Alexandria, VA

by James Cullum March 18, 2020 at 2:00 pm 0

Amazon has given $200,000 to ACT for Alexandria’s COVID-19 response fund as part of a $1 million donation that the company is making to the region.

“The funds received by ACT will be used to support the nonprofits providing services to Alexandrian’s who are hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak,” ACT CEO Heather Peeler told ALXnow.

“The human service needs, economic impact and strains on our critical services will be with us long into the future,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “We have a resilient community and this contribution will help bring our City and our resident back stronger than ever.”

On Saturday, the Alexandria City Council allocated $100,000 in matching emergency funds to the ACT Now COVD-19 Response Fund with a goal of raising $200,000 so that nonprofits in the city can apply for and receive grants.

Council also approved an allocation of $20,000 to ALIVE! to buy bulk food equivalent to 17,000 meals. ALIVE! is currently working with the city and buying food to support the city should deliveries need to be made to people under quarantine without food reserves at home.

Amazon is contributing $1M to the DMV to support our community during the COVID-19 crisis. ACT is pleased to…

Posted by ACT for Alexandria on Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Thanks to Amazon.com for providing critical financial support to the ACT for Alexandria COVID-19 Response fund. Please contribute today to support the many in need in our community due to this crisis.

Posted by Justin Wilson on Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The full press release is below the jump:

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by Vernon Miles November 7, 2019 at 3:20 pm 1 Comment

There are nearly half as many homes available for sale in Alexandria as the year before, according to city officials.

A complicated mix of reasons is behind the decline, but one reason looms above others: Amazon.

“Amazon announced its arrival one year ago,” said David Howell, executive vice president for McEnearney Associates. “Since then, we’ve seen 46% fewer listings in Alexandria and 44% in Arlington… The inventory began to shrink literally the day after the announcement.”

At a City Council retreat on Saturday, marking the launch of the budget cycle, City Manager Mark Jinks highlighted the scarcity of homes for sale in Alexandria.

“Active listings a year ago were 450,” Jinks said. “There are only 208 active listings in June 2019. There’s not a lot of inventory on the market for people to purchase. There’s a lot of speculation about what that means. Are people not selling because they think they’ll be able to get more? Are people not purchasing because they can’t? There’s so much uncertainty.”

Jinks explained to the Council that many homeowners who might otherwise be selling their properties are holding out in hopes that Amazon will increase the home value.

“Do I sell my home now or wait another couple years with Amazon coming will I get ten percent more or 20 percent more?” Jinks asked, hypothetically. “It’s a lot of speculation for what may or may not happen. There is not a lot of property for sale and a lot of speculation about why.”

Both Howell and Jinks said there are other factors at play both nationally and locally.

“Interest rates are low and the region is growing,” Jinks said. “There’s a demand for residential, as we’ve seen, but we’re not seeing price appreciation. At almost any other time like this, we would have seen single-family homes and townhomes move up appreciably, and we haven’t seen it. Some of the speculation is that people with student loan debt [make it] harder for people to afford the ownership market.”

While student loan debt could keep people from buying homes, Howell said he doubted that would impact the sellers. More likely, Howell said it’s a result of some after-effects of the housing bubble burst a decade ago.

“The big lesson is people aren’t selling for speculative reasons after the bust,” Howell said. “Appreciation is more modest and sustained because people are buying where they want to live rather than using the home as an ATM. People are staying put.”

Howell also said many of those homeowners were able to lock in low mortgage rates.

“We will see a sustained low inventory over time,” Howell. “That’s true nationally, but in Arlington and Alexandria especially.”

File photo

by Vernon Miles November 7, 2019 at 9:30 am 2 Comments

Alexandria is taking another look at the future of Arlandria and Del Ray and how those communities can weather the planned urbanization of the “National Landing” area.

This fall, the city is launching its community engagement for plans to update the 2005 Mount Vernon Avenue Business Plan and the 2003 Long-Term Vision and Action Plan for the Arlandria Neighborhood. The city cites the nearby arrival of Amazon, the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, and the North Potomac Yard Metro station as looming developments that could start to change the character of the residential and commercial communities to the west.

Neighbors and organizations in and around the area are invited to offer feedback to help identify the most important community issues and start to build a framework for the new plans — which will start taking shape next year.

At a joint meeting of Arlington and Alexandria, city officials recognized that there was frequent difficulty in getting responses from communities most prone to the effects of gentrification, so several of the outreach events are focused on going out into the community and interviewing residents rather than relying on those residents and business leaders to come to meetings.

The first event will be this Saturday, Nov. 9, from 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at Simpson Field (500 E. Monroe Avenue). City staff will be out at the field talking with local residents and will move up and down Mount Vernon Avenue to speak with people in stores and markets, according to the city’s website.

Additional outreach events are planned throughout November and December.

A community conversation for Arlandria is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 21, from 6-8 p.m. at Cora Kelly Elementary School (3600 Commonwealth Avenue). The meeting will be held in Spanish with English translation available.

A similar meeting for Del Ray is scheduled for Dec. 12 from 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m. at Mount Vernon Community School (2601 Commonwealth Avenue), this one in English with Spanish translation available.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

by Sponsor October 9, 2019 at 12:45 pm 2 Comments

This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Jillian Keck Hogan of Jillian Keck Hogan Real Estate Group and McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Jillian at 703-951-7655 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: We have been reading all the headlines, but what really is the “Amazon Effect”?

Answer: The buzz of Amazon is something we have all been hearing and there is some truth to the stories being published, BUT as it relates to real estate, the effects are very situational with price point, condition and location.

We have been reading all the same publications, and we completely understand if all the news is making you a bit nervous as to when the best time will be to purchase or sell your home. Home prices have been increasing, but that is true of every year since 2010. There is a good chance you might be competing on a listing against another buyer, but that has been a possibility over the last 9 years, as well.

Here is a bit of advice from our COO, David Howell, at McEnearney Associates, Inc.: “Sell when you are ready to sell, and buy when you are ready to buy.”

The Most Competitive Markets

Now, competing as a purchaser is always a possibility in any price point. This is driven by a seller’s strategy. Some sellers can choose to market their home under the going market price in order to move a home sooner versus later. This does not mean the sellers are in distress or the property is falling apart. Sellers do this at times just to make their move easier and faster.

The Amazon Effect — in this case, the comparatively low number of homes on the market — has been the most notable in Alexandria and Arlington in price points under $900,000.

What Does That Mean?

Virginia selling tactics and competition have been progressively picking up, following the trend we see with the D.C. market having grown hotter and hotter over the last 5-7 years with increased new construction. With many agents in our area being licensed in D.C. and Virginia, the strategies to win out on a competing situation used in Virginia began to mimic what D.C. licensed agents had been doing for years: Escalating in price, waiving inspections (or completing them before the offer was submitted), and taking on more risk during the appraisal contingencies.

Sellers have a bit more control in negotiations and receiving multiple bids on their home over list price. As a buyer, this could mean that you write a few more offers, but do know that this does not mean you have to “overpay” for a home.

Overall

The Amazon Effect is nothing that our DMV has not seen before. If you are looking to purchase under the $900,000 price point, be assured that it is very possible to buy a great home at a great price when going in with a strong strategic offer. And sellers in this same price point, be sure to still give your home all the best finishing touches to show well and review your neighborhood comparable sales before selecting your final price.

No, home prices have not doubled — but you are in a very fortunate position to be getting some of the highest prices ever in your neighborhood and you can receive offers with less contingencies which otherwise could have cost you more money.

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

by Vernon Miles October 2, 2019 at 10:35 am 4 Comments

In a rare joint meeting of top Alexandria and Arlington officials, the two communities laid the foundation for a closer collaboration on affordable housing.

Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson and the City Council met with the Arlington County Board last night (Tuesday) at Arlington’s Gunston Community Center after Wilson’s proposal to meet on a flotilla of lashed-together kayaks in Four Mile Run was shot down. There was very little set in stone at the meeting, but the gathering allowed both organizations to set priorities for policy goals as they prepare for Amazon’s HQ2, the new Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, and a new George Mason University School of Computing.

“The work around Potomac Yard is different and groundbreaking,” Wilson said. “If we’re not intentional and deliberate, things will just happen to us. We have a chance to get ahead of things. I’m hoping to set a course that our staff can get to work on all of these policy areas.”

“I’m very excited for this step,” Wilson continued. “This is the start of a journey for us and there are a lot of folks rooting for us.”

There was some early discussion of new governing bodies being established to facilitate collaborative efforts across local boundaries. Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey raised the possibility of establishing a community development corporation — a 501c3 with he described as being capable of a great deal of flexibility. The idea, however, was tabled for the time being.

“There are a few different concepts that have been tried elsewhere and have been put in place in our respective communities,” said Dorsey. “We can have a variety of governance models with a broad representation of stakeholders. There is an endless number of configurations we can use and get all the benefits of an independent nonprofit.”

For the most part, the two governing bodies mingled seamlessly — though frequent, joking barbs were traded back and forth, with Arlington at one point threatening to annex Del Ray. Both organizations shared almost identical concerns about the upcoming arrival of Amazon, particularly on the headquarters’ impact on local affordable housing.

Councilwoman Redella “Del” Pepper said many of Alexandria’s most vulnerable populations feel that the loss of affordable housing in the region is a foregone conclusion and some were starting to flee Alexandria before rising costs pushed them out.

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by Sponsor July 30, 2020 at 12:45 pm 0

This week’s Q&A column is written by David Howell, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer, of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant market news, contact David at 703-738-9513 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: How did the real estate market for the first half of 2020 compare to 2019 in the City of Alexandria?

Answer: As was true across the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic had significant impact on Alexandria’s real estate market. From January 1 to March 15 of this year when the COVID-induced shut down orders began, total new contract activity in Alexandria was almost identical to that of the equivalent time period of 2019. The market was off to a solid start and would have been even stronger had there been a greater inventory of available homes. More on that in just a moment.

Beginning in mid-March it became more challenging to physically show homes, and consumers were correctly concerned about going out. The chart below shows the significant drop in showing activity (2020’s activity is the green line) that reached the bottom of the trough in mid-April and began to reach “normal” levels by mid-May as phased re-openings began.

In June, reflecting the pent-up demand, showing activity eclipsed last year’s activity. And contract activity unsurprisingly reflected the drop in showing activity. From mid-March through the end of June, there was a 13% drop in the number of newly ratified contracts in Alexandria. Condos — almost half of Alexandria’s market — were hit a little harder with a 14% drop, while attached and detached homes were off 11%.

The other big story in Alexandria is the shortage of inventory. In the first half of 2017, there was an average of 412 available homes on the market at the end of the month. In the first half of 2018 that had dropped to 378 and after the Amazon HQ2 announcement inventory plummeted to an average of just 178.

Inventory has not rebounded, as the average month-end inventory is now just 173. That means the market has essentially half of “normal” inventory levels, and buyers are returning to the market more rapidly than sellers.

Despite the market contraction brought on by COVID-19, we expect to see very tight supply for the foreseeable future, which is great for sellers and a bit challenging for buyers. That tight supply will keep upward pressure on home prices.

For more in-depth, local real estate news and to search for your next home, please visit our website.

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

by Vernon Miles July 14, 2020 at 10:30 am 1 Comment

The former Pines of Florence and Aftertime Comics buildings at 1300 and 1304 King Street may not stand out much to the casual Old Town visitor, but faded brick buildings have a historic legacy that a new development hopes to bring out again.

The property at 1300 King Street is being redeveloped with an L-shaped building that will have 33 multifamily units over ground-floor retail, Washington Business Journal reported. Though it’s just one building, the project’s design is aimed to appear like two: with a red brick building facing King Street and a grey brick one facing S. Payne Street.

Part of the development will include some restoration of the historic buildings at 1300 King Street. According to the staff report:

Ethelyn Cox states in Historic Alexandria, Street by Street, that the building at 1300 King Street was built in 1813 and that the building at 1304 King Street was constructed between 1800-1805. Material details observed on site visits by staff confirm that construction period. Both masonry buildings are two-stories in height with three bays and metal-clad gable roofs. The corner property has had several one and two-story rear additions over the years, with commercial uses fronting on King Street and service and automobile related uses on the South Payne Street elevation.

However, before there was area was protected as part of the Old & Historic Alexandria District, permits show in 1957 the building was covered with a faux stone attached with stucco. The staff report says that the bondstone — the brand name for the faux stone used in the ’50s — should be removed with the original brickwork exposed. The stucco damaged the original brick finish, however, so the masonry will need to be repainted and repaired during the redevelopment.

The new designs for the residential building west of the historic property also include a distinctive balcony with metal tracery reminiscent of the New Orleans French Quarter.

The project is scheduled to go to the Board of Architectural Review tomorrow (Wednesday).

by James Cullum April 30, 2020 at 2:00 pm 0

The ACT Now COVID-19 Response Fund has raised more than $777,000 from 780 donors, and has given away $619,000 to 67 nonprofits in and around Alexandria.

“There is nothing like the power of collective action, when we all take a small step that can add up to something really big,”ACT for Alexandria Executive Director Heather Peeler told ALXnow.

Peeler and her staff of four employees and two interns have been busy in recent weeks. In addition to the ACT Now COVID-19 Response Fund, they also organized and managed the Spring2ACTion fundraiser on April 15, which broke the city’s one-day giving record by raising $2.45 million for Alexandria nonprofits.

“We have an incredible team. Everybody is really focused on doing what we can to support the community,” she said.

The city donated $200,000 to the fund, Amazon donated $200,ooo and $76,000 was raised by Spring2ACTion.

The fund awards $10,000 grants, and nonprofits can apply for more than one grant. Some organizations have received as many as three separate ACT Now COVID-19 Response Fund grants.

“We intentionally wanted to make the grant process flexible, because needs are evolving in the community,” Peeler said. “But we didn’t want to award out all the money all at once. That’s why we set the $10,000 limit, but organizations can ask every week, essentially, for more funding.”

Peeler has set a personal goal of raising $1 million by the end of the summer.

“We are asking community members to continue to keep the fund in mind as they think about ways to support Alexandria at this time,” she said.

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by Vernon Miles April 28, 2020 at 3:15 pm 0

Social distancing got you feeling a little stir crazy? A few Alexandria businesses are hosting quarantine-friendly online activities to help keep you connected to your neighbors and favorite local establishments.

Hops N Shine, a Del Ray bar with an ongoing fundraiser for laid-off employees, is hosting a virtual beer tasting on Thursday (April 30). The tasting, hosted by Hops N Shine on Facebook live, will feature the Ashburn-based Old Ox Brewing Company and four beers — the Festival, Hoppy Place, and two more yet to be named.

To participate, Hops N Shine encourages viewers to join in by buying their own selection.

Lost Boy Cider is hosting a similar happy hour discussion every Wednesday at 4 p.m. with industry insiders discussing the state and taste of all things cider. This week Jay Brandish, retired Navy veteran and founder of Red Clay Ciderworks in North Carolina, is the featured guest.

For those with children, there are other youth-friendly activities sponsored by the city. The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria is hosting a weekly animal talk on Saturday mornings, from 9:30-10 a.m. The series is aimed at elementary school-aged children and helps teach them about crafts and careers related to caring for animals.

The Alexandria Police Department is also running a weekly virtual storytime at 7 p.m. on Fridays. This week’s book is Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle.

Image via Lost Boy Cider/Facebook

by Vernon Miles April 17, 2020 at 11:30 am 1 Comment

Tying affordable housing funding to meals tax seemed like a safe bet in 2018, but with restaurants facing a dramatic loss in revenue due to coronavirus, affordable housing is out $1 million in the new budget.

According to the budget:

Due to the re-estimate of anticipated revenue from the Restaurant Meals Tax, the associated expenditure for the dedicated 1% for Affordable Housing will be reduced accordingly.

While the $1 million loss hurts, Helen McIlvaine, director of the city’s Office of Housing, said that there’s still some funding — notably $5.8 million (page 2.13) related to Amazon — that will allow the office to continue pursuing affordable housing goals.

“We’re not taking anything for granted, we’re pleased that the money we will start the year with is mostly intact,” McIlvaine said. “The million dollars, while we’re sorry not to have that, given the impact on local business it’s an accurate reflection.”

Alexandria is currently experiencing an affordable housing crisis, and the city has pledged to produce or develop 2,000 affordable housing units by 2025. The city has also agreed to produce an additional 1,950 units by 2030 in order to meet its regional housing goal set by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, which aims for the region to produce 320,000 affordable housing units.

The $1 million budget loss doesn’t give the Office of Housing any room to slow down.

“Like we saw with the recession, there will be even more people who are in precarious positions,” McIlvaine said. “On Saturday there is a public hearing and one of the items on the docket is (that) we’ve received $671,000 in additional federal money as part of the COVID stimulus and we’re going to ask the council to allow us to use that to provide rental assistance to help sustain property operations at nonprofit properties.”

McIlvaine said her office has been working with nonprofit partners and property owners to buy time for payment plans and to get access to the right resources.

“We had been making calls this week and most of the property owners are doing that,” McIlvaine said. “People understand that this is a really hard time.”

Still, as much as the Office of Housing can work to try to keep people in their homes, McIlvaine said the economic impacts of coronavirus means there’s likely to be even more people after this is over who need access to affordable housing.

“We want to make sure we are poised to act if there are opportunities,” McIlvaine said. “This will shift the landscape, and sometimes that’s our opportunity. People say ‘I don’t want to be in this business anymore’ or whatever it is. There was some of that during the recession but we weren’t really in a place where we were able to be proactive.”

The budget is docketed (Item 3) for discussion at tomorrow’s (Saturday) City Council meeting.

Photo via City of Alexandria

by James Cullum April 10, 2020 at 4:35 pm 0

The ACT Now COVID-19 Response Fund has raised more than $530,000 from 587 donors, and has given away $525,000 to dozens of nonprofits in Alexandria.

As of this week, more than $525,000 in grants was awarded to nearly 60 nonprofits in the city, with most of the funds going toward emergency food, supplies and financial assistance in the city.

The city donated $100,000 at the onset of the outbreak of COVID-19, and Amazon donated $200,ooo toward the effort.

ACT for Alexandria is currently pausing the grant process to replenish the fund, and the next deadline for requests is April 21. The organization is now asking for community support in the upcoming Spring2ACTion online fundraiser on April 15.

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by Vernon Miles April 10, 2020 at 11:30 am 0

While residents at Southern Towers are preparing to strike, city leadership is caught in the middle of trying to negotiate a ceasefire before things escalate.

Residents at the West End apartment complex, many of whom have service industry jobs and were recently laid off due to the pandemic, have begun organizing for a strike wherein they refuse to pay their rent, WAMU first reported.

In a petition circulating around the buildings, organizers say rent should be cancelled during the duration of the emergency while the residents cannot work, plus one month as many of them get back on their feet and try to find new jobs. The petition demanded that property management meet with a committee of tenants and fix the safety and sanitary issues in the building. Lastly, residents said future rent at the building should be based on the income of the residents.

Councilman Canek Aguirre, who on the City Council has frequently advocated for lower-income families throughout the West End and areas like Arlandria, said he met with residents last week in a Zoom call.

Aguirre said resident concerns go beyond just problems with rent.

“Residents are concerned about the accumulation of trash,” Aguirre said. “Everybody is staying home and producing trash, but cutes either closed or compactors broken. So they’re putting trash in the hallways.”

The difficulties due to the stay at home order go both ways, Aguirre noted, with management trying to pick up trash daily, but they too are “having issues with stay at home orders.” To fix the trash compactors, for instance, Aguirre said the company is waiting on parts that are still being held up.

“You throw on top of that people’s concerns, fears and anxieties [about rent]… and there were mixed messages from email communications from management trying to clarify that,” Aguirre said. “They’re switching to a full online payment system, but we have to be cognizant of the digital divide. There are individuals who aren’t able to pay bills online. It’s one thing after another.” (more…)

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