De­spite Park­ing Fears, Coun­cil Ap­proves Lux­ury Ho­tel Com­plex

The Washington Post Sunday - - Metro Week - By Kirstin Downey

The Alexan­dria City Coun­cil ap­proved con­struc­tion of a lux­ury ho­tel on up­per King Street near the Metro sta­tion yes­ter­day, fresh ev­i­dence of Old Town Alexan­dria’s trans­for­ma­tion into an up­scale tourist mecca.

The new com­plex, which will in­clude a top-drawer restau­rant, cof­fee-wine bar and day spa, will be built on a site pre­vi­ously ap­proved for a con­do­minium de­vel­op­ment that was shelved. It will in­cor­po­rate one his­toric build­ing and pre­serve the fa­cade of an­other.

The project makes sense for the city, said coun­cil mem­ber Ti­mothy B. Lo­vain (D), be­cause “a ho­tel, es­pe­cially a lux­ury ho­tel,” would gen­er­ate a lot of tax-gen­er­at­ing spend­ing by its pa­trons, “but with very lit­tle de­mand for [city] ser­vices.” The coun­cil ap­proved the spe­cial-use per­mit unan­i­mously.

It will be the third ho­tel in Old Town to be op­er­ated by the Kimp­ton Ho­tel and Restau­rant Group, a San Fran­cisco-based com­pany known for its posh, com­fort­able and quirky lodg­ing es­tab­lish­ments and eateries. Kimp­ton op­er­ates the Mor­ri­son House and will op­er­ate the for­mer Hol­i­day Inn, which is be­ing ren­o­vated.

“We feel there’s a great op­portu- nity,” said Nick Gre­gory, area gen­eral man­ager for Kimp­ton Ho­tels. “The Old Town mar­ket is due for some lux­ury prop­er­ties.”

The ap­proval of the 107-room ho­tel is an­other sign of more changes afoot for the his­toric en­clave. The city is pre­par­ing a plan to re­de­velop the wa­ter­front, and the Na­tional Har­bor con­ven­tion cen­ter across the Po­tomac River is ex­pected to draw 500 to 1,000 tourists to Old Town daily, most ar­riv­ing at the base of King Street by wa­ter taxi.

Coun­cil mem­bers en­dorsed the project de­spite con­cerns ex­pressed by nearby res­i­dents that a new ho­tel would add to their park­ing woes and fur­ther mark the shift to­ward ritzy ameni­ties and away from a fo­cus on neigh­bor­hoods.

“We’re con­cerned about park­ing,” said Alexan­dria res­i­dent Suzanna Kang, who lives on Cameron Street, adding that the ho­tel’s pa­trons are un­likely to use mass tran­sit. “They ar­rive in their lux­ury au­to­mo­biles, and they park in our neigh­bor­hood.”

Alexan­dria res­i­dent Townsend A. “Van” Van Fleet, pres­i­dent of the Old Town Civic As­so­ci­a­tion, said, “Ma­jor traf­fic jams will oc­cur re­gard­less of man­age­ment’s well-in­ten­tioned prom­ises.” He also ques­tioned the way the city is be­ing re­shaped.

“An­other bou­tique ho­tel will ob- vi­ously change the char­ac­ter of that area,” Van Fleet said. “Where will the peo­ple of mod­er­ate means stay when they come to the neigh­bor­hood?”

The ho­tel’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives said they planned to re­duce traf­fic block­ages and park­ing prob­lems by of­fer­ing a free valet ser­vice to restau­rant, spa and ho­tel pa­trons. Tourism booster Char­lotte Hall, vice pres­i­dent of the Po­tomac River­boat Co., said she be­lieves that nearby park­ing garages can be used more ef­fec­tively and that busi­nesses are seek­ing new ways to of­fer park­ing to their cus­tomers. City of­fi­cials are also study­ing the park­ing prob­lem.

“Th­ese neigh­bors have rea­son to com­plain,” said City Coun­cil mem­ber Redella S. “Del” Pep­per (D). “They are com­pet­ing for park­ing spa­ces.”

She ac­knowl­edged that the ad­di­tion of an­other ho­tel is “a big step in chang­ing that whole area” and said of­fi­cials “will be mon­i­tor­ing it closely.” But on bal­ance, she said, it will be “a big plus.”

Still, Duhyun Choe, owner of the Up­towner Cafe, a small cof­fee and sand­wich shop across King Street from the site of the new ho­tel, frowned when he learned of the coun­cil’s de­ci­sion. He said he wor­ries that park­ing prob­lems and more re­tail com­pe­ti­tion could hurt his busi­ness.

“Park­ing is hard now,” he said. “There’ll be a lot of traf­fic. And there are too many ho­tels — the Hil­ton, the Hamp­ton, the Mar­riott — too many.”

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