Opinion: The right waterfront plan, right now


To the editor:

The city’s proposed waterfront plan should be adopted without further delay. We write as a group whose homes are located all over the city — Old Town, Del Ray, Rosemont, Beverley Hills, Jefferson Park, Clover and the West End — and we have no interest other than wanting our waterfront to be an attractive and thriving place that benefits all Alexandrians. Here are a few reasons why the city council should adopt the waterfront plan:

A vibrant and viable waterfront: For too long, the waterfront has been an underutilized, disconnected and ho-hum stretch of land, hardly befitting a city as great as Alexandria.  Alexandrians deserve a vibrant waterfront that respects the history and uniqueness of our city, while balancing the interests of all residents. And it needs to be viable, so that it pays for itself and doesn’t leave taxpayers with the bill. The city’s plan satisfies these critical elements. While no plan will ever be perfect, the city’s plan proposes a nicely balanced mix of public spaces, commercial uses and much-needed flood-control measures — without putting taxpayers into hock.

The city’s plan doesn’t substantially increase potential development but rather improves it. Some opponents have suggested the city’s plan would usher in a wave of new development along the waterfront. The truth is, the main properties at issue, the two Robinson Terminal sites and the Cummings/Turner block along the Strand already can be redeveloped under existing zoning with increased density for office, retail, residential and other uses — and all without offering the city much of anything in return.

The city’s plan includes zoning changes that encourage uses with less overall traffic, parking, fiscal and environmental impacts than the uses currently allow. While the potential square footage of development is increased modestly, this is necessary in order to obtain owner-furnished parks, open space, parking facilities and other amenities that could never be realized if the land were to be developed under existing zoning rights. If these zoning changes are not implemented, the properties at issue could be redeveloped at any time in a far less optimal and coordinated fashion.

Two-plus years of study and discussion are more than enough. The city’s plan is the product of more than two years of studies by consultants and city staff and has been dissected and discussed in dozens of public workgroups and meetings. Every conceivable voice and opinion has been heard and considered. Further studies and discussions are unnecessary and will only induce “analysis paralysis,” resulting in no plan ever being adopted.

The status quo — doing nothing — is not an option. As the old adage goes, failing to plan is a plan to fail. The city’s plan is the right plan, right now. We urge the council to adopt it.

– Terry and Theo Androus, Bill Butcher, Andrew Calhoun, Amanda Chandler, Stephanie Clayton, Dwight Dunton, Michael Hart, Nancy Lacey, Peter Lawson, John and Maureen Leary, Laura, Machanic, Keith McConchie, Michael Porterfield, Cathy Puskar, Mimi Rolph, Greg Ruff, Art and Sylvia Schmalz