Alexandria, VA

Amazon has given $200,000 to ACT for Alexandria’s COVID-19 response fund as part of a $1 million donation that the company is making to the region.

“The funds received by ACT will be used to support the nonprofits providing services to Alexandrian’s who are hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak,” ACT CEO Heather Peeler told ALXnow.

“The human service needs, economic impact and strains on our critical services will be with us long into the future,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “We have a resilient community and this contribution will help bring our City and our resident back stronger than ever.”

On Saturday, the Alexandria City Council allocated $100,000 in matching emergency funds to the ACT Now COVD-19 Response Fund with a goal of raising $200,000 so that nonprofits in the city can apply for and receive grants.

Council also approved an allocation of $20,000 to ALIVE! to buy bulk food equivalent to 17,000 meals. ALIVE! is currently working with the city and buying food to support the city should deliveries need to be made to people under quarantine without food reserves at home.

Amazon is contributing $1M to the DMV to support our community during the COVID-19 crisis. ACT is pleased to…

Posted by ACT for Alexandria on Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Thanks to Amazon.com for providing critical financial support to the ACT for Alexandria COVID-19 Response fund. Please contribute today to support the many in need in our community due to this crisis.

Posted by Justin Wilson on Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The full press release is below the jump:

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The City of Alexandria is hosting an open house this evening to help gather community input for plans to shape Arlandria and Del Ray.

The open house is scheduled to be held from 5-8 p.m. at Casa Chirilagua (4109 Mt. Vernon Avenue). The event will be an opportunity for people to share their thoughts before the start of the formal planning process later this year, according to the city website.

The process to update the city’s Arlandria and Del Ray plans was launched in the wake of several city government discussions about how Amazon’s arrival will impact the tight-knit neighborhoods. In addition to Amazon, the nearby Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, the redevelopment of Potomac Yard, and the new Potomac Yard Metro station will likely bring new residents and redevelopment.

Planned or not, changes are coming to both neighborhoods. In Arlandria, for instance, a D.C. developer recently filed plans to redevelop the shopping center that houses MOM’s Organic Market into 624 apartments and 44,500 square feet of ground floor retail race.

Previous meetings have been held throughout the community in both Spanish and English. The next open house is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 1, at 10 a.m. in the Mount Vernon Avenue Recreation Center (2701 Commonwealth Avenue).

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Morning Notes

Absentee Voting Starts Today — “Absentee voting for Virginia’s March 3 Democratic Party Presidential Primary Election begins on Thursday, January 16. Many Alexandria voters are eligible to vote absentee.” [City of Alexandria]

Opening Nears for New Waterfront Coffee Shop — “According to Misha’s General Manager Graham McCulloch, the coffee roaster hopes to open their new waterfront location in April, weather and construction permitting. Misha’s new waterfront coffee shop, the company’s second location, will be at 6 Prince St., the former home of Olde Town Gemstones.” [Alexandria Living]

Amazon Funds Used for City Apartment Purchase — “Investing to benefit existing & future business growth was the foundation for @amazon HQ2 package — very excited that 1st affordable housing funds allocated will be used in ALX!” [Twitter, ALXnow, Washington Business Journal]

City Looking for Top Parking Meter Enforcer — “Hiring Announcement: The Alexandria Police Department is currently looking to fill the position of Parking Enforcement Officer Supervisor.” [City of Alexandria, Twitter]

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It will be more than a year until Bonaventure Realty makes a move on plans for a swath of properties it recently purchased along Mount Vernon Ave. in Del Ray, according its Vice President Jeremy Moss.

The company, which last summer bought the properties at 2401, 2403 and 2411-2419 on Mount Vernon Ave., has no immediate plans for changes and jumped at the chance to purchase the properties.

The reality is that when the properties became available, this was a once in a generation opportunity,” Moss told ALXnow. “All the current uses have remained the same. We still have retail and residential uses, and we intend to honor the existing uses in place.” 

The properties include the Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services (2525 Mount Vernon Ave.), which has a lease for an additional 2.5 years, as well as Cheesetique (2411 Mount Vernon Ave.), the recently shuttered Catch on the Avenue restaurant, a number of retail and residential properties and a 144-space parking lot across from Pat Miller Square on Mount Vernon Ave. and E. Oxford Ave.   

Moss said that Bonaventure will make no moves on the area until the city updates its  2005 Mount Vernon Avenue Business Plan and 2003 Long-Term Vision and Action Plan for the Arlandria neighborhood in the spring of 2021.

Gayle Reuter, an Alexandria Living Legend and member of the Del Ray Business Association, said that misinformation has been spreading regarding Bonaventure’s intentions. The rumors, she said, have spread largely because of Amazon’s HQ2 development in Pentagon City, Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus at Potomac Yard and the recent groundbreaking of the Potomac Yard Metro station.

“I was pleased to get to meet with Bonaventure recently and am excited to welcome them to Del Ray and in hearing their interest in being involved with the community,” Reuter said. “They’ve already reached out to sponsor several of our events, and I think they will be great new neighbors.”

Bonaventure’s President Dwight Dunton was raised in Del Ray and is a graduate of T.C. Williams High School. He’s also a trustee with the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria.

“Alexandria has a place in Dwight’s heart and he’s certainly sensitive to the uniqueness of Del Ray and the vibrancy of the neighborhood,” Moss said.  

See: With Amazon on the Horizon, City Begins Update to Arlandria and Del Ray Plans

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Morning Notes

Amazon Presence on Innovation Campus? — “Virginia Tech leaders and Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) executives are working toward a partnership that could give the company’s cloud computing arm a home at the $1 billion innovation campus at Potomac Yard.” [Washington Business Journal]

Underage Drinking Prevention Town Hall — “On Dec. 10, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., at the Charles Houston Recreation Center (901 Wythe St.), the Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Alexandria will host a town hall discussion titled, ‘Healthy Youth, Healthy Families: Promoting Alcohol-Free Holidays.'” [Zebra]

Boat Parade Winners Named — “A record number of 60 boats competed for prizes in ten categories at the 20th Anniversary Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights on Saturday… Best of Alexandria Show was awarded to Anamchara and Captain Steve Preda who presented the theme ‘Peace’ featuring a rotating lighted globe, glowing doves and a peace sign.” [Press Release]

City ‘Open for Solar Business’ — “The City of Alexandria has received a Silver designation from the national SolSmart program for making it faster, easier, and more affordable for homes and businesses to go solar… For companies looking to expand, a SolSmart Silver designation is a signal that Alexandria is ‘open for solar business.'” [City of Alexandria]

T.C. Teacher Wins National Award — “When T.C.Williams High School teacher Kimberley Wilson stepped on stage on Wednesday to collect the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) National Teacher of the Year award, her first thought was for her students.” [ACPS]

Snow Likely Overnight — “Temperatures are poised to leap to near 60 degrees Tuesday, and it won’t feel at all like it could snow. But, in a flash, that will change. An Arctic front charging to the East Coast will switch our weather from fall-like to winterlike in a matter of hours, setting the stage for possible wet snow overnight Tuesday into early Wednesday morning.” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]

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An Alexandria agency that helps locals adapt to a changing job market is itself trying to figure out how to adjust its services to meet the city’s changing marketplace.

Facing the impacts of Amazon’s looming arrival, the Workforce Development Center (WDC) is working to modernize and realign its services to fit with younger demographics.

WDC staff told City Council at a meeting last Tuesday that the incoming Amazon HQ2 and the Virginia Tech campus present both challenges and opportunities for how the organization connects young locals to jobs.

“We’ve got to offer more to engage youth,” staff told the City Council. “We need to expand our virtual service platform and be working proactively to mitigate the impact of automation.”

Staff said engaging with younger workers means offering more useful digital options than its current, fairly sparse website, and shifting beyond the current focus on catering mostly to low-skilled workers.

Many of the employment options on the WDC website currently are entry-level, lower-income jobs. But staff told the City Council that the arrival of Amazon’s HQ2 and the new Virginia Tech campus offers opportunities to expand to other levels of employment. Staff said workforce training will have to adjust to offer more technology and cybersecurity-related job placement efforts.

These improvements, however, could require greater levels of investment from the city, as decreasing levels of unemployment also correspond with less federal funding for services that help with employment.

“We will continue to lose federal funds because of our unemployment level,” staff said. “It’s a good thing, we want our unemployment to be low, but [it means] we’re not eligible for some unemployment [programs].”

Staff said the next immediate steps for the organization are to study underemployment — the number of people working in jobs that do not pay enough to sustain a livable income — in Alexandria and put together a report.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Morning Notes

Carpenter’s Shelter Getting Amazon Donation — “A nonprofit that is building a $2 million facility for the homeless in Old Town Alexandria says it has reached its fundraising goal after receiving $300,000 from Amazon, Inc… The donation from Amazon is the latest example of how the retail giant is trying to be a good corporate citizen in Northern Virginia.” [Washington Post, Patch]

Digital Plaudits for City — “Alexandria has been ranked the fourth top digital city of its size in the United States, according to the 2019 Digital Cities Survey… This is the 15th consecutive year Alexandria has been ranked in the top 10, including two years in first place.” [City of Alexandria]

MacArthur Students to Relocate to Henry — “Alexandria City Council has given the green light to Alexandria City Public Schools to use the old Patrick Henry Elementary School facility as temporary swing space for Douglas MacArthur Elementary School students, potentially reallocating $60 million dollars and speeding up the delivery of the new school.” [ACPS]

Closures Planned for Thanksgiving — “All City of Alexandria government offices will be closed on Thursday, November 28, and Friday, November 29, in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday.” [City of Alexandria]

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There are nearly half as many homes available for sale in Alexandria as the year before, according to city officials.

A complicated mix of reasons is behind the decline, but one reason looms above others: Amazon.

“Amazon announced its arrival one year ago,” said David Howell, executive vice president for McEnearney Associates. “Since then, we’ve seen 46% fewer listings in Alexandria and 44% in Arlington… The inventory began to shrink literally the day after the announcement.”

At a City Council retreat on Saturday, marking the launch of the budget cycle, City Manager Mark Jinks highlighted the scarcity of homes for sale in Alexandria.

“Active listings a year ago were 450,” Jinks said. “There are only 208 active listings in June 2019. There’s not a lot of inventory on the market for people to purchase. There’s a lot of speculation about what that means. Are people not selling because they think they’ll be able to get more? Are people not purchasing because they can’t? There’s so much uncertainty.”

Jinks explained to the Council that many homeowners who might otherwise be selling their properties are holding out in hopes that Amazon will increase the home value.

“Do I sell my home now or wait another couple years with Amazon coming will I get ten percent more or 20 percent more?” Jinks asked, hypothetically. “It’s a lot of speculation for what may or may not happen. There is not a lot of property for sale and a lot of speculation about why.”

Both Howell and Jinks said there are other factors at play both nationally and locally.

“Interest rates are low and the region is growing,” Jinks said. “There’s a demand for residential, as we’ve seen, but we’re not seeing price appreciation. At almost any other time like this, we would have seen single-family homes and townhomes move up appreciably, and we haven’t seen it. Some of the speculation is that people with student loan debt [make it] harder for people to afford the ownership market.”

While student loan debt could keep people from buying homes, Howell said he doubted that would impact the sellers. More likely, Howell said it’s a result of some after-effects of the housing bubble burst a decade ago.

“The big lesson is people aren’t selling for speculative reasons after the bust,” Howell said. “Appreciation is more modest and sustained because people are buying where they want to live rather than using the home as an ATM. People are staying put.”

Howell also said many of those homeowners were able to lock in low mortgage rates.

“We will see a sustained low inventory over time,” Howell. “That’s true nationally, but in Arlington and Alexandria especially.”

File photo

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Alexandria is taking another look at the future of Arlandria and Del Ray and how those communities can weather the planned urbanization of the “National Landing” area.

This fall, the city is launching its community engagement for plans to update the 2005 Mount Vernon Avenue Business Plan and the 2003 Long-Term Vision and Action Plan for the Arlandria Neighborhood. The city cites the nearby arrival of Amazon, the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, and the North Potomac Yard Metro station as looming developments that could start to change the character of the residential and commercial communities to the west.

Neighbors and organizations in and around the area are invited to offer feedback to help identify the most important community issues and start to build a framework for the new plans — which will start taking shape next year.

At a joint meeting of Arlington and Alexandria, city officials recognized that there was frequent difficulty in getting responses from communities most prone to the effects of gentrification, so several of the outreach events are focused on going out into the community and interviewing residents rather than relying on those residents and business leaders to come to meetings.

The first event will be this Saturday, Nov. 9, from 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at Simpson Field (500 E. Monroe Avenue). City staff will be out at the field talking with local residents and will move up and down Mount Vernon Avenue to speak with people in stores and markets, according to the city’s website.

Additional outreach events are planned throughout November and December.

A community conversation for Arlandria is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 21, from 6-8 p.m. at Cora Kelly Elementary School (3600 Commonwealth Avenue). The meeting will be held in Spanish with English translation available.

A similar meeting for Del Ray is scheduled for Dec. 12 from 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m. at Mount Vernon Community School (2601 Commonwealth Avenue), this one in English with Spanish translation available.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Jillian Keck Hogan of Jillian Keck Hogan Real Estate Group and McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Jillian at 703-951-7655 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: We have been reading all the headlines, but what really is the “Amazon Effect”?

Answer: The buzz of Amazon is something we have all been hearing and there is some truth to the stories being published, BUT as it relates to real estate, the effects are very situational with price point, condition and location.

We have been reading all the same publications, and we completely understand if all the news is making you a bit nervous as to when the best time will be to purchase or sell your home. Home prices have been increasing, but that is true of every year since 2010. There is a good chance you might be competing on a listing against another buyer, but that has been a possibility over the last 9 years, as well.

Here is a bit of advice from our COO, David Howell, at McEnearney Associates, Inc.: “Sell when you are ready to sell, and buy when you are ready to buy.”

The Most Competitive Markets

Now, competing as a purchaser is always a possibility in any price point. This is driven by a seller’s strategy. Some sellers can choose to market their home under the going market price in order to move a home sooner versus later. This does not mean the sellers are in distress or the property is falling apart. Sellers do this at times just to make their move easier and faster.

The Amazon Effect — in this case, the comparatively low number of homes on the market — has been the most notable in Alexandria and Arlington in price points under $900,000.

What Does That Mean?

Virginia selling tactics and competition have been progressively picking up, following the trend we see with the D.C. market having grown hotter and hotter over the last 5-7 years with increased new construction. With many agents in our area being licensed in D.C. and Virginia, the strategies to win out on a competing situation used in Virginia began to mimic what D.C. licensed agents had been doing for years: Escalating in price, waiving inspections (or completing them before the offer was submitted), and taking on more risk during the appraisal contingencies.

Sellers have a bit more control in negotiations and receiving multiple bids on their home over list price. As a buyer, this could mean that you write a few more offers, but do know that this does not mean you have to “overpay” for a home.

Overall

The Amazon Effect is nothing that our DMV has not seen before. If you are looking to purchase under the $900,000 price point, be assured that it is very possible to buy a great home at a great price when going in with a strong strategic offer. And sellers in this same price point, be sure to still give your home all the best finishing touches to show well and review your neighborhood comparable sales before selecting your final price.

No, home prices have not doubled — but you are in a very fortunate position to be getting some of the highest prices ever in your neighborhood and you can receive offers with less contingencies which otherwise could have cost you more money.

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. www.McEnearney.com Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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In a rare joint meeting of top Alexandria and Arlington officials, the two communities laid the foundation for a closer collaboration on affordable housing.

Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson and the City Council met with the Arlington County Board last night (Tuesday) at Arlington’s Gunston Community Center after Wilson’s proposal to meet on a flotilla of lashed-together kayaks in Four Mile Run was shot down. There was very little set in stone at the meeting, but the gathering allowed both organizations to set priorities for policy goals as they prepare for Amazon’s HQ2, the new Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, and a new George Mason University School of Computing.

“The work around Potomac Yard is different and groundbreaking,” Wilson said. “If we’re not intentional and deliberate, things will just happen to us. We have a chance to get ahead of things. I’m hoping to set a course that our staff can get to work on all of these policy areas.”

“I’m very excited for this step,” Wilson continued. “This is the start of a journey for us and there are a lot of folks rooting for us.”

There was some early discussion of new governing bodies being established to facilitate collaborative efforts across local boundaries. Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey raised the possibility of establishing a community development corporation — a 501c3 with he described as being capable of a great deal of flexibility. The idea, however, was tabled for the time being.

“There are a few different concepts that have been tried elsewhere and have been put in place in our respective communities,” said Dorsey. “We can have a variety of governance models with a broad representation of stakeholders. There is an endless number of configurations we can use and get all the benefits of an independent nonprofit.”

For the most part, the two governing bodies mingled seamlessly — though frequent, joking barbs were traded back and forth, with Arlington at one point threatening to annex Del Ray. Both organizations shared almost identical concerns about the upcoming arrival of Amazon, particularly on the headquarters’ impact on local affordable housing.

Councilwoman Redella “Del” Pepper said many of Alexandria’s most vulnerable populations feel that the loss of affordable housing in the region is a foregone conclusion and some were starting to flee Alexandria before rising costs pushed them out.

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