Newsletter

Without discussion, the Alexandria City Council on Saturday (September 17) unanimously approved a proposal to charge rent to local businesses that use their street parking spaces for dining and shopping.

The new rule combines the city’s commercial parklet program with the outdoor dining program that was implemented during the pandemic.

Starting October 1, businesses will be charged:

  • $150 per linear foot for businesses along King Street, or $3,000 per space
  • $50 per linear foot in Arlandria and the West End, or $1,000 per space
  • $100 per linear foot for all other area, or $2,000 per space
  • $100 for the application fee and $30/$40 per day for reserved parking

Between 2020 and 2022, businesses throughout the city were forced to cater to customers with special rules. Amid pandemic shutdowns, restrictions were eased on outdoor dining, curbside pickups, and selling to-go alcoholic drinks.

The temporary parklet program was approved in May 2020, and the official program was approved in October 2021.

Now any business that wants to participate in the program will get a discount. Fees will be cut in half for any permit issued and validated between October 1, 2022, through September 30, 2023.

Any business participating in the City’s COVID-19 outdoor dining and retail program by using on-street parking spaces are approved through September 30. Those who want to continue with their in-street dining and shopping must reapply with the city.

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Alexandria’s knitters and crocheters can celebrate their finished work at a new interactive mural at yarn shop fibre space (1319 Prince Street) in Old Town.

The mural allows for customers to take photos with their finished objects (known as FO’s), and pretend to be holding an umbrella under a shower of knitting notions and tools.

“It’s raining all things knitting,” said fibre space owner Danielle Romanetti. ” I wanted something interactive that our customers could take pictures with so they can stand under the umbrella and hold or wear their finished piece.”

Alexandria muralist Matthew McMullen painted the piece, and it was designed by graphic artist Shelli Martinez.

McMullen also painted the fibre girl mural on the other side of the building.

Romanetti moved to the 1319 Prince Street location five years ago, and says that there is still plenty of available space on her building for more murals.

“This building was historically a very colorful place,” Romanetti said. “Before it was fibre space it was a paint store. There’s plenty of real estate on the building for more, so Matt will probably be doing another mural.”

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Boosted by multi-million dollar endowment, ownership of the 45-acre Winkler Botanical Preserve (5400 Roanoke Avenue) was signed over to NOVA Parks on Thursday (September 15).

Mayor Justin Wilson was joined by members of City Council, interim Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt, City Manager Jim Parajon and city staff for the deed signing ceremony.

“This is a beautiful property,” Wilson said. “The fact that we are making this handoff happen here tonight, and in bringing NOVA Parks as the custodian of this property for the next generation is so exciting.”

The Winkler Botanical Preserve was created in 1979 by environmentalist Catherine Winkler Herman, who established it as a natural space for generations to enjoy in perpetuity.

The Winkler Organization gave NOVA Parks a $1 million check for capital needs at the deed-signing event, and will give a $3 million operating endowment for educational programs and other improvements.

“The steadfastness of the Winkler’s generosity over generations and their ability to see beyond the horizon is both humbling as it is inspiring,” said Cate Magennis Wyatt, chair of the NOVA Parks board of directors.

Randall Kell, president of the board of the Winkler Botanical Preserve for 30 years, said that the deal with NOVA Parks is a “match made in heaven.”

“How wonderful it is to have such an experiences, successful organization such as NOVA Parks, which shares so many of the values, goals, aspirations and ambitions that the Preserve has had for more than 50 years, step up to lead the Preserve for future generations.”

Kay-Wyatt said that the Preserve will be a valuable educational resource for Alexandria students.

“When you have an opportunity and a gift like this for children to come outside of that traditional classroom and to experience nature’s classroom, it is a gift to us all as educators,” Kay-Wyatt said.

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A man acquitted by reason of insanity for a brutal stabbing death in Old Town has been ordered to stay off all social media except LinkedIn.

The news came Thursday afternoon, after 38-year-old Pankaj Bhasin was ordered by the Alexandria Circuit Court to stay off the websites after lying about himself and his whereabouts during a period that he was in prison for murder.

Bhasin was conditionally released from the Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services in May — four years after stabbing 65-year-old Brad Jackson to death with a box cutter. Bhasin said that he thought Jackson was a werewolf, and stabbed him 53 times. He was conditionally released on May 27, 2022, after being diagnosed as bipolar by five doctors and found not guilty by reason of insanity in July 2019.

After his release, Bhasin opened a Facebook page where he listed that he was in India at the time of the murder, according to court records. He also created dating application profiles and wrote that he’d recently returned from traveling for two years.

“I’m an easy going adventurer who believes in a universal connection with all and love to explore n try new things,” Bhasin wrote on a dating app, according to the motion to amend the terms of his conditional release. “Also, recently getting back from two years of travel…”

Bhasin also wrote that he is interested in “travel, kayaking, dancing, photography, camping, reading, concert n all things fun,” and that he has an ENFP-A personality — someone who is extraverted, intuitive, feeling, and perceiving.

Bhasin’s attorney, Peter Greenspun, sent out a statement that Bhasin is “doing extremely well,” but did not discuss the decision of the court. He said that Bhasin is remorseful for Jackson’s death.

“Mr. Bhasin is not on any social media or dating sites,” Greenspun said. “He has and will continue to follow all of the directions of the City of Alexandria Circuit Court.”

A review hearing is scheduled for December to assess Bhasin’s release.

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Like the waning days of summer, time is almost up for Tiki Bar Del Ray on Mount Vernon Avenue.

After a nearly nine-month run, which was longer than expected, the pop-up at 2312 Mount Vernon Avenue will officially close its doors on Saturday, September 24, and reemerge as the Halloween-themed “Nightmare On The Avenue” in the first week of October.

“Come on in now to get all your festive Tiki lays and drinks and to get your fill of the Polynesian fantasy culture that we created,” Tiki Bar Del Ray co-owner Bill Blackburn told ALXnow. “Who doesn’t love a Tiki bar? It’s sad to close it, but the whole idea was that this is a flexible space and we’re gonna keep making it fresh.”

Last year, Blackburn and his partner “Mango” Mike Anderson of the Homegrown Restaurant Group, closed the The Sushi Bar and converted it into the Christmas-themed pop-up bar Joy On The Avenue.

The pop-up is situated between their other restaurants on Mount Vernon Avenue – Pork Barrel BBQ and Holy Cow Del Ray.

Anderson said that his team is working on redecorating the space and creating a “unique and tasty” menu of spirits, cocktails and food.

“The pop-ups have been a lot of fun,” Anderson said. “They’ve been well received, but we need something that’s got a little more staying power and a little more desire for the neighborhood.”

The Christmas theme will return after Halloween, Anderson said, adding that he and Blackburn hope to iron out a final concept for the space by next spring.

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They don’t get much sweeter than Toblerone.

The three-year-old mix has the long body and short legs of a dachshund and the adorable face and ears of a Labrador retriever.

“He’s the type of dog that everyone you meet will ask about,” said Animal Welfare League of Alexandria spokesperson Gina Hardter. “Besides his intriguing looks, Toblerone also has a sparkling personality, wagging his tail joyously at everyone he meets, then crawling into their laps for snuggles.”

Learn more about Toblerone and schedule time to meet him at AlexandriaAnimals.org/Adopt-By-Appointment.

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Phillip Melville was just 19 years old when he escaped Nazi-occupied France in 1942. The retired civil engineer just turned 100, and on Tuesday (September 13) his longevity was recognized with a certificate on National Centenarian’s Day at City Hall.

Melville has lived in and around Alexandria for 50 years, and said he was blessed to escape France and become an American.

“The secret to my longevity is good looking women,” Melville said. “Being around them keep me young.”

Attendees at the event included members of City Council, and Anita Du Mars, a 101-year-old World War II bride, who said that the secret to long life is having “curiosity about the world and other people, as well as healthy eating habits and exercise.”

Mayor Justin Wilson said that the four centenarians in attendance have “squeezed 200 years worth of living in 100 years.”

“Think about the history that they’ve seen and how much change they’ve seen in our country during their lifetimes and in our community,” he said at the event. “The fact that they are here today and telling us those stories, teaching us is such a such a pleasure for all of us and it’s such a such a miracle to happen.”

Kate Garvey, the city’s director of the Department of Community and Human Services, said that advice from centenarians is valuable.

“We each forge our own path,” Garvey said. “But there are some constants that really are important for all of us — a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose, independence and an environment in a community that is nurturing. All those things are present for us today.”

Centenarians in Alexandria

  • Catherine Sevick — 105
  • Audrey Fenton — 100
  • Lowell E. Fisher — 100
  • Walter Hammersley — 100
  • Phillip L. Melville, 100
  • Marilyn McLean — 100
  • Frances Webb — 102
  • Miriam H. Wiener — 100
  • Virginia H. Sahaj — 102
  • Jane S. Sara — 102
  • Alice Schmidt — 102
  • Catherine Sevick — 105
  • Mildred F. Youso — 101
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Chet Avery, a longtime community leader and educator who volunteered in Alexandria for decades, died at home on Thursday, September 8.

Avery, 85, was a lifelong advocate for disability justice and welfare. He lived in Alexandria with his wife, Sabra, for more than 50 years, and served on the Alexandria commission on Persons with Disabilities for 36 years and the city’s Human Rights Commission for more than 30 years.

“Chet was a tireless advocate for full inclusion of our disabled residents in both the Federal government as well as in Alexandria,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “My thoughts are with Sabra and his entire family, with gratitude for his lifetime of service to our community.”

Avery was born in August 1, 1937, in Sanford, Maine, to florists Chester Sr. and Gladys Avery. He started losing vision in his left eye at the age of 16, and he went completely blind when he was 17. After losing his vision, he briefly attended a special school for the blind, and later returned to his old high school in Sanford and graduated as president of the class.

Avery received a degree in history from Harvard University in 1960. It was there, while studying to get his master’s degree in counseling and education, that he met his future wife, fellow Harvard student Sabra Allen. They married a year later, and in 1964, their son Bradford B. Avery was born. The family moved to the D.C. metropolitan area that same year when Avery got a job with the federal government.

Avery also served on nearly 25 different boards, commissions, committees, councils and workgroups in Alexandria, “including the Special Education Advisory Committee for the Alexandria Public Schools, the Alexandria Human Rights Commission, the Virginia State Rehabilitation Council, the Virginia Assistive Technology System Advisory Council, and the Washington Ear,” according to a 2010 proclamation for “Chet and Sabra Avery Day.” That same year he was named a Living Legend of Alexandria and The Chet and Sabra Avery Room was dedicated at City Hall.

A lover of books, film and television, Avery was instrumental in developing audio descriptions for plays, informational tours and movies. He was a member of the Audio Description Advisory Committee of the National Captioning Institute and the Consumer Advisory Group of the WGBH Media Access Group

Avery is survived by his wife, son and two granddaughters.

There is no service planned at this time, and well-wishers are asked to remember Avery on his memorial page.

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An Alexandria man is being held without bond for allegedly brandishing a handgun and destroying property near his West End apartment.

Jimmy Simms, 38, was charged with brandishing a firearm, destruction of property, driving on a revoked/suspended license and reckless driving.

The incident occurred just after midnight on Monday, August 22. The victim, a man driving west on West Braddock Road, reported to police that he was threatened by a man with a gun driving a silver GMC Arcadia.

The victim was at a red light behind the GMC, and when the light turned green, “the vehicle began driving approximately 10 miles per hour and slamming onto the breaks,” police said in a search warrant affidavit.

The affidavit continued, “(The victim) then passed the vehicle and turned left onto North Van Dorn Street. The (suspect’s) vehicle then drove on the wrong side of the road to get past him and began driving in front of him while slamming on his breaks several times again. The (suspect’s) vehicle pulled over into the bike lanes and as (the victim) was driving past, the suspect, later identified as Mr. Jimmy Simms, pointed a black handgun at him.”

The victim drove away to a parking lot in the 2600 block of N. Van Dorn Street, when he heard a car crash coming from a parking lot a block away in the 2500 block. The victim then confronted Simms with a can of pepper spray, and Simms ran into a nearby apartment building, according to the search warrant affidavit.

Witnesses told police that Simms had a black handgun in his waistband when he entered the building. He was arrested inside his fourth floor apartment, and allegedly told police that he had a gun, but that “you’ll never find it.”

Simms goes to court for the offenses on Wednesday, September 14.

Via Google Maps

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Updated at 3 p.m. The Commonwealth Attorney’s Office is hoping to limit access to the internet for a man acquitted for reason of insanity for a brutal stabbing death in Old Town.

Pankaj Bhasin, now 38, was conditionally released from the Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services in May, nearly four years after killing 65-year-old Brad Jackson. Bhasin said that he thought Jackson — a complete stranger — was a werewolf, and used a box cutter to stab him 53 times. Bhasin was later diagnosed as bipolar by five doctors and was found not guilty by reason of insanity in July 2019. He was conditionally released in on May 27, 2022.

After his release, Bhasin opened a Facebook page where he listed that he was in India at the time of the murder, according to court records. He also created dating application profiles and wrote that he’d recently returned from traveling for two years.

“I’m an easy going adventurer who believes in a universal connection with all and love to explore n try new things,” Bhasin wrote on a dating app, according to the motion to amend the terms of his conditional release. “Also, recently getting back from two years of travel…”

Bhasin also wrote that he is interested in “travel, kayaking, dancing, photography, camping, reading, concert n all things fun,” and that he has an ENFP-A personality — someone who is extraverted, intuitive, feeling, and perceiving.

On Thursday (September 15), the Commonwealth’s Attorney will argue to amend Bhasin’s conditional release by either preventing him from using social media and online dating applications or installing software to allow the Community Services Board to monitor his activity.

“Given the violence involved in this case, our office is extremely concerned about the acquittee being in the community,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter told ALXnow. “We are trying to do everything wr can to ensure he is not in a position to commit further acts of violence.”

“Of particular concern, the acquittee appears to be actively engaged in deception regarding his recent history,” the Commonwealth said in its motion. “For example. he states that he has been ‘recently getting back from two years of travel and he appears to have created artificial check-ins to overseas locations, giving the impression that he was there during a period of time he was incarcerated and standing trial for murder.”

The motion continued, “In this case, because the acquittee may be meeting potential romantic partners while not only concealing, but actively lying about his recent history, those individuals may be put at risk during a period of time when the acquittee is first transitioning to the community. In light of the acquittee’s online conduct, public safety calls for modification of the terms of his release.”

Bhasin’s attorney, Peter Greenspun, said that Bhasin is “doing extremely well,” but did not discuss the Commonwealth’s motion to amend the conditions of his release.

“Mr. Bhasin has expressed his remorse for Mr. Jackson and those who knew him in every setting possible, including in his treatment,” Greenspun said in an email. “While those expressions may, understandably, not be enough for those who are suffering, it is sincere and constant, and has been an important part of his recovery.”

A review hearing is also scheduled for December to assess Bhasin’s release.

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