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Alexandria historic preservation group seeks a seat in Torpedo Factory discussions

There’s been a lot of discussion about changes happening inside the Torpedo Factory, but at least one group in Alexandria wants a little more attention paid to what will happen to the building itself.

At the Historic Alexandria Resources Commission (HARC) Advocacy Committee meeting last Tuesday, the group said there needs to be a seat at the table in Torpedo Factory discussions representing the historic elements of the building.

“It was disturbing to me that the three options that were presented to the council did in fact address the exterior of the building, the architecture, but it seems the Mayor doesn’t want to deal with those yet, so I’m not sure if the Arts Commission or the Office of the Arts and the City Council are all on the same page,” said committee chair Danny Smith. “I believe the best thing that we can say is we need to stay tuned and see what happens.”

Smith said it doesn’t seem like there’s a clear vision of where the project is going or a solid timetable moving forward, which had been earlier criticisms by the Waterfront Commission.

Earlier this month, the City Council voted to approve a series of principles to guide Torpedo Factory development, but the vote also left some more confused than satiated.

“I always think it’s unfortunate after a long extended debate, Council has a meeting and no one can really tell you for sure what happened,” said Commissioner Martha Harris. “For me, the standout thing in the memo is that the city will set up a separate public entity to coordinate artistic real estate assets in the City of Alexandria.”

HARC members shared concerns that the topic of the Torpedo Factory as a historic building seemed deliberately cut out of the narrative.

Historic Preservation Architect Bill Conkey told HARC that any changes to the building will have to run through a city approval process, where the historic preservation aspect will be a part of the discussion.

“Its location in the historic district provides great protection,” said Conkey. “Linked to that, as this goes forward, preservation staff and of course, the [Board of Architectural Review] are going to be integral to that conversation. Nothing will go forward without those ideas being discussed with us… We’ve made it very clear, we are involved in this as well.”

As Torpedo Factory plans move forward, HARC members reiterated that they want to be part of talks about the future of the building.

“We are in chapter 11 of a 22 chapter saga,” Smith said. “There’s more to come and we definitely do need to do everything we can to be represented on this stakeholder group.”

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