To the Editor:
It has been nearly three years since Alexandria kicked-off the Waterfront Small Area Plan-making process with a public forum at City Hall. In that time, I’ve had the privilege of participating as a member of the Waterfront Committee and Waterfront Plan Work Group. Today, however, I’d like to share my personal reasons for supporting the Waterfront Plan.
Today’s Waterfront does not fulfill its potential as a gathering place for Alexandrians or a must-see destination for visitors. Existing plans do not encourage development on Alexandria’s few remaining Waterfront industrial parcels in a manner consistent with the community’s vision for a vibrant Waterfront that celebrates our historic and cultural legacy, expands and supports public uses, yet retains and preserves the special charm and ambience of our community for future generations.
The draft Waterfront Small Area Plan, aided by recommendations of Waterfront Plan Work Group, addresses these shortcomings to create the world-class Waterfront that Alexandria deserves. It promotes the arts and Alexandria's seaport history. It carefully balances new public amenities like enhanced parks and public spaces with new commerce. It provides stringent guidelines for new development to ensure compatibility with surrounding neighborhoods and consistency with Old Town’s historic character.
This is a plan that can be accomplished without raising taxes, by reinvesting new revenue generated from modest and appropriately-scaled redevelopment of existing warehouse sites to fund civic improvements and programming that will enliven our Waterfront. And by reaching an amicable agreement with property owners through the planning process, we can bring more certainty to plan implementation. Given the various budgetary priorities of our City government, this is key to attaining the significant public amenities envisioned by the plan.
The Waterfront Plan Work Group found broad agreement with the City's Waterfront Plan, but offered a number of recommendations for improvement. It de-emphasizes reliance on hotels by favoring mixed use. It points the City towards negotiation with the Old Dominion Boat Club and away from applying eminent domain to make King Street a great street where it meets the river. It recommends structures for governance, funding, and public oversight to facilitate plan implementation. In short, these suggestions made a good plan even better. It’s time for a Council vote in favor of this plan.