Opinion: Waterfront plan a boon for compromise and vibrancy on the Potomac

Opinion: Waterfront plan a boon for compromise and vibrancy on the Potomac

To the editor:

It has been nearly three years since Alexandria kicked off the waterfront plan process with a public forum at City Hall. In that time, I’ve had the privilege of participating as a member of the waterfront committee and waterfront plan work group. But I’d like to share my personal reasons for supporting the waterfront plan.

Today’s waterfront does not fulfill its potential as a gathering place for Alexandrians or a must-see destination for visitors. Existing plans do not encourage development on Alexandria’s few remaining parcels in a manner consistent with the community’s vision for a vibrant shoreline that celebrates our historic and cultural legacy, expands and supports public uses, yet retains and preserves the special charm and ambience of our community for future generations.

The draft plan, aided by recommendations of the waterfront plan work group, addresses these shortcomings to create the world-class riverfront Alexandria deserves. It promotes the arts and Alexandria’s seaport history. It carefully balances new public amenities like enhanced parks and public spaces with new commerce. It provides stringent guidelines for new development to ensure compatibility with surrounding neighborhoods and consistency with Old Town’s historic character.

This is a plan that can be accomplished not by raising taxes, but by reinvesting new revenue generated from modest and appropriately scaled redevelopment of existing warehouse sites to fund civic improvements and programming that will enliven our waterfront. And by reaching an amicable agreement with property owners through the planning process, we can bring more certainty to plan implementation.

The work group found broad agreement with the city’s waterfront plan but offered a number of recommendations for improvement. It de-emphasizes reliance on hotels by favoring mixed use. It points the city toward negotiation with the Old Dominion Boat Club and away from applying eminent domain to make King Street a great street where it meets the river. It recommends structures for governance, funding and public oversight to facilitate plan implementation. In short, these suggestions made a good plan even better.  It’s time for a council to vote in favor of this plan.

– Nate Macek