To the editor:
I read the Feb. 24 edition of the Alexandria Times and was astonished to hear the feedback on the plans to redevelop the waterfront area in Old Town.
I disagree with many of the views held by Mr. Van Fleet. (The waterfront plan will degrade property values and our historic ambiance.) I am a blue-collar worker living in Alexandria. I am not privileged enough to live near the waterfront or even in the historical section of Old Town, although I reside within walking distance. My family and I often walk in the waterfront parks and around the Torpedo Factory. The kids enjoy watching street performers, viewing the ducks on the river, petting the dogs and seeing the sailboats come in to dock. I often say to myself, How blessed we are to live in such a society where all are afforded the chance to appreciate the parks and public amenities regardless of our income status.
I agree that Old Town is precious and needs to be maintained. However, the city needs to evolve and grow with a balanced approach. I think that Mayor Bill Euille and the planning department have done a fabulous job in recognizing the need to redevelop the waterfront. In my opinion, the commercial ends of the waterfront, where the two Robinson terminals are located, are eyesores that do nothing to attract people to the area. While Mr. Van Fleet feels these property owners should donate their land to the Art League or turn the space into museums, is he thinking about the effect that would have on the property values of those owners? These are limited uses that do nothing to improve the aesthetic of the waterfronts commercial area. Is he merely trying to ensure that the noise levels do not disrupt his backyard barbeque? Does he want the Old Town waterfront to become an elite, secluded, gated community? Hotels on the waterfront would give those of us who are not fortunate enough to have water views the opportunity to spend a night and wake up with one for a much cheaper price than buying a million-dollar home.
I agree that the infrastructure of Alexandria needs some attention. However, where will the money come from to address these needs? Would it come from raising our already high property taxes? Many cities and states in America are currently running on fumes, if not in bankruptcy. I would like to applaud the city for trying to generate revenue to prevent this from happening in Alexandria.
The waterfront should house several public amenities with varied uses: one or two small hotels (not a box like the Gaylord), restaurants, museums, art galleries and recreation for all to enjoy. An outdoor amphitheater might be nice for evening concerts. All of this can be accomplished while preserving the historic charm of our city. Parking needs will also have to be addressed. The city should focus on the highest tax generation, largest job creation and the best use for the areas citizens and visitors.
I encourage my fellow citizens to stay on top of the waterfront redevelopment planning to ensure this area does not become an elite gated community. Ask the city to consider the needs and wishes of all residents, not just a small percentage of the richest.