It’s finally here: the Potomac Yard Metro station officially opened last week.
City, state and federal officials gathered with workers who had labored on the station for years for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday.
Last year, Metro ridership was slow to climb back from the low levels of ridership during the pandemic. New reports earlier this year showed the Metro system hit a post-pandemic peak in March, though general ridership numbers remain at around half where it was pre-pandemic.
Last week, Richmond-based historic preservation non-profit Preservation Virginia called for the Town of Potomac — today part of the Del Ray neighborhood — to receive greater protection from demolition and redevelopment.
According to the group, redevelopment is bringing larger residential developments to the neighborhood and demolishing older homes:
The popularity of the neighborhood’s architecture, scale and walkability is jeopardizing the very characteristics that have attracted people to it for years. Many recent residents and developers in need of larger living space are demolishing the historic, mid-sized houses to build new, often outsized and out-of-character houses in their place. Approximately 75 houses in the Town of Potomac Historic District have been demolished in recent years, and the rate of loss is accelerating.
The solution, according to Preservation Virginia, would be to put the Town of Potomac into the same kind of architectural review board that currently oversees construction or alterations in Old Town and Parker Gray.
More broadly, Preservation Virginia noted that there are few protections for historic buildings if those aren’t under the purview of the Board of Architectural Review or on the city’s list of buildings over 100 years old — a list that’s had some notable omissions in recent years.
While the current system of identifying which buildings quality as historic has its faults, what is considered “historic” is rarely a simple question.
According to the group:
Even though the Town of Potomac Historic District is on the Virginia Landmarks Register and National Register of Historic Places, there is no local process to review, slow down, or prevent the demolition of the district’ contributing buildings. Implementing a local overlay district with guidelines and review by an architectural review board, such as in Old Town Alexandria and the Parker-Gray Historic District, could be a way to help stem tear-downs in the Town of Potomac Historic District.
Implementing a local overlay district would create a process in which the public could participate. A review process would not necessarily preclude demolition of historic buildings, but it would provide a thorough, transparent, and public process.
But even in areas like Parker-Gray and Old Town, the Board of Architectural Review has been sometimes scrutinized for being onerous. Last December, a homeowner was forced — at great expense — to remove external piping to a historic home.
The question about historic preservation also comes as the city is working through a massive overhaul to its housing zoning, called Zoning for Housing/Housing for All, that aims to change housing codes to boost housing affordability city-wide.
And so, the perhaps overly simplistic question:
The big announcement this week was the return of the Yellow Line.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) announced this week that the Yellow Line will open again on Sunday, May 7.
The line had been out of service since September as WMATA worked on repairs to the Potomac River tunnel and bridge. The reopening of the Yellow Line will provide another connection to D.C. after months of riders forced to take the Blue Line.
The reopening is another step forward for Metro in Alexandria, coming after the city was completely cut off from the Metro network for two months last year.
There’s still one major advance on the horizon, though: WMATA confirmed to ALXnow this week that the Potomac Yard station is still on track to open sometime in May.
Last week was peak bloom for most of the cherry blossoms around the D.C. region: have you gone to see them yet?
Thousands visited D.C. this past weekend and traveled along the Tidal Basin as the area was ringed with pink and white blossoms.
As with most years, the traffic in D.C. around peak bloom is notably atrocious, with visitors advised to bicycle, take public transit or a boat to go into D.C. to see the cherry blossoms.
If you're not down at Hains Point today, it's hard to describe in words what a bad job the Park Service is doing. It should absolutely be closed to cars. Instead it's a parking lot — one woman told me she had been stuck for 4 hours pic.twitter.com/7h7o61DRbD
— Ezracycle (@ezracycle) March 26, 2023
Of course, Alexandria also has its own share of cherry blossoms throughout Old Town or along the Mount Vernon Trail, though not in the same quantity as along the Tidal Basin.
As Alexandria moves forward with renaming streets Confederate leaders, the City Council is starting to take a look at some of the practical concerns that brings.
Alexandria City Council member John Chapman went on FOX 5’s DMV Zone yesterday to talk about options the city is looking at for street renaming, though solutions could vary by individual streets.
The definitive ends of the spectrum are full renaming — the way Alexandria renamed its portion of Jefferson Davis Highway to Richmond Highway — or leaving the name intact. But Chapman said there are a few options being considered in between those.
One Chapman discussed could be an “honorific name” — where the street addresses stay the same on official documents but the street signs might carry a new name. The 1000 block of Montgomery Street, for instance, is Earl F. Lloyd Way on the signs in honor of the NBA player who grew up there.
Another would be leaving a street name intact but changing the attribution, like changing Jefferson Davis Highway to honor Spider-Man Miles Morales’ bafflingly named father, Jefferson Davis. The cases where this could work are obviously limited, but the Alexandria Times noted there is already some uncertainty over which Lee Alexandria’s Lee Street honors.
“The idea is repositioning some of the names for folks who believe that’s the way to do it,” Chapman said. “For others, that doesn’t cut it, and you need to go away with the first and last name of the street. It depends on the perspective of the community members.”
Chapman said a public hearing is likely for June to review some of the first names.
While the truth is the solution may depend on a case-by-case basis, in general: which direction do you lean when it comes to renaming streets honoring Confederate leaders?
Photo via Google Maps
Earlier this week, Old Town Business debuted new plans for a Business Improvement District along King Street.
The new effort comes after multiple earlier efforts to get a BID launched for Old Town, but BID proponents highlighted at a meeting earlier this week that this effort will be different.
Scott Shaw, managing partner of Alexandria Restaurant Partners, said the new BID is both smaller in scale than earlier efforts. The BID would focus on organizing events, marketing Old Town at a regional level, and doing more “placemaking” like banners, wayfinding and outdoor programming. The BID would also be focused on King Street primarily, while previous BIDs have included extended sections along other streets in Old Town.
Shaw said the BID could also help advocate and organize to tackle Old Town’s parking problems. In particular, the BID could work with owners of underutilized parking lots or parking garages to find parking solutions for businesses — ensuring workers have lots to park in rather than parking on the street.
BID proponents say the district could help pick up on work the volunteer-led Old Town Business has been doing for commercial tenants along King Street.
The City council approved a framework last year that said a BID needs 60% of commercial property owners to sign their support. This week, BID proponents said they’ve gotten pledges of support from property owners representing 100 of the 300 parcels they’ll need to get to 60%.
But another challenge facing this BID is a tight timeline. Old Town Business leaders said they’re eager to have the BID included in this tax year, which means the BID only had until mid-March to get the support it needs to make it onto the City Council docket.
The next in-person meeting is on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at Lorien Hotel (1600 King Street) with public information sessions throughout the day.
Yesterday, the tourism bureau Visit Alexandria presented a new logo to be used in marketing for the city. Reception online was mixed.
The logo features the city’s name in lowercase with the most notable feature being a representation of a sunrise in the middle “a”.
Visit Alexandria presented the new logo at a meeting yesterday morning.
“Our new logo is sophisticated yet inviting and embraces our identity as a waterfront city that is continually evolving,” said Patricia Washington, President and CEO of Visit Alexandria, in a release. “Even as our brand changes, we’re continuing to highlight our city’s historic character both visually and in our storytelling with a bold new destination advertising campaign that will surprise people and offer potential visitors a glimpse at all there is to know and love about Alexandria.”
What do we think? https://t.co/qjpLcpU3AP
— ELLIOT IN THE MORNING (@EITMonline) January 27, 2023
I immediately got the sunrise over the Potomac inspiration (attached photo is one I took in May 2018 in Alexandria’s Founders Park), but the overall impression it gives me is meh. The old logo was dated looking but organic. This new one looks like an early effort; not yet final. pic.twitter.com/SyNpPgdBZ9
— Joe Cantwell (@cantwelljoe) January 26, 2023
What do you think of the new Alexandria logo? Is there any aspect of it you would change?
Alexandria plans to eliminate right turning on red at several intersections along Patrick and Henry street, but some of its neighbors have gone even further.
Allowing right turns on red started along the east coast in the 1970s as a fuel-saving measure and it became nationwide policy in the 80s.
Last year, D.C. announced plans to prohibit right turns on red by 2025 to improve safety in the city.
Alexandria’s current plans aren’t as ambitious: the city is looking at restricting right turns on red at several intersections in Parker-Gray and Old Town where Richmond Highway splits into Patrick and Henry Streets.
“[No turn on red] restrictions are a low-cost safety treatment that protects pedestrians by reducing collisions between pedestrians and people turning right at a red light,” the city’s website said. “These are typically coupled with signal treatments known as leading pedestrian intervals, which give pedestrians a head start into the intersection and further enhance safety.”
Should the city continue expanding “no turn on red” restrictions or stop after the Patrick and Henry street changes?
Currently, electric scooters are only allowed on city streets. While some say that rule makes sense for a place like Old Town, there has been discussion in city meetings recently that it might not be the best policy for the rest of the city.
At a Transportation Commission meeting last week, commissioners and city staff discussed giving the scooters-on-streets policy a second look.
“There are safety concerns on both sides,” said Hillary Orr, deputy director of Transportation and Environmental Services. “There are safety concerns for scooters riding on sidewalks and safety concerns for scooters not being allowed to ride on sidewalks. That’s something City Council included in a final plan and that’s in the city code.”
Whereas bicycles are allowed on sidewalks outside of certain areas, like King Street, electric scooters are prohibited from all sidewalks in Alexandria.
The area has seen multiple crashes in the region where scooter drivers were killed by car drivers. In Alexandria, a scooter driver was killed by a car driver in August. At the same time, a study from 2020 found that most scooter injuries occur on sidewalks.
“We did have a pretty robust discussion of whether scooters should be allowed to ride on sidewalks outside of Old Town,” said Commissioner Bruce Marsh. That’s something I think Council should revisit… whether it’s safer for scooters to ride on a street like Duke Street, where I’d argue it’s not safe [as compared to] a sidewalk.”
Over the next year, Alexandria will launch an ambitious affordable housing overhaul that could reshape the city’s zoning code with a renewed emphasis on affordable housing.
The overhaul is following in the footsteps of years of zoning reforms in Alexandria that aim to get developers to help produce more housing. The city is pushing for committed affordable housing units — buildings with residences set aside specifically for those making less than the area median income — to try and keep up with the loss of 14,300 market-rate affordable units over the last two decades.
In Alexandria, around 20% of households are paying over 30% of their income in housing, and around 10% are spending more than 50% on housing.
“Alexandria’s 2022 population is approximately 163,400 with approximately 71,500 households,” a report on the new overhaul said. “City and federal U.S. Census data documents 15,000 Alexandria households are paying more than the federal standard of 30 percent of income on housing. Additionally, nearly half of those households with incomes up to $50,000 are paying more than 50 percent of their income on housing.”
But affordable housing has also recently been pitted against other city interests. As the city works to make Old Town North into an arts district, trading density for a public art space is being offered in addition to trading density for affordable housing — though there are concerns that developers could choose to add arts uses in lieu of adding affordable housing.