Alexandria City Council delays action on waterfront development plan till fall

June 15, 2011

The Alexandria City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to delay further action on a controversial waterfront redevelopment plan until at least September.

The council directed city planners to take another look at the $51 million waterfront plan over the summer with a newly created group of citizen stakeholders.

The city would “take time to take a deep breath,” said council member Paul Smedberg (D). “I think we need to do that as a community.”

Plans for a three-mile project that would stretch along the Potomac River shore from Daingerfield Island Park in the north to Jones Point Park in the south came under fire from community members opposed to the project’s focus on new buildings, including boutique hotels.

Recent resident protests resulted in city planners presenting an alternative park-heavy plan Saturday that they estimated would cost $220 million.

Council members instructed planners at Tuesday’s meeting to consider more open space options and ways to finance them. They also asked for a detailed implementation plan.

Two Robinson Terminal Warehouse buildings are among the three proposed redevelopment sites; Robinson is a subsidiary of The Washington Post Co. The Post Co. filed, and later withdrew, a lawsuit in 2008 against the city for cutting back the company’s redevelopment options. The Post Co. was working with the city to restore those options, which were set in a 1983 federal settlement agreement. The third site is Cummings-Turner Properties, the 200 block of South Union Street.

“We continue to look at all our options, and we will continue to participate in the city’s process over the summer,” said Rima Calderon, a Post spokeswoman.

Under zoning rules, 640,000 square feet of space is allowed at the three sites, city planners said. The plan would have added 160,000 square feet and the option to build several hotels with up to 150 rooms and specified building design and use guidelines, planners said.

“The plan was just not ready to be debated,” said Poul Hertel, an Old Town resident who opposed the plan. “The best thing for the city was to take a little more time to ferret out the details, to bring about consensus.”

The council said a public hearing will be held this fall after the summer recess. Mayor William D. Euille (D) said he wants the vote to occur “sometime before the next decade.”

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