Alexandria, VA

The City of Alexandria is working on plans to handle a potential Coronavirus outbreak, but if you’re looking to a free face mask from the city, you’re out of luck.

“Our health department is not there to deliver masks,” said City Councilwoman Amy Jackson at a City Council meeting on Tuesday. “We’ve seen an increase in requests, but you have to find your own if that’s what you want to do.”

Councilman Mohamed “Mo” Seifeldein checked in with the City Manager at the meeting’s end to ensure the city is preparing for a potential coronavirus outbreak.

“With the announcement from the CDC, it seems like unwelcome news may be coming,” Seifeldein said. “In the event that we have to go into a short schedule, work from home, school [closures], I want to make sure plans are set.”

City Manager Mark Jinks confirmed that the city is working on plans to continue operating city services while minimizing the potential spread of disease.

“As the spread of the virus is on two continents, it’s a pandemic,” Jinks said. “We’ve had a staff group working and we’re going to be expanding that. We have a continuation of service plans in place with each department, however, this is a different circumstance than we have ever faced.”

“This is not a snowstorm. This is not a weather event,” he continued. “We’ve got to go back and look at those and see how we would respond differently. We’re in a different gear.”

Jinks said he and others on city staff are reading up on past pandemics.

“Nobody really knows how far it’s going to spread, but we have to plan for it,” Jinks said. “We have to be ready.”

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

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Twenty years before slavery was abolished, there were black Freemasons in Alexandria. This month, Alexandria’s Universal Lodge No. 1, which is the first “Prince Hall” in Virginia, celebrated its 175th anniversary.

“We are standing on the shoulders of previous generations looking forward,” MacArthur Myers, the 174th past master at the lodge told ALXnow. “We have to recognize all who went before us and the responsibility of the stewardship in our presence as we look at the future.”

Prince Hall Masonry, which is historically all black, dates back to 1775 when 14 free black men were initiated by a lodge attached to the British army.

Universal Lodge No. 1 was founded on Feb. 5, 1845, by seamen William Dudley, Benjamin Crier and Sandy Bryant, all of whom became masons in Liverpool, England, in the 1830s. After returning to the states, the men joined the African American Social Lodge No. 1 in Washington, D.C. in 1838.

“Even though it says 1845, many lodges couldn’t come into being until after the Civil War,” Myers noted. “You had millions of previously enslaved people who were granted their freedom, and they had to construct a nation for themselves. They had to build hospitals and schools and they knew that they had to build institutions for the betterment of the masses.”

Alexandria was part of the District in 1845, and Dudley, Crier and Bryant founded the lodge in a secret meeting. The home for the lodge was 424 S. Royal Street in the city’s Hayti neighborhood, and it remained there until moving to its present location at 112 E. Oxford Ave. in Del Ray in 1986. The lodge is well-known in the community for its charitable work, including annual coat drives for Alexandria youths in the winter.

Myers, a retired social worker who was named an Alexandria Living Legend last month, is also the historian for the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge in Richmond. He’s been a member since 2012, and was raised in the company of Freemasons.

“They were different than ordinary men, because you knew about their character, you knew what they were doing in the community and that’s always been faith, hope and charity,” he said. “In Alexandria, you were a member of the Masonic lodge, the Elks, the Departmental Progressive Club and you went to church. Those were the social hubs because of segregation.”

The lodge is historically and culturally an African American club, and members frequently visit other lodges around the world. Myers, who also conducts tours of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, couldn’t speak of what goes on behind closed doors or how many members there are in the lodge, but said that the applicants have to undergo an extensive background check. Notable members include former Mayor Bill Euille and former Police Chief Earl Cook.

“There’s a fine line between vanity and humility,” Myers said. “A Mason is a Mason is a Mason, and therefore it takes the individual to decide how to you want to treat another Mason. We, in our rituals and in our teaching and learning, are taught about personal growth. For us it’s about brotherly love.”

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(Updated at 3 p.m.) Micro-mobility company Helbiz is poised to be the first company in Alexandria offering both e-scooters and e-bikes in Alexandria.

“Helbiz… has been awarded a permit to operate both its innovative e-bikes and e-scooters in Alexandria, Virginia, making it the only company to offer both transportation solutions in the market,” the company said in a press release. “This permit follows the launch of the company’s fleet of e-bikes in neighboring Washington, D.C. and highlights Helbiz’s continued commitment to offering eco-friendly micro-mobility solutions in the area.”

Gian Luca Spriano, a spokesperson for the Italian-American company, said it would be partnering with Alexandria’s Department of Transportation to ensure safety is prioritized and the company has met all the regulatory standards.

The press release noted that the company plans to operate 200 e-scooters and 200 e-bikes in Alexandria, deployed at some point “in the coming weeks.”

The e-scooters and e-bikes are accessible through the Helbiz app, in which users can locate, rent, and unlock the devices.

Photo via Helbiz/Twitter

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Whether you’re actively searching for your new home or are just beginning to consider making a move, open houses are the perfect way to start your search.

Open houses allow you to get a feel for things such as neighborhood, how far your budget will go, must-haves in your new home, and some design inspiration.

As the #4 expansion team in the country, HergGroup Greater Washington’s website has a comprehensive list of open houses and homes for sale in Alexandria and beyond. Here’s a sampling of the local open houses this week:

The preceding feature was sponsored by HergGroup Greater Washington and John Lam of Go Homeside Financial. Go Homeside Financial is located at 4000 Legato Road, Suite 550 Fairfax, VA. (571)212-4812, jplam.gohomeside.com.

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An Arlington man is in custody after police say he robbed a 7-Eleven store in Arlington and attempted to rob a 7-Eleven in Alexandria’s Landmark area.

Michael Sheffey, 59, was arrested on Monday by Arlington County Police for a robbery of the 7-Eleven at 2815 S. Wakefield Street in Arlington on Saturday, Feb. 15. He has also been charged with attempting to rob the 7-Eleven at 30 S. Reynolds Street on Sunday, Feb. 16.

“Sheffey was arrested and is being held in Arlington,” Alexandria Police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine told ALXnow. “He has been charged in Alexandria for attempted robbery.”

Both alleged incidents are similar. They occurred early in the morning and the suspect, who wore a red jacket for both offenses, did not have a weapon, but punched the employees behind the counters at the registers of each store and made grabs for cash, according to police.

The Arlington incident on Feb. 15 occurred at around 5:48 a.m. The suspect, who was caught on surveillance footage, walked up to the register with merchandise and gave the employee cash. When the registered opened, the suspect allegedly punched the employee, “jumped over the counter and stole cash before fleeing the scene prior to police arrival,” according to Arlington County Police.

The Feb. 16 event occurred at around 6:15 a.m. The suspect walked up to the counter to buy a small cup of coffee, was told that it was $1.79 and, according to police, reportedly told the cashier, “that’s a lot,” and gave the cashier money.

According to a search warrant affidavit, during the transaction the suspect asked about when buses started to operate in the area, and as the employee turned to ask one of his co-workers, the register opened and the suspect allegedly punched the employee and lunged for the cash. The employee resisted and the suspect threw the cup of coffee in his face and was chased out of the store by another employee. Nothing was stolen.

The 7-Eleven at S. Reynolds Street is next to the Reynolds Street Bar and Grill, which has a security camera. Alexandria Police found footage of the suspect running from the 7-Eleven and driving away with his headlights off in a silver-colored Chevrolet Equinox in the direction of Edsall Road.

Based on surveillance footage, Alexandria and Arlington police determined that the same suspect committed both crimes. Police found that the vehicle Sheffey allegedly drove was still registered in the name of his wife, who died last year, according to the affidavit.

Sheffey lives in the Fairlington neighborhood, near Route 7 and the Alexandria border.

Anyone with information related to the investigation can contact Detective R. Ortiz of the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-7402 or [email protected]. Information can also be given anonymously to the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

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The intersection of N. Jordan and Duke Street, near the Foxchase shopping center, is closed due to a serious pedestrian crash.

“A pedestrian was struck,” said Alexandria Police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine. “It’s serious enough that they’ve called in the reconstruction team.”

Ballantine said the person struck was an adult male. On social media, police urged drivers to avoid the area.

Via social media, a witness reported that the man was bleeding from the head after being struck.

The incident comes just three days after another pedestrian was struck at Duke Street and Diagonal Road and a month after Alexandria artist Alfredo DaSilva was killed while crossing Duke Street at an intersection not far from today’s scene. Earlier this week a driver was charged with a deadly pedestrian crash on Duke Street in November.

A petition to reduce the speed limit on a portion of Duke Street east of Jordan Street from 35 to 25 mph has garnered just over 100 signatures.

Map via Google Maps

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(Updated 10:35 a.m.) Residents of the Liberty Row condominium community in North Old Town are upset that construction at the nearby Abingdon Place development has been shaking their walls.

“We’ve received several complaints from [other Liberty Row residents],” said Nathan Collins, a resident of Liberty Row and a member of the Liberty Row Condominium Association. “I contacted the city but basically got shuffled from department to department.”

The redevelopment of the Old Colony Inn (1101 N. Washington Street) has faced controversy since it was first proposed as a hotel in 2016. The hotel proposal faced outcry from nearby residents who said it would literally overshadow the Liberty Row development. Two years later, developers returned with the current proposal to redevelop the site as a new townhouse complex called The Towns of Abingdon Place.

The Abingdon Place development includes 19 luxury townhouses built by Madison Homes. The website said prices are anticipated to start at $1.4 million.

Collins said the reports he’s been hearing from his neighbors include vibrating glassware, pictures shaking against the walls, and floors and windows rattling.

Collins also claimed that a wall on his property was damaged by the construction activity.

Barbara Carroll, who sits on board of directors for the Liberty Row Condominium Association, said the fact that the wall wasn’t cracked before construction and is now in the wake of the pile driving next door points to a clear cause. However, what the nearby residents really want, she said, is more communication.

“The issues revolve around the fact that the builder was not really forthcoming with people about what he’s doing,” Carroll said. “This is unlike the development at St. Asaph — the Gables project. [That] was incredible, they communicated every month and told us what to expect. They installed noise and vibration monitors. I don’t know that the group across the street has.”

“There was more transparency and communications with the [Gables] project,” Collins agreed. “It was a huge project and they took the good neighbor approach. I wish I could say the same in regards to Abingdon Place.”

Mark Westmoreland, Vice President of Madison Homes, said the disruption wasn’t from pile driving, per se, but a process called gravel injection to treat tiers of gravel at the site. Westmoreland said most of the gravel injection was finished, but that there would be some more work in March and the company would be in contact with surrounding homeowners associations.

“We have started the foundations for the model building,” Westmoreland said. “We will start vertical construction in the next 30 days. If people drive by, they’ll certainly notice that.”

The model building at the site is scheduled to open in late summer. Westmoreland said the opening of the rest of the project depends on sales, but he anticipates a full build-out in 2021.

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Address: 211 Prince Street
Neighborhood: Old Town
Listed: $2,579,000

This elegant house on historic Gentry Row was completed in 1784 by Captain John Harper and was once the home of Dr. Elijah Cullen Dick, physician to George Washington.

The home is a fine example of early American architecture and interior design, enhanced over the years with a three story addition, updated kitchen and baths, plus an elevator, while original features such as heart pine floors, period mantles and exquisite moldings have been beautifully preserved.

The entry hall opens to double parlors with stately fireplaces, beautiful china cabinets and glass door opening to the walled garden from the dining room. At the rear of the entry hall is a pantry, with access to the horse alley, elevator and kitchen, which offers a raised hearth gas fireplace, eat-in space and French doors to the walled garden.

The sun-drenched great room on the second floor of the house stretches across the front of the house, with a grand fireplace at one end. Also, on this level is the quiet library paneled in original pine and a guest suite overlooking the walled garden and fish pond.

The third floor offers the master bedroom and en-suite bath as well as a third bedroom and hall bath. Just down a hallway is a laundry/exercise room and elevator landing. The fourth level of this grand house offers an open bedroom with original beams, full bath and attic access.

Listed by:
Kate Patterson
McEnearney Associates Realtors
703-627-2166
[email protected]
www.katepattersonhomes.com

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Spring Cleaning Day has become an annual tradition in the Beverley Hills neighborhood, but a change that makes every trash day its own Spring Cleaning Day has left some residents fuming.

“The Spring Clean Up has always occurred one magical Saturday a year, where people can put bulk trash and oversized items at the curb for trash pick up,” local blog Tales from the Beverley Hills Listserv recounted in a post. “BevHills residents gleefully turn into Sanford and Son-esque trash pickers, slowly trawling the neighborhood in their cars to scavenge bulk items like used furniture, gallons of old paint, half-destroyed kid toys, and broken Lime scooters (lol). It’s like Santa, but in reverse.”

After one local resident on the listserv asked about the date of this year’s trash pickup, Mayor Justin Wilson answered that it had been replaced with a weekly bulky item collection.

“This decision was made as part of last year’s budget process,” Wilson explained. “While this did save the ratepayers about $65K, it is intended as a service enhancement. We pick up all of the same things, now year-round instead of once a year.”

Some two dozen emails followed, as residents lamented the loss of the festive community event. Said one:

How incredibly sad this is to hear. Have you never watched the fever of activity that surrounds each area’s spring cleanup? Because of the concentration of items placed at curbside on a specific date, people from miles around scour each neighborhood for the myriad of things that in fact help them make ends meet. Scrap metal, repairable lawn mowers, reusable furniture, salvageable TVs, wheelbarrows, etc. all get picked up and taken away for sale  and reuse. In my experience, someone ends up taking away at least half of what I have put out for spring cleanup. Not only do we save valuable landfill space, we feed a robust local recycling/personal income enhancing activity with our traditional program. Under this new regime it all goes to the dump. Regardless of how well-intentioned this change in procedure may have been, please give it a second look.

“This is a shame,” another resident wrote. “Spring Clean Up is an amazing event! Who made this decision? Certainly not the citizens of Alexandria!”

Some locals looked more favorably on the change, saying the more regular pickup helped cut down on the length of time bulk items piled up in the garbage. There is also now discussion of residents setting one particular day as a new neighborhood clean up day.

File photo by Jay Westcott

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A car crashed into the Pet Valu store in Arlandria just after noon on Wednesday, Feb. 12.

No one was injured in the incident at 3819 Mount Vernon Avenue, the driver was not charged and there were no customers in the store at the time.

“It was like a movie,” a store staffer told ALXnow. “I was very close to where she crashed. She slammed in really hard and she ran into the register. I just stood there watching in shock. It was like it happened in slow motion.”

The store recently replaced its front door and is in the process of replacing a couple of windows, staff told ALXnow.

The driver, who was going to the store to pick up dog food, was parking her new orange Subaru Forester, and stepped on the gas instead of the brake, we’re told.

“As soon as it happened, I got the lady out of the car and gave her some water,” the Pet Valu employee said. “She was in shock. She was like, ‘Am I inside the store?'”

The Pet Valu is next door to a Topper’s Pizza and MOM’s Organic Market, and is across the street from The Waffle Shop.

The driver ended up not buying dog food that day.

Map via Google Maps

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This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Brian Bonnet, Senior Loan Officer (NMLS ID# 224811) of Atlantic Coast Mortgage, LLC (NMLS ID# 643114). To learn more about current mortgage rates and the home loan process, contact Brian at 703-766-6702 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: How can the Lender I use give me a competitive edge?

Answer: To say home purchasers are experiencing a competitive market is far more than an understatement. The inventory of homes for sale in Alexandria and Arlington is down approximately 40% from this time in 2019 and that inventory was down significantly from the year before. Most prospective purchasers find themselves competing against others for the limited property which is available.

In order to be an actual buyer and not just a looker, you must be more attractive to sellers than those you are competing against. Obviously, your offer price is a big part of the equation, but assuming you are in the hunt in that regard, there are several other considerations which savvy listing agents suggest their sellers consider. Among them are home sale contingencies, the buyer’s proposed lender, and the proposed settlement date.

When sellers have options, they are almost always inclined to accept an offer that is not contingent upon the sale of another home as opposed to an offer which is. For buyers, the trick is to determine whether it is truly possible to purchase the next home without first selling the existing home.

To be able to do so often requires some sort of bridge loan scenario, and that is a type of financing not provided by most lenders. Generally, bridge loans are provided by a handful of locally based mortgage banking institutions who tend to understand the local real estate market more than much larger or nationally based companies.

Engaging a local company which provides special bridge loan products when you begin to think about purchasing a new home may make the difference between your contract being accepted over that of someone else.

In our local market most applicants are approved for the financing they seek, but not all. In too many cases, prospective purchasers are sent down a path to purchase a home only to be denied the financing they understood they would receive. Often that unfortunate news comes just before the expected settlement date. To avoid this scenario, it is imperative that lenders truly know whether a buyer is going to be able to obtain the financing they need before the contract offer is made.

Wise and experienced listing agents are generally wary of contracts where the proposed lending institution or loan officer is either not known at all, or worse, known to fail from time to time. With two offers on the table at the same proposed sales price, the purchaser who proposes to get their financing from Bank of the World or Skippy’s Mortgage.com will often loose to the offer where the lender is a local lender with a positive reputation.

How quickly a buyer can close the transaction is often a consideration of sellers. If you are the seller, you generally want the transaction settled with the proceeds in your bank account sooner rather than later — even if you are not ready to move out of the home you are selling.

Successful buyers quite often propose settlement dates as soon as two to three weeks after the contract ratification in order to make their offers more enticing. Wise listing agents know that many, if not most, lenders cannot perform that quickly. Again, generally it is the well-known local lender that can process and underwrite an application and be ready for settlement in three weeks or less.

Some people enjoy the process of simply searching for a new home and writing contracts, but if your end goal is to be successful in purchasing a home, you truly need to consider every aspect of your offer and how attractive it may be to the seller. Purchasers should consider the reputation of the lending institution, the nature of the proposed financing and how quickly the lender is able to be ready for settlement. The seller likely will.

If you would like more information to help plan your next move, please contact Brian Bonnet at [email protected] or call 703-766-6702.

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. www.McEnearney.com Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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