Opinion Your Views — 27 March 2014
Saving the Alexandria Seaport Foundation must be a priority

By R. Alan McCurry, Alexandria
(File Photo)

To the editor:

I am a solid supporter and board member of the Alexandria Seaport Foundation and am very proud of the help we provide at-risk and underserved youth. It is a great and satisfying feeling to see our apprentices develop career and life skills that will help them become contributing members of the community.

With the redevelopment of the waterfront and the sale of Robinson Terminal South, the foundation’s future is at risk. Robinson Terminal South has been its home for nearly 10 years and provides 8,200 square feet of space for boatbuilding projects.

Through our hands-on, experiential approach to learning, the foundation instills a newfound sense of purpose and hope in young people. However, without the space to build our boats, this program will be lost — as will the opportunity to change lives and build futures.

I participated in several recent public sessions concerning the redevelopment of the waterfront. The first concept design meeting, held on February 6, offered two choices for the future look and functionality of the waterfront.

Both options identified a building near the foot of Duke Street as the “civic center/Seaport Foundation” and showed our floating office and workspace at the same location.

The speaker indicated that this space would be used by the foundation to build boats and continue its work with young apprentices. Although a little vague as to the total use of the space, it was clear that the foundation was to be part of that building.

The second meeting, held on March 6, began with a review of the previous meeting and the presentation of a new plan reflecting the thoughts and suggestions collected at the first meeting. Sadly, though, when the updated plan was displayed, the building previously designated for the foundation was described simply as a “civic center,” with absolutely no mention of the organization other than a reference to our floating office.

As previously mentioned, the foundation uses 8,200 square feet of space in Robinson Terminal South to train apprentices, build boats, and store materials and finished projects. Our floating office, with just 300 square feet of space used by our administrative staff, cannot support the apprenticeship program.

What was said about this change, which could significantly affect the Alexandria Seaport Foundation? City staff only said that there were potential liability issues concerning the use of the space by the foundation — nothing definitive, nothing clarifying.

Having watched this city work on many projects and seen first-hand the importance of resident involvement, I am confident that without strong community support the Alexandria Seaport Foundation — and the many young, at-risk apprentices it helps — will become homeless.

It is time for city councilors and staff to clarify how the foundation will fit into the waterfront redevelopment plan.

How will it achieve its goals of emphasizing our city’s maritime history while activating the waterfront without the Alexandria Seaport Foundation?

 

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