Alexandria, VA

Affordable housing complex The Bloom is now scheduled to open sometime in December 2020 or January 2021.

The Alexandria Housing Development Corporation said in a press release that the 97-unit building at 930 N. Henry Street will open in the winter to locals at 50% or 60% of the area median income.

Waitlist applications are currently open for two-bedroom units that can fit households of 2, 3 or 4 people. Two of the units are wheelchair accessible.

“Applicants must apply by November 24 to be considered,” AHDC said. “Selected applicants will be contacted on or around November 25 to allow applicants to move in as soon as December 2020/January 2021.”

Image via City of Alexandria

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Morning Notes

Virginia Voter Registration Deadline Extended to Thursday Night — “BREAKING: Virginia’s voter registration deadline has been extended until Thursday, October 15 at 11:59pm. If you still need to register or update your information, you can do it online at vote.virginia.gov–you can also register and vote early at your registrar’s office.” [Twitter]

City Asks for Feedback on Adding Affordable Housing to Arlandria — “At a virtual meeting Tuesday night (another meeting is set for Wednesday night), members of the Alexandria Office of Planning and Zoning presented their vision to improve affordable housing in the Arlandira-Chirilagua area.” [Alexandria Living]

Parker-Gray Memorial Walkway Unveiling Oct. 24 — “The City of Alexandria and the Alexandria African American Hall of Fame will unveil the Parker-Gray Memorial Walkway on Saturday, Oct. 24, from 2-3 p.m. during a dedication ceremony. The event, which will take place at the Wythe Street entrance of Charles Houston Rec Center (901 Wythe St.), will be streamed live online.” [Zebra]

The Old Town Cocktail Virtual Happy Hour is Tonight — “Join Old Town Business Association on October 15th for our first Virtual Happy Hour featuring cocktails crafted by Jon Schott of The People’s Drug, ‘Around the Block’ with Victoria Vergason of The Hour, and their guests Scott and Becky Harris, owners of Catoctin Creek Distillery.” [Visit Alexandria]

R&B Heating and Air Conditioning celebrates 40 years — “The company’s focus on certain HVAC offerings, specifically the Unico system that’s meant to be installed in older, traditional homes without the need for remodeling, has also helped R&B carve out a niche in Alexandria and D.C.” [Alex Times]

Today’s Weather — “Sunny skies (during the day). High 77F. Winds SSW at 10 to 15 mph.Partly cloudy skies early will give way to occasional showers later during the night. Low near 55F. Winds W at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 60%.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Strategic Communications Specialist — “Design, develop, produce and consult on a variety of internal and external communications materials and media. Apply specific functional and working or general ind us try knowledge. Develop or contribute to solutions to a variety of problems of moderate scope and complexity. Work independently with some guidance and review or guide the activities of junior employees, as needed.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria was dominated by violent crime events this week.

The second murder of 2020 occurred on Sept. 30, and ALXnow identified the victim as 57-year-old John Harding Pope. Mayor Justin Wilson and members of the City Council offered their condolences and said that justice will be served.

Our poll asking residents if they feel safe in Alexandria received more than 500 votes, and 60% feel somewhat safe, 29% feel very safe and 12% feel not safe at all.

Old Town regulars will also be sad to learn that Miegs Hodge, a 1982 graduate of T.C. Williams High School, died in a car crash on N. Washington Street on Tuesday, Sept. 29.

Not on this week’s list is Friday’s breaking news story that Jesse Bjerke, a former nurse at Inova Alexandria Hospital, was sentenced to 65 years in prison for raping two lifeguards at gunpoint.

There was some positive news. A new gym will be opening in the West End later this month, a local chef won on the ‘Chopped’ reality show, and the city’s unemployment rate continues to trend downward.

Here are ALXnow’s top stories this week in Alexandria:

  1. Homeowner Shot in Targeted Del Ray Home Invasion
  2. UPDATED: Driver Seriously Injured in Old Town Crash
  3. Police Investigate Violent Early Morning Crimes in Alexandria
  4. West End Shootout Wounds Two and Hits Buildings and Cars
  5. Alexandria Wants to Make Affordable Housing Contributions Mandatory for Developers
  6. Man Dies After Crash on N. Washington Street in Old Town
  7. Avanti Holdings to Build New West End Home for ‘Alexandria Lighting Supply’ Store
  8. Man Shot on Quantrell Avenue in City’s Second Murder of 2020
  9. Poll: How Safe Do You Feel in Alexandria?
  10. Republican Jeff Jordan Running Uphill Battle Against Incumbent Rep. Don Beyer
  11. Virginia Tech Pump Station Approval Paves Way for 4.5 Extra Acres at Potomac Yard Park

Have a safe weekend!

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Alexandria planning staff are crafting a proposal to make affordable housing contributions mandatory for developers, and they are reportedly not happy about it.

City staff are recommending that council adopt a commercial-to-residential conversion contribution policy (proposed at $1.53 per square foot) and senior housing contribution requirements.

Staff are also asking for an option allowing a developer to not contribute by having an independent third party analyze whether “extraordinary circumstances” would prevent the developer from meeting the requirement.

“One of the points that we heard through the Housing Contributions Work Group process is that staff needed to be aware that an increase in an affordable housing contribution could impact other community benefits,” Alexandria Housing Planner Tamara Jovovic told City Council on Tuesday night. They didn’t name which ones but they said that, in general, there is a community benefits bucket and that if we put pressure on the affordable housing side, that something else would have to decline.”

The affordable housing contributions are currently voluntary.

City Councilman Mo Seifeldein said that staff should not be led in their recommendations by developers within the work group.

“I don’t like the discussion when it begins with (what) the developers want, the developers need,” Seifeldein said.

Councilman Canek Aguirre said city staff had a “defeatist tone” regarding developers.

“The developers are going to do what’s best for their bottom line,” Aguirre said. “People aren’t going to want to stop living here. That’s just not going to be the case. So, we need to be able to play that asset as much as possible to be able to push the envelope on what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to achieve here.”

Alexandria is currently experiencing an affordable housing crisis, and the city has pledged to produce or develop 2,000 affordable housing units by 2025. The city has also agreed to produce an additional 1,950 units by 2030 in order to meet its regional housing goal set by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, which aims for the region to produce 320,000 affordable housing units.

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Members of the Alexandria Board of Architectural Review didn’t mince words against the proposed development of the Heritage Old Town.

“Why are you asking for our opinion if what we get back isn’t actually changed?” BAR Chair Christine Roberts said at the September 2 meeting. “It’s just more lipstick on a pig.”

The plan to demolish four 1970s-era buildings on the southeast Old Town property were sent back to the developer in June to give the community more time for feedback. The plan for the property, which is situated in the Old Town Historic District, was then rejected earlier this month by the board after members said that changes made to the proposal were not improved upon.

New York-based architect Asland Capital Partners, was heavily criticized by board members for designing a complex that does not fall in line with the character of Old Town. The project, which borders along South Patrick and North Washington streets,  includes the addition of 777 apartments at structures up to seven stories tall, and includes 195 affordable housing units.

Board Member Lynn Neihardt said that the architect’s buildings don’t belong in Old Town, and that the city is getting poorly designed buildings “under the guise of providing affordable housing.” She also said that there is an underlying feeling that the property doesn’t need to fit within design guidelines because it’s not in an area populated by tourists.

“We need a feeling of smaller buildings in the front with maybe taller heights behind, which has been done over and over again, very successfully in D.C. and other parts of Old Town,” Neihardt said. “The buildings, to me, speak Ballston, Crystal City, but not Old Town. They’re nothing like Robinson Landing and the other excellent examples of buildings that fit into their context.”

BAR Member John Sprinkle objected to the mass, height, scale and general architecture of the proposal.

“I gotta tell you, you got to go back to the drawing board,” Sprinkle said. “It doesn’t fly in this city.”

The project will go to the Planning Commission and City Council in February 2021.

Images via City of Alexandria

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Morning Notes

Today’s the First Day of School for ACPS — “Let’s focus on getting connected this week! Make sure you have access to technology and have completed your back-to-school forms.” [ACPS]

West End Development Could Add Hundreds of Affordable Housing Units — “Wesley Housing is requesting a pre-development loan of $400,000 to start the development process on ParcView II, a new affordable rental project on Holmes Run Parkway in Alexandria’s West End.” [Alexandria Living]

Child Abuse Reports Go Down 40% — “Typically, Alexandria Child Protective Services receives more case reports in the spring than any other time of the year. However, this spring reports were down 40 percent from the average in recent years.” [Alexandria Living]

Gong Meditation Today in Del Ray — “Join us each Tuesday from 6-7pm, September 1 through October 20. Relax and support your body, mind and spirit through sound, yoga and meditation. Take a break from today’s hectic and stressful environment and see how you can benefit from sound therapy.” [Facebook]

Volunteers Needed for Food Distribution This Thursday — “Help serve meals and groceries this Thursday, September 10 at the Charles Houston Recreation Center. A project from the Washington Street UMC, ALIVE!, ARHA, and Charles Houston Recreation Center – this event generally serves more than 150 families!” [Facebook]

Alexandria Drive-In Shows ‘Back To The Future’ —  “Remembering you have one of the sold out spots for Back to the Future this Saturday …  ” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “During the day, mainly sunny. High 88F. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph. At night, partly to mostly cloudy. Low 69F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Keyholder at FatFace — “Our Alexandria store is looking for a passionate supervisor to lead the team and establish the brand in the local area.” [Indeed]

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Real estate investment company CIM Group recently purchased large apartment community Southern Towers, Costar first reported, but what’s unclear now is what that means for affordable housing in the city’s West End.

Southern Towers is a 2,261-unit apartment complex that is one of the city’s last large bastions of market-rate affordable and committed affordable units — units that are required to remain at a certain affordability. Helen McIlvaine, director of the city’s Office of Housing, said Southern Towers has 105 committed affordable units that were mostly established in the mid-2010s.

“They are ten-year units,” McIlvaine said. “Even at that time, property ownership had shifted to the next generation, and they didn’t feel in a position to make a longer term commitment… They’re pretty far into that life span. They have a number of start and end dates, but the last of them expires early 2028.”

Some of those were rented out in 2015 and 2016 and their committed affordable status could disappear in the next couple years.

McIlvaine said the city is maintaining discussions with the CIM Group, but that nothing has been set into stone yet for the property’s committed affordable units.

The city has had a working relationship with the company, which also owns the Mason at Van Dorn units near Landmark Mall.  McIlvaine said the CIM Group has been a cooperative partner in earlier discussions about establishing rent relief for local residents during the pandemic.

“We said our desire was to work with CIM group and continue to support Southern Towers residents that are experiencing income loss,” McIlvaine said.

Southern Towers was the site of protests during the pandemic with local residents pushing to cancel rent for residents who were among the thousands of locals laid off during the government shutdown.

McIlvaine said the discussion about rent relief is still ongoing. The City of Alexandria is offering rental assistance up to $1,800 for those who lost their income due to COVID-19. Those interested in rent relief can contact the city during business hours at 703-746-3100. Qualifying residents must live in Alexandria, have a documented loss of income, have been current on their rent through March, and fall within income eligibility guidelines. Read More

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Morning Notes

Alexandria Woman Finds Missing $100K Lottery Ticket — “Four months ago she purchased a ticket using some of her favorite numbers, 2-14-15-17-21, and matched all five winning numbers on March 1, but she only just discovered that fact when she cleaned out her purse recently.” [Zebra]

Beyer Says Economic Warning Signs Troublesome — “It’s been a month since Senate Republicans cruelly allowed Americans’ enhanced unemployment benefits to expire amid a pandemic and economic crisis. Don’t be fooled by the stock market: millions of families are experiencing deep hardship. Warning signs for the economy abound.” [Twitter]

Mayor Gets Sneak Peek at ‘The Spire’ Affordable Housing Complex — “Great opportunity to check out AHC Affordable Housing’s latest housing project in the City under construction and arriving early next year. ‘The Spire’ will be 113 units serving 40% – 60% of Area Median Income.” [Facebook]

Ascend Cycle Wins Northern Virginia Magazine Award — “Did you hear?? We won the Best of NOVA: Cycling Studio 2020  ​We are SO excited to win this honor for a 3rd year in a row!” [Facebook]

Firefighters Raising Funds With Virtual Boot — “Ordinarily at this time of year, the men and women of Alexandria Firefighters, Inc. IAFF Local 2141 would be out around our community working to ‘Fill the Boot’ in support of Muscular Dystrophy Association. Join me in helping them Fill the ‘Virtual’ Boot this year!” [Facebook]

Volunteer Alexandria and Senior Services of Alexandria Need Help — “To meet the increased need due to COVID-19, Senior Services of Alexandria urgently needs 10 more volunteers to help deliver meals to local seniors. Volunteers are asked to commit to delivering meals once a week for three months.” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — During the day, “Mainly sunny. High 88F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph.” At night, “Partly cloudy. Low 73F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Virginia Quality Mental Health Specialist — “ACPS serves as a Local Coordinator for the City of Alexandria and is a part of the VQ Northern region. The VQ Mental Health Specialist will increase caregivers/teachers/directors use of strategies and practices to promote the social emotional development of infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children.” [TopSchoolJobs.com]

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The city is requesting a $1.73 million in funding from Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to finance a wide series of programs aimed at improving the city’s affordable housing.

A release from the City of Alexandria said the funding would go to improvements under the Rental Accessibility Modification Program (RAMP). RAMP provides accessibility modifications to rental units occupied by low and moderate income tenants at no cost to the tenant or landlord.

“These modifications may include the renovations of bathrooms and the installation of grab bars and comfort height toilets; altering or installing new sinks and vanities; replacing standard showers and baths with walk-in or roll-in showers and the installation of shower seats; altering shower heads and controls, and other necessary modifications to increase accessibility,” the city said. “Other renovations may include kitchen modifications such as lowering sinks, installing stoves with front mounted controls, replacing standard refrigerators with ADA compliant units, replacing drawer pull handles, and other necessary modifications to increase accessibility.”

Improvements could also include structural modifications, like widening doorframes for wheelchairs, lowering shelving, and more. Some improvements could take place outside the home, with ramps or low-rise steps and handrails.

The Alexandria Neighborhood Stabilization Program (ANSP), one of the other programs listed in the funding requests, purchases properties that are in foreclosure or short sale and then renovates them.

“The properties are then sold to qualifying first-time homebuyers,” the city said. “The interior renovations can range from the renovation and replacement of kitchens, bathrooms, and HVAC systems to carpet replacements, plumbing repairs, drywall replacement and painting.”

The last program listed, Home Loan Rehabilitation Program (HRLP), uses funds to rehabilitate condominiums, row houses, townhomes and single-family homes occupied by low and moderate income homeowners.

“The aims of the HLRP are to bring properties up to code, increase accessibility, increase livability and extend the life of the property,” the city said. “To do this, a wide variety of rehabilitation activities may be undertaken on almost any building system or component of the home.”

The city said the funding will be requested on or around Friday, August 31.

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An Arlington nonprofit has partnered with a D.C. food truck to provide free pizza to affordable housing communities in Alexandria this month.

This is the fifth local campaign for Hearts of Empowerment, which has partnered with Timber Pizza Company to provide free wood-fired pizzas from its food truck on August 22 at Charles Houston Recreation Center (901 Wythe Street) in Old Town at 1 p.m. on Saturday, August 22, and at the same time at the Parkview of Alexandria apartments in Arlandria on Saturday, August 29.

The events will continue on those days until supplies last.

Last Saturday, the group also served pizza to nearly 100 families at the Strawberry Square Apartments in the West End.

“All patrons will be required to wear a mask and remain six feet apart while ordering and receiving food,” notes a Hearts of Empowerment press release. “If neighborhood residents arrive without appropriate protective equipment, Hearts of Empowerment will provide them with one.”

Photo via Timber Pizza Company/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Beyer Warns of Trump Election Conspiracy in November — “Trump’s threat to defy the will of the American people by refusing to accept election results in November is particularly alarming given what is happening in Portland. Trump is not a king. All who swore an oath to defend the Consit(u)tion must reject this, regardless of party.” [Twitter]

November Election Less Than 100 Days Away — “Election day is just a little over 100 days away. For the first time in Virginia history, you can request a ballot in the mail with no excuse required!” [Twitter]

More Alexandria Playgrounds Reopen — “The City of Alexandria announced this evening that its playgrounds as well as those on Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) property have reopened to the public. They were shuttered in March as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.” [Zebra]

Seazante` Williams Oliver Named Principal at George Mason Elementary School — Oliver is a familiar face around George Mason. She has served at the school as assistant principal since 2012, and just last month, became interim principal. She assumes the duties of principal on July 20. [Zebra]

Library Hosting Virtual ‘Rocknoceros’ Concert at 11 a.m. Today — “Children will enjoy bopping along to Williebob and Boogie Bennie’s catchy tunes. All ages.” [Alexandria Library]

ARHA Board Meeting This Wednesday — “The meetings will immediately convene in Executive Session to discuss important matters.” [City of Alexandria]

New Job: Dog Walker/Pet Sitter — “We are currently hiring exceptional pet sitters and dog walkers to join our wonderful team. This position is fun and rewarding as you get to enjoy the outdoors, get exercise and be loved by amazing local dogs, cats and other companion animals!” [Indeed]

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Alexandria is providing the community with more funds to apply for emergency rent assistance.

On July 10, the city announced that it is prioritizing $450,000 from the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program for residents primarily living at or below 50% of the area median income up until July 20. After that time, households making 80% of AMI will be included.

“In addition, households with an unlawful detainer action dated before June 8 will be given top consideration,” notes a city release. “Tenants and homeowners are encouraged to know their rights and responsibilities and pay their rent and mortgages on time if they are able.”

According to the city, the new funds are “in addition to the $4 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds being distributed through the Emergency Rent Relief Assistance Program and $671,500 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds for tenants of affordable housing, both administered by the City’s Office of Housing.”

The governor’s moratorium on rent evictions expired last month, and there have been protests to cancel rents and extend the moratorium throughout the city since the pandemic hit Alexandria. There is another protest scheduled today (Wednesday) at noon at the Alexandria courthouse organized by residents of Southern Towers and the Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America.

The city has acknowledged that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color, which will be prioritized with the rent relief.

Residents should take a self-assessment survey to see if they qualify, and then call 703-746-5700 to apply.

Posted by Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America on Saturday, July 11, 2020

Staff photo by James Cullum

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