Adding police presence to high-crime areas, putting more cops in communities and strategically placing mobile camera units are just a few of the initial strategies that the Alexandria Police Department is employing to confront a crime surge.
APD Assistant Chief Easton McDonald briefed City Council on the uptick on Tuesday night, and also said that there is an increase in juvenile crime and crimes being committed by young people.
“There is an uptick with juveniles,” McDonald told Council. “From April 1 to April 23, there have been approximately 27 encounters with juveniles that have either been charged with illegal weapons possession, drugs with the intent to sell, grand larceny of a vehicle where we had four juveniles that (allegedly) stole a vehicle, fled from the vehicle, and there was a weapon inside the vehicle.”
APD reported 11 shooting incidents this month, including three incidents on Monday, April 17. On that day, a clerk at a 7-Eleven was shot in a robbery in the early morning, followed by a shooting in the 1200 block of Madison Street near the Braddock Road Metro station, and then a shooting near a bus stop at the Bradlee Shopping Center. Three males, ages 17, 18, and 19, were arrested in connection to the Old Town incident and an 18-year-old male suspended from Alexandria City High School was arrested for the shooting at Bradlee, McDonald told Council.
McDonald said APD is forming a new community safety stakeholder group made up of local residents and officials to develop solutions, including outreach regarding available youth programs. The stakeholder group is yet to be named and will meet next month at APD headquarters, McDonald said.
“A weapon should not be in the hands of a teenager,” he said. “They should not be held in bookbags, so the stakeholder group is to get back into the communities to let these individuals know that this is not going to be tolerated. This is not something that can continue, and the (city’s) federal partners are going to deal with those individuals who are felons with guns. And we are arresting felons with guns.”
APD is increasing its presence in high-crime areas, such as the West End and Braddock areas, and plans on returning officers to specific beats, McDonald said. The department will also participate in numerous community cookouts and weekly walks through neighborhoods experiencing crime.
“We plan on working with the community to stop this,” McDonald said. “The goal is to reduce this gun violence.”
Mayor Justin Wilson said that APD can be more aggressive around serving warrants.
“We can be more aggressive around warrant service and things like that, where we’re getting out there and going to find people who we know are in the community that we’re looking for and devoting resources to try and to address some of those things,” he said. “If we can get people off the streets that shouldn’t be on the streets who are at risk of committing crimes, I think that’s always going to be a positive.”
Vice Mayor Amy Jackson said that a recent shooting outside a bus stop in the Bradlee Shopping Center brought back bad memories of last year’s murder of 18-year-old Luis Mejia Hernandez in that same shopping center. Jackson said she’s concerned that Alexandria City High School kids will be congregating at the shopping center in greater numbers in the next couple of weeks as they take their Standards Of Learning (SOL) tests.
“The uptick in crime is a major thing,” Jackson said. “We’re coming up on SOL (Standards Of Learning tests) season. SOL means, if the community is not aware, some kids are in school for a couple hours during the day and then they’re in their classrooms and watching movies and studying for other SOL tests. But most of them will be released and they will not get on yellow buses to go home from the schools. They will get on DASH buses that are free fare. What is the plan for Bradlee, because that is happening in the next two weeks?”
McDonald tried to put the three shooting incidents on April 17 into context by saying that APD responds to 400-to-600 calls for service daily.
“The children have an absolute right to walk into those stores and be in those particular areas,” McDonald said. “We are there. Our presence does prevent crime. There’s always going to be a case where that doesn’t work, but we will be there as fast as we can to mitigate what happens.”
A number of shooting incidents occur in the 1200 block of Madison Street in the Braddock neighborhood, in a property managed by the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority. On April 21, there was another shooting on that same block, prompting Wilson to announce the addition of cameras and police foot patrols to the area.
As previously reported, an ARHA resident told ALXnow that he fears for his son’s life.
“I been here three years next month, and counting today I’ve heard at least 160 gunshots,” the man said. “It’s a lot, man. Right outside my back door. I have a four year old son and I had to train him to run upstairs and duck. I’m glad he’s in school right now. I feel like we’re sitting ducks. Something’s got to be done. I’m trying to get out of here. Nobody should have to live like this.”
Kevin Harris is an ARHA board member, and said he’s happy about the plan by APD.
“I’m happy about the measures the city is taking to mitigate violence and crime throughout the city,” Harris said. “Also, I’m pleased with the measures that the residents of the ARHA in partnership with the organization as a whole have been taking for years to keep our kids and families safe. It’s a grave miscalculation and misunderstanding to think that the families of ARHA’s communities are unconcerned or participants in these acts of violence in their communities. These families are just as concerned as their neighbors.”
After a crime wave in 2020, that fall ARHA’s safety committee made the following recommendations to the police department to reduce crime incidents. Many of the recommendations are in line with APDs current strategy to reduce crime.
- Increase police presence in high crime areas by stationing officers in cars in areas that are known for a high volume of loitering to deter criminal activity (specifically for its Samuel Madden, Cameron Valley, and Andrew Adkins properties)
- Increase presence by random community walks multiple times per week (specifically Samuel Madden, Cameron Valley, and Andrew Adkins)
- Increase positive community engagement such as events for the youth, neighborhood educational workshops (knowing your rights, tips on police engagement, how broken laws affect the community), etc. to build a positive rapport with the community
- Improve community relations by door knocking and having informal “meet and greets” with people in the community
- Meet with the Safety Committee and provide training and insight on how to report a crime (develop a special way for safety committee members to contact law enforcement)
- Create a standing monthly meeting between the Chief of Police and the Chairman of the Safety Committee and/or the leaders of the Safety Committee
- Create a police liaison who will act as a bridge between the Safety Committee and APD
- Enforce disturbing of the peace after certain hours to limit the late-night partying and drinking that could lead to violence and crime
- Provide diversity training for officers with the intent and purpose for them to learn how to police different demographics
- Reevaluate tactics for obtaining crime tips (never approach people at home, meet privately away from the community, and create and/or educate people on a discreet way for people to report crimes)
- Be more responsive to calls directly from ARHA communities
- Create a means to hold Resident Police Officers accountable for properly policing their assigned communities
- Create a Citizen’s Police Review Board with representation from various communities throughout the City of Alexandria with at least one representative from the Safety Committee appointed on the board. Sincerely, Loren Depina, Chairperson of the ARHA Resident Association Safety Committee
Yesterday afternoon, Alexandria Police Chief Don Hayes and his staff walked through an Old Town neighborhood that was a crime scene on Monday.
“I’m here to reassure people that this will happen, but that this is still a safe neighborhood,” Hayes told ALXnow. “I just walk around in the neighborhoods knock on doors, talk to people. Sometimes it can last three or four hours.”
Alexandria’s gun-related crime surged 100% in 2022. Police recently unveiled a plan to install gunshot detection systems throughout the city, although the action needs City Council approval and is planned for next year’s budget. For now, the Alexandria Police Department’s short-term answer to rising crime is to increase police patrols and getting officers in neighborhoods with community cookouts.
There were multiple incidents of gunfire over the weekend, with three incidents on Monday alone. In the area Hayes visited on Monday, three juveniles were arrested after an estimated 40 shots were fired. The shots were fired in an alleyway in the 1200 block of Madison Street, a block away from the Braddock Road Metro station, and no one was injured. Earlier Monday, at 2 a.m., a 7-Eleven clerk was shot in the leg in a robbery. Later in the day, shots were fired at the Bradlee Shopping Center.
“I don’t walk around here at night anymore,” said a resident who lives near to where the shots were fired Monday. “I find myself on my guard all the time, and I’m on high-alert all the time. I read the news and I keep aware of my surroundings.”
City Manager Jim Parajon stopped by to hear what Hayes had to say.
“It’s tough,” Parajon said. “I mean, we’re seeing a rise in gun violence across the country.”
Hayes also plans to keep walking through communities affected by crime every week to talk with residents.
APD will also host 10 upcoming community cookouts, which are sponsored by a number of nonprofits and city agencies. The following cookouts will be held from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m:
- Tuesday, April 25, at Ruby Tucker Family Center
- Thursday, April 27, at Princess Square in Old Town
- Tuesday, May 2, at the Shoppes at Foxchase
- Friday May 5, at Casa Chirilagua
- Tuesday, May 9, at Brent Place Apartments
- Thursday, May 11, at Southern Towers apartments
- Tuesday, May 16, at Hillwood Condominiums
- Thursday, May 18, at the South Port Apartments
- Tuesday May 23, at Andrew Adkins Housing
- Thursday, May 25, at the Mount Vernon Recreation Center field
The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) is requesting a $1 million loan after unexpected development costs and a new designation that could give it a tax credit boost.
Both the loan and the tax credits would go toward the Samuel Madden Redevelopment Project. The project involves the demolition of the existing 66-unit Samuel Madden Homes and replacing them with two multifamily buildings at 899 and 999 N. Henry Streets.
The new development would include 532 rental units, with more than 60% of those being affordable units for those making 30-80% of the area median income.
The first part of ARHA’s request to the City Council at the Saturday, Feb. 25 meeting is a $1 million loan to support redevelopment. The loan request comes after construction cost inflation and fluctuations in interest rates have pushed up costs for the projects.
“According to ARHA, recent changes in the financial markets including construction cost inflation and upward fluctuations in interest rates necessitate its request for $1 million in City Housing Opportunities Fund (HOF) funds to maintain project feasibility,” a memo from Helen McIlvaine, director of the Office of Housing, said. “City financial support was not initially anticipated beyond a small predevelopment loan.”
The loan funding comes from a $3.1 million reserve built up by contributions from other nearby developments around the Braddock neighborhood.
The second part of ARHA’s request is to have the site classified as a revitalization area.
A memo from McIlvaine said the change in title could help boost ARHA’s efforts to get more state funding.
“The Resolution designating the ARHA Samuel Madden site a revitalization area helps make ARHA’s application for low-income housing tax credit equity more competitive in terms of aligning the project with funding priorities established by Virginia Housing,” McIlvaine wrote.
What’s more, McIlvaine said city staff agrees with the revitalization area designation — noting a site where economically beneficial development will not occur without government assistance.
“Consistent with the City Attorney’s past interpretation of the relevant Virginia Code Section, staff believe that the proposed development of affordable housing at this site provides an economic benefit to the City that would not otherwise occur without government assistance,” McIlvaine wrote, “including local financial support and federal tax credits, as well as other planned public and private resources, which criteria comply with requirements of the designation.”
Separately from this loan and designation request, the Samuel Madden development has raised some eyebrows among City leaders in the past for a proposed tax exemption that could set a notable precedent. ARHA has previously discussed asking the City Council to make the Samuel Madden project tax-exempt, but given that ARHA is working with private developers, that could lead to affordable housing tax exemptions for private entities charging market-rate rents — not affordable housing.
“ARHA properties owned by ARHA are tax exempt, those are off the tax rolls, but when they do a redevelopment that involves a private entity, those projects would go on the tax rolls,” Mayor Justin Wilson said in a recent city coucnil meeting. “All the affordable housing projects that exist in the city that are owned by nonprofits do pay taxes. In this case, ARHA is partnering with a private entity, so the ownership structure is a little bit complicated.”
The loan and designation status are scheduled for review at a City Council meeting this Saturday, Feb. 25.
A major affordable housing development in the city’s Braddock area is headed to the Planning Commission tonight.
Tonight’s meeting on the proposed Samuel Madden redevelopment comes after more than a year-and-a-half of back-and-forths between city staff and the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
ARHA wants to demolish the existing 66 units of public housing in 13 two-story apartment buildings at 899 and 999 N. Henry Street and replace them with two new six-story apartment buildings (75 feet maximum height) containing 532 residential units. Of those, 326 units would be affordable and workforce housing for a period of 40 years, in order for ARHA to qualify for federal tax credits.
The current public housing units were built for defense workers during World War II in 1945. The 65 families currently living on the properties will be provided temporary housing, their moving expenses will be paid and they will have the option to move back to the property once construction is finished, according to a city staff report.
If approved, the development would also be home to 13,800 square feet of ground floor retail space, as well as a 13,540 square-foot Hopkins House early childhood center and a 500-square-foot Alive! food hub.
ARHA expects construction to take two years and is also applying for special use permit approvals for a potential restaurant with outdoor dining, an athletic club/fitness studio and a medical care facility.
If approved by the Planning Commission, the matter will be voted on by the Alexandria City Council at its public hearing on Saturday, Feb. 25.
The north building
The north building will be located at the highly visible intersection of N. Patrick and N. Henry Streets, and include 207 apartments. Residents will be able to parking in a single-level 127-space underground parking garage. The Alive! food hub would also be located on the ground floor of the building.
“The north building will include a 500-square-foot Alive Food Hub on the ground floor, which will function like a small market, allowing clients to shop for food, personal items, cleaning, and school supplies, and make connections to useful information/services,” according to a city staff report.
The City also wants ARHA to develop an oral history project for the site, and either contribute public art to the space or donate $54,000 to the city’s public arts efforts.
The south building
While the project is part of a single community, ARHA intends on selling the south building to a private developer.
“(D)ifferent entities will own the two buildings,” City staff noted. “ARHA will be the fee simple owner of the northern block, allowing for certain fee exemptions, while the southern block will be sold to a private developer.”
The south building is proposed to have 13,300 square feet of ground floor retail use, in addition to the 13,300-square-foot Hopkins House daycare, will have up to 150 students and 23 employees, according to the city. Also in the south property, ARHA has applied for SUPs for a restaurant with outdoor dining, a medical care facility and an athletic club/fitness center.
There’s nothing unusual in Alexandria financing an affordable housing project, but one specific request from the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) could set a notable precedent.
The Samuel Madden redevelopment would replace the 66 affordable housing units with a new mixed-use development featuring around 530 units. Two-thirds of those units would be available at various levels of affordability, while the other third would be available at “market rate” –rents without any affordability baked in.
In a report to the City Council from the ARHA redevelopment committee, Mayor Justin Wilson said plans for the Samuel Madden redevelopment project include a request for a tax exemption on the property. While ARHA properties are generally tax-exempt, this project is in partnership with private developers Mill Creek Residential and The Communities Group.
“ARHA properties owned by ARHA are tax exempt, those are off the tax rolls, but when they do a redevelopment that involves a private entity, those projects would go on the tax rolls,” Wilson said. “All the affordable housing projects that exist in the city that are owned by nonprofits do pay taxes. In this case, ARHA is partnering with a private entity, so the ownership structure is a little bit complicated.”
Wilson said that while the city is supportive of the redevelopment project and could contribute additional funding, a tax exemption might open the door for other private affordable housing developers to ask to have their projects taken off the tax rolls.
“Depending on how we sort through that, may or may not be creating a precedent that will have other affordable housing developers and nonprofits come forward and request similar disposition,” Wilson said. “So we need to be thoughtful and careful in how we approach that decision.”
The tax exemption is just one of the financial questions around the redevelopment.
Wilson said the question facing the City Council is whether to loan the money or offer it as a grant. Traditionally, Alexandria loans funding to ARHA, which eventually pays it back to the city with a revolving fund that then goes to fund future affordable housing loans.
“As with any project right now, ARHA is seeing increases in costs,” Wilson said. “The request that we have received and that staff is working on relates to relief for a couple different aspects — some of it is development fees, some of it is questions around whether we are extending a loan or extending grants to support it. ARHA had initially not intended to request city financing, I think they have had to change that approach and they are requesting financial assistance to keep the project viable.”
(Updated 1:45 p.m.) Toy donations are still needed for residents living in Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority properties.
The 13th Annual Santa’s Winter Wonderland event will provide gifts for hundreds of children 17 years old and under.
This year’s will be drive-thru and held over the course of three days (Dec. 16, 17 and 18) in the parking lot of Charles Houston Recreation Center (901 Wythe Street).
Anyone interested in donating items to the toy drive should contact Rose Boyd at [email protected]ARHA.us.
The toy drive is open only to ARHA residents. Participants must register online by December 12. Accommodations can be made for ARHA residents who have challenges participating in the on-site event by calling 703-549-7115.
Last week, the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) gave its headquarters an official name — one honoring a local civil rights activist and affordable housing advocate.
The newly christened A Melvin Miller Building honors A. Melvin Miller. After serving two years in the army, Miller move to Alexandria in 1958. Miller launched a criminal law practice but worked pro bono on school desegregation issues. Miller served as spokesperson for The Secret Seven, a group of Black civil rights pioneers in Alexandria. Miller was chair of ARHA from 1970 to 1977 and from 2001 to 2012.
One of Miller’s greatest contributions to affordable housing, a release from ARHA said, was the negotiation of Resolution 830, which states that no public housing in Alexandria would be demolished unless there’s a one-for-one unit replacement.
“Resolution 830 is one of Melvin Miller’s crowning achievements,” ARHA Board Commissioner Merrick Malone said in the release. “It is the guiding principle that ARHA continues to follow and exceed when redeveloping the agency’s properties. His legacy informs the work of ARHA every single day, and so I’m extremely proud that his name now graces our headquarters.”
Over 35 years of public service, Miller worked in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and served as Assistant Deputy Secretary at HUD from 1997 until retiring in 2014.
“My family is extremely grateful that my father’s legacy will live on in this way,” Marc Miller, one of Melvin Miller’s two surviving children, said in the release. “If he and our mother Eula were here, I’m sure they’d echo that gratitude. This building naming not only honors our father’s life’s work but ensures that the principles for which he fought — including affordable housing for all residents — live on.”
The building includes a bust created by Tatyana Shramko, a sculpture artist with a studio at the Torpedo Factory Art Center.
“I can think of no more appropriate name to grace this building than that of A. Melvin Miller,” said ARHA Chief Executive Officer Keith Pettigrew in the release. “Mr. Miller dedicated his life to helping those who struggle financially, and his efforts included working tirelessly to improve housing opportunities in the city he loved. His legacy is far-reaching and long-lasting. Now, with his name on our headquarters, we know that future generations of Alexandrians will learn of his work and his impact.”
It’s a second shot for the proposed Samuel Madden redevelopment after the plans’ first encounter with the Board of Architectural Review sparked some debate.
The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) project aims to tear down a dozen aging townhouses at 899 and 999 North Henry Street — 66 units in total — and replace them with two new multifamily apartment buildings featuring 500 residential units.
The proposed change would be a massive shift in scale for the pair of properties and be a marked visual change to the approach into Old Town along Route 1. The project faced some pushback from the Board of Architectural Review for demolishing homes identified as architecturally characteristic of the historic Parker-Gray neighborhood.
The staff report heading into a BAR meeting tonight (Tuesday), however, expresses more support for the project and said the applicant worked with staff to make changes to the properties.
As previously noted, staff finds that the applicant has been responsive to comments from the Board
and staff and has made significant changes to the proposed design throughout the Concept Design
review phase. These changes include the following:
- Addition of shoulders on portions of the building facing the historic district;
- The reconfiguration of the north building to extend the building further into the proposed
park, relocating the public open space to the north end of the south building;
- The creation of an exterior courtyard at the north end of the building;
- Reorganizing the building organization to locate the entry lobbies across from one another
to further the connection between the north and south buildings;
- The addition of significant setbacks at the south end of the south building in response to
- The elimination of a floor and overall lowering of the south building.
The report said the changes are the direct result of comments from the BAR.
“Staff appreciates the responsiveness of the applicant and the collaborative approach to the design the Board and the applicant have engaged,” the report said. “Based on all of these revisions, staff finds the height, mass, and scale to be appropriate for this location and the surrounding context.”
In general, the staff report said the new architectural shifts in the project will help it blend in more with the buildings around it, including those west of the property that are taller than the proposed development.
“Staff finds that the general architectural character of the proposed design is compatible with the Design Guidelines and the nearby context,” the report said. “Staff recommends that the Board endorse the proposed height, mass, scale, and general architectural character…”
The report also noted that the approval should be contingent on a few more minor changes, like slight elevation and window changes.
The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) has announced some next steps for plans to redevelop Ladrey High Rise, a public housing building in Old Town North.
The current building is an 11-story, 170-unit high rise building housing seniors and residents with disabilities. The redevelopment plans will see that building and an adjoining property demolished for a new mid-rise construction. The new development is slated to be a one-to-one replacement of the units on the site.
The building primarily houses seniors and residents with disabilities. ARHA said in the release the new development will increase the number of units on-site that are committed affordable units.
The building is currently fully occupied, with residents temporarily relocated during redevelopment. Earlier development plans noted that current residents will have a right to return — priority on new units given to current residents displaced during construction.
“This is the next big step in our plan for improving housing and the quality of life for all residents in our city,” said ARHA CEO Keith Pettigrew. “When completed, the units in the Ladrey High Rise will rival other modern housing developments in Alexandria. We look forward to hitting the ground running so that we can get these longtime residents into their brand-new homes as soon as possible.”
New amenities in the redevelopment include underground parking, meeting exercise and service rooms, and a community plaza. Residents will also have access to rooftop amenity spaces. ARHA said the redevelopment was spurred on in part by a need to make the building more accessible to residents with disabilities.
Kenneth Burton, a 20-year resident of Ladrey who uses a power wheelchair, said the in the release that the current building is not designed for him to easily get around.
“We are the ones who are going to live here, who will utilize the building day in day out, so it’s good to have a voice in the process,” Burton said. “We have been told Ladrey would be renovated and upgraded many times before, but it hasn’t happened yet. But now this time, I believe it will.”
In a release, ARHA said it selected Winn Companies and developer IBF Development to help spearhead the redevelopment plans. The project still has to work through the city’s redevelopment process.
“Both firms have extensive experience developing quality affordable housing communities regionally and nationally,” ARHA said in the release. “The proposed development plan will replace all the current Ladrey units and increase the number of apartment homes available to working households.”
Photo via Google Maps
In five years, Jason Ellis wants Momentum Collective, Inc. to be a charter school teaching kids the arts in Northern Virginia.
The nonprofit resumed programming in October, after a two-year Covid hiatus, and are one again teaching low and moderate income children how to sing, dance and act in summer camps and after school at the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s Ruby Tucker Center. About 90 elementary school-aged kids have participated since programming resumed, and the plan is to eventually bring back middle and high school kids.
Ellis, who founded the nonprofit six years ago, is a former program and resident and community services director with ARHA. He’s a director, actor, singer, dancer and writer.
“I’m about empowerment,” Ellis told ALXnow. “We have empowered our kids with a sense of urgency so that they can be in control of their own lives and destiny and make good choices.”
Momentum Collective, Inc. partners with Alexandria City Public Schools’ Link Club program, the city and ARHA to work with kids after school and in the summer.
“There aren’t a lot of opportunities for kids, particularly Black and brown kids in under-resourced families, who don’t have the financial resources to participate in meaningful arts enrichment programming within the city,” Ellis said. “We created the organization specifically to target kids within the city of Alexandria to have access to arts enrichment programs for free.”
Ellis was also the head of school for the YouthBuild Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. from 2018 to 2019. It’s an experience that has shifted the focus of the organization.
“We have a five year plan to start a charter school for middle school youth,” Ellis said. “For now, though, our short-term plan is to expand our programming into other recreation centers, particularly like on the West End, because that’s always a underserved area of the city.”
Momentum Collective is conducting a creative writing workshop in September at Jefferson Houston Recreation Center. The workshop is open to Alexandria children, and cash awards will be presented to the winners.
“Then we’re actually going to stage their writing productions from our winners,” Ellis said.
Ellis and his team use technology to motivate their students.
“Kids are very interested in performing,” he said. “By nature they reach they want to showcase something, which is why they’re constantly on TikTok and Instagram. So, if I say I’m going to be working on something that you can put on TikTok, they get it — that’s the end result for them and that’s what they want to work toward. If I give them a script and tell them we’re going to put a web series on YouTube, they get excited about that, because that’s what they’re familiar with.”