To the Editor:
Mr. Robert Pringle [Letter, “Vision-based Planning”] recently responded to my March 7 letter. His comments show a very different view than mine. Addressing his concerns is appropriate.
It is my opinion that the City’s Waterfront Plan is a well-balanced document, meant for all Alexandrians. It is esthetically and financially sound. Alternative plans were not. The idea that "low-density appropriate development is appropriate for a National Historic Landmark and should be driven by public welfare" is not historic or fiscally sound. Historic would be warehouses and factories. As for fiscally sound, asking the city to purchase those properties (outlined in the CAAWP document) certainly is not in the realm of "public welfare." Is it fair to the taxpayers to pony up the tax dollars to pay for CAAWP’s concept of "preservation," and ask the citizens, firefighters and schools, whose needs are being addressed in the approved but not yet funded CIP to wait? Yes, that includes schools, public safety, and infrastructure needs across the City. Purchase the sites for parks, and/or museums, and these needed projects get pushed back for a 50 percent increase in the existing city debt load. The idea of public-private partnerships and civic largess, simply will not materialize. Look at the recent articles about the financial status of the Washington Post companies. Analytical persons have already come to the realization this will not happen. A good comparison is the funding of the MKL memorial. This $110 million project with international significance has still not reached its funding goal. The Washington Post, while a good public citizen, is a public corporation with stockholders and a profit motive. Having the Post donate their land to the City (in whole or partially) simply will not happen.
Your statement "long-term profitability, not short term profits and long term mediocrity" does not make sense. Where would profits come from other than what is included in the City’s plan? It has been pretty well documented museums don't have a chance paying for the investment. Our wonderful Smithsonian’s are free to the public and subsidized by taxpayers. Advocating a sales tax to fund the museums? Virginia could not get a sales tax increase to improve our roads. A sales tax increase to create what would essentially be a gated community for Old Town would be detrimental to all Alexandrians. The City’s plan and the SUP process should require architecturally significant buildings which incorporate any existing historic structures. This is where we need to work together to achieve what the City’s plan brings us.
The CAAWP plan (on page 159), shows CAAWP advocating for purchase of the 3 properties (8.5 acres). There are already 140 acres of parks along the Alexandria waterfront. It is disingenuous to say “well not all CAAWP participants agreed on everything.” Together you put out the plan, and it does not stand reasonable analysis.
With parks and museums (as you describe in your piece) not feasible, that leaves the City’s plan as the only reasonable solution to your desire to that view from Robinson Terminal North. For some reason CAAWP continues to ignore the inevitable. Should you be successful in defeating the City’s plan, you will then have townhouses and/or offices on that spot. Goodbye view.
The City’s waterfront plan is a vision, maybe not what all participants agree on, but it is a vision that many Alexandrians support and look forward to enjoying. It is a community-based vision with input from citizens over a three-year period. It protects the City, creates new parking, new parks and an exciting waterfront. Many straw men were discussed during the development of the plan, and the results are excellent.