Newsletter

Mayoral candidates engage in public forum — “Alexandria’s mayoral candidates gathered in a virtual forum on Saturday, kicking into high gear to get their message out ahead of the Nov. 2 general election.” [Alexandria Times]

Amazon backs grant program to spur affordable development near D.C.-area transit — “Amazon will fund a new grant program to help local governments and nonprofit developers pursue affordable projects near transit stations, directing $500,000 of its recently announced $2 billion Housing Equity Fund to this effort.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local group plans Four Mile Run clean-up — “Join us Sat., Oct. 23 for cleanup at Four Mile Run Park from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. to celebrate the Clean Virginia Waterways and Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.” [Twitter]

Alexandria kid goes viral for love of fire department — “Alotta yuck these days… Please enjoy the delight of my three year old spotting a fire truck. @AlexandriaVAFD, meet your biggest fan!” [Twitter]

D.C. didn’t ask Northam and Hogan to help crack down on ticket scofflaws, despite initial claims it did — “D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser never reached out to the governors of Virginia and Maryland to negotiate reciprocity for automated traffic camera tickets, despite a District government report — signed by the mayor and submitted to the D.C. Council last week — saying that said she did.” [DCist]

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What a week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

Our top story this week is about Ricardo Roberts, a District B candidate for the Alexandria School Board. Roberts, who intends to sue the school system, wants cameras in classrooms and “examples” made of unruly kids.

On Tuesday, Governor Ralph Northam joined dignitaries in Alexandria for the groundbreaking of the first of Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus buildings. Virginia Tech plans on opening the first of three academic buildings in 2024, paving the way for a tech-centric campus next door to Amazon’s HQ2 development in Crystal City.

Also on Tuesday, the City Council voted unanimously to extend the state of emergency to January 31, 2022.

On Thursday, parts of the city were flooded during a brief thunderstorm. Thanks to Kerrin Nishimura for sending us flooding photos of the Braddock area.

In this week’s poll, we asked about a potential Metro line crossing over to National Harbor. Of the nearly 700 responses, 62% of respondents think it’s a great idea, 23% need to hear more about it, and 15% think it’s a bad idea.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Alexandria School Board candidate wants cameras in classrooms and ‘examples’ made of misbehaving kids
  2. West End trail project derailed by stalled development
  3. With high hopes and small class sizes, The Linder Academy opens in Old Town
  4. Alexandria City Council to likely extend state of emergency to next year
  5. Poll: What do you think of Metro’s proposed Blue Line crossing to National Harbor?
  6. Multiple violent charges dropped against Fairfax County man held without bond for assaulting police during arrest
  7. Landmark redevelopment’s community management up for review at City Council tonight
  8. Alexandria seeking state-funding to make fare-free buses long-term
  9. West End apartment complex looks to replace parking with barking
  10. BREAKING: Video shows brawl at Alexandria City High School cafeteria just two days after school starts
  11. Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus breaks ground in Potomac Yard

Have a safe weekend!

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Amazon’s Sword of Damocles is hanging over Arlandria, and city staff have been working with local residents and community leaders to put together a plan to help preserve the local community against gentrification.

Arlandria, also known as Chirilagua, is a primarily Latino community in northern Alexandria with refugees from El Salvador and other parts of Central America.

The community is one of the city’s few bastions of market rate affordable housing — housing affordable to those making less than the area median income that isn’t part of a committed affordable housing program. But it’s a community that is also less than a mile from the rapidly-transforming Potomac Yard and just down the road from Amazon’s “HQ2” in Crystal City.

City staff are scheduled to discuss a first draft of the Arlandria-Chirilagua Plan at the Thursday, Sept. 9, Planning Commission meeting. In a memo, Director of Planning and Zoning Karl Moritz outlined what the plan’s goals are:

  1. Preserve Arlandria-Chirilagua as a culturally diverse neighborhood; protect residents’ ability to remain in the community amidst anticipated market pressures by preserving and expanding housing affordability and opportunity;
  2. Support the existing commercial corridor and local businesses;
  3. Build on neighborhood walkability, safety, and transportation options;
  4. Connect and expand the open space network with more play areas and outdoor living rooms; and
  5. Empower residents to advocate for their needs and participate in decisions affecting their neighborhood.

Moritz said the plan is to address preservation of Arlington-Chirilagua on several topics, from housing affordability to community safety and mobility. The plan is scheduled for release later this month for review throughout September and October. The final draft plan will be released in mid-October with public hearings throughout November.

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What an unexpectedly busy summer week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

Our top story was on an Alexandria woman who claims she was roofied at a restaurant on the waterfront on the evening of July 9. A police report has been filed, and no charges have been made.

This week we sat down with acting Police Chief Don Hayes, who said that he’s thrown his hat in the ring with City Manager Mark Jinks to keep the top job. Hayes, a 40-year veteran of the Alexandria Police Department took over after the sudden departure of Chief Michael Brown last month, and will have to contend against candidates in a national search.

The Tokyo Olympics also start this week, and the games will include three T.C. Williams High School graduates — sprinter Noah Lyles, high-jumper Tynita Butts-Townsend and boxer Troy Isley. In fact, Lyles just had a comic book biography published in the Washington Post. If you’re a fan of the Olympic games, check out this list of local restaurants celebrating with special events and meals.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Woman claims she was roofied at Old Town restaurant
  2. Residents protest against conditions at West End apartment complex
  3. Developers eye Beauregard redevelopment with West End upgrades on the horizon
  4. Former chef at ‘The Alexandrian’ opening new restaurant in Arlandria on Monday
  5. No injuries after shots fired in Braddock area on Wednesday
  6. DASH takes lessons from D.C., Baltimore and Oregon in eliminating bus fares
  7. ‘Call Your Mother Deli’ signs lease in Old Town
  8. After last month’s Democratic primary, Republican Darryl Nirenberg tops campaign donation leaderboard
  9. New city health improvement plan aims to fix inequities
  10. Poll: Have you been to the Winkler Botanical Preserve?
  11. Lee-Fendall House to throw speakeasy party to finance building repairs

Have a safe weekend!

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A new luxury condominium community in Potomac Yard has reportedly sold 30% of its properties — without any of its 138 units yet built.

The FORTIS Companies of Washington, D.C. owns the Dylan property, and is selling one-to-three bedroom condos for between $600,000 and $1.2 million. The condos have been designed by Lessard Design International of Vienna and Akseizer Design Group in Alexandria, and will be built next year. In the meantime, interested buyers can see a fully-sized model at their sales gallery at 2316 Richmond Highway.

Over the next several years, Potomac Yard will completely transform into a bustling commercial district home to a new Metro station, the massive Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, and a revamped shopping center — all next door to Amazon’s HQ2 development in Crystal City.

The new Dylan development will be located adjacent to Potomac Yard Park.

“As we anticipated, the excitement around Amazon’s HQ2 and Virginia Tech is generating strong interest in Dylan,” said FORTIS Vice President Matt Bunch. “Dylan’s convenient, walkable location is a big draw. It is just a five-minute walk to the new Potomac Yard Metro Station opening early next year, which will connect residents to Regan National Airport just one stop away. Residents also will have walkable access to a variety of new shops, restaurants, employment centers, and recreational options within Potomac Yard and on Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus.”

Bunch continued, “We recognize that many residents will appreciate the option of working from home, so we ensured that 80 percent of Dylan’s plans include generously sized dens or home offices. Dylan also will feature an onsite business center for those residents who want to meet clients, take calls privately, or just get some work done outside of their homes.”

Courtesy The FORTIS Companies 

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The pandemic changed how consumers shop, and with the development of Amazon HQ2, Alexandria is evolving from a government town to a tech town.

That’s according to a presentation to the Del Ray Business Association this week by Kevin Fenton, founder of The Walla Design Company.

“We’re basically evolving from being known as a government company town to now pivoting to be looked at as a tech, innovative place to set up a business,” Fenton said. “It doesn’t make brick and mortar experiences insignificant. It does, however, mean that your brick and mortar experience needs to be extraordinary in order to maximize the value of the trip that your audience is taking.”

The bottom line, Fenton said, is that local businesses will need to focus their offerings online and create unforgettable experience at their brick and mortars, which will see a reduction in foot traffic in the years to come.

Amazon will start construction in 2022 and open in 2025 in Arlington, and the move will means even more younger consumers making more money living in the area. Millennials already make up 43% of residents in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area, according to the 2019 U.S. Census Community Survey, which Fenton sourced in his report.

Fenton said that online grocery shopping, home nesting and virtual health care will continue to grow in popularity.

“The big takeaway here is that COVID required us as consumers to overnight — I mean quite literally overnight — to reconsider our value systems and our attitudes about consumer safety and self preservation,” he said. “Our spending habits changed very, very quickly. What we were spending our money on also changed.”

Courtesy Amazon

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Residents of the Chirilagua/Arlandria neighborhood been besieged over the last year.

As a largely Latino community disproportionately impacted by job loss during the pandemic, local residents have pushed back against rent payments. But even as Alexandria starts to pull out of the pandemic with an eye toward job recovery, the city is working through efforts to build a plan to save Chirilagua — less than a mile from Potomac Yard and Crystal City — from the gentrifying effects of Amazon.

“Many Arlandria residents have been candid in expressing fears about displacement and gentrification, anxiety over losing their community and the culture of their neighborhood over time,” said City housing planner Tamara Jovovic in a public forum earlier this week. “Addressing this will require an all-hands-on-deck approach.”

Jovovic said Chirilagua already faces a misalignment in housing needs and rent availability, with local families spending too much on rent and utilities. She said the city’s goal is to create housing affordable to individuals and families at roughly 40% of area median income (AMI). For individuals or small households, that ranges from $36,000 to $60,000 per year.

The city has started working on facilitating public-private partnerships to push for affordable housing development in the area, with Jovovic saying the city is looking at how to turn city-owned areas like a parking lot on Mount Vernon avenue into use for affordable housing.

“The deeper the level of affordability of units, the greater number of tools needed,” Jovovic said.

One of the questions raised by residents in the forum was whether the city would expand height and density restrictions. City staff said the plan is not to increase those restrictions, and that developers wanting expanded height or density will consequently be required to offer a maximum number of affordable housing units.

“We’re moving forward with the same heights,” said Jose Ayala, a city planner. “[W]e want to make sure anything proposed in neighborhood related to an increase in heights is related to affordable housing.”

Late last year, the city codified a long-standing trade in Alexandria development: You can get more height and density than is typically allowed in an area, but only if you add affordable housing proportional to that expansion.

“Development applications could request through [Development Special Use Permit], that’s an optional zoning tool,” Jovovic said. “[They can request] up to 25 feet of additional height in exchange for one-third of density associated as affordable housing

Jack Browand, division chief of Parks and Cultural Activities, said other feedback the city has received so far highlights the need for the city to make better use of parks as meeting spaces.

“Community feedback emphasized the need for social areas and to increase park facilities,” Browand said. “Including having picnic areas and established grilling locations. We don’t have a lot of public restrooms throughout, so [that means] being able to extend outdoor experience by having public restrooms for the public.”

Jovovic emphasized the importance of getting a plan into place before the area starts to feel the effects of Amazon.

“While affordable home ownership may not seem like a pressing need now, the plan will be recommending we expand home ownership training and counseling to make it geographically to make it more accessible and linguistically,” Jovovic said.

The plan is scheduled to go to the Planning Commission and City Council late this fall or in early winter.

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Morning Notes

The Twig donates $150K to Inova Alexandria Hospital — “During their annual luncheon Tuesday morning, The Twig (Together We Ignite Giving), the junior auxiliary unit for Inova Alexandria Hospital, presented a $150,000 check to the institution as part of its $1 million pledge to renovate the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit.” [Zebra]

Amazon and Metro announce $125M plan to make 1,000 affordable housing units near Metro stations — “This represents another return on the region’s extraordinary investment in mass transit, as the partnership with Amazon will accelerate transit-oriented development, grow ridership, and keep our region competitive with other global economic centers,” said Metro Board Chair Paul Smedberg. “Amazon is stepping up to the plate with an unprecedented commitment to affordable housing in the National Capital Region.” [WMATA]

Sheriff’s deputies and police officers graduate from Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy — “The new law enforcement officers successfully completed 20 weeks of training, including emergency vehicle operations, firearms training, defensive and control tactics, crash investigation, basic legal training, and other important areas. Some Alexandria members of this class distinguished themselves, with Officer Stephen Weidman earning top honors in the Emergency Vehicle Operations Course and Officer Yadiel Nuñez having the second highest score in Firearms.” [Zebra]

Today’s weather — “Sunny skies. High near 80F. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph… Some clouds early will give way to generally clear conditions overnight. Low 58F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New job: Bartender/Server/Runner — “The Old Dominion Boat Club is looking to hire servers, bartenders, and food runners. We have competitive pay and participate in a very healthy and robust tip share.” [Indeed]

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Amazon is planning to install one of its Amazon Fresh grocery stores at the former Shoppers supermarket at Potomac Yard, according to documents obtained by the Washington Business Journal.

The 50,000-square foot space is the sixth potential location for Amazon Fresh throughout the region, and Total Wine has also reportedly made moves to open next door at the former Pier 1 Imports, which closed more than a year ago.

The Amazon Fresh pick-up and delivery service will be located next to the $1 billion Virginia Tech Innovation Campus and about a mile-and-a-half away from Amazon’s HQ2 development in Crystal City.

Potomac Yard is managed by JBG Smith Properties and JPMorgan Chase & Co., which are both overseeing a massive mixed-use development of the area.

Amazon itself did not file the documents with the city, according to WBJ. Instead, Canadian architect NORR made the filing for “Mendel,” which is reportedly an Amazon code word.

Photo via Google Maps

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JBG Smith, the master master developer for Virginia Tech’s $1 billion Innovation Campus, just signed a deal to design, construct, manage and own 2 million square feet of mix-used property at Potomac Yard.

“Institutional investors advised by (project financial manager) J.P. Morgan Global Alternatives contributed a land site that is entitled for approximately 1.3 million square feet of development it controls at Potomac Yard Landbay F (North Potomac Yard), while JBG SMITH contributed adjacent land with more than 700,000 square feet of development capacity at Potomac Yard, Landbay G (the Town Center),” JBG Smith said in a release.

JBG Smith has a 50% ownership stake in the joint venture, and will act as leasing agent for future residential and commercial properties at the site. The move increases the company’s ownership development rights by more than 285,000 square feet.

“The plans call for two multifamily buildings totaling approximately 419,000 square feet that have been placed in JBG SMITH’s Near-Term Development Pipeline and could start construction within the next 12 months,” JBG Smith said. “The remaining 1.6 million square feet of mixed-use development across Landbays F and G is expected to be developed over time and, consequently, are included in the Future Development Pipeline.”

“We are thrilled that this joint venture will further the community’s collective long-term vision of National Landing as a thriving, transit-oriented, mixed-use destination and world-class innovation district,” said Ed Chaglassian, executive vice president and head of acquisitions at JBG SMITH. “This transaction will help ensure that the surrounding neighborhoods can grow in lockstep with Virginia Tech in ways that will complement and enhance its Innovation Campus.”

Virginia Tech plans on opening its four-acre Innovation Campus by fall 2024. Additionally, the Potomac Yard Metro station is expected to open by spring 2022. It is also located a mile south of National Landing, the future home of Amazon’s HQ2 project at National Landing, which is slated for a 2028 completion.

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