As the deadline nears to make it known you have ideas for development of Alexandria's riverfront, the city has updated its website to include information written more in plain English and less in technical terms.
Thursday is the deadline to let the city know whether you want to be included in the development process. While this part of the process — a RFI/RFQ (request for information/request for qualifications) — is geared toward professionals, public comments are being sought as well.
The city is in the "information-gathering stage" as it works toward implementation of its Riverfront Improvement Venture and Essential Recreation Act, known as the R.I.V.E.R. Act.
Information about the R.I.V.E.R. Act and how potential stakeholders can join in the process can be found on the Policy News/Transparency section of the city's website, cityofalexandriala.com.
Mayor Jacques Roy said the city will conduct community meetings about development proposals, but for now the city wants interested individuals and firms to "indicate their willingness to partner and submit technical questions to us on or before March 26."
After that, respondents will be asked to answer six feasibility questions on the website before May 15.
Jonathan Bolen, the city's chief resilience officer, said Alexandria has invested largely in recreation-related infrastructure in the riverfront area.
"The next large-scale public-sector investments should focus on infrastructure that supports private-sector development and existing cultural- and recreation-centered assets," Bolen said.
The city also is looking for private-sector housing developments downtown, "most particularly condominiums, loft-living and above-retail apartments," he said.
The city will assist with funding in projects that develop out of the R.I.V.E.R. Act to enhance the area along the Red River downtown. It is seeking about a 4-1 ratio in private-public spending.
"The city envisions a total project value of more than $40 million over a meaningfully connected period of core projects, with public investment in infrastructure of at least $8.6 million over the next 10 years, with the first $4 million being made available in the next two to three years," according to a response to a question in the FAQ (frequently asked questions) memorandum on the city website.
The FAQ is new to the website, as is a "non-technical narrative" intended to provide information about the R.I.V.E.R. Act and implementation process in easy-to-understand terms.
Previous information about the R.I.V.E.R. Act was generally technical in nature. Roy said the new information is intended to "demystify" the process.
Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy says the city wants interested individuals and firms to “indicate their willingness to partner and submit technical questions to us on or before March 26.” (Photo: Town Talk file photo)
The new information on the website answers questions as well as poses questions for professionals and the public to consider as they participate in the process.
A memorandum explains that the city anticipates "that all of 2015 will be focused on information gathering up to and through initial core projects and designs. The city anticipates the engagement of qualified expert planners, design teams and private-sector partners.
"In 2016, final design and implementation would begin with alterations to the built environment to commence in 2016."
It is noted that riverfront development, because of its large scale, "is a multi-year commitment encompassing three to ten years."
Questions listed for potential stakeholders and the public to consider include:
"What kind of development suits our riverfront? Do we need riverfront development?"
"What are the synergies that need to exist among downtown, the riverfront and the existing assets on the riverfront and in downtown?"
"… What else will bring people downtown and to the riverfront, and how do we build on our existing events, activities, assets and businesses in a sustainable way that will make this project a continuing success?"
"What brings you downtown now? What are the obstacles that keep you from coming downtown? What would bring you downtown more often?"
"Would you live downtown or on the riverfront and what would your home look like — condos and/or riverfront lofts above stores and restaurants, apartments, duplexes or single-family homes?"
"How will the project improve parking, access and mobility to the riverfront for safe and efficient travel by pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles and river traffic?"
The website says, "The answers, we hope, will come from everyone who might have a stake in this development, an idea about what they'd like to see and an interest in Alexandria's progress.
"That means we need to hear from citizens, property owners, business owners, developers, architects and even tourists."
The city is hoping to "render public determinations and commitments" on projects by July 24.
"The potential is incredible for redevelopment of the river and connected downtown areas," Bolen said, and participation by stakeholders and the public is important toward reaching that potential.
"Perhaps someone or some group has the definitive project — we welcome your proposal — but then again maybe one person is sitting at home with an idea that recognizes a missing piece or even encompasses the very essence of what this project should be," the website says. "We need that idea."