Alexandria closes block permanently for pedestrian use

Since the pandemic began, visitors to Alexandria’s Old Town have been able to grab a drink or shop outdoors without watching for traffic through the Northern Virginia city’s “streetery” program. Now, one block will be closed-off for good.

A stretch of King Street between Lee and Union streets will remain off-limits to vehicle traffic and open only to pedestrians, after the city council voted Saturday to close it permanently.

The “streetery” would have expired in April 2022, but the city conducted a survey and found that an overwhelming 92% of residents approved of the permanent street closure.

“We support outdoor dining in on-street parking spaces and retail sales, on sidewalks and in own on-street parking spaces,” said Charlotte Hall with the Old Town Business Association. “It’s an incredible opportunity for the customers who are not comfortable inside for enclosed walls.”

Restaurants will now continue to be able to use parking spaces for additional outdoor seating, and shops will be able to use sidewalks in front of their store for retail space.

“In the past, our organization has often protested the use of on-street parking spaces for anything other than on-street parking, and I’m happy to report that is not our position today,” said Steve Malone, president of the Old Town Civic Association.

Malone said that the “streetery” program was likely responsible for saving many of the historic neighborhood’s businesses.

The city will now focus on the design element of the public promenade, with plans to consult with businesses owners.

“The city does have a degree of funding from the American Rescue Plan to devote towards some of these medium-term improvements,” said Alex Block, a city principal planner, during a planning commission meeting.

“The areas we’ve identified to focus that spending on would be improving the barricades at either end of the closure as well as improving the street seating areas. There are also some elements of signage that we would be interested in.”

Councilmembers have expressed interest in new barriers that would open to emergency vehicles when needed while simultaneously blocking cars from accidentally hitting pedestrians.

A timeline for the improvements has not been established, and a cost for the project is not yet clear.

A map of the area is below.

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