Alexandria, VA

The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) is planning to sponsor COVID-19 testing later this week.

“ARHA will be sponsoring COVID-19 testing for residents of Ladrey (300 Wythe Street) and Annie B. Rose (399 Pendleton Street) buildings on Thursday, July 16, from 8-11 a.m. in the parking lot behind the building,” said Rose Williams Boyd, spokesperson for the organization.

Both Annie B. Rose House and Ladrey Senior Highrise Apartments are senior housing locations.

The testing is part of a joint partnership between ARHA, the City, the Alexandria Health Department and Neighborhood Health. Local seniors have been particularly vulnerable to the virus, with all but one of the city’s 57 deaths being locals over 50. The majority of those deaths have been in long term care facilities.

Boyd said there will be no cost for the testing with 275 kits available. If more testing is needed, Boyd said it could be continued on Saturday, July 18.

While there was early frustration from residents at some of the measures ARHA took to isolate residents in the early stages of the pandemic, some have since praised the organization for decisive action in response to COVID-19.

Photo via ARHA

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There are a number of planned demonstrations against police brutality and racism this week in Alexandria, including one tomorrow that had originally been a protest against rent.

The planned protest for rent cancellation at Southern Towers has been realigned to focus on longstanding racial inequity issues being protested nationwide.

“The planned action was originally focused on rent cancellation, as well as bringing demands of extended unemployment pay and health care to the Capitol,” said Sarah Jacobson, lead organizer with UNITE HERE Local 23. “Tomorrow’s action reflects the national outrage at the deaths of George Floyd, Tony McDade, David McAtee and James Scurlock and too many other Black people killed at the hands of police.”

While many protestors gathered in person, Jacobson, said the protest will be done in a car caravan. Jacobson said the protest is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at Southern Towers.

The caravan protest follows earlier protests in favor of canceling rent for residents during the pandemic.

The city is also scheduled to hold a town hall tonight (Tuesday) from 7-8:30 p.m.

“The town hall, ‘Facing Racism. Demanding Change.’ will honor Floyd, and provide an opportunity for residents to share their voices,” the city said in a press release. “The event will feature a panel of civic leaders, including Living Legend and Activist Joyce Rawlings; Councilman John Taylor Chapman; Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings Jr.; and Alexandria youth leader Kamryn Powell. The panel will be moderated by the City’s Race and Social Equity Officer, Jaqueline Tucker. Community breakout sessions will be held during the town hall to address next steps.”

Another program called NoVa Vigils to #EndWhiteSilence is scheduled tonight at 6 p.m. outside the Alexandria Police Station at 3600 Wheeler Avenue.

“Demonstrators bringing signs and practicing social distancing will be at two police headquarters in Alexandria and Fairfax County to hold vigils marking a week of action to end white silence,” said the organizers, Showing Up for Racial Justice Northern Virginia. “The demonstration is to show that George Floyd’s and Breonna Taylor’s murderers were not just rogue cops, but they represent underlying conditions of racist policing that manifest here in northern Virginia as well, as they did in the case of Natasha McKenna.”

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Local indoor play facility Scramble may be closed, but the facility is offering story time every Tuesday and Thursday to help families quarantined as home get through the pandemic together.

The books are live-read at 11 a.m. and include small craft activities that participants can do at home.

Late last year, Laurence Smallman, owner of Scramble, told ALXnow his focus is not just to offer physical activity but providing them with access to educational resources and intellectual stimulation.

Recent stories have included books like The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse and Build Me a Home.

The storytime also helps out the business while its doors are closed. Each story time reading also includes a link to the book on the Scramble website, where they can purchase the book or others fitting various themes.

Scramble is also offering virtual bedtime stories every Friday at 7 p.m.

Scramble isn’t alone in offering bedtime stories. The Alexandria Police Department is also running a virtual story time on Fridays during the pandemic at 7 p.m.

Staff photo by Vernon Miles

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The Potomac Yard development process is moving forward, with the in-person meetings now switched to virtual sessions with the city hosting a second town hall planned tomorrow (Wednesday).

At a meeting Wednesday from 7-8:30 p.m., the Virginia Tech Foundation and JBG SMITH are scheduled to give a public update on the project and describe plans for the southern group of buildings. Those are the office and residential buildings closest to the Potomac Yard Metro station.

The public can join the meeting at 7 p.m. and submit questions or comments to [email protected]

Designs for buildings in Potomac Yard have been trickling out over the last few weeks as designs for the new district near the Potomac Yard Metro station is finalized.

Further developments about the project, including the Coordinated Development District plan and the infrastructure site plan, are planned to go to a city council public hearing in June.

Rendering via City of Alexandria

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Social distancing got you feeling a little stir crazy? A few Alexandria businesses are hosting quarantine-friendly online activities to help keep you connected to your neighbors and favorite local establishments.

Hops N Shine, a Del Ray bar with an ongoing fundraiser for laid-off employees, is hosting a virtual beer tasting on Thursday (April 30). The tasting, hosted by Hops N Shine on Facebook live, will feature the Ashburn-based Old Ox Brewing Company and four beers — the Festival, Hoppy Place, and two more yet to be named.

To participate, Hops N Shine encourages viewers to join in by buying their own selection.

Lost Boy Cider is hosting a similar happy hour discussion every Wednesday at 4 p.m. with industry insiders discussing the state and taste of all things cider. This week Jay Brandish, retired Navy veteran and founder of Red Clay Ciderworks in North Carolina, is the featured guest.

For those with children, there are other youth-friendly activities sponsored by the city. The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria is hosting a weekly animal talk on Saturday mornings, from 9:30-10 a.m. The series is aimed at elementary school-aged children and helps teach them about crafts and careers related to caring for animals.

The Alexandria Police Department is also running a weekly virtual storytime at 7 p.m. on Fridays. This week’s book is Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle.

Image via Lost Boy Cider/Facebook

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A planned screening of a film covering the history of the Torpedo Factory is being turned into an online viewing party tonight.

“A Brush with History” is a film by local director Nora Kubach about the Torpedo Factory’s 100-year history.

“The Art Center is an early example of placemaking in the country,” the Torpedo Factory Art Center said in a Facebook post, “a structure that went from making weapons of war, to now producing meaningful works of art by inspirational artists, and serving its community in a different way.”

The online premiere is tonight (Thursday) at 7 p.m. and will be followed by a live Q&A session with the filmmakers and participants in the movie. The event listing said viewers will be able to write in questions and have them answered during the video chat.

A link to the video page is not available yet but will be posted on the Facebook page.

The Art Center itself, meanwhile, remains closed until at least May 18.

Photo via Torpedo Factory Art Center/Facebook

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Alexandria’s farmers’ markets are adapting to the new coronavirus restrictions with a new Market To-Go program.

Under the new system, visitors will browse vendors online and place orders, then pick them up at the market with minimal social interaction.

“[With] the Farmers’ Market To-Go program, residents can access fresh food from their favorite vendors while also maintaining social distancing,” Leah Spellman, Director of Communications for Visit Alexandria. “Customers will browse a list of participating vendors online then contact the vendor to place their orders. Pick-ups will take place during Alexandria’s regular farmers’ market locations during their regular times.”

The new market is formed from a partnership with Visit Alexandria, which will oversee the new web page showcasing participating vendors.

“From fresh produce delivered straight from local farms to specialty items like made-from-scratch gluten-free empanadas, visit the Farmers Market To-Go web page for a full list of pick-up offerings,” Spellman said. “Vendors will be added to the web page daily.”

Customers are asked to keep six feet apart from vendors during interactions and to wash all purchased food before eating it.

There are four farmers markets participating, from the large Old Town one to a few smaller ones across the city:

  • Old Town Farmers Market: Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon at Market Square (301 King Street)
  • Del Ray Farmers Market: Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon at the corner of East Oxford & Mount Vernon Avenues
  • Old Town North Farmers Market: Thursdays from 3-7 p.m. at Montgomery Park (901 North Royal Street)
  • Four Mile Run Farmers & Artisans Market: Sundays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. (4109 Mt Vernon Avenue)

The only vendor currently registered at the last two markets is Ana S Twist, a healthy food vendor with a focus on Ecuadorian cuisine.

The Farmers Market To-Go program is the newest part of a suite of new features from Visit Alexandria called ALX at Home. The group was praised by the City Council at a meeting earlier this week for rapidly redeploying their resources to focus on social distance-friendly marketing.

“[ALX at Home] allows residents and visitors to experience Alexandria’s restaurants, shops and attractions from the comfort of their own home,” Spellman said. “From care packages and quarantine kits you can order online to curbside pickup at your favorite restaurants, ALX at Home features more than 100 ways to support the independent businesses that make Alexandria so special.”

Photo courtesy Visit Alexandria

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Annual art exhibition March150 is coming back to the Torpedo Factory Art Center (105 N. Union Street) this Saturday with a celebration of the show’s 10 year anniversary.

The multimedia exhibit in the Target Gallery of the building will feature over 200 works from artists in Alexandria and throughout the D.C. area. An opening reception is scheduled for this coming Saturday, March 14.

“Emerging and established artists are shown together displayed a wide variety of styles and media,” the Torpedo Factory said in a Facebook post. “The only requirement to be on view in the exhibition is that artists use the gallery-supplied 10″ x 10″ panel. All work in the show is priced at $150.”

General admission tickets are $30, or $50 for VIP access.

VIP attendees will get early access, starting at 6 p.m., with the gallery opening for all guests at 7 p.m. Hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine are planned to be served at the party. Activities include an art-themed photobooth, interactive art-making, and a raffle. A “glow in the dark themed” dance party following the gallery is scheduled for 9-10 p.m.

Photo via Torpedo Factory Art Center/Facebook

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After a season as a wintery wonderland, Cameron Run Regional Park is coming back this weekend with springtime activities.

Starting on Saturday (March 14) at 10 a.m., the park (4001 Eisenhower Avenue) will reopen with mini-golf, batting cages and more.

“Come join us as we kick off the Spring season with some outdoor fun!” the park management said in a Facebook post. “Enjoy the batting cages, mini-golf, and climb around Paradise Play starting Sunday, March 14th.”

There will also be opportunities to learn about the local wildlife at the park from 3-6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Those looking forward to the reopening of the Great Waves Waterpark will have to wait for Memorial Day weekend (May 23).

Photo via NOVA Parks

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Carlyle barbecue joint Sweet Fire Donna’s is celebrating its six-year anniversary with a ’60s throwback party.

The party is scheduled tomorrow (Saturday) from 6 p.m.-midnight at Sweet Fire Donna’s (510 John Carlyle Street).

“We’re turning back time to celebrate our 6th year anniversary!” the restaurant said on an event post. “Pull out your swankiest sixties garb and get ready to groove. We’ll also be featuring a Tap Takeover with Two Roads Brewery!

Sweet Fire Donna’s is a barbecue restaurant that offers a selection of BBQ meat along with classic southern sides like cornbread and key lime pie.

The posting also noted that prizes will be awarded for the best ’60s costumes.

Photo via Sweet Fire Donna’s/Facebook

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You don’t have to go across the Potomac to enjoy cherry blossom season.

Alexandria’s pink and white blossoms are not as famous and centrally-located as those in D.C., but local tourism group Visit Alexandria put together a list of several cherry blossoms themed events around town.

One is a Cherry Blossom Pop-Up History Tour with Discover Alexandria. Two pop-up tours are planned during peak bloom week, with specifics set to be announced one week in advance. Admission to the tour is $15 per adult, or $8 for children and $12 for military, veterans and students.

“Discover Alexandria’s Cherry Blossom Pop-Up History Tour will occur twice during the week of peak bloom,” Visit Alexandria said in a press release. “The 75-minute tour offers the best of both worlds, combining local history with great cherry blossom sightseeing.”

The National Park Service announced earlier this week that peak bloom for the Tidal Basin’s Yoshino cherry trees was projected as March 27-30.

The tours are scheduled to depart from the Alexandria Visitor Center at 221 King Street.

Other local events include:

  • Cherry Blossom Jubilee at the Torpedo Factory Art Center (March 28): The annual festival is a celebration of cherry blossoms through art, with hands-on activities, performances, and art available on all three levels of the Torpedo Factory Art Center.
  • Alexandria Tastes of Spring Cherry Blossom Food Crawl (April 5): A self-guided food tour of Old Town. Tasting tickets can be bought online with $65 for four tastings, $80 for six tastings, and $96 for eight tastings. Each ticket is valid for a sampling at several locations throughout Old Town.
  • Blossom Ball at Gadsby’s Tavern Museum (May 2): A Regency-era ball with live music, English country dancing, a cash bar and seasonal desserts. Tickets are $45 and Regency or cocktail attire is encouraged. Visit Alexandria suggested in a press release that those not familiar with the style of dancing should complete at least one full lesson before attending.

If you do want to leave Alexandria, there are a few options for cherry blossom related choices. Starting March 1, the water taxi from the Alexandria Marina (1 Cameron Street) to The Wharf will start running at 6:40 a.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. on weekends, with $13 one-way tickets and $21 round-trip tickets.

There is also an electric bike tour that runs from Old Town to the cherry blossoms along East Potomac Park. The trips depart at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. with $69 admission per bike.

Image via Visit Alexandria

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Mark your calendars, the Del Ray community is planning to open some of the neighborhood’s iconic homes and well-kept gardens to the public.

On May 9, the Del Ray Citizens Association is scheduled to host the 2020 Del Ray House and Garden Tour. There are 10 homes on the list this year, ranging from a cottage that was one of the first homes built in Del Ray.

The home receiving top billing this year is a renovated American Foursquare — a type of house popular for middle-class families in the beginning of the 20th century and associated with the Colonial Revival movement, according to the Del Ray Neighborhood Residential Pattern Book.

Tickets for the tour go on sale starting Wednesday, March 11 for $30, with the price going up starting April 1. The biennial event raises funding for The Scholarship Fund of Alexandria, with a goal of raising $1,000. Any proceeds beyond the scholarship go towards the beautification of the neighborhood and public art.

“The tour is a wonderful reflection of Del Ray’s diversity as well as an opportunity to see the work of local architects and builders,” a press release for the event said. “Join us to get an inside look at living in Del Ray and to gather ideas on paint colors, tiles, decorative hardware, bath and kitchen fixtures, and much, much more.”

The tour is self-guided and runs from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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