Alexandria Mayor Charles E. Beatley Jr. officially opened the city's renovated $5.4 million Torpedo Factory Art Center in a ribbon-cutting ceremony marked with brief speeches and theatening rains.

"This is a truly auspicious and proud moment for our city," Beatley said as he cut through a six-foot sash draped across the art center's red front doors. "I would guess 5,000 people were involved in this project since 1969, probably more. I thank them all."

City Manager Douglas Harman, surrounded by members of the City Council and State Sen. Wiley F. Mitchell, said it was "thrilling to see what has been made out of what was here."

About 200 people gathered around the arched doorway of the slate-gray concrete building at 105 N. Union St. on the city's waterfront. During both world wars it had been used to manufacture torpedos.

More than 2,000 invited guests got a first look at the center's spacious interior Friday night during a black-tie affair. Yesterday was the public's turn to visit the new center.

The center houses the studios, shops and galleries of 200 artists and craftsmen who will produce, show and sell their works in the 71,318-square-foot structure. The center also houses Art League Inc., which offers noncredit day and evening classes to more than 500 art students, and the city's Urban Archaeology Program's offices and exhibits.

Alexandria Del. Marian Van Landingham, a driving force in creating the center, said she hoped the art center would endure and grow and was pleased the city had decided to support its artistic community in such a generous way.

"I remember when this used to be a warehouse on the river," she said, "filled with government documents and dinosaur bones."