One of America’s great streets meets one of America’s great rivers where King Street reaches the Potomac River. Alexandrians participating in the planning process agreed that improving this area should be a cornerstone of the Plan, and that the new public space should be active and create feelings of celebration and arrival. – Alexandria Waterfront Planning Document
The war in Alexandria is over.
After 40 long years and many divisive battles, the City and the Old Dominion Boat Club have signed the peace treaty.
As reported by Patricia Sullivan with The Washington Post, the club, founded in 1881, voted yesterday to sell its clubhouse and adjoining parking lot to the city.
The deal paves the way for a new pier, a waterfront walkway, and a public park tentatively named “Fitzgerald Plaza.” If approved by the public, a historic tall ship will permanently anchor at the foot of King Street.
City planners have tabbed this key section of the waterfront as “The Gateway,” a major gathering point fed by visitors arriving on ferries and the free trolley buses, cyclists via the Union Street part of the Mount Vernon Trail, and pedestrians drawn to the waterfront from King Street.
The clubhouse will be demolished. The Boat Club and its members will move a block downstream, and build a new clubhouse on the south side of the foot of Prince Street. The deal gives them space for 45 surface parking lots, a new boat ramp, piers and slips. The old Beachcomber property has been condemned and will also be torn down.
Even before this agreement was ironed out, the waterfront has seen anticipatory activity. Steps from the boat club, Waterfront Café opened late last year. A new restaurant, Blackwell Hitch, is scheduled to open later this year in a revamped version of the food court building.
This agreement, the last piece of the puzzle in terms of continuous waterfront access, means the waterfront plan process can proceed to a conclusion. City planners have said that process could take another two years.
The removal of the boatclub will give Alexandria archaeologists a chance to dig in an area the city’s historic waterfront plan describes as “having some of the earliest private commercial wharves.” The plan also notes “the Old Dominion Boat Club stands on Ramsey‘s Wharf, which was constructed in the 1780s.”
William Ramsay (1716-1785), a Scotsman and close friend of George Washington, was one of the seaports most respected and beloved citizens, and served as one of the original trustees.
Flooding has been a perennial problem in this part of the historic district, with traffic often blocked along The Strand, and businesses such as Starbucks having to close and clean up. Flood mitigation plans can now proceed.
The Old Dominion boat club’s move will be a return to their roots. For their first 35 years, the members met near the Beachcomber location.
We’d like to see the city erect an interpretive marker to tell their story. They’ve been very good neighbors and their vote to move is most welcomed.
The waterfront battles are over. Here’s to a fresh start for our historic seaport city.