Alexandria, VA

Catholic University of America (CUA) is planning to open up a new branch in Alexandria’s Carlyle neighborhood.

According to an application headed to the Planning Commission in September, CUA is hoping to renovate the second floor of 2050 Ballenger Avenue to create a new location specifically for students in Alexandria, Arlington, and other Northern Virginia locations.

The building is currently home to the Carlyle Club and Atlantic Union Bank on the ground floor.

“The premises will be renovated into a space including six classrooms that can each accommodate between 15 to 30 students, a computer laboratory and ancillary breakout rooms,” CUA said in its application. “The space will also include offices for a small number of staff and faculty to meet with students or prepare for class. The space will not include any laboratory, research or library facilities.”

According to the application, most programs would be offered on weekday evenings and occasional daytime events, such as small academic conferences.

“Courses would be taugtht by part-time, adjunct faculty members from the community, who would not have a full=time presence at the subject site outside of class meeting times,” CUA said.

The application is scheduled to be reviewed at the Sept. 1 Planning Commission meeting.

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Over 13 years since it was originally proposed, a plan to turn the quiet southeastern corner of the Eisenhower corridor into a pair of mixed-use towers is coming back with some new proposed uses.

A project called 765 John Carlyle proposes turning the empty grass lot near what is still Eisenhower Circle — for now — into “two mixed-use towers conjoined by the common podium” according to an application by Carlyle Plaza, LLC.

While the original plan was for both towers to be office buildings, the new application says the southern tower will have 15 levels of senior living. The number of units, and price range, aren’t listed in the application. The northern tower will remain an office building in the new plans.

“The project will also include ground-floor retail to activate the adjacent streets,” the developer said. “The towers are conjoined at the base by an above-grade parking structure that ascends approximately four stories above the ground floor retail and lobby space.”

The new building is part of a broader plan to turn Eisenhower Avenue into a hub of commercial and residential activity, with a particular focus on the eastern end of that corridor to take full advantage of the nearby Patent and Trademark Office and relatively new National Science Foundation building.

The project is scheduled for review at the Carlyle/Eisenhower East Design Review Board on Monday, June 22.

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Alexandria formally moved into the second phase of its economic recovery today (Friday), and while some businesses are embracing the easing of restrictions, others are taking a slower approach.

Even though there was only one new reported case of coronavirus in the city today, Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said that phase 2 does not mean that the city is out of the woods just yet.

“We need our residents and visitors to continue to socially distance, wear masks and stay home when ill,” Wilson told ALXnow. “We are able to ease restrictions because everyone played their part over the past few months. We have more work to do to keep our community safe.”

Under the loosened restrictions, Alexandria restaurants can offer indoor dining at 50% capacity; fitness centers can operate at 30% capacity and pools can operate for exercise.

Bill Blackburn, co-owner of the Homegrown Restaurant Group, is opening the inside of Whiskey & Oyster and Tequila & Taco in Caryle and will continue curbside pickup at Sweet Fire Donna’s, Pork Barrel BBQ and Holy Cow Del Ray.

“Our number one priority is the safety of our employees and customers,” Blackburn told ALXnow. “Every concept is different with layout and footprint, we have to make different decisions for different properties.”

The pandemic closed about half of the city’s 860 permitted food establishments. More than 100 retail and restaurant businesses have received the new ALX Promise accreditation decal, which launched three weeks ago and requires business owners and staff to undergo a training session and sign a pledge to maintain safe and sanitary practices.

Natalie Talis, a population health manager with the Alexandria Health Department, said that 289 businesses have expressed interest in participating in the ALX Promise initiative, which is a partnership with Visit Alexandria, the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce.

“Just because these new phases are happening and businesses are reopening, it doesn’t mean that we can be any less vigilant about washing our hands really frequently, wearing a face-covering in public settings, and also not crowding together,” she said. “We have to keep messaging about that and banging the drum that COVID hasn’t disappeared.”

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Alexandria is putting many of the city’s homeless in hotel rooms for the foreseeable future.

“While many of our hotels are suffering significant losses of their own, they have been willing to partner with the City to assist in the response,” Mayor Justin Wilson told ALXnow. “To ensure that our homeless populations can maintain safe social distancing, these hotel partnerships have been critical.”

On April 1, the city made a contract with the Residence Inn Old Town Alexandria South at Carlyle, to house up to 46 households experiencing homelessness, city spokesman Craig Fifer said.

“Since the situation is evolving, there is no specific end date for this sheltering option at this time,” Fifer said.

The individuals and families being housed are equipped with kitchens, and rooms are attended by hotel housekeeping staff.

Some households are receiving food through ALIVE! and the City’s Frozen Meals Delivery Program, Fifer said.

“Individuals and families experiencing homelessness are often more vulnerable because it may be harder for them to access public health information, food and medicine, shelter, running water and hand sanitizer, face coverings, heath care and other basic needs,” Fifer said. “They are also more likely to have underlying medical conditions due to past difficulty accessing health care.”

The total cost if all rooms are used for the maximum times they’re under contract through June 10 is $143,986.44, according to the city. The monies can come from the City’s fund balance for emergency and disaster response, and may be reimbursable with federal COVID-19 funding.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted a number of the city’s vulnerable groups, and sheltering options are also available via Carpenter’s Shelter at the Charles Houston Recreation Center in Old Town and Alexandria Community Shelter at 2355-B Mill Road.

Photo via Residence Inn Old Town Alexandria South at Carlyle/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Governor Declares State of Emergency — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said he is watching how other states are handling COVID-19 testing and that drive-thru testing may be an option. [NBC 4]

ALIVE! Might Shutter Programs, Needs Donations — “We continue to operate as normal, but anticipate that at some point we may advise volunteers to stay home and close programs.  We are doing our best to ensure food supplies are adequate and are increasing deliveries to our regular drop off sites while we are able. Donations to support our food reserves are critically important at this time, as we are sending out everything to our regular clients to help them prepare while we are still able to do so.” [ALIVE!]

Fundrise Acquires Carlyle Site For Development — “Fundrise acquired the 14-acre site at 2000 Carlyle Ave. from a joint venture of Perseus Realty and ELV Associates for $75 million… The online platform allows private investors to pool money into a series of funds that invest in residential and commercial properties.” [Bisnow]

Port City Brewing Co. Releases Statement on Coronavirus — “We understand that the recent outbreak of COVID-19 requires extra precautions in public spaces like ours… We strongly encourage friends across our community to use caution when deciding where to visit and what to attend during this pandemic.” [Port City]

Gas Station Offering “White Glove” Full Service — In response to the coronavirus, Yates Service, Inc. on Thursday announced the launch of complimentary white glove vehicle pickup and delivery service and complimentary full-service gas pump attendants at its gas station at Yates Automotive’s Sunoco station in Del Ray/Old Town. [Zebra]

Virginia Young Democrats Convention Postponed — “This is an unprecedented step taken in response to the increasingly concerning developments with COVID-19 here within the Commonwealth and the country. The convention planning committee did not make this decision lightly, but the safety of our members comes above all else.” [Facebook]

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Carlyle barbecue joint Sweet Fire Donna’s is celebrating its six-year anniversary with a ’60s throwback party.

The party is scheduled tomorrow (Saturday) from 6 p.m.-midnight at Sweet Fire Donna’s (510 John Carlyle Street).

“We’re turning back time to celebrate our 6th year anniversary!” the restaurant said on an event post. “Pull out your swankiest sixties garb and get ready to groove. We’ll also be featuring a Tap Takeover with Two Roads Brewery!

Sweet Fire Donna’s is a barbecue restaurant that offers a selection of BBQ meat along with classic southern sides like cornbread and key lime pie.

The posting also noted that prizes will be awarded for the best ’60s costumes.

Photo via Sweet Fire Donna’s/Facebook

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Morning Notes

City Faces Dozens of Lawsuits — “Between 2014 and 2019, 101 lawsuits were filed against the city, and 20 of those cases are still active, according to data the Alexandria Times acquired through the city… Over the last six years, the city has faced 37 claims cases, 20 land-use cases, 15 civil rights cases, 12 employment cases, 11 real estate assessment cases, two FOIA cases, two mandamus cases and two procurement cases.” [Alexandria Times]

Restaurants That Locals Still Miss — “When you talk with locals about restaurants they miss, there’s usually at least one place they can name… We’ve received nearly 40 responses covering Old Town and other areas of the city. Places mentioned by multiple people included Austin Grill, Overwood, Mango Mike’s, Flying Fish and Geranio.” [Patch]

New Bank Branch Opens in Carlyle — “Bank of America celebrated its latest Alexandria location with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday morning inside the newly opened financial center in the heart of Alexandria’s Carlyle neighborhood. The location, at 415 John Carlyle St., is Bank of America’s 10th financial center in the Alexandria/Springfield market and fourth in Alexandria proper.” [Alexandria Living]

GW Middle Students Try Meditation — “Middle school can be a stressful environment, so… at George Washington Middle School, some teachers are starting class with meditation. The lights are dimmed, soothing music is turned on and teachers guide the kids to breathe, settle in and focus on something positive.” [WTOP]

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The annual Alexandria Warehouse Sale is set to return next Saturday, Feb. 8 in Carlyle.

The sale brings boutiques from across the region to the Westin Hotel (400 Courthouse Square). It’s free to attend and is scheduled to run from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

In addition to the boutiques, several promotional activities are scheduled throughout the morning. A complimentary pilates class is scheduled to run from 8-9 a.m., while a workshop letting attendees make their own mini wooden sign will run from 8-10 a.m. Additionally, Salon DeZen will offer a complimentary glitter and mini braid bar from 8-10 a.m.

Deals on items at the boutique are expected to go up to 80 percent off retail prices, according to a press release.

Street parking is available and there is $5 parking at garages around the hotel. A shuttle to the King Street Metro is scheduled to start at 7 a.m.

According to the press release, participating stores include:

Clothing

Jewelry/Accessories/Beauty

Home

Kids

Shoes

Photo courtesy Old Town Boutique District

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The Carlyle Diner is set for a soft opening at the end of this month.

The new restaurant is part of The Carlyle Club (2050 Ballenger Ave.), a nightclub featuring jazz and comedy shows and serving alcohol and classic American cuisine for dinner. The retro-style diner promises to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner in the form of pancakes, shakes, burgers and an assortment of pies.

News of the restaurant’s opening was revealed by Visit Alexandria, the city’s tourism bureau, at its “What’s New in Alexandria 2020” event, which was held at the Carlyle Club last Friday. The restaurant does yet appear to have its own website and social media pages; it is also not mentioned on the Carlyle Club’s website.

The Carlyle Club did not respond to calls for comment.

Joe Haggerty, president and CEO of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, said that the Carlyle area — between the King Street and Eisenhower Avenue Metro stations — has been booming with development in recent years.

“It’s going like crazy,” Haggerty said. “Nearby on Eisenhower Avenue there’s a lot going on and it’s really going to take off.”

Carlyle Diner is not the only diner planning to open within the city limits. A new Silver Diner location at 4610 King Street, in a new West End development at the corner of King and North Beauregard streets, will open this summer, event attendees were told.

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A new pilates studio in Carlyle is hoping to help locals get a head start on their New Year’s fitness resolutions.

Club Pilates, a pilates chain, planning to open at 1725 Jamieson Avenue, just a block south of Whole Foods. The location is scheduled to have a grand opening early next year, but the new studio is offering free preview sessions next week.

According to a press release:

In anticipation of the grand opening early next year the new studio will be having a meet and greet on December 12 and free introductory classes, December 13-15. During the meet and greet prospect members will get a chance to learn about Club Pilates, meet instructors and interact with current members and for those attending the free introductory classes there will be a chance to win raffle prizes, discount on Club Pilates merchandise, and gift cards.

The pilates business advertises its classes as low-impact training to build strength, mobility and flexibility at an affordable price. Training sessions are offered in various packages, but prices for the classes have not been posted yet.

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