Town houses, a new hotel and a two-block-long riverside promenade would replace warehouses and parking lots along part of Alexandria's waterfront under a plan being considered by city officials.
The development scheme would create a park at the foot of King Street, where the Old Dominion Boat Club now operates a clubhouse and a parking lot, blocking access to the Potomac. A block south, a new U-shaped structure on the river would house the relocated boat club, a restaurant, shops and a hotel. Just inland, where a warehouse sits, would be a development of town houses or condominiums.
The plan would also, for the first time, provide a continuous, seven-block-long public pathway along the water's edge from Founders Park, north of the Torpedo Factory, to a shipping dock near Duke Street--adding a major piece to the waterfront promenade that Alexandria planners have sought.
It also would add commercial development to the busy east end of Old Town with its restaurants, shops, offices and homes.
"The city for a number of years has been looking to adequately develop the waterfront," said Mayor Kerry J. Donley (D). "The foot of King Street should provide an open vista to the waterfront. What we want to try to do is coordinate that."
The historic city's waterfront is dotted with surface parking lots, warehouses and commercial buildings, including the Robinson Terminal, a shipping dock owned by The Washington Post Co. Sprucing those areas up is a city priority, Donley said.
But there are several hurdles to making the plan a reality.
Not all of the landowners have signed on to the idea. Stephen Danzig, the president of the boat club, said that his organization is interested but that the club, which was founded in 1880 and operates a 10,000-square-foot building and a 53-slip marina, has made no decision about whether to participate in such a move.
"From what I've heard, it sounds like it could be positive," Danzig said. "We are listening, but we have not made any decisions."
Some neighbors oppose the plan, saying waterfront land should be transformed into open parkland.
"As property owners here, we have a much greater interest in having open space than we do structures that look like the King Street Metro," said Sarita Schotta, who lives on Prince Street near the proposed development. "We are quite disappointed."
And there is another hurdle: the federal government.
In 1973, the National Park Service sued the owners of land along the waterfront, claiming that much of the property is landfill that extended the shoreline into the Potomac, which technically belongs to Uncle Sam.
That lawsuit has been settled with many of the Alexandria waterfront landowners. In some cases, for example, the government agreed to grant clear title to the property owners in exchange for guarantees that development would be set back from the river, providing public access to the water's edge, or that land would be set aside as a public park.
But the lawsuit remains active against several property owners in the area that the city wants to develop. Officials said they hope the Park Service will drop the remaining lawsuits if a public walkway and several open spaces are included in the plan.
"What the plan proposes is a scheme under which everything would be settled," said Sheldon Lynn, the city's director of planning and zoning. "What we are attempting to do is explain to the property owners why we think they will all be better off if they participate."
Reaction from the federal government is cautious.
John Parsons, the associate regional director for the Park Service, said his agency has been in discussion with the landowners about the city's proposal. He said that the plan conforms to federal guidelines established for the area in 1982 but that it's too early to tell whether the plan will work.
"There's a lot of players here," Parsons said. "We are very interested in the concept."
CAPTION: Redeveloping Alexandria's Waterfront (This graphic was not available)