Visualize an abandoned downtown gas station, the lot overgrown with weeds, the roof collapsing and the property in general disrepair.
Now imagine an indoor skate park, filled with kids flying around on skateboards, having good, clean fun.
Alexandria businessman Brian Knopp wants to turn the first scenario into the latter, and a government reclamation project might be able to help.
In February, Alexandria received $26,000, the first tax draw from a tax-increment financing (TIF) district created by the Alexandria Redevelopment Commission. The next tax draw will come in June. The funds will be used for infrastructure improvements, including the rehabilitation or destruction of abandoned properties.
Brian Donahue, president of the Redevelopment Commission, estimates at least 100 abandoned properties plague Alexandria. That’s a lot for a city of just 5,000 people. So it’s good that local officials are seeking new ways to address the problem.
Abandoned properties are found in most communities, regardless of size. Not only are they dangerous, but they also harm a municipality’s reputation and drive down property values. Nothing stains a city’s image quite like deteriorating buildings and crumbling infrastructure.
The city of Alexandria secured 20 property certificates in February and earmarked those for development or demolition. If those can be addressed yet this year, that would take about a 20 percent bite out of the abandoned property problem in the city.
Maybe Knopp can get his skate park up and running to serve youth. Maybe a handful of other businesses will find suitable properties at a good price.
Alexandria has a long road ahead to rid itself of eyesores, but the city is moving in the right direction.