Howard Bergman, Jeff Linsky, and Greg Golubin clean up the Waterfront with the Founder’s Park Community Association.
Photo by Vernon Miles.
Alexandria Waterfront Commission meetings are usually held in a crowded room at City Hall. But at 9 a.m. on June 6, the commission took its meeting to the streets, visiting sites all along the waterfront, from Tide Lock Park in North Old Town to Windmill Hill Park near Jones Point Park in the south, amassing a following of city staff and local citizens along the way.
At Tide Lock Park, Greg Rawls from American Real Estate laid out the preliminary plans for changes to the area. “The ownership is pursuing beautification in and around the Lock,” said Rawls. “We’re looking for ways to revitalize the area, specifically we’re putting plans together for waterproofing the base.”
Waterproofing the Lock would mean water in a currently empty concrete basin, but Rawls emphasized that there’s no intention of filling the Lock, only putting a little water at the base.
Other plans for the area included lowering a fountain in a central plaza to provide local citizens with a more uninterrupted view of the waterfront, but Rawls said these plans have not been approved by the City Council yet.
Further south, Robert Kearns laid out city plans for Robinson Terminal North. According to Kearns, the ground floor of the redeveloped area will be retail and restaurant space with residences above. Kearns also noted that a 115-120 room hotel was docketed for approval this month but is being pushed towards the end of the summer.
“There are some complex problems at this site with a lot of moving parts,” said Kearns. “The pier here is not in as good a condition as the pier at Robinson Terminal South.”
Without an accessible pier, barging construction material to and from the site would be unlikely, which would potentially mean truck haul routes through North Old Town. The city recently faced a legal battle over haul routes in Robinson Terminal South, and while the city ultimately won a lawsuit that had escalated to the Virginia Supreme Court, a compromise was reached with developer EYA to primarily use barging for construction access to the site.
Kearns also noted a small but vital addition to the Alexandria Waterfront: public bathrooms on the western side of the Blackwall Hitch restaurant. The restrooms were opened on Monday, and despite Kearns’ suggestion, there was no toilet paper-cutting ceremony.
The group also received a tour of the Blackwall Hitch restaurant from one of the owners, Larry Ray, before the restaurant opened on Monday. The Blackwall Hitch occupies the site of the former waterfront Food Court, which closed nearly five years ago.
“This is something the commission worked a lot on,” said Jody Manor, a member of the Waterfront Commission and owner of the Bittersweet Cafe. “I walked in and realized … wow, we’re making progress on the Waterfront.”
Further down the Waterfront, Old Dominion Boat Club chairman Steve Thayer stood outside the current Beachcomber property, future home to the Old Dominion Boat Club. Thayer noted that last week, the Old Dominion Boat Club and the City of Alexandria had exchanged deeds, giving the City of Alexandria the club’s old property at the foot of King Street. Demolition on the Beachcomber property will begin in the fall, with 12 months expected to build the new property on the location. Thayer said the Boat Club is hoping to move into the new site by December 2016.
The tour ended at the Shipyard and Harborside parks, the southern tip of the city’s waterfront redevelopment plan. Shipyard Park currently suffers from degradation to a rope barrier erected around the bulkhead, which city staff said has become a weekly maintenance issue. Staff also said the city is looking into rounding the interior of the basin, which currently has sharp angles, to reduce the amount of trash left against the bulkhead by tides.