Members of the Waterfront Work Group discussed issues related to private realm last week in its penultimate meeting before City Council expects to vote on the waterfront redevelopment plan Jan. 21.
Not surprisingly, there was a great deal of discussion about hotels and related issues.
The group reviewed a statement calling for the preferred use of the site east of Union Street at Robinson Terminal North as a boutique hotel, but dissembled that and changed it to “the preferred use on the site is office mixed use, emphasizing arts, history and culture (including a museum) and including vibrant commercial uses (such as hotel).”
The focus on hotels is misleading, economically dangerous, and prevents full examination of alternatives, said group member Bob Wood, adding later that West’s Point, located by Robinson Terminal North on the waterfront, should be a city-supported public space.
The group generally agreed that particular attention should be given to the West’s Point site, which extends from the water west along Oronoco Street to Union Street, and “represents the origins of Alexandria.”
Later, when a list of possible amenities provided by a developer of Robinson Terminal North was discussed, West’s Point again came up. Robinson Terminal North and its occupation of West's Point needs to better highlighted, particularly regarding art and history ties and design criteria, Wood said.
Leaders of Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan last month wrote a letter to the City Manager’s Office asking that West’s Point be added to the Alexandria Historic District. West’s Point at different times housed warehouses, a wharf and George Washington departed from there to Philadelphia in 1775, according to the Office of Historic Alexandria.
Robinson Terminal South also was discussed. The group did not agree that the preferred use for the site is a boutique hotel. Wood said a possible four hotels along the waterfront are not necessary.
Rather, they discussed that the preferred use for the area should be mixed use, with similar language as applied to Robinson Terminal North.
They also discussed that Robinson Terminal South as a possible location for an expanded pleasure boat marina.
During discussion of the Cummings/Turner block, it was generally OK with the group that any redevelopment there should contribute significantly to the public amenities in the new park between the block and the Potomac River.
Bert Ely questioned whether underground parking was economically feasible anywhere east of Lee St.
When discussing restaurant, hotel and commercial policy along the waterfront, the group generally agreed that City Council should not approve a special permit for a use on the waterfront unless it finds that the use does not create significant negative impacts on the vitality and character of King Street or the character and enjoyment of nearby residential neighborhoods.
However, there was disagreement as to the best policy to ensure that late-night hours do not disturb residents and a family-friendly waterfront.
There was also concern that a “restaurant row” could spring up, creating an unfavorable atmosphere.
The group next meets Wednesday, 7:30 a.m. to noon at City Hall.