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Echo Press Editorial: Downtown ideas reflect Alexandria's welcoming feel

A city’s downtown area defines its personality.

A cluttered downtown gives off a vibe of disorganization. A downtown devoid of any scenery comes across as cold and unfeeling.

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But a downtown containing an attractive, well-planned mix of trees, plants, benches and pedestrian and bicycle friendly amenities can convey a welcoming feel, one that will make visitors impressed enough to visit again and again.

Alexandria leaders are committed to that more welcoming approach. City council members, the mayor and key city staff people have been working on design ideas for Broadway for many months. They’ve looked at what’s worked, and what hasn’t worked in other small towns and are coming up with ideas that will define Alexandria for years to come.

The Echo Press printed a story last Friday that gives residents an idea of how the downtown is shaping up to look. Some of the amenities that are being considered include trees, planters, flowers and the irrigation system to keep them looking good; bollards – short posts that would be used to define pedestrian areas; pavers and colored concrete to give downtown its own distinctive look; and other touches such as bike racks, trash receptacles and benches.

It’s clear that not everyone will like every idea. Some won’t like the trees or the plants, saying they’re an unnecessary expense. Some will say bike racks aren’t needed because bicycles shouldn’t be downtown at all (city ordinance currently prohibits bicycling on Broadway but people can walk their bikes). Some won’t like how the street lights will look. Some will say colored sidewalks or pavers are too extravagant. That’s to be expected. There is no magic downtown amenities “blueprint” that will satisfy everyone.

Residents, however, can be assured that city leaders aren’t making these decisions lightly. They’ve had lengthy discussions over the endless details of the design, mulling over questions such as should the edges of the sidewalks be colored, should the bollards be lighted or unlighted, is a metal railing around a parking lot worth an extra $10,000 expense (the council ultimately decided it wasn’t).

We’re glad to see city leaders are doing a thorough, careful job in weighing options and moving ahead with design ideas that promise to add to Alexandria’s “personality” as a friendly, welcoming, beautiful and unique destination – not just another desolate stop on the highway.