Tall ship ‘Providence’ proposed to Waterfront Commission

Tall ship ‘Providence’ proposed to Waterfront Commission
The USS Providence replica (left) in 1980 in Boston (Courtesy Photo)

By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com

During Tuesday morning’s Waterfront Commission meeting, Alexandria Restaurant Partners principal Scott Shaw presented a plan to permanently dock the tall ship U.S.S. Providence in Alexandria.

The ship is a 100-foot, full scale replica of the Continental Navy’s first warship. If all goes according to plan, the U.S.S. Providence will be docked at Waterfront Park by summer 2019.

Shaw’s plan includes the establishment of the Tall Ship Providence Foundation, a new nonprofit that will spearhead the ship’s acquisition and upkeep as it brings dockside business to Old Town.

Shaw said he expected a positive community response, especially after the excitement brought about by Eagle, the U.S. Coast Guard’s tall ship that docked in Alexandria in early September.

“As we all saw a couple weeks ago … people love tall ships,” Shaw said. “We’re really excited how we can use this to bring Alexandria’s maritime history to the forefront.”

The U.S.S. Providence, which currently resides in Somerset, MA, is Coast Guard certified to support 44 passengers. It will be used to host tours, cruises, reenactments and educational events, according to the Tall Ship Providence Foundation.

While the foundation is still in its beginning stages, Shaw said it intended to raise $2 million through donations and grants before the Providence’s arrival. The foundation will eventually be composed of a 12 member board. Shaw said he did not expect the Waterfront Commission to approve until the foundation was able to provide a business plan with specifics.

At the meeting, the commission also addressed the city’s decision last week to drop its plan for a business improvement district.

“That proposal is not moving forward,” Nathan Macek, a representative of the Planning Commission, said of the abandoned BID plan, “but at some point another concept will be important to help address that question of how we activate the waterfront.”

Commission members were not only concerned with the challenge of “activating” the waterfront’s small businesses and tourist appeal, but also with simple maintenance problems like a lack of trashcans.

“The original plan was that the developments along the waterfront were going to fund maintenance and construction,” said Howard Bergman, a representative of Founders Park Community Association. “In fact, as the tax revenues increase, that can be done.”

“I think as we start looking at the budget, we should not discount the notion that we should tell our city council… ‘the money is there, and you should be using it for the purpose that you said it would be used for,’” he said.

The commission also discussed the status of the Robinson Terminal Sites along the waterfront. Archeologists have been uncovering history at Robinson Terminal South, said Dirk Geratz, principal planner in the department of planning and zoning.

“They did find the foundations of the Pioneer Mill, which is something that has always been talked about as being on this property,” Geratz said. “They found the stone foundation, and they say they’re quite elaborate.”

Ted Pulliam of the Alexandria Archaeology Commission also reported the coffin and remains found earlier this year that delayed construction turned out to actually be animal remains in a coffin-shaped privy.

Archeology projects will continue at RTS through October.

The Ad Hoc Monitoring Group on Waterfront Construction will host a meeting next Tuesday, Sept. 26, about environmental issues at Robinson Terminal North.

The meeting, which was organized on short notice and separate from regular ad hoc meetings, will feature two representatives from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and will address concerns about hazardous materials, such as arsenic, at the site.

Also next week, the Alexandria Seaport Foundation will host Seaport Day at Waterfront Park on Saturday, Sept. 30 from noon to 6 p.m.