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Planned Alexandria Waterfront Hotel Too Big, Say Critics

Under a proposed plan, this warehouse at the corner of Union and Duke Streets would become a hotel.
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Under a proposed plan, this warehouse at the corner of Union and Duke Streets would become a hotel.

In Virginia, leaders in Alexandria are about to consider the first development under the controversial new waterfront plan.

Washington-based Carr Hospitality may be the first developer to take advantage of the new zoning on the waterfront. In the coming weeks, city leaders will be considering a plan to demolish a 1950s-era warehouse at the northeast corner of Duke Street and Union Street and construct a hotel that's almost three times as large as the building that's there now.

"What's been difficult is that there is little consensus to be found among what people want, how they would like it to look and what they would like it to look and what they would like us to do with it. So we are trying to be as flexible as we can and address as many of the concerns as we hear," says Austin Flajser, president of Carr Hospitality.

And there are many concerns. Chief among them is the size and scale of the building. Neighbors who live near the site of the proposed hotel are concerned it will be out of place.

"You can put all the lipstick on a pig you want but it's still a pig," says Don Santarelli, who has lived in Old Town for 40 years. "If this is permitted to be of that size, then the whole waterfront will look like giant boxes."

Realtor Cindy Golubin disagrees. She says the hotel proposal will be a welcomed addition to the waterfront. "We need to thank these developers for wanting to be part of this city."

But many neighbors say they are concerned about the engineering. Dino Drudi says he's not sure it's a good idea to build part of the building underground so close to the river.

"They are going to have to pile drive down to bedrock, and then they are going to build this behemoth building which is bigger than anything else down there and hope it doesn't sink. I'm not sure that they've thought this through very well," he says.

Last month, some members of the Board of Architectural Review said the proposal was too large, but the Alexandria City Council will have the final say.

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