To the Editor:
A recent letter to the editor claims that this City Council got it wrong, and that the “waterfront is about to be turned into one egregious redevelopment disaster.” This burst of hyperbole is, to put it mildly, not just off the mark, it is totally wrong.
The City Council, in its 6-1 vote to enact the Alexandria Waterfront Small Area Plan, is providing the citizens of Alexandria, and its visitors a much improved waterfront, and should be congratulated for it. Given the raucous opposition by those few citizens who regard the waterfront as their private domain and the history of opposition groups usually getting their way, it was not an easy vote, but the correct one.
Let’s review some history here. Waterfront planning goes back 30+ years. The entire Waterfront area is approximately 300 acres. The major development portion of the Waterfront small area plan addresses the seven acres between the warehouses a few blocks north and south of King Street. The current version of the Waterfront Plan was largely spurred by the fact that two of the most prominent parcels (Robinson Terminals North and South) were going to be sold. In order to get the best situation for Alexandria’s citizens and visitors, the City negotiated zoning modifications in exchange for significant open space between the properties and the river for the public’s use. There will be a continuous path along the entire Alexandria riverfront. Historical buildings will be preserved. The City not only maintains the open space adjacent to the river but adds to it. In addition, the long running problem of flooding approximately 250 times a year is being addressed and paid for by the taxes generated by the development. The end result is a tremendously improved waterfront that will be enjoyed by all.
The waterfront area is likely to experience additional traffic from vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians. But the City is also working with experts, and continuously with residents, to develop improvements in parking and pedestrian safety. . And, what would have been the alternative? These properties were going to be sold. The idea of the City purchasing these expensive properties, increasing the City debt load to add to the current 250 acres of waterfront parks, made no economic sense. The new waterfront, with its two hotels, restaurants, and retail shops will make the Alexandria waterfront not only beautiful, but an exciting and vibrant place to visit and enjoy. No longer will people gather at the intersection of King and Union and say “well what will we do now, where can we go, where’s the water?”
The development sites are far enough along to have preliminary drawings produced. You can look at them and make up your own mind as to whether you feel they are well suited, or a “disaster.” CityInterests (Robinson Terminal North) and Carr Properties, developer of the hotel at Duke and Union, have both presented to the Waterfront Commission, and it is expected that they also will show their most recent set of drawings soon. Go to the City’s website, click on “Waterfront Plan Implementation”, then click on “Redevelopment Sites.” The Old Dominion Boat Club has also presented to the Waterfront Commission, and the Board of Architectural Review, both of which seemed pleased with its concept.
When the waterfront small area plan is completed, Alexandrians and our visitors will greatly appreciate the results. Alexandrians have seen this before: the Wilson Bridge, PTO, even the Torpedo Factory initially had loud and strong opposition but the City Leaders showed courage and we now have less traffic problems and a beautiful bridge, Alexandria is known as the center of inventions and intellectual property and is one of the top Arts destination in the country. The City will soon benefit from a new vibrancy at the waterfront which will complement what is the best of Alexandria.