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JSchumann (user 402) - Comments by Date

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 | Programming, Art and History Waterfront Implementation Ideas

Tidelock/Canal/Rivergate: Given how far this location is from King St, it is doubtful that Alexandrians not already living, or tourists not already staying, right in that immediate area will be drawn here for small performances. Wouldn’t invest a lot of $ on enhancing staging areas for that type of use. (I also find the amphitheater seating immediately around the tidelock to feel claustrophobic – not inviting. The seating area near the Washington monument statute is nicer.) But would be good to add some interesting passive/permanent elements as described in existing waterfront SAP, like reconstruction of canal boat and glasswork factory-inspired sculpture, to make this end of the waterfront more interesting as a destination for those who might start on waterfront near King and decide how far they’d want to walk up river. Some interesting lighting would also be nice, but it should be low-level lighting rather than bright, and the design should not look modern – the lighting design should look clearly historic and reminiscent of candlelight/gaslight and cozy; not sleek/sharp – which isn’t to say some imagination can’t be used. [Maybe the renovated pedestrian bridge could incorporate some low-level solar lighting too.] Art/history/lighting design elements here that are maintained by the city should be low maintenance – this wouldn’t be the right location for high-maintenance projects. The proposed canoe/kayak launch area would be good.

Oronoco: Support the proposed re-grading to make lawn more like an amphitheater, to support occasional musical and performance events and family/cultural/historic festivals here. Wouldn’t, however, want large headliner concerts drawing a maximum standing crowd. Musical and theater performance events should be scaled to those where people are seated on lawn. Would be interested in seeing modest “water” events/performances, if there are such events within the city’s budget. And if they don’t negatively impact wildlife – city should first ensure they wouldn’t harm wildlife. Could imagine a really lovely evening sitting on the lawn listening to a symphony while there were water lanterns floating in the bay for an evening or weekend. Would not want to see additional permanent floating structures here (e.g., pools, lounges). Would support proposed use of retired railcars for loaning/storing park equipment, and a boxcar theater.

Would also be interested in seeing the city plant a bird/bee/butterfly native plants garden somewhere on the waterfront, with educational information on how the plants help this wildlife. Given the natural setting of Oronoco, maybe this would be a good area? Support the proposed idea of sculptural elements for bird perching/nesting.

Robinson Terminal North: Including some public cafes and restrooms here would be key to bringing people up the river to spend more time in the northern waterfront areas. Public cafes/restrooms would be an important anchor to the northern waterfront areas.

Founders Park: Don’t own a dog myself, but would support keeping the existing dog park there. Even when you don’t own a dog, watching dogs play is fun. Would even support enhancing the existing area with a couple of well-constructed dog agility structures along the edges of the park, if dog owners think they’d use them (e.g., a jump, weave poles, a-frame) – kind of a doggie playground where people could watch dog owners training their dogs to do these tricks. Just a couple, not a full course. Loved the idea in the presentation of an outdoor “reading room” and areas for table games and individuals to sit at tables/chairs – but maybe there would be more room for that in the new Point Lumley area? Love to have that type of area somewhere – would need to be easy walking distance to public cafes and restrooms. [I’m assuming for now there will be no Fitzgerald Square, so not assuming we can put any uses there for now.]

Torpedo Factory area: Would love to see the Food Court turned into an Eastern Market-type of place, with some food market and some art/craft vendors. Would be more inviting if Food Court building was renovated to have some more outdoor-oriented spaces around its edges to draw people in. Would support more outdoor café seating on the boardwalk, with room reserved for street performers to entertain. (Would demolish bandstand if needed to provide extra room.) If enough room, would be great for Torpedo Factory art/craft demonstrations/classes to be extended outside onto the boardwalk in nice weather. Currently seems to be too tight a space for small performances, except for reserving some space for individual street performers.

Waterfront Park and Port Lumley: If not incorporated into the Torpedo Factory Food Court, would love to see an Eastern Market-type of development somewhere here, with both food market and art/craft vendors. And as noted above, I like the idea of a park with an outdoor reading room/table games/individual activity tables/chairs somewhere on waterfront, with public cafes and restrooms – here if not in Founders Park area. Would support an area here for smaller-stage performances, and outdoor movies. Would support proposals for rowboat/canoe rentals here, children’s play space, temporary recreation (e.g., ping-pong), and small-area lawn games. In winter, would support a Holiday Market and ice rink here if Fitzgerald Square doesn’t become available – would be nice to have lunch/dinner in Old Town, and enjoy holiday decorations while shopping/strolling down King Street right into an integrated waterfront area with more holiday shopping and decorations.

Not sure whether Alexandria would support a strong outdoor dancing use – not currently a strong part of our culture, so don’t know – wouldn’t be opposed but wouldn’t count on a specific area being used for that either. Don’t support renting our public waterfront areas for weddings/parties on weekends. Our public areas should be open to all on weekends. Would only allow such rentals Mon-Thurs (accepting that will cut down on rental use).

People and especially kids love seeing animals – we already know Alexandrians love their dogs – so maybe one of these park areas could have a focal point for the Alexandria shelter or rescue leagues to use on weekends for pet adoption areas in the nice weather.

General Comment on Design Aesthetic for Art, Building, and Landscaping Elements – Should support Alexandria’s “historic ambience” rather than looking modern/sleek. Some of the art pieces shown in the presentation, for example, looked too modern for Alexandria. The waterfront should be a continuation of the historic experience a person has walking along King Street and other historic streets in Old Town. We should reinforce and enhance our existing historic ambience. Only a limited number of places in the U.S. have intact historic districts from our nation’s early history – it is our unique asset and should be preserved and enhanced because other cities can’t create this; people have to come to places like Old Town to get it. Any other city, however, can create modern spaces.

A great example of maintaining historic ambience I read in the SAP was to use ship’s rigging for a climbing structure for children. This takes a need – children’s activity – and meets that need in a way that reinforces Alexandria’s history, but is still innovative/cool and functional. Perfect! One of the pictures in the presentation also showed an enormous ball of rope that children were climbing on – again, the right kind of aesthetic for Alexandria. It looks historic, but is imaginative at the same time.

JSchumann (402) | User | November 9, 2013 - 5:48 PM | Programming, Art and History Waterfront Implementation Ideas

During the Nov 4 meeting, we were told the presentation would be posted to the city's website, but I don't see it. (When I clicked on this page, my computer asked if I only wanted to download the secure info, and I clicked yes -- I don't know if it has been posted but is somehow not identified as secure by computer software). Is the presentation available?

JCS (402) | User | November 7, 2013 - 9:05 AM | Programming, Art and History Waterfront Implementation Ideas