This Monday, the Alexandria Department of Planning and Zoning released a new plan for the waterfront area of Old Town. Alexandria once ran an advertising campaign which touted Virginia as “the fun side of the Potomac,” but for visitors to Old Town from D.C. and even Arlington, the hardest part has always been getting there. Accordingly, the centerpiece of the new plan is a focus on water taxis. Unlike the disneyfied Inner Harbor in Baltimore or the frat party atmosphere of the Georgetown waterfront, the plan envisions a functioning port that is true to Alexandria’s vibrant heritage.
…Today, communities in the Washington D.C. region are rediscovering and replanning their waterfronts and recognizing the efficiency and desirability of water transportation. With density centers located along the Potomac River, water vehicles have become one of the main opportunities for people to enjoy the water. The Potomac River is the last major untapped north-south transportation corridor in the D.C. region.
Instead of a confusing jumble of unsightly warehouses, vacant industrial buildings, and seedy parking lots, the new plan would transform the area between Queen and Wolfe Streets into a grand promenade with ample moorings for commercial and pleasure boating as well as large commercial buildings with street-level spaces dedicated to waterfront dining.
Old Town already has a vibrant nightlife, but most all of the action is along King Street. Every Saturday, the famous bars of Old Town are overcrowded with revelers, but the waterfront is mostly green parks which are virtually empty after dark. By converting industrial and vacant lots to commercial use, the Alexandria waterfront will become an attractive destination in its own right which will relieve some of the crowding on King Street.
The Alexandria waterfront has always had the problem of not being very convenient to Metro. Although there are water taxis to Georgetown and to Nationals games during the summer, more is needed. The new plan suggests that the Alexandria waterfront could become a water transportation hub for areas all along the Potomac. For a city that uses a tall ship as its emblem, this is a transformation that is long overdue.