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City of Alexandria, VA City of Alexandria, VA

Programming, Art and History Waterfront Implementation Ideas

The City just completed the 3rd of a 4 part Community Meeting Series for the Waterfront Landscape and Flood Mitigation Design Project. At Community Meeting #3, which was held on February 6, 2014, a presentation was made by The Olin Studio of two alternatives for the Core Area of the Waterfront extending from Duke to Queen Street. Members of the audience had a chance to weigh in on those alternatives during individual breakout table discussions. The City invites you to provide your comments also relative the questions asked during the table sessions regarding the alternatives.

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21 Comments

From a London design compeition to replace bottled water bottles. We should aim for this for the waterfront:
http://www.fastcoexist.com/3027033/6-new-designs-for-water-fountains-to-get-you-off-bottled-water-for-good

Kathryn Papp (246) | User | March 10, 2014 - 9:45 AM

Regarding February 6 public meeting and presentation:
Comments on Process:
(1) It was challenging to have adequate time for thoughtful consideration of the pros and cons of each alternative in the time given at the meeting, before the group report-outs were required. If possible, it would be helpful if the slides for the March 6 meeting could be posted on the website a couple of days before the meeting to allow time for the public to review and consider them, and identify what questions we’d like to ask at the meeting itself (or submit questions ahead of time if desired so the answers could be provided during the March 6 presentation, instead of running out of time to answer questions).
It doesn’t appear looking at the website today that any other people have posted additional public comments after the February 6 public meeting (unless they are submitting comments via another mechanism), so it appears important to create a process for the March 6 public meeting that will allow adequate time to consider any alternatives before the meeting itself. Understandably, it is hard for people to find time to provide additional followup after public meetings.
(2) To help with such a pre-review, and well as the review period the city provides after each public meeting, the March 6 presentation should include a slide listing the key differences between any alternatives presented – it’s hard to pick them out on the diagrams, especially with the smaller versions of the diagram the public works from when reviewing the presentation from home computers (vs the enlargements the city provided at the public meeting).
(3) During the February 6 meeting, it was difficult in some small groups for minority opinion members to be heard and well-represented in the report-outs.
(4) Several people on the website and at the meeting, and in some other public comments on the website related to earlier public meetings, raised questions – or made assertions -- regarding the maintenance costs associated with the options or aspects of them. Residents are rightly concerned about potential impacts on the budget and our taxes. At least some information on maintenance costs on at least key aspects of options that raise such potential concerns should be developed and presented to the public to allow adequate consideration of this important factor. Some people, for example, asserted that an ice rink would have significant maintenance costs, but a city representative told me the costs would not be significant. The process isn’t working well if the public is basing its opinions in whole or in part on inaccurate information the city can correct.
Comments on Options:
(1) I generally prefer A, but like some elements of B:
- At the foot of King Street, much prefer the Option A colonnade of trees over the modified wharf idea. The Option A colonnade of trees provides a lovely connection at the foot of King to draw people down through the colonnade to the waterfront and extended pier. The modified wharf in Option B would likely end up collecting debris, requiring maintenance to keep it clean, and is such a small confined body of water that is it unlikely to be attractive – people would more likely want to hurry past it, than to be drawn by it or enjoy it. I think the orientation of the water feature next to the colonnade of trees in Option A works well.
- I like the oval lawn area in Option B, however, just to provide some visual relief from the otherwise straight lines. And the oval lawn area allows keeping existing trees and undergrowth, which is also a plus.
- I don’t like the diagonal line of Option B. Its stated purpose was to draw people to the view of the bridge, to emphasize another water vista. I prefer Option A because it draws people straight forward to the waterfront, and allows them to stroll the waterfront down closer to the bridge if they want a closer view of it. Option B creates a distraction at the foot of King St – people who arrive there will see the water straight ahead of them and be attracted to moving straight ahead to the water, but will also see a diagonal road off to their right and wonder if such a strongly beckoning diagonal line means they should go that way instead and might miss something if they don’t continue directly to the waterfront. It seems to present a confusing decision. The bridge is not considered a scenic bridge in our area, like the Golden Gate or others. I don’t feel Alexandria has any strong cultural connection to the bridge. With all the other north-south oriented walkways in the plan, I don’t see a need for an additional diagonal line that cuts up the lawn space.
- Regarding the “boat exhibition area and flexible event space,” I’m not certain which option is best because I can’t visualize it well. If it will be really nicely full most of the year with an interesting exhibit, then maybe it would be OK closer to the waterfront as on Option A. But if it might be a not particularly attractive hardscape area, I’d prefer it in the location in Option B. That would mean giving up some of that Option A row of trees and garden rooms running along the west side of the lawn, unfortunately, but I’d give that up if the boat exhibition area isn’t particularly attractive.
- I do in general very much like that row of trees and garden rooms running along the west side of the lawn in Option A – a very nice alternative for people to sit and rest, read, visit, whatever, in a shady intimate area instead of sitting on an open lawn. I’m “pro tree.” There is enough open lawn space along the entire waterfront area that allow broader water views, plus people can walk along the waterfront itself when they want views.
- I like the idea of the steps down to the water and a lowered walkway in Point Lumley Park.
- I don’t have strong opinions about keeping the Beachcomber Restaurant or not.
- I like the additional shade structures right behind the Torpedo Factory in Option B since it can get very hot in summer in the open sun.
- I like the Option A proposal to replace the gazebo behind the Torpedo Factory with a water feature – will help soften that hardscaped area.
- I like the Option B placement of the pumphouse/restrooms that are just north of the Chart House – keeping that structure off of the main waterfront walkway.
- I generally like the proposed history/cultural themes (e.g., Mt. Vernon–style gardens, shipbuilding/boating themes in Point Lumley Park, historic ship at foot of King).
- The bike parking hub should be moved closer to Union Street if possible.
- Regarding the ice rink, while most people at the public meeting were opposed, one “con” cited was the maintenance costs, and the facilitator at our table said those costs would not be significant. If that is true, maintenance costs should not be considered a “con.” Someone also asked what is historic about an ice rink. I don’t think that is relevant. Many current uses of our waterfront areas and other uses proposed in the plan are not “historic” uses. Should we take down the volleyball courts, not show outdoor movies, and not add a children’s play area because those are not a “historic” uses of the waterfront? Should we discontinue allowing the Torpedo Factory to be used for arts and crafts because that wasn’t an older historic use of the building? The waterfront was once a working wharf, but it is now becoming a more fully realized public park. Its uses should be consistent with a public park, while reflecting our history in appropriate ways in a public park context. In the winter, the waterfront park areas are not heavily used now, so an ice rink would just add a potential use at a time when there are few others – so why not consider it? Another concern I heard was that the proposed ice rink area is too cold and windy in winter to be a comfortable place for an ice rink. I don’t know if this is true, but if it is, that should be a serious consideration since people won’t want to use it if it is too cold. The city should be able to determine if that is indeed a real negative. Other than that one point, I didn’t hear any other persuasive reasons not to consider the ice rink. But if it is too cold and windy for people to be comfortable using it, it wouldn’t be a good proposal.

JSchumann (402) | User | February 18, 2014 - 9:27 PM

Above all no permanent structures should be built that obscure or hinder the view or use of the waterfront… by anyone, but especially residents.
Flexibility is key, since there are two distinct sets of users: residents of Old Town, who make regular and frequent walks to riverside venues as part of the life of the city; and visitors who come for short term and/or ad hoc special events, including shopping and dining.
Mixed use spaces, such as the proposed plaza at the foot of King, should be much more carefully envisioned with respect for harmonious activities and flows.
Oronoco Bay Park should be natural shoreline, as proposed by Olin, and retain it's rare view of this mini-bay. It should remain free of permanent construction of any kind and perhaps only reconfigured to reflect the fact that it lies mostly on a floodplain. It is currently the best example of flexible, multi-use waterfront space: a temporary bandstand for the birthday celebration, tents for foot races, and in the interim a place for residents to contemplate a natural setting with a far view that extends to the opposite shore five miles away.
A naturalized, even floating, promenade would be more desirable than a bulkhead. This reflects that type of treatment used in the Connecticut River example and reflects the shoreline that ships drove up onto in colonial times.
But, above all flexible features are critical to accommodate both types of users: residents, who use the shoreline everyday, and visitors who are not repeat users.
Finally, long term maintenance is key, both to keep quality high and costs low.

Kathryn Papp (246) | User | January 6, 2014 - 8:23 PM

I, too, appreciate the quiet, passive, family-oriented nature of Founders Park. Which is why I find a disconnect between those qualities and a volleyball court (very active) and an unleashed dog run (very unfriendly to kids). I'd be pleased to see both removed.
Perhaps it would be possible to arrange for canvas chair rentals as London does. And maybe chess/checker rentals. Or even a free paperback book exchange. The new hotel would be a perfect place to store such things.
Is there some way to make it possible for little kids to splash in the water? It's what they all want to do and parents are hard pressed to keep them safe on the rocks. Not a beach but perhaps a low-to-the-water pier with clever restraints, or something?

Sandra Schlachtmeyer (423) | User | January 2, 2014 - 5:15 PM

I am president of the Founders Park Community Association. I am writing on behalf of the Founders Park Community Association.

In particular, I am writing to express our objection to most of the proposals offered by the Art and History Committee for changes to Founders Park.

Founders Park

Founders Park is a peaceful riverside park where the public can stroll along the shore, enjoy the beautiful river vistas, walk their dogs, play volleyball, have a picnic, and enjoy the tranquility of this wonderful site. It is a great place to relax and enjoy the fresh air and the natural beauty of the river.

The park is a very popular destination, attracting many individuals and families, from around the region. Everyone is welcome to the park. It is crowded on weekends and does not require additional art or activities to draw people to it. In fact, we believe that people come to Founders Park primarily to enjoy its relaxed atmosphere.

Founders Park was created in 1978 through the efforts of a small group of residents along Queen, Quay, Princess and Union Streets who opposed a plan to build an apartment complex of four 18-story towers at the site. If were not for their strong opposition to the proposed development, Founders Park would not exist today.

The city has maintained Founders Park as a passive park, one of the few areas in the city that do not host private events, which keeps the park open to individuals and families and maintains the tranquil atmosphere of the park.

We are very pleased that Olin Studio recognizes the importance of Founders Park as a site for ‘family-friendly passive enjoyment’. We appreciate that they chose photographs of Founders Park to illustrate ‘Open Space’, ‘Access’, and ‘Comfort’.

They might have also used photos from Founders Park to illustrate ‘Strolling and Sitting’, ‘Dog Walking and Jogging’, ‘Picnics’, ‘Individual Activity’ and ‘Non-Activity’. These activities are common at Founders Park.

Founders Park is a very popular park on the waterfront, providing space for individuals and families to enjoy the tranquility of the park and the beautiful views of the river. It should be preserved as it is.

What we support

We fully support the proposal to add flat stone benches on the waterfront. Flat stone benches will easily blend into the environment of the park.

We fully support the proposal to add historical, interpretive signs in the park. Members of the FPCA community would be eager to help develop those signs. Historical, interpretive signs would be a welcome addition to the park and would not detract from the tranquil, family friendly, passive experience of Founders Park.

We cautiously support adding an appropriate sculpture in the north end of the park. We are cautious because we do not find the sculpture used as illustrations in the reports to be appropriate. ‘Fish on Sticks’ is amusing, but would become annoying after a week and would detract from the beauty of the park. An example of appropriate sculpture was overlooked by the Committee, namely, the large, black anchor at the south end of the park. It fits the criteria for public art described by Laurie Olin in his first presentation to the community: it is appropriate to its environment and visitors to the park can interact with it. We often see children playing on it and visitors taking photographs by it.

We have mixed feelings about the proposal to naturalize the shoreline. We appreciate the goal to develop a more natural setting at the shoreline. But we have two significant concerns.
• A naturalized shoreline will reduce the proximity of the open water by the shore, which seems contrary to the goal of bringing waterfront visitors to the water.
• A naturalized shoreline will collect large amounts of debris that will be difficult to clean. Members of FPCA participate in a monthly clean-up at the park. We focus on the rocks along the shoreline and fill garbage bags with the trash that has floated ashore. We are concerned that trash would collect in a naturalized shoreline and could not be picked up.

What we oppose

We appreciate the effort that the Art and History Implementation Committee put into developing their report on the Waterfront. It contains many worthwhile recommendations.

However, we are very disappointed by the proposals they offered regarding Founders Park:
• Planting a maze garden, trellises for shade, and an English tea garden using plants of the colonial period, perhaps as in the garden at Mount Vernon.
• Placing a water sculpture in the river offshore or frame views of the Maryland shoreline with permanent and temporary sculptures.
• Arranging for a group of roving performers called “The Founders” to interpret the founding era.
• Having a Founders race (like the President’s race at the Nationals games)
• Sponsoring a competition, to be held every few years, of temporary art composed of lumber. These sculptures would be a reference to Smoot’s lumberyard that once stood here. Perhaps Smoot would be a cosponsor.

These proposals are totally contrary to the experience that the many visitors to Founders Park currently enjoy and that we hope to protect as part of the Waterfront plan. They are inconsistent the family-friendly, passive experience that the Waterfront plan sets for Founders Park.

Founders Park is fully used by the public as it is. The plantings (maze garden, English tea garden) suggested by the Art and History Implementation Committee might be appropriate elsewhere on the waterfront, especially in a location that would have a more formal experience than Founders Park. But they do not complement the ambience at Founders Park and would take valuable space from the park’s current uses.

We especially object to ‘sculpture placed in the water off shore or that ‘frames’ the view of Maryland’. We are shocked that anyone would even suggest this. The natural vistas of the Potomac River at Founders Park are beautiful; man-made ‘enhancements’ will detract from that beauty. Our reaction to this proposal was best captured by one of our members who wrote,

I go to the water's edge at Founders Park often, to sit on the rocks, on a folding chair, or on a bench, and read, relax, look at the ducks and geese, or talk in a naturally beautiful, relaxed setting. I go there to connect with nature through water, something I have enjoyed all my life. Water is soothing. Nature is beautiful. Neither nature nor water needs any man-made object to make it look better. Installing a sculpture in the water would defeat the purpose for which I, like dozens of other people, go to the park to sit or walk at the water's edge. A glassy pond in the early morning fog, a raging current during tide changes, ripples gently lapping on the rocks, home for frolicking waterfowl, a vast mirror for the Moon to watch her own reflection.

There might be a place on the waterfront where a sculpture in or by the river is appropriate, but it certainly is not at Founders Park.

A band of roving ‘performers’ interpreting the founding era would be an unwanted intrusion in the passive experience of Founders Park. We suggest that there are other sites on the waterfront where performers would be appropriate, perhaps at the marina, but not at Founders Park. And for this reason, we also object to placing a site in Founders Park for ‘dramatic presentations’.

The suggestion that we hold Founders Races like the Presidents’ races at the Nationals games cannot be serious. There maybe a place for clowns and a carnival on the waterfront, but it is not at a tranquil, passive park. The same is true with respect to the ‘lumber art’ competition. Please, let’s keep Founders Park as one area on the Waterfront that is free from events.

We urge the City to reject these proposals as inconsistent with the role of the park in providing a family-oriented, passive experience and unnecessary since other venues at the park can offer the proposed ‘art’ and ‘activities’.

Robinson Terminal North

We will soon have new neighbors right on Founders Park. The development of a hotel and condominiums at the site of Robinson Terminal North will add a large number of people to the Founders Park neighborhood. And the proposed restaurant and retail space will bring even more visitors to Founders Park.

We do not know how this development will affect the use of Founders Park. We urge the City Council to allow the use of the park to develop naturally, without making changes from its current use.

Founders Park Community Association

Founders Park Community Association was incorporated in 1979 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit membership organization dedicated to improving and maintaining Founders Park and the quality of life in the Founders Park Area. The Founders Park Community Association has been working to protect, preserve, and improve the beautiful green space, the flowers, and the Potomac shoreline by Founders Park for over 30 years.

Founders Park Community Association has approximately 70 members who are dedicated to maintaining the tranquil, natural beauty of the park and the family oriented, passive experience that the park provides. The members hold informative get-togethers, park clean-ups (continuing a tradition begun nearly 35 years ago) and an annual block party at Quay Street. Anyone who supports the goals of Founders Park Community Association is welcome to join.

We appreciate your kind attention to our views.

Sincerely,

Howard Bergman
President
Founders Park Community Association.

HJB (401) | User | December 17, 2013 - 11:41 AM

Hopefully we won’t go down that road (since you don’t have to and it’s a very bad idea)

I strongly urge City Council to reach an agreement with Old Dominion Boat Club regarding the use of the Boat Club’s property that does not involve the use of eminent domain. The Boat Club has offered a reasonable compromise, based on a lease or an easement, that would allow the construction of a continuous public path along the waterfront. What City Council and the Mayor are intent on doing, on the other hand, it is not only unreasonable and unnecessary but also unconstitutional and unacceptable. It would lead to years of litigation, ending with certain defeat in the Supreme Court of Virginia, at a tremendous cost to unwilling taxpayers.

As you may recall, the Virginia Eminent Domain Amendment, which was passed in 2012 by an overwhelming majority of voters, prohibited eminent domain from being used for tax revenue generation or economic development, among other uses. The City’s proposal falls squarely within the forbidden uses.

If you, a majority of the members of City Council and the Mayor, are so eager to trample on the principle of private property and to use eminent domain, why not try it on something that would not give rise to protracted litigation? I suggest creating organic community orchards, totally free and open to the public, where Alexandria residents, and particularly schoolchildren, would learn to grow healthy foods. Food grown in these orchards could be used to supplement the diet of needy residents. The orchards could grow wonderfully on the property currently owned by the Mayor and the members of City Council, which could be forcefully taken once this precedent is set. Since the Mayor and most members of City Council don’t give a second thought to taking other people’s private property, I see no reason why they would complain if theirs is taken.

Stella Covre (408) | User | December 2, 2013 - 10:29 AM

On the November 4, 2013 presentation by Olin to the Waterfront Commission

“ACTIVATION PLAN” OR “HYPERACTIVATION PLAN”?
THE WATERFRONT - A SMALL, RESIDENTIAL AREA

The idea of providing “a variety of Waterfront experiences” (Olin, p. 22) is excellent. Any developer tasked with “enrich(ing) the waterfront experience for Alexandrians and visitors alike” would begin by considering the landscape first and designing size-appropriate concepts that would harmonize or even enhance the park-going experience.

The Alexandria Waterfront is a SMALL, RESIDENTIAL AREA. How can anyone hope to “retain its tranquil park-like character” while inviting LARGE CROWDS in the hundreds and thousands to logjam our streets, take up all the parking, and squeeze themselves into this small area not more than a block away from residential housing. Take, for example:
• Oronoco Bay Park (p. 83-89), “large concert – 2300 people”
• Waterfront Park (p. 136-141), “outdoor concert” – 1500 people
• Point Lumley Park (p. 151-152), “outdoor concert” - 750 people

When designing and planning for cultural events along the Waterfront, only a few hundred people at a time should be envisaged for everybody’s comfort.

Stella Covre (408) | User | November 27, 2013 - 10:03 AM

FOUNDERS PARK: A DAILY SOURCE OF ENJOYMENT AT THE WATERFRONT
FOR VISITORS AND RESIDENTS ALIKE

Except for the use of interpretive historical markers and discrete signage at thematic walk stops, Founders Park should be left untouched. Founders Park is already being used for “Family-friendly passive enjoyment,” “Strolling and sitting,” “Picnics,” “Individual activity or non-activity,” “Individual practices,” “Dog walking and jogging.” Let’s keep all that and add tasteful elements of historical interpretation.

Some of the installations and activities proposed in the report by the Art and History Committee will detract from the park’s tranquility and family-friendliness and hand us clutter in return. The space taken up by the proposed “fish on sticks” art interpretation of Fishtown, the maze/tea garden (this is not Mount Vernon), water sculpture, permanent and temporary sculptures, frame views of the Maryland shoreline, performers, et. al. will come at the expense of the scores men and women of all ages who have made this park a daily source of enjoyment.

Olin’s 11/04/2013 proposal takes away the Dog Park and volleyball court, which our community holds dear and useful. At the same time, some of Olin’s proposal additions raise questions about their compatibility with and suitability to the small size and delicate nature of this very busy, popular park. Among them:
● “Table games”: The lawn in Founders Park cannot sustain permanent tables and chairs. This is not Central Park.
● “Area for historical performances”: Are you envisaging hundreds of people sitting on the lawn in an already busy park?
● “Temporary or permanent sculpture in river”: This does not belong here. I go to the water's edge at Founders Park often, to sit on the rocks, on a folding chair, or on a bench, and read, relax, look at the ducks and geese, or talk in a naturally beautiful, relaxed setting. I go there to connect with nature through water, something I have enjoyed all my life. Water is soothing. Nature is beautiful. Neither nature nor water needs any man-made object to make it look better. Installing a sculpture in the water would defeat the purpose for which I, like dozens of other people, go to the park to sit or walk at the water's edge. A glassy pond in the early morning fog, a raging current during tide changes, ripples gently lapping on the rocks, home for frolicking waterfowl, a vast mirror for the Moon to watch her own reflection... What on Earth can make anybody think that a piece of art (of any kind) can add value to the Park's shoreline?

Founders Park is a daily source of enjoyment at the waterfront for visitors and residents alike. Let’s enhance it with a subtle touch of history. Don’t destroy it with disproportionate, out-of-place structures.

Stella Covre (408) | User | November 26, 2013 - 3:01 PM

We strongly agree with Rich Moran (comment 408) and Stella Cove (comment 410). As residents of Quay Street, a short distance from Founders Park, we very much hope the park will remain as is. a passive park greatly loved and used by the surrounding community.

Susan and Paul Lancaster (414) | User | November 26, 2013 - 12:57 PM

I support the city's waterfront plan to acquire the ODBC parking lot.

Dene Garbow (411) | User | November 19, 2013 - 4:09 PM