Waterfront Implementation Project
Waterfront Flooding in Alexandria
The City of Alexandria’s historic district is located along the Potomac River just south of the Washington, DC metropolitan area’s Reagan National Airport. The state of Alexandria’s current waterfront infrastructure can be traced back to the location’s use as an early seaport. As the City developed into a major port for regional and international trade starting in the late 18th century, inhabitants extended the shoreline and increased the available waterfront real estate through the use of sunken ship hulls and other forms of fill. Over the years, this amended shoreline was further developed is now home to parks and trails, arts facilities, restaurants, shops, and historic homes.
Waterfront Implementation Project Evolution
The Baseline Project
For over a decade the City of Alexandria has worked towards addressing the perennial issue of flooding along Alexandria's waterfront from these sources. In 2014, City Council adopted a Waterfront Small Area Plan (Waterfront Plan) that would establish a vision for the development of Alexandria’s waterfront residential, commercial, and infrastructure assets, and the following year approved a draft schematic landscape and flood mitigation design (Baseline Project) and phasing and funding plan (Baseline Project Phasing and Funding Plan) to guide implementation. Ultimately, the City Council-adopted plan prioritized Waterfront development in the following order:
- Construction of core area utility, roadway, and related infrastructure required to support subsequent improvements;
- Completion of flood mitigation elements;
- Completion of Waterfront Park improvements; and,
- Completion of remaining park improvements inside the core area.
After issuing this guidance, the City developed many of the preliminary engineering reports necessary to develop the Baseline Project’s final design. These reports indicate that the Baseline Project adopted by City Council would be appropriate for addressing flooding and providing public amenities in accordance with the Waterfront Plan; however, the City concurrently learned of four major additional constraints and challenges that ultimately necessitated a re-evaluation of the City’s priorities and approach to flood mitigation:
The City adopted the Environmental Action Plan 2040 and enacted the Green Building Policy in 2019, which requires public development to “treat 100% of the required stormwater treatment through green infrastructure.” These policies and plans build and strive towards implementation of the vision laid out in the 2008 Eco-City Charter.
New local and state regulatory requirements (primarily pertaining to stormwater quality) established since 2015 that need to be addressed by the project were not included in the Baseline project or early cost estimates. The City’s 2019 Green Building Policy indicates these water quality requirements for nutrient reductions shall be addressed on-site via green infrastructure. Accordingly, the City must use practices approved by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to comply.
Storms of increasing intensity and frequency have been hitting our region, causing localized flooding and subsequent damages to property and businesses. This is a trend also observed around the country and planet. Accordingly, the City has re-evaluated the recommended size and intensity of the “design storm” used as the basis for stormwater and flood mitigation infrastructure performance requirement calculations. Use of this updated model will facilitate the development of more informed alternatives, without dramatically increasing costs to the project.
Anticipated Costs vs. Available Funding
Anticipated costs of implementing flood mitigation infrastructure projects, as well as regulatory and policy compliance costs have increased dramatically since the Baseline project budget was developed. Projected costs for the adopted “baseline project” in 2021 dollars are calculated to be approximately $200 million. Due to an increase in the number of competing CIP projects, and the continued escalation of their related costs, it is currently not anticipated that the CIP budget can provide sufficient funding within the 10-year CIP to provide this level of funding. In response, the City has aggressively pursued more cost-effective alternatives that achieve the goals of the Waterfront Plan and alternative funding sources that help achieve the flood mitigation and public amenity goals without additional burden on the City’s CIP and debt service.
A New Approach
The City’s approach to the Alternative development process was to reduce overall costs while also generating the best overall plan for addressing the goals and objectives of the Waterfront Plan’s prioritized “Core Area” (Waterfront section running from Duke Street to Queen Street), as well as scaling it to the target budget threshold of $100M.
Core Area Goals and Objectives
- Mitigate stormwater flooding
- Develop new civil infrastructure (inlets, pipes, storage, pumps, etc.)
- Size based on a conservative baseline storm
- Reasonably account for climate change projections through 2100
- Eliminate capacity issues
- Replace aging or failed bulkhead and shoreline infrastructure (where feasible and affordable)
- Develop new civil infrastructure (inlets, pipes, storage, pumps, etc.)
- Eliminate backflow of Potomac River into streets
- Address most frequent overtopping of bulkhead/shoreline – but not all
- Policy and regulatory compliance
- Deliver on goals of Waterfront Small Area Plan
Alternative Development Process
To do this, the City utilized a process that integrated resiliency, sustainability, regulatory compliance, and value engineering into the alternative development process. From March 2021 to February 2022 the City and project team completed the following steps to identify a recommended Cost-Based Alternative for the Waterfront Implementation Project:
- Researched, compiled, and analyzed potential approaches to value engineering and project phasing.
- Developed a series of Alternatives to the Baseline Project with and without budget constraints that:
Support the community’s flood mitigation priorities, as affirmed by City Council,
Address changes resulting from the use of the updated “design storm” model,
Mitigate the sources of most frequently occurring floods, and
Achieve water quality compliance requirements by incorporating new resiliency and stormwater management best practices.
Shared the Alternatives with City stakeholders and community members, including the Waterfront Commission - Flood Mitigation Sub-committee, and collected feedback on potential flood mitigation options, risk, and budget tolerance.
Refined all designs and identified a Recommended Cost-Based Alternative, given available funding, performance requirements, phasing opportunities, community prioritization and feedback.
New Project Alternatives
Recommended Cost-Based Alternative
The Recommended Cost-based Alternative was based on prior cost-based alternatives by incorporating feedback from the Waterfront Commission – Flood Mitigation Committee and community members, Alexandria Archeology Commission, Park and Recreation Commission, and community members, while still meeting the programmatic and accessibility goals of the Waterfront Plan, and following a budget-based approach.
The Recommended Cost-based Alternative features:
- Improvements to the stormwater infrastructure, including:
- New/upsized inlets and stormwater conveyance from Duke Street to Queen Street
- Installation of two stormwater pumping stations in Waterfront Park and Thompsons Alley (or the foot of Queen Street)
- Improvement of riverine flood protection up to elevation +6.0 feet (in NAVD88), including:
- A new bulkhead from Duke Street to Prince Street
- Landscape-based protection along the remaining vulnerable segments of the waterfront from Prince Street to King Street and from Cameron Street to Queen Street
- Restoration of all disturbed areas including asphalt paving to streets and landscape restoration at Waterfront Park, Point Lumley, and Founders Park, if impacted
- No improvements or a new bulkhead in the City Marina adjacent to the Torpedo Factory and Chart House, from King Street to Cameron Street
- Less costly materials used in streets and promenade as compared to the Common Elements
- Restoration of parks to current conditions with few improvements, including Waterfront Park.
Additional Feature Under Consideration
- The City is also considering the addition of new underground stormwater detention chambers in Waterfront Park and Founders Park. Action on this will be decided following additional analysis and funding availability.
Point Lumley Shoreline Alternative
Should costs continue to escalate beyond what is accounted for in the current Recommended Cost-based Alternative, the City may evaluate and explore an alternative shoreline concept in the Point Lumley Park area from Duke Street to Prince Street. This is not currently an option recommended by staff as it would not create the same waterfront access and experience as originally conceived; however, this potential option could provide cost-saving opportunities and limit environmental impacts, if necessary.
New Alternative Schedule
2019 – 2022 Timeline-To-Date
2022 – 2027 Anticipated Timeline
* Design completion date could be impacted by regulatory and grantor reviews.
* Construction is anticipated to occur after City’s 275th Anniversary celebration.
Capital Budget and Funding
The Waterfront Implementation Project budget is currently funded by the City’s Capital Infrastructure Program (CIP) funds. The City has applied for several state and federal grants, and will continue to evaluate additional alternative and external funding opportunities for the project which may help deliver more of the desired project elements:
Capital Infrastructure Program Funds (CIP Funds)
- Source: City of Alexandria
- Amount: $102 million (No additional funding is anticipated within 10-year CIP)
- Date Approved: May 2022
- Purpose: Design and construction
Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund Grant (DCR GRANt)
- Source: Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR)
- Amount: $3.24 million
- Date Awarded: December 27, 2021
- Purpose: Flood mitigation and stormwater management design phase services up to 30% design. Not intended to cover costs of construction
Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Grant (BRIC Grant)
- Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
- Amount: $50 million
- Notification Date: Summer 2023
- Purpose: Flood mitigation and stormwater management infrastructure
Project Delivery Method
In 2019, City decided to pursue Progressive Design-Build as the method for executing the updated Waterfront Implementation Project. The key outcomes and benefits to the City will be a more collaborative owner-builder relationship and greater flexibility to scope to a budget while maximizing innovation and value for the City’s investment. The Progressive Design-Build team will provide market-based pricing based on the contractor’s actual plan for sequencing and prosecuting the work which will reduce the risk of designing and bidding something the City cannot ultimately afford to construct.
In 2019, the City contracted with Carollo to serve as the Owner-Advisor for the Waterfront Implementation Project. The team supported the City with cost estimates, consideration of resiliency options, and the development of a conceptual cost-based alternative for use in determining the Progressive Design-Build team’s required qualifications and scope of work.
Progressive Design-Build team
The procurement process to qualify and select a Progressive Design-Build Team will begin in Late Summer/Fall 2022. It is anticipated that the qualifications-based selection process will have two steps and is anticipated to take 12 to 14 months to complete after the initial advertisement of the RFQu.
For more information, visit Waterfront Implementation Project Procurement.
Technical and industry resources for the Waterfront Implementation Project relaunch can be found on the Waterfront Implementation Project Technical Resources webpage.
The City understands that consistent and transparent civic engagement and communication is a critical element of the updated Alternative development process. The City first shared its plans to reassess the Baseline Project at a Waterfront Commission meeting in Spring 2021 and has since consistently engaged the Waterfront Commission, a newly developed Flooding Subcommittee, the Parks and Recreation Commission, and other civic and special interest groups directly impacted by Waterfront flooding. The Project Team is dedicated to maintaining consistent, open dialogue with the community for the duration of design and construction phases for the Waterfront Implementation Project.
Alexandria Waterfront Commission was established in 2012 as a forum for the community to advise City Council and engage with City staff on issues related to Alexandria's historic Potomac River waterfront and implementation of the Waterfront Plan. The Commission is currently composed of 21 members representing adjacent neighborhoods, community organizations, and other related City committees.
Waterfront Commission - Flooding Subcommittee
The Waterfront Commission Flood Mitigation Subcommittee was organized to facilitate focused discussions on flood mitigation topics with community representatives. This body continues to play a critical role in providing feedback on the City’s Alternative selection and refinement process and informing the City on the community’s priorities for the Waterfront.
In addition, the following related City Commissions receive progress updates and provide feedback on the Waterfront Implementation Project:
The following are links to the proceedings and resources addressing the Waterfront Implementation Project redesign from these key City commissions:
June 16, 2022 - Park and Recreation Commission - Underground Stormwater Storage at Founders Park Letter
May 16, 2022 - Waterfront Commission - Alternative Recommendation Letter to City Council
April 20, 2022 - Alexandria Archaeology Commission Meeting
April 19, 2022 - Waterfront Commission Meeting
April 7, 2022 - Waterfront Commission - Flooding Subcommittee Meeting
March 22, 2022 - Waterfront Commission - Flooding Subcommittee Meeting
February 15, 2022 - Waterfront Commission Meeting
January 18, 2022 - Waterfront Commission Meeting
January 6, 2022 - Waterfront Commission - Flooding Subcommittee Meeting
November 15, 2021 - Waterfront Commission - Flooding Subcommittee Meeting
October 4, 2021 - Waterfront Commission - Flooding Subcommittee Meeting
September 23, 2021 - Park & Recreation Commission Meeting
June 7, 2021 - Waterfront Commission - Flooding Subcommittee Meeting
April 5, 2021 - Waterfront Commission - Flooding Subcommittee Meeting
In addition to engagement through the City Commissions, City staff have given presentations on the Waterfront Implementation Project to several community groups, including:
- June 8, 2022 - Old Town Civic Association Meeting
- May 13, 2021 - Founders Park Civic Association
- May 6, 2021 - Founders Park Civic Association - Board and Past Presidents Meeting