Don’t blame the developers for bad development


By Dino Drudi, Alexandria
(Courtesy image)

To the editor:

You know Old Town is in trouble when an army guy is forced into using a naval analogy (“Don’t let developers and city staff low ball us on the waterfront,” July 31).

EYA is not strategically “setting the anchor” by offering its avant garde design for Robinson Terminal South as Bob Wood contends in his letter to the editor. EYA, as developers go, is relatively upfront and had implemented projects like Old Town Commons and the Oronoco with broad acceptance from those in the neighborhood.

Instead, EYA is laying its cards on the table face-up, telling folks what the company actually wants, whether or not this design will prove acceptable.

Focusing on EYA allows the real culprit for blame, City Hall, too easily off the hook. The fact that the staff report praises EYA’s design signals that the folks to whom staff answers on city council like, and may have encouraged, this kind of design.

The real heroes here are the members of the board of architectural review, who publicly called out EYA’s design as wretchedly out-of-place and went as far as they thought they could to fix the hotel design by Carr City Centers.

The real problem is that the sitting city council, the first to be elected after switching the election to November, has overruled its appointed boards, commissions and task forces.

Carr’s representative flat-out dared the board of architectural review to reject the design if they didn’t like it, as they would then just appeal to city council. So the board reluctantly allowed it to pass, obviously fearing not being reappointed after next year’s election if it nixed something clearly desired by city council.

The developers will negotiate over details, but beyond a point they will not agree to something insufficiently profitable. The trump card they hold is not the “anchor” Wood describes. As with the Carr hotel, they will threaten to give Old Town residents exactly what they want and nix the project.

That would mean City Hall would not get the waterfront development it wants. Rather than risk the developer pulling out, City Hall accedes to the developer’s bottom line.