A new report from the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership showed that the 22314 zip code — Old Town and Carlyle — received more funding in business grants than the rest of Alexandria combined.
A breakdown of grant dollars by zip code showed that Old Town and Carlyle businesses received $3.5 million in grant funding. The next closest was the 22304 zip code in the West End, totaling $1.1 million.
That funding would be centered in Old Town isn’t too surprising, considering that’s where roughly 50% of the city’s businesses are located. AEDP President and CEO Stephanie Landrum told ALXnow last year that’s also where around 60% of the grant applications come from, despite an effort by the organization specifically to reach out to non-Old Town businesses and encourage them to apply.
The rest of Alexandria, combined, received $2.4 million in grants.
In total, AEDP distributed $6.4 million in federal and local grant funding to 648 Alexandria businesses.
The grants were fairly evenly split between male and female-owned businesses — 46% and 44% respectively — with 9% not identifying their gender and 1% identifying as trans or non-binary.
Roughly 74% of the funding went to businesses with less than 25 employees, which were a focus of AEDP’s grand campaign.
The report also showed that 47% of businesses that received grants were white-owned, followed by 21% as Asian-owned businesses. Black-owned businesses in Alexandria comprised 11% of grant funding, and Hispanic or Latino-owned only 8%.
Overall, the report also took stock of the pandemic’s devastating impact on local businesses:
- 81% of small businesses reporting very-to-extreme disruptions to business operations
- 77% of small businesses reporting year-over-year revenue declines
- 9.9% Alexandria unemployment rate in April 2020 (an increase of 7.9% from April 2019)
- $30.2M projected loss of business and consumer-based tax revenue in the City
Photos via AEDP
Regional losses to tourism and the hotel industry could be an unexpected windfall for Alexandria’s ongoing efforts to find affordable housing.
During a presentation to the City Council last week, Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP) President and CEO Stephanie Landrum said that the city could look at streamlining some rezoning to help transform hotels emptied by COVID into affordable housing units.
“We’ve spent a lot of the time in the past talking about office conversion and talking about the economics of that,” Landrum told City Council. “We are going to add hotels to that list. Where does it make sense to encourage the conversion of an older, perhaps considered obsolete hotel, and helping us accomplish maybe some of our affordable or other housing goals — and at the same time investing and encouraging in new hotels in the right spaces?”
The proposal comes as the city balances affordable housing needs with some public reluctance on colocation. The School Board voted unanimously against co-locating affordable housing at the Minnie Howard Campus of Alexandria’s high school, and ACPS noted that the proposal sparked community backlash.
Earlier this week, an ACPS consultant proposed either adding affordable housing to a community shelter or moving the shelter entirely and using the site as a mixed-use development with an affordable housing component.
Meanwhile the city — and the region as a whole — have seen a dramatic drop-off in hotel occupancy and revenues. Mayor Justin Wilson noted in a social media post that hotel revenue fell from $1.1 million in July 2019 to around $200,000 in July 2020.
Landrum told ALXnow that AEDP is currently looking over some of those strategies and will come back to Council with a more detailed report.
“We’ll give them a look at our commercial corridors, like office and hotel uses,” Landrum said. “It might be that some hotels decide that travelers aren’t going to come back for a long enough time and maybe they are not approximate to a metro or have enough amenities. They might decide hanging onto the hotel doesn’t make sense and might pursue sale or conversion.”
These would likely be hotels off Eisenhower Avenue or in the West End that don’t have immediate access to central tourism areas, Landrum said, so it’s unlikely this would apply to any Old Town hotels.
The proposal saw some initial support on the City Council, though it will take more research over the next few months to see what the city could do to facilitate that sort of turnover.
“I think it would be interesting in terms of looking at options for future viability in some of those sites,” City Councilman John Chapman told ALXnow. “With the need of housing, coupled with the fact that some hotels might not survive — so what would you do with those buildings?
Chapman said he’d like to see some hotels used as commercial or residential space, though the city will have to work with the building owners to determine that.
“I wouldn’t want to close the door to affordable housing without hearing more about what is planned,” Chapman said. “I’m not trying to jump the gun on that, but I want to say that there’s interest. We’re interested in whatever that second life is [for some hotels], but I don’t know what that process entails and how we change it in a way that makes it fit.”
Chapman said the city should do more to look at other localities to see if any others have gone through similar procedures and gather some lessons learned.
“Is it something we see across the D.C. metro area as it relates to tourism and hotels in their next life?” Chapman said.
Landrum said the city has seen that with some office buildings, and, in rezoning, has had to determine whether case-by-case whether it was appropriate to allow those parcels to have other uses. This has happened a few times before for hotels, Landrum noted, including:
- Washington Suites Alexandria (100 S. Reynolds Street) being converted to The Mark Apartments
- Crowne Plaza Hotel mid-conversion by Carr Companies to Venue.
- Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham (420 N. Van Dorn Street converted to Broadstone Van Dorn Apartments
The first two had to undergo a zoning review, while the Broadstone Van Dorn Apartments conversion was done by-right.
“As we’re looking at impact on the real estate market, I think we should be proactive and decide whether this is something we want to pursue,” Landrum said. “Affordable housing is a major priority.”
Landrum said the city would likely start with one hotel space and work in partnership with a local affordable housing nonprofit to test the idea.
The city’s role in this process, Landrum said, would likely be facilitating discussions between property owners and affordable housing developers and nonprofits.
“We would want to talk with nonprofit housing and say ‘you should take a look at this’ or talk with affordable housing developers,” Landrum said. “I don’t see a situation where we would, as the city, step in and try to acquire it ourselves. Our role is to make recovery easy to remove hurdles. We should take next month or two to see: Are there any hurdles? Is there a way for this to happen without having to go through a bureaucratic process?”
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.
Last week, City Council approved a second round of “Back to Business Grants” to support the costs incurred by our small businesses working to survive.
In two weeks @AlexandriaEcon will accept applications for $2.4M of grants.
Details available online!https://t.co/FCREb9E2Gz
— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) September 17, 2020
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
The Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP) announced a full list of recipients for the program’s ALX B2B program — grant funding aimed at helping local businesses hold out through a sluggish recovery — and is moving forward on another phase of the program.
With the first batch of the funding being distributed to Alexandria businesses, AEDP said the process is starting for figuring out how to divvy up the next batch of state funding between the city’s needs.
“The city received a communication yesterday from the Governor that they will be allocating second half of local funding for CARES dollars,” said Stephanie Landrum, President and CEO of AEDP. “[The City] is going to receive the exact same amount as the first time. That was an important piece we were waiting on. We needed to make sure there was funding. Now that that news has come, we’re working with the City Manager to determine how that money will be allocated.”
The first allocation was divided between funding for grants alongside funding for rental assistance and other needs. Landrum said City Manager Mark Jinks will need to work with the City Council to see if, and how, the percentages of funding allocation need to change this time around.
Meanwhile, Landrum said AEDP has learned a lot from the first round of grant requests.
“We learned a lot about how businesses are structured in the city,” Landrum said. “The proposal for round two would expand eligibility.”
Requirements would change to provide a way for businesses who opened within the last year to prove their financial stability. Landrum also said various types of daycares and contractor-based programs that were excluded the first time around will be included, like barber shops whose employees did not qualify for the first round of the program.
“We recognize that in order for all of us to get back to business, daycare has to be a foundation that’s up and running,” Landrum said. “We had around five to ten daycares that received grants in round 1, but we wanted to reach out to non-profits and providers who are home-based so we can get as many daycares as we can.”
AEDP approved 303 small business grants of the roughly 335 that applied. Those who were deemed ineligible the first time around because of circumstances that will change the second time can work with AEDP to “resurrect” their initial application. Read More
Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP) announced that 309 small businesses in Alexandria would receive funding from the city’s Alelxandria Back to Business (ALX B2B) grants program. The program is supported in large part by CARES Act funding allocated by the City of Alexandria.
“76 percent of successful applicants qualify to receive $10,000, another 17 percent will collect $15,000, with the remaining 7 percent receiving $20,000,” AEDP said in a press release. “The grant amount is directly related to the size of the business.”
The ALX B2B program totals $4.4 million in local business assistance grants, $2.4 million of which came from federal CARES Act appropriations and $2 million from the Alexandria Investment Fund.
“In total, AEDP received 356 complete applications. 309 businesses qualified for funding through the program,” the partnership said. “Of the 48 applicants that did not qualify, most were ineligible due to the total number of employees being outside of the 2-100 employee requirement; delinquent city business taxes; their year-over-year revenue not meeting the stipulation of having decreased by at least 25 percent; or being located outside the corporate limits of the City of Alexandria.”
Recipients of the grants are being notified, after which AEDP said it will publish a list of grantees to the website.
AEDP said there is $900,000 in funding remaining from the initial round of the program, which the partnership hopes to put into a second round of the program with more CARES Act funding later this summer.
The press release also included a breakdown of demographics on what types of businesses the grants went to. Nearly half of the grant recipients were white.
- 49% of recipients identified as White
- 22% of recipients identified as Asian
- 8% of recipients identified as Hispanic or Latin American
- 6% of recipients identified as Black or African American
- 15% chose not to disclose
AEDP noted that 49% of the recipients identified as male, while 40% identified as female, 10% did not disclose and 1% identified as transgender or non-gender conforming. AEDP said grant recipients spanned seven zip codes, including a sizable portion in the city’s West End.
“The COVID-19 pandemic poses significant challenges to businesses across the Washington, D.C. region, and Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, with the support of the City of Alexandria, is pleased to provide critical financial support to Alexandria’s small businesses during this difficult period,” Stephanie Landrum, President and CEO of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, said in the press release. “Alexandria’s business community continues to demonstrate resilience in the face of adversity, and AEDP is proud to support our community during the road to recovery.”
For businesses that receive grant funding, there are still restriction on how that can be used, including. According to AEDP, funding can be used for:
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Other equipment and supplies to promote health and safety
- Technology to facilitate e-commerce and/or virtual business operations
- Professional services related to the design and construction/alteration of the built environment necessary to promote physical and social distancing, as well as the actual costs for alterations
- Initial cleaning and disinfection services prior to reopening
- Rent or mortgage costs required to be made in order to reopen/restart
Staff photo by Vernon Miles
Alexandria, like the rest of Northern Virginia, is scheduled to move into Phase 2 of reopening this Friday. For cooped up Alexandrians, that means local gyms and some entertainment venues could start to reopen.
According to the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, this will mean a loosening of restrictions on local businesses, including:
- Restaurant and beverage establishments may offer indoor dining at 50 percent occupancy
- Fitness centers may open indoor areas at 30 percent occupancy,
- Certain recreation and entertainment venues without shared equipment may open with restrictions
- The current guidelines for non-essential retail and personal grooming services will largely remain the same in Phase Two
Restaurants are also still allowed to file for temporary outdoor dining permits, which were allowed during Phase 1 of reopening.
AEDP also announced that there will be industry-specific webinars to help guide local businesses on reopening policies.
- Fitness and Exercise facilities: Tomorrow (Wednesday) at 3 p.m.
- Restaurant and Beverage Services businesses: Tomorrow (Wednesday) at 4 p.m.
The City of Alexandria previously announced that many of the trash services that were suspended at the start of the pandemic will resume next Monday.
Still, on Facebook, Mayor Justin Wilson cautioned that Alexandrians should be cautious and continue wearing masks as Virginia starts reopening.
Today the Governor of Virginia announced that Northern Virginia would be joining the rest of the Commonwealth in Phase…
Staff photo by James Cullum
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Tenants and Workers United Gives Food and Supplies to 400 Families — “Today we gave food, needs, and diapers to almost 400 families!! This was possible by Arlington Calvary United Methodist Church. Our community greatly appreciates this support during these difficult times!” [Facebook]
Alexandria Back to Business Grant Application Deadline at 5 p.m. — “Applications for the ALX B2B Grant are open (as of Thursday, June 4th at 8:00AM EDT), and will close Monday, June 8th at 5:00 PM (EDT).” [AEDP]
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Local Filmmakers Selected for Alexandria Symphony Series — “The films will accompany music by American composers performed “live to picture” by the orchestra as part of ASO’s 2020-2021 season on November 7 and 8, 2020. The works will also be screened as part of the Alexandria Film Festival on November 12-15.” [Zebra]
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The Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP) is starting a grant program later this week to help Alexandria businesses recover from coronavirus.
“The program is opening applications on Thursday and is focused on assisting business going through reopening following the pandemic,” Landrum said.
Landrum said many of the businesses reopening will face new costs, like equipment and furniture to socially distance customers and sanitize afterward. As the city progresses through the phases of recovery, Landrum said these will be the new normal in how companies interact with customers.
“All of that comes at an expense after a period of time when companies have seen huge, dramatic declines in revenue,” Landrum said.
The first round of the program will have $4 million in funding, half from the city allocation of the CARES Act, and half from reallocated funding from the Alexandria Investment Fund. Landrum said at least at the start, this likely won’t be enough to support all of the businesses that need it.
“We do anticipate there will be more demand than funding available,” Landrum said.
A few terms of eligibility will eliminate some businesses. Most broadly, business owners have to express their intent to remain in business, but they will also have to provide information about their lease to show that it’s applicable through the end of the year to demonstrate a commitment to staying in business.
Any business that has opened since March 1 of 2019 is also out of luck for the grant program, as the eligibility requires businesses to show profits year-after-year until coronavirus. Landrum said this is to be able to show the business was stable and could be profitable again.
“We want to invest in businesses with the best chance of surviving,” Landrum said. “Comparing year over year, month to month, is best and most accurate way to show that.”
Corporate-owned businesses are ineligible as well, an attempt to avoid the payouts to megacorporations that plagued earlier small business grant programs. Landrum said a locally owned franchise of a larger chain could still be eligible, though.
“For a business to apply, has to be a locally owned franchise and they would have to present that paperwork,” Landrum said. “There are a number of athletic companies that are national brands but locally-owned franchises. Want to help those people but not direct resources to a corporate entity.”
The grant program is divided into three categories based on employment size, which determines the maximum grant for each business.
- Smallest (2-24 employees): $10,000 maximum
- Medium (25-49 employees): $15,000 maximum
- Largest (50-100 employees): $20,000 maximum
“A lot of the qualifications and the eligibility criteria focus on companies with a physical footprint in Alexandria,” Landrum said. ‘It’s recognizing businesses with a physical space are more likely to incur these costs. Examples include restaurants, where many had to buy new furniture for outdoor dining.”
Landrum said other professions, like physical therapists, personal groomers, massage parlors, will all need similar health measures. Even office spaces, which have turned towards more open concepts and squeezing people into smaller footprints, will have to undergo a radical adjustment to keep employees safe.
Background for the program is provided in English, Spanish, Arabic and Amharic, but Landrum said AEDP has phone translation services for business owners speaking any language.
Even for businesses who aren’t able to get a grant through ALX B2B, Landrum said there are other ways AEDP can help.
“One of the number one things we’ve been helping with is talking through real estate portfolios, [helping business owners] understand terms of leases and having conversations with landlords,” Landrum said. “I think that’s something people don’t realize we can and want to do.”
Landrum said AEDP can also help talk businesses through cash flow, marketing, and HR issues and utilize a variety of resources.
“AEDP and our partners are intended to be a trusted advisor to the business community,” Landrum said. “If any business owner has a question about anything, we might not have the answer, but we’re a connector for what those businesses need. One of the things we can do is listen and be a sympathetic and empathetic ear. When people are anxious, upset, devastated — and on top of that own a business — we can help.”