This article has been updated since it was originally posted.
The Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan presented their 200 pages of findings in 15 minutes before the city’s Waterfront Plan Work Group meeting Wednesday, and found an ally who suggested some of its ideas ought to be included in the city’s arts and parks alternate plan.
The alternate plan, created after some residents objected to the city’s proposal for being over-commercialized, eliminates the possibility of new hotels but carries a hefty price tag of $222 million.
Bob Wood, a retired Army lieutenant general who is on the mayor-appointed Waterfront Plan Work Group, asked city planners to look at some of CAAWP’s financing ideas to see if they would make “a more refined” option for the city council to consider.
“This is not a third plan; don’t make this a red herring,” he said, in a brief but heated exchange with Faroll Hamer, director of the city’s planning office. The two of them quickly calmed down, and Wood said he just wanted to include the best ideas from all the citizenry in the group’s report to the council.
The city council gets a status report from the waterfront work group Wednesday night, with a full report due later this month.
The CAAWP presentation itself focused on how increasing the area for parks and a small museum would be a positive for the local economy. The group remains opposed to allowing new hotels on the waterfront, but accepted the city’s proposal for some additional commercial development. Financial analyst Leigh Talbot said the improved waterfront would create demand for existing hotels, which are not at full occupancy, and would encourage tourists to spend more money at existing stores and restaurants.
The group says the city should raise money to fund its plan by selling municipal bonds, get grants from 38 sources that the group found in its “thorough Internet research,” and find public-private partnerships. The bonds would be repaid, in part, by sale of unspecified public lands.
CAAWP would spend $97 million to buy some of the land along the waterfront. Less expensive options would allow those landowners, particularly Robinson Terminal Warehouse Corp., a subsidiary of the Washington Post Co., to subdivide and sell part of its property to the city, Talbot said. Robinson Terminal president Robert Taylor, who was at the meeting, later called the idea “very doubtful.”
Other ideas included opening a small museum, charging $5 admission and counting on 500,000 visitors, about 100,000 more than the free Torpedo Factory attracts, the group suggested.
“We’re doing the work the city should have done” in investigating creative financing, said Andrew Macdonald, a CAAWP co-founder.