Alexandria leaders push for new approach to market local businesses

Alexandria, Virginia, is widely recognized as a vibrant place filled with restaurants and tourist-friendly activities, but local business leaders say they want to do more to market local companies and give business owners a boost by forming a “business improvement service district” in the Old Town area.

Businesses within the district’s designated boundaries would be taxed, and the money generated from the tax would be used to host events and promote the businesses.

The effort is being led by the advocacy group “Old Town Business.”

“Alexandria is a wonderful place to work, live and play but it could be so much more than it already is,” said Amy Rutherford, a member of the Old Town Business board of directors.

Rutherford owns two businesses that would be within the district’s boundaries, including Red Barn Mercantile and Penny Post.

“A lot of people know about Old Town but they don’t know the details about Old Town and what types of businesses are there,” said Rutherford. “Those are the things we want people to learn and we think it’s important.”

The district’s boundaries would essentially be along King Street and the waterfront. Commercial properties within the boundaries would be hit with a new tax of 10-cents per $100 of assessed value.

In order to move forward with the plan, Old Town Business needs to get petition signatures from 60% of the affected property owners.

So far, Rutherford said they are about one-third of the way there.

“We’re now doing the heavy lifting of going door-to-door, phone call-to-phone call and email-to-email,” Rutherford said.

The group is hosting public forums throughout the day Wednesday in-person at Lorien Hotel & Spa along King Street in Alexandria from 8:30 a.m – 9:30 a.m., 12:00 p.m. -1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

A virtual forum is also scheduled for Wednesday on Zoom from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

“The public forums are a way for us to present what we’ve put together, get feedback from the community and answer questions,” Rutherford said.

If the group does ultimately get enough signatures, the plan would then need to be considered and approved by the Alexandria City Council.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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