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Here Are the Top Alexandria Stories of 2019

It was quite a year in Alexandria. It’s safe to say that 202o will be just as busy, but in the meantime let’s take a look at the top stories from the last year.

1. The Seminary Road Diet 

Few local transportation stories have gotten as much attention as City Council’s 4-3 decision on the Seminary Road diet. The move seems simple enough — consolidating from four to two lanes in both directions between N. Quaker Lane and Howard Street with a turn lane in the middle and bike lanes on both sides. Public discord over the change prompted the creation of a Facebook page, which has dramatically turned up the temperature on the issue, even leading to City Councilwoman Amy Jackson to publicly call for a complete reversal on the decision and restart of the process.
See: More Work on Seminary Road This Spring If the State Will Pony Up the Cash
More: Virginia Theological Seminary Weighs In Favor of Seminary Road Diet

2. Legendary Titans Pass Away 

Alexandria lost a number of inspiring figures in 2019, including members of the state championship-winning 1971 T.C. Williams High School football team. The team, who were immortalized in the 2000 film “Remember The Titans” starring Denzel Washington, lost coach Herman Boone, assistant coach Bill Yoast and players Petey Jones and Julius Campbell.

George Washington Middle School. (File photo)

3. ACPS fully Accredited for First Time in 20 Years

It took two decades, and in September Alexandria City Public Schools system announced that all of the city’s public schools reached their state mandated benchmarks to be fully accredited for the 2019-2020 academic year. Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings said that the success didn’t come by chance and that it took six superintendents and a lot of “planning, preparation and dedication for all students to experience success regardless of their life circumstances” to get ACPS where it is today.

4. Ground Broken at Potomac Yard Metro Station

After decades of finalizing plans and making deals, ground was finally broken in December for the construction of the Potomac Yard Metro station. The plan is to open the $320 million station by spring 2022, and while development will result in the demolition of the Regal Potomac Yard movie theater, the area will positively be booming with the eventual addition of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, a new mixed-use redevelopment, Amazon HQ2 in Crystal City and much more.

“This has been a quarter-century in the making,” Mayor Justin Wilson said at the groundbreaking. “This is a big… deal.”

5. Alexandria’s Summer Metro Shutdown 

Did you have to get creative in your commute over the summer? You weren’t alone. Thousands of commuters in the area were forced to make alternate plans so that Metro could make crucial improvements to all of the station platforms south of the Reagan National Airport station. The shutdown meant expanded Metro and DASH bus routes, morning trolley rides from the King Street station, Potomac Riverboat Company Water Taxi ferries from the Alexandria Waterfront into the District and more. The renovation is part of a $300-$400 million project to rebuild 20 outdoor platforms throughout the Metro system. Once reopened, commuters were introduced to new speakers for clearer public announcements and emergency notifications, stainless-steel platform shelters, passenger information display screens and energy-efficient LED lighting.

6. Plans released for Virginia Tech Innovation Campus

In November, plans were finally released for the $1 billion Virginia Tech Innovation Campus. The plans for the campus, which will offer master’s and doctoral level programs, with 600,000 square feet of academic use split over three buildings centered at the north end of the site. The plans were also accompanied by related proposals by developers JBG Smith and Lionstone. Retail would take 120,900 square feet of space along the main stretch of road between the campus and the Metro station, with 630,400 square feet of office space and 554,200 square feet of residential primarily located above the retail.

Plans submitted on Friday, Nov. 1, show an open grid of nine buildings. (The university had a special use permit for a temporary space in the existing Potomac Yard shopping center approved in September.)

7. 80th Anniversary of Alexandria Library Sit-in, Exoneration for Participants 

In October, a standing-room-only audience commemorated the 80th anniversary of the Alexandria Library sit-in. On Aug. 21, 1939, five African American men made history when they protested the city’s whites-only public library. William “Buddy” Evans, Otto Tucker, Edward Gaddis, Morris L. Murray and Clarence “Buck” Strange were arrested for refusing to leave the Kate Waller Barrett Branch Library — charges which stuck until 2019, when the men were exonerated by Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter. 

8. School Board Votes to Keep One High School in Alexandria 

There’s no question that Alexandria City Public Schools are packed to the gills with students, and that fact led the School Board to make a momentous decision on whether to expand T.C. Williams High School or to open a second high school altogether. The board voted 6-3 in the fall to keep Alexandria with one public high school for the foreseeable future, and that means an expansion of the Minnie Howard (3801 W. Braddock Road) site — currently a satellite school a few blocks west of T.C.

9. Stephanie Landrum Named Business Leader of the Year

The addition of the $1 billion Virginia Tech Innovation Campus will be an integral part of Alexandria’s future economic success, and in October, Stephanie Landrum was honored for helping to make it all possible. Landrum, the president and CEO of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, was presented with the 2019 Business leader of the Year award by the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce.

10. Tall Ship Providence Docks at Alexandria Waterfront

Ever wonder what it was like to sail in Alexandria during the Revolutionary War? Wonder no more! In July, the Tall Ship Providence docked at the Alexandria waterfront to stay. The ship, which is a replica of the first warship commissioned by the Continental Congress in 1775, entered Alexandria on the early morning of July 2. U.S. Coast Guard approvals are still pending, and public trips are slated to begin in April.

11. Scooters Continued for Another Year 

Alexandria’s Dockless Mobility Plan is not without its share of criticism. In fact, the issue of the electric scooters led to City Council being inundated with thousands of letters and emails. Last month, Council approved a plan authorizing the use of electric scooters on city streets for another year, while also voting to keep them off sidewalks.

12. Opening Uncertain for Halal Butcher Shop 

It’s still unclear as to when a Halal butcher shop will open just off Duke Street. City Council approved the special use permit for Saba Live Poultry in March, but the move was met with immediate condemnation from neighboring pet-related businesses. A lawsuit filed against the city for its decision was recently dismissed, and the butcher shop has stalled all development of the property until the issue has been resolved.

BONUS: Waterfront Park Opens at Foot of King Street 

Alexandria’s Waterfront Park is one of the city’s newest and most popular attractions. The park, which opened in March, is the former home of the Old Dominion Boat Club, and now greets thousands of monthly visitors at the foot of King Street with open space, a bocce ball court and more.

What stories do you think should have made the list? Let us know in the comments!

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