The July 4 holiday weekend is here, and it’s hard to believe that 2020 is more than halfway over. Not only has the year flown by, but so has the last week.
Alexandria joined the rest of Virginia in entering into the third phase of its reopening, the oldest resident in the city turned 109, a police officer was charged with assault and battery for a January arrest
Here are some of the top stories in Alexandria this week:
- Margaret Chisley Celebrates 109 Years in Alexandria
- Alexandria Police Officer Charged With Assault and Battery for Unjustified Use of Force
- New State Laws Pushed by Alexandria Take Effect Tomorrow
- Old Dominion Boat Club’s Waterfront Revival Plans Resurface
- Alexandria Renters Ask Governor to Extend Moratorium on Evictions
- Businesses Face Tough Recovery as Alexandria Lags Behind Neighbors in Consumer Spending
- New Catholic University Location Coming to Carlyle
- Old Town Garden-Style Apartments to Be Replaced by Multifamily Apartment Complex
- City Recommends Riding E-Scooters for Errands and Social Distancing
- Reminder: Next Phase of Reopening Starts Tomorrow but Indoor Mask Requirement Still In Effect
Be safe this weekend, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments.
Staff photo by James Cullum
Free food distributions will be disrupted by the July 4 weekend in Alexandria, but food is still available.
Most notably there will not be any Alexandria City Public Schools distributions from Friday, July 3, until operations resume on Monday, July 6.
“Meal distribution locations and pop up sites will not operate on Friday, July 3, ahead of the Independence Day holiday,” advised ACPS.
Here are the available free food distribution points in the city this weekend, according to Hunger Free Alexandria.
- A bag lunch and food pantry distribution is available on Friday at Meade Memorial Episcopal Church (322 N. Alfred Street) from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Meals and food will be served in the courtyard to go.
- Washington Street United Methodist Church (109 S. Washington Street) has a free breakfast Friday from 6-8 a.m.
- Christ House (131 S. West Street) has evening meals available every night of the week from 4:30 – 6 p.m.
- The ALIVE! food delivery program for COVID-19 patients, seniors, the disabled and single parents with young children is available for eligible residents by calling 703-746-5999
- Rising Hope United Methodist Church (8220 Russell Road) will provide grab-and-go meals from 1 to 2 p.m. on Friday while supplies last
Staff photo by James Cullum
Alexandria might not be celebrating the city and the country’s birthday with fireworks this year, but there are sill a number of ways to have fun on the fourth of July.
“Even with physical distancing, there are plenty of ways to enjoy a festive Fourth of July in Alexandria,” notes Visit Alexandria, the city’s tourism bureau. “Order special holiday meals like tri-colored tacos and ice cream delivery boxes from Alexandria’s restaurants. Celebrate with deals and happenings, from scavenger hunts to Fourth of July attire for pups, via independent boutiques and attractions.”
Here are some events around Alexandria on Saturday:
- Pork Barrel BBQ is having a fourth of July pig roast from noon to 4 p.m. in its parking lot.
- Potomac Riverboat Company is hosting a fireworks cruise along the Potomac River.
- A historic Alexandria scavenger hunt
As previously reported, the city’s July 11 birthday celebration has been moved online to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus.
Staff photo by James Cullum
Del Ray First Thursday Porch Party Today — “The Del Ray Business Association presents First Thursday Porch Party: Red, White, and Blue from 6 p.m. to dusk on Thursday, July 2. In the spirit of Del Ray’s summer street festivals, the event features a wide range of activities that promote community while maintaining social distancing standards.” [Facebook]
Major Residential Development Breaks Ground — “About 300 residences and a large parking garage are replacing an old office building in Alexandria’s West End.” [Alexandria Living]
DASH Bus Mobile Tracker Launches — “The new mobile-friendly DASH Tracker is finally here with new features and improved information to make finding your next bus a snap! Where will you go with the new DASH Tracker?” [Facebook]
Al’s Steak House Won’t Have Indoor Seating — “As we enter Phase 3 Al’s will continue not to have indoor seating available. Our space is too small to accommodate customers dining in and customers picking up their orders.The social distancing would be non existent. We do offer two tables for outdoor seating. Al’s will continue to accept call in orders and Delivery.” [Facebook]
Rebuilding Together Alexandria Slowly Getting Back on Track — “Our team was looking for a socially-distant project to get us out of the office and back into the community. We mulched the grounds of local nonprofit, Friends of Guest House. Check out the before and after!” [Facebook]
Mason & Greens Grand Opening Moved Online — “When news about the coronavirus began to spread, the Marinos knew they would have to cancel their big grand opening event.” [Alexandria Living]
Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden Open House Saturday — “Explore the history in your own backyard with free, self-guided tours of the Lee-Fendall House on July 4th! Face masks are required and we will be limiting the number of visitors allowed in the museum at one time to allow for social distancing.” [Facebook]
Alexandria’s poorest neighborhoods have been hardest hit by COVID-19, and renters from Arlandria and the West End rallied in front of the city’s courthouse today (July 1) to ask Governor Ralph Northam to extend the moratorium on evictions, which expired on June 28.
Sami Bourma lives in the Southern Towers apartment complex in the West End, and has not paid rent since March. He has two children, his wife is four months pregnant, and he has been unable to work as an Uber driver. He’s also an organizer with UNITE HERE Local 23, which represents some residents in the buildings.
“There are hundreds of people who live at Southern Towers and a lot of them are like me,” Bourma told ALXnow. “I am getting $750 a month for unemployment. That pays for almost nothing and we need to survive.”
The areas of the city with the leading number of cases are the 22304 and 22305 ZIP codes, which include the West End and Arlandria, Potomac Yard and Potomac West neighborhoods, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
Northam has requested that the moratorium be extended to July 20 — a move that Mayor Justin Wilson supports.
The extraordinary financial pressure facing residents of Alexandria who are experiencing unemployment or loss of income…
New Virginia Majority organizer Thomas Assefa said that his organization is also calling on Northam to approve $1 billion to fully fund an eviction protection program.
“Housing is a human right,” Assefa said. “We know that sheltering in place and staying in our home is one of the only ways we can combat this disease, and we are anticipating hundreds of thousands of tenants in the streets in the middle of a pandemic. There’s about 3 million renters in Virginia, and we anticipate 11% of that population could face massive evictions.That’s what’s at stake.”
Jonathan Krall, the co-founder of Grassroots Alexandria, said that it’s an issue of fairness and race.
“Racism results in economic inequality,” Krall said. “If you want to be anti-racist, then you need to cancel the rent.”
Frank Fannon, a former Republican city councilman, is a landlord and said that the governor should not extend the deadline and that there have been no waivers for commercial or residential property owners in their property tax bills, which the city mailed out last week.
“If you feel it is appropriate for tenants not to pay rent to your constituents, then be equitable and at least waive the late fees if property owners cannot pay their tax bill on time,” Fannon wrote to the City Council on July 1.
Wilson thanked Fannon for the email and responded that the property taxes are too important a revenue stream and that extending the deadline could endanger the city’s credit rating.
“It’s not something that we can play with unfortunately,” Wilson said. “That being said, our Finance folks are exercising maximum flexibility with tax payers right now. A taxpayer that contacts Finance will be extended payment terms, etc, upon request.”
Our community is the hardest hit by COVID-19 and the economic crisis, but Governor Northam doesn't seem to care about…
Staff photos by James Cullum
It’s been a rough season for Alexandria businesses.
New data from Opportunity Insights, a Harvard-based team of researchers, shows that Alexandria has fallen lower than its regional neighbors in the percentage change in consumer spending. The data shows that consumer spending across the region started to tank around March 16, when the public schools closed, and for most of the region hit rock-bottom on April 1 when the Stay At Home order went into effect.
While Alexandria, Fairfax County and Arlington have all mostly been trending upward since then, that recovery has been slow. Alexandria’s consumer spending is down 25% compared to what it was in January, with Arlington not far behind it at 24.9%
Mayor Justin Wilson, who shared the data on Facebook, said that it was likely that the focus on hospitality industries in Alexandria was the reason the city was faring worse than some of its neighbors.
For local businesses, that data has been tangible as a struggle to adapt and survive amid COVID-19.
“This is our second week of being open to the public in limited numbers,” said Amy Rutherford, owner of Penny Post (1201 King Street) and Red Barn Mercantile (1117 King Street) in Old Town. “It’s been slower. I wish there were lines out the door, but it’s not.”
Rutherford said sales have been a mix of in-store sales, pickups, and online orders. While Phase 3 of reopening went into effect today, Rutherford said she’s been wary about easing off some of the capacity restrictions in the store.
“My team is still a little nervous about what it means to reopen,” Rutherford said. “I don’t think we need to do anything quickly… I think people in Northern Virginia are smart and they want to get out, but they’re being thoughtful and doing what’s necessary.”
The stores closed in Mid-March, but Rutherford said the month still had a strong showing because the beginning had been going to swell.
“Then April was not as good,” Rutherford said. “May was not as good as April. June was not as good as May.”
Rutherford said there was strong initial support for online shopping, but with so much else going on, Rutherford said the pace required to keep shopping online to keep the stores profitable was not sustainable. The store gets substantial business from tourism, Rutherford said, which is all but gone.
“We’re watching the news and always monitoring the cases,” Rutherford said. “We look nationally at where we are and in Alexandria where we are, and we’re taking the pulse of our customers and our team. All of that goes into the considerations before we make any more changes, [we have] to make sure everyone is doing well.”
Even so, Rutherford said it’s been nice to see some of her old customers in-person again.
“In-store sales have been nice,” Rutherford said. “It’s good to see people again and talk face to face, even though we’re behind a mask… Hopefully, we’ll ramp back up. For the year, it’s not terrible because we had a strong first quarter, but still pretty up in the air for what we plan to do or what it’s going to look like.”
The main thing Rutherford said has been a big seller has been puzzles, which people have flocked to ever since they’ve been stuck at home. While she enjoys the in-person interactions, Rutherford still said she hopes more people shop online rather than risking exposure at stores.
“The best thing folks can do is stay safe and not take any additional risks,” Rutherford said. “Then shop at the website or call in to come in when they can. Be understanding. I think people in NoVA are very understanding of policies and have been very patient. People have been kind to us.”
Image via Opportunity Insights
Rally for Rent Relief Today at Courthouse — “Join us to demand that Governor Northam stop evictions and redirect $1 billion for rent relief. Wednesday, July 1 at 11 am outside the Alexandria Courthouse.” [Facebook]
Longtime Alexandria Firefighter Retires — “AFD would like to congratulate Captain Sam Parker on his retirement after over 33 years of dedicated service to the citizens of Alexandria. We wish him all the best as he begins his next chapter!” [Twitter]
Le Refuge Restaurant Reopening — “🍴🍷BONJOUR🍷🍴!!!! We are very excited to announce that we are reopening MONDAY JULY 6TH!!! Thank you so much for your patience and understanding,We cannot wait to see everyone!!!” [Facebook]
Pedego Electric Bikes Closed Next Week — “Pedego Alexandria will be closed from July 5th through July 12th for a much needed and highly anticipated family vacation! Feel free to call and leave a message or send us an email and we will get back to you when we can.” [Facebook]
Kidcreate Studio Crafts New Approach — “Kidcreate Studio hosted its grand opening March 14 — the day after Alexandria and Fairfax County closed schools to slow the spread of coronavirus.” [Alexandria Living]
New Job: Experienced Sushi Chef — “Kaizen Tavern is looking for a Sushi Chef to join the team. We offer a great salary, benefits and the opportunity to grow a business together. The position is meant for a skilled, passionate chef. Work with a dedicated team of culinary and hospitality professionals, who are committed to providing the absolute best experience for their guests.” [Indeed]
Alexandria’s annual program providing fans or air conditioning for low-income seniors is coming back. This year, the city said the focus is ensuring seniors are comfortable staying home to avoid exposure to coronavirus.
“The City’s Division of Aging and Adult Services’ Senior Cool Care Program provides assistance for seniors ages 60 years or older who need cooling in their homes,” the city said in a press release, “especially while seniors are encouraged to stay home as much as possible to avoid potential severe illness from COVID-19.”
The seniors must be at least 60 years old, meet income eligibility requirements and must be residents of the City of Alexandria to apply for the program — though they could be a homeowner or a renter.
The program provides seniors with electric fans and, in some cases, room air conditioning units, according to Senior Services of Alexandria.
Seniors interested in applying for the program can email [email protected] or call 703 746 5999 for more information.
Staff photo by Vernon Miles
(Updated 12:50 p.m.) Tomorrow, Alexandria will move into Phase 3 of reopening, but there are still several restrictions in place and Alexandrians are urged to stay home if they can.
“Residents are reminded that Executive Order 63 directs all Virginians to wear a face-covering when indoors in public buildings,” the city said.
According to the order, everyone ten and over is required to wear a mask that covers the nose and mouth when entering, exiting, traveling through or spending time in indoor public spaces. The order specifically notes the requirement for:
- Personal grooming businesses
- Entertainment venues
- Food and beverage establishments like restaurants and breweries
- Transportation hubs, like train stations or bus stations
- State of local government buildings
Retail employees are also required to wear masks in the customer-facing areas of the store.
There are exceptions to the requirement. Masks do not have to be worn while:
- While eating or drinking
- Exercising or using exercise equipment
- If you have trouble breathing
- Any person seeking to communicate with the hearing impaired and for which the mouth needs to be visible
- When necessary to secure medical services
- Or if you have health conditions that prohibit wearing a face covering
The order is stated to be in effect until otherwise amended.
The third phase of reopening also loosens but does not eliminate restrictions on gathering sizes and capacity of some local establishments.
Phase 3 will:
- Allow social gatherings with groups of up to 250
- Lift capacity restrictions on non-essential retail stores and restaurants, though there must be six feet of separation between customers
- Allow fitness centers and pools to open at 75% capacity
- Allow entertainment venues to open at 50% capacity
- Allow barbershops and salons to serve customers without an appointment
Staff photo by Vernon Miles
The Del Ray Vintage and Flea Market is Happening — “We are BEYOND excited about having our July Del Ray Vintage & Flea Market AND we are hosting the MV Big Flea! The best of both worlds … come safely shop the flea market, see our new vendors and help support Mount Vernon Community School when you purchase from the MV Big Flea booth! Saturday, July 11th from 9am-1pm.” [Facebook]
New Driving Laws Take Effect July 1 — “On Wednesday, July 1, a new law takes effect in Virginia requiring drivers to stop for pedestrians. Further, the driver may not move until the person walking in their lane has passed safely.” [Zebra]
Marijuana Decriminalized July 1 — “ON JULY 1, VIRGINIA JOINS 26 states and Washington, D.C. in ceasing to jail people for possessing small amounts of cannabis. Gov. Ralph Northam signed SB 2 into law in May. Possession of up to an ounce of marijuana will be punishable by a civil fine of up to $25 instead of a criminal charge that could mean up to 30 days in jail and up to a $500 fine. The bill prohibits employers from requiring applicants to disclose marijuana possession charges.” [Gazette]
Report: More Parents Considering Homeschooling for Their Kids — “The number of families considering homeschooling is skyrocketing according to Anne Miller, executive director of Home Educators Association of Virginia. Miller said their office has been flooded with calls from parents interested in homeschooling, and their Facebook group Homeschooling in Virginia has welcomed nearly 3,500 new members since the virus hit.” [Alexandria Living]
Sheriff’s Deputy Retires — “Our heartfelt thanks and best wishes to Master Deputy Saeed Shakoor! He is retiring after more than 26 years of dedicated service to ASO and the people of Alexandria. We’re sure going to miss you, Deputy Shakoor!” [Facebook]
Lorton Community Action Center Donates to ALIVE! — “This 788 pounds combined with other produce supports 220 food-insecure seniors in the City of Alexandria.” [Facebook]
Port City Brewing Co. Re-Releases Derecho Lager — “Derecho Lager® is named after a violent storm that barreled through the DC Metro region on June 29th, 2012, leaving the brewery without power for five days. Unable to control fermentation temperatures, a tank of freshly brewed pilsner was at risk of being lost. Realizing the beer would not meet the guidelines of a Bohemian Pilsner, we decided to experiment with the beer – keeping fermentation temperatures on the warmer side, and dry-hopping with Centennial hops. These non-traditional techniques paid off, and the result was the creation of our first American Lager!” [Facebook]
New Job: Wax Center Manager — “European Wax Center in Alexandria is currently seeking a sensational Center Manager with passion, determination and a commitment to excellence that will help take our center to new heights.” [Indeed]
Disposable capes, face masks and meeting by appointment-only — The Ultimate Barber is back in business. The four-year-old shop at 2712 Richmond Highway is booked three weeks in advance, and shop owner John Hall says that’s to be expected during hard times.
“Hair is always going to grow,” Hall told ALXnow. “During the Great Recession, our business actually went up. Folks needed something nice to make me feel good. Something about that haircut experience makes you feel like a brand new person, a different person. It takes some of the weight off just for a while, anyway.”
Hall, an Alexandria native, has been cutting hair in the city for 35 years. The pandemic forced him to close both his barbershops (the other location is in Arlington) on March 23, and temporarily laid off his 14 employees until the shop was allowed to reopen on May 29. He was approved for a Paycheck Protection Program loan, and has new procedures in place, including a policy to not touch up beards so that faces remain covered.
While the social aspect of the barbershop might be gone for now, Hall said that his services are essential for his clients.
“We’re essential workers, and barbershops help people with their mental health,” Hall said. “One customer of mine always told me, ‘This is my therapy session.’ I never really understood what that meant at the time until the coronavirus. We make people feel better about themselves so when they look in the mirror they like what they see.”
Staff photos by James Cullum
As Alexandria starts to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the city’s long term planning priorities are shifting to meet needs exposed by the health crisis.
In a presentation to the Planning Commission last week, city staff said some projects that were in the planning stage will be pushed back, including:
- Waterfront History Implementation Plan
- Stream Valley and Trail Plan
- Duke Street Vision Plan
- Mount Vernon Avenue Plans
The Duke Street plan involves improvements to affordable housing, infrastructure and more along the Duke Street corridor. While the broader planning efforts had been scheduled to start this spring, staff said in a presentation that the planning effort will move to FY 2022. Some research currently underway on the proposed Duke Street Transitway will continue in the meantime.
“It’s especially important given this location and the transportation issues that are in this area that we go ahead and let Transportation and Environmental Services begin and get going on their work related to the transitway,” staff said at the meeting. “They have environmental concept work underway.”
Mount Vernon Avenue Plans, meanwhile, referred to conjoined planning efforts to make improvements to things like pedestrian infrastructure and housing affordability in Arlandria and Del Ray. Staff said at the Planning Commission that the interwoven Del Ray and Arlandria plans will be disentangled and improvements to Arlandria — which was particularly hard-hit by COVID-19 — will be prioritized.
“We are proposing to make a change to what we had originally planned with Mount Vernon Avenue plan,” staff said. “We’re recommending a focus just on Arlandria/Chirilagua with housing affordability in Arlandria first as a priority topic. Recommending continuing on late this year with housing recommendations and continuing on with housing topics.”
This summer and fall, the city will review housing affordability priorities, strategies and recommendations for Arlandria and continue with other aspects of plan development in the spring.
Staff said after the Arlandria/Chirilagua portion of the plan is put together, planning efforts will move on to Del Ray next fall.
Staff photo by Jay Westcott