The Torpedo Factory plan took a direct hit from the Waterfront Commission as Commissioners criticized staff for a rushed timeline that gives little room for public and commission feedback.
Plans are in the works to potentially overhaul the structure of the Torpedo Factory, with options like new cafe space on the first floor or artistic changes like a new glassblowing studio all being considered. But at a Waterfront Commission meeting earlier this week, the group unanimously voted to sent a letter to the City Council warning about the inadequate time given to considering public feedback at the end of the process.
While city staff have previously outlined potential changes to the layout of the Torpedo Factory, other important planning aspects like a cost breakdown are still unknown as plans went to the Waterfront Commission for review ahead of a City Council meeting next month.
At the meeting, Diane Ruggiero, deputy director of recreation, parks and cultural activities, explained that the Office of the Arts is working on a constrained timeline laid out by the City Council. Ruggiero explained that the timeline for the presentation of the Torpedo Factory plan was originally 18 months but was shrunk down to four months.
It’s a justification that went over poorly with members of the Waterfront Commission.
“You’re having a series of public meetings and then going to Council next week?” asked Commissioner Nathan Macek. “How does that provide any time for the public to provide feedback or for you to meaningfully incorporate that into what you’re bringing to City Council? This schedule is not realistic and I think you’re going to have to rethink it. I know you’re trying to get this in before this Council leaves, but I don’t think it’s fair to the community to cram this in at two weeks of the holidays and blame the schedule. You’ve had four months. You had four months. Failure to use the four months you had adequately shouldn’t be something we should be punished for and the community is given to react with.”
Chair Steve Thayer said it was unrealistic to expect the Waterfront Commission to be expected to endorse a plan lacking many of its basic elements.
“The devil is always in the details,” Thayer said. “There’s no way we’re going to have enough information to sit down in the middle of December and mix and match and decide what we think as a body. We’re well within our rights to tell Council we’re unable to fulfill our responsibilities because we received insufficient information.”
Staff from the Office of the Arts suggested holding a special meeting of the Waterfront Commission in December, but Thayer said that would likely create additional difficulties with trying to get all of the Commission members together around the holidays.
The concern expressed by many on the Waterfront Commission is that the stunted feedback time would erode public confidence in a plan already under fire from artists at the Torpedo Factory.
“The community at the Torpedo Factory is a bit up in arms, and if we rush this, there will be greater lack of trust,” said Commisioner Kristina Hagman. “We have to address this in some way, shape or form.”
While the Waterfront Commission was united in concerns about the timeline of the plan, there were some divisions over its content — with some saying the city hasn’t done enough to mollify artist concerns and others criticizing the artists for being unwilling to accept any changes.
“There was always a ‘do not do anything, do not change anything’ type attitude and I really like Diane’s changes for the building,” Hagman said. “I myself left the Torpedo Factory because it was a bit moribund. On the other hand, I think there will be a real distrust or community backlash, and I think that will be a real issue to deal with.”
The Waterfront Commission unanimously voted to send a letter to the City Council saying the Waterfront Commission did not have adequate time to consider the Torpedo Factory plans.
“Diane, I hope you understand why we’re upset with your office about this,” Macek said. “We asked you for information a month ago to provide adequate information to form an opinion on this. You’re running out the clock and saying ‘Sorry, this is the timeframe we’re on.’ That is not appropriate to back a commission into a corner with that… It’s just not the way business should be done in the city.”
After sailing through perilous economic waters, the Tall Ship Providence just shored up weekly tours until next spring.
The nonprofit is still tabulating the numbers, but expects that since launching in June 2020, thousands of visitors have been welcomed aboard the Tall Ship for tours and cruises. The Providence is a replica of the first naval warship commissioned by the Continental Congress in 1775, and visitors are welcomed aboard by an actor portraying Captain John Paul Jones.
“We were delighted to be able to have as many guests and customers aboard the ship as possible this summer and fall,” Claire Sassin, president and CEO of the Tall Ship Providence Foundation, told ALXnow. “It was a great joy, but there was also sadness because we just want to keep sailing.”
In August, the ship passed inspection with the U.S. Coast Guard and can now coast without a motor along the Potomac River with its sails unfurled. While still open for weekend and private cruises through next spring, the ship recently closed during the week.
“Being able to put the sails up is a completely different experience, and you do get to see what sailing was like back during the American Revolution,” Sassin said.
The pandemic forced the Foundation to alter its business plan to focus on small events, like private tours, wine tastings and beer cruises.
“We had not thought really about doing private tours until the pandemic came about,” Sassin said. “We’ve also added a whole layer of sanitizing in between every single tour, both at our Visitor Center and on the ship.”
In the days ahead, Sassin hopes to see the Tall Ship move to Waterfront Park by 2023, as massive plans are in the works to construct a barge, a new pier and cottages to house the ship and the Senator John Warner Maritime Heritage Center.
Future travelers in the cold months ahead can rest assured, as the ship has heating in the lower deck. In the short term, on December 11, 12, 18 and 19, Captain Jones will tell visitors the Christmas tale of the Schooner Rouse Simmons, which made perilous runs to deliver late-season Christmas trees, until it sank in a storm.
City archeologists are currently at work at the Roberdeau’s Wharf/Harborside site (400 South Union Street), where they recently found a brick furnace and a coal bin associated with the circa 1830s brewery, according to the Alexandria Archaeology Museum’s Twitter account.
1. Porter on the Potomac! Archaeologists working at the Roberdeau’s Wharf/Harborside site (44AX114) uncovered a brick furnace and coal bin associated with a 19th century brewery. An 1845 map shows the brewery along Union Street between Wolfe and Wilkes Streets. pic.twitter.com/kbIU6mvFsS
— AlexVA Archaeology (@AlexArchaeology) October 27, 2021
The site was also home to an older distillery built in the late 18th century as the waterfront was expanding out into the Potomac River to accommodate deeper draught ships.
A report on the site said the brewery was likely part of a multi-building industrial complex on the waterfront, along with an iron foundry and a locamotive works. By 1853, the site was listed as being part of the Portner and Ale Brewery and produced roughly 3,000 barrels of beer every year.
Photo via AlexArchaeology/Twitter
Visit Alexandria has announced the return of the Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights early next month.
The event is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 4. The event is planned to feature dozens of brightly lit boats cruising along one mile of the Potomac River shoreline, Visit Alexandria said in a press release.
The event was one of those cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The boat parade is part of the weekend of festivities, including the city’s famous Scottish Christmas Walk and Parade. A similar boat parade is planned the same evening at 7 p.m. in D.C.
“Boat parade dockside festivities will entertain parade-goers from 2-8 p.m. in Waterfront Park at the foot of King Street,” Visit Alexandria said. “Festivities include a pop-up beer garden from Alexandria’s award-winning Port City Brewing Company and holiday music and giveaways from 97.1 WASH-FM. Hands-on activities from independently owned Alexandria businesses include a Letters to Santa postcard station from paper goods boutique Penny Post and a holiday ornament craft activity from AR Workshop Alexandria.”
The daytime activities will include a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus on a fireboat at 3:30 p.m.
Parade onlookers are encouraged to spread out for the viewing, with a list of suggested spots included in the press release:
- Founders Park (351 N. Union Street)
- Alexandria City Marina (0 Cameron Street)
- Waterfront Park (1A Prince Street)
- Point Lumley Park (1 Duke Street)
- Shipyard/Harborside Park (1 Wilkes Street)
- Windmill Hill Park (501 S. Union Street)
- Ford’s Landing Park (99 Franklin Street)
Photo via Visit Alexandria VA/Facebook
Today, a combination of rains and coastal flooding brought the Potomac up to 5.99 feet, making today a “moderate flood” by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) standards. The record high is 8.7 feet from Hurricane Isabel in 2003. The National Weather Service warned that more flooding is anticipated at high tide around 4 a.m. tomorrow morning (Saturday), though it’s not forecast to get quite as high as water levels were this afternoon.
Just because the wind and rain may be letting up where you are, those along the tidal Potomac and western shore of the Chesapeake need to be aware that another round of coastal flooding is imminent later tonight. For the latest tidal flood forecasts: https://t.co/67Ghq24LYF pic.twitter.com/OlUWFP1oag
— NWS Baltimore-Washington (@NWS_BaltWash) October 29, 2021
Strand Street and parts of Union Street were closed for much of the afternoon as locals gawked at the high water levels or tried to assist business owners in sandbagging the street-facing retail. The coastal flood warning is in effect until 2 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday).
Keith Harmon, a local canoeing through the flood, said this wasn’t the first time he’s been able to paddle his vessel along Alexandria streets.
“This isn’t the first time I’ve taken the canoe out on the road in Old Town,” Harmon said. “This is the second time for me. The last time was about four years ago.”
Plans for flooding prevention in the blocks most heavily affected today were presented earlier this month to the city’s Waterfront Commission Flood Mitigation Committee, but were dismissed as too costly and would likely have done little to stop “overtopping” as was seen today along the Potomac.
High tide in Old Town Alexandria. Substantial flooding we’ve not seen since hurricane Isabel in 2003. pic.twitter.com/NyvPd0P5d9
— Alex & Wendy (@OldTownHome) October 29, 2021
James Cullum and Vernon Miles contributed to this story
Staff from Alexandria Toyota desperately piled sandbags in front of Chadwicks (203 Strand Street) as floodwaters started to swell and shut down several blocks of Old Town.
The National Weather Service has issued an areal flood warning for Alexandria, in addition to a coastal flood warning in place until Saturday.
Around 2:15 p.m., Strand Street and parts of Union Street were closed due to high floodwaters, with police and city staff warning drivers to turn back. Waters are expected to continue rising until high tide around 3:30 p.m.
Around the waterfront, locals helped pile sandbags in front of businesses and watched as water levels crept higher.
TRAFFIC ALERT: Several streets in Old Town are closed due to flooding. Union Street is closed between Queen St & Prince St. AVOID THE AREA! pic.twitter.com/FaoC9cuT99
— Alexandria Police (@AlexandriaVAPD) October 29, 2021
Several businesses and institutions closer to the waterfront, like the Torpedo Factory, were closed.
Torpedo Factory Art Center is closing early today at 1:30 p.m. in an abundance of caution due to the risk of flooding. We hope to reopen the building tomorrow, but it will not be at the regularly scheduled 10 a.m. Watch this space for updates.
— Torpedo Factory (@TorpedoFactory) October 29, 2021
Flooding in Old Town – please avoid the area & move your car. pic.twitter.com/zUp6FmGd3n
— Alexandria Police (@AlexandriaVAPD) October 29, 2021
(Updated at 9:30 p.m.) High water levels in Old Town marked the start of what could be several days of tidal flooding around Alexandria.
A Coastal Flood Warning is in effect starting tonight (Thursday) at 8 p.m. and running until 2 p.m. on Saturday (Oct. 30). The National Weather Service warned that high tides could flood parts of the city, particularly along the waterfront.
Several businesses around Old Town were already sandbagged and prepared for potential flooding. The city says it will be handing out sandbags Friday morning in anticipation of what NWS is calling “one of the biggest tidal flood events of the past 10-20 years.”
There is a coastal flood warning through Saturday afternoon with primary impact on our waterfront from the River up King St to Lee St, and along Union St between Duke St and Queen St.
We will be distributing sandbags tomorrow 7A-9A (133 S Quaker). https://t.co/40uWinvn9K
— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) October 29, 2021
For those looking to use sandbags to protect their home, the city has a quick guide available:
- Remove any debris from the area where bags are to be placed.
- If tied bags are used, flatten them and flare the tied end. If untied bags are used, fold the open end to form a triangle.
- To form a sandbag wall, place bags tightly against one another to form the first layer of defense.
- Place succeeding bags on the folded or flared portion of the previous bag and stamp into place to eliminate gaps and to form a tight seal.
- Stagger the second and subsequent layers of bags, similar to the pattern of bricks on a wall.
- Never use bags to build a fortress around your property because this approach can trap water between sandbag walls and structures, causing further damage.
Be careful if you're heading down to the Old Town waterfront. There is some flooding on King St., Prince St., Wales Alley & Strand St. Access to King St. & Prince St. is blocked at Union St.
Remember: Turn around, don't drown! pic.twitter.com/S0dqVzSS2M
— Alexandria Police (@AlexandriaVAPD) October 28, 2021
— KnotTV (@KnotTV_Live) October 28, 2021
James Cullum contributed to this story
The city has unveiled plans for the next art installation in Waterfront Park, which will be in place at the park for most of next year.
At a meeting of the Park & Recreation Commission Meeting, Diane Ruggiero, deputy director of recreation, parks and cultural activities and two-time ALXnow quotee this week, outlined the initial plans to work with R&R Studio in Miami on a new display meant to evoke joy and happiness after a dour couple of years.
The studio is run by husband-wife artist team Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt, who Rosario said have done previous installation art displays including a couple of pieces at Coachella.
The proposal for Waterfront Park is a 15-foot sign with metal letters, outlined in neon, that says “I Love You”. The park will also feature an open area of asphalt painted to look like a room’s carpet.
“There’s a sense of joy,” Ruggiero said. “It’s fun, it’s colorful. There’s an element of kitsch to it.”
Ruggiero said the color of the neon is still being decided as the artists work through figuring out what color shows up best. The current designs show the letters illuminated with what Ruggiero called “Pepto-Bismol pink.”
The idea, according to Ruggiero, is to have another photo-spot that draws people to the waterfront, like the Mirror Mirror exhibit in 2019.
The new park exhibit will run from March 19 — to correspond with the opening of the Cherry Blossom festival — until November 6.
The National Weather Service (NWS) is warning that low-lying areas of Alexandria could see as much as two or three feet of tidal flooding for the next few days.
In a coastal flood warning, the NWS said from tonight (Thursday) at 8 p.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday (Oct. 30), high tides could flood parts of the city — particularly along the waterfront.
“Water is expected to approach buildings near King Street and Union Street,” the warning said. “Shoreline inundation up to one foot above ground is possible elsewhere.”
The warning noted that tides could reach four feet above normal levels at high tide, which in Alexandria is at 2:30 a.m. and p.m.
“Take the necessary actions to protect flood-prone property,” the NWS said. “If travel is required, do not drive around barricades or through water of unknown depth.”
One of the biggest tidal flood events of the past 10-20 years (possibly since Hurricane Isabel at some locales), is expected Friday & Saturday. Those along tidal shores should get ready for exceptional tidal inundation! Tidal forecasts here: https://t.co/Q2WdpDGgIJ pic.twitter.com/LQkL80pzQs
— NWS Baltimore-Washington (@NWS_BaltWash) October 28, 2021
This week saw possibly the most contentious meeting between the City Council and School Board in years for a debate over School Resources Officers that ultimately culminated in the Council voting to temporarily restore the program. The reversal has been advocated by school officials and some parents, but was lamented by advocacy group Tenants and Workers United that saw it as a step-backward for racial justice.
The following day, ACPS was also hit with lockdowns at Alexandria City High School’s King Street and Minnie Howard campuses and Hammond Middle School, though police later said initial calls about a school shooting were unfounded. At the same time, a gas leak near Potomac Yard led to two homes being evacuated and the temporary closure of Richmond Highway.
Here are this week’s most-read stories.
- Man injured and juvenile arrested after fight at the McDonald’s in Bradlee Shopping Center
- In dramatic reversal, City Council brings back school resource officers to Alexandria City Public Schools
- Planned bus rapid transit route from Alexandria to Tysons rolls ahead
- Alexandria City High School on lockdown after anonymous threat
- Police: Call about shooting at Hammond Middle School unfounded
- City rethinks waterfront flood mitigation plans after seeing the price tag
- Tenants and Workers United upset by City Council restoration of school resource officer program
- City Council to consider swapping parking for ‘parklets’
- Man attempts to steal $1,850 in merchandise from Restaurant Depot with discarded receipt
- Project crowdsourcing Alexandria history aims to go nationwide next year