Alexandria, VA

New taco shop, Taco Rock 2 is opening today at the western edge of Alexandria.

Chef Mike Cordero announced in a press release that the spin-off of Rosslyn-based Taco Rock is opening at 6548 Little River Turnpike in the Pinecrest Plaza shopping center.

“Taco Rock 2 is Chef Mike Cordero’s ninth Northern Virginia restaurant location and seats 75 guests with 20 barstools centered around the tequila bar,” the company said in a press release. “New to this location is an expanded tequila bar and a substantial outdoor patio with large garage door front windows that access the open-air space offering 48 seats for alfresco dining.”

Taco Rock two is the team’s first cast casual restaurant. Socially distanced seating will be incorporated throughout the restaurant, the company said.

“Team Cordero is thrilled to expand our footprint in Northern Virginia with the grand opening of Taco Rock 2,” Mike Cordero said in the press release. “Taco Rock is an epicurean treat that gives a nod to street food but includes a gourmet twist with our signature Blue Rock tacos. We anticipate the Alexandria community will greatly welcome our concept.”

The restaurant will mostly match the Arlington location, with tacos served on homemade blue corn tortillas. Listed offerings include breakfast tacos and vegetarian tacos. The restaurant also features a tequila bar and imported Mexican beers, along with crispy stuffed churros and ice cream tacos.

Photos courtesy Taco Rock 2

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In contrast to the mainly virtual events of 2020, an in-person vaccination held at T.C. Williams High School today had an air of cautious optimism as Alexandria City Public Schools staff received the first round of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Governor Ralph Northam and Mayor Justin Wilson were in attendance, along with several others in the City Council and local leadership.

Northam said combatting coronavirus has been a team effort on both a state and local level.

“The hope we’re seeing — the light at the end of the tunnel — is the vaccine,” Northam said. “We need more shots in people’s arms… We’re hoping to have a majority of Virginians vaccinated by mid-summer.”

Wilson said that the end of the pandemic is in sight.

“We’re almost there, ” Wilson said. “The governor and I are runners and we know at about mile 21 or 22 things start to fall apart… but we’re almost to the finish line.”

The event was sponsored by ACPS and featured a bevy of local leaders and media — many looking a little scruffier than they did in January 2020 with the year of insanity manifesting in eclectic fashion choices and longer hair. Visiting dignitaries were seemingly an afterthought for the mix as Alexandrians relished a chance to swap in-person gossip.

The main event was the start of system-wide vaccination with Danielle Thorne — a geometry teacher at T.C. Williams High School — and Superintendent Gregory Hutchings.

“It’s the best shot I’ve ever had,” Thorne said. “I’m excited, there’s a real sense of relief.”

The shots were administered by Leanne Desmond, the school nurse at Douglas MacArthur Elementary School. Desmond said she’s administered a few shots already, but was excited that many of her colleagues at MacArthur had signed up to get their vaccine today.

“A lot of people from our school are coming today,” said Desmond. “It’s exciting that staff I work with are starting to get it.” Read More

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Beloved local Del Ray coffee shop St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub has opened a new North Old Town location (529 Montgomery Street) to help anchor a budding new community.

The new coffee house opened on Saturday, Jan. 9. St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub joins Wooboi Hot Chicken and Hinata Sushi Bar and Grill on the ground floor of Gables Old Town North, a new residential development at the north end of Old Town.

According to the website, the North Old Town branch of St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub offers fresh baked goods, soups and sandwiches — with an ABC permit pending for craft beer and wine.

“We really like being in neighborhoods,” Larry Ponzi, owner of the pub, said on the website. “We love to get visitors from out of town, and we do, but we really want the base of customers to be from the neighborhood.”

Photo via St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub/Facebook

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With the pandemic forcing more daily activities like work and school to go virtual, Mayor Justin Wilson said the city is doubling down on efforts to provide broadband options for Alexandria residents.

Expanding internet options beyond Comcast has been a several-year project for the city that’s hit a few bumps in the road.

“As many of you know, this is kind of a pet project of mine,” said Wilson in a town hall meeting last Thursday. “About seven years ago, put out plan for broadband vision for city. It’s gone a lot slower than we would have liked.”

Wilson noted that the city had — over a decade ago — been in talks with Verizon to expand Fios to Alexandria, but the nationwide expansion of Fios was put on pause.

The city is currently working to expand its municipal fiber network to connect city facilities and replace broadband services, Wilson said. The plan is to overbuild the fiber capacity with that overhaul and lease capacity to private companies to manage. In 2019, the city solicited the private sector for partnership opportunities, but Wilson said that prices came back very high.

Wilson said the city has since restructured and recently put the project back out onto the market, and will eventually pick a vendor to offer broadband for local residents.

“We hope to bring some competition to broadband services,” Wilson said.

Image via YouTube

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Facing a consistent barrage of concerned parents asking about reopening plans, Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) said it will begin posting a weekly update on when the schools will reopen.

In a newsletter, ACPS said it will be holding a weekly review of the COVID-19 data to adjust the timeline for reopening.

ACPS planned to open the schools in January, but Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said it’s unclear whether that will happen.

Last fall, around half of the school staff said they would be uncomfortable returning to schools due to health issues, but vaccination of educators starting tomorrow could change that. ACPS said that 59.5% of families expressed a preference for remaining virtual, though this number includes 17% of families that didn’t respond to the survey who were marked down as favoring virtual schooling by default.

According to the newsletter:

ACPS and the Alexandria Health Department (AHD) have developed a reopening decision matrix that combines three main metrics into one chart: community transmission rates, data on positive cases, and levels of school division impact. The goal is to provide this matrix so families can understand our decision making for the phased reentry plan.

This matrix will be posted on the ACPS website and will be updated each Monday with the new metrics. Using the data in this matrix, each Monday ACPS will share an update on our reentry plans on the website homepage. This information will also be shared via ACPS Express in our regular Wednesday edition.

Image via ACPS

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(Updated 4 p.m.) Police are investigating a pair of violent crimes that occurred this [Monday] morning.

The first was a felonious assault around 6 a.m. on the 1100 block of Quaker Hill Drive, right behind the Alexandria Commons shopping center near Taylor Run.

Police said a victim was shot multiple times but managed to reach a nearby 7-11 and call for help.

The shooting took place near where a car was stolen at gunpoint late last month.

The other incident was a carjacking that occurred shortly after 6 a.m. on the 3800 block of Florence Drive in Arlandria. Police said a victim was approached by a suspect with a gun. The person assaulted the victim and stole the car.

Photo via Google Maps

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After receiving approval from the state, Mayor Justin Wilson announced on Twitter than Alexandria is moving into the next phase of vaccine distribution.

The new wave of distribution, listed as 1B, opens up the vaccine to several new essential professions. Healthcare workers were able to recieve the vaccine under phase 1A.

Those in groups 1B or 1C, or their employers, can register online for vaccination.

“If you are an individual employee of an essential organization, please tell your supervisor to arrange for one person to register on behalf of all staff via this link,” the state said on its website. “Your employer will then be given instructions on when and how to upload all employees for vaccine appointments.”

The first vaccinations for teachers will be given tomorrow at T.C. Williams High School.

Phase 1C will open vaccination up to at-risk adults, such as those over 65 years old or have a disease that would put them at greater risk.

Phases 1B and 1C open the vaccine to several types of essential workers, including:

  • Childcare/K-12 Teachers/Staff
  • Corrections and Homeless Shelters
  • Energy, Finance, Agriculture, Food Service, Grocery Store Workers
  • Housing Construction
  • Information Technology and Communication
  • Institutions of Higher Education Faculty and Staff
  • Legal, Mail Carriers (USPS and Private)
  • Manufacturing
  • Media
  • Officials Needed to Maintain Continuity of Government
  • Other Public Health Workers
  • Police, Fire, Hazmat Workers
  • Public Safety (Engineers)
  • Public Transit Workers, Transportation and Logistics, Water and Wastewater.

Wilson said on Twitter that it’s unclear when the city will move into phase 1C but said he suspects it “will be a while.”

Photo via CDC/Unsplash

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Morning Notes

Black History Museum Asks for Help in Conservation Effort — “The Alexandria Black History Museum (BHM) is asking for help from the community. The museum hopes to apply for a conservation grant from the Virginia Association of Museums (VAM)… From Jan. 11 through 20, people can vote for their favorite artifact on the top ten list. The artifact with the most votes will win the People’s Choice Award and $1,000 toward conservation work on the artifact.” [Zebra]

Nothing Bundt Cakes to Open on Duke Street — “Nothing Bundt Cakes is opening its first Alexandria location. The bakery will open at 4553 Duke St., replacing a Subway sandwich shop in the Shoppes at Foxchase in Alexandria’s West End.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

Goodwin House to Receive Second Dose of Vaccine This Month — “375 people were vaccinated last month and are awaiting their second dose on January 19. Bagley hopes they’ll vaccinate more people once Governor Ralph Northam initiates Phase 1B, which will allow CVS and other pharmacies to distribute vaccinations.” [WDMV]

Alive! Feeds Hundreds at Food Distribution Event — “Alive!, an Alexandria, faith-based community organization, held its first large scale food distribution drives of the New Year.” [WJLA]

Northam Says Year-Round School is Possibility — “In a press conference this week, Governor Ralph Northam said, ‘One of the things we are entertaining is perhaps year-round schooling for the next year. Perhaps adding increased days this summer. To really help our kids get caught up.'” [Zebra]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Police are investigating another shots fired call at 5700 Eliot Court — barely a block away from a shooting last week — even as the police department prepares for a presentation at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Police said on social media that the police responded to a shots fired call at Eliot Court in the West End at around 11 p.m. last night (Thursday). Senior Public Information Officer Amanda Paga told ALXnow that multiple shell casings were found at the scene but there was no property damage.

There is no info on how many shots were fired or suspects.

An update on the shots fired investigation is docketed for the city manager update at the Tuesday, Jan. 12, City Council meeting.

Image via Google Maps

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For the second straight budget cycle, the pandemic is rearing its ugly head in Alexandria.

In a virtual town hall last night, Mayor Justin Wilson offered a look at the behind-the-scenes back and forth between local, state and federal agencies as the city works to get some assistance to help cover an estimated $41 million shortfall.

Last year, the city was the recipient of $23.9 million in CARES Act funding, which was put to use in things like rent and food assistance and couldn’t be used to cover other city expenses. The new federal assistance does not include local or state support, though, Wilson said, though he is hopeful a Democratic majority in the Senate can help to amend that.

“The Heroes Act adopted by house did include $87 million for Alexandria, which would have nearly replaced our estimated loss of revenue that we had assumed because of COVID,” Wilson said.

Last April, the pandemic forced Council to approve a drastically reduced Fiscal Year 2021 budget.

Beyond the immediate budget gap, concerns linger that it could be several years before the city’s economy fully recovers from a pandemic that permanently shut down businesses across the city and led to record unemployment that is gradually returning to normal levels.

“Right now, we’re facing a $41 million gap in the budget we will be working to adopt this spring,” Wilson said. “It’s a significant gap for us and we have more concerns down the line.”

Image via YouTube

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