Opinion: Don’t strangle the waterfront landscape

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Opinion: Don’t strangle the waterfront landscape
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To the editor:

Without a fully informed and involving public debate, a historic city like Alexandria should not seek to clog its most significant natural landscape with commercial development and boutique hotels. A pig dressed up in pretty ribbons is still a pig.

In many cities, revenue-generating hotels and other buildings are being built away from river flood plains and established on higher ground elsewhere, leaving the riverfront as a linear park for public access and the enjoyment of this and future generations.

Surely a public design charrette involving architects and urban designers from the University of Virginia or Virginia Tech would be willing to take on this planning and design challenge as an extended academic exercise.

This riparian landscape ought to be seen from hotels and other buildings — not occupied by them. Cities in this and other countries have learned that valuable waterfront property, kept in a natural state, attracts commercial development in adjacent parcels. Look at Paris, London, Barcelona, Stockholm, Chattanooga, Providence, San Antonio, Portland, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, New York and even Washington.

Developing Alexandria’s waterfront is a short-sighted response to the city’s perceived need for revenue. The metropolitan area is already choked with development. The waterfront landscape has an incalculable value to attract adjacent hotels and commercial development where all people — not just the privileged few — can enjoy the view of the river and its natural landscape.

– Steve Hammell
Alexandria

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