Moving Forward Together on the Waterfront
Excerpt from Justin's July Newsletter
Our Potomac River waterfront is the reason Alexandria exists as a community. The history of this waterfront is the history of Alexandria. It is what has brought people and commerce to our community for generations.
Unfortunately, for the past few decades, the future of our waterfront has also been the source of discord and community division. Far too often it has lead to litigation. This litigation has, in some cases, dragged out for decades.
When the current City Council was sworn in about two and half years ago, it was an early goal to resolve all on-going litigation, craft settlements with disputed landowners, and move forward as a community together. I believe that has been a success.
The implicit compromise of the Approved Waterfront Small Area Plan was as simple as it was controversial. Can we allow some increased development on three derelict sites in exchange for the following: new waterfront parks, public accessibility throughout the shoreline, new flood mitigation, environmental sustainability, and economic vitality?
While achieving this vision has not always been easy, we now stand closer than ever.
In March, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled in favor of the City in the final litigation related to the Waterfront Plan. Last month, the Court denied a request for the case to be reheard, thus ending the litigation.
In late May, the property exchanges occurred between the City and the Old Dominion Boat Club. The City now owns the existing Club property, and the Club now owns properties farther south along the waterfront.
The Boat Club will soon construct a new club for their members on their new site with City funds from our settlement, and the City will create a landmark park with integrated flood mitigation at the base of King Street, thus addressing flood challenges that have long plagued the corridor.
A year ago, the Council approved Phase 1 of the Waterfront Landscape and Flood Mitigation Design. This exciting design marries the vision of the Olin Group, and the input of hundreds of residents who participated in the planning efforts. It also received input from the Art and History Report to ensure our history is a key component of the future of our waterfront. .
In January, prioritizing the development of the public promenade and the flood mitigation, the Council approved the implementation plan for the public improvements.
Last month, a new waterfront restaurant, Blackwall Hitch, opened in the old food court pavilion.
A year and a half ago, the Council unanimously approved the new Carr Hotel proposal. It allows a new waterfront hotel in exchange for expansion of a City park, new public waterfront access and hundreds of thousands of dollars of public improvements. That project should be under way shortly.
In April, Council approved the Robinson Terminal South development, next door to the Carr Hotel. This new mixed-use development will include large new public spaces on the waterfront, preservation and adaptive reuse of existing historic buildings, new civic spaces, and additional hundreds of thousands of dollars of new public improvements.
The Council's approval includes new parking restrictions to ease the impact on neighboring residents. It also requires the developer to barge a large portion of the debris from the construction, as opposed to trucking it through Old Town.
The final waterfront redevelopment site comes for approval in September, when the Robinson Terminal North proposal comes before the Planning Commission and City Council.
With the fighting behind us, we now have a unique opportunity to shape the waterfront of Alexandria's future in a way that benefits our residents, our visitors and our taxpayers. I'm excited about the future.