Controversial Old Town Alexandria park gets a new name

WASHINGTON — It’s been an ongoing controversy, but yesterday during a city council hearing, council members announced the new, official name of a park along the Alexandria waterfront: Waterfront Park.

The park, overlooking the water near King Street in Old Town, Alexandria, was previously called Fitzgerald Square, but there’s been much debate over Colonel John Fitzgerald’s past as a slave owner.

“His successful businesses were accomplished on the backs of enslaved human beings,” said Councilman Tim Lovain, who spoke during Saturday’s hearing.

Former Vice Mayor Andrew Macdonald agreed. “It’s pretty hard to take and it’s probably not something we should honor,” said Macdonald.

The new name didn’t exactly make an impression on some council members, though, including Macdonald. “I think we should name this park for an African American or a Native American,” he said.

Others welcomed the new name.

“It’s not the jazziest name but I think it will serve a good purpose,” said Councilman Paul Smedberg.

City leaders hope the new park will serve as a centerpiece in the city, breathing new life into the Potomac River Waterfront. Construction is now underway to combine the original King Street Park with the former Old Dominion Boat Club building and parking lot. The interim park will feature an open plaza, a waterfront promenade, shade structures and a modular space. The first phase of the park will open in 2019 as construction on the permanent Waterfront Park continues.

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