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Old Town was packed on Monday, as thousands of revelers and marchers celebrated the George Washington Birthday Parade.

More than 2,000 freemasons from all over the country marched in the 100th annual parade, which is the largest annual celebration of Washington in the world.

This year’s event saw a rare route change for the parade, which is traditionally held east of Washington Street near City Hall in the Old Town Historic District. This year, the parade made its way from Old Town North to King Street and near the George Washington Masonic National Memorial at King Street and Commonwealth Avenue.

This event commemorated the construction of the Memorial in 1923, which saw then-President Calvin Coolidge, Chief Justice William Howard Taft and Virginia Governor E. L.Trinkle lay the cornerstone.

Alexandria’s next parade is the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Old Town on Saturday, March 4.

A DASH bus at Southern Towers (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

Nearly half of Alexandria’s bus stops do not meet federal accessibility standards.

It’s been a good couple years for Alexandria bus service DASH, but a new report presented to the City Council at a meeting this week by Chairman David Kaplan highlighted areas where there’s still room to improve.

“Much work needs to be done,” said Kaplan. “As good as the investments are that we’ve made in additional transit services, there are challenges when it comes to access to transit stops. The wait at the stop or the boarding process matters a lot when we have an older adult or a person with disabilities considering whether they can make a trip safely and comfortably on transit.”

Kaplan said that 42% of bus stops in Alexandria do not meet the standards laid out in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Many of those are due to non-compliant boarding areas.


  • 18% of stops are in locations where parked cars are permitted to block the boarding area
  • 22% of stops do not have a shelter
  • 46% do not have a bench

Kaplan said only around 7% are built to what is considered best practices.

Beyond accessibility, City Council member Canek Aguirre said DASH and the city could be doing more to improve safety at bus stops.

“We [should] do audits at night as well to take a look at lighting,” Aguirre said. “We’ve definitely had some issues. I rode the bus with an individual working at The Fresh Market in the Bradlee Shopping Center. We got off at the same stop and it was pitch black. There was some greenery hanging over and blocking the lighting. Especially when it’s wintertime and it gets darker, lighting is another crucial piece when we talk about bus stops and shelter.”

Alexandria City Hall (staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

The value of Alexandria’s total residential tax base has outpaced its commercial tax base, according to the city’s Office of Real Estate Assessments.

Over last year, the city’s overall real estate assessments increased 3.82%, or $1.7 billion, to reach a total of $43.88 billion, according to a report that the City Council will receive at its legislative meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) at City Hall (301 King Street).

The city’s residential tax base increased by 5.32%, or $1.24 billion, for a total of $24.6 billion. The average value of a single-family home value increased by nearly 4.6% to $940,375, and the average value of a condo in the city is $407,616, an increase of roughly 3.5% over last year. The city’s multi-family rental apartment market base also increased almost 5.4% this year, for a total of $9.89 billion.

Mayor Justin Wilson touted the assessments in a series of tweets. Some residents challenged this, saying the city’s assessments don’t line up with decreases in single-family home sale prices tracked on real estate websites.

For every zip code in Alexandria — except 22305 (Arlandria) and 22312 (Lincolnia) — there was either a negative year-over-year change in sale price or no change, according to the website Redfin, which tracks median sale prices.

Wilson said Redfin’s estimates are wrong and the city’s full assessment data will be posted this coming Tuesday (Feb. 14) to examine.

Alexandria’s commercial tax base also increased just under 2%, for a total of $355.5 million.

While most commercial properties saw moderate increases, the value of office buildings in the city fell 10%. Additionally, a number of properties were and are being converted to residential use. The city’s overall equalized commercial office property tax base fell 1.8%, or nearly $66.2 million, from $3.65 billion in 2022 to $3.6 billion this year.

According to a city report:

There were seven sales of office buildings in 2022. Of those sales, one traditional commercial office building indicated intentions of conversion to residential development, [while] another plans to upgrade the current office building

  • 1801 Beauregard Street, with 135,087 square feet, reportedly intends to convert its space into 95-to-105 rental units
  • 515 King Street, with 82,800 square feet, intends to add additional amenities and develop coworking spaces
  • Empty office buildings at 801 N. Fairfax Street, 625 Slaters Lane and 635 Slaters Lane are being converted into condominiums
  • 4900 Seminary Road is being converted into 212 multifamily rental units
  • Conversions have been proposed for 901 N. Pitt Street, at Transpotomac Plaza and at 1101 King Street

The overall value of Alexandria’s 22 hotels increased by 2.6%, or $12.8 million, from $497.5 million in 2022 to $510.3 million this year.

Assessment notices will be sent to property owners this Wednesday (Feb. 15), and residents have until March 15 to request a review of their assessment with the Office of Real Estate Assessments, followed by a June 1 deadline to file an appeal with the Board of Equalization.

As for trends, last year there was a nearly 27% decrease in the volume of single family home sales, and a 13% decrease in condo sales compared with 2021, according to the city.

The median sale price of residential properties in the City of Alexandria declined for a second year (in 2022) from $588,750 to $544,875. The median rose from $517,250 to $608,000 from 2019 to 2020. The decline is still attributable to a greater number of condominium properties (typically sold for less than single-family properties) in the sales sample than in years prior to 2020.

ACHS students in a walk out protesting the cancelation of Lunch and Learn (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

It’s been a busy week in Alexandria.

As teachers fought for a pay raise, Alexandria City High School (ACHS) students walked out of the classrooms in protest against Alexandria City Public Schools leadership stonewalling a lunchtime program.

Titan Lunch was a proposed replacement for an earlier Lunch and Learn program that allowed students to meet with clubs or teachers during their lunch period. A student committee met with school administration and worked on crafting a compromise that would keep the core of “Lunch and Learn” intact while adding security measures.

In an email to the ACHS community, Principal Peter Balas said during meetings with the school district’s senior leadership team it became apparent that “safety and security concerns, in addition to the logistical and operational challenges” would keep the program from moving forward during the current school year.

While organizers said Interim Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt has yet to meet with the student committee that put together the activity proposal, the ACHS PTSA wrote a letter to the school system supporting the Titan Lunch proposal.

The most-read stories this week were:

  1. Alexandria City High School students organize walk out protesting cancelation of lunchtime activities
  2. With Alexandria seeing more residential development conversions, city leaders discuss pushing for greater ‘voluntary’ contributions
  3. No arrest after woman robbed at gunpoint in Old Town Saturday night
  4. UPDATED: Alexandria BIPOC-focused grant program delayed by lawsuit from local engineering firm
  5. JUST IN: Visit Alexandria unveils new city branding
  6. JUST IN: Suspect on run in shooting ‘mistakenly’ released from jail after arrest
  7. Alexandria teachers want smaller classes and bigger raises
  8. Notes: Neighboring Arlington embroiled in single-family zoning fight Alexandria has avoided… so far
  9. Woodbridge man arrested after stabbing incident in West End
  10. APD investigates shots fired in the West End
City Council and firefighters gather for collective bargaining agreement (image via AlexandriaVAGov/Twitter)

After years of discussion and debate, Alexandria’s City Council unanimously voted to approve a resolution funding a collective bargaining agreement between the City of Alexandria and the local firefighters union.

The agreement includes funding for many of the problems raised by Alexandria firefighters over recent years, from long hours to improved infrastructure.

The agreement with International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 2141 (IAFF Local 2141) comes on the heels of a collective bargaining agreement approved in 2021. The agreement is the first collective bargaining agreement in Virginia between a locality and a firefighter union since 1970.

The agreements include investments in employee pay, salaries at or above market, and a framework for an annual adjustment to pay scales.

According to a release from the City of Alexandria:

  • Competitive, market-rate salary increases.
  • Pathway to reduced hours in the work week.
  • Assurance of ongoing investments in City facilities and safety initiatives.
  • Continued access to the City’s benefits package.

The total cost for the wages and other costs under the agreement is $3.5 million in fiscal year 2024 with an additional $13.9 million over the next three years. The agreement also includes a commitment to hiring more firefighters and medics; totaling a $2.4 million cost for FY 2024 and $13.5 million over the next three years.

It’s been a long road to city approval with several very vocal conflicts between IAFF Local 2141 and the city.

That conflict sometimes drove a wedge between firefighters and Fire Chief Corey Smedley, but at the City Council meeting last night city leaders and IAFF Local 2141 leadership were quick to adopt a unified posture.

“To Local 2141: I admire your tenacity as you negotiated for our department,” said Smedley. “Your hard work and determination is reflected in this agreement. We are one team, which should resonate throughout the city that we share common goals in pursuit of continuous improvement.”

City Manager James Parajon lauded the work of IAFF Local 2141, despite past disagreements between the union and the city.

“I want to recognize [IAFF Local 2141 President] Josh Turner and the rest of his bargaining unit,” said Parajon. “We talk a lot about staffing; on our partner’s side it was our firefighters doing the hard legwork it takes to do an agreement like this. That’s hard to do, especially in circumstances where many of them are working through the night and show up at bargaining sessions in the morning.”

City Council members expressed their support for the new agreement.

“One of the first groups of folks I sat down with were our firefighters and medics,” said City Council member Alyia Gaskins. “I got to hear a lot of their stories… I heard about their passion, their commitment. At the same time, probably the most painful part of the conversation is when I heard them talk about how they felt they were working for a city that didn’t want to help or serve them as much as they wanted to help.”

City Council member John Chapman got emotional in discussing the work of Alexandria firefighters and sharing appreciation for the work they put into the agreement:

My son is two years old, turning three next month, and has no less than 30 or 40 types of items related to firefighters… and it’s because you guys, to this community, are magical. Any boy or girl that sees the truck and hears the sirens going off, they turn and look with such a display of awe… Sometimes we’ve put you in a place where it’s more sacrifice than others in your industry… We don’t say this a lot to our employees, but we love you. As a young father, seeing one of you come up and talk about the time away from your family you give willingly, sometimes begrudgingly, but you do it as dedication to your craft knowing you are impacting lives. It’s so meaningful.

Turner, a captain in the Alexandria Fire Department, was one of those who had been leading the charge toward collective bargaining for years.

“It’s a very historic day,” Turner said. “The most important thing is: this contract is about our community. It speaks to the values of our community, that this is a priority, that this is a progressive community, and sets us up for success not only in the labor market but also for our department moving forward.”

Photo via AlexandriaVAGov/Twitter

4850 Mark Center Drive. (Courtesy photo)

The Alexandria City Council could be signing a lease tonight for the new ‘West End City Hall‘.

The council is scheduled to review a 10-year lease agreement for the future home of the city’s Department of Community and Human Services at 4850 Mark Center Drive tonight (Tuesday). If approved, the City’s Health Department’s lease for the Redella S. “Del” Pepper Community Resource Center would go into effect on March 1.

DCHS services are spread in eight service locations throughout the city, and the Mark Center property will centralize operations. The deal has been in the works for nearly five years.

That initial agreement was for a 15-year lease, and would go into effect in February. The term has since been reduced to a decade. If approved by City Council, the Health Department would pay the landlord, which is the City, $1.8 million in rent every year, or $158,000 per month.

Council will review the lease agreement at its meeting tonight.

Proposed rent rates for 4850 Mark Center Drive (via City of Alexandria)

“The facility will include the Department of Community and Human Services, the Alexandria Health Department, Neighborhood Health, and a West End Service Center with a Permit Center, Finance Department transaction functions and limited Clerk of Court services,” according to the city.

The 270,000-square-foot property also includes an adjacent 800-space parking garage.

The new community resource center is named after Del Pepper, the longtime City Council member who retired last year.

The article previously stated that the Institutes for Defense Analyses owns the building. It is, in fact, owned by the city, which bought it from IDA.

1225 and 1229 King Street (image via Google Maps)

A redevelopment vote (item 6) that was meant to be part of the consent calendar — items generally approved without controversy — ended up taking up a large swath of a City Council meeting this Saturday and became the center of a discussion about how hard the city should push for “voluntary” affordable housing contributions.

The topic at hand was the conversion of the non-residential upper floors of 1225 King Street into 12 residential units. There was little contentious in the presented redevelopment plans, but it sparked a discussion of how the city should be handling affordable housing in the increasingly popular residential conversions.

The city has initiated an ambitious new zoning project that aims to bake more affordability into the city’s land use code from the ground up. But the conversion of 1225 King Street to a residential space is part of an increasing trend of office or retail space being turned into more valuable residential space.

A housing policy update from 2020/2021 set a “voluntary monetary contribution policy” for that sort of conversion at $1.61 per square foot, totaling $9,236 for the development.

Council member Alyia Gaskins used the topic of the conversion to highlight that the new Comprehensive Zoning for Housing and Housing for All Package, at least in its current state, will do little to adjust or change how affordable housing is factored into these types of conversions.

“One of the things I raised in my briefing with staff is we’re seeing an increasing number of these conversions,” Gaskins said. “As part of zoning for housing, we’re looking at the planning and economic and fiscal goals, but we’re not looking at affordable housing contributions. For me, I think this is a huge missed opportunity. I think the conversion process and the contribution policy are so interconnected.”

Gaskins said the discussion about contribution requirements and who received on-site units should be part of the discussion around conversions.

“I just really want to emphasize that we should be looking at these issues comprehensively,” Gaskins said.

But with its “voluntary contributions” that are requirements in all but name, Alexandria already flirts with the edges of what’s granted under the Dillon Rule. City Council member Amy Jackson said discussion of additional requirements can make some city leaders nervous about running afoul of state authority.

“It is voluntary, and I’m sure the city attorney is getting a little twitch going, because [what we’re saying is ‘how much can we ask for without asking for it,'” Jackson said. “We need those affordable housing units and we need the money if we’re not going to get the units. We want to be a welcome mat, but we don’t want to be tromped on every time.”

Jackson said Alexandria shouldn’t be afraid to use it’s authority to turn down conversions.

“Alexandria is always asked to the dance; Alexandria doesn’t have to say yes to every person who asks us to dance,” Jackson said. “We have to find a happy medium because I’m not happy.”

On the other hand, Mayor Justin Wilson said the city should make it easier to create seemingly market-rate affordable units like those being converted in the project — though actual prices for the units were not included in the reports.

“We’re talking about 17,400 square feet converting to 12 units,” Wilson wrote. “These are going to be market-rate affordable units because there’s no way they can charge luxury premium prices without considerable renovation of this building. We have a very small affordable housing contribution because of our policy… [but] let’s be careful about what we’re demanding out of projects like this.”

As the city wades through this process, City Council member John Chapman said the city should expect more out of the Alexandria Housing Affordability Advisory Committee.

“The other group I’d love to pull into the conversation as we get started is the Alexandria Housing Affordability Advisory Committee,” Chapman said. “I’ll be honest, they’ve been far too silent on some of these things. They’re supposed to be advising us of policy and we’re not seeing that. I’m honestly to the point where if they’re not able to give advice to the Council and the staff, we need to find some new people for that commission. Affordable housing is too important of an issue to be quiet.”

The City Council ultimately voted in favor of the building’s conversion.

Image via Google Maps

Forrest Street, named for Nathan Bedford Forrest (via Google Maps)

At a City Council meeting last night (Tuesday), Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson unveiled the next stage of plans to ramp up the renaming of streets that honor Confederate leaders, the Washington Post first reported.

While the city has renamed the Alexandria portion of Jefferson Davis Highway and removed the Appomattox statue, streets honoring Confederate leaders like the “Gray Ghost” John Singleton Mosby or Ku Klux Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest still exist around the city.

Discussions to rename more streets began last October, but there’s a much longer history of Civil War names on streets dividing Alexandria. As of 2018, about 60 streets potentially were named for Confederate leaders, but in some cases — such  as Lee Street — the historical record is unclear about a street’s namesake.

The mayor said his new plans stem from the conversation that kicked off last fall.

“Last year, I talked on the dais about a process and a deliberate schedule to identify street names in our city that really were designed as a permanent protest against the civil rights movement and growing political power for African Americans in our city,” Wilson said. “Those places and those honors have no place in our city.”

Wilson said his plan is for two committees to work in tandem to find both streets to rename and suitable names to replace them.

Historic Alexandria Resources Commission would develop a list of people, events and locations that deserve honors, with a focus on women and minorities — people traditionally underrepresented in city honors. The City Council Naming Committee, meanwhile, would identify which streets should be prioritized for renaming.

Wilson said the city should aim to rename three streets each year, which would “keep us busy for quite a while” but would also give city leadership space to determine if that’s too ambitious or not ambitious enough.

The proposal found widespread support on the City Council, where others said they had first-hand experience with how difficult the legacy of Confederate honors can be to escape.

“As someone who bought a home in Alexandria just a few years ago on the West End, it was very startling how many houses we looked at were on streets with names I would have a hard time living on,” said City Council member Kirk McPike. “We thought we dodged that, but as it turns out our current street is named after a Confederate naval vessel.”

The memo is set for review as part of the city’s budget process. City Manager James Parajon is scheduled to present a draft of the budget to the City Council on Feb. 28, followed by a period of meetings and discussions that culminate with a vote on the budget in May.

King Street in Old Town, Alexandria (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria is hoping to get $400,000 from the state to help with resurfacing — particularly for the city’s iconic King Street.

The City Council is set to review a grant application to the Virginia Department of Transportation’s State of Good Repair program.

Alexandria is applying for up to $400,000, with $50,000 to be set aside specifically for King Street. The grant would pay for resurfacing of the street between South Peyton Street — a few blocks from the King Street Metro station — down to Washington Street.

A map showing the results of a 2019 Pavement Condition Inventory (CRI) showed “very poor” and “serious” road conditions on King Street for nearly every block from the Metro station to waterfront.

Very poor and serious road conditions are defined by the city as:

Pavement in extremely deteriorated condition. Numerous areas of instability. Majority of section showing structural deficiency. Ride quality is poor.

Parallel — and, granted, less heavily used — Cameron and Prince Streets scored highly for nearly the full length of the road.


While flags on private property are mostly unlimited, a new resolution (item 16) heading to the City Council next week outlines some specifics on which flags can fly from city flagpoles.

It’s a topic that can be controversial — in 2015 the city finally prohibited the flying of Confederate flags on city poles.

There are some flags that can be flown at any time, but many are month-specific. The full list is below:

  • The flag of any of the Armed Forces of the United States;
  • The Pan-African flag during Black History Month, in February of a given
  • The Women’s Day flag during Women’s History Month, in March of a given
  • The flag of the Republic of Ireland during Irish American Heritage Month, in
    March of a given year;
  • The flag of the Red Cross during Red Cross Month, in March of a given year;
  • A Remembrance Banner for the lynching of Joseph McCoy in April of a given
  • The Flags of the United States and France in remembrance of D-Day in June
    of a given year;
  • The Pride flag during Pride Month, in June of a given year;
  • A Banner commemorating Juneteenth in June of a given year;
  • A Remembrance Banner for the lynching of Benjamin Thomas in August of a
    given year;
  • The flag of Scotland on the day of the Scottish Christmas Walk parade
    occurring in December of a given year.

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