Alexandria, VA

The Basilica School of Saint Mary (310 S Royal Street) in Old Town could grow by two new buildings if a new development application goes through.

The Catholic Diocese of Arlington is requesting permission to build a new library and media center at their 400 Green Street property.

“St. Mary’s has operated on the Property since 1948, and has grown and changed along with the needs of the student body and the community,” the diocese said in the application. “The proposed addition would connect two school buildings on the Property and allow students to safely travel between the two classroom buildings. Site improvements include reorienting the parking lot and student pick-up and drop-off area, adding one elevator for ADA accessibility, and other landscaping and playground improvements.

Even with the added buildings, the diocese said the floor area ratio (FAR) of 0.7 is still significantly below the permitted 1.5 FAR.

“The proposed addition connects the southeast corner of the Main Building with the northwest corner of Stephen’s Hall and contains approximately 19,298 square feet of floor area on the library level,” the diocese said.

The proposal will also add a new tower to the campus, described as “architecturally distinct from the existing cupola” but still borrowing from parts of the main design.

The new design also aims to cut down on the traffic from the school piling up on nearby streets.

“Currently, the existing pick-up and drop-off pattern involves significant queuing in surrounding streets and neighborhood,” the diocese said. “In order to internalize the pick-up and drop-off traffic, the Applicant proposes to reorient the pick-up and drop-off area to the rear of the school, behind the gym. Parents will enter the School from South Royal Street, drive under the proposed addition to the rear of the school, where faculty will direct the pick-up and drop-off process. To exit the School grounds, they will drive down a one-way alley along the western side of the Main Building and exit on to Green Street.”

The item is scheduled for review at the Thursday, April 8, Planning Commission meeting.

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St. Andrews United Methodist Church (845 N Howard Street) on Seminary Hill is seeking Planning Commission approval to demolish and rebuild its church on a smaller lot.

The church is headed to the Planning Commission on Tuesday, Jan. 5, seeking permission subdivide its current lot to reconstruct the church on one part of the property closer to the street and sell the rest to St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School.

The church requires city review for the subdivision and an exception to build the church closer to N. Howard Street than the currently mandated 60 feet.

A pastor at St. Andrews wrote on the church’s Facebook page in October 2019:

Yesterday St. Andrew’s UMC received approval to sell a portion of our property to St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes school. The sale includes our current church building. Upon approval by the City of Alexandria (a long, laborious process) we will construct a new facility on the portion of property we are retaining.

This is one of two pieces of a major restart for the St. Andrew’s family. There truly is New Life at St. Andrew’s. Stay tuned for further details to be announced soon. Bottom line-God is up to something good here, and we just want to avoid getting in His way.

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Morning Notes

City Opening Second Round of Small Business Loans — “Starting tomorrow @AlexandriaEcon will begin accepting applications for another $2.4M of grants for our small businesses. This is the second round of “Back to Business Grants” designed to aid business recovery. Apply online!” [Twitter]

Residents Invited to Join RiverRenew Advisory Committee — “AlexRenew is seeking a balanced and diverse group of citizens representing neighborhoods, businesses, and various interests who commit to being active and engaged in the stakeholder process.” [Zebra]

Deadline Today for Studio Space at Torpedo Factory — “The deadline to apply for studio space is September 30! Time is running out! Visit torpedofactory.org/artopps now for the quick application. Open to all visual artists ages 21+.” [Twitter]

Immanuel Church Pumpkin Patch Returning October 4 — ” The Immanuel Church on-the-Hill’s Pumpkin Patch is back! The Pumpkin Patch has been held each October for 27 years. The 2020 version is open every day from Oct. 4-31. Mondays to Fridays are noon to 6 p.m. and weekends are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.” [Zebra]

Myron Mixon’s Reopening in Old Town October 1 — “The restaurant, at 220 N. Lee Street near the Old Town waterfront, made its announcement Monday night. The restaurant’s namesake is a four-time world barbecue champion, cookbook author, television host and more. The Alexandria restaurant opened in early 2017.” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s Weather — “Mainly sunny (during the day). High 71F. Winds WSW at 10 to 15 mph. Clear (in the evening). Low 56F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: ACPS Communications Specialist — “Responsible for researching, developing, implementing and evaluating communications for special projects to include capital projects, facilities projects, communication projects and projects that support schools, departments and the superintendent.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Beyer Refutes Trump’s Claims of Media Spin Over Tax Payments — “No, ‘everyone else’ didn’t write off payments to their children and $70,000 for haircuts so they could live a lavish lifestyle while only paying $750 in taxes. Trump remains the only major party candidate for president in 40 years who refused to release his tax returns.” [Twitter]

ACPS Asks Community to Discuss Future Facilities Projects, School Sites — “As ACPS and the City start looking at the need to rebuild, replace, add to or modernize schools, fire stations, police facilities and more, local officials are asking for feedback on the Joint City-ACPS Facilities Master Plan.” [Alexandria Living]

Alexandria Chefs Compete on ‘Chopped’ Reality Show Tonight — “Alexandria chef-owner Mimi Huynh of modern Vietnamese restaurant Sunday in Saigon at 682 N. St. Asaph Street and chef Chris Edwards of newly opened Hank & Mitzi’s Italian Kitchen, located at 600 Montgomery Street, will appear on Food Network’s “Chopped” tomorrow night.” [Zebra]

Longtime Friends Named National Merit Scholarship Finalists — “When Aiden Crowe, Nikolai Kosinski and Caroline Winakur reached eighth grade at George Washington Middle School, their math ability was such that the trio were literally in a class of their own. Algebra 2 with Sarah Devito became a class of three as teachers sought to individualize learning in the subject area they all excelled at. They have remained good friends ever since. And earlier this month, the T.C. Williams High School seniors discovered they had all been named National Merit Scholarship semi finalists after outstanding results in the PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test last October.” [ACPS]

Today’s Weather — “Rain showers in the morning then thundershowers in the afternoon. High 74F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rain likely (in the evening). Low 56F. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall near a half an inch. Locally heavy rainfall possible.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Marketing Communications Specialist — “To be successful in this position, the Marketing Communications Specialist must demonstrate strong persuasive writing skills, strong digital layout design skills and be an overall expert in digital and social media marketing.” [Indeed]

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A local church is offering the ultimate tech support: a divine blessing for local students’ laptops.

This Sunday, Sept. 6, at 5:30 p.m.,Trinity United Methodist Church (2911 Cameron Mills Road) is planning to host an Outdoor Blessing of the Chromebooks & Ice Cream Social (Social Distanced Edition).

“We invite you to join Pastor Grace and Hannah Day Donoghue for an end of the summer celebration,” the church said. “Anyone starting any kind of school is welcome to bring their Chromebook, or an item from their desk/school working space to be blessed for the new school year. We will pair this with individually wrapped ice cream, to take home with you!”

ACPS has distributed thousands of Chromebooks to students to prepare for the online-only start of the school year. Ecclesiastical accessories were not included distribution, but those hoping for some additional theology in their tech can sign up for the program online or contact Program Director Hannah Day Donoghue at [email protected]

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We made it to Friday in Alexandria! That was some week.

With the end of summer approaching, Alexandria City Public Schools are gearing up for virtual-only classes this fall, although a number of the city’s private schools are reopening. This week, however, Bishop Ireton High School resumed in-person classes.

A number of other private schools in the city are also reopening, including Episcopal High School (in October), Alexandria Country Day School and Immanuel Lutheran School.

ALIVE!, which has given away hundreds of thousands of pounds of food during the pandemic, announced it was making its annual walkathon a virtual experience next month. The nonprofit also needs volunteers as needs are increasing, according to Executive Director Jennifer Ayers.

Not included in this week’s list is Thursday’s story about a pilgrimage for racial healing from Charlottesville to D.C., which stopped in Alexandria. The group made it in time to D.C. today to recognize the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.

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

Here are our top stories this week in Alexandria.

  1. City Issues Self-Quarantine Advisory After COVID Outbreak at West End Church
  2. Alexandria Police Increase Presence to Stem Uptick of Violent Crime in Parker Gray/Old Town
  3. Alexandria Needs Help Running the November Election
  4. Demonstrations Continue at Acting DHS Chief Chad Wolf’s Alexandria Home
  5. City Updates Zoning Ordinance to Allow Density Boost for Schools
  6. Man Injured in Violent West End Carjacking Last Month
  7. King Street Metro Improvement Project Pushed Back to Spring 2021
  8. New Restaurant Concept Opens Next Month in Old Town Hotel
  9. Proposed Regulatory Changes Cut Back Red Tape for Alexandria Businesses
  10. What Does Southern Towers’ Acquisition by CIM Group Mean for Alexandria Affordable Housing?
  11. Saunas and Ice Baths: A New Coworking Office Focusing on Wellness Opens in Old Town

Have a safe weekend!

Image via Kidane Mehret Church/Facebook

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After eight straight days of walking on foot from Charlottesville to Washington D.C., a small group of faith leaders and their followers stopped just short of their pilgrimage in Alexandria to talk about their journey and the need for a racial reckoning in the country.

Audrey Davis, executive director of the Alexandria Black History Museum, welcomed the audience and told them of the city’s history with slavery and inequality.

“We really have so much African American history and so much social justice history,” Davis said. “We have two slave pens, and we were sort of ground zero for the domestic straight slave trade for importing slaves into the deep south.”

The group of about 20 walkers with Faith in Action, the Congregation Action Network and DC Unity & Justice Fellowship were escorted by police along U.S. Highway 29, which is still called Lee Highway in Fairfax County after Confederate General Robert E. Lee. As they marched, they repeated the names of Black victims who have been shot or killed at the hands of the police, including Brianna Taylor and George Floyd. They also had a new name to recite during their march —  Jacob Blake, who was shot seven times by police in Wisconsin on Sunday.

“The walk is about racial reckoning, resolve and love,” said Pastor Troy Jackson of the Ohio-based religious advocacy group Sojourners. “We’re here embodying our faith. I think that the political parties are all broken, and that what we are doing is appealing to a higher calling in people’s hearts.”

Rev. Walter Clark, assistant minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, said that society needs to atone for unfair practices against Black Americans.

“There are 400 years of hatred and sin to undo and we gather because we know that none of us can do it alone,” Clark said. “Let us go forth and begin the work of atonement together.”

The march will end tomorrow at Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington.

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There are or have been 3,270 cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria, an increase of 140 cases since this time last week.

There have been no new deaths since the last report of 61 fatalities. The victim was a man in his 50s, and the death went unreported for months,  according to the city.

There have also been 293 total hospitalizations since the first case was reported on March 11, according to the Virginia Department of Health. It is not clear how many city residents have recovered from the virus. That’s an increase of nine hospitalizations since last week.

“With a recent increase in cases, you are more likely to encounter someone who is infected,” notes a city release. “Be prepared to answer a call from the Alexandria Health Department in case you are identified as a close contact.”

Alexandria trails behind its more populated regional neighbors like Arlington County, which has reported 3,400 cases and 137 deaths; Fairfax County with 17,729 cases and 543 deaths; and Loudoun County with 5,735 cases and 115 deaths. Statewide, there are 2,471 COVID-related fatalities throughout Virginia, and there are or have been 113,630 cases.

Outbreak Reported in West End

On Friday, the city also announced an outbreak at a West End church. The Alexandria Health Department issued an advisory for anyone who attended Kidane Mehret Church (75 S. Bragg Street) in the West End from August 14-17.

There have been 19 total outbreaks across the city since the pandemic started in Alexandria with the first reported case on March 11, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Those outbreaks have resulted in 288 associated COVID cases in the city, of which 244 are health care workers who have contracted the virus. Eleven outbreaks occurred at long term care facilities, six outbreaks occurred in congregate settings (including churches), and two occurred in educational settings.

Earlier this month, there was also a reported exposure to coronavirus that resulted in the closure of a summer camp at the Nannie J. Lee Memorial Recreation Center.

Latino Residents Most Impacted

Latino residents lead with 1,601 reported cases, followed by Black residents with 636 cases, white residents with 624 cases, Asian or Pacific Islander residents with 107 cases, 61 cases classified as “other” and three native American cases.

There are or have been 1,690 women (with 33 deaths) and 1,569 men (with 28 deaths) in Alexandria with the virus.

  • 80+     — 27 deaths, 110 cases
  • 70-79 — 18 deaths, 117 cases
  • 60-69 — Three deaths, 254 cases
  • 50-59 — 12 deaths, 427 cases
  • 40-49 — Zero deaths, 593 cases
  • 30-39 — Zero deaths, 747 cases
  • 20-29 — One death, 588 cases
  • 10-19  — Zero deaths, 235 cases
  • 0-9     — Zero deaths, 188 cases

Testing Update

There have been 29,170 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests administered in Alexandria so far, and the city’s seven-day positivity rate shows a 6% infection rate of those tested. There have also been 4,057 antibody tests in Alexandria.

Cases By ZIP Code

The areas of the city with the leading number of cases are the 22304, 22305 and 22312 ZIP codes, which include the West End and Arlandria, Potomac Yard and Potomac West neighborhoods.

Some of the areas share jurisdictions between Alexandria and Arlington and Fairfax Counties:

  • 22301 — 115 cases, 2,257 people tested (Estimated population 15,171)
  • 22302 — 333 cases, 4,270 people tested (Estimated population 20,238)
  • 22304 — 1,002 cases, 8,843 people tested (Estimated population 54,003)
  • 22305 — 710 cases, 3,905 people tested (Estimated population 16,095)
  • 22311 — 605 cases, 4,426 people tested (Estimated population 16,898)
  • 22312 — 834 cases, 5,263 people tested (Estimated population 6,901)
  • 22314 — 313 cases, 5,470 people tested (Estimated population 47,826)

Photo via CDC/Unsplash

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The Alexandria Health Department has issued a self-quarantine advisory for anyone who attended Kidane Mehret Church (75 S. Bragg Street) in the West End from August 14-17.

“Anyone who entered the building or was on the church grounds on August 14, 15, 16 or 17 may have been exposed to the virus and should immediately stay home and away from others for 14 days from their last visit to the church, and monitor for symptoms,” the city said in a news release. “Visitors to the church on those days should avoid having guests visit them, not share items like towels and plates, stay at least six feet away from others, and wear a mask when around people who have not had the same exposure.”

Anyone who was at the Ethiopian Eastern Orthodox church on those dates is asked to call 703-309-8276 for help.

It is not clear how many cases resulted from the outbreak.

There have been 18 total outbreaks across the city since the pandemic started in Alexandria with the first reported case on March 11, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Those outbreaks have resulted in 279 associated COVID cases in the city. Six outbreaks occurred in a congregate setting, which includes churches.

ALX Health Department COVID self-quarantine advisory: Anyone who was at Kidane Mehret Church (75 S. Bragg St) from Aug…

Posted by Justin Wilson on Friday, August 21, 2020

Map via Google Maps — Image via Kidane Mehret Church/Facebook

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Rabbi David Spinrad of Alexandria’s Beth El Hebrew Congregation is having trouble preparing inspiring sermons for the high holidays, which start next month. He’s been struggling to find the right words that will help people during challenging times.

“I’m not okay, you’re not okay, nobody is okay,” Spinrad said in a recent Facebook Live chat for Act for Alexandria. “The pastoral need has been extraordinary, beyond anything I’ve ever experienced in my life.”

Spinrad was joined by Pastor Thomas James from Washington Street United Methodist Church, and Stacey Picard from Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center to talk about how their communities are reacting to the coronavirus. Like most religious organizations, their services are online and much of their efforts have been dedicated to providing food for their communities and spiritual counseling.

The pandemic forced Beth El to shut down a daycare program and lay off a number of staffers.

“That lack of being able to really gather has really hurt our soul,” Spinrad said.

James said that he’s exhausted, and that it is challenging for parishioners to log in to church services on their computers or phones after the end of weeks full of online chats.

“I think that the biggest challenge for me is finding the space to rest… so that you have the strength to continue,” James said. “Any 10 minute period where you can just close your eyes and not be engaged is extremely important in this season of life… because it doesn’t seem like COVID is going away, it’s very apparent that racial inequity is not going away. We have to be prepared to do this, not for the next month but for the next few months, for the next year, the next couple of years.”

The hardest part, James says, is not being able to spend time with people, even though his church provides a daily breakfast and gives out food to the community at Charles Houston Recreation Center.

“Someone who’s in the hospital and is sick or is dying, you can’t go see them, the hospitals won’t let you in,” he said. “When there’s a funeral to be had, having 100 people in the worship space is not possible. So you’re doing a very small abbreviated service at the graveside. Weddings? I can’t tell you how many people have called me and said, ‘Would you just please come and marry us, because we’re supposed to get married three months ago and we’re tired of pushing it off.'”

Picard, whose worshippers practice in Falls Church, said that small donations have made just as much a difference as larger donations. The Islamic Center had to suspend more than a dozen social services programs indefinitely and shift resources for food distributions to the Culmore community, which borders on Alexandria’s West End.

“Each day you know there’s a woman who has consistently been delivering small bags of hand sewn masks, every so often when she has them ready,” Picard said. “Don’t discount the small ways that we just connect with each other and act in, in, in whatever way we can with whatever we have.”

ACT Now Tuesday Talk – Faith Community

#HappeningNow – ACT Now Tuesday Talk with Rabbi David Spinrad from Beth El Hebrew Congregation, Pastor Thomas James from Washington Street United Methodist Church, and Stacey Picard from Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center are sharing how their faith communities are responding to COVID-19.

Posted by ACT for Alexandria on Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Photo via Beth El Hebrew Congregation/Facebook

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