Alexandria, VA

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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It was a busy week in Alexandria, and there is plenty to talk about.

The city is moving forward with phase three of reopening its economy on July 1, and the news comes as the death toll from the coronavirus moved up to 50 and the number of cases steadily rise.

It also looks like the upcoming Alexandria City Public School school year and city services will continue to be impacted until the virus is held at bay, and school and city staff are developing plans to stagger teleworking and in-person schedules for students and staff alike.

Restaurants are reopening like never before, which is to say that customers are cautiously welcomed as Health Department restrictions are slowly lifted and many establishments have expanded their outdoor seating.

Here are the top 11 most-read articles this week in Alexandria.

  1. Del Ray Pizza Restaurant Converts Parking Deck Into Tropical Oasis Themed Bar
  2. COVID-19 Cases Steadily Increase as Alexandria Releases Phase Three Reopening Guidelines
  3. Large Residential Development in Braddock Goes to Planning Commission Tomorrow
  4. Alexandria Now Has 50 COVID-19 Deaths, Cases Climbing by Double Digits Daily
  5. East Eisenhower Avenue Project Returns With A New Senior Living Component
  6. Students Likely to Rotate School Attendance When ACPS Reopens
  7. Alexandria Preps for Phase 3 Reopening on July 1
  8. Lights On: Two Nineteen Restaurant Reopening Today in Old Town
  9. Developers Take Another Crack at Converting North Old Town Office to Housing
  10. Housing Affordability and Cost of Living Get Low Rating in Community Livability Report
  11. Inova Alexandria Hospital Now Treating 20+ Coronavirus Patients

Feel free to discuss these or other topics in the comments. Have a safe weekend!

Staff photo by James Cullum

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The completion of the King Street-Old Town Metro Access Improvements Project will likely be delayed past August, but it’s not clear for how long.

“This project is continuing forward,” Terry Suehr, the city’s director of the Department of Project Implementation, told City Council on Tuesday night. “The contractor continues to report that they are on schedule and are showing the schedule that shows them completing in August, but based on our observations of the progress that they’re making we suspect that they will not finish in August, so just notifying you all that we we do suspect that there will either be requesting extensions or we’ll be having to deal with contract measures to penalize them for not finishing on time.”

Mayor Justin Wilson said he hopes the city will be recouped for additional extensions due to the delay.

The construction project has nearly completely taken over the entrance to the Metro station, and has redirected bus bays and eliminated the metered parking and kiss & ride areas.

The first phase was supposed to be finished in March, but the start of construction was delayed by two months. It included the opening of a brand new bus loop. The second phase includes lighting and landscape improvements, a new kiss & ride and areas for car shares, taxis and shuttles.

This project has been in the works since 2006. The city council and planning commission approved the design concept in 2012, and the project is part of the city’s Vision Zero initiative by aiming to provide a safer and visually appealing environment for pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Morning Notes

Developer Gets Financing to Build Apartments in West End — “Monday Properties announced Tuesday it secured a $66.8M construction loan from EagleBank and broke ground on the development at 2000 North Beauregard St. The project is planned to include 300 units in six to seven stories of wood-frame construction atop a two-level concrete podium. The apartments will be wrapped around an internal, 420-space parking garage.” [Bisnow]

Inova to Build Hospital, Considers Alexandria Campus Modernization — “The health system is also looking at options for ways to modernize the current Inova Alexandria Hospital — and noted that ‘all options, from renovating in place to relocation, are under evaluation. Additional information will be made available as this project develops.'” [Alexandria Living]

Beyer Calls Trump’s Vanity ‘Nauseating’ — “The day the United States hit 100,000 deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic Trump shares a messages calling himself ‘the greatest President in our history.’ His vanity is nauseating. He doesn’t care about you, your family, your health, or your safety. He only cares about himself.” [Twitter]

Local Lawyer and Musician Dies — “John Spaulding, 94, a traffic-law trial lawyer who also was a choir leader, musician and regular weekend pianist in the 1980s at the Fish Market Restaurant in Alexandria, Va., died April 5 at his home in Arlington, Va. The cause was congestive heart failure, said his wife, Polly Plumb deButts.” [Washington Post]

Student Collects 500+ Books for Middle Schoolers — “During the past few weeks, tenth grader Erin Machado and her mom have collected more than 500 middle school books from friends and neighbors, sanitized each one, and delivered them to Francis C. Hammond Middle School in Alexandria.” [Facebook]

‘The Garden’ in Del Ray is Not Reopening Outside — “We will take this time to continue to train staff with updated health department regulations as well as make the necessary updates to our business to ensure your safety upon reopening. We do have plans to incorporate take out from The Garden in the next couple of weeks. There will be new menu items, cocktails, growlers, and can beer to go. Please continue to follow us on social media and check out our website for further updates.” [Facebook]

New Job: Event and Promotions Assistant — “This firm identifies and develops new streams of revenue for clients through on-site promotions, innovative marketing strategies and advertising campaigns with a personal touch. This is an entry-level position with fully paid training and the opportunity for growth into an executive management role after completion of training program.” [Indeed]

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When construction on the $1 billion Virginia Tech Innovation Campus is completed, it will be a mostly walkable campus with underground parking and significant open space, according to a presentation Tuesday by the Virginia Tech Foundation and developer JBG SMITH.

The first phase of development will occur at the current location of the Regal Potomac Yard movie theatre, which is closed due to the pandemic. It is unknown if it will open again before construction begins.

The developers unveiled plans for the first phase of development, which includes the construction of a 9-10 story structure will be located along E. Reed Avenue, Potomac Avenue and a campus green space. The building, as well as the other Virginia Tech buildings, will be built to reach LEED Silver certification and the areas immediately around it will include lawns and walking paths.

There will also be a slope of less than 5%, meaning that there will be no steps or handrails on the campus.

“The overall illustrative plan shows the project’s contiguous an interconnected network of open spaces that stretch between Potomac Avenue and George Washington Memorial Parkway,” said Simon Beer, a landscape architect with design firm OJB. “All of the design of these spaces at this point are conceptual in nature, as we present them today. Our team is going to continue to work with the city with you and with each individual building’s architect as we continue the process.”

The open spaces include Potomac Yard Park, a Metro plaza, a market lawn and a pedestrian plaza. Virginia Tech will take up four acres of the northern end near the Alexandria border with Arlington, and the underground parking will be available once the buildings are finished.

The development will also see the construction of three academic buildings dedicated to computer science research and development programs. The permanent campus is currently planned to be operational by fall 2024, and will accommodate 750 computer science master’s degree students per year and more than 100 doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows.

The city will undergo the approval process for the project’s preliminary infrastructure plan this June, in addition to an approval for a pump station to handle sanitary sewer flows from the proposed project and other off-site properties so that construction can begin in the fall.

Images via JBG SMITH

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Morning Notes

Northam Says Northern Virginia Will Ease Restrictions More Slowly — “Northam said that more information about ‘how this will work’ for Northern Virginia localities will be released on Wednesday.” [Reston Now]

Metro Phased Reopening Plan Includes Face Mask Requirement for Riders — “In the first phase, trains will run every 20 minutes and buses will operate on a Sunday schedule. Service will ramp up slowly from there. All riders will need to wear masks to board a bus or train in the WMATA system. (Right now, that’s just a recommendation and request, according to Metro’s website.)” [Alexandria Living]

Alexandria Salon Owner Cautions Against Reopening — “My colleagues and I think the Governor’s plan to allow salons to open is dangerous and shortsighted. It’s also worth mentioning that it seems the overwhelming majority with opposite opinion aren’t the professionals who have to do this work, based on the engagements I’ve had and observed in the comments section of the Governor’s Live streams. While that may not be an effective means of data collection, I think it speaks volumes– we are being excluded from the conversation about our own industries and our own lives.” [Alexandria Living]

DASH Adds Digital Displays for Riders at Bus Stops — “Thanks to the I-395 Commuter Choice funding, DASH is adding new digital displays to stops on the AT1 and AT9 to improve riders’ experience during essential travel. These signs display real time bus arrival information and helpful alerts.” [Facebook]

Scholarship Fund of Alexandria Online Auction Open Until May 30 — “We have received MORE THAN 150 Fantastic Auction Items, Expieriences, Packages, Gift Cards and One-of-A-Kind Opportunities from some amazing and generous local donors. This VIRTUAL SILENT Auction will help make up for our Canceled Spring Benefit Gala. ALL Proceeds Go to Helping Send T.C. Williams High School students with financial need to College.” [Facebook]

The Bishop Ireton High School Food Drive is on May 15 — “Spread the word! Looking forward to seeing you, even if for only a few minutes, socially distant. Thank you in advance!” [Facebook]

The Birchmere Reopening in June Schedules Performances in June — The upcoming schedule of performances includes Gaelic Storm, Steve Earl & The Dukes, and actor Kevin Bacon and his brother. [Facebook]

New Job: Digital Content Manager — “The Manager, Digital Content is responsible for the management and creation of content on AASLD’s (American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases) primary website and its related sites. This position will work with the Director, Digital Media to ensure AASLD’s websites are up-to-date, provide solid user experiences and follow best practices.” [Indeed]

Zebra Newspaper to Resume Printing in June — “The printing press rolls for us again in June, with your papers arriving around town and online June 8, 2020. But, the times, they are a-changin’ in terms of our distribution. We are adding more newspaper boxes to neighborhoods. If you want a box somewhere in particular, please let me know directly. You will start seeing them delivered in about 14 days.” [Zebra]

Road Paving Begins on Mount Vernon Avenue — “Mount Vernon Avenue will be under paving reconstruction for two weeks starting May 13, 2020.” [Zebra]

Taste of Del Ray, Other Community Events Canceled — “Taste of Del Ray and Well Ray in June as well as the Del Ray Music Festival will not happen in 2020. A decision on October’s Art on the Avenue, one of Del Ray’s largest events, has not been made. Art on the Avenue typically draws 75,000 people.” [Patch]

Former Councilman Fannon Named Alexandria Living Legend — “I have always been proud of Alexandria and was very fortunate to be born in such a great community… I was raised to be civic minded and to always contribute and give back to our fellow citizens.” [Gazette]

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The Potomac Yard development process is moving forward, with the in-person meetings now switched to virtual sessions with the city hosting a second town hall planned tomorrow (Wednesday).

At a meeting Wednesday from 7-8:30 p.m., the Virginia Tech Foundation and JBG SMITH are scheduled to give a public update on the project and describe plans for the southern group of buildings. Those are the office and residential buildings closest to the Potomac Yard Metro station.

The public can join the meeting at 7 p.m. and submit questions or comments to [email protected]

Designs for buildings in Potomac Yard have been trickling out over the last few weeks as designs for the new district near the Potomac Yard Metro station is finalized.

Further developments about the project, including the Coordinated Development District plan and the infrastructure site plan, are planned to go to a city council public hearing in June.

Rendering via City of Alexandria

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Morning Notes

Mayor Marries Couple in Socially Distant Ceremony — “Alanis sang about rain on your wedding day. I’m not sure she envisioned THIS.‬ ‪It was such an honor to put on real pants (first time in weeks!), grab my mask and walk to Parkfairfax to marry a wonderful couple whose original plans were scrambled.‬ ‪Congrats!‬” [Facebook]

‘Mind The Mat’ Hosting Virtual Meditations at 9 a.m. — “Join MtM Monday-Friday mornings for this free 15 minute guided mediation to start your day off right.” [Facebook]

Volunteer Alexandria Hosting Responsiveness Class — “Be prepared, not scared. Know what to do until help arrives. Two classes are available: Tuesday, April 21, 6 to 10 p.m. and Saturday April 25, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. You’ll learn how to recognize violent activities, provide immediate rescue tactics, and report them to 9-1-1 efficiently.” [Facebook]

Del Ray Psyche & Wellness Starts 10-Day Challenge — “The purpose to continue to implement strategies and habits that will increase positive well-being, during the pandemic and throughout life. Each person who participates for all 10 days and comments on the post will receive a special gift from Del Ray Psych. If you wish to participate, please join our group below and comment on the post, ‘I’m in!'” [Facebook]

West End Business Association Hosting Fitness Webinar — Alan Gulledge, the founder of TriFit Evolution will discuss the how exercise can boost physical and mental health, establishing an effective fitness routine and working out with minimal equipment at home. The presentation will be conducted from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and costs $5. [WEBA]

‘Meggrolls’ Gets Southern Living Magazine Mention — “It’s an extraordinary time. Thousands of hard-working small business owners are digging deeper than they’ve ever thought they were able, to find a safe path through a seemingly insurmountable journey. It’s an incredible feeling to know that others are so willing to help. Thank you @southernlivingmag for sharing the word that Meggrolls is open for businessand we’re gonna stay that way as long as we’re able❤️❤️” [Facebook]

Jack Taylor’s Alexandria Toyota Reveals Raffle Grand Prize — “Need SOMETHING to Look Forward To??!! YOU can STILL Enter our GRAND PRIZE Jack Taylor’s Alexandria Toyota Raffle to W-I-N $25,000 OR a 2020 Toyota RAV-4
$100 for a CHANCE to WIN…DRAWING L-I-V-E Online MAY 30th at 8pm. Watch for Details on How To Tune-In! All funds collected HELP Send T.C. Williams High School Class of 2020 Kids to COLLEGE.” [Facebook]

Sen. Ebbin Hosting Virtual Town Hall Tonight — “Join us for AYD’s virtual town hall on April 21st at 7 pm with Virginia State Senator Adam Ebbin interviewed by AYD President Dan Matthews on the impact of COVID-19 on Virginia Legislation.” [Facebook]

Alexandria Library Increases Online Music Catalog — “Freegal Music is a digital music service offering downloads and streaming. Through a partnership, city library branches can offer the service to patrons for free. All that is needed for access is a library card.” [Zebra]

ACPS School Nurses Send Message to Students in Photo Collage — “This is so cool. Thank you to some of our frontline people. Nurses are awesome.” [Facebook]

City Releases Two Week Repaving Schedule — “Some overnight work on heavily traveled streets may be necessary. Residents on affected streets are notified in advance and temporary ‘No Parking” signs are displayed. Heavy equipment is used and there will be some noise that carries to surrounding streets.” [Facebook]

Kim’s Cleaners Donates Masks to Police — “Today Officer Ignacio stopped by Kim’s Cleaners in Old Town to pick up 50 facemasks from Mrs. Kim! Every bit helps and is appreciated! #socialdistancing” [Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Victory Center Property Sold to Townhouse Developer — “Winchester Homes plans to build 138 townhouses ranging from 1,700 SF to 2,600 SF on the site. Winchester has built over 20,000 residential units across the Mid-Atlantic, including six communities that have opened in the last year. The deal comes after the Alexandria City Council in May approved a rezoning of the site’s 7-acre eastern parking lot that allows for a mix of uses. Two weeks later, Stonebridge acquired the property from PGIM Real Estate for $43M.” [Bisnow]

Alexandria Woman Arrested for Breaking Quarantine in Hawaii — “Kauai police arrested 31-year-old Desiree Marvin of Alexandria and 36-year-old Hawaii resident Adam Schwarze after they ignored orders to immediately self-quarantine.” [Alex Times]

Burke & Herbert Bank Responds to Limit on PPP Loans — “The Bank also has many applications in various stages of completion that had not yet been entered into the SBA system. While the SBA no longer is allowing us to submit applications to them at this time, we believe that it is in our customers’ best interest to continue finalizing these applications, collecting all required information and documentation, and readying them for immediate entry should new funding become available. Please continue to work with your banker to ensure that we have a complete application package ready for your business.” [Burke & Herbert]

Polk Elementary School Student Pens Inspiring Message — “This virus spreads. So can kindness. We’re in this together!” [Facebook]

Cheesetique Thanks Delivery Driver — “This is why it’s no exaggeration when I say that Malcom’s arrival is heralded with shouts, cheers, and sighs of relief from my team. And he’s out there EVERY DAY. He’s doing the heavy lifting to ensure that folks like us can take things the last 10 feet. Thank you to all of those ‘behind-the-scenes’ heroes who keep our businesses running. Thank you, Malcolm, for being there… with our cucumbers.” [Facebook]

Amtrak PD Officer Provides Pizza for Alexandria Police — “Ofc. Cameron Dux (AmtrakPD) is on a crusade to thank police officers during the pandemic. He delivered Valentino’s Pizza to our agency.” [Twitter]

RunningBrooke Launches Move2Learn-At-Home — “In an effort to make these as widely-accessible as possible, RunningBrooke videos can be viewed on ACPS-TV, RunningBrooke’s YouTube channel, multi-“classroom” Zoom fitness sessions, the RunningBrooke website and on social media platforms.” [Alexandria Living]

Junction Bakery & Bistro Delivering Soon — “Check it out, folks — our new Junction Delivery is almost ready to launch! We bring it to you: groceries, breads & pastries, family meals, and beer & wine — and pssst … cocktails coming too . Cheaper than Uber Eats!” [Facebook]

Carpenter’s Shelter Needs Food — “With the opening of the Safety Shelter at the Charles Houston Recreation Center, our food needs have expanded. We would like to thank our amazing community for jumping right in and helping to fulfill our needs within an incredibly short window. As of right now all of our meals are covered for the Safety Shelter through April 24th!” [Facebook]

Center For Alexandria’s Children Gets Face Mask Donation — “We received these cloth masks from Brooksie & Cas! Thank you so much for making and sending these to us. We are very grateful to you for helping to keep our team members safe. #StaySafe #StayHome #MasksForAll” [Facebook]

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The Fairlington Presbyterian Church is another step closer to building an affordable housing complex in its parking lot.

City officials announced Thursday they will submit a request early next month for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development HOME Investment Partnerships funds for The Waypoint at Fairlington — a four-story, 51,000-square-foot development at 3846 King Street.

The church has been considering development proposals on the property since 2016. The City Council approved the project in 2018.

City officials said the project would not have a “significant impact on the human environment.”

The affordable multi-family building will accommodate residents making between 40%-60% of the area median income. The building is planned for 81 rental units, including three efficiencies, 12 one-bedroom apartments, 49 two-bedroom apartments and 17 three-bedroom apartments.

Council previously approved a $7.65 million subordinate loan for the project, in addition to funding nine project-based rental assistance vouchers. Developer Wesley Housing, which is partnering with the church on the project, also received low-income housing tax credits from the Virginia Housing Development Authority last year.

Alexandria is currently experiencing an affordable housing crisis, and the city has pledged to produce or develop 2,000 affordable housing units by 2025. The city has also agreed to produce an additional 1,950 units by 2030 in order to meet its regional housing goal set by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, which aims for the region to produce 320,000 affordable housing units.

Construction is planned to begin in late summer.

The Notice of Intent Request for Release of Funds and the Notice of Finding of No Significant Impact for the Waypoint at…

Posted by Office of Housing, City of Alexandria, VA on Thursday, April 16, 2020

Images via Wesley Housing

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Virginia Tech has released drawings of what its first of three academic buildings will look like.

“This project is a bellwether for what we are trying to achieve through our new campus, creating a place that provides the space and environment to foster collaboration and the creation of bold new ideas,” said Lance Collins, the incoming vice president and executive director of the Innovation Campus, said in a statement.

Construction on the 300,000 square-foot building is planned to begin next year and open to computer science students in 2024. The 9-10 story building will be built to LEED Silver certification, and dolomite limestone — also known as Hokie Stone from the college’s campus in Blacksburg — is being considered for the base.

The building was designed by architect SmithGroup and Virginia Tech to take advantage of solar power energy, and features a number of glass and metal panels, terraces and open space. The ground floor and lobby will include exhibits and look out on green space, and it will provide office, classrooms, multi-purpose areas and research and testing labs, according to Virginia Tech.

“We are proud to be working with Virginia Tech on this transformational new campus, which will change the face of computer science and redefine the role of the land-grant university for the 21st century,” said David Johnson of SmithGroup in a statement. “The university’s goal is to re-center computer engineering in a humanist context, and we brought to life an inclusive setting that will help accelerate knowledge creation and solutions at the intersection of humanity and technology.”

The first phase of the $1 billion campus will see construction of three academic buildings dedicated to computer science research and development programs at Alexandria’s border with Arlington. The permanent campus will take up four acres and accommodate 750 computer science master’s degree students per year and more than 100 doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows.

The property also neighbors the North Potomac Yard redevelopment, which includes the construction of the Potomac Yard Metro Station, a new elementary school and a number of buildings.

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Alexandria City Manager Mark Jinks said Monday that the COVID-19 pandemic has created the worst financial crisis he’s ever seen, and has asked staff to make $100 million in budget cuts and prepare for a $35 million revenue shortfall in his fiscal year 2021 budget.

“We crashed, and we don’t know how long this is going to last, when we’re going to come back up,” Jinks told the City Council/School Board Subcommittee in an online meeting. “I’ve told staff we need $100 million in cuts and savings between the current fiscal year and next fiscal year, is my rough guess. That will be savings and looking at capital projects and seeing what we need to cancel or what we need to reschedule to a future year.”

“Our rough estimate is that we’re going to be down $35 million between now and the end of the year. We thought we were going to be up $10 [million] and we’re down $35 [million],” Jinks added.

On Tuesday, City Council will hold an emergency meeting to suspend penalties for businesses and hotels that will not be paying the city’s dining and transient lodging taxes. The city will also impose a moratorium on penalties and interest for business license taxes and consider a resolution to change the filing deadline for business personal property and elderly and disabled tax relief applications.

Mayor Justin Wilson said Alexandria is still in the firefighting phase of dealing with COVID-19, and that the pandemic unfortunately struck the city in the middle of its budget process.

“I think everybody needs to understand the budget implications of this. The financial implications of this are dramatic and will last us a long time,” Wilson said. “There’s also an incredible amount of uncertainty… It would be challenging under the best of circumstances.”

In the meantime, Alexandria City Public Schools are also shut down until the end of the year, and staff are concerned about being able to provide enough free food for students at its designated pickup points.

“The major concern for us is making sure we can continue to provide food for our kids, because we have a lot of students who rely on school lunches and school breakfasts as their means of food every day,” Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said. “This is not going to end how productive our students in the next generation will be, but we’re going to still have to respond to providing those necessary supports in regards to food, academics, social and emotional needs of our kids in order for them to thrive.”

The city has to pass its fiscal year 2021 budget on April 29, and it will be a much different document than Jinks’ original $800 million budget proposal, which included 34 new full-time positions and a 1.5% pay increase for all city staff. Since the COVID-19 shutdown across the country, the city has also implemented a hiring freeze and put compensation initiatives on hold.

The manager’s budget also included the $2.1 billion, fiscal year 2021-2030 Capital Improvement Program, which covers city and school system improvements, including the $122 million waterfront plan, the eventual renovation of city hall, $7.5 million for bridge repairs and refurbishments, $17.6 million to support Metro’s capital improvements and $30.5 million toward flood mitigation along the waterfront.

Now those projects will have to be revisited.

Jinks said that the city’s economic recovery will likely take well into next year, and said he is asking staff to prepare a budget for a worst case scenario.

“This is the biggest crisis I have ever seen,” Jinks said. “That said, we’ve got talented staff, we’ve got options. We’ve just got to put our nose to the grindstone and figure out what those solutions are and do it so that we’re not optimistic and end up having another crisis six months from now if we overestimated revenues.”

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