Alexandria, VA

The Old Dominion Boat Club (ODBC) will present the Alexandria Planning Commission in November (Nov. 5) with a plan to build a floating wharf and pier outside its clubhouse at 0 Prince Street.

“The floating pier will provide facilities for transient boat mooring for larger boats due to the water depth along its expanse and for rowing crew shells and chase boats either for planned events/regattas or emergency needs,” according to an application for the special use permit.

The application continues, “The ODBC also proposes to add a floating wharf over the shallow water in its riparian rights to allow and support current and new uses that include small boat mooring and launch and retrieval of crew shells and kayaks to support increased recreational use of the Potomac River.”

The total square footage for the project is 2,688 square feet, and the club noted in its application that it will remove the floating structures if the city needs the space for flood mitigation infrastructure improvements.

“The proposed new floating wharf at the site would encourage increased recreation use of the site and support ODBC water dependent uses,” notes the application.

The city issued a certificate of occupancy for the ODBC Clubhouse at 0 Prince Street in 2017. The club was previously located at the foot of King Street. That property was exchanged with the city for a number of nearby lots downriver in order to build a public walkway and make flood mitigation improvements.

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Members of the Alexandria Board of Architectural Review didn’t mince words against the proposed development of the Heritage Old Town.

“Why are you asking for our opinion if what we get back isn’t actually changed?” BAR Chair Christine Roberts said at the September 2 meeting. “It’s just more lipstick on a pig.”

The plan to demolish four 1970s-era buildings on the southeast Old Town property were sent back to the developer in June to give the community more time for feedback. The plan for the property, which is situated in the Old Town Historic District, was then rejected earlier this month by the board after members said that changes made to the proposal were not improved upon.

New York-based architect Asland Capital Partners, was heavily criticized by board members for designing a complex that does not fall in line with the character of Old Town. The project, which borders along South Patrick and North Washington streets,  includes the addition of 777 apartments at structures up to seven stories tall, and includes 195 affordable housing units.

Board Member Lynn Neihardt said that the architect’s buildings don’t belong in Old Town, and that the city is getting poorly designed buildings “under the guise of providing affordable housing.” She also said that there is an underlying feeling that the property doesn’t need to fit within design guidelines because it’s not in an area populated by tourists.

“We need a feeling of smaller buildings in the front with maybe taller heights behind, which has been done over and over again, very successfully in D.C. and other parts of Old Town,” Neihardt said. “The buildings, to me, speak Ballston, Crystal City, but not Old Town. They’re nothing like Robinson Landing and the other excellent examples of buildings that fit into their context.”

BAR Member John Sprinkle objected to the mass, height, scale and general architecture of the proposal.

“I gotta tell you, you got to go back to the drawing board,” Sprinkle said. “It doesn’t fly in this city.”

The project will go to the Planning Commission and City Council in February 2021.

Images via City of Alexandria

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The Alexandria Board of Architectural Review will consider a permit to demolish/capsulate the Regal Potomac Yard movie theater, which closed in March due to the pandemic and never reopened.

The one-story theater first opened in 1998, and “is an example of a typical multi-screen movie theater built during the late 1990’s throughout the region,” according to a city staff report.

In its place will go a pump station that is part of Virginia Tech’s massive Innovation Campus development, and will handle sanitary sewer flows for Virginia Tech’s Sewer to Wastewater Energy Exchange system.

As previously reported, this and next month, the BAR and the Planning Commission will receive half a dozen plans for the 1.9 million square-foot mixed use North Potomac Yard development.

The area was a rail yard from 1906 until 1989, and the staff report stipulates that all eventual construction “will stop on the site if any buried structural remains (wall foundations, wells, privies, cisterns, etc.) or concentrations of artifacts are discovered during development,” and that a city archaeologist will need to record the finds.

The plan will go to City Council this fall for approval.

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The ongoing exterior renovations at Alexandria’s City Hall should be wrapped up by the end of October, and now staff are thinking about the future of the building’s interior.

For the last several weeks there has been scaffolding at City Hall, which has been all part of a $900,000 exterior renovation, which includes dozens of new double-glazed windows, painting and other small repairs.

“We are targeting Halloween for the conclusion of the exterior work,” Bill Miner, the city’s division chief of capital projects told ALXnow. “You want to finish it before the winter months come, because you can’t really do a lot with brick and stone once the weather gets too cold.”

The renovation of City Hall has been an ongoing project since 2014, and is slated to be completely renovated in 2025. In a staff report that was released to City Council last year, the city manager’s office said that the building needs “major updates and repairs.”

“The building is crowded, and space is inadequate for workplace activities,” according to the report. “Office spaces do not reflect the image of a vibrant, efficient workplace.”

The interior renovation, which will cost $80-$100 million, is currently being planned as the pandemic has left the city with few options but to spread out and use space more efficiently. Approximately 80% of city staff are still teleworking from home, Miner said, and each office has been told to have a minimum of two employees in the building.

“This building needs a total rework, but funding comes in chunks,” Miner said.

City hall was built in 1873 and saw its first major renovations in the 1940s and 1950s. There were additions in the 1960s and then another renovation in the 1980s. The most recent interior work has largely been structural, with repairs made to the building’s tower and smokestack, which were damaged by a small earthquake in 2011. There were also immediate repairs made to the roof of the building and trusses in the attic above Council Chambers.

“There’s been some modifications related to COVID,” Miner said. “The world changed, and with that the interior planning strategies have changed. The whole design industry is rethinking and revising the way office interiors are laid out, short term and long term. So, a lot of what we have planned in terms of interior renovations within the home we are now rethinking in light of COVID protection.”

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Alexandria’s civic associations came out in force to speak against a loosening of zoning restrictions at public school properties. While the Planning Commission ultimately pushed forward a modified version of the zoning change, there was widespread agreement that the public outreach could have been handled better.

The change had been proposed in 2019 and was docketed for meetings earlier this year, but had disappeared as the pandemic led to those meetings being cancelled until it quietly resurfaced for the Sept. 1 meeting.

The change originally would have allowed Alexandria City Public Schools to build schools up to 0.6 Floor Area Ratio (FAR) by right, meaning without needing public approval, or higher without a set restriction. The version approved at the Planning Commission still allows proposed schools to exceed the density restrictions, but only with a Special Use Permit (SUP) and by no greater than 0.75 FAR.

The proposal had been criticized by the North Ridge Citizens’ Association in the lead-up to the meeting, but was joined by others who protested that the city was quietly pushing the change through without public input.

“When we first learned about this proposal, we had to ask ourselves why our city would be contemplating such sweeping changes to our code without more public notice,” said Kay Stimson, representing the North Ridge Citizen’s Association. “This truly threatens to create a trust deficit between this commission and our residents.”

Stimson said she recognized that schools need greater capacity, but also said the city was pursuing an “increased density” agenda on residents throughout the city.

“If approved, this amendment would be a glaring example of arbitrary, capricious, and unsupportive administrative action by this city with detrimental impacts particularly on low density residential neighborhoods that don’t have the infrastructure to support the massive new buildings you’re proposing,” Stimson said. “The existing baseline should remain the prevailing density of the neighborhood. If someone wants to build something larger, the point of our zoning process is that they must talk to the public and gain permission. There is no justification whatsoever to allow for unlimited density in a school building. This actually calls into question why we would have a zoning code at all.”

Other residents similarly expressed frustrations that ACPS would be seemingly shielded from density requirements local homeowners face. Pete Benavage, representing the Federation of Civic Associations, said the federation had unanimously voted to oppose the change.

“We fell anything that is reducing the public input; the meaningful and timely public input, is deleterious to the benefit of the citizens of Alexandria,” Benavage said. “This amendment has not been properly vetted by the public and we would urge it either not be adopted or at least be tabled until such time as public vetting can be obtained. ” Read More

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This and next month, the Alexandria Board of Architectural Review and the Planning Commission will receive half a dozen plans for the 1.9 million square-foot mixed use North Potomac Yard development.

“This application… represents the culmination of an extensive planning process for North Potomac Yard,” according to a master plan amendment filed with the Planning Commission to increase building heights near the proposed Potomac Yard Metro Station. Buildings in Block 15 would increase in height from 85 feet to 90 feet, and increase from 90 feet to 115 feet on Block 18 — both of which are near the developing Potomac Yard Metro Station.

The massive development includes construction of three academic buildings dedicated to computer science research and development programs for the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, which the city is considering as an “integrated whole” instead of multiple standalone projects.

The plans will need to be approved for the development to meet its timeline. The Virginia Tech 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.

Tomorrow, the BAR will consider a Certificate of Appropriateness for a pump station to handle sanitary sewer flows with Virginia Tech’s Sewer to Wastewater Energy Exchange (SWEE) system. The system will be transferred to the management of AlexRenew Enterprises once constructed is completed.

The Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for October 6, and the plans will go to City Council this fall for approval.

Images via City of Alexandria

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Morning Notes

Beyer Calls for Investigation Into Alleged Hatch Act Violations at Republican National Convention — “For those asking about next steps, Hatch Act violations are investigated and enforced by the Office of Special Counsel. @CongressmanRaja and I just requested such an investigation into potential violations at the Republican National Convention.” [Twitter]

King Street Development Projects Set to Break Ground — “The King Street Project, by Galena Capital Partners, is teed up for approval by the Alexandria City Council. The King Street Project includes plans for two developments in Old Town that would replace current parking lots.” [Alexandria Living]

Faith Pilgrimage Marching Through Alexandria Today — “A group or 30 religious leaders will be walking through Alexandria this week as part of a days-long walk from Charlottesville to the District.” [Alexandria Living]

National Archives Loans Alexandria Library Pieces for Women’s Suffrage Exhibit — “The celebration of the 19th Amendment continues at Alexandria Library’s Barrett Branch. On display through September 23 is an exhibit called ‘Rightfully Hers,’ on loan from the National Archives.” [Zebra]

Blood Drive Today at Lost Boy Cider — “The Inova bloodmobile will be at Lost Boys Cider (next to our headquarters at 317 Hooffs Run Drive) from 11-4!” [Facebook]

Sheriff’s Department Reads ‘I Feel Silly’ to Kids Online — “Feeling silly, excited or mad? Each day can bring different feelings. Join Deputy Alexis Turner as she reads “Today I Feel Silly: And Other Moods That Make My Day” and then share how you’re feeling in the comments.” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “During the day, mostly cloudy with a high of 93F. At night, some clouds. Low 74F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Front House Manager — “Supervises the dining room staff in proper service of residents during all meal periods. Assigns and coordinates duties of servers and hosts/hostess’. Maintains cleanliness of dining room and directs staff in the overall effective and efficient operation of the dining room.” [Indeed]

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The new bus loop — a centerpiece of the King Street-Old Town Metro Access Improvement Project — was scheduled to open in March, but the city now says completion is still four to six months away.

“While delays have continued, we can provide an updated estimate for completion of the phase 1 bus loop,” Lydia Durand, a management analyst with the Department of Project Implementation, told ALXnow. “At this time, we anticipate an approximately four-six month time frame for reopening the bus loop. This accounts for construction of the bus loop, restoration of utilities, intersection signalization, and integration into the DASH, WMATA and City traffic operations systems.”

In 2012, the City Council approved a safer and larger transit area outside the Metro station, with better pedestrian-crossings through the bus loop. The project has been in-progress since November 2018 when the bus loop was closed, but has faced significant delays.

According to the city website, full completion of the project is now scheduled for Spring 2021.

“This project has experienced delays,” Durand said. “Staff continues to actively manage the contractor’s progress on this project and is taking all steps within our contractual rights to hold the contractor accountable for completion of this project in a productive and timely manner.”

Durand said cost increases for inspection and construction oversight could happen, but that they are anticipated to fall within the contingency funding allocated for the project budget.

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These summer weeks are flying by, and another one is in the books in Alexandria.

This week, readers responded to a number of issues in the city, including the tragic story behind the city’s first murder, crime in Arlandria and another protest outside of the acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary’s home.

There was some fun news, too, like the official announcement that drive-in movies will make their way to the city at the end of the month, and that Holy Cow Del Ray made a new burger of the moment, “The Alexandria HS,” in an effort to add its two cents in a community discussion on what to rename T.C. Williams High School.

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

Here are our top stories this week in Alexandria.

  1. BREAKING: Murder Suspect Was Released After COVID-19 Court Delay, Allegedly Kills Former Girlfriend Before Trial
  2. Friends and Neighbors Seek to Name Alley After Retired Judge Nolan Dawkins
  3. Man Arrested for Attempted Rape Behind Arlandria 7-Eleven
  4. Drive-In Movies Coming to Alexandria on August 29
  5. Protestors Promise to Keep Demonstrating at Acting DHS Secretary’s Alexandria Home
  6. Alexandria Summer Camp Closed Early Due to Coronavirus Exposure
  7. BREAKING: Alexandria Police Ask for Public Help in Finding Man Wanted for Murder
  8. Here’s the Latest on Development Projects on Beauregard Street in the West End
  9. Another Protest Planned This Weekend Outside DHS Secretary’s Home
  10. West End Development Returns to City with Scaled Down Density and More Open Space
  11. Alexandria’s COVID-19 Death Count at 60, Hospital Concerned About Rising Cases
  12. Holy Cow Del Ray Wades Into Another Local Controversy With Another Burger

Have a safe weekend!

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Alexandria wants community input on the latest plans regarding the proposed Oakville Triangle redevelopment, and another Zoom meeting is planned early next month.

Inova Alexandria Hospital plans to accommodate development at National Landing and Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus by expanding it services with a new HealthPlex in the city’s Oakville Triangle neighborhood.

The proposed facility will offer emergency room services, an outpatient care center and medical offices. Construction is expected begin next year, and the facility is slated to open at the corner of Fannon Street and Richmond Highway in the fall of 2023.

The city also wants feedback on a new .75 acre public park that will be built adjacent to Mount Jefferson Park before the entire plan goes before the Planning Commission this fall.

“Meeting topics include an update to the preliminary traffic analysis, a summary of community feedback from the Open Space survey, and conceptual renderings of the building and site design,” according to the city.

The Zoom meeting will be held August 4 at 6 p.m.

Map via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Alexandria Man Has Washington Football Team Name Trademarks — “Phillip Martin McCaulay, 61, has made dozens of submissions to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for almost a dozen potential names and other iterations of them.” [WTOP]

Police Department Celebrates 150th Birthday — “150 years of exemplary service to the citizens of Alexandria! Happy anniversary to the Alexandria Police Department founded on this day, July 15, 1870.” [Facebook]

Alexandria, Arlington Apply for Grants to Fund MV Trail Widening, King Street Improvements — “Arlington County and the City of Alexandria are applying for a pair of grants that would bring significant changes to the Mt. Vernon Trail and a portion of King Street near Fairlington.” [ARLnow]

The Heritage Development Gets Smaller — “The original proposed plan included 842 new units with parking underneath the park area. After receiving feedback and concerns about the height and mass of the original plan, the proposed number of units has been reduced to 777, with 774 parking spaces underneath the new structures.” [Alexandria Living]

Carpenter’s Shelter Gets $15K Donation — “Carpenter’s Shelter has not stopped serving the homeless during the pandemic. Recently, the organization received a $15,000 donation from the nonprofitAmerican Water Charitable Foundation and Virginia American Water.” [Zebra]

New Job: Team Member — “Toastique in Old Town, Alexandria and is seeking team members to help create smoothies, gourmet toasts, and run the POS system. Employees will be joining a team to create a fun, clean, fresh environment for a gourmet toast and juice bar in bustling Old Town! No specific skills or experience needed, but applicant must be excited to interact with customers and serve healthy, fresh food to the community.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Longtime Bishop Ireton Teacher Dies — “It is with sadness but also with great faith in our Lord that we share that Mr. Ron Umbeck, a beloved faculty member at Bishop Ireton for more than 50 years, passed away earlier this evening. He is now at peace in Heaven and we are sure that he met St. Peter with a math book, a crossword puzzle, an It’s Academic prep sheet and a Bishop Ireton pin. He loved this school, but more importantly, he loved his students and his Bishop Ireton family.” [Facebook]

Mayor Talks About Coronavirus on PBS — “My thanks to ⁦@AlexandriaVAGov⁩ Mayor ⁦@justindotnet⁩ for spending time with us to talk #Virginia re-opening, concerns about virus spread, and how he’s balancing the two. Our report, produced by ⁦@courtneyknorris, on ⁦@NewsHour⁩ tonight…” [Twitter]

NVTA Provides $195 Million to Duke Street, Richmond Highway Projects — “Two major roadway projects in the Alexandria region received funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. The Duke Street Transitway received $75 million, which completes its funding request.” [Alexandria Living]

Fairlington United Methodist Church Warns of Scammers — “Scammers are out in full this summer. Please either a) ignore emails like this or b) report it to your email provider. This is not Janine’s email address, nor does she sign her emails Rev Janine Howard (nor does she break all sorts of grammar rules…) [Facebook]

Photographer Helps Unemployed Residents With Headshots — “Alexandria photographer Sam Fatima wants to do his part to help turn things around. He has partnered with Headshot Booker and Brookfield Properties for a new initiative aimed at helping the unemployed have a fresh start.” [Zebra]

Virtual Pub Craw Starts Wednesday — “In 2020 the 7th Annual Port City Old Town Pub Crawl is going virtual! Throughout July join Port City and our friends in Old Town as we celebrate good food and beer all month long.” [Facebook]

DASH Installing Digital Displays — “We’re busy installing new digital displays that show bus arrival info and alerts. We’ve installed more than 30 so far.” [Facebook]

New Job: Server — “Chadwicks Restaurant is currently looking to fill FULL- and PART-TIME server positions. Must be honest, hardworking, and capable of working well with others. Experience not a priority.” [Indeed]

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