Members of Alexandria’s Old Dominion Boat Club, whose headquarters has anchored King Street at the Potomac River since the 1920s, gave final approval to sell their property and adjoining parking lot to the city for $5 million and rebuild in the nearby Beachcombers building.
The vote, held over the weekend, was 81 percent in favor of accepting the deal, said Richard Banchoff, ODBC president. The city and the club reached an agreement on the basic deal in March, but this action was the final approval.
The city has long sought to move at least the parking lot to make the Potomac River more accessible to visitors and residents who come down King Street and to create continuous public access to the river in Old Town. The boat club’s property blocks public access at its most-noticed spot.
Lawsuits, threats of eminent domain seizures, and predawn erection of a chain link fence soured the relationship between the club members and the city for years, but as Alexandria’s plan to revitalize the Old Town waterfront got underway two years ago, the city and club quietly revived bargaining talks. That effort, too, broke down, but it prompted a public hearing and more intensive negotiations that resulted in the deal accepted this week.
“We’re looking forward to working with the city,” Banchoff said. “We weren’t out looking for places to move, but 81 percent [of the voting members] thinks this is the best option.”
“The boat club is one of the oldest members of the Alexandria community, and we value their presence on the waterfront,” said Mayor William D. Euille (D) in a statement. “We thank the members for their overwhelming support of steps to help preserve Alexandria’s legacy as a historic maritime city. With this vote, we look forward to the boat club’s bright future and a new opportunity for a community Waterfront accessible to all.”
Public opinion on the city’s plan has been divided, with residents at a hearing last year speaking on both sides of the issue.
The club hopes to have special use permits and historic architectural board approvals completed by early spring, in order to start rebuilding the dilapidated Beachcombers building into its new club house by early next summer. The club has up to five years from now to vacate its current property, Banchoff said, but “once we get a certificate of occupancy,” it will move.