By Derrick Perkins (File photo)
An iconic Old Town building that remains an enduring symbol of Alexandria’s period of maritime primacy may be in line for a major makeover.
Though Fitzgerald Warehouse dates back to the Port City’s early decades, it expanded in the modern era. Two additions sprung up after several rounds of upgrades in the 1960s and 90s, according to city officials.
It’s these portions — one home to a Thai restaurant, the other vacant — of the imposing Colonial structure on the corner of King and Union streets that the warehouse’s current owners quietly have been discussing with city planners.
“The planning staff has seen an early concept and a proposal for the non-historic portions of that building,” said Karl Moritz, acting planning director. “We were approached with the concept maybe a few months ago.”
Details remain scarce. Moritz’s colleagues only have received a rough proposal from the owners — Monarch Row LLC, according to real estate records — but talks indicate they are considering a mix of office and retail space. The ground floor of the updated space seems likley to house at least one restaurant, Moritz said.
Calls to Monarch Row and a message left with the firm’s attorney went unanswered before the Times’ print deadline.
Though not part of the city’s controversial waterfront plan, discussions of redevelopment at the site come as the Potomac shoreline is poised to undergo rapid change. One boutique hotel just two blocks down Union Street already is in the works and another is slated for Robinson Terminal North. That warehouse’s counterpart in Old Town’s southeastern quadrant will be redeveloped into a mix of high-end residential and retail space.
Closer to Fitzgerald Warehouse, city officials earlier this year reached a deal with the Old Dominion Boat Club for the group’s waterfront property at the foot of King Street. After years of bitter negotiating, club leadership agreed to swap the property for $5 million and the city-owned Beachcomber building at the foot of Prince Street, which eventually will serve as the group’s new headquarters.
The former clubhouse will make way for what officials have dubbed the crown jewel of a revitalized waterfront: the aptly-named Fitzgerald Square. Moritz believes a partially redeveloped Fitzgerald Warehouse will complement the plaza officials already envision for the area.
“The big thing that is exciting is that if the new building is approved, it would really go very nicely with the Fitzgerald Square that we had planned,” he said. “It integrates really nicely.”
Still, a slew of technicalities must be overcome. Al Cox, the city’s preservationist, is working to resolve the outstanding zoning and easement issues. Early plans, though, call for exposing more of the original building, which has him excited.
“Now that the site is being consolidated … that has the opportunity to expose more of the rear of the historic building. It seems like [a] win-win in concept, but it’s early,” he said.
Though an exact construction date eludes historians, former reporter Diane Riker concluded the building likely went up around 1795 in an article she wrote for The Alexandria Chronicle in 2007. Merchant John Fitzgerald — a friend and comrade of George Washington — housed three warehouses under its single roof, as well as his offices, a salesroom and sail loft.
Though Fitzgerald later fell on hard times, the warehouse enjoyed a storied history and remains the oldest building on the east side of Union Street, according to Cox.