Former Virginia Senator John W. Warner has agreed to let the Tall Ship Providence Foundation to use his name for its recently approved visitor center complex.

“As the only Secretary of the Navy to serve in the Navy and Marine Corps, combined with his 30-years of service in the Senate, we are thrilled to recognize his contributions to our country,” Clair S. Sassin, the foundation’s executive director, said in an email.

While the naming of the visitor’s center is a positive development, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the foundation. The programs/communications director and the marketing director were recently let go and the capital campaign for the project will have to be pushed to the end of the year, Sassin said.

City Council approved the L-shaped, 5,300 square-foot floating pier on March 14. The pier will 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. The new complex will open on a floating pier at Waterfront Park in 2022, and in the meantime will operate at its current location at Founders Park.

In the meantime, Sassin is working on creating online content to tell the stories of the Providence, and is participating in the upcoming Spring2ACTion fundraiser on Wednesday.

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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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It was quite a year in Alexandria. It’s safe to say that 202o will be just as busy, but in the meantime let’s take a look at the top stories from the last year.

1. The Seminary Road Diet 

Few local transportation stories have gotten as much attention as City Council’s 4-3 decision on the Seminary Road diet. The move seems simple enough — consolidating from four to two lanes in both directions between N. Quaker Lane and Howard Street with a turn lane in the middle and bike lanes on both sides. Public discord over the change prompted the creation of a Facebook page, which has dramatically turned up the temperature on the issue, even leading to City Councilwoman Amy Jackson to publicly call for a complete reversal on the decision and restart of the process.
See: More Work on Seminary Road This Spring If the State Will Pony Up the Cash
More: Virginia Theological Seminary Weighs In Favor of Seminary Road Diet


2. Legendary Titans Pass Away 

Alexandria lost a number of inspiring figures in 2019, including members of the state championship-winning 1971 T.C. Williams High School football team. The team, who were immortalized in the 2000 film “Remember The Titans” starring Denzel Washington, lost coach Herman Boone, assistant coach Bill Yoast and players Petey Jones and Julius Campbell.


George Washington Middle School. (File photo)

3. ACPS fully Accredited for First Time in 20 Years

It took two decades, and in September Alexandria City Public Schools system announced that all of the city’s public schools reached their state mandated benchmarks to be fully accredited for the 2019-2020 academic year. Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings said that the success didn’t come by chance and that it took six superintendents and a lot of “planning, preparation and dedication for all students to experience success regardless of their life circumstances” to get ACPS where it is today.


4. Ground Broken at Potomac Yard Metro Station

After decades of finalizing plans and making deals, ground was finally broken in December for the construction of the Potomac Yard Metro station. The plan is to open the $320 million station by spring 2022, and while development will result in the demolition of the Regal Potomac Yard movie theater, the area will positively be booming with the eventual addition of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, a new mixed-use redevelopment, Amazon HQ2 in Crystal City and much more.

“This has been a quarter-century in the making,” Mayor Justin Wilson said at the groundbreaking. “This is a big… deal.”


5. Alexandria’s Summer Metro Shutdown 

Did you have to get creative in your commute over the summer? You weren’t alone. Thousands of commuters in the area were forced to make alternate plans so that Metro could make crucial improvements to all of the station platforms south of the Reagan National Airport station. The shutdown meant expanded Metro and DASH bus routes, morning trolley rides from the King Street station, Potomac Riverboat Company Water Taxi ferries from the Alexandria Waterfront into the District and more. The renovation is part of a $300-$400 million project to rebuild 20 outdoor platforms throughout the Metro system. Once reopened, commuters were introduced to new speakers for clearer public announcements and emergency notifications, stainless-steel platform shelters, passenger information display screens and energy-efficient LED lighting.

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