Controversy continues for redevelopment of Alexandria waterfront

Artist rendtion of what the new waterfront redevelopment could look like overlaid on image of National Harbor across the river. (Image courtesy of city of Alexandria)

Hank Silverberg,

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Plans to redevelop the popular waterfront in Alexandria continue to spark controversy, even as publication of a report recommends more study.

The city’s current proposal envisions a $40 to $50 million redevelopment with hotels, expanded parkland and commercial space on 8.6 acres along the city’s two-mile waterfront.

But a report just released by the Waterfront Plan Work Group is recommending more study on traffic, parking and mitigating the city’s flood problems on lower King and Union Street, along with the environmental impact on the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.

Among the development being talked about under the city’s plans are at least two hotels that could be as high as five stories.

Nathan Macek, a member of the working group, says there was significant disagreement within the group about the viability of hotels, particularly in the part of the site now containing the Robinson Terminals.

“A mix of use is important, and there needs to be further study,” says Macek.

The group report, which was approved in a 4-3 vote, did not take a position on the density of buildings on the 8.6 acres, which is the most controversial part of the plan.

But the group did recommend that some of the cost for the art and historical facilities in the redevelopment area be handled by general city funds and not just the money generated by the commercial operations.

The city’s plan envisions the taxes and other commercial opportunities within the zone paying the full cost of the redevelopment.

The proposal has continued to spark controversy among city residents, some of whom protested outside the news conference where the report was detailed.

“They’ve gone with the money” says Dennis Kux, a resident. “They’ve gone with the developers and they have not gone with the people.”

Other residents, like Ursula Weide, want the plans to slow down.

“It is not only a concern to the people who are living on the waterfront,” she says. “It is a concern for all of us who live in the city.”

The City Council is still scheduled to vote on the plan on Jan. 21.

Mayor Bill Euille, who was present when the report was released to the public, says he has not yet read the report. But he says he sees no reason to delay the vote at this point.

Euille says the city can move ahead with the studies the report recommends before the final plans are approved.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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