Potomac Yard becomes focal point in Alexandria mayoral primary

With no Republican candidate, the primary winner will be the foregone winner

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The mayoral race for the city of Alexandria is heating up with the Virginia Democratic primary one week away.

Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson is not seeking a third term, but three candidates are on Tuesday's primary ballot. The primary winner will be the foregone winner because there isn't a Republican candidate running.

Alexandria was the center of attention this past winter as the Washington Capitals and Wizards weighed moving from the District to the Potomac Yard neighborhood.

The deal ultimately died, but the future of that plot of land is one of the hottest issues in this year's Democratic primary race for mayor between Council member and top fundraiser Alyia Gaskins, Vice Mayor Amy Jackson, and former real estate developer Steven Peterson.

"I am running on a nonpolitical base. I am not a political guru but I want to make sure that citizens have a voice," Peterson said.

In a recent debate moderated by News4 Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey, the Potomac Yard site was a focal point, as were candidates’ previous positions on the arena deal.

Both Gaskins and Jackson were on board to start but eventually opposed the deal.

"I stayed at the table because I wanted to fight and get answers for each of you,” Gaskins said. “I believe that it was the least they could do to make sure that Richmond was responding to our questions."

"The numbers just weren't adding up, not for our city, not for our commonwealth, and it was too great a risk to take," Jackson said.

But many people believe this plot of land is still the city's key to growing the commercial tax base and easing the city's heavy reliance on residential real estate tax revenue.

“We need smart, responsible development,” Peterson said. “The arena wasn't that, but it's gonna become a great place."

"Thank goodness Continues Arcade is coming in the fall,” Jackson said. “Things like that, that generate money but also provide entertainment for our youth."

Gaskins said it's not just about catching the big fish.

"It is also about our small businesses, and we need an intentional strategy where we look at our permitting, we look at our practices, we look at how we can streamline and be more efficient to keep our businesses open and keep them staying open," she said.

The Democratic primary election is next Tuesday and early in-person voting wraps up this Saturday.

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