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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 , 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.

Andrew Macdonald

Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan Co-Chair

AlternativeAlexandriaWaterfrontPlan.com

irret November 28, 2011 at 08:18 PM
of late i have found i oppose anything the chamber of commerce likes. this is true of the local chambers and the national as well. with the likelihood of a rising sea level any plan that does not allow for the river overflowing it's banks more often or permenantly is silly at best and probably negligent
Boyd Walker November 29, 2011 at 03:12 AM
The Citizens for An Alternaitve Alexandria Waterfront Plan will be holding a press conference at Noon, Nov. 29th, in fornt of City Hall to announce their next steps in protecting the historic Old Town, Alexandria Waterfront.
Mike Urena November 29, 2011 at 05:17 PM
I'm a resident of Old Town - I live/own on Queen Street - and have been an interested observer of this date since I moved here in 2009. I have no affiliation with Chamber of Commerce and have been waiting for CAAWP to offer a viable alternative to the city's plan. However what I see are ad hominem attacks comparing the city plan to National Harbor, which it clearly is not, or suggestions to use city funds to buy more land. You don't have to be an economist to understand that using city funds to buy the various properties in question will only further deplete city coffers and likely undermine our bond rating. The consequences of this will be passed off to homeowners this will ultimately impact all of Old Town in the form of higher taxes. The notion that museum's will be self financing (presumably through grants?) also seems quite dubious. I see very little traffic going through the Torpedo Factory, Athenaeum and even Gadsby's Tavern as it is. So again, I want to support you but at this point your arguments, which I follow in both local papers and on this blog fail to have the substance to merit support. I remain persuadable so I'll be listening to your next steps approach as well but your arguments have the sound and feel of not in my backyard and/or we want to remain the same. An alternative needs to be based on something other than wishfulness (museums) or ad hominem attacks (such as comparing the existing plan to National Harbor).
Andrew Macdonald November 29, 2011 at 06:46 PM
Dear Mr. Urena: I'd be happy to sit down over coffee and discuss your concerns anytime. Best Andrew Macdonald ahmacdonald@mac.com

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