To the editor:
Now I understand. The waterfront plan is a not a routine public works project for the benefit of city residents; its a gamble to lure tourists. On the surface, our city planning commission wants to make the waterfront more attractive and to better control floods.
Its hard not to find these goals worthy. However, it is also hard to accept whats underneath. It is a bet. The plan is premised on a bet that the changes made to the waterfront will pay for themselves. Like three-card Monte, the commissions bet has three parts.
Part one: the waterfront plan is not based on accommodating city residents, particularly those nearby. It is intended to appeal to non-residents. Specifically, the commissions bet is to transform the waterfront into a lure.
Part Two: the lure for tourists is to stay in new boutique hotels and restaurants. If successful, it will increase congestion in an already densely occupied, historic sliver of Alexandria.
Part Three: The tax revenue from rooms rented and meals consumed in these new establishments will, over a to-be-determined number of years, pay to create the lure.
With existing hotel room occupancy down, with existing restaurants struggling and with the future impossible to predict, the planning commissions bet is unquestionably a very long shot.
It also reveals a major disconnect between the commission and the citizens it ostensibly serves, especially those residing near the waterfront. Instead of crafting a plan serving them, it seeks to lure visitors by turning the waterfront into a tourist trap.
Finally, the fact that the commissions plan has created such a bitter outcry that its chairman and the mayor published explanations in newspapers should be enough cause for them to rethink the plan.