Alexandria, VA

The July 4 holiday weekend is here, and it’s hard to believe that 2020 is more than halfway over. Not only has the year flown by, but so has the last week.

Alexandria joined the rest of Virginia in entering into the third phase of its reopening, the oldest resident in the city turned 109, a police officer was charged with assault and battery for a January arrest

Here are some of the top stories in Alexandria this week:

  1. Margaret Chisley Celebrates 109 Years in Alexandria
  2. Alexandria Police Officer Charged With Assault and Battery for Unjustified Use of Force
  3. New State Laws Pushed by Alexandria Take Effect Tomorrow
  4. Old Dominion Boat Club’s Waterfront Revival Plans Resurface
  5. Alexandria Renters Ask Governor to Extend Moratorium on Evictions
  6. Businesses Face Tough Recovery as Alexandria Lags Behind Neighbors in Consumer Spending
  7. New Catholic University Location Coming to Carlyle
  8. Old Town Garden-Style Apartments to Be Replaced by Multifamily Apartment Complex
  9. City Recommends Riding E-Scooters for Errands and Social Distancing
  10. Reminder: Next Phase of Reopening Starts Tomorrow but Indoor Mask Requirement Still In Effect

Be safe this weekend, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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More than 300 businesses across Alexandria are about to receive grants to help them through the city’s sluggish recovery from COVID-19.

Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP) announced that 309 small businesses in Alexandria would receive funding from the city’s Alelxandria Back to Business (ALX B2B) grants program. The program is supported in large part by CARES Act funding allocated by the City of Alexandria.

“76 percent of successful applicants qualify to receive $10,000, another 17 percent will collect $15,000, with the remaining 7 percent receiving $20,000,” AEDP said in a press release. “The grant amount is directly related to the size of the business.”

The ALX B2B program totals $4.4 million in local business assistance grants, $2.4 million of which came from federal CARES Act appropriations and $2 million from the Alexandria Investment Fund.

“In total, AEDP received 356 complete applications. 309 businesses qualified for funding through the program,” the partnership said. “Of the 48 applicants that did not qualify, most were ineligible due to the total number of employees being outside of the 2-100 employee requirement; delinquent city business taxes; their year-over-year revenue not meeting the stipulation of having decreased by at least 25 percent; or being located outside the corporate limits of the City of Alexandria.”

Recipients of the grants are being notified, after which AEDP said it will publish a list of grantees to the website.

AEDP said there is $900,000 in funding remaining from the initial round of the program, which the partnership hopes to put into a second round of the program with more CARES Act funding later this summer.

The press release also included a breakdown of demographics on what types of businesses the grants went to. Nearly half of the grant recipients were white.

  • 49% of recipients identified as White
  • 22% of recipients identified as Asian
  • 8% of recipients identified as Hispanic or Latin American
  • 6% of recipients identified as Black or African American
  • 15% chose not to disclose

AEDP noted that 49% of the recipients identified as male, while 40% identified as female, 10% did not disclose and 1% identified as transgender or non-gender conforming. AEDP said grant recipients spanned seven zip codes, including a sizable portion in the city’s West End.

“The COVID-19 pandemic poses significant challenges to businesses across the Washington, D.C. region, and Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, with the support of the City of Alexandria, is pleased to provide critical financial support to Alexandria’s small businesses during this difficult period,” Stephanie Landrum, President and CEO of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, said in the press release. “Alexandria’s business community continues to demonstrate resilience in the face of adversity, and AEDP is proud to support our community during the road to recovery.”

For businesses that receive grant funding, there are still restriction on how that can be used, including. According to AEDP, funding can be used for:

  1. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  2. Other equipment and supplies to promote health and safety
  3. Technology to facilitate e-commerce and/or virtual business operations
  4. Professional services related to the design and construction/alteration of the built environment necessary to promote physical and social distancing, as well as the actual costs for alterations
  5. Initial cleaning and disinfection services prior to reopening
  6. Rent or mortgage costs required to be made in order to reopen/restart

Staff photo by Vernon Miles

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Free food distributions will be disrupted by the July 4 weekend in Alexandria, but food is still available.

Most notably there will not be any Alexandria City Public Schools distributions from Friday, July 3, until operations resume on Monday, July 6.

“Meal distribution locations and pop up sites will not operate on Friday, July 3, ahead of the Independence Day holiday,” advised ACPS.

Here are the available free food distribution points in the city this weekend, according to Hunger Free Alexandria.

  • A bag lunch and food pantry distribution is available on Friday at Meade Memorial Episcopal Church (322 N. Alfred Street) from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Meals and food will be served in the courtyard to go.
  • Washington Street United Methodist Church (109 S. Washington Street) has a free breakfast Friday from 6-8 a.m.
  • Christ House (131 S. West Street) has evening meals available every night of the week from 4:30 – 6 p.m.
  • The ALIVE! food delivery program for COVID-19 patients, seniors, the disabled and single parents with young children is available for eligible residents by calling 703-746-5999
  • Rising Hope United Methodist Church (8220 Russell Road) will provide grab-and-go meals from 1 to 2 p.m. on Friday while supplies last

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Wednesday & Thursdays, 6-7 p.m. Followed by an open cooking Q&A. Getting bored with frozen meals, take out and bland dinners? Want to create healthy and delish meals that inspire and save time? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! Join me, Jennifer Jones of Cosmopolitan Plated, live from my tiny kitchen. You can access from any device, from anywhere.

Here’s What We’re Cooking This Week! Wednesday, July 1 | 6-7 p.m. ET (FREE) Summer BBQ Recipes — Part 1 Thursday, July 2 | 6-7 p.m. ET (FREE) Summer BBQ Recipes — Part 2 REGISTER HERE TO JOIN!

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Smokey isn’t half as grumpy or serious as he looks.

The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria is hoping to find a home for a staff-favorite pup: Smokey the three-year-old pitbull terrier mix.

“[Smokey’s] a supersweet little guy just looking for a family who can show him the ropes!” said Gina Hardter, the spokesperson for the AWLA. “Don’t be fooled by his serious and formal look; Smokey is a big goofball at heart.”

Though Smokey is three years old, he’s still a big puppy at heart. Hardter said Smokey has the same manners and energy of a young dog. Hardter said Smokey’s favorite thing to do is curl up in the lap of a best friend.

“No one can convince him that he might be just a bit on the big side for a lapdog,” Hardter said. “He’s looking for a family who can help him take advantage of all of his energy and maybe teach him some tricks and skills along the way.  He’s clever and treat-motivated and would love to give additional training a try.

Due to lingering COVID-19 concerns, interested parties should schedule an appointment to meet virtually or in-person.

Photo courtesy Animal Welfare League of Alexandria

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Alexandria might not be celebrating the city and the country’s birthday with fireworks this year, but there are sill a number of ways to have fun on the fourth of July.

“Even with physical distancing, there are plenty of ways to enjoy a festive Fourth of July in Alexandria,” notes Visit Alexandria, the city’s tourism bureau. “Order special holiday meals like tri-colored tacos and ice cream delivery boxes from Alexandria’s restaurants. Celebrate with deals and happenings, from scavenger hunts to Fourth of July attire for pups, via independent boutiques and attractions.”

Here are some events around Alexandria on Saturday:

As previously reported, the city’s July 11 birthday celebration has been moved online to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus.

https://www.facebook.com/PorkBarrelBBQDelRay/photos/a.655496147823639/3263319887041239/?type=3&theater

Staff photo by James Cullum

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The Old Dominion Boat Club’s (ODBC) plans to reform the waterfront portion of its Old Town headquarters last fall, but after being lost at sea amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the plans are finally headed back to harbor at the Planning Commission in September.

The ODBC has used its various waterfront headquarters since 1880 as launching points for aquatic activities. The pier outside the current location — which the ODBC was more-or-less forced into in 2014 under threat of eminent domain — is a ramshackle bundle of pillars that only vaguely resembles the L-shaped pier that local commercial vessel The Dandy was docked at for a number of years.

The ODBC plan is to replace this pier with a combination fixed pier jutting eastward and a floating pier extending south. Smaller transient boats will be moored at the floating pier while the larger ships will be docked on the opposite side of the new pier.

The new dock would also keep less debris trapped along the shoreline — a frequent problem along Alexandria’s waterfront.

“The proposed new floating wharf at the site would encourage increased recreation use of the site and support ODBC water-dependent uses,” the ODBC said in its application. “The Prince Street site will be configured to support transient boat mooring and other daily marine uses.”

While the new pier would be private, the ODBC offers the use of its facilities for activities like programs for children with special needs and Christmas events that would benefit from the new pier.

Staff photo by Vernon Miles

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Morning Notes

Del Ray First Thursday Porch Party Today — “The Del Ray Business Association presents First Thursday Porch Party: Red, White, and Blue from 6 p.m. to dusk on Thursday, July 2. In the spirit of Del Ray’s summer street festivals, the event features a wide range of activities that promote community while maintaining social distancing standards.” [Facebook]

Major Residential Development Breaks Ground — “About 300 residences and a large parking garage are replacing an old office building in Alexandria’s West End.” [Alexandria Living]

DASH Bus Mobile Tracker Launches — “The new mobile-friendly DASH Tracker is finally here with new features and improved information to make finding your next bus a snap! Where will you go with the new DASH Tracker?” [Facebook]

Al’s Steak House Won’t Have Indoor Seating — “As we enter Phase 3 Al’s will continue not to have indoor seating available. Our space is too small to accommodate customers dining in and customers picking up their orders.The social distancing would be non existent. We do offer two tables for outdoor seating. Al’s will continue to accept call in orders and Delivery.” [Facebook]

Rebuilding Together Alexandria Slowly Getting Back on Track — “Our team was looking for a socially-distant project to get us out of the office and back into the community. We mulched the grounds of local nonprofit, Friends of Guest House. Check out the before and after!” [Facebook]

Mason & Greens Grand Opening Moved Online — “When news about the coronavirus began to spread, the Marinos knew they would have to cancel their big grand opening event.” [Alexandria Living]

Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden Open House Saturday — “Explore the history in your own backyard with free, self-guided tours of the Lee-Fendall House on July 4th! Face masks are required and we will be limiting the number of visitors allowed in the museum at one time to allow for social distancing.” [Facebook]

New Job: Host or Hostess — “Looking for an energetic individual to control the flow of the dining rooms, and be the first happy face guests see when entering Village Brauhaus.” [Facebook]
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Alexandria Police Officer Jonathan Griffin has been charged with assault and battery for an unjustified use of force against a handcuffed resident in January, according to the city.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter said that 32-year-old, who was dismissed from the department after the incident, was charged with one count of assault and battery. The charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor and the maximum penalty is a year in prison and a $2,500 fine.

The incident occurred on January 27, and Griffin arrested the victim for a health evaluation, according to a city release. Griffin joined the department in 2012 and was assigned to the Community Oriented Policing Unit.

“While escorting the individual in handcuffs, Officer Griffin used force to take the individual to the ground. The individual sustained multiple injuries on the front of his body as a result of the action,” the city said. “A subsequent investigation found that no force was necessary or justified.”

Griffin was placed on administrative leave on June 3 and was notified on June 26 that he was going to be fired and his case had been sent to Porter’s office, according to the city. His termination is expected to be finalized this month. Additionally, three supervisors who “failed to investigate the use of force promptly enough have also been disciplined,” the city noted.

Griffin was booked at the Alexandria Jail and was released pending his arraignment at the Alexandria Courthouse on August 4.

This is no surprise to us that these occurrences are happening in our city. We continue to demand to Alexandria City…

Posted by Tenants and Workers United – Inquilinos y Trabajadores Unidos on Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Photo via Alexandria Sheriff’s Office

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Alexandria’s poorest neighborhoods have been hardest hit by COVID-19, and renters from Arlandria and the West End rallied in front of the city’s courthouse today (July 1) to ask Governor Ralph Northam to extend the moratorium on evictions, which expired on June 28.

Sami Bourma lives in the Southern Towers apartment complex in the West End, and has not paid rent since March. He has two children, his wife is four months pregnant, and he has been unable to work as an Uber driver. He’s also an organizer with UNITE HERE Local 23, which represents some residents in the buildings.

“There are hundreds of people who live at Southern Towers and a lot of them are like me,” Bourma told ALXnow. “I am getting $750 a month for unemployment. That pays for almost nothing and we need to survive.”

The areas of the city with the leading number of cases are the 22304 and 22305 ZIP codes, which include the West End and Arlandria, Potomac Yard and Potomac West neighborhoods, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Northam has requested that the moratorium be extended to July 20 — a move that Mayor Justin Wilson supports.

‪The extraordinary financial pressure facing residents of Alexandria who are experiencing unemployment or loss of income…

Posted by Justin Wilson on Friday, June 26, 2020

New Virginia Majority organizer Thomas Assefa said that his organization is also calling on Northam to approve $1 billion to fully fund an eviction protection program.

“Housing is a human right,” Assefa said. “We know that sheltering in place and staying in our home is one of the only ways we can combat this disease, and we are anticipating hundreds of thousands of tenants in the streets in the middle of a pandemic. There’s about 3 million renters in Virginia, and we anticipate 11% of that population could face massive evictions.That’s what’s at stake.”

Jonathan Krall, the co-founder of Grassroots Alexandria, said that it’s an issue of fairness and race.

“Racism results in economic inequality,” Krall said. “If you want to be anti-racist, then you need to cancel the rent.”

Frank Fannon, a former Republican city councilman, is a landlord and said that the governor should not extend the deadline and that there have been no waivers for commercial or residential property owners in their property tax bills, which the city mailed out last week.

“If you feel it is appropriate for tenants not to pay rent to your constituents, then be equitable and at least waive the late fees if property owners cannot pay their tax bill on time,” Fannon wrote to the City Council on July 1.

Wilson thanked Fannon for the email and responded that the property taxes are too important a revenue stream and that extending the deadline could endanger the city’s credit rating.

“It’s not something that we can play with unfortunately,” Wilson said. “That being said, our Finance folks are exercising maximum flexibility with tax payers right now. A taxpayer that contacts Finance will be extended payment terms, etc, upon request.”

Our community is the hardest hit by COVID-19 and the economic crisis, but Governor Northam doesn't seem to care about…

Posted by Tenants and Workers United – Inquilinos y Trabajadores Unidos on Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Staff photos by James Cullum

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It’s been a rough season for Alexandria businesses.

New data from Opportunity Insights, a Harvard-based team of researchers, shows that Alexandria has fallen lower than its regional neighbors in the percentage change in consumer spending. The data shows that consumer spending across the region started to tank around March 16, when the public schools closed, and for most of the region hit rock-bottom on April 1 when the Stay At Home order went into effect.

While Alexandria, Fairfax County and Arlington have all mostly been trending upward since then, that recovery has been slow. Alexandria’s consumer spending is down 25% compared to what it was in January, with Arlington not far behind it at 24.9%

Mayor Justin Wilson, who shared the data on Facebook, said that it was likely that the focus on hospitality industries in Alexandria was the reason the city was faring worse than some of its neighbors.

For local businesses, that data has been tangible as a struggle to adapt and survive amid COVID-19.

“This is our second week of being open to the public in limited numbers,” said Amy Rutherford, owner of Penny Post (1201 King Street) and Red Barn Mercantile (1117 King Street) in Old Town. “It’s been slower. I wish there were lines out the door, but it’s not.”

Rutherford said sales have been a mix of in-store sales, pickups, and online orders. While Phase 3 of reopening went into effect today, Rutherford said she’s been wary about easing off some of the capacity restrictions in the store.

“My team is still a little nervous about what it means to reopen,” Rutherford said. “I don’t think we need to do anything quickly… I think people in Northern Virginia are smart and they want to get out, but they’re being thoughtful and doing what’s necessary.”

The stores closed in Mid-March, but Rutherford said the month still had a strong showing because the beginning had been going to swell.

“Then April was not as good,” Rutherford said. “May was not as good as April. June was not as good as May.”

Rutherford said there was strong initial support for online shopping, but with so much else going on, Rutherford said the pace required to keep shopping online to keep the stores profitable was not sustainable. The store gets substantial business from tourism, Rutherford said, which is all but gone.

“We’re watching the news and always monitoring the cases,” Rutherford said. “We look nationally at where we are and in Alexandria where we are, and we’re taking the pulse of our customers and our team. All of that goes into the considerations before we make any more changes, [we have] to make sure everyone is doing well.”

Even so, Rutherford said it’s been nice to see some of her old customers in-person again.

“In-store sales have been nice,” Rutherford said. “It’s good to see people again and talk face to face, even though we’re behind a mask… Hopefully, we’ll ramp back up. For the year, it’s not terrible because we had a strong first quarter, but still pretty up in the air for what we plan to do or what it’s going to look like.”

The main thing Rutherford said has been a big seller has been puzzles, which people have flocked to ever since they’ve been stuck at home. While she enjoys the in-person interactions, Rutherford still said she hopes more people shop online rather than risking exposure at stores.

“The best thing folks can do is stay safe and not take any additional risks,” Rutherford said. “Then shop at the website or call in to come in when they can. Be understanding. I think people in NoVA are very understanding of policies and have been very patient. People have been kind to us.”

Image via Opportunity Insights

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