Newsletter
Samuel Madden redevelopment rendering (image via Torti Gallas + Partners/City of Alexandria)

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
    adjacent buildings;
  • 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.

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Ladrey High Rise in Old Town North (image via Google Maps)

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

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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.”

Via Facebook

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As local kids prepare to head back to school, Firefighters and Friends to the Rescue and ARHA is hosting their annual School Supply Giveaway this weekend.

The event is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Charles Houston Recreation Center (901 Wythe Street) on Sunday, Aug. 14.

The program, which is led by School Board Member Willie Bailey, will offer school supplies for kids in need as well as a free haircut.

“A free haircut and school supply giveaway event will be happening in the Alexandria area,” the group said in a flyer. “Please note that kids must be present to receive their backpacks and school supplies!”

Additional booths will be set up throughout the gym to offer a variety of other services to local families.

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Rendering of new proposed Samuel Madden development (image courtesy ARHA)

After a contentious Board of Architectural Review (BAR) meeting, plans for the redevelopment of Samuel Madden Homes in the Braddock neighborhood are headed back to public review at a meeting next week.

The City of Alexandria said in a release that a community meeting for the proposed redevelopment is scheduled for Tuesday, July 26, at 6 p.m. in the Charles Houston Recreation Center (901 Wythe Street).

The BAR recommended approval of a plan to demolish the buildings in a 4-1 vote, but during the discussion BAR members has stern comments about the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s (ARHA) history of neglect that necessitated the redevelopment.

BAR member John Sprinkle also lamented the demolition of the homes as eroding part of the Parker-Gray historical district.

The plan is currently to turn the buildings into a larger mixed-use development that will replace the current 66-units across 13 buildings with 500 residential units.

“Representatives from the development team will discuss the current iteration of the development concept and timeline, and invite general public comment on the project,” a release from the City of Alexandria said.

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ARHA headquarters (image via Google Maps)

The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) announced that later this year, the headquarters will be renamed in honor of activist and former ARHA Chairman A. Melvin Miller.

Miller, who died in 2015, was a civil rights activist and affordable housing advocate in Alexandria who, among his many positions in city and state leadership, served as chairman of ARHA from 1970 to 1977 and from 2001 to 2012.

“This is a deeply deserved honor for Melvin Miller,” ARHA CEO Keith Pettigrew said in a press release. “Mr. Miller made it part of his life’s work to help those who were not as fortunate as he was, particularly when it came to housing.”

One of Miller’s accomplishments was pushing for city policy that required every affordable housing unit demolished to be replaced one-for-one.

Pettigrew thanked ARHA Commissioner and School Board member Willie Bailey and Living Legend John Porter their help in getting the building named after Miller.

“We felt this was an appropriate way to honor Melvin’s legacy in Alexandria,” Porter said. “Melvin was very involved in education and civil rights issues, but his main focus was on equity in housing. And we thought naming the administrative building for him would be an ideal way to remember his contribution, so we made that recommendation to ARHA. Then, the pandemic struck and slowed down the process.”

In addition to his work with ARHA and the Office of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Miller served for seven years on the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia and on the Alexandria Board of Education.

“We felt this was an appropriate way to honor Melvin’s legacy in Alexandria,” Porter said. “Melvin was very involved in education and civil rights issues, but his main focus was on equity in housing. And we thought naming the administrative building for him would be an ideal way to remember his contribution, so we made that recommendation to ARHA. Then, the pandemic struck and slowed down the process.”

The ceremony to rename the building is currently scheduled for September.

Image via Google Maps

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A 37-year-old Maryland man is being held without bond after allegedly sexually assaulting a girl younger than 13 years old in the Braddock area.

The incident occurred at around 9 p.m. on May 9 near Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority properties in the 1300 block of Madison Street, which is close to the Braddock Road Metro station.

Police found the suspect, Damien Curtis Talbert, of Prince George’s County, unconscious but breathing as he was pinned to the ground by multiple witnesses.

The witnesses told police they stopped him from allegedly sexually assaulting the juvenile girl, and that a gun fell out of Talbert’s clothing during the incident, according to a search warrant affidavit. A Taurus G3C 9mm pistol was found on the ground about five feet from the suspect.

The juvenile victim did not seek medical attention, police said.

About 20 minutes before the incident, police were alerted of a fight between two men a short distance away at 1000 Colonial Avenue. Before the fight, one of the men involved admitted to handing his gun to Talbert.

Talbert was charged with possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, sexual battery of a victim under the age of 13 and assault and battery. He goes to court for the offenses on June 1.

The Alexandria Sexual Assault Center and Domestic Violence Program is available 24/7 to listen and help at 703-746-4911.

“If you are a neighbor and know that an abusive incident is occurring, call the police immediately,” the city said. “Calling the police is simply the most effective way to protect the victim and children from immediate harm.”

Via Google Maps

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Rendering of new proposed Samuel Madden development (image courtesy ARHA)

The Alexandria Redevelopment Housing Authority (ARHA) is getting ready to tear down a cluster of affordable garden apartments in Parker-Gray and turn the lots into a larger mixed-use development.

Samuel Madden Homes at 899 & 999 North Henry Street currently comprises 13 two-story garden apartments built in 1945 with 66 affordable housing units. The homes were build to house defense workers during WWII and were transferred to ARHA’s predecessor in 1947. The plan is to demolish and redevelop on the site with two new buildings with 500 residential units

ARHA is headed to the Board of Architectural Review on Wednesday (May 18) for a permit to demolish and a concept review for the new development (items 6 and 7).

The staff report for the BAR described the homes as “contributing structures” to the Uptown/Parker Gray National Register Historic District, describing them as one of several groups of buildings by architect Joseph Henry Saunders, Jr. that helped establish the look of the Parker Gray neighborhood.

“As such, demolition of these structures requires a higher degree of scrutiny than non-contributing structures,” the report said. “Staff is always reluctant to recommend demolition of any building
that has historic or architectural significance, but several factors mitigate against retaining these buildings.”

The staff report said that while the homes are representative of a popular construction style in the area, there are ample enough “colonial revival” style buildings in the area. The report also said that while the scale of the buildings were once generally reflective of much of the neighborhood, there are several high-rise multi-use buildings in the neighborhood.

“Since the construction of this community, the scale and character of the neighborhood has undergone radical change,” the report said. “Samuel Madden now appears out of scale with the surrounding community.”

As for a permit for the new development, the staff report suggests that some further refinement is needed.

“Staff has been working with the applicant on the development of their documents and recommends that as the project progresses, the applicant explore different architectural motifs that relate to either the history of the site or to the surrounding buildings. The Board has often encouraged applicants to take design inspiration from the historical use of the general area of the city.

The staff report says the proposed building needs some touch-ups to bring it more in-line with some of the neighboring development.

“Staff recommends that the BAR request the applicant to return for a second Concept Review after addressing feedback from the Board and Staff. Staff finds that the height and scale of the project as submitted is appropriate for the immediate context,” the staff report said. “The applicant should continue to develop the massing and architectural character, taking into consideration comments from the Board and Staff.”

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Rendering of new proposed Samuel Madden development (image courtesy ARHA)

(Updated 1:50 a.m.) The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority announced some next steps as it works to transform the Samuel Madden Homes (921 N. Henry Street) in the Braddock neighborhood into a mixed-income, mixed-use rental community.

There are currently 66 public housing units in a neighborhood at the northern point of where Route 1 splits into N. Patrick and N. Henry streets. It’s an area overshadowed by the larger, higher-density developments to the east and west. A press release said the development would double the number of affordable units.

ARHA announced today a partnership with three development companies to help develop and operate affordable housing.

“The selection of a development partner for the Madden community is a happy day for Alexandria as it will allow us to increase affordable rental housing for all residents of the city” ARHA CEO Keith Pettigrew said in the press release. “Our partners have an outstanding track record of producing quality affordable housing and have embraced our goal of increasing housing opportunities for low-income and working families. The plan that they have submitted accomplishes that goal.”

The plan is to create a new development where one-third of the units will be low income — for those at 0-30% of area median income. Another third will be for slightly higher-income households, those at 30-80% of area median income. The last third of the units will be available for market-rate renters — units at rates comparable to other nearby developments.

“The team will propose to the City that the apartments be constructed in two buildings, with amenities including courtyards, on-site management offices, pool, exercise rooms and indoor and outdoor community rooms,” the press release said. “The site concept plan will also include a 10,000-square-foot public park with a playground and public art; a food pantry and other potential ground-level retail.”

A project representative said amenities at the project will be available for all residents.

The press release noted that the new development will have a daycare center run by local non-profit Hopkins House, which will have a sliding scale rate based on economic need. The development will also have an Alive! food pantry, with fresh food and vegetables.

“I believe that this property will become the crown jewel of our portfolio,” Pettigrew said. “When you come down the hill on Route 1 into Old Town, this majestic site will be the first thing you see. I can’t think of a better way to welcome people to our city.”

The release noted that ARHA is planning to submit concept plans to the city in 2022 and meet with nearby civic associations, neighborhood groups, zoning and planning boards, and eventually seek City Council approval.

Image courtesy ARHA

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Morning Notes

Two ARHA residents receive $6,000 college scholarships — “Two Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) residents have been awarded $6,000 scholarships for the upcoming school year, thanks to the Resident Scholarship Program from the Housing Authority Insurance (HAI) Group. This is the second consecutive year Natasha Cross has been selected for the funding… Yonael Tekleberhan, a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University majoring in Business is the second awardee.” [ARHA]

The Italian Place is opening a location in Fairfax — “We are getting closer and closer to the grand opening on July 24th of the new Mosaic District location. 🤩 If you haven’t registered yet, head over to our website to do so! We hope to see you all there!” [Facebook]

Del Ray Citizens Association hosting community pizza party Thursday — Come on out and join us this Thursday July 22 from 5 – 7pm at Del Ray Pizzeria, where the DRCA will be hosting a Del Ray Citizens Association Meet & Greet Pizza Party! Hang out with your fellow Del Ray superfans and enjoy some pizza, salad, tots, fries, and special happy hour pricing. DRP has set us up in the bar space, so we can enjoy some much-needed air conditioning. For those who may feel more comfortable socializing outdoors, we’re also working to set up a ‘spillover’ table in the Lot behind the restaurant.” [DRCA]

Park and recreation center signs replaced — “The signs at Ruby Tucker Park, Fort Williams Park, and Mt. Vernon Recreation Center were replaced with City standard signs last week. The signs were replaced to update addresses or broken and missing signs. Look out for new signs coming to Shirley Tyler Unity Park and William Ramsay Recreation Center coming this fall.” [Facebook]

Today’s weather — “Sunshine and some clouds (during the day). High 92F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph… Considerable clouds early (in the evening). Some decrease in clouds late. Low 72F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Package delivery driver — “UPS is accepting applications for temporary, seasonal full-time Package Delivery Drivers. This is a physical, fast-paced, outdoor position that involves continual lifting, lowering and carrying packages that typically weigh 25 – 35 lbs. and may weigh up to 70 lbs. A DOT physical exam is required. Package Delivery Drivers must have excellent customer contact and driving skills.” [Indeed]

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