City Staff’s plan for the Alexandria Waterfront was not well received by citizen groups, who organized against it—Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan (CAAWP)—because it would allow hotels, restaurants, and large buildings to be built that would block river access and views in Old Town. City Council responded by establishing a Work Group under the direction of Councilman Paul Smedberg and a well-paid mediator to develop another plan. Meanwhile, CAAWP is researching successful waterfront plans in US cities and offering suggestions to the new Work Group.
The focus of the staff’s plan first plan was economics without regard to the existing conditions or the future impact of proposed developments. In a veiled way, it called for the elimination of the W-1 zoning that restricts heights of structures on the Waterfront. Under this new vague CCD zoning, two historical buildings could have been demolished and one property could have been built so high that it would have blocked the view of the Potomac River now enjoyed on Duke Street. The flood wall proposed in that plan was inexpensive and designed for a 10 year event—verses a 20, 50 or 100 year flood wall—meaning every 10 years, on average, Old Town would flood. Without an adequate flood plan, insurance rates would remain stiff in the flood plain. CAAWP is working on a more viable plan influenced by the expertise of urban planners, like those who did Baltimore Harbor. CAAWP notes that FEMA recommends structures in a flood plain be built at least 100 feet from the river.