Water­front project will in­clude ho­tel, con­dos

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - BY PA­TRI­CIA SUL­LI­VAN pa­tri­cia.sul­li­van@wash­post.com

The Alexandria City Coun­cil voted unan­i­mously Satur­day to ap­prove the con­struc­tion of a res­i­den­tial, ho­tel and com­mer­cial project at the north end of the Old Town water­front, sign­ing off on the last of the ma­jor pieces of the city’s water­front plan nearly four years af­ter the city coun­cil agreed to re­make its Po­tomac River shore.

The de­vel­op­ers, City In­ter­ests and Rooney Prop­er­ties, plan to build two struc­tures on the site of ware­houses known as Robin­son Ter­mi­nal North, which were for­merly owned by a sub­sidiary of the old Wash­ing­ton Post Co. The com­bined project, ex­pected to be com­pleted in 24 to 30 months, will con­tain 66 mul­ti­fam­ily units, a 132-room ho­tel and 25,000 square feet of com­mer­cial space, in­clud­ing up to four res­tau­rants with as many as 500 in­door and out­door seats.

The mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar de­vel­op­ment, lo­cated at West’s Point, the ear­li­est con­tin­u­ally oc­cu­pied site in the city, drew scru­tiny from some res­i­dents. They raised ob­jec­tions to an ex­pected in­crease in both on-street park­ing de­mand and con­struc­tion traf­fic. They at­tempted, as they did dur­ing the water­front plan con­tro­versy four years ago, to de­lay pas­sage of the project.

“If you are not care­ful . . . you will bring fes­ter­ing re­sent­ments that will last for decades,” warned neigh­bor­hood res­i­dent Carolyn Merck.

But un­like four years ago when more than 100 mem­bers of the pub­lic ob­jected dur­ing an 11-hour meet­ing, only 10 res­i­dents spoke against the pro­posal. Most were Old Town res­i­dents or those who have fought the water­front plan for years.

The de­vel­op­ers will cre­ate a pub­lic walk­way along the river, re­build the ex­ist­ing pier and add a float­ing dock, both of which will be open to the pub­lic. The project will in­clude 260 un­der­ground park­ing spots for condo res­i­dents as well as ho­tel and restau­rant cus­tomers.

Any ad­di­tional park­ing needed will be han­dled with valet park­ing to area garages. City staff pointed out that nearby park­ing garages reach only 35 per­cent of their ca­pac­ity dur­ing peak times, but res­i­dents said many vis­i­tors won’t walk the four to five blocks to the garages.

Mayor Bill Euille (D) dis­closed at the start of the meet­ing that he has re­ceived cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions from peo­ple in­volved in the project both in the past and in his cur­rent write-in cam­paign for mayor, but he said he did not find him­self in a con­flict of in­ter­est and would par­tic­i­pate and vote.

The hotly con­tested water­front plan, which took years to re­solve, passed in Jan­uary 2012, then was passed again 14 months later. The City Coun­cil last year adopted a $120 mil­lion land­scape de­sign and project plan cre­ated by Olin Stu­dios. The Old Do­min­ion Boat Club, which ac­cepted a $5 mil­lion buy­out of­fer from the city for its club­house and park­ing lot at the foot of King Street, is mov­ing a few hun­dred feet south, and its old home will be­come part of a new civic square.

Work on both Carr Hos­pi­tal­ity’s planned bou­tique ho­tel at 220 S. Union St. and a res­i­den­tial and re­tail project on the site of the old Robin­son Ter­mi­nal South ware­house, now owned by EYA, be­gan this sum­mer.

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