ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A big change could be around the corner for a popular section of Old Town Alexandria this Spring.
Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson and Alexandria City Councilman John Chapman have proposed temporarily closing King Street, between Lee and Union streets, to vehicular traffic on weekends.
The 100 block of King Street is a popular regional destination for shopping and dining on Saturdays and Sundays.
Wilson said the proposal, which would be a pilot program, gives city leaders a way to look at re-purposing the street for both pedestrians and vehicles.
"This is something that's going to benefit the businesses [on the block]," he said. "Part of this proposal is expanding outdoor dining and allowing the restaurants to extend farther into the street."
Wilson added the program could allow for different types of recreational activities and events programming to take place on King Street as well.
Kristie Miglin serves as a manager of Lucky Knot, a high-end fashion boutique on the corner of King and Union streets in Old Town Alexandria. She said she is happy to see the proposal has the potential to free up space on King street’s routinely crowded sidewalks.
"People who are sitting outside eating, they want to enjoy their meal," Miglin said. "People who want to leisurely walk, they don't want to feel rushed or in the way."
However, she said she is curious about the implications the plan will have on local traffic. Miglin said the intersection at King and Union streets has many close calls between pedestrians and cars.
She said she is hopeful the pilot program will not move that congestion to another part of Old Town.
"This has the potential to push it a block or two [up King Street]," she said.
Wilson says the Alexandria City Council will vote on whether to approve the pilot pedestrian-only program sometime in the next several weeks. If approved, the measure would go into effect between April and October.
After that period, the city would examine the pilot program’s impact on businesses and traffic.
"At the end of the pilot, a report will be provided to City Council with recommendations for a path forward," Hillary Orr, Alexandria’s deputy director of transportation, said in a recent memorandum.
While vehicular traffic would be banned from the 100 block of King Street on weekends, the plan would also remove parking on the street throughout the rest of the week to provide more space for outdoor dining.
Orr said her staff developed a draft design of the pilot program with the help of the business community and prior input from Alexandria city councilmembers.
This is not the first time Alexandria has experimented with a pedestrian-only space on King Street. Wilson said the city briefly implemented a similar program along the street in Old Town thirteen years ago as well.