Alexandria, VA

New York-based multinational investment firm JPMorgan Chase & Co. has taken over financial management of the massive Potomac Yard redevelopment from Texas-based Lionstone Investments.

But even though the Washington Business Journal broke the story on Feb. 11, sources familiar with the 20-acre project say that the transition was made more than a year ago and will have no impact on development, which includes Virginia Tech’s $1 billion Innovation Campus that is slated for completion in 2024.

“Not sure why the article is coming out now as the change happened over a year ago and has had no impact on the project,” Cathy Puskar, an attorney with property developer JBG Smith, told ALXnow. “…(E)verything proceeded on time and according to plan.”

JBG Smith and JPMorgan Chase broke ground on the Virginia Tech development last month with the demolition of the Regal Potomac Yard movie theater.

Representatives from Lionstone and JPMorgan Chase could not be reached for comment.

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Morning Notes

Beyer Says Images of Capitol Siege Should be Viewed by Everyone — “These images of one of the darkest days in our nation’s history are disturbing. But these things happened, and we cannot erase these events, their causes, or their meaning. Everyone should watch this.” [Twitter]

Pat Malone, Cancer Survivor to ‘Stand Up To Cancer’ for 24 Hours Straight — “Patrick J. ‘Pat’ Malone, a seven-year cancer survivor, and 20-year Air Force veteran will ‘stand up to cancer’ for 24-hours straight, during his Seventh Annual Stand Up To Cancer.” [Zebra]

City Says There Was Error in Vaccine Scheduling — ” AHD has recently identified an internal process error that resulted in several hundred people within the 65-74 age group receiving appointment phone calls out of order. To ensure that no one was skipped due to this error, AHD sent emails for appointment scheduling on Sunday, February 7. Many people who have already scheduled appointments or received vaccines were contacted, and those who received the email unnecessarily should ignore it. The link cannot be used to schedule second doses and it cannot be used by others. As of February 8, AHD has contacted everyone ages 65-74 who pre-registered for their first dose by 7:30 a.m. on January 12.” [City of Alexandria]

South Alex Construction Moving Along One Year After Fire — “One year ago on Monday, a large fire caused $48 million in damages to the South Alex development, which was under construction at the time. Now, developer Combined Properties and architect, Hord Coplan Macht, are getting closer to opening, despite the setback.” [Alexandria Living]

Former Mayor Kerry Donley Endorses Alyia Gaskins for City Council — “I am happy to support Alyia as she launches he campaign for City Council. Alyia has a solid background in public finance and community activism, which will be important as she serves Alexandria on City Council. Alyia represents the enthusiasm of a new age of the Alexandria community which will be important for years to come.” [Twitter]

Today’s Weather — “Partly cloudy skies in the morning will give way to cloudy skies during the afternoon. A few flurries or snow showers possible. High 43F. Winds NNE at 5 to 10 mph… Cloudy with snow (in the evening). Low 32F. Winds light and variable. Chance of snow 80%. Snow accumulating 1 to 3 inches.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Private Piano Teacher — “Old Town Music School, an old fashioned preparatory Music School in Old Town Alexandria for over 20 years, is expanding and hiring a community of professional musicians/teachers who offer a nurturing, positive and personal approach to piano lessons. Students are beginning through advanced intermediate levels. Seeking out-going, motivated and fun teachers to join our faculty.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria is on schedule to see the Potomac Yard Metro station open in spring 2022, despite letters sent to the city from the contractor that work has been impacted by COVID-19.

“The contractor does continue to submit letters stating that there have been some impacts due to COVID-19,” Daphne Kott, the city’s Design Division Chief, reported to City Council on Tuesday night. “They have not made any formal requests for any time extensions, but again these are letters with potential delays and we’re just trying to be transparent that these are occurring.”

Contractors will be erecting the pedestrian bridge span over the WMATA tracks over the President’s Day weekend, during which time Metro access between the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport station and Braddock Road station will be shut down on the blue and yellow lines from Friday, Feb. 12 until Tuesday Feb. 16.

“It’s just been really great to see, even with the weather in the middle of pandemic, that we’ve still been able to move along and stay on schedule,” Councilman Canek Aguirre said. “Knock on wood, and we’re targeting spring 2022.”

Image via City of Alexandria

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A quarterly report on the status of Alexandria’s capital projects is headed to the City Council tomorrow (Tuesday) with some bad news: the pandemic has created some setbacks and additional challenges for anticipated projects across the city.

At the Potomac Yard Metro station, a contractor out of Pennsylvania was unable to make progress on the work for part of the summer due to COVID-19 restrictions

“Work on the AC Switchgear building slowed while WMATA and the Contractor discussed quality concerns with the concrete placement for the east and south walls,” the report said. “The Constructor submitted a notice of a potential delay based on a subcontractor being required to return to Pennsylvania — COVID 19 restrictions.”

Since then, construction has continued on various parts of the station, like the platform foundations, elevator pits, and the A/C Switchgear building.

“WMATA finalized the Change Order to add the South Pavilion to the Contractor’s contract,” the report said. “This action continued past the initial completion timeframe as a result of extended WMATA review time.”

The Waterfront Plan now faces a year of potential funding delays as a result of the pandemic.

“All FY21 funding has been deferred to FY22 due to COVID-19 economic impact,” staff said in the report. “Additional changes were submitted to spread the funding over FY21-FY23 based on when the funding will be needed. As project design optimization and estimations continue, more accurate project costs can be provided.”

Plans for four miles of a transitway corridor along Van Dorn and Beauregard streets were hit with a delay this summer, but has made progress since. The procurement process for the project was delayed due to COVID and phase 2 of the project, an extension up to Southern Towers, was placed on hold following a change of ownership of Southern Towers. Meetings between staff and the new owners have since been scheduled.

Two stream restoration projects also could be impacted by the pandemic: the Strawberry Run stream restoration and Taylor Run stream restoration. Recently, Taylor Run completed the design review and is moving into public engagement, but the report noted that COVID impacts mean the project schedule is subject to change — and to allow additional time for public feedback. Strawberry Run’s estimated completion date has likewise been delayed due to COVID and to allow additional time for feedback.

Some final planned improvements for Windmill Hill Park were in jeopardy over the summer, the report said. The city added a living shoreline and other improvements to the Old Town park to combat debris issues, but a planned Phase II — including a northern pier at the site — had its funding pulled away due to the city’s budget crisis. Since then, the project has been added to the procurement plan for the third quarter of this fiscal year and an updated timeline is imminent.

For the long-troubled King Street Metrorail improvements, the project is likely to require additional funding despite earlier estimations that added costs would still fall within the contingency budget.

The Contractor will continue working towards the completion of Phase I – Reopening of the Bus Loop and overall project completion. Staff will continue to monitor and track the construction progress, working closely with the Contractor’s leadership to advance the project to completion. Additional funding needs resulting from the prolonged construction duration (extension of the CMI services contract) and to cover the cost of unforeseen site and design issues (beyond the existing construction contingency) to be addressed by Staff.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Morning Notes


Senators Kaine and Warner Urge GSA to Begin Transition Process
— “An orderly and peaceful transition process is critical as the country continues to grapple with the loss and far-reaching impacts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.'” [Twitter]

Beyer Asks Residents to Stay Home — “Being tired of the pandemic won’t make it stop, we need to be as careful as possible right now.” [Twitter]

Virtual Restaurant Touchdown Wings & Burgers Opens — “Touchdown Wings & Burgers runs out of Joe Theismann’s Restaurant. In mid-October, ARP opened Touchdown Wings & Burgers, a new brand for the organization.” [Alexandria Living]

Alexandria Library Gets Grant for Climate Change Programming — “By receiving the grant, Alexandria Library has committed to becoming a Climate Resilience Hub.” [Zebra]

Casa Chirilagua 5K Extended to November 11 — “GREAT NEWS! Christ the King Church has extended the Casa Virtual 5K to November 11! You now have 2.5 more weeks to register and participate. This is one way you can support the Chirilagua families that face so much adversity with strength and courage. Can you help us reach our 1,000 km goal?” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “Rain early…then remaining cloudy with showers in the afternoon. Morning high of 65F with temps falling to near 55. Winds N at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall near a quarter of an inch. Cloudy skies. Low 48F. Winds N at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Dog Trainer/Instructor — “Olde Towne School for Dogs, the premiere dog training company located in Alexandria, VA serving the D.C. metropolitan area, is looking to hire new full-time trainers to our high energy team in a fast-paced and dog-filled environment!” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Beyer says New White House Science Report is Misinformation — “This kind of ridiculous misinformation is something you would expect to see from the government of North Korea.” [Twitter]

Senator Amy Klobuchar Attends GOTV Event in Alexandria — “Glad to join @AlexVADems, @C_Herring, @AmyJacksonVA and Councilwoman Del Pepper at an early voting event in Alexandria, Virginia for Sen. Mark Warner and VA candidates up and down the ballot. Everyone, please make a plan and go vote!” [Twitter]

New Luxury Condos Near Amazon HQ2 and Virginia Tech in Alexandria — “Just minutes from Amazon’s new HQ2 complex in Northern Virginia, The FORTIS Companies of Washington, DC has broken ground on a 138-unit luxury condominium community called Dylan. Its planned 2022 delivery coincides with the highly anticipated opening of the new Potomac Yard Metro Station, a five-minute walk from Dylan’s front door. Dylan’s spacious one- to three-bedroom condos will average 1,200 square feet and will be priced from the $600,000’s to over $1 million.” [Zebra]

Upland Park Development Gets BDAC Approval — “On Monday evening, the Beauregard Design Advisory Committee (BDAC) hosted its the final meeting to discuss Phase 1 of the Upland Park development project, giving approval to the plans to build a new townhome community.” [Alexandria Living]

Fire Department Recommends Battery-Operated Candles this Halloween — “If you have fall/Halloween decorations, use battery-operated candles in jack-o-lanterns & keep all decorations away from open flames to prevent home fires. Read more about celebrating safely & preventing the spread of COVID-19 during your festivities.” [Twitter]

Today’s Weather — “Cloudy (during the day). High 73F. Winds light and variable. Rain showers in the evening will evolve into a more steady rain overnight. Low 59F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall near a half an inch.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Document Control Specialist — “Use knowledge of the legal process and legal terms to analyze the content of legal documents and determine the status of investigative or court proceedings; recognize documents that are missing; and work with attorneys, paralegals, and legal assistants to obtain and organize documents for filing.” [Indeed]

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Construction of the Potomac Yard Metro station is track as the City Council prepares to approve the final southern entrance site plan for the project this December.

“Right now we are both on time and on budget,” Daphne Kott, a project manager in the Department of Project Implementation, told City Council in a legislative meeting on Tuesday night. “Every day there’s three active construction areas… Working on the foundation of the platform, in the mezzanine and continuing to work on the north pavilion.”

The city has also been reimbursed most of $70 million worth of grants for the project, which is estimated to cost $320 million. Last month, Council approved a proposal adding Virginia Tech’s initials to the station, and the name change has yet to be approved by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

“It’s amazing to see something that we talked about for a quarter of a century finally start to come to reality,” Mayor Justin Wilson said.

The Metro station is planned to open by spring 2022.

Images via City of Alexandria

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Metro will shut down Arlington National Cemetery for platform improvements next spring, and construction will impact Alexandria commuters.

But with ridership at a prolonged and historic low, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority assured City Council on Tuesday night that it will be able accommodate inconvenienced travelers with increased shuttle service between the Pentagon and Rosslyn stations.

The Arlington Cemetery station will be closed from mid-February until mid-May. All blue line trains will be diverted to L’Enfant Plaza across the 14th Street Bridge, and Metro is adding trains to allow for a six minute wait time instead of 12 minutes. Metro anticipates it taking an extra four to 12 minutes for customers traveling to stations between Farragut West and Rosslyn and that there are potential travel time improvements for customers going to Federal Triangle or Metro Center.

“It’s interesting times and it’s anybody’s guess what the future is going to be, but right now we’re looking at system-wide between 10 and 12% of our normal Metrorail ridership, and the Virginia side tends to be on the lower side of that,” Peter Cafiero, Metro’s managing director of inter-modal planning told Council. “What we’re hearing from employers is it’s going to be awhile before anybody’s considering going back.”

Council approved a letter thanking WMATA for making transportation alternatives available.

“If we were in a normal ridership situation I think I would be saying that we need bus alternatives, particularly to get folks from Alexandria to Rosslyn, or potentially west for those folks who are doing those commutes,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “But given where we’re at… I just don’t know where we’re going to be when this when this goes on next year.”

Alexandria is familiar with the platform improvement project, as all four of its stations were shut down as part of it in the summer of 2019.

In the meantime, Metro faces making hundreds of millions in spending cuts, including altering services, schedule changes and layoffs. The transit system’s board chair says it will be forced to make tough decisions if federal CARES Act funding dries up.

“As tough as these choices are for this fiscal year, much deeper and more painful cuts will be required for the next fiscal year if federal relief doesn’t arrive in time,” said Metro Board Chair Paul Smedberg, who is a former member of the Alexandria City Council. “We hope people who depend on Metro will come forward to share their views about the proposed changes before the Board makes a final decision in November.”

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The city anticipates that there will be more delays with the completion of the King Street-Old Town Metro Access Improvements Project.

City staff are skeptical that the first phase of the project will be completed by this December.

“We have what the contractor has stated, and what we what our observations are,” Terry Suehr, the city’s director of the Department of Project Implementation, told Council on Tuesday night. “They’ve stated December… They have not proven themselves able to keep on the schedule.”

The first phase of construction — eventually resulting in the opening of a brand new bus loop — was initially supposed to be finished last spring. A second phase includes lighting and landscape improvements, a new kiss & ride, and areas for car shares, taxis and shuttles.

The city website states that the full project will be finished by spring 2021.

Suehr said the city will have additional costs because of the delay, and staff are working up estimates. She is also now requiring the contractor to provide bi-weekly updates on their progress against a set schedule.

Rendering via City of Alexandria

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The Alexandria Planning Commission in November will consider a special use permit amendment to increase allowable height for a new continuum of care facility in the West End.

Massachusetts-based Orr-BSL King, LLC filed an application to build Benchmark at West Alex, a 117-unit assisted living facility that would be constructed at 3425 North Beauregard Street.

“At full occupancy, it is anticipated that the continuum of care facility will have approximately 160 full time residents,” according to the SUP application. “The building will be staffed 24/7 with, on-average, approximately 75 full-time equivalent staff members including a variety of full-time and part-time positions.”

The company is requesting that building height restrictions be increased from 100 feet to 125 feet to “allow the construction of an additional floor of assisted living units and to allow for the erection of rooftop amenity structures.”

The building, which is near the Upland Park development, will include seven floors for the general population, with the eighth and ninth floors devoted to residents living with various forms of dementia.

According to the application:

The apartments in the assisted living neighborhood will include a variety of configurations including studio units, companion units, one-bedroom units and two-bedroom units. Common areas will include multiple dining venues (such as a formal dining room, a pub/bistro, family-style kitchen, and a penthouse cafe), living rooms, activity rooms, and a wellness center (salon/spa, fitness center, and a treatment room for resident care such as doctor and dentist visits).

In addition to the use of their private apartment, residents will enjoy restaurant-style dining, daily programming and activities (both personal and group), housekeeping and linen service, scheduled transportation, and personalized care based on the individual needs of each resident.

Images via City of Alexandria

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