City of Alexandria facilities will be closed in observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 20.
All public offices will be closed, parking restrictions will be eased and trash will not be collected.
Here is the city’s full list of openings and closures for Monday:
Resource Recovery: Residential refuse and recycling will not be collected on Monday, January 20, and collection services will be delayed by one day that week. The Household Hazardous Waste & Electronics Collections Drop-off Center (3224 Colvin St.) will also be closed.
Animal Shelter: The Vola Lawson Animal Shelter will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with animal visitation beginning at noon.
Health Department: Alexandria Health Department services at 4480 King St. and at the Flora Krause Casey Health Center (1200 N. Howard St.) will be closed. The Teen Wellness Center (3330 King St.) will also be closed.
Historic Alexandria: All Historic Alexandria facilities will be closed with the exception of the Alexandria History Museum at The Lyceum (201 S. Washington St.), which will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Hotlines: All emergency hotlines will be fully operational, including the child protective services hotline at 703.746.5800; the domestic violence hotline at 703-746-4911; the emergency services for mental health or substance abuse crisis hotline at 703-746-3401; the adult protective services hotline at 1-888-832-3858 and the sexual assault hotline at 703-683-7273.
Libraries: All Alexandria Library branches will be closed on Monday, January 20. The Alexandria Law Library (520 King St.) will be closed on Friday, January 17, and Monday, January 20.
Parking: The Alexandria Police Department will suspend enforcement of parking restrictions at metered spaces, residential permit parking districts and other areas with signed parking time limits.
Impound Lot: The City’s Impound Facility (5249 Eisenhower Ave.) will be closed.
Recreation, Nature and Art Centers: Chinquapin Park Recreation Center & Aquatics Facility will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Charles Houston and Patrick Henry Recreation Centers will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and the Torpedo Factory Art Center will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. All other City recreation and nature centers will be closed.
Schools: All Alexandria City Public Schools and administrative offices will be closed.
State Offices: The Alexandria Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, Alexandria Circuit Court, Alexandria General District Court and Alexandria Juvenile Court and Domestic Relations District Court (520 King St.), will be closed. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles Office (2681 Mill Road) will also be closed.
Transit: The Alexandria Transit Company (DASH) bus service will operate on a Saturday schedule. The free King Street Trolley will run during its regular operating hours, every 10 to 15 minutes, from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., between the King Street Metro Station and waterfront.
Photo via Pixabay
Absentee Voting Starts Today — “Absentee voting for Virginia’s March 3 Democratic Party Presidential Primary Election begins on Thursday, January 16. Many Alexandria voters are eligible to vote absentee.” [City of Alexandria]
Opening Nears for New Waterfront Coffee Shop — “According to Misha’s General Manager Graham McCulloch, the coffee roaster hopes to open their new waterfront location in April, weather and construction permitting. Misha’s new waterfront coffee shop, the company’s second location, will be at 6 Prince St., the former home of Olde Town Gemstones.” [Alexandria Living]
Amazon Funds Used for City Apartment Purchase — “Investing to benefit existing & future business growth was the foundation for @amazon HQ2 package — very excited that 1st affordable housing funds allocated will be used in ALX!” [Twitter, ALXnow, Washington Business Journal]
City Looking for Top Parking Meter Enforcer — “Hiring Announcement: The Alexandria Police Department is currently looking to fill the position of Parking Enforcement Officer Supervisor.” [City of Alexandria, Twitter]
The City of Alexandria has agreed to purchase the Freedom House Museum, an unassuming brick building at 1315 Duke Street that was once the headquarters for the largest domestic slave trading firm in the United States.
The museum is currently a museum about slavery run by the Northern Virginia Urban League, but years after buying and restoring the building in 1996, the Washington Post reported that upkeep for the building was too costly for an organization that primarily uses its funding for scholarships and civil rights issues.
For two years, the City of Alexandria has been working with the Urban League to keep the building open to the public, the city said in a press release. The Office of Historic Alexandria took over operating the museum in February 2019.
The purchase is still subject to approval at the Planning Commission and City Council in February. The agreement would see the city purchase the property for $1.8 million and the Urban League will be able to keep office space in the building for five years.
“The Northern Virginia Urban League is pleased to reach this agreement with the City to place Freedom House in the public trust and ensure its important story will continue to be told,” Diane McLaughlin, chair of the board of directors of Urban League, said in a press release. “The League will continue to focus on its primary mission to enable minorities and other disadvantaged communities to secure economic self-reliance, parity, power and civil rights.”
The restoration and upkeep of the museum could also be helped by $2.44 million in state funding provided in Governor Ralph Northam’s proposed budget.
The city hopes for some public assistance for the museum preservation and upkeep as well, with a donation page set up at ACT for Alexandria, a community fundraising site.
Yesterday’s announcement of the purchase of the Freedom House site is a big step.
We do need private support to fully develop this historic resource and ensure this chapter of our history is interpreted.
Please join me in supporting this effort.https://t.co/ErKnuJCd2t
— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) January 7, 2020
More from a city press release:
The City of Alexandria and the Northern Virginia Urban League (NVUL) reached an agreement on December 31 for the City to purchase the Freedom House Museum in order to preserve and interpret this National Historic Landmark for future generations. The building, located at 1315 Duke Street, was once part of the headquarters for the largest domestic slave trading firm in the United States. From 1828 to 1861, five successive firms forced as many as 50,000 enslaved adults and children from the Chesapeake Bay area to the slave markets in Natchez, Miss., and New Orleans by foot or ship.
“Preserving sites like Freedom House and making them accessible to the public are vital parts of the effort to connect the stories of our past to our present day conversation about race and equity, and ensure we are telling a broader, more candid account of Alexandria and our nation’s history,” said Mayor Justin Wilson. “The City plans to enlist partners to help us restore the building and expand the exhibits to tell the story of the domestic slave trade and those who were enslaved.” […]
The City envisions a partnership with the Commonwealth, as well with private grantors and donors who may wish to help fund elements of the restoration and museum expansion. Members of the community are encouraged to contribute to an account administered by the ACT for Alexandria community foundation, which will be used to supplement public funds for building restoration and museum development.
The $1.8 million purchase includes land, a three- and four-story, 9,810 square-foot building constructed primarily in the 1800s, all museum exhibits and furnishings, and an adjacent 1,648 square-foot parking lot. The building has been the home of the NVUL since 1996, and the City will continue to provide NVUL with office space in the building for five years. The purchase is subject to approval by the Planning Commission and City Council in February.
Photo via Historic Alexandria/Facebook
People in Alexandria have been setting their goals for the new year, so why shouldn’t they have goals for their city?
There are dozens of issues affecting Alexandrians. These issues are not mutually exclusive, but if you had to pick one priority for the powers that be in Alexandria to focus on, what would it be? What upcoming local topics are you most interested in?
Maintain Real Estate Tax Rate
In May 2019, the City of Alexandria voted to pass the Fiscal Year 2020 budget without any tax rate hike for the second year in a row. The maximum real estate tax rate was set at $1.135 per $100 of assessed value, though property tax revenue increased as property values rose, according to the Alexandria Times. Should the city’s top priority be keeping that real estate tax rate steady?
Support Small Businesses
New businesses face numerous hurdles, but the City of Alexandria is hoping that bureaucratic paperwork won’t be one of them. The city is getting ready to consider a series of changes to the approval process for things like restaurants, daycare centers and other facilities. It isn’t the first time the city has streamlined the business approval process, having passed other measures in 2016. Do you think the new streamlining will help local small businesses?
Update Neighborhood Plans
The City of Alexandria is currently deep into a process to update the Eisenhower East Small Area Plan and is starting an update to the Arlandria and Del Ray plans. Plans for Eisenhower include efforts to ease zoning restrictions to allow more retail and restaurant uses closer to the Metro station. Are you hopeful to see how the new neighborhood plans will guide future development?
Reduce Congestion and Add Parking
For a few years, the City Council has been working to reduce parking in Alexandria with parking maximums applied to new developments. Over the last year, Planning Commission members and City Council members have also expressed an interest in seeing requirements in Alexandria change to make greater use of existing parking spaces. Likewise, while traffic safety measures like the road diet on Seminary Road have been implemented over the last year, the changes have been met with some pushback from local residents and some on the City Council. Whether the road diets have slowed traffic along Seminary Road or not is still being debated by the public and studied by staff. Do you think the city should reverse course and stop reducing travel lanes while pushing for more, not less, parking?
Add More Bicycle/Pedestrian Facilities
The Seminary Road “diet” is part of a wider effort in Alexandria called Complete Streets, which aims to make city streets more accessible to bicycle and pedestrian traffic by adding new sidewalks, bike lanes, bus lanes and more. Streets like King Street and Prince Street have also been slimmed down to add bike lanes in recent years. Are you hopeful to see more Complete Streets projects move forward in 2019?
Advance Plans to Reduce School Overcrowding
Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) may have settled on one combined high school to combat overcrowding at T.C. Williams High School, but there are still a lot of questions over what shape that will take. This year, ACPS is scheduled to work through the design phase of the project and figure out how a “campus-style” high school that makes more use of new facilities at Minnie Howard (2801 W. Braddock Road) works. ACPS has also kicked off its plans to modernize Douglas MacArthur Elementary School, which is scheduled to start construction in September. Do you think the top priority in the city should be doing more to combat school overcrowding?
Add More Affordable Housing
Alexandria is working to add more affordable housing in the city, with projects like the redevelopment of Ramsey Homes and The Bloom scheduled to be completed later this year. In December, the City Council approved an $8 million loan to buy an apartment complex in the West End and maintain it as affordable housing. As the city’s market-affordable housing continues to decline, do you think the city needs to do more this year to meet the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ goal of 320,000 affordable housing units by 2030?
Prepare for Amazon Arrival
Alexandria’s City Council has been meeting with the Arlington County Board to fend off some of the ill-effects likely to come to the area with the arrival of Amazon’s massive HQ2 — namely increased home prices pushing out lower-income residents from surrounding neighborhoods, like Arlandria. Do you think the city’s top priority should be getting a plan together to handle the impact of the new Amazon headquarters?
Add New Public Amenities
The last year saw several new public amenities open in Alexandria, like Waterfront Park and the completion of a trail along Four Mile Run. Are you hopeful to see what new parks and public amenities will be coming to Alexandria in 2020?
Support Local Journalism
There have been some changes in the local journalism scene, like the arrival of a cool new local news source serving Alexandria, which just expanded its news team. At the same time, some existing local news publications are facing challenges, much like peers elsewhere in the country. Should city residents and officials work in 2020 to make sure that Alexandria’s local news scene remains vibrant and that local publications are supported?
Think something else should be the city’s top New Year’s resolution? Let us know in the comments.
Staff photo by Jay Westcott
A letter from Ian Markham, Dean and President of the Virginia Theological Seminary, included support for the reduction in vehicle travel lanes and hints about future expansion plans for the school. The letter was shared in the exceptionally active Facebook group Alexandria Residents Against the Seminary Road Diet.
Markham said the Seminary is the institution most impacted by the changes, with facilities straddling the road.
“We have over 280 residents on the campus,” Markham said. “Now I cannot speak for the additional fifteen to forty people in the private houses, but for the Seminary, we are delighted with the change. With the sole exception of a thirty-minute back up between 8:10 a.m. to 8:40 a.m. (which dissipates quickly), the traffic is slower, calmer, and the whole street is quieter and much more gentle. It has worked wonderfully.”
The letter, predictably, was met with some disappointment from the Facebook group, where responses ranged from polite disagreement to members calling it an “obnoxious, self-serving load of twaddle.” Markham, on the other hand, had previously — and jokingly — called for biblical plagues to convince locals to support the road change, according to the Alexandria Gazette.
It isn’t the first time Markham has spoken up about the issue. During the City Council discussion in September, members of the Seminary showed up in religious garb and Markham said the four-lane arterial road creates problems for the school, according to the Alexandria Times.
Markham said in the letter that he would ideally want a 15 mph limit on the road near the school, but said he didn’t expect that to happen. He also noted that the school could be expanding into five acres on the south side of the Seminary with a new garden complex.
“But I need to be confident that students can move safely back and forward across Seminary Road,” Markham said. “With this change, I think I can look at that area and really develop it to benefit not just the Seminary, but the neighborhood and the city.”
The city admitted that there were significant traffic delays as the road diet was being implemented. Much of the road work has been completed, though the city is still seeking grants to add a permanent sidewalk to the north side of the road near the Seminary.
Mayor Wilson said in an email on New Year’s Day that the road diet produced a 40-100% increase in vehicle travel times along Seminary Road during some peak periods, though delays have since lessened.
City Council Member Amy Jackson riled others on the Council last month over a last-minute proposal to stop all work on the road changes until further study can be done on the traffic impacts. The proposal was shot down by the other members of the City Council, but the discussion led to a request for staff to return sometime early this year with a report on the Seminary Road traffic impact.
The Virginia Theological Seminary could not be reached for comment.
City Writes Off Thousands in Unpaid Taxes — “In the last decade, Alexandria has written off more than $100,000 in uncollected tax balances. The annual write-off happens every November, just as City Council members are appearing with a giant turkey at City Hall to celebrate Thanksgiving.” [Gazette Packet]
Obit for Alexandria Scientist — “In the course of her lifetime, physician and activist Janette Sherman gave voice to countless — and often voiceless — victims of environmental toxins. She died this year on Nov. 7, in Alexandria, at age 89.” [WAMU]
Local Woman Stuck in Apartment — “An Alexandria woman who uses a wheelchair says she’s been stuck in her apartment this Christmas week because her building’s only elevator is broken down. Ami Francisco contacted 7 On Your Side after she says the Mason at Van Dorn apartment complex didn’t take her concerns seriously enough.” [WJLA]
Electrical Fire Costly for Convergence Church — “On October 31, Lisa and her staff faced one of their biggest challenges when an underground fire caused widespread damage to the facility’s electrical system… Convergence will likely not reopen until February. And until issues between the insurance and utility companies are resolved, Convergence has been saddled with over $40,000 in repairs.” [Zebra]
While more property owners have signed on to plans to shift Alexandria’s workforce to car-free, a report on those plans showed an increasing percentage of workers and residents in new developments driving alone compared to last year.
Some commercials and residential developments are required to have plans to get employees or residents to use non-car transportation to commute. These plans are called Transportation Management Plans (TMPs) and there are currently 75 developments in Alexandria with TMPs.
The report notes that over the last year 58.9% (out of 702 people surveyed) said they commuted to work driving alone, compared with 46.6% in 2018.
The report does state that these results could be inflated because the program is heavily weighted towards ten large office developments with TMPs, outweighing others, but the results still show riding alone dwarfing all other forms of transportation.
Among residents, driving alone and taking Metro increased over the last year, despite the Metro shutdown over the summer. The percentage of residents saying they carpool fell dramatically though, from over 40% to under 10%.
Staff acknowledged that there are several issues with the current TMP system, “including low compliance, a penalty structure that is less expensive than compliance, and poor incentives to comply.”
According to the report, staff is planning to make recommendations regarding the program next year to push larger, new developments to get employees and residents out of cars and into mass transit.
In related transportation news, the city has worked to sign more employers throughout Alexandria onto voluntary Transportation Demand Management (TDM) strategies. These plans guide employers and residential communities on how to reduce reliance on cars for employees, customers and residents.
There are currently 522 employers with TDMs, according to an update delivered to the Transportation Commission, up from 313 last year. These range from the indoor playground Scramble to federal agencies like the Department of Defense, National Science Foundation and Patent and Trademark Office.
Image via City of Alexandria
Tucker will direct the city’s race and social equity programs and build a framework for policies that help eliminate racial and social inequality, according to a press release from the city.
“Jaqueline is an innovative, compassionate, inclusive leader,” said City Manager Mark Jinks. “Through her dedication to civic engagement, law and policy, and her experience working with all levels of government, she has demonstrated the mindset and skills integral to helping our community make progress toward meaningful equity.”
Tucker was previously a manager for the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), a coalition of local governments working together on racial equity. Alexandria joined the group earlier this year.
I am just so very grateful and full. Our movement is growing, healing, and learning just how our ancestors dreamed. #Forward
— Jaqueline Tucker, Esq. (@EquityEsq) December 18, 2019
According to the press release:
At GARE, Tucker developed relationships with government leaders and staff to analyze policies and practices through a racial equity lens. She also provided technical assistance and coaching to local, state and regional governments from Virginia to Maine, on capacity-building mechanisms for policy intervention, organizational transformation and strategy development on the issue of race and social equity. Tucker was instrumental in planning and convening the first-ever, metropolitan Washington, D.C. regional learning cohort of local government staff to advance racial equity and opportunities for all, a partnership with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and GARE.
Tucker is scheduled to start work on Feb. 10.
The appointment was already met with enthusiastic support from Councilman John Chapman on Twitter.
Yes, yes, yes! Thanks to both staff and advocacy groups for pushing for the creation of this position! https://t.co/v0Cf7eTzUa
— John Taylor Chapman (@j_chapman99) December 18, 2019
Photo via City of Alexandria
More on Alexandria’s New Fire Chief — Newly-appointed Alexandria Fire Chief Corey Smedley “is now working with the city manager’s office on a number of budget issues. He recently submitted a budget proposal to the city manager, and said that he is working to improve the pay for Alexandria’s first responders, which is among the lowest in the region.” [Zebra]
City Ready for Winter Weather — “Responding to winter weather events is a top priority for the City of Alexandria. City crews clear snow from more than 560 lane miles of roadway, 20 miles of City-owned walkways and trails, and 44 acres of municipal parking lots or City-owned squares.” [City of Alexandria]
Northam Proposes Nixing Vehicle Inspections — “Gov. Ralph Northam wants to end state-mandated vehicle safety inspections and cut vehicle registration fees in half, proposals his administration says would eventually save Virginians more than $280 million per year. But motorists would have to pay a few dollars more each time they fill up on gas under a proposal to increase the state’s motor vehicle fuels tax from about 22 cents per gallon to 34 cents per gallon over three years.” [Virginia Mercury]
Beyer Pushing for Quieter Airplanes — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who has long advocated against excessive noise from aircraft landing at and taking off from Reagan National Airport, is calling on NASA to study ways to make commercial jetliners quieter and cleaner in a new bill. [Press Release]
Electric scooters’ tempestuous relationship with Alexandria sidewalks has just come to an end.
At the City Council’s public hearing on Saturday, Dec. 14, the council voted to approve a second phase of the pilot program with a few notable changes from the current program.
The biggest change is the removal of scooters from sidewalks. Under the current system, scooters were only prohibited from two sidewalks near the waterfront, where bicycles are also banned from sidewalks. The original plan for the second phase of the pilot program was to have scooters banned from Mount Vernon Avenue in Del Ray and a large portion of Old Town, but concerns were raised by some on the City Council about enforcement and education of the public on where exactly scooters could or could not be ridden.
Instead, at the Saturday meeting, the City Council amended the language to ban electronic scooters from sidewalks across the city. The new ordinance reads: “Riding a micro-mobility device on all sidewalks within the city shall be prohibited.”
Other changes included requiring the scooter companies to distribute scooters more equitably across the city, one of the goals pushed for by several members of the City Council. Of scooters in the city, 15 percent will be required to be located west of Quaker Lane and east of I-395, while 10 percent will be required west of I-395. An additional five percent will be required to be placed in Arlandria. Currently, most are scattered around Old Town.
Council members Amy Jackson and John Chapman also pushed for the language to be refined to ensure that the Ad Hoc Scooter Task Force include representatives of the West End, rather than being monopolized by Old Town residents.
City Council members noted that scooter corrals recently added to Old Town — intended to reduce instances of scooters being scattered across sidewalks — could also be coming to Del Ray, Carlyle and Potomac.
The new regulation also specifically banned more than one person from riding a scooter, though Mayor Justin Wilson joked that after passing the regulation the companies would come back with tandem scooters.
Staff photo by Jay Westcott
During an update at the City Council meeting on Dec. 10 (Monday), Mayor Justin Wilson said the price will be towards the upper end of the $370 to $555 million price range.
“We’ve been able to refine the pricing… the numbers do not ever get smaller, they get bigger,” Wilson said. “The current estimate is around $464 million. Those numbers have gone up.”
The massive infrastructure project — the largest in the city’s history — was an unfunded mandate from the state legislature. The state will require Alexandria to completely overhaul its centuries-outdated sewer system by July 1, 2025, to prevent sewage from flowing into the Potomac River during rainstorms.
The good news, for Alexandria, is that since the initial mandate the state has started putting some funding into the project. The General Assembly adopted a budget earlier this year that included $25 million for the project. This year, Wilson said the city government is back requesting $75 million more.
“We will hear in a couple of weeks whether there’s money in the governor’s budget,” Wilson said.
Meanwhile, Wilson said three design-build teams have been shortlisted for the project, and will have to submit proposals for the project by Feb. 11. From there, Wilson said it will be a pretty quiet year in terms of news on the project as Alexandria Renew Enterprises chooses who is awarded the contract. The goal, Wilson said, is to have a design selected by December 2020.
“We still have a substantial amount of work to do,” Wilson said, “[but we’ve] made a lot of progress.”
Photo via Alexandria Renew Enterprises/Facebook
Alexandria’s street parking could be in for an overhaul at an upcoming City Council meeting.
The City Council is scheduled to discuss a series of changes to permit parking districts in Alexandria that would allow for greater flexibility of time restrictions. The move is part of a trend in the city of making underutilized parking spaces more accessible.
Amendments to the city’s parking restrictions include scaling back the time restrictions that aim to keep parking spaces from being occupied by commuters. Currently, parking restrictions in Alexandria end at 9 p.m. in areas that experience commuter parking, but under the new rules, those restrictions would end at 5 p.m.
Conversely, in areas with a high volume of visitors for shops and dining, parking restrictions may not end until 11 p.m.
Under earlier language, only building owners could be involved with signing up for a residential parking permit. In the new system, at least 50 percent of occupants of residential properties abutting each block of a residential district must sign on to a petition to add residential parking. Approvals could also be approved by the Traffic and Parking Board rather than requiring City Council approval.
The issue came up at a recent Potomac Yard Working Group meeting. Mayor Justin Wilson spoke with local residents about some of the challenges involved in setting up a residential parking district, like the difficulty in relying on building occupants to respond to a request to sign a petition.
The issue has also been a topic of debate in Arlington, where questions over the future of the residential parking permit program have, in some cases, pitted apartment dwellers against homeowners.