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From a London design compeition to replace bottled water bottles. We should aim for this for the waterfront:

Kathryn Papp (246) | User | March 10, 2014 - 9:45 AM | Programming, Art and History Waterfront Implementation Ideas

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 | Programming, Art and History Waterfront Implementation Ideas

It is difficult to see how this session can meaningfully and effectively contribute to Task 3 scheduled for December, where a Concept Design Refinement will be presented to the Waterfront Commission.

At this point there is no overall waterfront design to be refined, as much has just changed at both RTN/S. In addition Canal Place is not part of the Waterfront SAP.

Shared understanding of the fast moving parts is needed before refinement can be done.

It is agreed that a more balanced presentation would have created more willingness to work together. The "stickies" exercise has been much abused in the recent past, so carries little credibility as a work tool.

Kathryn Papp (246) | User | November 7, 2013 - 10:44 AM | Programming, Art and History Waterfront Implementation Ideas


Your (Editor of the Alexandria TIMES) comments are timely, and that may just be the point. The timing imposed by the City's process, and as you noted earlier "rush to vote", does put a practical constraint on transforming the situation via nonprofit soon enough to make a tangible and relevant change to the current City plan.

The City's plan process has been a concerted march towards hotels on the waterfront. This was first made evident when the excellent, and "world class" development process managed by an outside consulting firm, was deliberately stripped by the City of a critical step. That key stage of the plan process would have brought forth a range of alternatives - including their economic impacts, which would have been presented to both City Hall and citizens, alike. It would have put options on the table for everyone to think about and evaluate. Without this crucial step the current plan was written as the only thing the City could do to affordably upgrade the waterfront. Without this mediating step, one which nearly always results in a better plan, a conflict situation was set up by the City.

There are many positives in your suggestion, and I would recommend that the City form a nonprofit City Foundation right now to begin to negotiate on this line of strategic thinking. They are in a unique position to succeed within any timeframe they choose to operate in. In fact, the Washington POST has repeatedly said they are in no hurry to settle their suit with the City; and the Cummings status is only a Purchase Agreement, possibly contingent on rezoning. The Turner property is on hold. In essence, by not rezoning the City buys time it can use to make a better plan, a better-shared decision. Right now, we are like homebuyers who are committed to purchasing the first house they see. We need to do some serious comparative shopping!

While the Work Group was a good attempt at ironing out differences, it proceeded from the start with only the City's plan before it. Managing visionary change at the level of bullet points, as any highly qualified businessperson or mediator will tell you, is a nonstarter. It is like offering a banquet with only knives and forks on the table. It is like expecting that Steve Jobs would have invented the iPod by examining the details of a steam engine. It is to the great credit of the Work Group that they produced anything of the substance and quality that they did.

A grant from the EPA that could have produced alternatives was missed by the City, and when it was brought to their attention, it was dismissed as occurring at the wrong point in plan development. However, “world class” development plans do not wait to go to the "implementation" stage. By doing so, the City once again skirts the issue of visionary change. It also moves the plan to a stage of development that completely misses a large body of important information – traffic, environment, density impact on infrastructure - while continuing to rely on a bank of antiquated decision-making tools.

The impasse is not unbreachable, and your editorial suggestion is worth pursuing. Approaching the owner of the Washington POST must be done the Mayor – they are peers. This is a peer-to-peer conversation that must start from a position of wanting to achieve a winning solution for all of us. The business world knows this as “shared value”.

Reaching out with more comprehensive and better information, using current management decision- making tools, and pursuing a win-win just might get us there. Also, asking that participating parties to recuse themselves for conflict of interest and agree to withhold pursuit of development contracts for up to five years after plan approval would make this a truly "world class" waterfront development process.

I am hopeful an authentic, unique, beautiful and enlivened Old Town waterfront will emerge with a real push towards excellence and away from any hint of mediocrity.

Kathryn Papp (246) | User | December 26, 2011 - 12:03 PM | Waterfront Comment Board

On the Edge

It was uplifting to see the many people, mostly families, lining the edge of Alexandria's riverfront on Saturday - all watching the Parade of Boats.
Most were twenty deep in the open space afforded by the waterfront parks, while others were packed onto the dock spaces around the Torpedo Factory. Overlooking them all were the few fortunate folks having dinner in the riverview restaurants.
It was exciting to see the decorated boats - and reminiscent of the fisherman's parades in Portugal, France and Italy. If only we could also host the fishermen, themselves at our own dock sites in Alexandria.

Kathryn Papp (246) | User | December 6, 2011 - 4:17 PM | Waterfront Comment Board

Response to Roger Lewis in POST article:

The media message that consistently favors the City’s plan is predictable. It is a platform to feed authors, and without substantiating the message points, it fans the flames rather than inform the issue.

An example is the November 19th article by Roger Lewis, one of Alexandria’s Design Review Board. His recusal of “no involvement with the waterfront or its planning but knowing the planners” casts doubt on his observations, so broadly stated they appear more kind-hearted opinion than reasoned critique. As a professor emeritus Dr. Lewis must be aware of the importance of substantiation, because doing less serves to undermine credibility when important issues come to the table.

Many ambiguities and inaccuracies could have been avoided if Dr. Lewis had carefully read the City’s plan - a stew of information, conjecture, and wishful thinking. Distinguishing among these is not easy; it requires common sense, research on dodgy points, and deep dives on zoning /FAR. This is what recent media postings have skirted in rushing to press. What is needed now, more than at any other time is press doing their journalistic due diligence to provide clarity not conflict. It takes time, an inquiring mind, and critical thinking a make a well informed critique.

Kathryn Papp (246) | User | November 22, 2011 - 3:09 PM | Waterfront Comment Board

An Environmental Impact Assessment Must be Performed for the City's Waterfront Plan and reviewed and discussed by the Work Group before a vote is taken. Following is a definition of what is meant and how it is effectively used in a responsibly managed development planning process.
Environmental impact assessment
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
An environmental impact assessment is an assessment of the possible positive or negative impact that a proposed project may have on the environment, together consisting of the natural, social and economic aspects.
The purpose of the assessment is to ensure that decision makers consider the ensuing environmental impacts when deciding whether to proceed with a project. The International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) defines an environmental impact assessment as "the process of identifying, predicting, evaluating and mitigating the biophysical, social, and other relevant effects of development proposals prior to major decisions being taken and commitments made."[1]
EIAs are unique in that they do not require adherence to a predetermined environmental outcome, but rather they require decision¬makers to account for environmental values in their decisions and to justify those decisions in light of detailed environmental studies and public comments on the potential environmental impacts of the proposal.[2]
EIAs began to be used in the 1960s as part of a rational decision making process. It involved a technical evaluation that would lead to objective decision making. EIA was made legislation in the US in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) 1969. It has since evolved as it has been used increasingly in many countries around the world. As per Jay et al.(2006) , EIA as it is practiced today, is being used as a decision aiding tool rather than decision making tool. There is growing dissent on the use of EIA as its influence on development decisions is limited and there is a view it is falling short of its full potential.There is a need for stronger foundation of EIA practice through training for practitioners, guidance on EIA practice and continuing research.[3]
However, as well as direct effects, developments cause a multitude of indirect effects through consumption of goods and services, production of building materials and machinery, additional land use for activities of various manufacturing and industrial services, mining of resources etc.
The indirect effects of developments are often an order of magnitude higher than the direct effects assessed by EIA. Large proposals such as airports or ship yards cause wide ranging national as well as international environmental effects, which should be taken into consideration during the decision-making process.[5]
There are various methods available to carry out EIAs, some are industry specific and some general methods:
• Fuzzy Arithmetic - EIA methods need specific parameters and variables to be measured to estimate values of impact indicators. However many of the environment impact properties cannot be measured on a scale e.g. landscape quality, lifestyle quality, social acceptance etc. and moreover these indicators are very subjective. Thus to assess the impacts we may need to take the help of information from similar EIAs, expert criteria, sensitivity of affected population etc. To treat this information, which is generally inaccurate, systematically, fuzzy arithmetic and approximate reasoning methods can be utilised. This is called as a fuzzy logic approach.[9]
After an EIA, the precautionary and polluter pays principles may be applied to prevent, limit, or require strict liability or insurance coverage to a project, based on its likely harms. Environmental impact assessments are sometimes controversial.

Kathryn Papp (246) | User | November 17, 2011 - 11:57 AM | Waterfront Comment Board

I'm afraid Dennis Auld, while quite well-meaning in his commentary, the "environment" bullet points in the plan are so broadly defined as to be meaningless. There is a wealth of information, a formal City Ordinance adopting the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, regarding the degradation of the riverfront ecosystem and how it is connected to the Chesapeake watershed, which affects the Virginia intercontinental shelf.
We are displaying a rather defeatist attitude in ignoring this body of scientifically based guidance.

Kathryn Papp (246) | User | November 16, 2011 - 12:17 PM | Waterfront Comment Board

I want to highly commend the Working Group for its decision to favor an interim report and recommendations in light of the limited discussion that has occurred in these past meetings.

It is critical that this Group engage in a meaningful dialogue that goes beyond the constraints imposed by a powerpoint presentation and its generic mentality.

Getting to a "place-based" understanding of how the current plan could change the character, physical ambiance, and social fabric of the city is crucial to evaluating its impact. Only a spirited and informed discussion can do that - something that until the September 28 meeting has been in short supply.

Keep up the good work - it will be necessary to loop back to the public realm issues that have been left in limbo in the earlier sessions for a variety of reasons. This new energetic attitude of the Working Group is to be applauded!

Kathryn Papp (246) | User | September 30, 2011 - 12:38 PM | Waterfront Comment Board

It is extremely important to read the waterfront master plan before commenting.
Many important issues such as parking, traffic, hotel impact, environmental issues are only clearly understood by digging into the detail.
One key missing piece of information is a financing plan that extends into the near future and addresses restoration and conversion of historic buildings and public property.
I urge you to go beyond the architectural drawings and political rhetoric and thoroughly analyze what this plan means to the future of the city. Without that depth of understanding we end up in a situation similar to that of BRAC, where faulty planning and advance studies has resulted in massive problems and greatly increased financial overruns.

Kathryn Papp (246) | User | August 19, 2011 - 9:17 AM | Waterfront Comment Board

The first meeting of the Waterfront Plan Working Group, facilitated by a professional and guided by City Council member Paul Smedberg, focused on a serious shortfall in the development of the plan, i.e. lack of a Citizens’ vision of their waterfront. In part this seems to stem from the City’s failure to follow the professional advice of the consultant it engaged to ensure a convincing development process.

As we move forward, the Working Group will require more time than is currently proposed to explore and discuss the many divisive issues, assumptions, and facts that Citizens have rallied to. We must allow enough time for the same intelligent and thoughtful questions and discussion we have already seen in the first meeting. This means that follow-up response from City staff and others will be needed to reach more productive negotiation. For example, flood mitigation, marinas, environmental impact, the impact of four hotels on parking and traffic require more expert and credible information than is now available in either the plan or its appendices … we have already seen the plan’s original marinas’ extension modified when federal and state regulations were examined. What other modifications or complete changes are required? How might these create cost overruns and delays?

In order to responsibly address the deep-seated concern of over 1,000 Citizens who have signed petitions in favor of not rezoning and in favor of developing more parks and arts venues, the Working Group needs to proceed in a much more cautious, informed, and inclusive way.

The City assigned four-month timetable for the Waterfront Working Group is too short to gain the kind of Citizen backing that is needed for a waterfront design plan that Alexandria’s Citizens want. Without extension into 2011, there is risk of long-term contentiousness of the sort seen in failed waterfront development in other cities. It would be a shame to see that happen. We all desire a refreshed and inspiring riverside.

Kathryn Papp (246) | User | August 6, 2011 - 11:07 AM | Waterfront Comment Board

My Vision of Alexandria Waterfront

It’s great to meet my friends anywhere on the 3-mile waterfront to walk along a path close to a big sparkling river, on a clean winding path, with lots of fresh green in summer or kids in winter snow. Often, I see ducks on the water, families picnicing on the cool grass, but sometimes the solitude of an empty park is pleasant.

The old buildings remind me of times past and my imagination soars. The art along the walkway reminds me of present visions. So I feel grounded in the full spectrum of time. The sail boats, motor boats, ferries and even a rare tall ship show me the river is alive… and quieter than the streets.

And there are rarely seen animals here, too, snakes-herons-ospreys-turtles-owls-beavers-foxes, that runners, walkers and mothers point out; and the small town chatter passes them along the rumor road. At times of meteor showers people are lying on the piers, to escape the light of the city, to see the cosmic display. You think, maybe George did this, too?

This is what’s authentic about Alexandria’s waterfront for me. It lifts me up, brings me surprises I can’t find on a walk in a paved and crowded place, keeps me alive in the best sense of that word. .. so I don’t forget the range of wonders in this world. And sparks others who live here to be lively, take pride, be friendly, and open and fresh. I like that. And believe it comes from seeing the river’s water close-up from a big place, open equally to “all creatures great and small”.

Kathryn Papp (246) | User | August 3, 2011 - 8:23 PM | Waterfront Comment Board