The city plans to issue a call for proposals this month to renovate and lease the Beachcomber building located at 0 Prince St.
City Council members discussed the future of the vacant building at a council meeting on Sept. 27.
Alexandria bought the land in February 2006 for $1.135 million using the city’s Open Space Fund as part of an effort to “consolidate and make available land for public use and engaged activity on the city’s waterfront,” according to a Sept. 19 memo to City Council from the city manager.
Vice Mayor Kerry Donley said at the September council meeting: “The memo talks nothing about something other than a restaurant. Why not a more flexible RFP and see what the market dictates?”
But, he later added: “A restaurant is probably the highest and best use, but I would prefer if we let the market determine that.”
The Request for Proposals, or RFP, will focus on the lease and reuse of the 3,360-square-foot structure that includes the Beachcomber building. Potomac Riverboat currently uses the remaining portion of the parcel at 0 Prince St. for operating the Dandy and Nina’s Dandy cruise ships that travel the Potomac River.
City staff believes that the Beachcomber structure has “cultural and historical significance,” according to city documents.
Its construction represents a “distinct shift in the public use and perception of the Potomac River, when the Alexandria waterfront traditioned from an industrial area, operating at peak capacity during both World Wars, to a place for leisure and recreation,” read attachments to the city manager’s memo.
Jeremy McPike, director of the Department of General Services, told council members: “There are a few kind of critical factors in consideration. … The Old and Historic BAR said this was the first real nonindustrial… use of the waterfront. The idea is to bring it back to bring people back to the waterfront.”
The restaurant had closed by 1954 after it was damaged by fire, although the owners at the time had already decided to give up the business.
“This is a building that has had a lot of hard use over the years,” Councilman David Speck noted, asking later if that could be a problem for potential developers.
McPike replied that it does need renovation and investment, but an early walkthrough with restaurateurs and developers gave him encouragement that it could be revamped.
“There are cracks in the exterior walls,” he said “There are some factors that are going to come into play. There’s some rotting in the balcony. …There are many variables going into it, but there is interest and a belief that it could be viable.”
The city also owns one-third of the lot next to the Beachcomber.
The parking lot should "eventually become a park [according to the Waterfront SAP]. ... In this RFP, there is no on-site parking. In SUP process, applicant will have to link up with other garage owners” or seek shared parking, McPike said.
The city’s current Waterfront Master Plan recommends that the city pursue reuse of reconstruction of the cinderblock building as a working restaurant, “provided it is financially feasible without public subsidy.”