In 2005 and 2009, the City undertook Retail Studies for King Street. Given the Street’s role as the City’s center of commerce, civic affairs and cultural events since Alexandria’s founding in 1749, it is important that the vibrancy of the Street, its architectural and historic character, and its civic and cultural identity be preserved. With that, many of the recommendations in the studies are being implemented and are helping the City and its partners – the Economic Development community, the Historic and Arts communities and Citizens Organizations and the Public – promote initiatives to maintain and strengthen King Street’s character and vitality. Today, King Street is helping to attract 3 million visitors per year to Alexandria. As such, it is a local, regional and national asset and in 2011, for its distinct qualities, it received a American Planning Association’s Great Streets Award.
Such efforts to preserve and strengthen King Street’s unique and vibrant character have also been guided by the City’s Strategic Plan which lists as part of its Number One Goal to “Increase the vitality and economic success of the City Waterfront and King Street Corridor while maintaining and strengthening the City’s commitment to historic preservation and neighborhood quality of life.”
In 2004 the City - working with an advisory committee composed of local businesses, citizens, and representatives from business and civic groups - identified potential opportunities, evaluated market constraints, and recommended actions to maintain King Street as a vibrant retail center. The goal has been to ensure that King Street continues to function as Alexandria's "Main Street" for residents and visitors alike. In 2005 the King Street Retail Strategy was adopted by City Council.
The King Street Outdoor Dining program was established to create an active streetscape, enhance the economic and social vitality of King Street, and promote pedestrian and retail friendly activity. Permits run from April 1 until March 31 and must be renewed each year. Planning and Zoning accepts renewal applications in March every year and accepts new applications for outdoor dining at any time.
From retail to restaurants, Old Town Alexandria has a lot to offer. The A-Frame Sign Program was established to direct King Street pedestrians to restaurant and retail-oriented businesses located on the side streets north and south of King Street. Business owners on each side street must coordinate to erect one shared A-Frame Sign that may be placed at the corner of King Street.