On the Waterfront

On the Waterfront

City Council’s purchase prompts questions about site's future.

For many years, the City Council has wanted to transform the waterfront from a cluster of industrial buildings to usable public open space. Last week, the City Council voted to purchase a key piece of property on the waterfront. In a late-night vote, the council voted to appropriate $2.8 million for the purchase of 0 Prince St. and 200 Strand St.

“This has been a goal of the city for decades,” said Mark Jinks, assistant city manager. “It’s a major step in the long-term plans for the waterfront.”

Currently, 0 Prince St. is occupied by Potomac Arms — a store that sells guns and military surplus items. 200 Strand St. is one-third of a parking lot that services local businesses — including a dining-cruise ship business that docks its boats on the eastern edge of the property.

After the sale was announced, Mayor Bill Euille expressed optimism that the purchase was a major accomplishment for the city’s goal of transforming Alexandria’s waterfront from an uninviting place to an oasis of open space.

“This land acquisition helps the city take a major step forward in its strategic plan,” he said. “We are committed to the further development of a Potomac River waterfront that will be attractive, accessible and usable to the public.”

Councilman Rob Krupicka agreed, saying that the acquisition was a crucial first step in a long-term process.

“This is a critical first step in our efforts to secure and beautify our waterfront for future generations,” Krupicka said. “Over the next few years, we all have a chance to make a lasting imprint on one of Alexandria’s most distinctive resources.”

City leaders plan to initiate the planning process in the spring, with current activity on the property continuing for one year. That will give city leaders time to answer key questions — especially ones about the future of the dining-cruise business that operates out of the parking lot on Strand Street.

“So, in other words, the status is quo for one year,” said former Mayor Frank Mann, who owns part of the parking lot not purchased by the city. “What happens after that? Is the parking lot shut down? Is the pier closed?”

Mann said that he’s concerned about eradication of businesses on the waterfront.

“Now that they have it, what are they going to do? You don’t go out and buy a piece of property if you don’t know what you’re going to do with it,” said Mann, who has owned the property since 1970. “This is just another example of what I consider extremely poor planning.”

Councilman Andrew Macdonald agreed with Mann, saying that the city should take precaution not to eradicate waterfront businesses. He said that he would like to see the cruise ship company stay.

“I think virtually everybody wants the cruise-ship business to stay,” Macdonald said, adding that the city has a number of options to explore. “I don’t think we have any clear idea what we are going to do with these parcels yet.”