Walking down King Street these days one is struck by the number of signs and stickers in windows denouncing hate – I touched on this in a previous blog on tolerance. One is also struck by the number of signs in the windows of small businesses expressing disapproval of a proposed Business Improvement District (BID). The intent of the BID would be to organise Old Town’s businesses and property owners to improve services, create special events, and determine how best to attract customers and new businesses.
In theory, a BID doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Washington DC has 10 BIDs and Arlington has six. The problem is that the BID would operate with fees collected from businesses and commercial property owners. The bigger businesses would likely have more clout than the smaller ones. Further, every commercial and residential property owner in Old Town feels taxed out already. People are tired of being told that development will decrease taxes only to see them increase. The cost of doing business in Old Town is already prohibitive. I have only lived in Old Town since 2014 but have seen many small businesses close in my time here. They are often replaced by chains which make Old Town less distinctive and more like the National Harbor or any other location.
Some restaurants, such as Carluccio’s, have closed. The good news is that several very good non-chain restaurants have opened. A friend and I really enjoyed Nasime – a Japanese restaurant on King Street. Nasime is a small, intimate restaurant that emphasizes the non-sushi side of Japanese cuisine. Washington DC’s dining soon has grown dramatically over the past several years while Old Town has not kept place. However, Nasime is exactly the kind of restaurant I could bring my foodie friends from Washington DC too. Make a reservation in advance and let them know if you have dietary restrictions. Vegetarian? No problem. Gluten restrictions? Problem.
I was also very happy with Sunday in Saigon which opened where Teaism used to be. It does have pho and papaya salad, but much more including a variety of salads that I don’t typically see in other Vietnamese restaurants. While I do like Old Town’s other Vietnamese restaurant, Caphe Banh Mi, Saigon Saturday is spacious and has a more extensive menu. Take a look at this list of newer restaurants that have opened in Alexandria as of late.
The Waterfront continues to change. The Indigo Hotel is open for business, which is positive. The long empty Robinson warehouses by Oronoco Park are still there and remain eye sores as does the vacant Old Town Theatre on King Street. A positive development is that the city is making better use of the Carlyle District – which can be more than just work and lunches. A Carlyle Vitality Initiative was launched with a free outdoor fitness activities, cinema, and special events. Del Ray wrapped up its “Well Ray” Health and Wellness Fair on June 24th.
Have thoughts on where Old Town is headed? Please share them at @bryan_schaaf