To the Editor:
On March 16 the City Council will take what may be the final vote on a waterfront plan that in my opinion is akin to the razing of historic buildings along King Street that occurred in the 1960s. We are returning to urban-renewal-style development along the waterfront because its supporters promise it will be good for Alexandria’s finances.
Mayor Euille and supporters of the current waterfront plan make the same fiscal argument when they claim we must leverage the waterfront to pay for public benefits like flood control and greater access to the water and other projects around the town like schools and metro stations. I think this is shortsighted at best and negligent at worst. It’s a miscalculation of the real value of a properly and carefully planned waterfront that complements, rather then diminishes, the value of an historic town.
Supporters of the plan claim that hotels will make the waterfront more of a public space. This is preposterous argument. Hotels will create closed spaces accessible only to hotel patrons with money to spare, create traffic nightmares, and create a generic, unwelcoming face for Alexandria.
But we probably should not worry so much about the hotels per se, because the land-use plan the city is about to approve lets developers pick what they want to build on the waterfront. This means that instead of a warehouse where kids in a program sponsored by the Alexandria Seaport Foundation are building a whaleboat for a replica of an historic schooner, we will most likely have townhomes that offer no real public benefit beyond taxes, and which will deprive us use of the waterfront as much as the two aging warehouses that are there now do.
Citizens have tried to propose a better plan for the waterfront, but the city has willfully ignored them for four years in a planning process that has been insulting to the community, wasteful of time and money, and a sham.
We have one final opportunity to stop this plan from becoming a law that will destroy Alexandria’s waterfront. I urge you to show up on March 16 and let the city know how you feel.