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Public invited to comment on Alexandria waterfront plan

Tuesday - 3/1/2011, 9:30am  ET

waterfront375.jpg
Image courtesy, City of Alexandria

Kristi King, wtop.com

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - Big changes may be coming to the Old Town Alexandria waterfront.

But, first the city is looking for public comments on a recently released draft plan.

The more than two-year process has included input from community members, along with expertise from city staff, consultants and art and historical experts.

The public can view proposed waterfront plans and comment online, as well as via phone, mail and e-mail.

A hard copy of the plan will also be available at Alexandria Public Libraries beginning Wednesday.

Changes may include a big new pier for docking boats and walking.

"We initially had it extending straight out from King Street. A number of people told us that when they walked down King Street they'd rather see the water and not a pier. And we moved it south," says Faroll Hamer, director of planning and zoning.

Alexandria also plans to build a plaza in the area where King Street meets the Potomac River, with tables and chairs, vendors and food carts and a skating rink in winter.

Hamer says people have asked for more outdoor dining along the water. In response, city planners are proposing a resurrection of the old Beachcomber Restaurant on The Strand that was built on stilts over the river. The property more recently had been the Potomac Arms warehouse. The plan is for the new restaurant to be directly on the Potomac River with a second story deck over the water.

Redevelopment along the entire Old Town Alexandria waterfront also will include a riverside walking path 25 or more feet wide. Hamer says the biggest changes include "public spaces and river access." There will even be a ramp for kayaks and canoes.

Not everyone is a fan of the proposed development plan though.

In a letter to the editor of the Alexandria Gazette Packet one city resident criticizes the redevelopment plan as a poorly thought out effort by city leaders to "increase the tax base at any cost."

The waterfront plan also attempts to address the perennial issue of flooding from the Potomac River at King and Prince streets, The Strand and Union Street. Flood waters are exacerbated by bad weather and high tides. New construction would incorporate flood control into aesthetic changes. Hamer says one element of the new water protection system would look like a seating wall.

Once a design and plan is chosen, it could take 15 to 20 years to execute. But, Hamer points out, the transformation of Old Town Alexandria from an industrial port to an entertainment destination has been underway for the past 30 years.

The next public hearing on the proposed waterfront plan is scheduled for April, with additional meetings in the spring. The city council could approve a formal Waterfront Area Plan before the summer break in July.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)