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Old Dominion Boat Club
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Old Dominion Boat Club

Founded in 1880, the Old Dominion Boat Club is an aspirational social club of 960 members, not all of whom are boaters or actively engaged in aquatic activities.  The club has been located at the foot of King Street since 1923, where it maintains a clubhouse, a marina with 53 boat slips, docks, and a boat ramp (see first two photos below right).  This has been the club's second building since its founding in 1880.

In January 2012, Alexandria adopted an ambitious Waterfront Plan that envisioned uninterrupted public access along the entire Potomac River shoreline abutting Old Town, from Tide Lock Park in the north (which is part of Canal Center located two blocks from Watergate) to Windmill Hill Park/Shipyard Park in the south (near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge).  While the entire plan is designed to be implemented over the next 20 to 30 years, the city council, in full-on obsessive-compulsive bully mode, wanted some changes to take place immediately. 

High up on the city council's wish list is seizing control of ODBC's property by any available means, because the club's facilities and nearby parking lot prevented the city from linking the Alexandria Marina and city-owned Torpedo Factory to the club's immediate north, with King Street Park and Waterfront Park to the club's immediate south.  The city council also believed that the club's activities interfered with flourishing commercial development along and in the vicinity of Strand Street, which runs parallel to both South Union Street and the river for three blocks between lower Prince and King Streets.

To achieve its ends, the city first attempted to terminate an easement that has been in force since 1789 that presently allows ODBC's members and guests to use Wales Alley to move boats between the club's parking lot, where smaller boats are sometimes stored, and its boat ramp (the brick-paved alley, a portion of which is used for outdoor seating by Virtue Feed and Grain Tavern, is shown in the photo near bottom right).  The Virginia Supreme Court ruled in Old Dominion Boat Club v. Alexandria City Council, Record No. 130062 (2013), that the city could not unilaterally revoke ODBC's long-held easement even though it had acquired ownership of the alley.  Then the city ham-handedly tried to seize ODBC's parking lot through eminent domain.  Meanwhile, some of the club's supporters and others waged an unsuccessful challenge against the city's Waterfront Plan that was also decided by the Virginia Supreme Court in Burke v. City Council for the City of Alexandria, Record No. 140666 (2015) and other related cases.

Eventually, the city and the club tired of trench warfare and reached an amicable deal in March 2014.  With 66 percent of its members supporting the move, the ODBC agreed to exchange its property at One King Street for city-owned waterfront property located a city block away at Zero Prince Street (both parcels are outlined in red in the map at bottom right) plus $5 million from the city to subsidize the construction of a new clubhouse, reported to have cost $9.5 million.  The city acquired the Zero Prince Street property -- the land and a two-story cinder-block building with a wrap-around wooden deck atop concrete pilings over water that was originally occupied by Beachcombers Restaurant and later Potomac Arms -- for $1,130,000 in 2006.

The new three-story ODBC clubhouse will have a lobby displaying historic artifacts, locker rooms and showers for members and their guests, a meeting hall, offices, a tap room, an outdoor patio with a kitchen, a ballroom, a boardroom with a kitchen, a covered rooftop terrace, and 45 parking spaces.  An artist's renderings of the new clubhouse are below left.  The new ODBC was completed in late 2017, previewed for members at a New Year's Eve party held on December 31, 2017, and formally opened to its members on January 12, 2018.  The old facility closed on December 25, 2017 after a final event held on Christmas Eve, and was turned over to the city on January 31, 2018.

At the time its armistice with the ODBC was announced, the city revealed that it planned to demolish the old ODBC building once it was vacated and reclaim the land for an interim Fitzgerald Square Park (see the original artist's renderings of the completed park bottom left).  In March 2018, the city updated its website to report that construction on the interim park, now named King Street Waterfront Park, will start later in the spring and open before the end of 2018 (see the King Street Waterfront Park development page of this website for artist's renderings of the interim park).  However, the city warned that "it may be a decade or more before the planned flood mitigation infrastructure is in place and the permanent park can be constructed."  The city has also posted interactive "360° Panoramic Renderings of King Street Park at the Waterfront" on its website.



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