Beauregard Group Picks Polk Avenue Site for Open Space

Final decision is in the hands of the Alexandria City Council.

The Beauregard Rezoning Advisory Group unanimously chose a 2.4-acre, heavily wooded site at the intersection of Polk Avenue and North Pelham Street to preserve as open space during a meeting Monday night in West End Alexandria.

The Department of Defense has given the city $1.5 million in compensation to establish an open space in the Beauregard corridor as part of the BRAC negotiations. The advisory’s group’s decision comes as a recommendation only, and Alexandria City Council must approve the final site location.

The advisory group, which met with about 20 local residents at the Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center on Sanger Avenue, also evaluated two additional options. The first, a .48-acre lot with an existing home at Seminary Road and Echols Avenue, was rejected with one abstention due to noise, traffic and location concerns.

Another option, a .85-acre parking lot with existing structures on Eliot Court, is now the advisory’s group’s second-place recommendation.

The Polk Avenue location had received the highest rating from the advisory group in an earlier survey. Advisory group member Mike Caison, however, cautioned that the Polk Avenue site had the potential to become a private neighborhood park rather than a open space used by a broader range of local residents.

Advisory group member Don Buch, though opting for the Polk Avenue location, said he believed, at about $1.5 million, the site might be too expensive and was frustrated by what he saw as a lack of purpose in the group’s selection process.

The current owner of the Polk Avenue site is willing to sell to the city, said advisory group member Cathy Puskar. It possesses an extensive tree canopy and could be used as passive space.

Kathy Burns, a member of the Brookville-Seminary Valley Civic Association, told the board she believed the Polk Avenue site would appeal to a diverse group of people in search of passive space in the city. “This is the only one that would really meet the definition of an open space,” Burns said.

Local resident B.J. Sullivan, also a member of the Brookville-Seminary Valley Civic Association, told the board she liked the idea of a nature preserve.

“Trees to me are very, very important,” she said. “... Please consider it as a green, open, quiet spot where we can just go sit and listen to the birds. It’s lovely.”

The open space does not have to be within the boundaries of the Beauregard Small Area Plan, but can be anywhere in the West End. The advisory group is currently recommending only site acquisition, not the site’s use, which will be determined at future meetings with additional community input.

Alexandria City Council adopted a resolution establishing the Beauregard Rezoning Advisory Group in June. Council approved the Beauregard Small Area Plan in May.

The plan calls for redevelopment along Beauregard Street neat Seminary Road and the Winkler Botanical Preserve, resulting in a mixed-use community with a town center, parks, a new fire station, transportation improvements, athletic fields, a modern grocery store, restaurants, shops and services.

The plan also calls for developers to demolish about 2,500 apartments in the area to make way for more expensive units. The city negotiated with developers for the plan to include the dedication of at least 800 units of committed affordable and workforce housing.

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