To the Editor:
Each Alexandria City Council leaves its indelible mark on our community — which ultimately becomes its legacy. This particular council will leave Alexandria with more than a half-billion dollars of debt, with a $64 million a year in debt service. This should in itself be enough to replace most of the Alexandria City Council members, along with the city manager.
However, there’s more to this story, especially for residents of the Old Town and Historic District, since the waterfront is about to be turned into one egregious redevelopment disaster.
There are four major developments planned for the waterfront, and to date, none of them architecturally fit into our historic city. As it stands now, current plans for the Robinson Terminals, the Boat Club, and the Carr hotel are all found wanting. As an example, the mass and scale of the Carr hotel are reminiscent of San Quentin Prison, which is not far from where I grew up. Although this particular venue has some merits architecturally, it is not one that Old Town needs to emulate.
Plans for the other planned developments seem to accentuate large plate glass windows supposedly derived from the Edmonds Plaza (memorializing the slave market on upper Duke Street), but these windows are actually reminiscent of what you would find in Miami Beach hotels. So far, no phased schedule has been announced for these projects, which may coincide with a whole host of other waterfront additions. This potential development disaster will undoubtedly incapacitate revenue important generating activities.
If this City Council doesn't want the dubious legacy of destroying all that is special in Old Town by introducing urban renewal ideas that were staved off in the 1960s, then current ties to developers must be curtailed, and city planners must ensure that proposed projects will fit into the historic fabric of the community. Anything less than this should not be acceptable. This group of City Council members has a final chance to get it right. Its legacy depends on it, and the preservation of our history rests on its outcome.
Townsend A. “Van” Van Fleet