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Last Friday, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) announced that the Potomac Yard Metro station would not be opening this fall, as they’d been insisting it would for months.

The new opening date is set as sometime in 2023. The announcement also came with an update that the shutdown cutting Alexandria off from the rest of the Metro station would be extended into November.

The delay is the latest in a long series of screw-ups connected to the Potomac Yard project, from a delay earlier this year to Metro and city officials concealing information about the station losing a southern entrance back in 2018.

Beyond Potomac Yard, the announcement came on the heels of a new report casting serious doubts about the safety on the rail line after the Metro system reportedly failed to fully address the issues that caused a train derailment last year.

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David Keltz as Edgar Allen Poe (image via City of Alexandria)

One of Alexandria’s more unique Halloween traditions, a reenactment of Edgar Allen Poe’s 19th-century speaking engagements, is set to return for two nights later this month.

Every year, The Lyceum (201 South Washington Street) hosts actor David Keltz to read a collection of Poe stories in character as the dour author.

“This year’s performance will include two popular short stories, poems, literary criticism, and a comic essay never before performed at The Lyceum,” the Office of Historic Alexandria wrote in the weekly newsletter This Week in Historic Alexandria.

Keltz has been performing as Poe since Halloween night in 1991 at Poe’s grave in Baltimore.

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the performance is scheduled to run from 8-9:15 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 30 and Monday, Oct. 31. Tickets are $20 and available online.

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New manhole cover (image via City of Alexandria)

It’s a change that likely won’t go noticed by many Alexandrians, but the city is making an adjustment to its manholes that could have an impact on flooding during storms.

According to Flood Action Alexandria — an ongoing newsletter highlighting flooding issues and mitigation measures in Alexandria — the City of Alexandria is working on finding a contractor to install 870 stainless steel manhole inserts around the city.

“Manhole inserts are pan-shaped devices that sit at the top of the manhole, directly underneath the manhole cover,” the newsletter said. “They prevent stormwater inflow from gushing to the sanitary sewer after it enters the hole in the manhole cover.”

The inserts have a hole that slowly trains accumulated stormwater after the storm ends. The idea is to reduce inflow into the sanitary sewer system, which often becomes backed up during storms and contributes to flooding.

A map of where the manhole inserts will be located is shared online.

The newsletter also shared some updates on other flooding projects. The combined Commonwealth and East Glebe Road and Ashby and East Glebe Road project — which will increase the capacity of the storm sewer system — is in contract negotiations with an engineering firm ahead of moving into the design phase.

Two spot improvements, one at Oakland Terrace Timber Branch and another on Mount Vernon Avenue, are entering the construction phase.

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Landmark Mall is gone, so what’s next?

A representative from developer Foulger-Pratt spoke at the Eisenhower West Landmark Van Dorn Implementation Advisory Group earlier this week to provide a bird’s eye view of what’s going on at the project.

Concept map for new Landmark Mall development (image via City of Alexandria)

Currently, Landmark Mall itself is almost completely demolished, saved for one corner still being used as an office to oversee the development.

While Inova is currently working through its own development application process at the western end of the development, other projects are in the works throughout the site.

At the presentation, the developer’s representative said the first four buildings to come online will be E1, E2, G and Eye on the map above. The E and G blocks will be part of a new housing development called Aspect.

The two residential buildings will have a total of 390 units and will be connected by a bridge, with residents able to move between buildings easily. The development will also have around 70,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor.

Block Eye is set to become a development called The Brightly. It will feature 390 residential units with “big box retail” on the ground floor. The developer said that could be anything from a gym to a large retail store.

Clockwise below block Eye are blocks M and L2, which are both slated to become townhomes, with that development process scheduled to kick off beginning in 2023.

Block L1 is set aside as senior housing, but a previous contract for that development fell through in August. The Foulger-Pratt representative said that project is going back on market to find a senior housing developer.

Block K, set in the center of the new development, is named Thrive and the developer said it will have a more “neo-industrial” aesthetic. Thrive is set to have 337 residential units with 30,000 square feet of retail space.

The rest of the development includes:

  • Block J: dedicated affordable housing
  • Block D: future multifamily project
  • Block H: split between hotel and condominiums

The developer’s representative said none of those three projects have begun the application process.

The Foulger-Pratt representative said horizontal infrastructure work starts in November while the rest of the development starts to work through the application processes. If all goes well, vertical construction at the site could begin as early as January 2024. Infrastructure at the site is scheduled to be completed in the third quarter of 2025 with the buildings completed starting in the fourth quarter of 2025.

The developer was, once again, confronted by city officials about the project’s terrible name: West End.

As far back as the start of demolition on the mall, city officials have been urging the developer to pick something else. The area is already locally known as Landmark, but “West End” generally refers to the broader section of the city rather than this specific development. The representative at the meeting said Foulger-Pratt is “pretty wedded” to the West End branding, but that the expectation is over time the individual developments within the site — ie Thrive or The Brightly — will become the more commonly used names.

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Veo’s launch announcement in Alexandria (image via Veo/Facebook)

Rental e-bike company Veo announced that it’s started to deploy 300 e-bikes across the city following a launch in September in Arlington.

The new fleet of new electric bikes all come equipped with throttle assist, meaning the toggle for the level of assistance is available on the handlebar rather than being build into the bike as part of the pedal mechanism.

“Veo offers the shared micromobility industry’s only class 2 throttle-assist e-bike,” the company said in a release, “which features a throttle and pedals to make it easier for riders of varying body types and physical abilities to ride long distances comfortably while maintaining balance and control.”

In an email, a spokesperson for the company said Veo is offering a $5 credit that can be redeemed in the app using the code HIVA5. The credit is available through Saturday, Oct. 29.

Riders must be 18 years old or older to ride — a restriction that has admittedly rarely stopped anyone under 18 from using electric scooters and other devices — and like scooters the riders scan a QR code to unlock the vehicle.

Rides are $1 to unlock and cost $0.39 per minute.

However, residents who receive federal, state or local assistance and students who are FAFSA-eligible can sign up for a discounted $5 monthly fee that waives the unlock fee and provides a free 30-minute ride every day, with additional rides coming in at a discounted $.20 per minute rate.

To end the trip, the bikes must be parked in an approved parking area with an “end-of-ride” photo of a properly parked bike. Recommended parking areas, along with no ride and no parking zones, are highlighted in the Veo app.

“Arlington and Alexandria have long been at the forefront of urban mobility as adopters of the region’s bikeshare system over a decade ago,” said Candice Xie, CEO of Veo. “We’re working closely with local leaders to increase the use of shared mobility in the region and bring new riders into the fold with our class 2 e-bike.”

Photo via Veo/Facebook

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While it’s been a busy week in Alexandria, what’s likely the biggest story of the week dropped this afternoon as WMATA announced that the Potomac Yard Metro station has been delayed yet again.

The time, the station’s opening has been pushed back to sometime in 2023, with the shutdown of Alexandria Metro stations extended into November.

This does somewhat explain why the Potomac Yard Metro station was listed as a “future station” with a different icon on the new Metro map compared to the Silver Line stations.

In brighter news, Alexandria is getting an early screening of the new Black Panther movie in November, hopefully just after the Metro shutdown is lifted.

  1. Study: Old Town Historic District is the most dangerous area for pedestrians in Virginia
  2. Police Chief: There are ‘crews’ of violent kids within Alexandria City Public Schools
  3. Suspected MS-13 gang members arrested for allegedly selling drugs and possessing guns in Arlandria
  4. There’s an early screening of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in Alexandria
  5. City considering new pedestrian bridge to connect West End with Landmark development
  6. JUST IN: Del Ray’s Art On The Avenue postponed due to Tropical Storm Ian
  7. New cafe with ‘light fare’ coming to Alexandria’s darkest hotel
  8. Potomac Yard Metro station added to new Metro maps… kind of
  9. Inova to provide update on Landmark campus in virtual meeting
  10. ACPS faces budget shortfall and wants to give staff raises
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Construction work at Potomac Yard Metro station, photo via City of Alexandria

(Updated 2:15 p.m.) The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) announced that the Potomac Yard Metro station’s opening will be delayed yet again.

WMATA said in a statement that the Metro shutdown impacting all of Alexandria will be extended into November and the station, set to open this fall, will not open until sometime in 2023.

Just as WMATA had been vague about when in the fall the station would open, there’s no timeline for when in 2023 the station will open. Given that the station was originally set to open in April 2022, it’s possible the station’s opening could be delayed a full year past the original opening date.

“Regretfully, Metro announces that the new Potomac Yard Station will not open this calendar year,” WMATA said in a release. “The delay in completing construction of the station is due to the contractor’s failure to meet the project delivery schedule. Metro will continue to work with the contractor to produce an achievable schedule and will provide an update by the end of this year.”

WMATA said as site work got underway at Potomac Yard, crews discovered issues with underlying soil that affected the structural stability of the ground beneath the tracks. A remediation plan was developed and implemented, but WMATA said that reinforcing the ground below the tracks “required removing any work already completed, excavating additional soil beneath 1400 feet of track, and installing new subgrade materials to provide the required stability.”

According to Executive Vice President of Capital Delivery Andy Off:

We are frustrated with these developments on the Potomac Yard Station project. The team has been working around the clock to push the project delivery team to perform in accordance with the schedule. Recently, it has become clear that the published schedule will not be met, unfortunately delaying the opening of this important station. On behalf of our customers and the City of Alexandria, we apologize for this inconvenience. We will continue to work as quickly as possible to deliver a high-quality station, and we are doing everything within our power to move the project forward in a safe and responsible way.

Currently, Alexandria is cut-off from the rest of the Metro system. That was supposed to end on Saturday, Oct. 22, but WMATA said that ending has been pushed back to Nov. 5. WMATA officials previously said that once work had started on the station, it would be virtually impossible to reconnect Alexandria to the rest of the Metro system until the station was ready to open.

“Metro is extending the closure of six stations south of Reagan National Airport due to unexpected site conditions and remediation efforts for the future Potomac Yard Station,” WMATA said in a release. “The announcement today comes three weeks before stations were scheduled to reopen to give our customers time to plan their trips accordingly.”

WMATA said free shuttle bus service will continue to be available through the extended shutdown.

“As always, Metro will continue to work collaboratively with the City of Alexandria and the contractor to resolve these scheduling issues and continue our commitment of transparency to the local community,” the release said.

Mayor Justin Wilson called the delays “unacceptable” and said the project needs more direct oversight by WMATA:

The numerous delays to the Potomac Yard construction project are unacceptable. This critically important project requires more intentional oversight by WMATA. Our residents and businesses deserve better from our partners.

This latest setback must be met with urgency and significant actions by WMATA and its contractor to recover from the time and money lost. The City of Alexandria has provided specific operational actions to WMATA that we believe will more effectively manage the contractor’s efforts to complete this project in an expedited and efficient manner.

The City is also demanding that the financial impacts of the numerous delays be assessed and adjusted by WMATA to the benefit of our community. We will continue working with our partners to ensure transit riders have accessible alternatives during this continued shutdown.

We cannot continue to repeat these failures.

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208 Queen Street (image via Google Maps)

In a hole in a mixed-use block in Old Town there lived a hobbit-themed restaurant. Not a nasty, dirty, wet development with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that meant comfort.

But the restaurant, Bilbo Baggins, closed in 2020 and now a new Mediterranean restaurant, Elaine’s, has filed an application to fill the space.

As the spot is maintaining the restaurant use, the special use permit is pretty bare-bones, but the plans drawn up for the restaurant show it will keep the former restaurant’s layout with a bar area separate from the main dining area.

Alexandria Living Magazine first reported the restaurant’s plans back in August, saying the restaurant — which will be called Elaine’s Modern Mediterranean — plans to offer a mix of French and Greek food.

The application said the restaurant will seat 120 patrons.

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Former National Tire and Batter (image via Google Maps)

A former National Tire and Battery (NTB) in the West End could be transformed into a used car dealership if the repair shop next door can get approval.

Koons of Alexandria has filed an application for a special use permit to establish a used car dealership at the former NTB building at 5800 Edsall Road, just off S. Van Dorn Street.

Koons of Alexandria also operates the repair center and car rental agency next door, which will remain there under the new proposal.

The application said the project would come with extensive interior and exterior renovations to the NTB building. The dealership would have around 50-100 cars at any given time, with some light repairs ongoing inside the building.

“With this proposal, the Applicant proposes interior and exterior renovations of the existing building to upgrade the building’s appearance, as shown in the enclosed plans,” the application said. “A total of 359 parking spaces are located on the Property and the neighboring 5800 Edsall Road site and are shared between the two buildings. The provided parking is more than sufficient to meet the needs of both buildings.”

The NTB building was built in 1995 and mostly stayed as a tire sale facility until December 2020, when NTB relocated elsewhere in the West End. In 2017 there were plans to turn it into a Land Rover/Jaguar dealership, but those ultimately fell through.

The project is scheduled for review at the Nov. 1 Planning Commission meeting.

Image via Google Maps

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Hotel Aka with new black color scheme, photo via EAGH Alexandria

The Electra America Hospitality Group (EAHG) has filed an application to open a new cafe with outdoor seating at Hotel AKA — an Old Town North Holiday Inn replacement at 625 First Street with a dark exterior.

The amendment to allow a cafe is bundled in with an official change of ownership special use permit headed through the city review process.

The hotel is currently under construction and is scheduled to open sometime this winter. One of the most notable parts of the application process was the proposal to paint the exterior of the building fully black, though concept renderings on the Hotel AKA website show the exterior as a lighter grey.

“The Applicant is requesting a minor amendment to the existing SUP to add 40 outdoor dining seats,” the application said. “The Applicant is in the process of completing interior and exterior renovations to the existing hotel and plans to re-open as the Hotel AKA Alexandria.”

The new hotel will have 180 guest rooms with various amenities, including the new cafe if the permit is granted.

“The cafe will offer coffee, pastries, and similar beverages and light fare typically offered in coffee shops,” the application said. “The cafe will include a total of 40 outdoor dining seats in an outdoor seating area on First Street.”

The hotel will also include a lounge area and bar on the ground floor near the lobby. There are 148 parking spaces on-site, and the application said that’s expected to remain the same.

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