic growth, it would be far more sensible long term to exploit and emphasize its intrinsic and basic advantages, such as affordable housing close to Washington, D.C., deep historic ties, and bucolic beauty, instead of courting a homogenized “creative class” by spending taxpayer money to attract only that element of society. There have been failures in that endeavor — Detroit, Cleveland, Toledo, Hartford, Rochester — to name but a few. “New” and “improved” doesn’t necessarily mean “better.” Instead, the city might want to follow the lead of Christine Quinn, who in her run for mayor of New York City is proposing 40,000 new units of affordable housing ... before Alexandria becomes more akin to India, champion of the caste (off) system, out of step with the times with respect to the immigration issue.
Karen Ann DeLuca, Alexandria