Potomac Yard was supposed to be a sports fan’s paradise. Now a rental car company wants to put up a parking lot

In the weeks since plans to bring the Wizards and Capitals to a new entertainment district in Alexandria’s Potomac Yard neighborhood fell apart, a rental car company has made an offer to turn the Northern Virginia property into a parking lot.

Such proposals, Councilman Canek Aguirre said, are frustrating because the city has worked to add public transportation, including a new Metro station, nearby.

“This is what people don’t understand – we’re trying to really create a place that people want to go,” Aguirre said. “This is a perfect example of what we’ve been getting — offers to build a parking lot. And I absolutely refuse to do that.”

Two weeks ago, Monumental Sports and Entertainment CEO Ted Leonsis stood next to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to announce that each side have reached an agreement to keep the sports franchises in the city. That put an end to Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s monthslong attempt to lure the teams to Alexandria.

Those talks ultimately fell apart when the proposal was left out of the state’s budget process. Youngkin blamed partisan politics for the deal’s demise.

Aguirre said he was abroad at the time of D.C.’s announcement, and was disappointed to learn the plan fell through.

“We (have to) roll our sleeves up and figure something else out because we understand and realize the situation we are in financially,” Aguirre said. “We need to diversify our tax base, especially on the commercial side. A huge burden falls on our residents in terms of the residential taxes that they have to pay.”

Even before the arena deal was a possibility, Aguirre said lawmakers have been hoping to transform Potomac Yard into a “high-density, high-activity center.” The city put the transportation infrastructure in place, and was able to support a project to bring Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus to the neighborhood.

Lawmakers envisioned the space would have office buildings and activity centers, but “because of the pandemic, everything’s changed,” Aguirre said.

“We’ve been wanting to see things come into the Potomac Yard area, but we haven’t had any takers,” Aguirre said. “That’s been the difficulty, and what some of the impetus to go after this potential arena proposal was around.”

Aguirre rejected the concept of using the land for parking. A nearby shopping center, anchored by Target, has 20 years remaining on its lease. Now, the city is going back to the drawing board for how to use the remaining acres.

It’s disappointing, Aguirre said, “that we weren’t allowed to have this conversation at a local level, and really try to see if we could put (together an arena deal) that would work for our community.”

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Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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