Opinion Your Views — 21 February 2014
Waterfront hotel public hearing was a comedy of errors

By Townsend A. 
“Van” Van Fleet, Alexandria
(Image/City of Alexandria)

To the editor:

The Alexandria City Council hearing on Carr City Center’s proposed hotel last month was a joke. When a developer can essentially threaten the city by saying it won’t build a hotel at the 220 S. Union St. site unless it has 120 rooms, we are in deep trouble.

Apparently Carr and members of city staff do not want to denigrate the company’s projected return on investment. So that means 120 rooms or Carr walks away from the deal. In my opinion, let them walk.

The mass, shape and scale are not reflective of the 19th-century warehouse that was intended for this location. It is too large for the site. It needs to be scaled way back to reflect a real boutique hotel, like the Morrison House.

While we’re at it, city officials need to redefine what a real boutique hotel is because it’s not 150 rooms — it’s a lot less. They should be planning for about 50 or so rooms in this small space.

This is a historic city, and this building needs to reflect that.

Because this development is the first one out of the gate since the city passed the waterfront redevelopment plan, it needs to be done right. Otherwise, the developments to follow also will be overly dense and leave us with real eyesores.

The proposed architecture of Carr’s building is seedy at best. The building looks like an oversized jail.

Before voting, city councilors spent 90 percent of their discussion time trying to make cosmetic changes to the building, but not once did they address the mass and scale of this oversized monstrosity. Density is all they care about as it yields the greatest dollar payback in tax revenues. How it fits in historically is totally ignored.

This decision by city council is in line with all of the other poor decisions it has made in the last couple of years. The only councilor who has voted the right way on every new development is Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg. It’s a shame she was not at the hearing on the Carr hotel as the vote would have been 6-1 and not 6-0.

Not a win either way, but it would have sent a message, at least.

 

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