ODBC moves closer to new clubhouse

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ODBC moves closer to new clubhouse
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By Susan Hale Thomas (Image/City of Alexandria)

Preliminary designs for the Old Dominion Boat Club were well received by the members of the city board of architectural review during a work session on the project earlier this month.

After years of negotiations and the threat of eminent domain, members of the ODBC agreed in July to swap waterfront properties with the city and relocate to the city owned Beachcombers property at the end of Prince Street. City officials acquired the old clubhouse to expand waterfront public access and paid the group $5 million.

The proposed designs detail the transformation of the Beachcombers property into the new ODBC headquarters.

In his presentation to the board, Michael Winstanley, the architect of the project, reflected on the historic nature of the waterfront and the effort to create a boat building aesthetic. Winstanley noted that historical photographs of the area show its primary use was “very utilitarian and never very pictorial.”

The new ODBC will be located within the planned waterfront park. ODBC plans propose remodeling the existing Beachcombers structure and building a new addition on its west side.  The design will be a timber frame structure, resembling the overlapping planks of a clinker boat.

Board member Wayne Neal was enthusiastic in his praise of the mockups.

“It’s one of the better things we’ve seen in a long time,” Neal said. “And it’s just getting better and better.”

Three areas of the proposal that generated the most concern to members were mechanical penthouses, delineating the old building from the new and the addition of stairs on the outside of the building.

Members said the building was too tall for the property’s zoning, and need to be redesigned.

The board was concerned about how the new and older building could be fused together visually while maintaining the historic building’s distinct characteristics. Among the ideas was a hyphen — an architectural link that connects two elements — created with glazing.

Stairs on the outside of the building were proposed to maximize interior space and project a nautical theme, Winstanley said. He showed examples of riverboats and steamboats with balconies and stairs that wrap around the vessels, and gangplanks that provide access from land to boat. Most board members were pleased by the addition.

It was agreed the base of the building be made of natural stone. Members felt the stone, when combined with the windows and horizontal siding, would be of visual interest to pedestrians.

On the waterfront side, a functional ramp was proposed for those coming up from the marina to the boat club’s deck. At street level, three window bays were proposed, each featuring pictorial histories to serve as a public outreach component.

What generated the most enthusiasm in the room was the mention of a rooftop bar.  But city preservationist Al Cox stressed that it would have to be a temporary one, noting that city zoning limits permanent rooftop structures to necessary mechanical equipment.

As part of the city’s agreement with the boat club, plans for the new clubhouse will be on a fast track to approval. However, members have not yet announced when they plan to formally submit their application to city planners.

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