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Planning Commission Approves Tall Ship Providence Maritime Center at Waterfront Park

The Alexandria Planning Commission unanimously approved a new maritime center for the Tall Ship Providence on Tuesday night.

If passed by city council, the 18th-century replica ship will be docked at a new floating pier at Waterfront Park.

The proposed, L-shaped, 5,300 square-foot floating pier would be located in the center of the southern portion of the park. The pier would be home to two 17-foot-tall cottages, both 768 square feet, to accommodate visitors with a theater area for historical presentations, a gift shop, restrooms and a ticket office.

Additionally, a security gate would be installed where the gangway meets with the floating pier.

“We’re very excited to have a home for the Tall Ship Providence. That’s been in the works for quite some time now,” Cathy Puskar, an attorney for the Alexandria-based Tall Ship Providence Foundation, told the commission.

The ship sailed into Alexandria last summer and is still awaiting inspection approval by the U.S. Coast Guard before it can start welcoming visitors. It has been docked on the waterfront at a pier just north of the Torpedo Factory for several months, and plans call for it to open to the public as soon as that inspection is complete.

Speaking before the Planning Commission, Old Town resident Mike Budinski said he is concerned that the new pier and cottages will block the view of the Potomac.

“I think the so-called cottages, basically they’re quite large buildings, actually, their footprint is actually larger than my house in Old Town, and they’re tall, so they’re going to have a silhouette,” Budinski said. “I’m down there all the time, even at dawn almost every morning. What’s funny is that on Saturday, Sunday and even Monday mornings is how you see all the chairs lined up on the bulkhead, on the break wall aimed at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. People really love that view of the southern corridor.”

The pier would be able to accommodate a maximum of 150 people at one time, and groups of 25 would rotate between the two cottages and the ship, according to a city staff report. The Tall Ship Providence Foundation also wants to serve beer, wine and mixed drinks on the new pier.

You might have also noticed that there is an existing pier at Waterfront Park. Under the proposal, the pier, which is used by the Alexandria Seaport Foundation, would be removed.

According to a filing, plans for the pier include:

  • Cottage #1 would include two single-occupancy restrooms and storage space
  • The sewage from the restrooms will be held in a storage tank under the structure
  • Cottage #2 would include a ticket office, gift shop and theater area to provide information on maritime history and the ship
  • The pier would extend 126 feet from the shoreline and into waters controlled by the District of Columbia
  • The shoreline for this area is part of the city’s future Flood Mitigation Implementation project and Waterfront Improvements plan. As such, the structures are proposed to be temporary until future flood mitigation efforts begin
  • The roof of the cottages will be covered with solar panels or solar roof tiles
  • Hours of operation would be from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and holidays

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