EDITORIAL: If it’s going to be a hotel, let’s make sure it fits


(Image/City of Alexandria)

And just like that, the city’s waterfront is back in the spotlight. Two major developments this month could play a major role in what Alexandria’s Potomac shoreline looks like in a few decades.

One is part of a national story: the sale of The Washington Post. Though the deal includes Post Co. subsidiary The Robinson Terminal Co., it does not include the similarly named properties in Old Town.

The other development is far more local. Washington-based Carr Hospitality is returning to City Hall with redrawn plans for the 200 block of S. Union St.

All three locations — the Cummings and Turner block along South Union Street and the Robinson Terminals — are targeted for redevelopment in the city waterfront plan. The three sites represent the crown jewels of a revitalized and vibrant riverfront.

While the Post sale is interesting, it’s the Carr Hospitality proposal that will command local attention these next few months. If all goes as scheduled, the planning commission and city council could vote on it as soon as January or February.

Unsurprisingly, however, waterfront plan critics are reiterating that a hotel on that block is inappropriate, so they will adamantly oppose it. This is their right, of course, and we applaud them for taking an active role in civic affairs.
But their efforts increasingly seem like opposition for the sake of opposition.

Our city councilors have voted twice now — the second time with a supermajority in favor — to approve the redevelopment plan as well as the zoning changes. These include allowing hotels along the riverfront.

And even if, as opponents hope, the state Supreme Court invalidates one or both votes, the council’s makeup isn’t going to change anytime soon. City councilors can go ahead and vote again — a third time — to approve the changes.

So let’s start with the premise that our duly elected representatives have spoken. Hotels may or may not spring up along the shoreline, but that is what city councilors — and their constituents — want to see on the waterfront.

Where do we go from here? There is still time for constructive criticism and participation as the project moves ahead. If a hotel is built in the Cummings and Turner block, let’s ensure the architecture fits with the atmosphere of Old Town; the traffic generated is mitigated; and policies are in place to account for the sudden intrusion of visitors in an otherwise — usually — sleepy section of the neighborhood.

It’s OK to be critical about Carr Hospitality’s proposal. It’s fine to help the company and City Hall find a plan that fits best into the neighborhood. But the time for standing athwart the prospect of waterfront hotels, yelling stop, has long since passed.




  1. Yes. Yes. Can we please just move on? We don’t need endless rounds of criticism and debate when decisions have already been made. It just becomes argument for the sake of argument. As for the three ladies that brought suit…please. You’ve got a pretty good gig. It’s time to let others enjoy the OT waterfront.

    • We should be grateful to the 3 ladies who are forcing accountability. They are passionate about Old Town’s history and its future, and we need people like that to balance the politically well connected and monied interests who care about history and our future only as it is relevant to profit and politics. Doesn’t make them bad people but they have different interests than the people who live there and pay the taxes.

      By the way, I know this is the city spiking the ball because it thinks it is over, but it is a dangerous game to presume what the Supreme Court is going to do. Maybe the city will win, maybe it won’t. More likely, it will be somewhere in between.

      • The waterfront plan does nothing to impact Old Town’s history – no one is proposing that any historic structure be altered, let alone demolished. If you really know (or care) about Old Town’s history you know that Pioneer Mill occupied this site until a fire destroyed it in the late 1800’s. This was a 6-story structure so the hotel proposed is far more historically consistent than the warehouse/parking garage that is there now. You may hate the idea of a hotel on this site but please stop with the “destroying history” BS.

        • You misunderstand. Old Town is living history and it is important that new projects fit in the neighborhood. Of course no historical buildings are coming down (well, at least until a developer needs one to). That is not the point. The point is the vision of what the waterfront will become and how it fits. It is ironic that the first proposal for a hotel may be inconsistent with the adopted plan, yet that does not seem to matter. Perhaps the point was just to get hotels on the site, and how the city did it was not all that important.

  2. This looks pretty much the same as the original design, which would mostly confine waterfront access and views to hotel guests. A major point of the waterfront plan was to open the waterfront for all to enjoy. This proposal appears to violate that on its face. Why is the city obsessed with hotels?

    It makes one wonder if the city created this new shadow planning department for the waterfront only because the professional planners do not share the same obsession.

    And don’t overstate the validation of last election. We live in a one party town that does not tolerate dissent, and like other one party towns, we make ideological decisions.

  3. This editorial is spot on. Hotels are coming to the waterfront – like it or not. Those of us in Old Town need to accept that fact and use our energy and ideas to make them as positive an impact on our neighborhood as possible.

  4. 10 millions gallons of RAW SEWAGE (that’s POOP to you) is currently dumped into the Potomac under the Wilson by Alexandria.
    Why are we allowing another 600 toliets to be built there to be used by non residents?
    From the window of an airplane you see the brown trail head out of Hunting Creek down the Potomac toward the Chesapeake Bay, its disgusting.
    Stop the hotels
    Jeff Bezos, my king of amazon.com, just give us the land for a park and take the big tax break