The Old Dominion Boat Club agreed Monday night to sell its half-acre parking lot and clubhouse at the foot of King Street to the city of Alexandria for $5 million, ending four decades of disputes and allowing the city to create a park as the centerpiece of a remade Potomac River waterfront.
Sixty-six percent of the 400 members who voted chose to accept what the city dubbed the move option, which will give the club $5 million in exchange for both its parking lot and clubhouse, and allow the club to build a new clubhouse in the nearby Beachcombers building. The deal would also allow 45 surface parking spaces and a new boat ramp, piers and slips.
“I think we’re happy we’ve started on the road to put this thing to rest,” club President Richard Banchoff said.
“That’s very good news,” said Mayor William D. Euille (D), who has worked on the issue for 10 years. “Even though I know how difficult and challenging it was for ODBC members, and the city, it ends up being a win-win. . . . I’m tickled to death.”
Although the offer provided extensive detail, both Banchoff and Euille said the city and club would work out a precise contract before the sale is final.
The club members also had the option to take what the city called the stay-in-place option, which would have given the club $2.5 million for the parking lot and nearby parking spaces, provided off-site parking and offer better boat slips. The “vast majority” of members voted for one of those two cash offers, with few opting to shun both, Banchoff said. That last choice would cause the city to try to seize the parking lot by eminent domain, city officials warned.
Alexandria is undertaking a complete redevelopment of its waterfront, after more than two years of pitched civic battles that included demonstrations, lawsuits and electoral challenges. The city’s plan to allow two new boutique hotels, more residences and retailers and continuous public access via parks and walkways ultimately won, but the unresolved issue of the 80-year-old clubhouse and its nearly adjacent parking lot clearly aggravated supporters of the new waterfront.
The location couldn’t be more important to Alexandria’s identity. The city has been trying since the 1970s to create continuous public access to the river from Daingerfield Island to Jones Point, and the boat club’s property blocks public access at its most-noticed spot.
“This is where all the people are, no matter what we do,” said planning director Faroll Hamer. “The water taxi lands there, the King Street trolley ends there; it’s at the foot of our historic shopping district.”
The 133-year-old club built the clubhouse on land purchased at 1 King Street and created the parking lot just to the south.
Sometime in the mid-20th century, the club erected a six-foot-tall fence across the riverfront block of King Street, setting a ship’s anchor in place and using the former street as a grassy area for cookouts. The city wrested the land back in the 1970s, declaring it King Street Park, and put a chain-link fence around the club’s parking lot.
The club and the city agreed to a $1.5 million sale of the property in 1983, but the sale fell through. After stop-and-start discussions, negotiations quietly resumed a year ago. After a public hearing and a period of intensive negotiations, the city made its two-part offer 10 days ago.