Correction: In a June 12 Metro story about plans for Alexandria’s waterfront, Alexandria resident Andrea Stowers’s comments were misrepresented. A description of a protest march on Saturday indicated that several protesters said they wanted more parks because their historic townhouses in Old Town don’t have much green space, and it incorrectly included Stowers among them.
About 200 Alexandria residents marched through Old Town on Saturday and converged on City Hall to protest a $51 million plan to bring hotels and other new development to the city’s waterfront.
Opponents of the proposed project, who have organized as Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan, said they want the City Council to consider designs that include more parks, a focus on arts and Alexandria’s history, and have no hotels.
“They are not representing us. That is the bottom line,” Mark Mueller, 42, of Alexandria said of the council members. The plan “favors the desires of the developer over the will of the people.”
The waterfront plan calls for connected parks and landscaped walkways along three miles of Potomac River shoreline, from Daingerfield Island Park to the north to Jones Point Park to the south. The proposal includes hotels, restaurants and public access to the water.
Critics of the plan have been been pushing city leaders to reconsider. At a meeting Saturday of the Alexandria City Council, city planners presented an alternative, $220 million park-heavy proposal for the waterfront. And afterward, some council members voiced concern about the criticism.
Council member Rob Krupicka (D) asked whether the council could move forward with a vision for the waterfront that would create the walkways and parks but would not include rezoning three key properties, two of which are owned by The Washington Post Co.
“I don’t see how we move forward with . . . such a large part of community opposed to rezoning,” said council member Redella S. “Del” Pepper (D).
The council is to discuss the waterfront plan further on Tuesday.
In the proposal, The Post Co.’s Robinson Terminal Warehouse Corp. warehouses would anchor the new development, one on Oronoco Street to the north and the other on Duke Street to the south. The two-story buildings, where newsprint for The Washington Post and other publications is stored, could be redeveloped using current zoning as five-story office, retail and residential buildings totaling 523,000 square feet, said Karl Moritz, a city planner. A third property, the Cummings-Turner buildings in the 200 block of South Union Street, could be redeveloped with existing zoning into 125,000 square feet of building space.
The plan would allow boutique hotels and about 160,000 square feet more space than now permitted and retain the five-story average height limit on properties, he said. The expected tax revenue from the redevelopment would pay for the $51 million plan over 25 years, Moritz said.
Eliminating the rezoning would mean losing most of the projected tax revenue, said Faroll Hamer, the city’s planning director. The plan includes specifics on design and what can be built, and those policies would be lost, Hamer said.
Allowing construction without the rezoning “would be a shame,” said council member Paul C. Smedberg (D).
The Post Co. withdrew a 2008 lawsuit against the city to restore development rights established by a 1983 settlement agreement with the federal government, and the current waterfront plan incorporates those rights.
The company’s role in the development debate has made The Post the target of criticism.
“Their legacy is going to be the destruction of one of the most precious national historic treasures,” said Andrea Stowers, 62, of Alexandria, who said she canceled her subscription to The Post.
“While [the Robinson corporation] does not favor everything in the Plan and has reserved its rights under the 1980s settlements, we believe that we can continue to work constructively with the City if the Plan is adopted,” said Rima Calderon, a spokeswoman for The Post. “The Plan can provide a viable and sufficiently flexible guide for potential mixed-use redevelopment to allow the future development approval process to respect the rights of the parties under the 1980s settlements and to take into account the interests of the City, the community, and Robinson.”
At the march on Saturday, protesters carrying signs reading “Don’t Rezone the Waterfront” said they wanted more parks because their historic townhouses in Old Town don’t have much green space.
The alternative proposal presented by city planners Saturday includes artistic and historic elements as well as new museums. That plan would cost about $220 million, and would require the city to sell bonds to pay for it, Moritz said.
“What we’d have to do is pay for the whole thing,” he told the council.
Debt service on the bonds to pay for building acquisition and park development would be about $20 million a year, or about 7 cents added to the real estate property tax rate, Vice Mayor Kerry Donley (D) said.
One demonstrator said he thought the cost estimate was being used to dampen support. “I think they are using [the alternative parks plan] as an argument that it is too expensive,” said Boyd Walker of Alexandria, a leader of the opposition. “Before we started pushing, there were no parks and arts alternatives.”
Walker said he was encouraged to hear City Council members agree with their argument that revenue needed for the project does not need to be generated on the waterfront.
“There is plenty of space west of Washington Street for hotels,” said Ted Pierson, 74, a South Royal Street resident. “We don’t want to go any higher than what we have now.”