The long-awaited redevelopment of ugly, toxic abandoned coal-fired power plant in a prime spot on the Potomac River is at hand

On November 16, 2020, Illinois-based Hilco Redevelopment Partners (HRP), a unit of Hilco Global, announced the purchase of the approximately 20-acre Potomac River Generating Station (PRGS) site in Alexandria, Virginia.

In one of the prettiest historic cities in America, the removal of this toxic monstrosity on prime riverfront property has been a long-held dream of many. Photo by Storm Cunningham.

This is a project that I (Storm Cunningham) have been looking forward to for many years.

During my 6-year stint as Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI)—when I was writing my first book, The Restoration Economy—our offices were in Canal Center on the Potomac River, right next to this old coal-fired plant.

After I left CSI in 2002 (when The Restoration Economy was published), I maintained an office at Canal Center. It was then that I joined with legendary Virginia Congressman Jim Moran (an early reader of The Restoration Economy) in protesting the plant.

Besides fouling the air with toxic coal emissions, the plant killed millions of river creatures during its life, which started in 1932. I walked the river trail daily in those days, and was constantly confronted with the boiled bodies of fish and other aquatic life that had passed through the plant’s cooling system.

The power plant’s 24/7 “fish cooker”.
Photo by Storm Cunningham.

Add in the regular disruption of traffic on the George Washington Memorial Parkway by coal trains from West Virginia, and you can see that this was a facility that few—other than its employees and investors—would miss.

This hideous facility has been blighting Old Town Alexandria’s waterfront for far too long.

Finally, the site is going to be repurposed, renewed and reconnected (the reliable 3Re Strategy for revitalization) to the community.

Justin M. Wilson, Mayor of Alexandria said, “The redevelopment of this site is a long time coming, and I expect that Hilco Redevelopment Partners will pursue an environmentally sustainable, economically vibrant mixed-used development that provides housing and neighborhood amenities in Old Town North. I look forward to working with Hilco Redevelopment Partners to propose a bright new future for the property and Alexandria that will be consistent with our Old Town North Small Area Plan.

A coal train feeds the beast with the remnants of what used to be a beautiful West Virginia mountain. Photo by Storm Cunningham.

In an agreement negotiated with Potomac Electric Power Company (Pepco), Hilco Redevelopment Partners has acquired the Potomac River Generating Station site, including the fee simple interest and leasehold interest which was previously under a long-term ground lease. Pepco will retain a property interest on a portion of the site where it will continue to own and operate an electrical substation.

Located in the Old Town North neighborhood of Alexandria, along the Mt. Vernon Trail and Potomac River, PRGS was decommissioned in 2012 and remains one of the largest industrial sites in the City of Alexandria. In 2017, the Alexandria City Council approved the Old Town North Small Area Plan, which includes the PRGS site and further expressed the City’s commitment to creating sustainable and livable communities.

Roberto Perez, Chief Executive Officer of Hilco Redevelopment Partners, said “We’re excited for the opportunity to redevelop the old Potomac River Generating Station site. Hilco Redevelopment Partners is committed to remediating this extraordinary site to the most current environmental standards and transforming it into a new and exciting development that will best serve the community and create economic growth and opportunity for all stakeholders. We approach every redevelopment opportunity in a way that is sustainable for the environment, sustainable for the community, and sustainable for jobs. Alexandria will be no exception.

HRP expects to work closely with the City of Alexandria, community members, and other stakeholders in the coming months to collectively reimagine the former industrial site into a thoughtful mixed-use development that benefits the community and becomes a source of pride for the City.

Melissa Schrock, Senior Vice President, Mixed Use Development at Hilco Redevelopment Partners, said “We are thrilled to have the chance to re-envision this former industrial site in a manner that is consistent with the Old Town North Small Area Plan and provides for new uses such as housing, commercial office, dining and retail, and public open space along the Potomac River and we look forward to working with local officials and stakeholders on the vision.

The blue star marks the power plant.

Hilco Redevelopment Partners is in the business of property transformation. Hilco Redevelopment Partners focuses on maximizing the value of obsolete industrial real estate through responsible long-term redevelopment and transformation. They say they are committed to remediating each site to the most current environmental standards by partnering with local communities to create economic regeneration and opportunities for all stakeholders.

Hilco Global Founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Hecktman said, “Every opportunity to transform sites like these into new spaces that better serve the community is exciting for our firm. Given its location in historic Old Town Alexandria and within sight of the Washington Monument and our nation’s Capital, this one is special. We’re excited to begin the redevelopment process and work as a partner and good neighbor to the citizens of Alexandria.

HRD creates value by remediating and redeveloping obsolete real estate and transforming it into logistics facilities, fulfillment centers, and mixed-use developments located near major transportation hubs, ports, and strategic infrastructure assets to revitalize the local economy. Their projects tend to be located in markets with strong labor pools near major population centers for both large scale industrial redevelopment and mixed-use projects.

Unless otherwise credited, all images are courtesy of Hilco.

See Hilco Redevelopment Partners website.

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