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Will Alexandria Offer Public Land For Private Gain?

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The St. James Group wants to construct this sports complex on land owned by the city of Alexandria.
St. James Group
The St. James Group wants to construct this sports complex on land owned by the city of Alexandria.

In Virginia, city leaders in Alexandria are considering a proposal to lease public land for private gain.

Hensley Field is currently one of the city's most used public spaces, a stretch of land in the Eisenhower Valley that has two baseball diamonds and a multi-purpose field. That could change if a developer known as the St. James Group gets its way.

Last month, the developer submitted an unsolicited proposal to construct a massive facility on the publicly owned land, one that would include everything from an aquatics center and ice rinks to basketball and squash courts. Not everyone is a fan of the idea, though.

"They will be charging an admission fee to use a building that was built on public land," says Rosemont resident Katy Cannady.

If city leaders decide to accept the proposal, the government would get tax revenue from the building as well as income from retail items and food sold at the facility, along with money from whatever lease agreement is worked out for the fifteen-acre site.

The developer has already conducted one community meeting to sell the public on the idea of the complex. Councilman Justin Wilson says elected officials have already started hearing from constituents in favor of the proposal.

"Most of the emails right now are people who are affiliated with youth or adult sports organizations and are excited about the possibility of having additional ice skating rinks or additional soccer fields," he says.

City leaders will decide whether or not they want to open up the process to competitive bids this October.

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