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DHL Express trailer on Duke Street (image via City of Alexandria)

International shipping company DHL Express drew some flack from Alexandria’s Planning Commission after the company let slip in a recent meeting that they had no plans to find a permanent home for their “temporary” trailer business on Duke Street.

The company was granted approval for a temporary trailer set up in the parking lot of Shoppes of Foxchase (4513 Duke Street) during the pandemic. DHL was up for a two-year extension of their permit to operate in the parking lot but was applying for an additional three-year extension beyond that.

“This was supposed to be a temporary trailer several years ago,” said Planning Commissioner Mindy Lyle. “A temporary trailer was suggested as a use during the Covid emergency. The President is declaring an end to the Covid emergency in May. Therefore, I think we should go ahead with the two-year recommendation of staff.”

Lyle recommended DHL find space to set up shop permanently in one of the nearby empty retail locations.

“There’s lease space available in West End Village and Van Dorn Plaza,” Lyle said. “Two years is plenty of time to get a space built out, under contract, and move the trailer. No one in the neighborhood thinks the trailer is a good idea and I’m not sure why staff was recommending a two-year, then a three-year extension. I’m fine approving two years, then the trailer goes away because it really is a glorified sign.”

But representatives from DHL said the company is making the temporary trailers approved by Alexandria during the pandemic its new primary business model. Representatives said the company only has two brick-and-mortar locations but around 20 pop-ups.

“We are preparing to close one [brick and mortar] location,” said Kelly Shepard, head of US retail with DHL Express. “The model has made sense with pop-ups and brick-and-mortar has been not scalable for us. We’ve been focused on scaling for pop-ups and our sustainability goals.”

Shepard said the company’s plan was not to transition into a brick-and-mortar location. Shepard said the plan was to continue operating the pop-up as long as it was considered acceptable by the city.

“I understand we would have two years to try and solve the problem of how we could potentially stay in Alexandria, but as a company, after we opened our two brick-and-mortar locations and that was not successful for us, we made a decision that this was our way forward,” Shepard said. “The intention is not to look for another brick and mortar solution, it was to continue with the pop-up.”

This ruffled some feathers on the Planning Commission, with members indicating this may have been a dishonest use of the city’s temporary zoning allowances.

“What you’re saying is: this is no longer temporary, this is a permanent ‘temporary’ solution that will never go away and you’ll keep coming back for temporary usage of a trailer,” Lyle said. “Staff has either been deceived that this was a temporary use or didn’t ask the right questions of the applicant.”

Staff noted that there had been other temporary trailer uses granted to some businesses, but Planning Commissioner Melissa McMahon noted that each of those involved unique circumstances.

“I appreciate staff pointing out that we have trailers for other types of land use that we support, but there are some differences,” McMahon said. “In a couple of the cases, trailer supported brick and mortar use, and that’s important to keep a business here and make sure this works in the space they have.”

Lyle said that if DHL, being a global company, wanted to operate in Alexandria they should file a permit to open in a retail location like every other business.

“There are places all over the West End and developers who have spent millions for approval, millions renovation shopping centers, and I don’t believe it’s fair to local businesses that we allow a pop-up for some things and other people have to go into brick-and-mortar,” Lyle said.

Planning Commission Chair Nathan Macek proposed a compromise of a three-year extension from DHL to keep the approval consistent with other trailers approved in the past, which Lyle brought forward as a motion on the condition that, on Feb. 25, 2026, the trailer is gone.

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Woonerf designs for the Potomac River Generating Station development (image via Hilco Redevelopment Partners)

Representatives from Hilco Redevelopment Partners (HRP) recently opened up about some of the behind-the-scenes discussions on whether or not to make the central street in Old Town North’s power plant redevelopment project pedestrian-only.

The redevelopment of the GenOn power plant in Old Town North is one of the biggest projects on the city’s horizon, and the centerpiece of that project will be a pedestrian-focused boulevard called a ‘woonerf‘ — a Dutch design concept that prioritizes pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

Simon Beer, principal-in-charge with HRP, said that the idea is to maintain a pedestrian flow around the project, connecting both to the Potomac River and Old Town North.

But while the city has had some success with pedestrian-only zones in Old Town, the woonerf will not be exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists. Though HRP representatives said the street will be designed to slow traffic, vehicles will still be allowed to travel on the street except when its closed for special occasions.

At a meeting of the Urban Design Advisory Committee Serving Old Town North last week, committee members shared concerns that permitting vehicle traffic means the streetscape won’t truly be pedestrian focused.

“Was it ever explored to have this as a purely pedestrian street?” asked committee member Zaira Suarez. “As long as there are vehicles, there’s never really complete safety for pedestrians.”

Suarez expressed concerns that space that could otherwise be used for community amenities would become on-street parking.

“It becomes a parking space when it could really be such a huge amenity to pedestrians,” Suarez said, “not only residents but people coming in from the park or on bicycles from the trails. Is there something stopping this from becoming fully pedestrian?”

Beer said pedestrian-only was considered during development.

“It was absolutely something that was explored,” Beer said, “In conversations with city and traffic planning, there was a feeling that the ability for traffic to be able to flow along the waterfront was important, not only for emergency access but for general day to day use. However, we think that this can be a really special place.”

Beer said the street is designed to be shut down for weekends or special events.

“Having the ability to shut it down, placing planters on either end, we have the capacity… to shut it down for a weekend for a large event, we have the capacity to do that with the way that this is designed,” Beer said. “It really has the flexibility for a truly pedestrian experience, but designing in that flexibility to still maintain traffic flow.”

Attorney Mary Catherine Gibbs said the street is built with a public access easement and can’t be permanently shut down without city approval.

“The city won’t allow it,” said Gibbs. “The city has asked that it be a public access easement, so there will be limits on our ability to completely shut it down permanently.”

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Loyal Companion at Gables Old Town North (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

Almost exactly two years after it opened, Loyal Companion (923 N. St. Asaph Street) in Old Town North will be closing for good.

The location’s closure is part of a broader sweep of closures following Independent Pet Partners filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. All stores outside of Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois will close.

Staff at Loyal Companion said they learned about the closure last Thursday. Pet grooming well end on Feb. 18 and the store will be closed by the end of the month, with all merchandise in the store set on sale before them.

According to a message on the company’s website:

To our Loyal Companion community,

With a heavy heart, we want to inform you that we’ve made the tough decision to close our Loyal Companion stores.  We have loved serving the community and supporting you on your pet wellness journey. ​

Our stores will be open through the end of February.  We will be offering liquidation discounts and we encourage you to take advantage of these great offers to get all the supplies you need.

While it’s hard to say goodbye, it’s easy to say thank you. Thank you for being part of our family. Thank you for caring about pet wellness. And thank you for supporting your local community. ​

We’ve enjoyed all the hugs and belly rubs along the way. ​

~ Your Loyal Companion Team

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Duke Street intersections with Route 1 (image via City of Alexandria)

As the city works through some of the most high-crash intersections, it’s setting its sights on twin troublesome intersections in southern Old Town: the intersections of Duke Street with Route 1 (South Henry and South Patrick streets).

The Duke Street intersections with Route 1 are among the most crash-prone in the city, with over 70 crashes at the intersection since 2014, the city said in a release. Of those, four resulted in severe injuries and more than 20 resulted in non-life-threatening injuries.

The intersections are just north of where the two streets converge, crossing with the aterial Duke Street. Contributing to the chaos is a right turn lane off Duke Street onto South Henry Street.

The City of Alexandria has launched a the “Duke Street & Route 1 High Crash Intersection Audits Project” with the goal of evaluating safety issues and developing designs for improvements.

The City is collecting feedback on mobility, safety and access issues at the intersections. Feedback can be submitted online anytime before Tuesday, Feb. 28.

The project is supported by a grant from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) Regional Roadway Safety Program.

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ACHS instructor performed on stage with Coldplay on Saturday Night Live (image via Saturday Night Live/NBC)

Alexandria City High School students watching Saturday Night Live this weekend might have seen a familiar face in the musical numbers: the school’s Director of Choral Activities Theodore Thorpe III.

Thorpe was part of the Jason Max Ferdinand Singers in a choral ensemble with Coldplay, performing the songs The Astronaut, Human Heart, and Fix You in the show on Saturday, Feb. 4.

Thorpe said there were two days of rehearsal before the show: one with the members of the Jason Max Ferdinand Singers and then one with the group and Coldplay.

“There was a lot of work on multiple fronts,” Thorpe said. “Not just the chorus and the musical scores, but all of the folks working to make the performance happen, from set design to stage management and costuming. I like to call it: organized chaos.”

Thorpe has known Jason Max Ferdinand for over two decades but said this new choral group took off during the pandemic.

“This group really started out of the pandemic and it has just been taking off,” Thorpe said.

Thorpe said the Saturday Night Live performance came from the friendship between Ferdinand and musician Jacob Collier.

“[Ferdinand] got a call from [Collier] who said Chris Martin from Coldplay wanted this choir to perform with him,” Thorpe said. “They brought us to New York. The members of our ensemble are from all over, so we came together for this performance and really only had one day.”

Thorpe said he was backstage for much of the show because they had to do a quick change between songs.

“It felt great,” Thorpe said. “It was a great experience, from rehearsals all the way down.”

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The base of the Appomattox statue is now located at Bethel Cemetery in the Wilkes Cemetery Complex (staff photo by James Cullum)

The long and tangled history of the Appomattox statue that once stood at the intersection of S. Washington Street and Prince Street took another turn this week as ALXnow learned the base had been installed in a Carlyle-area cemetery.

The statue had been removed in 2020 after years of debate over its presence. While some neighbors have expressed misgivings at the base’s new home above Confederate graves in the Bethel Cemetery not far from historic Black cemeteries, the new location is on private property and the cemetery’s owner said he’d like to see the statue reinstalled there.

It was also a tumultuous week at Alexandria City High School.

Twice this week, the school had to be evacuated due to bomb threats. On the second day, students had already been dismissed, but parents and faculty were still in the building for parent-teacher conferencing.

Unrelated to the threats, the Alexandria School Board approved new metal detectors at two Alexandria schools, over the concerns expressed by a student representative on the School Board who said students would feel uneasy with the new security measures.

The most-read stories this week were:

  1. Old Town residents and business owners cry foul over new George Washington Birthday Parade route
  2. Fire alarms didn’t go off during Saturday’s high-rise apartment fire in the West End
  3. Two Alexandria restaurants featured on Washingtonian’s ‘Very Best’ list
  4. Petitions launched for and against ABC Virginia opening new store in Old Town
  5. JUST IN: Alexandria City High School evacuated for second day in a row due to bomb threats
  6. Teen shot to death in West End hotel Friday night
  7. The base of the Appomattox statue has resurfaced atop Confederate graves in Alexandria
  8. Lorton man charged with DWI after multi-vehicle crash in Old Town
  9. Alexandria teens make suggestions for city to help on youth safety issues
  10. New regional plan offers significant steps to boost affordable housing in Alexandria
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Samoas artwork (image via Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital/Facebook)

It’s that time of year: Girl Scout cookies are back in season.

Cookie both sales are starting to pop up around Alexandria starting today. You could chance stumbling across one, but if you want to be more methodical, here’s a list of Girl Scout cookie stands around Alexandria for the next two weeks.

Around the 22314 zip code:

  • Duke Street Giant (3131 Duke Street)
    Saturday, Feb. 4, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
    Sunday, Feb. 5, Noon-4 p.m.
    Saturday, Feb. 11, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
    Sunday, Feb. 12, Noon-4 p.m.
  • Made in Alexandria (533 Montgomery Street)
    Saturday, Feb. 4, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
    Sunday, Feb. 5, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
    Saturday, Feb. 11, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
    Sunday, Feb. 12, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • Meridian at Eisenhower (2351 Eisenhower Avenue)
    Saturday, Feb. 4, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
    Saturday, Feb. 11, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Old Town Farmer’s Market (301 King Street)
    Saturday, Feb. 4, 8 a.m.-Noon
    Saturday, Feb. 11, 8 a.m.-Noon
  • Mint Condition (103 S. Saint Asaph Street)
    Sunday, Feb. 5, 1-3 p.m.
  • Carlyle Place (2251 Eisenhower Avenue)
    Saturday, Feb. 11, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • Parc Meridian (750 Port Street)
    Saturday, Feb. 11, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Ten Thousand Villages (515 King Street)
    Saturday, Feb. 11, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Comfort One Shoes (201 King Street)
    Sunday, Feb. 12, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • Lincoln Old Town (401 Holland Lane)
    Sunday, Feb. 12, Noon-3 p.m.

In the 22301 zip code:

  • JeffersonPlayground (301 Hume Avenue)
    Friday, Feb. 3, 4-6 p.m.
  • Bellies and Babies (1913 Mount Vernon Avenue)
    Saturday, Feb. 4, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
    Sunday, Feb. 5, Noon-4 p.m.
    Saturday, Feb. 11, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
    Sunday, Feb. 12, Noon-4 p.m.
  • Del Ray Farmer’s Market (2311 Mount Vernon Avenue)
    Saturday, Feb. 11, 8 a.m.-11 a.m.

In the 22305 zip code:

  • Giant (621 E. Glebe Road)
    Saturday, Feb. 4, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
    Sunday, Feb. 5, Noon-4 p.m.
    Saturday, Feb. 11, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
    Sunday, Feb. 12, Noon-4 p.m.
  • Four Mile Run Market (4109 Mount Vernon Avenue)
    Sunday, Feb. 5, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
    Sunday, Feb. 12, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • The Reserve at Potomac Yards (3700 Jefferson Davis Highway)
    Saturday, Feb. 11, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

In the 22302 zip code:

  • Robcyn’s (3660 King Street)
    Friday, Feb. 3, 4 p.m.-6 p.m.
    Saturday, Feb. 4, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
    Sunday, Feb. 5, Noon-4 p.m.
    Friday, Feb. 10, 4-6 p.m.
    Saturday, Feb. 11, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
    Sunday, Feb. 12, Noon-4 p.m.
  • Safeway (3526 King Street)
    Friday, Feb. 3, 4 p.m.-7 p.m.
    Saturday, Feb. 4, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
    Sunday, Feb. 5, Noon-4 p.m.
    Friday, Feb. 10, 4-7 p.m.
    Saturday, Feb. 11, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
    Sunday. Feb. 12, Noon-5 p.m.
  • Cafe Pizzaiolo (1623 Fern Street)
    Saturday, Feb. 4
    Saturday, Feb. 11
  • Klein Home (1401 Kenwood Avenue)
    Saturday, Feb. 4, 10 a.m.-Noon
  • Presto Valet of VA (1623 Quaker Lane)
    Saturday, Feb. 4, 2 p.m.-5 p.m.
    Saturday, Feb. 11, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • St Elmo’s Cafe (2300 Mount Vernon Avenue)
    Saturday, Feb. 4
    Sunday, Feb. 5
    Saturday, Feb. 11
    Sunday, Feb. 12
  • St Elmo’s Cafe – Fairlington (1536 Kenwood Avenue)
    Sunday, Feb. 5
    Sunday, Feb. 12
  • USPS (340 S. Pickett Street)
    Saturday, Feb. 4, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
    Friday, Feb. 10, 4-6 p.m.
    Saturday, Feb. 11, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Whistle Stop and Hobbies (1719 Centre Plaza)
    Saturday, Feb. 11, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

In the 22304 zip code:

  • Safeway (229 S. Van Dorn Street)
    Saturday, Feb. 4, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
    Sunday, Feb. 5, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
    Saturday, Feb. 11, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
    Sunday, Feb. 12, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • SSSAS US Gym (1000 St. Stephen’s Road)
    Thursday, Feb. 9, 5 p.m.-8 p.m.
    Friday, Feb. 10, 5 p.m.-8 p.m.

In the 22311 zip code:

  • Taqueria Picoso (1472 N. Beauregard)
    Sunday, Feb. 5, Noon-4 p.m.
    Sunday, Feb. 12, Noon-4 p.m.
  • Guidepost Montessori (3475 N. Beauregard Street)
    Tuesday, Feb. 7, 4-5 p.m.

In the 22312 zip code:

  • Washington International Academy (6408 Edsall Road)
    Friday, Feb. 3, Noon-3 p.m.

Image via Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital/Facebook

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Good Friday morning, Alexandria!

Today’s weather: Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 41 and low of 18.
🌤 Tomorrow: Clear throughout the day. High of 36 and low of 18. Sunrise at 7:13 am and sunset at 5:33 pm.

🚨 You need to know

Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation is studying what expanded transit across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge could look like, according to one of the brilliant reporters over at FFXnow.

At a meeting earlier this week, Todd Horsley, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation’s director of Northern Virginia Transit Programs, presented a study that explored how transit could make use of expanded I-495 Express Lanes crossing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

Horsley pointed out repeatedly that all of this was theoretical, nothing is being planned just yet, but a study was done in case those transit plans were to come along later.

Currently, there’s limited bus service along I-495 and across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. If the new express lanes are built, however, Horsley said the expansion of those transit routes could come in a few stages. The shortest-term plans could be implemented immediately and would add an express route connecting Tysons to Alexandria and another extending into Maryland.

Longer-term plans could involve more extended connections between Tysons and parts of Fairfax with locations like King Street and the Braddock Road Metro stop, as well as traffic into various Maryland neighborhoods or even curling up to The Wharf in D.C.

While there was some discussion of using part of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge for a new rail connection into Maryland, Horsley said the data didn’t show a huge benefit for ridership compared to buses using express lanes.

📈 Thursday’s most read

The following are the most-read ALXnow articles for Feb 2, 2023.

  1. Two Alexandria restaurants featured on Washingtonian’s ‘Very Best’ list (2404 views)
  2. The base of the Appomattox statue has resurfaced atop Confederate graves in Alexandria (1093 views)
  3. JUST IN: Alexandria City High School evacuated for second day in a row due to bomb threats (648 views)
  4. Police: Lanes closed on South Washington Street due to oil spill | ALXnow (535 views)

🗞 Other local coverage

🐦 Tweets of note

https://twitter.com/AlexandriaNow/status/1621132330990534658

📅 Upcoming events

Here is what’s going on today and this weekend in Alexandria, from our event calendar.

  • No events today. Have one to promote? Submit it to the calendar.
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Alexandria City High School (ACHS) was evacuated in response to a bomb threat earlier today, the second day in a row that bomb threats have forced a school evacuation.

The school was evacuated at 2:25 p.m. today, though students were already dismissed earlier at 1:15 p.m. for parent-teacher conferences.

According to an email sent out to the ACHS community by Principal Peter Balas:

At 2:25 p.m. today, the Alexandria City High School (ACHS) King Street campus was evacuated in response to a bomb threat. Students had been dismissed at 1:15 p.m. today for early dismissal due to parent-teacher conferences.

The remaining staff, students and families in the building for the parent-teacher conferences were evacuated from the King Street Campus to designated areas outside, while the Alexandria Police Department and Alexandria Fire Department are conducting an on-site investigation.

The safety and security of our students, staff and families in our school facilities are of utmost priority. Teachers and school administrators will provide information to families about the rescheduling of today’s parent-teacher conferences.

The evacuation comes one day after a previous evacuation due to a bomb threat.

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A rendering of Wesley Housing’s affordable housing project ParcView II at 5380 Holmes Run Parkway. (Via Wesley Housing)

(Updated 4 p.m) Alexandria and several other localities have released an executive summary for a Regional Fair Housing Plan that not only provides some goals for housing but comes with a look at specific zoning changes that can be made to help get the region to those goals.

The plan was put together by a team comprising representatives from eight localities, including Alexandria, along with a few partner groups. A 60-day public comment period is scheduled to run through March 31 to allow locals to submit their thoughts on the plan.

Many of the goals have been frequent talking points in Alexandria City Council meetings in recent years, but others are ideas that go significantly beyond current policy in the city.

The goals laid out in the Regional Fair Housing Plan are:

  1. Increase the supply of affordable housing for families earning at or below 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI) for the region – especially where there hasn’t been any.
  2. Change zoning and land use policies to expand access to fair housing. Increase the development, geographic distribution, and supply of affordable housing.
  3. Implement policies to preserve affordable housing and prevent displacement of residents. Keep the same number of existing affordable rental units in our region.
  4. Increase the number of homeowners in the region and reduce the unequal treatment and discriminatory practices that keep members of protected classes from buying a home.
  5. Protect the housing rights of individuals who are part of protected groups. For example, people of color, those with disabilities and seniors.
  6. Increase community integration and reduce housing barriers for people with disabilities.
  7. Make public transit easier to access and afford for members of protected classes.

Each of the goals also had substantial strategies listed to help localities achieve them, including a variety of zoning changes. Some of those changes, for example, involved not only reducing zoning limitations on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) but offering incentives to homeowners who want to build them on their properties.

Beyond just increasing the supply of affordable housing, there are several policy suggestions aimed at making housing more accessible to seniors, people with disabilities, and other protected classes.

Another strategy involved creating a loan fund to help tenants, nonprofit groups and local governments buy apartments and manufactured home parks that are for sale.

“Adopt design standards that require accessible units in new multifamily developments that receive public funds,” the document said. “10% of all units must be accessible to people with mobility disabilities and at least 4% for those with hearing and/or vision disabilities.”

There were also fair housing goals in the plan that were aimed at specific localities. For Alexandria, they were:

  • Prioritize public land for affordable housing.
  • Provide partial tax abatements for homeowners who rent their ADUs to low-and moderate-income tenants.
  • In accordance with Virginia Code § 15.2-2304. Affordable dwelling unit ordinances in certain localities, adopt an ordinance to institute mandatory inclusionary zoning city-wide and provide an array of incentives, such as density bonuses, special financing, expedited approval, fee waivers, and tax incentives.
  • Reduce the 20,000-square-foot minimum lot size in the R-20 zone or permit duplexes in this zone.

“We need local solutions to our challenges. But the region can benefit from shared visions and approaches,” the executive summary said. “They aren’t limited by city and county boundaries. The Washington region has many examples of effective policies and programs that can be adopted in more places. Inclusionary zoning and housing production trust funds are two of them.”

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