Alexandria, VA

What a week it’s been in Alexandria.

The pandemic seemed inescapable this week, and much of our coverage was related to dealing with the coronavirus.

Five more fatalities related to the virus were reported by the Virginia Department of Health, and the death toll now stands at 67. There are now or have been 3,671 cases in the city since the first case was reported in March.

The week also began with our coverage of City Council’s passage of a face mask ordinance requiring residents to wear masks in public places. While there is no fine for noncompliance, the new law takes effect on October 1.

There was some heartwarming news. City residents helped a Del Ray business owner raise more than $10,000 after her house burned down on September 12.

We also covered the Little Theatre of Alexandria’s newest COVID-friendly in-person show. Additionally, Alexandria restauranteur Bill Blackburn participated in a COVID-19 vaccine trial this week, and Alexandria resident Ann Samuels safely celebrated her 100th birthday.

The Alexandria City School Board also accepted a name change proposal for Matthew Maury Elementary School. Now with the virtual school year in full swing, we also published a poll on how folks think school is going so far and saw mixed results.

Here are our top stories this week in Alexandria.

  1. ‘Lipstick On A Pig’: BAR Rejects Heritage Old Town Proposal
  2. Just Listed in Alexandria
  3. ThePoopBrothers: ‘Fearless’ Del Ray Kids Created New Business Over Summer Break
  4. UPDATED: Flooding Reported in Parts of City After Heavy Rain
  5. Man Struck by Bullet While Driving in West End
  6. Alexandria Hospital Nurse Wins First-Ever Nightingale Award
  7. Juvenile Arrested After Shots Fired in Arlandria
  8. City Council Passes Mask Ordinance, and There’s No Fine for Noncompliance
  9. New Alexandria Boxing Club Works Out Every Sunday at Jones Point Park
  10. Monte Durham’s New Hair Salon is Opening Saturday in Old Town
  11. Alexandrian Ann Samuels Turns 100 Years Old

Have a safe weekend!

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The Alexandria Board of Architectural Review will consider a permit to demolish/capsulate the Regal Potomac Yard movie theater, which closed in March due to the pandemic and never reopened.

The one-story theater first opened in 1998, and “is an example of a typical multi-screen movie theater built during the late 1990’s throughout the region,” according to a city staff report.

In its place will go a pump station that is part of Virginia Tech’s massive Innovation Campus development, and will handle sanitary sewer flows for Virginia Tech’s Sewer to Wastewater Energy Exchange system.

As previously reported, this and next month, the BAR and the Planning Commission will receive half a dozen plans for the 1.9 million square-foot mixed use North Potomac Yard development.

The area was a rail yard from 1906 until 1989, and the staff report stipulates that all eventual construction “will stop on the site if any buried structural remains (wall foundations, wells, privies, cisterns, etc.) or concentrations of artifacts are discovered during development,” and that a city archaeologist will need to record the finds.

The plan will go to City Council this fall for approval.

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Morning Notes

Beyer Negates Trump’s Coronavirus Claims — “Nearly 194,000 Americans have died in a pandemic Trump lied to the country about. As Dr. Gottlieb points out, the coming cold weather months bring danger of new spread of the virus. Even after seven months of this Trump still has no strategy to keep Americans safe.” [Twitter]

Former Mayor Silberberg Says Taylor Run Restoration Will Hurt Environment — “Recent soil testing from Taylor Run, analyzed by Brookside Laboratories, showed a negligible amount of phosphorous in the soil of the stream bank. Restoration of Taylor Run will therefore have a questionable impact at best on the watershed – but the restoration work will have a devastating impact on the habitat and tree canopy surrounding the stream.” [Alex Times]

Kids Who Volunteer Can Get Scholarship — “Volunteering makes a difference. Prudential Financial and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) are recognizing the efforts Virginia youth have made to help in their communities during the pandemic.” [Zebra]

Salon Monte Opens in Old Town — “On the waterfront to cut the ribbon for @MonteDurham‘s Salon Monte! Welcome! (Insert joke about me at a hair salon—> Here)” [Twitter]

Board of Architectural Review Rejects Heritage Development — “If you’ve run out of shows on Netflix and you’re looking for some drama-filled entertainment, head to the city’s webcast archive and watch the Board of Architectural Review’s latest meeting.” [Alex Times]

Today’s Weather — “Cloudy early, becoming mostly sunny in the afternoon. High near 80F. Winds N at 10 to 15 mph. At night, Clear. Low 54F. Winds NNE at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Account Executive — “CareClix, a Northern Virginia based company and the world leader in the Telemedicine Space is seeking a few select individuals to join our Resellers and Independent Account Executive salesforce. Successful candidates in this position can expect first year commissions of lower middle to high six figures.” [Indeed]

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It’s the end of another work week in Alexandria!

There was a lot of crime this week, as police responded to multiple shots fired incidents in the Parker Gray area on September 2. There was also another carjacking in the West End — the latest in a recent uptick that prompted Mayor Justin Wilson to ask the public for help in reducing the number of vehicle-related thefts.

But there is also some good news to report, as businesses are opening in the city despite the daily pressures of the pandemic. This week we took a look inside The Company Of Books used book store in Del Ray, and we covered the city’s new Wellness District, which is providing a number of free programs and discounts for the recently expanded Wellness Month.

Also this week, Alexandria City Public Schools cut down a 150-year-old tree to make way for a concession stand. The move was criticized by activists and former Mayor Allison Silberberg. With the destruction of the tree, the renovation project for the Parker-Gray Stadium has now officially begun.

What stories impacted you this week? Let us know in the comments.

Here are our top stories this week in Alexandria.

  1. Alexandria Woman Uninjured in Tuesday Carjacking at Gunpoint in Potomac Yard
  2. Beatley Central Library Closed Until Further Notice Due to ‘Emergency Conditions’
  3. Police: Three Alexandria ABC Stores Broken Into, High-End Liquor Stolen
  4. Police Investigating Multiple Gunshots Fired in Parker Gray/Braddock
  5. Alexandria’s COVID Positive Testing Rate Lowest in Region
  6. Halal Slaughterhouse Construction Begins, Opening Reset to Mid-November
  7. Update: Chalk Graffiti Decrying Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf Sprayed In Front of Wrong House
  8. Braddock ‘Elizabeth’s Counter’ Last of Regional Chain After Bankruptcy Filing
  9. Police: Three Alexandria ABC Stores Broken Into, High-End Liquor Stolen
  10. North Potomac Yard Plans Going to Planning Commission, Board of Architectural Review
  11. ACPS Cuts Down 150-Year Old Tree to Make Way for Concession Stand

Have a safe weekend!

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Longtime Alexandrians may remember when Farrah Olivia at 700 S. Washington Street featured outdoor dining under a canopy. Well Farrah Olivia is gone for good, but the outdoor canopy that was once a feature of the Old Town restaurant could be making a comeback.

In 2013, after Farrah Olivia closed, the building’s owner got a permit to destroy the canopy. Seven years later, they’re back and hoping to put it up again to provide a covered seating for customers at the Balducci’s grocery store.

“Similar to the previously approved canopy structure, the proposed addition will provide an enclosed seating area for patrons of the Balducci’s grocery store on the ground floor of the building,” the applicant said. “The one-story addition is compatible with the existing building and surrounding buildings in terms of height, mass and scale, and the architectural style is compatible with structures throughout Old Town.”

Balducci’s isn’t the only Old Town location that’s been turning toward outdoor solutions for pandemic-induced indoor capacity problems. Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap converted an outdoor parking deck to a tropical oasis and restaurants along King Streep bumped their dining out into the sidewalk areas to add capacity.

The proposal is scheduled to go to the Board of Architectural Review on Wednesday, Sept. 2.

Image via District Architecture Studio

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The City Council approved the second entrance for the Potomac Yard Metro station back in April, but now the design of the proposed bridge is headed back through the city process for final approval.

The proposal is something of a compromise attempted to alleviate anger from southern residents who remain outraged that original plans for a full second entrance were cut behind closed doors while residents were told it was still planned.

The design approved by the City Council is not the full southern access initially promised, but is instead a bridge over wetlands that residents to the south can take up to the north entrance rather than walking around the sizable pond.

The City Council wound up choosing a bridge to a stairwell and elevator rather than a long ramp. The design places the southern entrance at the east side of the Potomac Avenue and E. Glebe Road.

The proposal is scheduled to the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) on Wednesday, Sept. 2.

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After some back and forth about the “Old Town” letters, plans to revive the marquee above the former Old Town Theater are headed to the Alexandria Board of Architectural Review tonight (Wednesday).

The site at 815 1/2 King Street is undergoing renovation to turn into a Patagonia — an outdoors clothing and equipment store. The location was build as the Richmond Theater in 1914, according to a staff report, with a permit for “moving pictures, bowling alleys and billiards.” In 1929, a metal marquee was added, which may have been replaced or updated in the 1950s.

The distinctive “Old Town” sign wasn’t added until 1980, but staff had earlier nudged Patagonia towards keeping the sign intact.

“While the ‘Old Town’ sign on top of the marquee was a later replacement for the ‘Richmond’ theater sign, it had been in place for a significant period of time and was embedded in the cultural memory and considered historic in its own right, so the previous owner was convinced to retain a slightly modified version of that sign,” staff said in the report. “Staff is pleased that the applicant has agreed to retain the culturally significant Old Town sign.”

Alexandria has fairly rigorous sign policies and an illuminated sign would typically be verboten, but staff said an exception should be made in this case for the Patagonia sign being installed.

“While internally illuminated individual letter signs are not typically approved in the historic districts, staff finds it appropriate in this location for a couple of reasons,” staff said in the report. “The theater has a history of BAR approved internally illuminated signs — starting with ‘Richmond’ in the 1950s and ‘Old Town’ in 1980. Furthermore, staff also supports the illuminated sign due to its location under the marquee because the canopy keeps the first floor of the building in shadow nearly all the time and the moderate illumination will identify the store entrance.”

The store itself is planned to open in September, according to Alexandria Living Magazine.

The former Old Town Theater isn’t the only King Street locale from the 1800s getting a touch up to be reviewed at the meeting tonight; a pair of buildings on upper King Street with could undergo a renovation to take them back to their pre-1950s design.

Insert photo via City of Alexandria

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The former Pines of Florence and Aftertime Comics buildings at 1300 and 1304 King Street may not stand out much to the casual Old Town visitor, but faded brick buildings have a historic legacy that a new development hopes to bring out again.

The property at 1300 King Street is being redeveloped with an L-shaped building that will have 33 multifamily units over ground-floor retail, Washington Business Journal reported. Though it’s just one building, the project’s design is aimed to appear like two: with a red brick building facing King Street and a grey brick one facing S. Payne Street.

Part of the development will include some restoration of the historic buildings at 1300 King Street. According to the staff report:

Ethelyn Cox states in Historic Alexandria, Street by Street, that the building at 1300 King Street was built in 1813 and that the building at 1304 King Street was constructed between 1800-1805. Material details observed on site visits by staff confirm that construction period. Both masonry buildings are two-stories in height with three bays and metal-clad gable roofs. The corner property has had several one and two-story rear additions over the years, with commercial uses fronting on King Street and service and automobile related uses on the South Payne Street elevation.

However, before there was area was protected as part of the Old & Historic Alexandria District, permits show in 1957 the building was covered with a faux stone attached with stucco. The staff report says that the bondstone — the brand name for the faux stone used in the ’50s — should be removed with the original brickwork exposed. The stucco damaged the original brick finish, however, so the masonry will need to be repainted and repaired during the redevelopment.

The new designs for the residential building west of the historic property also include a distinctive balcony with metal tracery reminiscent of the New Orleans French Quarter.

The project is scheduled to go to the Board of Architectural Review tomorrow (Wednesday).

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The owners of an Old Town apartment complex want to demolish four 1970s-era rental properties and redevelop them into two multifamily apartment buildings with 474 new apartments.

The Board of Architectural Review will discuss the matter on July 15 before moving their recommendation to the City Council.

The building owners are asking for a permit to demolish the properties at 431 S. Columbus Street, 900 Wolfe Street and 450 S. Patrick Street, and for the approval of a concept plan.

According to the city’s real estate records, the property includes three garden style apartments and one mid-rise apartment building built between 1976 and 1977. They are not historic in nature and the applicant is proposing that the property maintain affordable units to help the city meet its affordable housing stock, in addition to having the property rezoned to residential multifamily.

Images via City of Alexandria

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The Towngate office complex in North Old Town (625 and 635 Slaters Lane) are requesting permits from the City of Alexandria to facilitate changing the office buildings into a residential building.

Most of the changes will take place inside the building, but the property is scheduled to go to the Board of Architectural Review on June 17 over a handful of exterior changes, like new doors, windows and siding.

“The applicant requests a permit to demolish and certificate of appropriateness for improvements… in order to convert the buildings from office to residential,” Brookfield Towngate LLC said in a statement. “No additions or increases in floor area are requested.”

Designs put together by Heffner Architects, PC, a local architecture firm in Alexandria, show the large open office spaces replaced with smaller individual units.

There is no information in the application yet about how many units will be included in the final building, or whether these will be town houses or apartments.

Images via Heffner Architects, PC

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The sprawling Atrium building in the heart of Old Town (277 S. Washington Street) could be getting a major facelift as the building tries to attract new tenants.

The building, constructed in 1978 in a neo-traditional style, is five-stories tall and roughly 139,000 square feet. It takes up the entire block and one of its largest tenants is the Eagle Bank at the corner of S. Washington and Duke Streets.

“The owner plans to reposition, modernize, and add new amenities to the building,” the W.C and A.N. Miller Development Company said in an application. “A large multi-floor tenant will be moving out of the building within the next few years and this will be the best time to do the work to minimize disruption to the remaining tenants.”

The application does not specify which tenant is leaving.

Many of the renovations will be internal, though the application says the planned use will hopefully bring more nightlife to that corner of southern Old Town.

“To attract new tenants, the existing penthouse fitness center will be converted to a conference center/lounge and roof deck amenity for the use of its tenants,” the company said. “This amenity is also being planned for use after business hours and on weekends and holidays for special functions. Additional improvements include refreshing the building entrances and other interior upgrades.”

Plans show the upstairs fitness center’s conversion into a lounge with rooftop views of Old Town.

The application also notes that the current entrance to the building is dark and uninviting, so new plans feature an illuminated archway less set-back from the street.

The upgrades are planned for review at the Wednesday, June 3, Board of Architectural Review meeting.

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After selling the parking lot on King Street next to Bloomers, the City of Alexandria is preparing to review plans to build a new mixed-use development in its place.

Galena Capital Partners LLC plans to replace the parking lot with a four-story building. The development will have retail facing King Street on the first floor and residential uses on the floors above, with open space on the roof.

As part of the application, the developer is seeking flexibility for what to do with the back half of the first floor.

“The project additionally is seeking flexibility in either all retail at the ground floor or a mix with Live/Work units at the south side facing the public alley,” Galena Capital Partners LLC said in its application.

The project was already reviewed once by the Board of Architectural Review in late December and is scheduled for concept review at a meeting on Wednesday, April 1.

The lot was part of the same sale that included 116 S. Henry Street. Plans to turn the S. Henry Street lot into an automated parking garage are also being considered at the same BAR meeting.

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