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Susan Petty (user 398) - Comments by Date

Posted by Richard Lawrence on behalf of Susan Pettey

Dear Farroll and Mr. Graffam,

Thank you for the presentation on plans for the implementation of the Waterfront Small Area Plan last week.

I am very excited about some of the concepts that I saw in the plan, particularly an historic tall ship and an ice rink. I believe that some of concepts need to be more tailored to reflect Alexandria and its waterfront, as well as the City’s will to maintain the waterfront.

General Comments:
The organization of areas of the waterfront is fine in concept, but giving them themes seems a bit like Disneyland. Historic markers and art should be woven all along the waterfront.

A successful plan will focus on Alexandria’s history and other qualities that make it unique. As several speakers noted at the meeting last week, our waterfront’s strength is its history, charm, scale, and authenticity. Many cities need to create features to draw people to certain area. By contrast, we already have the important features --- the river; boats; historic buildings; some sculpture; and some maritime artifacts, such as cannons and anchors. We need to build on those bones.

The plan needs to consider nearby current public space and its uses, particularly Market Square, with its current uses (farmers market, ceremonial events such as Christmas tree lighting, etc.) and potential (area for public dancing). Waterfront uses should complement, not conflict with or supplant, activities at Market Square. In addition, Market Square is currently better able to handle crowds, given its underground parking.

The plan should retain the green space we have along the waterfront, and add too it. We should not pave areas that are currently green.

While I strongly believe that we must invest in improving our waterfront, I caution against high maintenance improvements. Alexandria has had extreme difficulty in finding funds to implement park improvements that have been planned for many years, or for basic infrastructure maintenance, such as maintaining sea walls. Some summers it is hard for the City to find money for mowing the parks we already have. Features that require significant maintenance, such as some of the light features suggested, could end up as inoperative eyesores.

I recommend that the plan include a specific budget for ongoing maintenance of the “new” waterfront. That budget should include maintenance of any new features, such as the ship, ice rink, etc.; park maintenance; and increased security to protect citizens and new features such as boxcar theater and sculpture. The budget should also include costs for additional programming, such as staff to put out temporary recreation equipment, to arrange for temporary art installations and other activities, etc.

Specific Comments:
Gateway North
In addition to the concern regarding maintenance of light features, I am concerned about the impact they could have on neighbors as well as on the night sky. The waterfront is currently a place we go to see sky phenomenon. We already have to contend with light pollution from DC and national airport to the north, and National Harbor to the south. I am wary of light features that may add to light pollution.

The idea of using glass in ground surfaces to commemorate the glass works is clever, but does not substitute for historical markers to tell the story.

In terms of “activation”, I do not think that neighbors are interested in events that draw 40,000 people to the area. I do not think there should be light projections, or paved areas for dancing (which could be done at Market Square). Rather, the plan should consider lower impact ways to enhance the area, such as sculpture; small concerts, as noted in the plan; permanent chess tables; and perhaps a floating restaurant.

Oronoco Bay
Views of the river should be unobstructed by structures such as stages. The plan could provide access to electricity for concerts, and continued use of a portable stage if that is required.

The park already provides a natural amphitheater for events, for which people can bring blankets to sit on the ground. Grass should be maintained and the area should not be paved or constructed.

We should not construct artificial islands in Oronoco Bay. The Bay should be left natural, although this could be a site for a temporary sculpture in the water.

An art wall along the Wythe Corridor and Mount Vernon Trail should be low and not obstruct the view to the water.

The use of the work “spectacle” regarding programming for this area makes me very nervous. I don’t believe that “spectacle” is something Alexandrians are seeking for their waterfront. I also don’t think a concert of 2300 people standing on the grass in the park is something we want to encourage.

A box car theater would be a clever use of rails and connection with Alexandria’s rail history. It is also an appropriate scale for the park.

Please note that market events and family festivals already take place at Market Square.

Founders Park/Robinson Terminal North
I support naturalizing the shoreline, and suggest that only temporary sculpture be placed in the river, as I believe that artificial structures undermine the effort at naturalization. The plan calls for three separate art pieces (for Fishtown, shad and herring, and tobacco inspection house). I suggest combining the first two pieces, so the quantity of art does not clutter the park. I also suggest retaining the anchor that is there now, which is a popular site for photographs and children climbing.

There should be no paving in the park or diminution of grass. I don’t believe a specific area is needed for historic performances. They can take place at Market Square, the plaza by the Torpedo factory, or on grass at any of the parks.

Strand/Torpedo Factory
One of the complaints I hear from tourists now is that they can’t find the river. Some of your slides show an emphasis on sight lines to the river, and I would like to reiterate how important I think that is. I think the sight line down King Street to the river is especially important. For that reason, I suggest that the dock at the foot of King St. be reoriented slightly so that the view is of the river, perhaps with a bit of a glimpse of the mast of a tall ship. River views should also be considered in plantings, as trees may obstruct the sight lines to the water.

To enhance the view to the river, I recommend closing the unit block at the foot of King Street, and converting that are into a park.

I am pleased to see plans to use the current bandstand outside the food court for small concerts.

As with Oronoco Bay, I think a portable stage is appropriate for concerts in Waterfront Park. A small gazebo set to the side may be useful as a focus for weddings, but that, too, could be portable, so as not to obstruct river views. There should not be any paved area for dancing, as a temporary dance floor would be expensive to put down and take up, and would damage the grass. There is space for dancing at Market Square or outside the Torpedo Factory.

I think the proposal for a historic ship on the waterfront is fabulous. I hope the Seaport Foundation could assume responsibility for this.

I also look forward to skating at the ice rink. I think this is a good idea for seasonal interest, but again caution that the City must agree to maintain it.

I agree with the idea of marking the foot of King Street as an entry into the City, but any arch or other indicators must conform to the scale and historic feel of the neighboring area.

In terms of programming for this area, the Torpedo Factory has already made efforts to bring arts and crafts onto the plaza, and I encourage more of that kind of activity.

Please, no illuminations on the Torpedo Factory.

Gateway South
I am unclear from the slide what is meant by a pedestrian corridor along Duke St on slide 39. The item which is supposed to show that on the map is not placed on Duke St.

At Point Lumley, I recommend decreasing the number of bocce courts to one or two, so as to retain green space.

Please scratch the idea of a trapeze school. This has nothing to do with Alexandria or our waterfront and would take up space that could be put to better use.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important proposal.

Susan Petty (398) | User | November 13, 2013 - 3:03 PM | Programming, Art and History Waterfront Implementation Ideas