Alexandria, VA

What a week it’s been in Alexandria.

The pandemic seemed inescapable this week, and much of our coverage was related to dealing with the coronavirus.

Five more fatalities related to the virus were reported by the Virginia Department of Health, and the death toll now stands at 67. There are now or have been 3,671 cases in the city since the first case was reported in March.

The week also began with our coverage of City Council’s passage of a face mask ordinance requiring residents to wear masks in public places. While there is no fine for noncompliance, the new law takes effect on October 1.

There was some heartwarming news. City residents helped a Del Ray business owner raise more than $10,000 after her house burned down on September 12.

We also covered the Little Theatre of Alexandria’s newest COVID-friendly in-person show. Additionally, Alexandria restauranteur Bill Blackburn participated in a COVID-19 vaccine trial this week, and Alexandria resident Ann Samuels safely celebrated her 100th birthday.

The Alexandria City School Board also accepted a name change proposal for Matthew Maury Elementary School. Now with the virtual school year in full swing, we also published a poll on how folks think school is going so far and saw mixed results.

Here are our top stories this week in Alexandria.

  1. ‘Lipstick On A Pig’: BAR Rejects Heritage Old Town Proposal
  2. Just Listed in Alexandria
  3. ThePoopBrothers: ‘Fearless’ Del Ray Kids Created New Business Over Summer Break
  4. UPDATED: Flooding Reported in Parts of City After Heavy Rain
  5. Man Struck by Bullet While Driving in West End
  6. Alexandria Hospital Nurse Wins First-Ever Nightingale Award
  7. Juvenile Arrested After Shots Fired in Arlandria
  8. City Council Passes Mask Ordinance, and There’s No Fine for Noncompliance
  9. New Alexandria Boxing Club Works Out Every Sunday at Jones Point Park
  10. Monte Durham’s New Hair Salon is Opening Saturday in Old Town
  11. Alexandrian Ann Samuels Turns 100 Years Old

Have a safe weekend!

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Bill Blackburn is feeling fine after participating in the second round of a COVID-19 clinical trial.

The Alexandria restauranteur says he felt a sense of duty by being one of 30,000 people tested in the Phase 3 study to see whether mRNA-1273 can boost immune systems and create antibodies to kill the coronavirus.

“I was motivated by helping the greater good,” the 42-year-old Blackburn said. “Somebody has to do this.”

Blackburn’s wife works in clinical trials and signed him up.

“I told her I’d love to be involved in that, that I’d be a guinea pig,” Blackburn said. “I got a phone call about six weeks ago and they did some phone screening about my health, my weight, occupation and my lifestyle. Then they called me the next day and said that I met the profile for this study.”

Blackburn, who is a co-owner of the Homegrown Restaurant Group, twice drove out to Meridian Clinical Research in Rockville to get injections. Half of the participants received a placebo.

Dr. Brandon Essink, principal investigator and medical director at Meridian, called the study one of the most “important and impactful clinical research studies in our lifetime.”

Blackburn says he’s feeling healthy, and isn’t experiencing any side effects, which include headaches, swelling glands, fevers and joint pain.

“They call me twice a week, and I have an app on my phone where they send me messages to check my temperature and other things,” Blackburn said. “I am feeling 100% normal. I am experiencing no side effects.”

Courtesy photo

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October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and all next month, the Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services will light up City Hall (301 King Street) purple in honor of domestic violence victims.

“It’s really beautiful to see,” said City Hall engineer Matt Wise. “We lit up City Hall in purple at the end of August through September 1 to raise awareness of substance use disorders, and next month we’re going to honor and raise awareness for domestic violence victims.”

Last year, there was a candlelight vigil at Market Square to honor the 22 people in Alexandria who have lost their lives to acts of domestic violence since the mid-2000s. The annual event is hosted by the city’s Domestic Violence Intervention Project, and is being put off this year because of the pandemic.

“COVID-19 is having a dramatic effect on our daily lives,” states the city’s Domestic Violence Program. “During a crisis like this, the risk for intimate partner and domestic violence increases and may happen at higher rates. Survivors are also at an increased risk for violence and may need additional service.”

The city’s Sexual Assault Center and Domestic Violence Program is open, and hotlines are available 24/7 at 703-684-7273 [Sexual Assault Hotline] or 703-746-4911 [Domestic Violence Hotline]. Online support is also available with The National Sexual Assault Online Hotline.

City Hall was previously lit up at the end of August in recognition of International Opioid Awareness Day.

To raise awareness and understanding of addiction prevention and treatment on International Overdose Awareness Day,…

Posted by Department of Community & Human Services, City of Alexandria, VA on Sunday, August 30, 2020

Photo via DCHS/Facebook

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Twice a year, an engineer checks the clock mechanism at the Alexandria City Hall clock tower to make sure everything is running on time. Above the machine sits is a relic of a bygone age — a cast iron bell that has been silent for decades.

The clock tower is accessible via a small door next to City Council Chambers.

According to a report from the National Park Service, the bell first rang on New Year’s Eve – Jan 1, 1873. An old bell hammer sits in one of the corners of the clock tower.

“I think these days the bell ringing can be done electronically,” said Bill Miner, the city’s division chief for capital improvement projects, who led ALXnow on a tour of the bell tower.

Inside the tower there is 50-year-old graffiti from construction workers who put in steel reinforcement beams in the 1960s.

The inscription on the bell reads, “Steeple, clock and bell presented to the City of his nativity by an esteemed citizen. Alexandria, VA, A.D. 1872.”

The bell was made by the Meneely Bell Foundry in 1871, according to the Office of Historic Alexandria. The New York-based foundry made bells from 1826 until 1952.

Photos via Office of Historic Alexandria and ALXnow

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The Old Dominion Boat Club (ODBC) will present the Alexandria Planning Commission in November (Nov. 5) with a plan to build a floating wharf and pier outside its clubhouse at 0 Prince Street.

“The floating pier will provide facilities for transient boat mooring for larger boats due to the water depth along its expanse and for rowing crew shells and chase boats either for planned events/regattas or emergency needs,” according to an application for the special use permit.

The application continues, “The ODBC also proposes to add a floating wharf over the shallow water in its riparian rights to allow and support current and new uses that include small boat mooring and launch and retrieval of crew shells and kayaks to support increased recreational use of the Potomac River.”

The total square footage for the project is 2,688 square feet, and the club noted in its application that it will remove the floating structures if the city needs the space for flood mitigation infrastructure improvements.

“The proposed new floating wharf at the site would encourage increased recreation use of the site and support ODBC water dependent uses,” notes the application.

The city issued a certificate of occupancy for the ODBC Clubhouse at 0 Prince Street in 2017. The club was previously located at the foot of King Street. That property was exchanged with the city for a number of nearby lots downriver in order to build a public walkway and make flood mitigation improvements.

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The second round of the Alexandria Back to Business (ALX B2B) grant program opens at the end of September, and $2.4 million is available for qualifying small businesses and nonprofits to cope with financial losses related to the pandemic.

“The program criteria for Round Two has been expanded so additional types of businesses and nonprofit childcare providers will be eligible to apply for a grant,” according to the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, which is receiving the applications. “Grants will be awarded in amounts ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 depending on the number of employees working for the business.”

City Council approved the funding at its meeting on Tuesday, September 8. The application period will start on Wednesday, September 30, at 8 a.m. and end on October 5 at noon. All submissions must be made online and businesses that received a grant in round one are ineligible.

To qualify for a grant, businesses must meet the following criteria:

  • 25% negative revenue impact attributable to the COVID-19 health emergency
  • Licensed business in the City of Alexandria
  • Physical location within the City of Alexandria
  • In operation as of March 14, 2020
  • For-profit small business
  • Any entity (for-profit or nonprofit) that provides full-day or part-day childcare services to children 0-13 years of age and is licensed or regulated by a local ordinance or state licensing body
  • Business is current on all local business taxes or is on a payment plan with the City
  • Not currently involved in business bankruptcy proceedings
  • Intend to remain operating in Alexandria through December 31, 2020
  • Between 0 – 100 employees
  • Locally owned and operated
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Kittens Acadia and Archie are best friends who have spent most of the lives together and need a new home.

The pair came to the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria in need of medical treatment. Archie had had an infection that badly damaged his eye, requiring it to be removed, and Acadia had an ear infection that was fixed with medication, although it has left her with a bit of a head tilt.

“While Acadia is the more outgoing of the duo, once he gets to know you, Archie is a sweet cuddle bug who loves to pounce and toys and nestle in laps,” said Gina Hardter, spokesperson for the AWLA.

If you’re interested in learning more or scheduling time to meet the cats virtually or in person, visit AlexandriaAnimals.org/Adopt-By-Appointment.

Photos via AWLA

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Members of the Alexandria Board of Architectural Review didn’t mince words against the proposed development of the Heritage Old Town.

“Why are you asking for our opinion if what we get back isn’t actually changed?” BAR Chair Christine Roberts said at the September 2 meeting. “It’s just more lipstick on a pig.”

The plan to demolish four 1970s-era buildings on the southeast Old Town property were sent back to the developer in June to give the community more time for feedback. The plan for the property, which is situated in the Old Town Historic District, was then rejected earlier this month by the board after members said that changes made to the proposal were not improved upon.

New York-based architect Asland Capital Partners, was heavily criticized by board members for designing a complex that does not fall in line with the character of Old Town. The project, which borders along South Patrick and North Washington streets,  includes the addition of 777 apartments at structures up to seven stories tall, and includes 195 affordable housing units.

Board Member Lynn Neihardt said that the architect’s buildings don’t belong in Old Town, and that the city is getting poorly designed buildings “under the guise of providing affordable housing.” She also said that there is an underlying feeling that the property doesn’t need to fit within design guidelines because it’s not in an area populated by tourists.

“We need a feeling of smaller buildings in the front with maybe taller heights behind, which has been done over and over again, very successfully in D.C. and other parts of Old Town,” Neihardt said. “The buildings, to me, speak Ballston, Crystal City, but not Old Town. They’re nothing like Robinson Landing and the other excellent examples of buildings that fit into their context.”

BAR Member John Sprinkle objected to the mass, height, scale and general architecture of the proposal.

“I gotta tell you, you got to go back to the drawing board,” Sprinkle said. “It doesn’t fly in this city.”

The project will go to the Planning Commission and City Council in February 2021.

Images via City of Alexandria

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The Alexandria Board of Architectural Review will consider a permit to demolish/capsulate the Regal Potomac Yard movie theater, which closed in March due to the pandemic and never reopened.

The one-story theater first opened in 1998, and “is an example of a typical multi-screen movie theater built during the late 1990’s throughout the region,” according to a city staff report.

In its place will go a pump station that is part of Virginia Tech’s massive Innovation Campus development, and will handle sanitary sewer flows for Virginia Tech’s Sewer to Wastewater Energy Exchange system.

As previously reported, this and next month, the BAR and the Planning Commission will receive half a dozen plans for the 1.9 million square-foot mixed use North Potomac Yard development.

The area was a rail yard from 1906 until 1989, and the staff report stipulates that all eventual construction “will stop on the site if any buried structural remains (wall foundations, wells, privies, cisterns, etc.) or concentrations of artifacts are discovered during development,” and that a city archaeologist will need to record the finds.

The plan will go to City Council this fall for approval.

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The pandemic has sure been stressful, and there’s a new online program in Alexandria that was founded by former U.S. navy SEALs to help folks become mentally tough.

Chriss Smith, Jr., who also owns Trident Crossfit (410 Calvert Avenue), was a member of the SEALs for a dozen years, and has gone from toning bodies to toning minds. Smith has 12 strategies to help customers not only cope with stress, but to thrive under pressure. In June, he and a number of former SEALs, intelligence officers and neuroscientists launched Trident Mindset, a step-by-step year-long mental toughness program.

“We define mental toughness is the ability to be calm, effective and happy during any situation,” Smith told ALXnow. “Whether you’re experiencing high stress, fatigue, pain, setback, failure, loss, any type of challenge, we think that to become mentally tough is to be able to be calm, effective and happy during adversity.”

The program, which costs $39 per month for a regular membership and $499 for an intense mentorship experience, is intended to make clients resilient to fear and stress with 12-step program that includes establishing micro goals, breathing control, stoicism, meditation, mindfulness and visualization.

“Most people fail because they let they listen to that voice in the back of their head saying, ‘Stop, this hurts. This is suffering. I don’t want to go any further. I don’t do the hard things in life,'” Smith said. “That voice is very loud for them. Mental Toughness gives you an opportunity to quiet that voice and listen to the voice inside that says you can do tough things, you can accomplish many things.”

Smith said that his program is intended to create a long lasting change in his clients.

“”We’re not about making you feel good for five minutes while you’re using the program, and then going back to normal life, ” Smith said. “We’re about creating a profound paradigm shift in the way that you view and relate to challenge. Now you’re someone who thrives during challenge rather than someone who becomes bothered by it and anxious and overwhelmed.”

Stress is decreasing your team's performance, happiness, and unity. Take action to combat workplace stress and unlock…

Posted by Trident Mindset on Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Image via Trident Mindset’Facebook

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Ann Samuels never thought in her wildest dreams that she’d make it to 100. The Alexandrian has lived in the same house for more than 70 years, and on September 15, she celebrated the important milestone with her closest family members.

“I take each day one day at a time and enjoy each of them, because it very well could be my last day,” Samuels told ALXnow. “That’s the way I feel about life. And that’s the way I think like you should enjoy everything that God lets you see here.”

Samuels was born on September 15, 1920 in Charleston, South Carolina. The country was still feeling the aftereffects of World War I, Woodrow Wilson was finishing his last term in office and the 18th Amendment outlawing alcohol went into effect. She was raised in a family of 12 children, four of whom are still living.

“Today, which marks the occasion of this century celebration, is a special event for all of us,” Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson wrote Samuels.

The celebration was small, but included her nieces and some neighbors.

“She’s a gentle general,” said Samuels’ niece Juanita Hampton. “But she gets respect for being the oldest sister.”

Samuels worked for Marriott for 45 years, and never had children. She never got into drinking or smoking, even though she attempted to fit in by trying smoking one time. She was married to Robert Samuels for more than 50 years until he passed away in 2006.

“Smoking was the popular thing to do, and I tried it once, but it didn’t work for me,” she said. “I never in my wildest dreams, but somewhere along the way I figured I did something right.”

Samuels has a simple philosophy, to enjoy every day like it’s her last.

“You choose what you want to do with your life,” she said. “You can be unhappy about anything, but then you can be happy about anything. And I made myself a happier person. No matter what every day is a blessed day.”

Courtesy photos

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It’s a tough time for many businesses around the city, but there are also opportunities.

We a look through Alexandria listings of the website BizBuySell and found a number of businesses for sale. Many of the businesses are restaurants, which have taken a significant hit in the last several months due to the pandemic.

The website aggregates numerous business sale listings. The names of the businesses and their locations are generally left out of the listing.

Reasons for selling, when provided, typically do not mention economic hardship, but more often involve the owner retiring or not having time to actively manage the business.

Here are some that are currently listed in Alexandria:

  1. Fitness Center/Personal Training Gym — “This is a franchised 24 hour fitness center, located in one of the most lucrative areas of the country. Just down the road from the new Amazon HQ, this business has been profitable for more than 10 years. If you’ve ever wanted to get into the fitness business, this will be your best opportunity. Second nearby location also available.”
  2. Absentee-Owner Gourmet Pizza & Italian With Loyal Following — “This high-visibility restaurant has long been a destination and neighborhood favorite with locals – it continues to enjoy a following as a gourmet take-out option for pizza and all Italian cuisine favorites. Purchased in 2019 as a decades-old chef-owned establishment, the new owner invested in a complete turn around, nearly doubling sales and converting the business model to absentee ownership. Owner has refrained from applying for PPP or other SBA loans so that new owner might be able to take advantage of those opportunities.”
  3. Beautiful Hair & Nail Spa for Sale/ Price reduced — “Great opportunity!!! Serious Inquiries only. Beautiful and well established Hair & Nail Spa for Sale in a very busy shopping center. Seller is retiring after many successful years in the business. Beautiful & Very efficiently designed. 6 years old Spa. Established, loyal customers. Reasonable rent & excellent location. 10 Hair stations, 5 Dryers, 3 Shampoo stations, 8 Manicure Tables, 8 Pedicure chairs, 3 Waxing rooms, 2 Facial Rooms, 1 Body scrub. There is plenty of room to expand. Room to grow by improving social media and other marketing and adding massage service.”
  4. Restaurant & Bar Approved for Hookah MRB VA 943 — “HOOKAH CAN BE ADDED. APPROVED BY LANDLORD. Profitable restaurant, bar & lounge for sale in Alexandria. Hookah will drastically increase sales and profits. Currently patrons can enjoy live bands, dancing, DJs and karaoke nightly. With a capacity of 370, this 2 level establishment is perfect for private events, birthdays or work outings. The first floor is separated into two rooms with a dining area, bar and dance floor with stage/DJ booth while the 2nd room has a large bar, DJ booth and dance floor. The top floor is used for the current owners office, as well as storage, bathrooms and employee lounge.”
  5. Unique Restaurant for Sale in VA — “Unique Restaurant- 9,970 SF. Price Reduction. This business must be visited to be appreciated. It offers 9,970 sf with 2 full dining rooms (70 seats in each dining room) and 3 bars (100 bar seats in total). It is one of the few locations in the area that can accommodate multiple, large, separate dining events (private parties, fundraisers, etc. There is a huge kitchen with new compressors on all refrigeration, 3 walk-ins and a large basement for storage. They are currently open 6 days. This year sales are averaging 48-51K/wk with consistent growth ($2.7 mil. in gross sales projected for this year) with a net profit of approx. $265,000.00.”
  6. Sandwich Shop/Deli Alexandria Va — “I have a client who is ready to retire and has a sandwich shop/deli ready to sell. NO BROKERS. Substantial net positive cash flow after 31 years in business. Excellent old town location. Extended Lease. Business currently operates 6 days per week for breakfast and lunch until 6 so opportunity to extend hours and days under current SUP. No alcohol but license possible. Delivery and growing catering business add to profits. Accountant attested books. Must have a friendly personality to be successful. Employees likely to stay. NDA required for confidentiality. Great opportunity for hard working entrepreneur.”
  7. Mexican Restaurant and Bar — “This Profitable Mexican Restaurant for Sale has been open and operating profitably for eight years. The location is on a high traffic road and surrounded by residential. This is a turnkey situation on a restaurant that has been grossing in excess of $840,000 annually with profits to an absentee owner of $80,000 annually. Nice full service bar. Outdoor Seating!! Great opportunity for a new on hand owner/operator to take this business to the next level. “
  8. 5 Days Open Deli in office Complex — “Italian gourmet deli sandwich shop running 5 days (7AM ~9PM). Nestled in a well known office and residential complex.”
  9.  Established & Well-Known Hair Salon in Old Town Alexandria — “Great opportunity to own a well-known hair salon that has been established for over 30 years in Old Town Alexandria. The business is ideally located on a prominent thoroughfare with excellent street visibility. The salon owners have done an excellent job building a successful salon with reliable revenue and cash flow over the years. There is a stable client base, but there is also plenty of room to grow and expand the business.”
  10. Asian Restaurant and Sushi Bar for Sale — “Established Business for Sale. Owner is looking to retire from business. All equipment is owned and in good condition, except the dishwasher is leased. Asking price is negotiable, send your offers!”
  11. Specialty Gift & Souvenir Boutique in the Heart of Old Town Alexandria — “Unique opportunity to own a specialty gift and souvenir shop in the heart of the Old Town Alexandria. The boutique is located in a high traffic part of Old Town and has been a destination shopping destination to both locals and tourists for decades.”

See more Alexandria listings here.

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