By Missy Schrott | [email protected]
Council voted unanimously to approve three new restaurant spaces at the former Robinson Terminal South site on the waterfront at Saturday’s public hearing.
Applicant Alexandria Restaurant Partners will operate all three spaces, which include a 267-seat high-end, chargrill concept; a 232-seat open-air seafood restaurant on a pier in the Potomac and a 64-seat café that would also serve as the prep kitchen for the pier restaurant.
The project’s supporters who spoke at the public hearing said it was a realization of the waterfront plan that would activate the pier and the waterfront.
Charlotte Hall of Potomac Riverboat Company spoke on behalf of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce as its 2019 board chair.
“Robinson Landing, with both residential and restaurants, is exactly what we envisioned when we adopted the waterfront plan several years ago,” Hall said. “We believe that these proposed restaurants are an exciting step toward the realization of a lively, active waterfront that will attract people to our city and provide another amenity to those who already work, live and play in Alexandria.”
While the proposal earned the praises of several speakers and councilors, it also drew opposition from some residents, who primarily expressed concerns about parking.
Former Vice Mayor Andrew MacDonald said he’s always been concerned about the waterfront plan.
“I think what happened when the waterfront plan was approved a couple of years ago, and with great opposition by many of us, the feeling was that the city wanted to turn this into another National Harbor,” McDonald said. “This project is anything but a balance between I think a lively waterfront with adequate or sufficient restaurant space and all of the other impacts. … It seems to me that we’ve gone way too far with this application.”
In response to concerns, ARP’s attorney Jonathan Rak said that in addition to developing a valet parking plan with 58 spaces that exceeds the city’s requirements, ARP will work with staff once the restaurants open to determine whether they need more parking. As of now, ARP plans to open them by summer 2020.
“We have to essentially implement the valet parking, then work with the staff through the parking management plan to determine whether there is a demand for additional spaces,” Rak said. “So there’s no specific number at this point, in fact, we’re hopeful that 58 will be enough, but it really is just more that there’s a mechanism to provide additional parking if we need it.”
With little discussion from the five council members who were present at the public hearing – Councilors John Chapman and Canek Aguirre were absent – council voted 5-0 to approve the special use permits for the restaurants.
After the approval, Councilor Del Pepper said she hoped the resident concerns about the project wouldn’t be forgotten.
“I hope that the attorney and Scott and anybody else that’s going to continue to be working on this project, I hope that you will take into consideration some of the issues that you heard today,” Pepper said, “because I think that they certainly are valid and they should be getting your attention as time goes by.”