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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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The Alexandria City Council, on Wednesday, says that Governor’s Glenn Youngkin’s proposed new policies restricting transgender bathroom and pronoun use stigmatize and undermine children, and puts their lives at risk.

In a letter to the Virginia Department of Education, Council backed the position of Alexandria City Public Schools to essentially ignore Youngkin’s proposed new rules, which go into effect after a 30-day public comment period on October 27.

The Democrat-led Council said that Youngkin (a Republican) has brought Virginia into the fold of “states across the U.S. seeking to adopt discriminatory and harmful restrictions on LGBTQ+ students,” and that it undermines ACPS and contributes to “the already high number of LGBTQ+ students who attempt suicide.”

“The proposed policies issued September 16 remove protections for transgender and non-binary students in Virginia’s public schools, stigmatizing them and undermining their dignity, and the policies put vulnerable students’ lives at risk,” the city said in the letter, which was approved in Council’s Wednesday night (September 28)  meeting at City Hall.

The letter continued, “While the Governor’s policies target, demean and diminish LGBTQ+ youth, particularly transgender and non-binary students, Alexandria City leaders and community members will support, uplift, and provide a safe, nurturing environment for LGBTQ+ youth so that they can flourish.”

Last week, the city’s interim superintendent says that Youngkin’s proposal won’t be a distraction as the school system plans to continue its “gender-affirming policies.”

While students are not required to wear gender-neutral clothes, the new rules state:

  • School division employees must refer to students with the pronouns “appropriate to the sex appearing in the student’s official record”
  • “The appropriate participation” in school programs separated by sex
  • Overnight travel accommodations, locker rooms, and other intimate spaces used for school-related activities and events shall be based on sex
  • Students shall use bathrooms that correspond to his or her sex, except to the extent that federal law otherwise requires
  • Single-user bathrooms and facilities should be made available in accessible areas and provided with appropriate signage, indicating accessibility for all students

Mayor Justin Wilson said that Youngkin’s policy changes are “lawless” and not backed by education experts.

“This proposed policy is not backed by any science, by any best practice, any recommended authority on the welfare of children,” Wilson said. “This is a politically driven policy proposal, not a child-driven policy proposal.”

City Councilman Kirk McPike said that the matter cuts to the heart of the city.

“This is appropriate for the Council to weigh in,” McPike said. “We know that there are many trans students in Virginia schools, including here in Alexandria. They deserve to have their schools to be a place of safety and acceptance. I want them to know that their local elected leaders are on their side. We have your back and will never stop fighting for you.”

Council Member Canek Aguirre said that it’s “absolutely ridiculous” that the city has been put in this position.

“The irony is not lost on me,” Aguirre said. “When there’s a party (Republicans) that says they are about less government, and we consistently see that they are reaching into the furthest parts of our own homes and personal lives, it’s just absolutely disgusting to me.”

The full letter from City Council to VDOE is below the jump.

Read More

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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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Morning Notes

Kid Reporter From Alexandria Named For Scholastic Kids Press Program — “A fifth grader from Alexandria is one of 29 students around the world chosen as Kid Reporters for Scholastic.” [Patch]

It’s Friday — Rain in the evening and overnight. High of 62 and low of 54. Sunrise at 7:05 am and sunset at 6:54 pm. [Weather.gov]

Kennedy, John Warner Items On Auction Block Wednesday — “Collectibles from Jackie Kennedy’s secretary, who died earlier this year, as well items from the home of the late Sen. John Warner are up for sale.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

From Panama to Alexandria: Via Volcán — “In the City of Alexandria, there are plenty of ways – and reasons – to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, a nationally recognized month where diverse cultures and rich history are recognized and honored.” [Alexandria Times]

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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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Thousands of art lovers will have to set aside their plans this weekend, as Del Ray’s annual Art On The Avenue has been postponed due to Tropical Storm Ian.

Ian battered Florida with intensity that is now petering out and working its way up the East Coast. For Alexandria, there is 70% likelihood of rain this Saturday, and event organizers have decided not to chance a washout.

The festival will now be held on Saturday, November 12.

This is the third year in a row that Art On The Avenue has taken a hit. The 2020 festival was virtual due to the pandemic, and last year’s event was attended by thousands of people, but an unforced power outage prompted businesses along Mount Vernon Avenue to be shut down.

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A number of suspected MS-13 gang members have been arrested the last several months for allegedly selling crack/cocaine, marijuana and firing gunshots in the Arlandria area.

The suspects allegedly sold the drugs throughout the Arlandria area — and ran the operation from apartments in the 3800 block of Milan Drive and the 3800 block of Executive Avenue, according to a search warrant affidavit.

The investigation started in February, when police were notified by confidential sources of the “ongoing sale of crack cocaine and marijuana in the City of Alexandria” by “mid-to-high” ranked MS-13 gang members, according to a search warrant affidavit. Police determined that numerous suspects allegedly sold drugs in Four Mile Run Park behind the Arlandria Shopping Center and in a parking lot of a convenience store in the 3900 block of Mount Vernon Avenue.

On February 19, police discovered a suspected crack pipe and push rod on a man shortly after he entered the apartment building on Milan Drive. The man sad that “he goes (there) to buy $20 of crack cocaine at a time,” police said in the search warrant. “He advised the people inside (the apartment) would not sell to him that day because they were aware the police were outside the building.”

At around 4 p.m. on March 3, police observed a male on a bike ride up to the apartment building and go inside. He left two minutes later, and once outside, “manipulated the handlebars on his bike and pulled off the end cap and placed a small object, that appeared to be plastic, into the handlebars of his bike and replaced the end cap,” according to the search warrant affidavit.

On March 8, two juvenile suspects were arrested after allegedly firing gunshots in the air. The juveniles, who were seen regularly with a half dozen other suspects, were apprehended at the apartment in the 3800 block of Executive Avenue. One of the juvenile suspects is a person of interest in a Herndon Police Department homicide investigation, and had an active juvenile detention orders for malicious wounding and assault by mob, according to the search warrant affidavit.

In the apartment on Executive Avenue, police recovered a stolen Ruger, a .45 caliber handgun, a stolen 9 mm Glock handgun, six cell phones and a gun holster.

On April 13, police arrested another suspect — a 33-year-old man who was deported in 2019 for multiple violent crimes, according to the search warrant affidavit. The suspect was arrested after allegedly selling drugs in the outdoor basketball court behind the Arlandria Shopping Center.

On July 14, a 22-year-old suspect was arrested and released that same day on a $3,500 unsecured bond. He was charged with possession with intent to distribute Schedule I/II drugs.

The 19-year-old suspected ringleader was arrested on September 7, and is being held without bond. He has been charged with possession to distribute marijuana, selling Schedule I/II drugs and possession of a firearm with Schedule I/II drugs. He goes to court on October 11.

APD would not comment on the ongoing investigation.

Earlier this week, Police Chief Don Hayes said that the city is contending with gangs and crews of individuals committing violent acts throughout the city. The city’s Gang Prevention Community Task Force is also starting to develop an action plan to combat gang violence.

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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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Thoughts of a new home are music to Banjo’s ears.

The six-year-old male black-and-white beagle mix learns the most about the world with his nose to the ground, so don’t be surprised if he greets you starting with your shoes – and works his way up, says Animal Welfare League of Alexandria spokesperson Gina Hardter.

“Banjo is a mature gentleman who is well past his puppy stage and now focuses more on the finer things in life: leisurely walks, yummy food and the love of a good human best friend (or two or three),” Hardter said.

Schedule time to meet Banjo by visiting AlexandriaAnimals.org/Adopt-By-Appointment.

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