Alexandria City Council approved plans Saturday for a five-story, 120-room hotel from Carr City Centers in the 200 block of S. Union Street, a tone-setting development as the city moves forward with its waterfront overhaul.
Nearby residents expressed concerns about parking and congestion issues, the size and scale of the project as well as its architectural design.
The proposal, three years in the making, has been subject to three concept assessments from the city’s Old and Historic District Board of Architectural review. A final architectural review is scheduled before the project is finalized.
Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille said many of the architectural issues have been addressed—including some concerns on roof and window design—an will still be tweaked some more at the final review.
Councilmembers gave specific directions on building materials for the brick, steel and stone building that McGuireWoods attorney Ken Wire, representing Carr, said “will be a high-quality building that will be around for 100 years to come.”
Carr will make a $675,000 contribution to waterfront amenities. Council deleted a $20,000 bikeshare contribution, cut back deliveries to the earlier hour of 8 p.m. and added a condition to require conformity in the building’s lighting plan.
Critics of the project said the hotel was setting some poor precedents on the waterfront.
“This does not set the tone, in fact, it doesn’t even come close,” said Old Town resident Bert Ely.
Old Town resident Bob Wood was critical of how the city’s planning commission recommended approval on the project in early January without tackling issues of appropriate use and neighborhood impacts.
“They could only achieve good, not great as an outcome for this project,” Wood said. “How many ways can a project can scream wrong answer to our city and city leaders? What a depressing early end to our aspirations for a word-class waterfront in this very first instance of development.”
He encouraged council to send the project back to planning commission to come up with a plan that “someone other than city staff” would recommend.
Euille said many of the issues opponents brought up were not specific to the project but of the city’s waterfront zoning as a whole.
“It’s the master plan [people are taking issue with],” Euille said. “That’s already been determined and decided.”
After zero speakers spoke in favor of the hotel at the planning commission hearing, officials from the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, Alexandria Economic Development Partnership and Waterfront Commission spoke in favor of the project.
“You can’t keep a vibrant city unless you keep moving forward,” said Lisa Schumaier, an artist at the Torpedo Factory Art Center.
The hotel plan includes a 5,000-square-foot courtyard accessible to the public, an underground, valet-controlled parking garage and a restaurant.
The plan was approved by council on a 6-0 vote. Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg did not attend Saturday's hearing to attend to a family medical issue.