Classical Movements gets approval to expand Old Town music venue

Garden portion of The Rectory set up as music venue (image via Classical Movements)

Despite complaints from neighbors, Alexandria’s City Council renewed Classical Movements’ permit to continue holding concerts in Old Town and even expand offerings.

Last year, international music tourism company Classical Movements (711 Princess Street) won approval from the city to transform the outdoor space behind their building into a venue for classical music performances. On Saturday, the City Council approved an earlier Planning Commission recommendation with a few amendments.

Among the biggest changes are a parking requirement reduction and a permit for amplified sound. Capacity at the venue was also boosted from 50 to 150.

“After two years of no income, Classical Movements has high hopes for 2022,” said Anita Helms, owner of Classical Movements. “We had a loss of over $900,000 last year. I kept my staff and we decided to present a few live music concerts. Turned out to be a huge success, articles were written widely about it, and inspired many to do the same. It turned out to be a real silver lining of COVID.”

Others, including employees, performers and attendees, spoke at the meeting expressing their support for Classical Movements. The lone voice of opposition at the hearing was David Fritz, a nearby resident who said the sound is disruptive.

“I have two young daughters, six and two years old, our primary concern with the application as-is is sound,” said Fritz. “Going from 50 people to 180 people (originally proposed), having concerts all the time, [that] has and will disrupt our lives. There have been violations, there have been complaints, there has been noise that’s gone above city levels. There are only two of us against this application, but we’re the minority that has to live adjacent to this.”

Fritz said his daughters go to bed at 7 p.m., which can be difficult for them with music playing next door until 10 and clean-up after dinner services continuing until 11.

“During the week they have weddings,” Fritz said. “I can stand in my daughter’s bedroom and hear the vows clear as day because we’re plaster on brick, there is no insulation, and we’re only tens of feet away. This will certainly have an impact on our lives.”

Ann Horowitz, from the city’s Department of Planning and Zoning, said there have been recorded violations of the city’s noise ordinance — which was 60 decibels at the time of approval but has been increased to 65 — but the noise level was typically within city requirements.

Hearing those concerns, the City Council added some of the inspections and follow-ups taken out by the Planning Commission. If there are documented noise violations, the Classical Movements will be required to come up with a new noise mitigation plan and a zoning inspection one year after approval is restored.