The Torpedo Factory Artists Assocation last week for the first time voiced support for the City of Alexandria's plants to move some of the artists to other locations in the same complex.

The city plans to develop the Torpedo Factory, which was once a warehouse for World War II military records, into a commercial complex of shops.

In recent years, the warehouse has provided space for artists to make and sell their work.

Virginia Ames, speaking for the 300-member association, told the Alexandria City Council at its monthly public meeting Saturday that the group accepted the conditions of the proposed move, although she urged the city not to sell the building at King and Union streets once the artists have left.

The plan the group endorsed calls for dozens of craftspeople to be moved into an adjoining building. Under the plan, a new mezzanine will be built to accommodate the new tenants.

The building being vacated would be sold to developer Charles R. Hoff III, who the city has chosen as its preferred developer of the 5.25-acre complex.

Once the artists leave, the building would be opened up to provide visual and pedestrain access to the waterfront by means of an arcade through the building. the arcade would be lined with booths where fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood would be sold, Hooff said.

The city and Hoff have not yet begun negotiations for the sale of the building, and no price has been set.

Many individual artists had protested relocating, claiming a move would ruin their ability to produce their crafts. The city, in rebuttal, claims that a larger issue was involved -- that of providing citizen access to the river from the heavily traveled King Street area.

The artists' endorsement came after a lengthy report filed by deputy city manager Clifford R. Rush showed that individual artists would have just about the same amount of space -- 70,000 square feet -- under the new plan as they have now.

The Torpedo Factory Art Center opened five years ago in buildings that for years had been abandoned government warehouses. Since then the center has been the only major tourist attraction in the lower King Street area. The center is credited with being one reason that shops and restaurants decided to locate close to the river.