What an absorbing week in Alexandria.

Just as the ball gets rolling with reopening and loosened restrictions, the pandemic rears its ugly head. With coronavirus transmission levels climbing, Alexandria is once again recommending that residents go back to wearing face masks indoors.

Our weekly poll found that 37% of respondents (337 votes) don’t plan to wear masks indoors again unless required, 32% (291 votes) never stopped wearing masks and plan to continue, and 30% (275 votes) stopped wearing masks indoors and plan to start again.

In the meantime, Three Dog Night, Tanya Tucker, and more are scheduled to play at the Birchmere next month, and the Little Theatre of Alexandria has gone back to in-person performances with its latest farce, Neil Simon’s Rumors. The city’s annual sidewalk sale is also on track to be largest ever, with participation from more than 70 local boutiques on the pedestrian-only blocks between 700 and 1100 King Street.

Turning toward the Olympics, Alexandria boxer Troy Isley won his first contest earlier this week, but lost his second match in a close split decision on Thursday night. Next week, Alexandria City High School will host a watch party for alumnus star sprinter Noah Lyles, who is the favorite to win the gold medal in the 200 meter race.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Alexandria car dealership receptionist busted for alleged credit card fraud
  2. One year of lane closures in Potomac Yard starts today
  3. Man arrested after armed carjacking in West End
  4. BREAKING: Potomac Yard Metro opening pushed back to September 2022
  5. New Potomac Yard luxury condo community sells 30% of properties before construction starts
  6. Residents protest against conditions at West End apartment complex
  7. Local Democrat challenges Rep. Don Beyer in 8th District Primary
  8. Cigar and vape shop to open on Mount Vernon Avenue in Del Ray
  9. EXCLUSIVE: Halal slaughterhouse opens, gives away free chickens for first two days in business
  10. Without School Resource Officers, Superintendent wants more private security inside and police patrolling outside
  11. Poll: Do you plan on wearing a mask indoors again?

Have a safe weekend!

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AlexRenew headquarters, via Alexandria Renew Enterprises/Facebook

A new state grant could help fund the city’s expensive, state-mandated RiverRenew project and offset some of the sewer rate increases for Alexandrians.

According to a press release, Alexandria Renew Enterprises (AlexRenew) — which runs the RiverRenew project — has been recommended to receive a $50 million grant to support construction on the project. The RiverRenew project is an overhaul of the city’s combined sewer system in Old Town that results in millions of gallons of sewage flowing into the Potomac River ever year.

The grant funding is part of the $411.5 million American Rescue Plan (ARP) dedicated to restoring water and sewer infrastructure.

“Investment in our water infrastructure is crucial to a thriving Alexandria, and we are greatly appreciative of the Governor, our local delegation, and state leaders for their support of this historic program,” said AlexRenew General Manager Karen Pallansch in the press release.

Pallansch added that the funding could offset some planned sewer rate increases. A rate increase by 6.9% was deferred last year due to coronavirus but was implemented earlier this year. In the press release, Pallansch said the sewer rate increases to fund the RiverRenew program could last for decades.

The ARP investments will still need to clear the General Assembly at a special session on Monday (Aug. 2).

“We feel very good about the prospects of the General Assembly agreeing to the Governor’s proposal,” said Pallansch. “The Northern Virginia legislative delegation has been an important partner in this effort.”

Via Alexandria Renew Enterprises/Facebook

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As it was with the decision to reopen schools, Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) is a little behind its neighbors in deciding whether or not faculty and students will be required to wear face masks when school restarts next month.

In Fairfax County and Arlington County School Boards have both announced that masks will be required in classrooms when school starts.

The Alexandria School Board is slated to take up the issue at the Tuesday, Aug. 3, meeting. There’s no document attached to the agenda item and no indication of whether or not schools will require it — but the nationwide trend has been toward schools requiring it in adherence to the CDC recommendation.

The decision next Tuesday is somewhat down to the wire for ACPS, with less than a month before the 2021-2022 school year starts on Tuesday, Aug. 24, and less than a week from when school starts at Samuel Tucker Elementary School on Monday, Aug. 9.

ACPS currently plans to open for approximately 15,000 students five days a week.

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Just Listed in Alexandria

Just Listed highlights Alexandria City properties that came on the market within the past week. This feature  is sponsored by the Jen Walker Team (Licensed in VA) of McEnearney Associates Realtors®. 

Welcome back!

Jen Walker here with The Jen Walker Team! We are a real estate group based out of Alexandria. I, along with my two rock-star team members, Sue Kovalsky and Micki MacNaughton, have more than 35 years of experience in real estate and sold over $107 million in 2020.

Don’t miss this spectacular 3 bedroom 2.5 bathroom semi-detached home — over 1500 square feet — just a block and a half to the Avenue! The charming front porch greets you as you walk up to this gorgeous home. Enter into the large living room that features a wood-burning fireplace — spacious yet cozy, this space is great for movie or game night. This room flows easily into the large kitchen and dining room. Crisp white cabinetry and updated appliances can be found in the kitchen. The adjoining dining room is great for nightly dinners and can accommodate larger get-togethers — ideal for entertaining! A half bathroom, utility closet and coat closet round out this floor.

Back inside, head to the upper level where you will find two large bedrooms and a full bathroom. Doing laundry is a breeze with a spacious laundry room on this floor. One level up is a great third bedroom, a full bathroom and additional storage. Bright and airy, this space could also double as a fitness room or home office! Need outdoor space — head outside through the kitchen to the fully fenced yard. Enjoy BBQs or relaxing on the stone patio, tend to your vegetable garden and use the shed for extra storage — you will love this private space!

Loaded with updates to include new HVAC in 2018, stove and dishwasher in 2020, patio in 2018 and more. This move-in ready home is just what you’ve been waiting for. Park in the driveway and walk to all that Del Ray has to offer, plus enjoy close proximity to Amazon HQ2, Washington, D.C. and Old Town. You don’t want to miss this gem. Welcome home!

33 E Bellefonte Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22301The Jen Walker Team
Open: Sunday, August 1, 1-3 p.m.

Beautifully updated 1 bedroom, 1 full bath condo located 2 minutes from I 395. All utilities included with condo fee. Pets up to 50 lbs allowed.

*NO INVESTORS* This is a restricted resale of a unit offered through the Alexandria Flexible Homeownership Assistance Program. The purchase may be eligible for up to $50,000 in 0% purchase assistance available from the City of Alexandria.

Purchaser must live or work within the corporate limits of the City of Alexandria, be a first-time homebuyer, and have a gross annual income less than $88,200 (1 person), $100,800 (2 person), $113,400 (3 person) and $126,000 (4 person). Before visiting property, purchaser must be pre-approved with lender from city approved list (in Documents). For more information about the program, please contact the City’s Office of Housing at 703-746-3087.

75 S Reynolds Street #214, Alexandria, VA 22304The Jen Walker Team

Click here for Just Listed properties in Alexandria and call The Jen Walker Team to schedule a home tour at 703-675-1566 or email [email protected].

Happy House Hunting!

In our highly competitive Alexandria market, the Jen Walker Team has the insider knowledge to connect you with homes that are not even public yet. With more than 35 years of experience, the Jen Walker Team has the expertise to answer questions, calm fears, and streamline your transaction. Want to see other homes not featured in this article? Contact our team today!

Please note: While The Jen Walker Team provides this information for the community, they may not be the listing agents of these homes. Equal Housing Opportunity.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 #WeAreAlexandria

Just Listed highlights Alexandria City properties that came on the market within the past week. This feature is sponsored by the Jen Walker Team (Licensed in VA) of McEnearney Associates REALTORS®.

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A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to support Will Nichols, the retiring general manager of St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub in Del Ray. Nichols has been a constant presence in the community since being hired in 1998, and the campaign has so far raised $5,675 out of a $10,000 goal.

The fundraiser was organized by the Del Ray Business Association.

“With the decision to move on because of his health, we, in the Del Ray community would like to show Will how much he means to us and what a difference he has made in so many lives,” DRBA said in the campaign.

St. Elmo’s owners Christine and Larry Ponzi called Nichols the”heart of Del Ray.”

“Will’s warm smile and genuine interest in you and/or your family is truly a one-of-a-kind experience,” the Ponzis said.

St. Elmo’s will also have a party for Nichols on Saturday, July 31, from 5 – 8 p.m.

Via GoFundMe

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Founders Bank launched in the middle of the pandemic last year, and the D.C.-based bank is eyeing an expansion into Alexandria and Northern Virginia in the next several years.

That’s according to Founders Bank President Martin McCarthy, who told ALXnow that his tech-heavy brand is geared toward online-only banking.

“We definitely intend to grow into the Alexandria market,” McCarthy said. “We will likely have other branches in the future, but we’re going to be very branch-light. We could have one downtown, and one in Northern Virginia in the next five years or so.”

Like many of the members of his 18-person staff, McCarthy previously worked at Georgetown Bank before it merged with United Bankshares Inc. in 2016. He says he founded the bank after the region saw a drastic reduction in the number of local banks after decades of consolidation. It has since grown to more than $100 million in assets, he said.

“What we’re trying to do is fill what is a gaping void in the banking market in the D.C. area,” McCarthy said. “There is a huge level of disruption, and there’s a huge level of frustration among those who deal with community banks in the D.C. area… We are looking to do business with small and medium sized businesses in the D.C. Metropolitan area, and with the people that run those businesses.”

McCarthy said that opening during the pandemic proved to be challenging, forcing the bank to focus on technology so that customers could open accounts and close loans completely remotely.

“We also were able to open up at a time where we had no loans on our books that were negatively impacted by what the COVID environment was doing to a number of the different businesses in the area,” McCarthy said. “So, we had a very clean slate, and were able to come out of the gate knowing what the challenges were that we had to underwrite for as we began our growth.”

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Morning Notes

Hotel expansions to increase meeting planning options in Alexandria — “Alexandria is continuing to expand its hotel offerings with an extensive multi-million dollar renovation of the Sheraton Suites Old Town Alexandria…The historic George Mason Hotel is set to undergo restoration in 2021 (and) will have two buildings located in Old Town, and will feature 141 hotel rooms, two restaurants, rooftop dining and outdoor dining. The Hilton Alexandria Mark Center will also begin a $10 million renovation starting in late November, with a target opening of the first week in January 2022.” [Previewmeetings.com]

ALIVE! resumes collecting food — “Community members are welcome to drop off purchased or collected food items at 801 S. Payne St. ALIVE! accepts donations on Thursdays from 3 to 7 p.m and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.” [Zebra]

Neighborhood Restaurant Group honored for pandemic pivot — “Alexandria-based Neighborhood Restaurant Group has been nominated for a RAMMY Award, presented by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW). Their nomination is in a new, coronavirus-influenced category: Most Impressive Pivot to Provisions or Market.” [Alexandria Living]

Locals theorize that bug bites could be tied to cicadas — “The Facebook group members have hatched a theory that these bites are tied to oak itch mites, or pyemotes, which are thought to feed on cicadas eggs. Similar outbreaks of itchy bug bites have coincided with periodic cicada cycles in Chicago and Northern Ohio.” [ARLnow]

Kids restore preschool playground and garden boxes —  “Thanks Trinity United Methodist Church youth group & @Volalex Breaks with Impact (BWI) youth group who restored the ALIVE! preschool playground and garden boxes. They’ve been busy weeding, pruning, and cleaning but still needs much more!” [Twitter]

Today’s weather — “Except for a few afternoon clouds, mainly sunny. High 89F. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph… Generally fair (in the evening). Low 63F. Winds N at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Anthropologie key holder — “At Anthropologie we tell stories – of products thoughtfully designed, crafted, and curated, and of a collaborative, inventive community. We are, above all, devoted to our customer – to the smart, creative individual who seeks beauty wherever they go.” [Indeed]

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The National Weather Service has issued a Severe Thunderstorm Watch that will remain in effect until 9 p.m.

This is the second evening in a row of rough weather, as a brief storm knocked out power for thousands Wednesday night. Consequently, Dominion Energy is warning of potential outages tonight.

A Special Marine Warning has also been issued until 6 p.m. for the Potomac River, as wind gusts of 34 knots or greater are anticipated.

“Boaters in small craft could be thrown overboard by suddenly higher winds and waves capsizing their vessel,” NWS advised.

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More details have been released on the armed carjacking on Tuesday night in the 500 block of Cameron Station Boulevard.

The suspect who was arrested “suffered a medical emergency” while being booked in jail and was taken to the hospital, according to police. He is reportedly in stable condition.

Police were dispatched to investigate an armed carjacking in the 5500 block of Cardinal Place near Cameron Station Boulevard at around 8:45 p.m. The 25-year-old suspect was arrested less than 40 minutes later the intersection of S. Reynolds Street and Duke Street.

“The victims told officers they were able to get away from the suspect when he stopped the vehicle in the 400 block of Ferdinand Day Drive,” Police said. “The victims told officers they fled to Armistead Boothe Park to call 911.”

Police said that a helicopter and K-9 units were called in to assist in searching for the suspect.

“During the search, officers recovered the vehicle and a firearm,” police said.

Police did not release the suspect’s name, what he was charged with, or where he is from.

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Brandon Byrd can actually cook.

In recognition of Juneteenth, last month the owner of Goodies Frozen Custard & Treats in Old Town partnered with Rachel Tracey of D.C.-based Historic America tours for their first Soul Food Saturday. So far, meals have included shrimp and grits and Jamaican jerk chicken.

“Growing up and watching my mom and my grandmother cook brings a lot of the inspiration to the food,” Byrd said. “It’s what I grew up with.”

In Tracey’s ‘Lunch & Learn’ food tour series, she guides groups to historic sites in a multi-sensory walking tour. Customers use interactive tablets as they stop by Market Square, Christ Church, the Carlyle House, Alfred Street Baptist Church and Freedom House. They smell tobacco — one of Alexandria’s cash crops of the 17th and 18th centuries — and then wrap up the experience with a home-cooked soul food lunch at Goodies, usually followed by frozen custard.

“It’s important for us to tell a full and inclusive narrative,” Tracey said. “We talk about the Trans-Atlantic Migration, where people were brought over to Colonial America. There’s also the trans-Atlantic food migration. There are foods that we can directly trace back to Africa, and so we share those connections on the tour.”

One of Tracey’s favorite stories is about Hercules Posey, the personal chef to George Washington. While walking along the grounds of Christ Church, Tracey will talk about Posey’s escape from slavery, and well as Washington’s recovery attempts before being granted freedom after the founding president’s death in 1799.

“Washington loved his cooking and took Hercules with him when he was operating the government out of Philadelphia,” Tracey said. “There was a rule in Philadelphia at that time that if any slaves were in the city for six months to the day that they were automatically set free. So, Washington would make sure that (his slaves)… would go home to Mount Vernon for a bit before they hit that six month mark and come back.”

Tickets for the experience cost $95 per person, and Byrd isn’t yet sure what’s on the menu for the next meal, which will be on Saturday, August 21.

“I haven’t exactly figured it out yet,” Byrd said. “I’m thinking about something with black-eyed peas and fried okra for next month.”

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