Alexandria waterfront redevelopment still at center of heated debate

The Alexandria waterfront is prone to flooding, especially near King Street.

The city of Alexandria is caught in the middle of a heated debate over the future of Old Town, and on Saturday, opponents marched on City Hall to make their opposition known.

At the center of the controversy is a plan by city councilmembers to bring new development to the Alexandria Waterfront, in an effort to curtail future flooding on King Street.

The council is looking at a proposal to rezone three sites along the Potomac River to allow the development of restaurants and boutique hotels. The increased revenue would then help pay for flood mitigation and new parks.

But after months of meetings and compromises, neither the business community nor these opponents really like the plan.

"Is it really good economic benefit for a developer to spend $20 million on a property that can only have 150 hotel rooms?," Alexandria council member Alicia Hughes says. "The answer is most probably no."

Opponents of Alexandria's Master Plan are calling for alternatives, including purchasing land in Old Town to make room for museums and open space. Many supporters of the project believe the tax revenue that would come from the new development is key to preventing future flooding issues.

City officials call the notion that the council is moving to privatize Old Town absurd.

"We're not talking about National Harbor, we're not talking about Disneyland in Old Town," says Alexandria Vice Mayor Kerry Donley. "We're talking about three sites, and the waterfront is mostly developed."

The City Council will meet next Tuesday to discuss how to move forward.