Waterfront redevelopment is about to start, whether Old Town residents are ready or not. Work on the 120-room Carr City Centers hotel at the foot of Duke Street will begin this fall, which means both short- and long-term disruptions are headed your way.
Representatives of Carr City Centers will meet with residents next week to discuss potential disruptions and their construction concerns. Topics that either Carr or those who live in the area have identified include:
• The hours during which construction will take place.
• Acceptable noise levels.
• Mitigating potential damage to surrounding buildings and homes from pile driving.
• The handling of hazardous materials, particularly asbestos and contaminated soil.
• Traffic disruptions.
• The effect of heavy vehicles on Old Town streets.
We commend Carr for recognizing the need to discuss these concerns with neighbors. Hopefully, all issues can be resolved amicably, as a construction project of this size in the middle of a historic, residential neighborhood is likely to be more disruptive than most.
The longer-term implications from this project are more troubling, and they are the responsibility of the City of Alexandria, not Carr. Chief among them are the parking implications for residents closest to the project and traffic management in lower Old Town.
The size of this project triggered a requirement for a transportation management plan for the surrounding area. Carr complied and produced a study, which — no one should be surprised to learn — concluded the project would have a minimal impact on nearby traffic. Perhaps that’s right, though it certainly seems like a conflict of interest to have a developer fund surely a study on its own project.
Adding any more cars to the already busy Duke Street at 5 p.m. is going to make a bad situation worse.
The potential parking impact on surrounding streets is even more worrisome. The City of Alexandria still refuses to address, or even acknowledge, the effect that this hotel will have on parking for nearby Old Town residents.
This 120-room hotel, which also has a 24-seat meeting room and a 120-seat approved indoor/outdoor restaurant, received a reduction of its on-site parking requirement to only 69 spaces.
The plan is for valet workers to park overflow cars off-street in other Old Town parking garages. The reality is restaurant patrons in particular will park on nearby residential streets.
Our city depends on Old Town residents to pay steep taxes on their historic properties — taxes that help fund all of the city’s employees and services. They also expect these homeowners to keep their historic properties in good condition, as these very homes help fuel the city’s vital tourism business.
City officials need to reciprocate by addressing the very real parking problem in the most viable way: making a several-block radius around the hotel resident-only parking. To do less would be to kick the proverbial golden goose after taking its egg.