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Parking or Green Space?

Designing a waterfront plan for Alexandria.

The open space priority list got a lot of attention from members and supporters of the Old Dominion Boat Club when the list included the organization’s parking lot. The parking lot is located at the foot of King Street on the waterfront. Members park their cars there and unload boats from trailers and put them directly into the Potomac. The city’s Open Space Steering Committee would like to acquire the parking lot for open space.

“If you look at that picture on the wall behind the dais, you don’t see a parking lot on the waterfront,” said Ellen Pickering, a member of the Open Space Steering Committee and a longtime proponent of developing a waterfront plan. “I daresay that it would do some of the Boat Club members a lot of good to get some exercise by walking a couple of blocks from parking to the club.”

Old Dominion Boat Club members did not agree. “There is enough trouble finding parking in Old Town,” said Hunt Burke. “Our parking lot means that there are fewer cars looking for parking on the streets. And those members who park here are shopping on King Street and spending money. As a business owner with one of the few other parking lots on King Street, I just want to say that I need my parking lot and so does the Boat Club,” he said.

THE OLD DOMINION Boat Club was founded in 1880 and brought rowing to Alexandria. “Since that time, we have been good citizens of Alexandria,” said Harry Harrington, the Old Dominion Boat Club chairman. “We provide two scholarships to T.C. Williams students and we support the rowing program that many students from around the area participate in. We share our building with other groups and support a number of charities in the city. We need our parking lot and we need access to the water to carry out our mission.”

The parking lot is one of several parcels of land that are on the open space priority list. The assessed value of the waterfront parcels is around $8 million but the city expects to pay nearly double that if the land can be purchased from the owners. Negotiations have not yet commenced because the priority list has not been approved by City Council.

“I am very supportive of the Old Dominion Boat Club,” said Judy Noritake, the chair of the Open Space Steering Committee. “Are their members going to have a place to park? Yes. Are they going to have a building? Yes. The discussion needs to be about whether they need to park right on the waterfront and about the building as a resource directly on the waterfront.

“Also, there is the question of whether recreational boating needs to happen at that particular location or whether it should occur at some other place. All of these issues will be discussed in the context of planning for the waterfront, a process which is going to begin in January. And all of those discussions will include all of the property owners whose land is on the list. That is necessary and desirable and we hope that everyone who testified on behalf of the Boat Club will come to the table to participate in those discussions when that time comes,” she said.

THIS YEAR’S PRIORITIES will be discussed at City Council’s Oct. 26, legislative meeting. The money for implementing the plan council adopts will come from bonds, which council approved earlier this fall. This year, the city will spend around $15 million on open space.

The steering committee will also begin work on longer term priorities and pocket parks. “Pocket parks are important,” Noritake said. “We want to look at where they will be located and how they will be used. That’s a vital part of planning for open space throughout the city.”

There will be a meeting on Oct. 28, at 7 p.m. at the Mt. Vernon Recreation Center at which next year’s priorities and pocket parks will be discussed. The public is urged to attend and bring suggestions for open space priorities in their neighborhoods.