It’s a phenomenon as guaranteed as the intermittent flooding at the foot of Prince Street after a major storm. If you want to develop a property along Alexandria’s waterfront, there will be heated debate over the project’s size, relation to Old Town’s historic character and, of course, parking.
These issues resurfaced last week when the city planning commission considered CityInterests’ proposal for the Robinson Terminal North property. The project would replace the long-vacant warehouse with a mix of apartments, commercial space and a 132-room hotel.
Although the proposal includes off-street parking for residents of the complex, residents remain concerned about how the new development might affect parking in the already crowded Old Town neighborhood.
Opponents argued during the hearing that if residents without driveways of their own cannot park in the Robinson Terminal North garage, those living in the new development should not receive resident parking permits to park on neighborhood streets. But city staff argued against such a prohibition, noting that current residents with garages or driveways along the waterfront still are able to park on-street.
Given that the Old Town Area Parking Study work group, which reconvened earlier this year, released its recommendations late last month, there is a simple short-term solution to this disagreement. And it is one that city council already has employed with this project’s southern neighbor.
When city councilors take up the proposal Saturday, they should attach the same condition applied to Robinson Terminal South to the northern parcel if they approve it: restrict residents of the new development from acquiring residential parking permits until city council has an opportunity to consider and implement the group’s recommendations and staff can monitor the results.
The array of new developments clearly will have a significant impact on the parking situation in lower Old Town. But as the city’s policy to address short- and long-term parking in the area are in a state of flux, it will be difficult to determine the actual effect any one project could have on on-street parking, let alone all three major developments, including the Carr hotel.
The safest measure, at this moment, is to at least temporarily restrict residents of the new development from having residential on-street permits, especially since they will have access to their own garage at the site.
As the various new waterfront developments come online and new parking policies are implemented, city officials can measure their effect on the neighborhood and make changes including allowing more people to obtain permits, if warranted.
But for now it is best to remain cautious until staff, council and current and future residents get a better understanding of the new status quo along the Potomac.