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Park Vue of Alexandria at 511 Four Mile Road in Arlandria has been renamed as The Square at 511. (staff photo by James Cullum)

The Alexandria Housing Development Corporation has been rebranded as “Housing Alexandria.”

No official word on the name change has yet to be released on AHDC’s website, but residents at its numerous properties were notified via email. Additionally, Housing Alexandria’s 14-story Park Vue apartment complex (511 Four Mile Road) in Arlandria has been renamed “The Square at 511.”

Housing Alexandria says that the strategic rebranding will mean a rollout of new logos.

“Along with this change in the company name, we will also adopt new logos to fully express our initiative of continued improvement,” Housing Alexandria told residents. “The re-branding, however, shall not affect the manner in which we operate our business, as well as the organizational structures of the company.”

The new logo for Housing Alexandria, formerly the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation (via Housing Alexandria)

The City of Alexandria website has also recognized the new name in its listing of affordable housing partners.

The rebranding is part of the organization’s 2021-2025 strategic plan, as it pursues “a brand that differentiates us from our peers and helps us more clearly express our values.”

“AHDC residents and community members will be able to identify our brand and work more efficiently,” the nonprofit said in the plan. “Increased presence will yield more community advocates, resident voices, and financial support for AHDC.”

Housing Alexandria is developing a 500-unit affordable housing complex at the intersection of Mount Vernon Avenue and Glebe Road in Arlandria as well as an affordable homeowner development on Seminary Road.

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New sign at The Birchmere (image via City of Alexandria)

(Updated 10:10 a.m.) Like Bob Dylan, The Birchmere has switched to electric — at least for its signage. Also like Dylan, it’s a change that’s causing some trouble for the music venue.

It started last summer when famed music venue The Birchmere Music Hall (3701 Mount Vernon Avenue) was finding it difficult to hire someone to change out the letters on the venue’s old sign.

According to a special use permit application:

In July 2022, after having trouble finding people willing to do the manual labor of changing out the sign, trying to think of ways to enhance The Birchmere and attract additional business coming out of a devastating pandemic that severely impacted its revenues, and looking at the modern technology employed by other successful music venues in the region and beyond, the owner of the music venue replaced the changeable copy sign with a digital freestanding sign in the exact same location along Mount Vernon Avenue.

The venue owners built a new sign using the same pole as the original sign, with an additional pole on either side for added stability. The new sign is slightly larger than the previous one and has a new digital display.

Unfortunately for The Birchmere, the change ran afoul of the city’s zoning ordinance.

“Although the sign is constructed using the same sign pole as the original sign and is only slightly larger, the current sign can no longer be approved administratively due to the 2016 revisions to the Zoning Ordinance pertaining to signage requirements,” the special use permit said.

In November, a warning was issued to The Birchmere along with instructions to bring the sign back into compliance.

The venue has since filed an aforementioned special use permit application to waive some of the requirements for the sign.

“This modern sign, which allows for the digital change of copy, is consistent with the use of the Property as a music venue,” the permit application said. “The Birchmere is an iconic venue that has been attracting major artists and their fans to the City of Alexandria, celebrating music and contributing to the City’s tax base, for over forty years.”

The Birchmere argued in the application that the new sign isn’t causing any harm and is vital to the venue’s continued success.

“Given that the old sign and new sign are similar in size, in the same location, and illuminated (albeit through different mechanisms) there will be no negative impact of the new sign on pedestrians, drivers or the surrounding area,” the application said. “Finally, the proposed sign is a critical component of The Birchmere’s continued success as an arts and cultural venue, the value of which has been emphasized in the City’s Master Plans and economic development initiatives.”

The new sign application is scheduled to take the stage at a Planning Commission meeting on Feb. 7.

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Two cars were shot up on Nov. 20 in the 100 block of Luna Park Drive in Arlandria (via Google Maps)

One month after two cars were found with shot-out windows in West End, a suspect is behind bars on a different charge, according to Alexandria police.

The 25-year-old male suspect in the case of the damaged cars is from D.C. He was arrested for an unrelated felony on Dec. 9 and released to another law enforcement agency on Dec. 16, the Alexandria Police Department says.

The incident remains under investigation, police said. When asked, the department did not provide ALXnow any more details regarding his arrest or his whereabouts now.

But one month ago, the man may have participated in dealing extensive damage to two cars that were parked in the garage for an apartment complex in the 100 block of Luna Park Drive.

On Sunday, Nov. 20, an officer was dispatched to investigate a call involving a suspicious vehicle in the garage. By the time the officer arrived, multiple residents had called to report possible shots fired there.

The responding officer found two vehicles with out-of-state license plates with smashed doors and shot-out windows, as well as a few witnesses and a U.S. Capitol Police officer standing by, according to a recently released police search warrant affidavit.

The vehicles were parked next to each other and belong to members of the same family, who were reportedly confused and surprised when officers approached them.

The victims told officers that they suspected a mentally ill family member and her boyfriend. The day before, the family member had fought with one of the victims and hit her and stole her phone.

The witness who reported the suspicious vehicle said the driver had tried to follow him inside but he made sure the gate closed before the car could get through. He described the car as a black Honda Accord with “fogged up windows and license plates that had been covered sitting in the front parking lot with the lights off,” police said in the affidavit.

After entering, the resident drove to another gate, saw it was broken, and returned to the main entrance. When he parked on the ground level, he heard “a banging noise coming from the (second) floor and then heard tires squealing and then the sound of 5-6 gunshots,” according to the affidavit.

Police tracked the phone stolen the day before and the Honda to a hotel in the 5900 block of Richmond Highway in Fairfax County. The Honda, which had bullet holes on the trunk lid and rear driver’s side door, matched the description of the suspect’s vehicle.

“There was also a Halloween mask matching a description given by a caller, blood in the front passenger seat area, as well as a brown paper bag with holes for eyes and a mouth cut out on the back seat of the vehicle,” police said in the search warrant affidavit.

Police determined that two suspects were in the hotel room and contacted them, but they refused to come out and speak to the officers. The suspects were not arrested.

“Due to (the suspects) refusal to speak with police, the vehicle was impounded to police HQ to await a search warrant,” police said in the search warrant affidavit.

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.”

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3908 Elbert Avenue development (image via City of Alexandria)

A planned redevelopment of an affordable housing building in Arlandria could triple the number of units on the site.

Community Lodgings Inc. is headed to the Planning Commission on Feb. 7 to pitch redevelopment plans for 3908 Elbert Avenue, currently the 29-unit Carpenters Lodgings building.

The building, originally constructed in the 1940s, was purchased by a housing nonprofit called Community Lodgings Inc. in the 1990s and maintained as an affordable housing residence.

The plan is to replace the current building with a new six-story one (one level of parking and five floors of apartments). All 91 units in the building will be affordable at a range from those making 60% of the area median income (around $59,820 annually for one person) down to those making 30% of the area median income ($29,910 annually for one person).

The building will have 64 parking spaces — above the minimum 60 spaces required — with 15 passenger van parking spots and 30 bicycle parking spots.

The development is part of a pair of affordable housing redevelopments that received financing from the City of Alexandria earlier this year.

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Four people were displaced in a fire in the 3700 block of Mark Drive on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Four people were displaced by an Arlandria house fire that started with a space heater.

The fire occurred at around midnight (Saturday morning) in a row house in the 3700 block of Mark Drive, according to the Alexandria Fire Department (AFD).

AFD said the incident was accidental; caused by a space heater that came into contact with combustibles.

No one was injured. Four people have been displaced and received assistance from Red Cross for alternate lodging.

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Kamilah McAfee, senior vice president at Wesley Housing, speaks at Agenda Alexandia discussion on building heights and affordable housing, October 24, 2022. (staff photo by James Cullum)

After five years of rapid growth, Wesley Housing’s new CEO says that the organization has no plans to expand beyond the D.C. Metro area.

Kamilah McAfee was promoted to lead the organization last month, and will take over for longtime CEO Shelly Murphy on January 2. She has been the vice president of development for Wesley Housing since 2018, and before that was the deputy director of real estate development for six years.

“We’re starting to look at opportunities in Prince George’s County in Maryland, but not really beyond the DMV proper,” McAfee told ALXnow.

Wesley’s portfolio has grown to 2,800 affordable rental units throughout the region, and McAfee is credited by Wesley for leading the organization in a five year period of unprecedented growth.

“I want to challenge ourselves to do more in areas pertaining to diversity and equity and inclusion for our staff as well as the communities that we serve… We’re running out of emergency assistance funding from the federal government coming off the pandemic, so we’ve been working with right-sizing our rents to make sure people can stay housed.”

This year, Wesley will finish construction on seven affordable communities that will house more than 1,500 people. In Alexandria, Wesley is developing the 200-unit ParcView II apartments (5380 Holmes Run Parkway) in the West End, as well as the 66-unit Parc Square Apartments in Arlandria.

“I’m committed, I’m energized, I’m here,” McAfee told ALXnow. “Expect it to be for the long haul. I’m hoping that I will continue to honor Shelley’s leadership and commitment and respond to our board of directors a vision for opportunities in the future for Wesley and our relationship in what we’re doing in the City of Alexandria.”

A rendering of Wesley Housing’s affordable housing project ParcView II at 5380 Holmes Run Parkway. (Via Wesley Housing)

The nonprofit was founded in 1974 by Virginia Peters,

A new Jersey native, she moved to the D.C. area to attend Georgetown University, where she earned a degree in finance and new and small business development. She also has a master’s degree in business administration from American University. Her career includes five years as director of public finance for the District of Columbia Housing Finance Agency, as well as two years as a project manager for Forest City Enterprises.

Alexandria is currently experiencing an affordable housing crisis, and lost 90% of its affordable housing stock between 2000 and 2017. Consequently, the city has pledged to produce or develop thousands of units to meet 2030 regional housing goal set by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments

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1703 N. Beauregard Street (via Google Maps)

Students and parents are facing years upheaval in Alexandria’s West End, as the city’s school system is planning on completely rebuilding two elementary schools within the decade.

Alexandria City Public Schools plans to redesign an office building at 1703 N. Beauregard Street to be used as swing space while George Mason Elementary School (2601 Cameron Mills Road) and Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology (3600 Commonwealth Avenue) are completely rebuilt.

Barring construction holdups, a newly built George Mason could be up and running by fall 2026, staff said in a community meeting on Monday night. That means that, at a minimum, the next two years will be spent planning and retrofitting the office building into a school, with George Mason students to transition to swing space in fall 2024. Cora Kelly students would then move to the swing space in fall 2027, while their new school is under construction, and they would move into a newly built school in fall 2031.

“The most aggressive schedule that we have is showing the fall of 2026 [for George Mason students to return],” Azjargal Bartlett, director of ACPS capital programs, said in a community meeting Monday night. “These are anticipated timelines, and if there is any change to the schedule we’ll communicate that out.”

The property at 1703 N. Beauregard Street is directly across the street from Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School (1701 N. Beauregard Street), which is also a converted office building.

Bartlett said that ACPS is working with the remaining tenants on “mutually beneficial solutions for them to vacate the building prior to the start of the construction,” she said.

The school system is considering staggered dismissal times to minimize traffic between Ferdinand T. Day and the swing space, as well as busing students to the new school.

“We are anticipating that the transportation will be provided to all the students when the building is being used for swing space,” Bartlett said.

Timeline of swing space use for 1703 N. Beauregard Street in the West End. (via ACPS)

So far, $24.5 million has been allocated to the project in the city’s 10-year Capital Improvement Program, with an additional $5 million that is going into the upcoming fiscal year 2024 budget.

Between now and then, a lot of planning and design work with the architect, Perkins Eastman, has to happen, like adding outdoor and playground space at 1703 N. Beauregard.

“We’re still working through that we do not have any options to present at this time,” Bartlett said. “We are in discussions with our design team and once we have more information we’ll provide an update early next year on that design progress for the swing space.”

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District Biscuit Company (image via District Biscuit Company/Instagram)

(Updated at 5:35 p.m.) District Biscuit Company, a local farmers market favorite, could be opening a brick-and-mortar location in a former restaurant space on the Arlandria/Del Ray border.

The biscuit company has filed an application to open at 3401 Mount Vernon Avenue, formerly Silpancho’s House. The prior restaurant, which focused on Bolivian cuisine, has been closed since January, according to the application.

The permit application is for a change in ownership, meaning the food offerings will change but many of the other details about the restaurant’s operation will remain the same.

“Prior to this date the business was operating as a fast-casual restaurant serving customers food and beverages,” the application said. “It is my understanding that the previous business was operating with 3-5 employees and 5 parking spaces available.”

The application said the new menu will consist of American/Southern breakfast items like biscuits, biscuit sandwiches, biscuits and gravy, coffee, and sweet biscuits. It is, as aforementioned, a biscuit company.

Image via District Biscuit Company/Instagram

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A number of suspected MS-13 gang members have been arrested the last several months for allegedly selling crack/cocaine, marijuana and firing gunshots in the Arlandria area.

The suspects allegedly sold the drugs throughout the Arlandria area — and ran the operation from apartments in the 3800 block of Milan Drive and the 3800 block of Executive Avenue, according to a search warrant affidavit.

The investigation started in February, when police were notified by confidential sources of the “ongoing sale of crack cocaine and marijuana in the City of Alexandria” by “mid-to-high” ranked MS-13 gang members, according to a search warrant affidavit. Police determined that numerous suspects allegedly sold drugs in Four Mile Run Park behind the Arlandria Shopping Center and in a parking lot of a convenience store in the 3900 block of Mount Vernon Avenue.

On February 19, police discovered a suspected crack pipe and push rod on a man shortly after he entered the apartment building on Milan Drive. The man sad that “he goes (there) to buy $20 of crack cocaine at a time,” police said in the search warrant. “He advised the people inside (the apartment) would not sell to him that day because they were aware the police were outside the building.”

At around 4 p.m. on March 3, police observed a male on a bike ride up to the apartment building and go inside. He left two minutes later, and once outside, “manipulated the handlebars on his bike and pulled off the end cap and placed a small object, that appeared to be plastic, into the handlebars of his bike and replaced the end cap,” according to the search warrant affidavit.

On March 8, two juvenile suspects were arrested after allegedly firing gunshots in the air. The juveniles, who were seen regularly with a half dozen other suspects, were apprehended at the apartment in the 3800 block of Executive Avenue. One of the juvenile suspects is a person of interest in a Herndon Police Department homicide investigation, and had an active juvenile detention orders for malicious wounding and assault by mob, according to the search warrant affidavit.

In the apartment on Executive Avenue, police recovered a stolen Ruger, a .45 caliber handgun, a stolen 9 mm Glock handgun, six cell phones and a gun holster.

On April 13, police arrested another suspect — a 33-year-old man who was deported in 2019 for multiple violent crimes, according to the search warrant affidavit. The suspect was arrested after allegedly selling drugs in the outdoor basketball court behind the Arlandria Shopping Center.

On July 14, a 22-year-old suspect was arrested and released that same day on a $3,500 unsecured bond. He was charged with possession with intent to distribute Schedule I/II drugs.

The 19-year-old suspected ringleader was arrested on September 7, and is being held without bond. He has been charged with possession to distribute marijuana, selling Schedule I/II drugs and possession of a firearm with Schedule I/II drugs. He goes to court on October 11.

APD would not comment on the ongoing investigation.

Earlier this week, Police Chief Don Hayes said that the city is contending with gangs and crews of individuals committing violent acts throughout the city. The city’s Gang Prevention Community Task Force is also starting to develop an action plan to combat gang violence.

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A man was shot in Arlandria on Sunday night, according to Alexandria Police.

The incident occurred at around 7:30 p.m. in front of an apartment building in the 3800 block of Old Dominion Boulevard. A 50-year-old man was shot and transported to George Washington University Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The male suspect fled on foot and has not been arrested. Witnesses said that they heard two shots fired in rapid succession, and shell casings were found on the ground in front of the property.

Anyone with information on the incident can contact Detective Robert Hill via [email protected] or 703-746-6712. Callers can remain anonymous.

Via Google Maps

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