The City of Alexandria’s plan to redevelop the waterfront will worsen traffic, exacerbate parking and environmental problems and relies too much on the construction of new buildings, according to a new report by a group advocating development alternatives.
The city’s Waterfront Draft Small Area Plan “fails to create a compelling vision for the redevelopment of the Alexandria waterfront,” say Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan in its report, “Parks, the Arts, and Museums: the Keys to Rediscovering, Revitalizing and Protecting the Alexandria Waterfront.”
It criticizes the city’s plan for seeking revenue from up to three 150-room hotels to be built at three sites, which, the group says, “amounts to a density increase of 162 percent when compared to what currently exists on the waterfront today.”
CAAWP says it is not opposed to adding some new retail development on the waterfront “but it believes that any new businesses should be located in existing structures, many of which are of historic significance.”
It also slams the city for failing to offer residents alternative plans that do not include “large amounts of new development and ‘boutique’ hotels.”
It asserts that the city is kowtowing to the Washington Post Co., which owns through a subsidiary two key waterfront properties, Robinson Terminals North and South.
The CAAWP report cites a letter from the Post to the city in which the Post wants the plan to be “refined to be more flexible in its development requirements and more realistic in its treatment of required amenities.”
It acknowledges that city planners did produce several alternatives after public outcry, but CAAWP’s “preferred parks and museums alternative was presented [by the city] as an overpriced and therefore unrealistic scenario.”
It refutes the city’s claim that the city plan would add 5.5 new acres of parkland, saying that number includes one acre of piers “that probably won’t be built.”
CAAWP argues that Alexandria’s plan for a new park at the foot of King Street probably also won't come to fruition unless the city acquires the land or takes by eminent domain land owned by the Old Dominion Boat Club, which would reduce the 5.5 acres by .73 acres.
It maintains that the city’s plan adds about 3.93 acres of new public open space and it says the city’s plan is more concerned with an upgrade to the appearance of certain historic sites like Thompson’s Alley rather than innovative ways to highlight the area’s historic significance.
“Hotels and town houses that make up the bulk of development at three key sites not only shut out the public but also do not achieve what CAAWP feels is a central goal of any waterfront vision plan, which is to use art and history to tell the story of the town and its unique history.”
The plan also offers critiques of traffic, parking and flood mitigation suggestions from the city, and it disagrees with the mayor to move forward with the plan without considering the 25 acres of riverfront land that could be freed up when the GenOn power plant shuts down.
The city’s approach to leave GenOn out of the discussion is at odds with its goal of “offering a holistic approach to waterfront development.”
The group will discuss its report at 6 p.m. at the Athenaeum on Sunday.
Editor’s Note: The next Old Town Alexandria Patch article summarizing CAAWP’s plan will look at its financial approach to a redeveloped waterfront.