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Au Revoir, King Street's Used Car Dealerships

Alexandria's Planning Commission says dealerships are no longer a desired use for King Street in Old Town.

Kings Auto is located at 1310 King Street in Old Town Alexandria. (Photo credit: Drew Hansen)
Kings Auto is located at 1310 King Street in Old Town Alexandria. (Photo credit: Drew Hansen)

Alexandria’s Planning Commission took steps last week to send two used car dealerships along the city’s primary restaurant and retail strip to the road.  

The commission deferred consideration for two months on requests from A & B Auto Finance Co. and Kings Auto Inc. to extend permits to operate their businesses in the 1300 block of King Street, essentially giving the dealers a little extra time to find new locations.

In an effort to improve and enhance the city’s main drag, Alexandria City Council in 2006 adopted a King Street retail strategy that made the dealerships non-conforming uses. A seven-year abatement period expired in November 2013, and the dealerships hadn’t found new locations. 

“This is the center of this wonderful city of ours, so we’re trying to improve it,” said Chair John Komoroske, who recently announced he will step off the commission following February’s meeting. “We’re not trying to hurt these businesses. We just don’t feel this is the right place for them.”

Komoroske said the city’s efforts to improve King Street have been successful. In 2011, the American Planning Association named King Street one of the country’s top streets—“not necessarily because of these car dealerships or the wig shops,” Komoroske added.

The owners of both dealerships asked for more time—as much as six months—to continue to operate their businesses along King Street. Commissioners said the dealers had been given ample notice and time to find new locations, but offered the deferral as a minor extension. They also made it clear that the permits would not be extended in two months.

“I think we’re trying to be generous and understanding,” Komoroske said. “It’s difficult to relocate. We’re giving you an extra two months to do that. But I think there’s been plenty of warning over a long period of time that this had to be done. I take this step reluctantly but I feel we have to.”

The dealership owners said they have spent time looking for new locations in the city but that the task had proven difficult. City staff said the owners had been put in touch with the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership to assist in relocation efforts.

“There’s a place for this in the city, but there’s not a place for it in this corridor at this time,” Commissioner Nathan Macek said.

A & B Auto Finance occupies a 3,800-square-foot lot at 1318 King Street, while Kings Auto sits on a large, 7,100-square-foot lot at 1310 King Street. The business owners are not the owners of the respective properties. 

Andrea Grenadier January 14, 2014 at 08:30 AM
This is really sad. I live right across the street from the used car lot, and they are good neighbors -- unlike some mixed-use monstrosity that will probably be approved for that space, designed (no less) by one of Alexandria's least-distinguished architects, i..e, just another brick box. I understand the need to improve the King Street corridor, but it often happens at the expense of a good business that also helps to humanize our living space.
cathy January 14, 2014 at 08:43 AM
oh no these dealerships have been there since the sixty and seventies maybe even before they are part of king street there has been dealerships on king st for the past fifty years is and was the main reason on the weekends to go to town to look at the cars and all the shops from commonwealth ave to the river is always and interesting stroll leave them there and try doing a beatification to the lots add color dont take away
beautywest1 January 14, 2014 at 09:14 AM
I Support Small Business
Andrea Grenadier January 14, 2014 at 09:53 AM
Alexandria used to support small business, too!
Scooby's Doo January 14, 2014 at 12:41 PM
Save the car dealerships! And maybe some payday lenders and car title loan places would help "humanize" and "add color" to the living space on King too.
Andrea Grenadier January 14, 2014 at 12:52 PM
Why not? If they're legitimate businesses with a need, who decides? They would sure beat another mediocre pizza joint.
Lakisia Hull January 14, 2014 at 03:24 PM
I think that this is truly unfortunate. King street is full of small businesses and the dealerships are just that. I agree with the above poster, that they humanize the city. Alexandria, especially Old Town, is fast becoming a place that is not welcoming to the average consumer. (and I am not saying that the car dealerships are that) Most of us can't afford to live there and high end boutiques are not for most of us either. It would be nice for the City to learn how to balance.
Doug January 16, 2014 at 10:41 AM
As you all state these opinions do take note that you are saying that "they" (whoever "they" are) shouldn't decide what can and can't be on King Street. Instead, "we" should decide. Well it seems clear to me that "we" decided that high end boutiques should be there because "we" are the ones who are keeping them in business. Rents on King Street are very, very high. Those businesses wouldn't stick around if they didn't have the revenue to make their business ventures successful. And, last I checked, most businesses on King Street are still small businesses. So what do you want to see on King Street? For them to stay or them to go? Small or big? Let your wallet do the talking. Don't hope that the city government will make the right decision who what businesses are on King Street. As you all are defining it, right decision in this case is the decision that best fits your opinion.
PutCreator1st January 18, 2014 at 11:57 AM
I dont take a SHINE to them,Give em the BOOT, Im WAXING TIREd of seeing them there. May they RUST in PIECE some where else. Move up RT 1 by Conklin Flowers, Wheeler, Eisenhower, Pickett, or Farrington.. Looks like D & S Jack Repair Service is moving out at 20 S Dove Street, That would be ideal location ....Hear That: Alexandria Economic Development Partnership http://alexecon.org/

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