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Thanksgiving turkey prepared in a restaurant (Flickr photo by Sarah Lou)

It’s the day before Thanksgiving and travel has already been a mess for some people.

Travelers at National Airport this morning and last night found cars backed up down Route 1, with some missing their flights.

AAA said today (Wednesday) is the worst day to travel by car as well, especially between 2-6 p.m., NBC4 reported.

There are chances of rain today, though it should be mostly clear in the afternoon, and folks in the Alexandria area should enjoy sunny weather on Thanksgiving Day.

Photo via Sarah Lou/Flickr

Royal Restaurant (image via Google Maps)

Royal Restaurant, now under new ownership, is the latest Alexandria restaurant to seek permission to swap out some of its parking space for more outdoor seating.

The restaurant is hoping to trade 10 parking spaces for 60 outdoor seats. Another 30 seats will be added to an alley on the west side of the building.

The proposal would add an elevated deck outside the building on part of the parking lot.

Royal Restaurant isn’t the first to trade parking space for outdoor seating, several restaurants have turned parking areas into outdoor seating.

Outdoor seating took off in Alexandria during Covid, and the city has been working to make it easier for restaurants to make temporary outdoor seating permanent.

Reception to the change was mixed in the comments and on social media.

“Glad the restaurant is ‘evolving’,” one commenter said. “However I loved the small-town neighborhood feel of the restaurant… The parking really helped us. My parents are in their 80s and look forward to going to Royals. The changes will be hard for them.”

“How unfortunate,” a commenter on Facebook said, “parking was a major perk at the Royal since street parking options are limited.”

But others said the trade-off was a “no-brainer” and noted that there’s often ample street parking on N. St. Asaph Street and nearby streets.

“An additional 90 seats for paying customers at the expense of only a few parking spaces is a no-brainer,” one commenter said.

Image via Google Maps

Halloween on Lee Street in Old Town, October 31, 2022. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Halloween is right around the corner and there’s no locality in the region that goes as all out for the year’s spookiest holiday as Alexandria.

There are events throughout the weekend, including multiple costume contests, and the Del Ray Halloween Parade on Sunday — noted as one of the best Halloween parades in the country.

When it comes to costumes and decorations, some fully commit while others mostly abstain. Where do you fall?

Rendering of the proposed mixed-use development at the former site of the GenOn Power Plant in Old Town North (via City of Alexandria)

Hilco Redevelopment Partners said a new mixed-use development at the former GenOn Power Plant site takes inspiration from the Renaissance Revival-style Flatiron building in New York. Reception online was mixed.

The Flatiron, built at the start of the 20th century, is an iconic design at 175 Fifth Avenue. While the proposed developments at Block B have a similarly tall and narrow shape, the Alexandria building still has strong elements of the fast-casual architecture style dominating recent development around the region.

To the untrained eye, the triangular apex also draws some comparison to the Jawa sandcrawler.

What do you think? Do you see the Flatiron resemblance?

A rendering for Pavilion 1 on block F of the WestEnd Alexandria development (via City of Alexandria)

Despite some pushback from city leaders this weekend, the name WestEnd is likely here to say for the redevelopment at the former Landmark Mall site.

City Council members said the name is a baffling choice given that the project is located within the larger West End neighborhood.

Vice Mayor Amy Jackson noted that wayfinding signs that might say “2.5 miles to the West End”, for example, might create confusion about whether that means the development or the neighborhood. City Council member Kirk McPike noted that there are organizations that already use the West End name, like the West End Business Association, and the development’s name creates an unnecessary overlap.

But others pointed out in the comments: the West End is already an overly broad term for a huge swath of the city. This Alexandria Economic Development Partnership map, for instance, lumps everything from Landmark and Mark Center to chunks of Seminary Hill into West End.

Alexandria neighborhood map (image via AEDP)

Around 57% of readers said last year they’d never call the project “WestEnd”.

At the same time, others say they never refer to that area of the city as the West End. While the poll is about the WestEnd development name, sound off in the comments if you think the West End is too broad of a neighborhood title.

Alexandria house in the fall (staff photo by Kalina Newman)

The Zoning for Housing/Housing for All proposals were finally unveiled last night and opinions have been decidedly mixed.

The plan focuses on incremental changes in zoning policy that weren’t quite as ambitious as some hoped and others feared.

The zoning changes could create more housing in industrial zones, reduce parking requirements for housing, and allow multiple residences to be built in single-family zoning.

While a similar change sparked widespread community discussion in Arlington, in Alexandria, city staff noted that the plan does not include recommendations to change lot frontage, square footage, or other restrictions to construction — making the change likely to have a less dramatic impact than might initially be supposed.

City leaders offered tepid support for the proposals and praise for the effort that went into the project. At the same time, Planning Commission Vice Chair Melissa McMahon and others expressed concern that the changes didn’t go far enough.

“I’m a tiny bit underwhelmed,” said McMahon. “That’s not a criticism, it’s more a sense of existential disappointment that the challenges we face are so large… we’re still barely moving the needle. I want to put that on the table because that’s my heartfelt reaction.”

McMahon wasn’t alone. Advocacy group YIMBYs of Northern Virginia released a statement sharing concerns that the incremental changes would be insufficient to address the city’s housing shortage.

“While our grassroots organization’s members welcome the recommendations discussed tonight, they also share the concern expressed by multiple City Council members and Planning Commissioners that these incremental proposed changes would be insufficient to address the scale of our city’s housing shortage and affordability crisis,” the organization said in a release. “We look forward to advocating for their expansion.”

At the same time, the group said they supported the reforms as a critical first step.

“Alexandria is a wonderful city, but it has become prohibitively expensive as demand for living here outpaces the supply of homes available,” said Peter Sutherland, an Alexandria Lead for
YIMBYs of Northern Virginia. “These reforms are a critical first step toward ensuring Alexandria’s future as an affordable, sustainable, and welcoming community.”

But while some advocated for the city to go further, others had previously shared concerns that the planned zoning changes could go too far. Last Tuesday, a rally led by a group called The Coalition for a Livable Alexandria gathered a crowd of supporters outside City Hall to argue against potential increases in density.

“Residents who have a different viewpoint, residents who have concerns, residents who ask tough questions are not the enemy,” said Coalition Chair Roy Byrd at the rally. “We just want to make sure we do it in the best way possible and that we work together.”

The Coalition for a Livable Alexandria could not be reached for comment.

Some at the meeting last night said the proposals struck the right balance between the status quo for zoning and significant changes.

“I have a naturally conservative attitude to fixing what isn’t broken,” said Planning Commissioner David Brown said. “This is not a radical proposal, and they would tell you maybe it’s not radical enough. My sense is this is an incremental proposal… The work is not done. There’s going to be more to do. Your approach here has been oriented toward the nuts and bolts and I think it will be fairly easy to put together the statutory language to implement this.”

New utility poles installed by Dominion Energy (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

As in Arlington, the discussion of undergrounding power lines has been on the minds of a lot of folks in Alexandria.

The scope of outages hit a breaking point in Alexandria in 2021 when a widespread power outage derailed the Art on the Avenue festival, sparking a new battle between city leaders and Dominion Energy.

Dominion’s been working on improvements to the city’s infrastructure, but city leaders still say there’s a long way to go toward making the city’s power grid reliable.

Last year, Alan Bradshaw, vice president of strategic partnerships for Dominion Energy, told ALXnow that undergrounding all utilities in Alexandria would be outlandishly expensive.

Northern Virginia Magazine previously reported that the price tag for state-wide undergrounding is around $80 billion. Dominion has said undergrounding utilities isn’t just costly, it’s complicated as well — needing easements to access properties for undergrounding work.

So, like ARLnow, we’re wondering: should Dominion Energy step up its undergrounding efforts or are you mostly content with the current improvement plans?


This week, leaders on both sides of the Torpedo Factory discussion raised the issue of the city’s plans once more ahead of the center’s 50th anniversary.

The Torpedo Factory is celebrating 50 years as an arts center next year, but questions linger about what the long-term future of the building looks like.

The history behind the back and forth over the Torpedo Factory is long. The oversimplified version is: maintaining the Torpedo Factory, much less improving it, is a costly investment and if the city is signing that check, it wants more for its investment than what the Torpedo Factory currently offers.

Back in 2016, the City of Alexandria stepped in to oversee the operation of the Torpedo Factory Art Center. Since then, the city has worked through a process to develop plans to revitalize the Torpedo Factory. Controversially, some of those plans include reducing artist studio space to make way for other uses on the ground floor, like a cafe or maker-space.

Cindy Lowther, President of the Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association (TFAA), said one of the recent flashpoints has been the frequency of artist leases. Last month, the city selected 29 artists to receive three-year studio leases at the Torpedo Factory. The TFAA advocated for a five-year lease for artists, saying three-year leases are too short and the need to prepare for the jury ing process cuts down on the amount of time working on creating new art.

The leasing and space usage all tie into a broader question of whether the city’s plans to make the Torpedo Factory more vibrant will destroy what made the space special or enhance it.

“The TFAA is concerned that the effort to make the Art Center more ‘vibrant’ could result in a significant reduction in rental space available to visual artists,” Lowther wrote. “This would change the character of the Art Center and risk damaging its hard-earned reputation.”

Mayor Justin Wilson, meanwhile, said in his August newsletter that the city’s plans for the Torpedo Factory will make the facility more diverse, financially sustainable, and an overall more successful arts destination.

Wilson also said the Torpedo Factory’s future has been “studied to death” and that controversy around any changes to the facility paralyzed decision-making.

“It has now been seven years since the City took steps to provide stability by assuming caretaker leadership for the Factory,” Wilson wrote. “Since that time, the City provided leases to the existing artist tenants, and has been providing day to day management. I am pleased we are now making decisions and creating a sustainable structure for the governance of the Factory so that it can flourish in the future.”

Proposed ice rink in Landmark Mall redevelopment plans (image via Oculus/City of Alexandria)

Plans submitted for the West End development replacing Landmark Mall include a potential ice rink, but reception to those plans seemed mixed.

The plans, submitted by Foulger-Pratty Development, indicate the seasonal rink could be located on a park in the middle of a mixed-use development adjacent to the planned Inova Hospital campus.

While some expressed excitement for the plan, many commenters on Facebook said the rink seemed like a waste of money — though it should be noted that the rink would be built by the developer as an amenity, not by the City of Alexandria.

How do you feel about the rink? Would you have preferred something else?

ACPS headquarters and clock (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

After the 2021 election, two-thirds of Alexandria’s nine-person School Board were brand new to the job.

Over several recent elections, the elected body that leads Alexandria City Public Schools has had a significant turnover. It’s led to concerns that, every few years, the School Board is functionally starting from scratch and there’s a sizable adjustment period as the majority new members get adjusted to the job.

Now, Alexandria City Public Schools is considering staggered terms, meaning that officials would be elected in cycles so not all of the members of the School Board are elected at once.

As with any change, there are pros and cons. The main advantage for the Alexandria School Board would be preserving stability and might help build long-lasting lines of communication that are sorely needed between ACPS and City of Alexandria leaders.

But, as others — and one ALXnow commenter — have noted: staggered terms can be a way of entrenching elected officials and the status quo of an organization.

The School Board is hosting a work session tonight with leaders from other nearby school systems to discuss the topic of staggered terms.


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