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After years of planning, a new neighborhood was just approved to replace the former Vulcan Materials site in Alexandria’s West End.

City Council approved the proposal 5-1 at their Saturday public hearing, with City Council Member Canek Aguirre voting in opposition.

Lennar Corporation and Potomac Land Group II LLC can now build a dual-branded 11-story hotel with 256 rooms facing S. Van Dorn Street on at 701 S. Van Dorn Street and 698 Burnside Place, as well as condominiums, townhouses and a new public park. Renderings of the hotel revealed a Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites.

The group also plans to contribute $3.5 million into the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund instead of including affordable housing on the 18-acre site. Additionally, $2.6 million would go toward construction of the 4.4-acre Backlick Run Park in the northwest corner of the property, and the developers would also build a pedestrian bridge from the property to the park.

Aguirre said that the project is an island without affordable housing, and said that the plan does not create a new voting precinct, or a school, and is difficult for the community to otherwise access.

“This is acres and acres of land,” Aguirre said. “We don’t get an opportunity to deal with this much land like this, and to say that we’re gonna have this large ofsite and not have anything affordable, I don’t know how we do that.”

The site is the former home to a gravel and granite processing site, and is approximately a half-mile from the Van Dorn Metro station. About one-third of the property can’t be developed due to its previous industrial use.

Mayor Justin Wilson said that the city can’t always get what it wants, especially with such an industrial parcel of land.

“We want to do it all,” Wilson said. “We want public art, we want open space, we want affordable housing. We want it all and the reality is that it all does not pencil out.”

Ken Wire represents the developers and told Council that it will take a year to do environmental cleanup on the property and three years before housing units can be sold.

The plan also calls for construction of 204 condominiums, 88 back-to-back multifamily units, and 31 townhomes connected on an internal street network. Wire said that the condos would range in price from $400,000 to $600,000.

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Mystic BBQ and Grill opened at 220 N. Lee Street in Old Town (via Facebook)

There’s a new barbecue restaurant in an Old Town space that was previously home to… You guessed it — a barbecue restaurant.

Mystic BBQ & Grill formally opened this month at 220 N. Lee Street in the space previously occupied by Myron Mixon’s Pitmaster Barbeque, the Zebra first reported. Myron Mixon’s closed last Christmas Eve.

RT’s Restaurant (3804 Mount Vernon Avenue) owners Ralph Davis and Matthew Davis took over the restaurant, after their special use permit was approved. The menu has undergone a visual and branding overhaul and the “southern-centric menu” also features fresh seafood, “including our signature spicy she crab soup, low country shrimp & grits & creole bouillabaisse,” according to the restaurant.

According to Mystic BBQ & Grill:

Opened in April 2024 by a family that has been operating restaurants in and around Old Town for almost 50 years. Located in the heart of Old Town, Mystic has a diverse menu featuring Texas style smoked brisket, baby rack ribs & Carolina pulled pork. Meats are smoked low & slow in BBQ champion Myron Mixon’s signature smoker that is front and center in our open kitchen.

BBQ is just one part of this southern centric menu that also features fresh seafood including our signature spicy she crab soup, low country shrimp & grits & creole bouillabaisse.  Not to be missed is the jumbo lump crab cake sandwich, which sets the standard for all of Old Town. Specialty sandwiches & unique salads are available all day in a casual setting that features upscale but moderately priced food. Great little wine list & large selection of draft beers are also available.  Don’t forget about the “bananas foster” bread pudding with vanilla bean ice cream & brown sugar rum sauce.

The restaurant is open from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, and from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

via Facebook

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Jim Ross, conductor of the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, at Alexandria’s birthday celebration at Oronoco Bay Park, July 10, 2022. (staff photo by James Cullum)

For all intents and purposes, Alexandria Symphony Orchestra Music Director and Conductor James Ross isn’t going anywhere.

Actually, this fall Ross is starting work as the director of orchestral studies at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. He also just renewed his contract in Alexandria another three years. Ross says that his new contract in Philadelphia stipulates that he will be allowed to return to Alexandria the week before a symphonic performance in order to get the orchestra ready.

“I am going to be doing both,” Ross told ALXnow. “I will start at Curtis in the fall and I will continue with Alexandria, and I will just bounce pass back and forth as needed between between the two places.”

Ross is currently in his sixth season with the orchestra, and every show since January has been sold out. The next show will feature renditions of Leonard Bernstein’s dances in “On The Town” on April 20 at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Theater at Northern Virginia Community College.

Ross has been teaching at Curtis for the last two years. He credits Bernstein as one of his principal conducting teachers, as well as Kurt Masur, Otto-Werner Mueller and Seiji Ozawa. He is the founding orchestra director of the National Youth Orchestra of the USA, and also taught at the University of Maryland from 2001 to 2017.

“My whole reason for being and my approach to music has been about what concerts are going to look like 50 years from now,” Ross said. “Orchestras can play movie music, video game music, we can accompany jazz artists, in addition to work from old composers. So, it’s dependent on the orchestra nowadays to be flexible, and the flexible orchestras are the ones doing the best.”

ASO Executive Director George Hanson said that the organization has been infused with energy and creativity since Ross started in 2018. He was hired after a two-year search.

“We are thrilled that Jim is continuing his role as ASO’s music director and are very pleased with the opportunities that his role with the Curtis Institute of Music will bring to our orchestra,” Hanson said.

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Alexandria City Council Member Alyia Gaskins has more than doubled the campaign contributions raised by her opponent Vice Mayor Amy Jackson and triple the amount raised by former real estate developer Steven Peterson.

As of March 31, Gaskins raised $149,107 with $69,425 on-hand. Jackson has raised $59,984 and has $22,682 on-hand, while Peterson has raised $44,700 with $14,019 on-hand.

The April 15 quarterly campaign finance disclosure deadline follows a recent Alexandria Democratic Committee straw poll that Gaskins resoundingly won. The previous campaign disclosure report was on Dec. 31, and showed Gaskins with $46,000 and Jackson with nearly $17,000 in campaign funds.

Gaskins received 79 cash donations more than $100 totaling $72,775, five in-kind donations totaling $15,558, and 263 donations $100 or less totaling $15,280, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

Gaskins’ top donor is Reginald James Brown, an attorney with Kirkland & Ellis, who donated $13,318 (and $20,500 since her 2021 campaign). Her number-two contributor is Brown’s wife, Tiffeny Sanchez, who gave the candidate $20,000. The Northern Virginia Labor Federation also gave her $10,000, and she received $1,000 for former Delegate Rob Krupicka, $500 from former City Council Member David Speck, as well as $200 from retired Sheriff Dana Lawhorne.

Jackson received 66 cash donations more than $100 totaling $21,946, 132 cash donations of $100 or less, and 20 in-kind contributions more than $100 totaling $5,206.

Jackson is the top donor of her campaign, donating $8,271, followed by her second-biggest contributor, her mother, Martha Bickford, who donated $5,516. Former State Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw gave Jackson $3,000, and other notable contributions include $1,500 from 2021 City Council candidate Bill Rossello, $849 from assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney David Lord, and $437 from School Board Member Tammy Ignacio.

Peterson received 11 cash contributions more than $100 totaling $24,500, two contributions of $100 or less totaling $200 and one in-kind contribution of $20,000.

Peterson is also his own top donor, having given his campaign $30,000. His second-most contributor is Michael Srabek, who donated $10,000.

The City Council race

City Council Member John Taylor Chapman leads in fundraising so far in the Council primary, closely followed by Council Member Kirk McPike and with newcomer Jesse O’Connell having raised the third-most of the 12 candidates.

Chapman received his biggest donations from fibre space owner Danielle Romanetti ($5,000), and from NOVA Labor ($5,000). Reginald Brown also donated $2,500 to his campaign, and other notable contributors include $250 from Sheriff Sean Casey and former Alexandria Toyota manager John Taylor, who donated $2,000.

McPike’s top donors included NOVA Labor ($5,000), Reginald Brown for $2,500 and Tiffany Sanchez ($1,000). Sheriff Casey also contributed $250, and former City Council Member Del Pepper gave him $300.

The City Council Democrat and Republican primaries are on June 18. Election day is Nov. 5.

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A 41-year-old Maryland man is being held without bond after allegedly executing the family dog in a fit of rage, according to a recently released search warrant affidavit.

The incident occurred on Feb. 25 in an apartment in the 4300 block of Raleigh Avenue, which is near the Shoppes of Foxchase on Duke Street.

The victim told police that the father of her child took her car and her Glock 19 9mm pistol when he left for work that morning. She told police that she then became fearful and left the apartment with her child.

At around 10 p.m., the victim and the suspect were texting, with the suspect “highly agitated that she would not tell him the whereabouts of their daughter,” according to the search warrant affidavit.

A phone call followed the series of texts, and during the call the victim heard two “loud booms and the call disconnected,” according to the search warrant affidavit.

Police later found the dog named Max dead on the bed in the master bedroom, shot twice in the head.

The suspect then allegedly texted the victim that she should not go upstairs with their child, according to the search warrant affidavit.

The suspect was arrested on March 12 and was charged with torture of a dog, larceny of a firearm, unlawful discharge of a firearm in an occupied building, and unauthorized use of a vehicle. He goes to court on April 26.

The Alexandria Sexual Assault Center and Domestic Violence Program is available 24/7 to listen and help at 703-746-4911.

“If you are a neighbor and know that an abusive incident is occurring, call the police immediately,” the city said. “Calling the police is simply the most effective way to protect the victim and children from immediate harm.”

Map via Google Maps

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Tsehayinesh Menberu says that she and her West End neighbors often choose between buying groceries and paying their rent.

Menberu has lived at the Southern Towers complex in the West End for more than a decade. On Saturday, she and about 50 others demonstrated for increased affordable housing outside City Hall during City Council’s public hearing on the fiscal year 2025 budget.

“It is especially difficult to uproot a family from their home, school and friends,” she said. “You can imagine that difficult decisions parents are having to make when they have to decide between moving out or paying a ridiculous amount of rent, which they can barely afford.”

The protest was organized by African Communities Together, a D.C.-based nonprofit that has advocated for Southern Towers residents over the last several years.

About 50 people chanted “ALX is all of us!” and held signs as they marched to the stage in front of City Hall.

“Today we stand at a pivotal moment in Alexandria,” said ACT’s DMV director Solomon Ayalew. “As we work toward creating more affordable housing, we must remember that developments take time, time that our community does not have. We are being displaced now, we are being pushed out now. You may not feel it in the rest of Alexandria, but we do.”

Ayalew said that the city needs to make permanent its guaranteed basic income pilot, and to approve housing voucher fund grant program.

There was a 62% decline in market-affordable rental units in Alexandria between 2000 and 2021, according to the city. The city has pledged to produce or develop thousands of units to meet 2030 regional housing goal set by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

According to the city:

According to U.S. Census figures, nearly twenty percent of Alexandria’s 80,000 households with incomes up to $75,000 are cost burdened. Approximately 19,000 households are paying more than the federal government indicates they should for housing, leaving little in their households budgets for necessities. The City projects that the number of households in Alexandria will rise to about 100,000 households by 2035. The longstanding imbalance between housing supply and demand, exacerbated by stagnating wage growth particularly in low to moderate-wage sectors, is a key factor underlying the high cost of housing, imperiling our ability to grow an economy that depends on a diversity of skillsets.

Celianna Gunderson, the lone Republican running against six Democrats for City Council this November, observed the protest.

“I’m looking into affordable housing,” Gunderson said. “Being a single mother to teenagers, I’ve gone through a lot of struggles with having to pay my rent as well. In the past, I’ve had notes on my door from the rental office telling me I had so many days left. Luckily, I’ve never been to the point of eviction, but I know that it’s difficult for a lot of people, even when you’re making a decent paycheck.”

Jonathan Huskey, a Democrat running in the June 18 primary, said that the city needs to get more creative to solve its affordable housing woes.

“I want to make sure it’s not just temporary affordable housing, but actually lasts,” Huskey said. “That’s going to require the city to get involved in a new and different way. Things like limited equity, cooperatives, new models for building construction — there’s lots of different things that this council has not yet implemented.”

If you or anyone you know is experiencing a housing crisis or homelessness, contact the city’s Department of Community and Human Services at 703-746-5700 or text 703-346-5599.

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No arrests were made after a fight resulted in a single shot being fired from a gun in the Lincolnia area of Alexandria on Saturday afternoon, according to the Alexandria Police Department.

APD was notified of the gunshot at around 3:30 p.m. in a parking lot of an apartment complex in the 6100 block of Lincolnia Road. Police were told that multiple males were fighting, and that the fight was broken up when the suspect fired the gun in the air.

A shell casing was found at the scene, according to an APD dispatch.

Minutes later, police pulled apart two men fighting a few blocks away in the area of Little River Turnpike and N. Beauregard Street. The men were briefly detained and then released.

Anyone with information on this incident can contact the APD non-emergency number at 703-746-4444. Callers can remain anonymous.

via Google Maps

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Alexandria mayoral candidate Alyia Gaskins won the Alexandria Democratic Committee’s Straw Poll on Sunday night.

Gasksins defeated Vice Mayor Amy Jackson 117 votes to 23 votes, or 81% to Jackson’s 16%. A third mayoral candidate, Steven Peterson, did not show up for the event, and received 4 votes (3%).

City Council’s four incumbent members running for reelection also won, and so did two newcomers. The unofficial and unscientific contest is held before every Council primary at the Port City Brewing Company (3950 Wheeler Avenue).

“The results from the ADC straw poll show that a range of Democrats — some of who have been engaged in local politics for decades and others who are brand new — overwhelmingly agree that I’m the best candidate for mayor,” Gaskins said. “I’m excited to build on this momentum as I continue to spread my vision for a safer, more affordable, more accessible Alexandria.”

There are 11 Council candidates in the running in the June 18 primary for the six-seat Council, as well as three mayoral candidates.

Council Members John Taylor Chapman and Kirk McPike tied for the top spot among the City Council candidates. In the general election in November, the top vote-getter becomes the city’s vice mayor.

The Democrat and Republican primary is on June 18 and the general election is on Nov. 5.

The Results

  1. John Taylor Chapman 98 votes (68%)
  2. Kirk McPike — 98 votes (68%)
  3. Sarah Bagley — 93 votes (65%)
  4. Canek Aguirre — 81 votes (56%)
  5. James Lewis — 78 votes (54%)
  6. Jesse O’Connell — 77 votes (53%)
  7. Jacinta Greene — 75 votes (52%)
  8. Kevin Harris — 50 votes (35%)
  9. Abdel Elnoubi — 47 votes (33%)
  10. Jonathan Huskey — 18 votes (13%)
  11. Charlotte Scherer — 15 votes (10%)

The ADC Straw Poll got it right in 2021 by correctly predicting the mayoral and council members elected that November. But the poll is not always accurate. In 2018, former City Councilor Willie Bailey received the most votes but lost reelection. Former City Councilwoman Del Pepper, Jackson and former Council Member Mo Seifeldein didn’t make the unofficial cut either, still winning in the June primary and the November general election.

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You might want to get your prescriptions transferred, because CVS store and pharmacy at 3120 Duke Street in the city’s Taylor Run neighborhood is closing.

A note posted by management states that the store will be closing on Thursday, May 23. The CVS is across the street from the Alexandria Commons Shopping Center.

There are two other CVS stores on Duke Street — at 1680 Duke Street in Old Town and at 5101 Duke Street in the West End.

Map via Google Maps

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Happy Monday morning, Alexandria!

⛈️ Today’s weather: Expect scattered showers and thunderstorms, partly sunny skies, and a high around 83. There’s a 43% chance of precipitation. Monday night will see scattered showers and thunderstorms before 8 p.m., with a low temperature of around 55. There’s a 30% chance of precipitation.

🚨 You need to know

Duke Street was closed at S. Walker Street down to N. Ripley Street, where a motorcyclist died after crashing into a DASH bus, April 9, 2024 (staff phjoto by JAmes Cullum)

The family of the 23-year-old motorcyclist who was killed last week after crashing into a DASH bus has raised $6,500 for his funeral expenses.

The family of Kaden Olsen says that the former Marine died doing what he loved, and that the funds will be used to transport him to his final resting place.

The bus driver was not charged.

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