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Alexandrians Seeking New Approach to New Waterfront Critique City Plan

Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan released a critique of the city's plan and offered its own approach.

The City of Alexandria’s plan to redevelop the waterfront will worsen traffic, exacerbate parking and environmental problems and relies too much on the construction of new buildings, according to a new report by a group advocating development alternatives.

The city’s Waterfront Draft Small Area Plan “fails to create a compelling vision for the redevelopment of the Alexandria waterfront,” say Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan in its report, “Parks, the Arts, and Museums: the Keys to Rediscovering, Revitalizing and Protecting the Alexandria Waterfront.”

It criticizes the city’s plan for seeking revenue from up to three 150-room hotels to be built at three sites, which, the group says, “amounts to a density increase of 162 percent when compared to what currently exists on the waterfront today.”

CAAWP says it is not opposed to adding some new retail development on the waterfront “but it believes that any new businesses should be located in existing structures, many of which are of historic significance.”

It also slams the city for failing to offer residents alternative plans that do not include “large amounts of new development and ‘boutique’ hotels.”

It asserts that the city is kowtowing to the Washington Post Co., which two key waterfront properties, Robinson Terminals North and South.

The CAAWP report cites a letter from the Post to the city in which the Post wants the plan to be “refined to be more flexible in its development requirements and more realistic in its treatment of required amenities.”

It acknowledges that city planners did produce several alternatives after public outcry, but CAAWP’s “preferred parks and museums alternative was presented [by the city] as an overpriced and therefore unrealistic scenario.”

It refutes the city’s claim that the city plan would add 5.5 new acres of parkland, saying that number includes one acre of piers “that probably won’t be built.”

CAAWP argues that Alexandria’s plan for a new park at the foot of King Street probably also won't come to fruition unless the city acquires the land or takes by eminent domain , which would reduce the 5.5 acres by .73 acres.

It maintains that the city’s plan adds about 3.93 acres of new public open space and it says the city’s plan is more concerned with an upgrade to the appearance of certain historic sites like Thompson’s Alley rather than innovative ways to highlight the area’s historic significance.

“Hotels and town houses that make up the bulk of development at three key sites not only shut out the public but also do not achieve what CAAWP feels is a central goal of any waterfront vision plan, which is to use art and history to tell the story of the town and its unique history.”

The plan also offers critiques of traffic, parking and flood mitigation suggestions from the city, and it disagrees with the mayor to move forward with the plan without considering the 25 acres of riverfront land that could be freed up when the .

The city’s approach to leave GenOn out of the discussion is at odds with its goal of “offering a holistic approach to waterfront development.”

The group will discuss its report at 6 p.m. at the on Sunday.

Editor’s Note: The next Old Town Alexandria Patch article summarizing CAAWP’s plan will look at its financial approach to a redeveloped waterfront.

irret October 30, 2011 at 11:45 AM
the city is interested in revenue and business. that land needs to go back to nature to mitigate the flooding problems and give wildlife and the river a chance to heal itself.
Gina Baum October 30, 2011 at 12:43 PM
I guess we are suppose to ignore the recommendations of more than 100 citizen groups in Alexandria that developed the plan in favor of a plan advocated by small number of citizens who live in the two blocks surrounding the waterfront? That's hardly a plan ALL of Alexandria can support. To learn more and support the revitalization efforts of the majority of Aleandria residents go to Waterfront4all.org or Like Support Old Town Waterfront Waterfront4All on Facebook.
Leigh Talbot October 30, 2011 at 01:48 PM
CAAWP is anything but a small group. 1,500 residents signed the petition and the group includes residents from all parts of Alexandria...Rosemont, the West End, Braddock Heights, etc. There are excellent recommendations in the report that are based on research and facts. Why not read it and consider viable and preferable alternatives? Go to http://www.alternativealexandriawaterfrontplan.com/ where the report will soon be posted, and come to the event at the Atheneum tonight at 6pm for more information.
Dennis Auld October 30, 2011 at 03:54 PM
Leigh, maybe you and Andrew can clarify for me the support for the "1.500 residents" you both claim. In a Sept. 20 article in the Patch, Boyd submitted to the Work group 1,000 signatures from Alexandrians and visitors on behalf of his group during last week’s forum." I beleive that an earlier comment by Andrew also claimed the petition was signed by residents and visitors. This has now morphed to 1,500 residents. I appreciate your passion in supporting your position on the Waterfron Plan, but am questioning the validity of this statement.
Leigh Talbot October 30, 2011 at 05:51 PM
Dennis, that was the latest figure I heard from someone in the group. I am sure it is an approximation. You are correct that CAAWP submitted roughly 1,000 signatures to the City and they are now a matter of public record. Since then many more have signed at the farmer's market, through CAAWPs community outreach, online, and at a fundraiser we held to support tonight's reception.
Dennis Auld October 30, 2011 at 06:20 PM
Thanks Leigh. Words matter. I am not quibbling over the 1500 number. However, it is misleading to say "over 1500 residents" when in fact, you do not know, because you did not follow BAR requirements, how many of those signees are residents or visitors.
Leigh Talbot October 30, 2011 at 06:44 PM
Dennis, I understand your point and fully agree that words matter. For example, someone earlier had posted that CAAWP was a "small group of citizens that live in the two blocks surrounding the waterfront." CAAWP could hardly be considered small even if only half of the signatures were residents (which is not the case). Additionally, I have worked with many CAAWP volunteers from multiple Alexandria neighborhoods. I appreciate your interest, Dennis, and would be happy to find out the precise figures and get back to you.
Linda Couture October 30, 2011 at 08:49 PM
Other data that continues to be ignored is "...historic preservation visitors stay longer, visit twice as many places and spend, on average, over two-and-a-half times more money in Virginia than do other visitors." This information is in a Virginia report and yet its conclusive data are completely ignored in the City's plan. In addition it points out that historic buildings and sites in communities as diverse as Fredericksburg, Richmond and Staunton significantly out-perform "the appreciation rates of non-historic properties." What we constantly hear is that only hotels can pay for anything. If that's so true, then why are other cities concentrating on public access, green space, public amenities? Simply because everyone benefits, not just developers and property owners.
Dennis Auld October 31, 2011 at 12:30 PM
Because they stay in hotels too. Think of that visitor you describe looking at the vast amount of history available in Alexandria, then also seeing that they can stay at a hotel on the water, have a nice meal there, then walk across our parks into Alexandria to the many historic sites. That is a pretty compelling picture. And you get the benefits of the citizens of Alexandria haveing an attractive place to go on the waterfront, which does not exist now. I agree with you, lets build those hotels to complete the attraction for those types of visitors, and benefit our own citizens also. Think of when you go across the bay, say to St. Michaels, Oxford, etc. Half the fun is to find a good hotel or B&B and resturants on the water.
irret October 31, 2011 at 12:55 PM
you all are missing the point. alexandria allowed and encouraged massive development on the waterfront despite the impending sea level rise. this stance is foolish at best and stupid really. the lands along route one near potomac yards have been over-developed in the last few years. we should NOT be developing/building on the river. too much pollution from lawns and no where for the floodwaters to drain into. argue all you want about art or hotels both are silly.
Leslie Hagan October 31, 2011 at 09:08 PM
A lot of the waterfront property is polluted enough to qualify for Super Fund site designation. Construction will just spread some of there horrible chemicals in that ground out into the water and into the air. I remember what used to be down there. The Getty Oil site alone should give people pause. Also, many years ago, when the City seized the School's boat house site and the schools had to build a new boathouse at the foot of Madison Street, they made a horrible discovery, bed rock was way, way, way, down. Almost 90% of the cost of the boat house was in the footings that had to be put so deep. The boathouse is, in terms of building weight, quite light. Any serious buildings will have to put down many more footings and find that their budgets will double and triple as a result. The waterfront simply isn't a suitable location for intense building. And then there is the issue of rising water levels ... \\\
Boyd Walker November 02, 2011 at 01:20 AM
Sorry not to have weighed in earlier, but I should clarify a few things. CAAWP had submitted petitions prior to the over 1000 we submitted in September. Also, our petition did not have to meet any legal requirements such as residency, because we were not making a legal appeal of a BAR or council case. As you know, I got a petition to save the American Legion Building from Demolition, and in that case i had to have 25 legal residents, meaning the owner of record. This was a high standard because someone who was born and raised in a particular house, if they were not the legal owner, would have no standing. Also residents of publichousing, even if they had lived there for 50 years had no standing. When Bill Cromley and Duncan Blair tried to get some of the signers to rescind, Jim Hartman and Bill Euille intervened and said it should be heard by city coucnil no matter what. Now we are in the process of finding a buyer fro the building.
Boyd Walker November 02, 2011 at 01:23 AM
I am glad you mentioned Bed And Breakfasts, as I am not aware of any in Alexandria. I think allowing some of our larger houses in Old Town to become a Bed and Breakfast to give visitors another option for accomodation is a great idea. It is also a great way for someon to help pay for a large house, and Bed and Breakfast establishments are usaully meticulously cared for.
Boyd Walker November 02, 2011 at 01:29 AM
Lastly, I am curious who the "100 citizen groups" are. Do you have them listed on the waterfront for all website? Does this include AEDP and ACVA and the Chamber?
Leigh Talbot November 05, 2011 at 02:08 PM
Dennis, As promised, i am getting back to you with figures surrounding the CAAWP petitions. At the following links you will find 1,033 petitions filed with the City in September. Of these, 970 are signed by Alexandria residents with the remainder being local NoVA residents or tourists from out of state. Further buried in the dockets from May and June are another few hundred petitions filed with the City and there remain about 200 not yet filed, but collected, since September. I appreciate your interest and hope this helps. http://dockets.alexandriava.gov/fy11/092711rm/dioralb1.pdf http://dockets.alexandriava.gov/fy11/092711rm/dioralb2.pdf http://dockets.alexandriava.gov/fy11/092711rm/dioralb3.pdf http://dockets.alexandriava.gov/fy11/092711rm/dioralb4.pdf http://dockets.alexandriava.gov/fy11/092711rm/dioralb5.pdf http://dockets.alexandriava.gov/fy11/092711rm/dioralb6.pdf http://dockets.alexandriava.gov/fy11/092711rm/dioralb7.pdf http://dockets.alexandriava.gov/fy11/092711rm/dioralb.pdf
JohnFitzgerald November 08, 2011 at 09:45 PM
Leslie - the Superfund opportunity is one which should be explored more. The creosote continues to leach into the potomac at the foot of Oronoco. Gosh only knows what lies under Robinson terminal north. With regard to the bedrock question, recall when the new Wilson Bridge was built, pilings had to be driven way way down through the perhaps hundreds of feet of silt (dont quote me on the specific depth but i recall that it was way down there... you can download the CAAWP report for free at the link below or make a $20 donation to cover print costs. http://www.freeuploadshare.com/DOWNLOAD/58403836/CAAWP%20REPORT%20MERGED%20FINAL%20PDF.pdf
matt tallmerq November 09, 2011 at 01:19 PM
@JohnFitzgerald: Every person to whom I have spoken about this issue (whether they support the City's plan or the CAAWP proposal) all agree that seeking Super Fund status is possibly the worst way to go. It will cost the city hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars, and ensure that nothing is done for decades.

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