A group of people are fighting back against proposed changes to the historic Torpedo Factory building in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.
For nearly half a century, local artists have called the Torpedo Factory home. Located along the Old Town waterfront, the three-story art space is owned by the city. But the building is in dire need of repair, and the city's proposals for renovating and changing the Torpedo Factory don't sit well with the artists who call that space home.
To artist Alex Gray, this is more than just his art studio.
"This space is my home; this space is my business," he said.
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His studio is one of dozens in Old Town's famed Torpedo Factory.
"What the city's proposing is they don't want me to be here anymore; they have something better they want to put in my place," he said.
The city has studied the building and the possibilities for it for years. The city has even studied the studies.
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Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson says it's time to do something.
"We want to maintain that arts focus, but we want to make sure it continues to be a thriving attraction and that's going to require some change," Wilson said.
Three options are on the table, and the one that Gray feels is most probable would eliminate all artist space on the first floor, in favor of commercial space.
That option would shrink studio space by 36%, and gallery space would be cut by about 23%. It would add more entertainment space and room for restaurants and retail.
"It would be disastrous, not just for me personally but for the identity for the arts center," Gray said.
The Old Town Waterfront is hardly the scene it was in the '70s, when artists first moved into the Torpedo Factory. Now the waterfront is home to a buzzing restaurant scene and million-dollar condos.
"Nobody's trying to kick out all the artists; nobody's trying to, you know, make this a condo building," Wilson said. "Nobody's doing that. For the city, we want to maintain that arts use, we want to maintain that arts focus, but we want to make sure it continues to be a thriving attraction, and that's going to require some change...."
The artists are petitioning the city to keep all of the space in the historic building. But if they're to have any home at all, city officials feel something will have to change, and soon.
Wilson said city staff will likely make a recommendation to the council within the next month on the Torpedo Factory's future.