Letter to the Editor: City's Waterfront Plan Endangers National Historic Landmark
Andrew Macdonald, co-chair of Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan, outlines why the CAAWP plan is the only realistic, long-term economic alternative for the city.
I’ve grown weary of the fight over the waterfront too, though for very different reasons than those espoused by the Chamber’s, Co-Chair Elect, Andrew Palmieri. For one thing I’m tired of a political process that effectively cuts off all real debate and the opportunity for compromise, whether it be along the waterfront or in the West End near the BRAC-133 monstrosity. For another, the waterfront plan that the Chamber and its proxy, Waterfront4All$, supports is a direct threat to a National Historic Landmark District.
Mr. Palmieri appears to believe that a process where senior City planners met much more regularly with property owners (and developers) than it did citizens is a fair and democratic one too. Yet it was in those former meetings that the real business of deciding how to rezone the waterfront for revenue, as opposed to creating a waterfront that benefits everyone, took place. As Katy Cannady, President of the Alexandria League of Women Voters, has pointed out many times the public process included very little opportunity for citizens to make fundamental changes to the plan that the City had set in motion in back-room meetings with developers. She attended every public meeting since 2009.
Yes, the City staff did produce hundreds of pages of cleverly written documents, and they all promote just one thing: revenue and more density for property owners like The Washington Post Company. City planners claim that hotels will make the waterfront a more public place and generate revenue that pays for things like parks. This is a silly argument at best given the meager public amenities in the plan and the negative impacts the plan will have on Alexandria. The City’s waterfront plan fails to create a lasting connection between what should be two of the most important elements in any plan: the river and our history.
Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront (CAAWP) has presented the ONLY realistic long-term economic alternative to this short-sighted “National Harbor-like” plan. We have proposed that the City purchase additional land along the river for parks, art venues and a seaport museum. It does not exclude small restaurants and other businesses from the river’s edge. More importantly though, our proposal focuses attention on the real business of Old Town: preserving a National Historic Landmark. In this context, taxpayers will pay less to buy land along the waterfront then they will to buy into the Black Friday sale of our waterfront being offered by groups like the Chamber of Commerce.
Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan Co-Chair