Alexandria, VA

What a busy week in Alexandria.

Our top story this week was on Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Old Town shop fibre space on March 3. It was Harris’ first official visit outside of the White House since she was inaugurated, and she spoke about the American Rescue Plan with shop owner Danielle Romanetti.

Alexandria City Public Schools reopened for hybrid instruction this week, the first time since all school facilities were shut down on March 13. The school system reportedly welcomed back 1,200 special needs students in kindergarten through fifth grade. ACPS will open on March 9 for special education students, and then fully reopen its doors to hybrid learning for students on March 16.

On the coronavirus front, the number  of deaths due to the virus has climbed to 123, and cases are at 10,404 since the first case was reported on March 11, 2020. Mayor Justin Wilson says the city is doing well keeping the numbers down, although with a vaccine waiting list exceeding 45,000 and 3,000 vaccine doses being given out weekly, distribution will continue to be slow.

More than 550 people responded to this week’s poll on the proposed new names for T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School. About 60% of respondents said they were happy with Alexandria High School, but not with Naomi Brooks Elementary School; 25% said they liked both names; 8% didn’t like either name; and 6% didn’t like the high school name and were happy with the elementary school name.

In case you missed them, here are some other important stories:

Here are our most-read posts this week:

  1. Just In: Vice President Visits Old Town Shop Fibre Space
  2. Alexandria Wants Feedback on Building Spray Park in Del Ray
  3. El Chapo’s Wife to be Isolated in Alexandria Jail for One Month Per COVID-19 Distancing Rules
  4. Consultant Proposes Replacing Community Shelter with Mixed-Use Development
  5. Alexandria Advocacy Facebook Group Parodied in New Blog
  6. Superintendent Proposes New Names for T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary
  7. Patrick Moran, Son of Former Congressman Jim Moran, is Running for City Council
  8. ACPS Reopens its Doors and Evaluating Grading System for Traumatized Students
  9. Man Arrested for High-Speed Vehicle Race on I-495
  10. Meronne Teklu Enters City Council Race
  11. Neighborhood Spotlight: Old Town is the New Town

Have a safe weekend!

Photo via Peter Velz/Twitter 

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Morning Notes

Virginia State Police Car Chase Ends With Arrest — “State police found the vehicle heading north on the Beltway near Braddock Road. A state trooper tried to stop the vehicle, but the driver sped away. Police say the vehicle reached speeds above 100 mph and struck three vehicles and a trooper’s vehicle during the pursuit.” [Patch]

Stomping Ground to Open ‘The Alley’ — “The Alley’s menu is available for sampling now at Stomping Ground, at 2309 Mt. Vernon Ave. Stomping Ground is the brainchild of Nicole Jones, who is also working on opening a new venture at The Atrium in Old Town.” [Alexandria Living]

Nominations Open for Alexandria Celebrates Women Awards — “Know an essential worker who has benefited Alexandria in a positive way? A nurse, postal worker, or law enforcement official? The selection period is open until March 15.” [Zebra]

Lost Boy Cider Awarded at Governor’s Cup — “Alexandria’s own Lost Boy Cider won several awards at the 2021 Virginia Governor’s Cup and is in the running for Best in Show. This is the first year that Virginia cider was judged in its own category. There were 27 entries in 2021 in the cider category. Lost Boy Cider’s 2020 Comeback Kid won a gold medal.” [Alexandria Living]

Old Town Irish Pubs Having Guinness Contest — Participate in the Guinness Challenge between Murphy’s and O’Connell’s! Help both restaurants sell 10,000 pints of Guinness for the benefit of Christ House Food Pantry of Alexandria.” [Twitter]

50% Off All Things Meatball at Lena’s on National Meatball Day — “National Meatball Day is Tuesday, March 9! To celebrate, Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap is offering 50 percent off on on all menu items that include meatballs. So have a plate of spaghetti, a pizza, or panini.” [Zebra]

Today’s Weather — “Sunny (during the day). High around 45F. Winds NW at 10 to 20 mph… A mostly clear sky (in the evening). Low 29F. Winds WNW at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Pool Technician — “Starting pay for candidates with no experience is $36,000/yr. Candidates with 1+ years of experience in the pool service field should expect starting pay of $38,000+/ yr. You must have the capability of operating independently and the ability to drive our vehicles (pickup trucks and vans), a clean driving record is required.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria is asking for community feedback for a proposal to turned a long-closed swimming pool in Del Ray into a spray park.

The city, which selected McLean-based LSG Landscape Architecture for the project, is in the process of redesigning the Colasanto Pool at 2700 Mount Vernon Avenue. The pool opened at Nicholas A. Colasanto Center and Park in 1969 and has been closed since 2010. A 2012 aquatic facilities study determined that a spray park would best suit the area.

The city will conduct a virtual meeting on the project on Thursday, March 4, starting at 7 p.m., and the city says that input received will be incorporated into the final design.

“The improvements will be designed and built through the City of Alexandria’s Capital Improvement Program and a Community Matching Fund partnership with The Del Ray Gateway Project,” according to the city.

According to the city’s fiscal year 2022-2031 Capital Improvement Program for recreation and parks:

This project will eliminate the safety hazards associated with closed, unstaffed pools, and will benefit a broad range of City residents and visitors. The new facility at Colasanto will be operated similar to the successful interactive fountain at Potomac Yard Park.

The design is scheduled to be finished this year, and construction is planned to start in 2022.

Image via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Police Provide Guidance on Indecent Exposures in Del Ray — “The Police department encourages anyone who is a victim or witnessed these incidents to call 9-1-1.  If you live in the neighborhood, please review your security cameras and call police if there is suspicious activity.” [City of Alexandria]

City Hall Walk-in Payment Hours Expanded — “Beginning Monday, March 1, in-person services are now available Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.” [City of Alexandria]

Little Theatre of Alexandria Presents ‘The Revolutionists’ — “Come watch as four sassy women lose their heads in this irreverent, girl-powered comedy set during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror.” [Gazette]

‘Port City Publius’ Bashes Anti-Establishment Facebook Group — “The group is a tinpot dictatorship in which comments and posts that don’t share the narrow worldview of the moderators are routinely deleted and removed, and the offending poster evicted from the membership. This authoritarian intolerance for diverse and divergent viewpoint–not to mention an outright manipulation of the discourse in the group (‘IT’S CANCEL CULTURE!!’ comes the ironic scream from the cover of the CPAC brochure most of these people probably have laying on their kitchen counter)–is pretty hypocritical for a group allegedly concerned with integrity.” [Port City Publius]

Former Delegate Krupicka Publishes Poetry Book — “”It took a while, but I fell into routine of writing poems inspired by grace and the need for grace in life. Fast forward a few years and I had a good number of poems. Enough for a collection. Well, here it is. This project took close to five years in total to write, edit and then get the nerve up to publish.” [Zebra]

Today’s Weather — “Cloudy. Periods of rain early. High 54F. Winds WNW at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 70%… Some clouds early will give way to generally clear conditions overnight. Low 27F. Winds NW at 10 to 20 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Full Time Nanny for 1 Child — “We are looking for a nanny who can watch and care for our five-month-old daughter while both parents are working from home, ideally one who can start as soon as possible. Nanny would be responsible for ensuring that the baby gets fed, has playtime, and takes naps on a reasonable schedule; takes her outside as weather permits; and helps ensure she is hitting her developmental milestones. We are taking our COVID precautions seriously, and since the nanny would effectively become part of our bubble, we would want to work with someone who is also diligent about our daughter’s safety. The nanny must also be Infant CPR certified.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria Police are continuing to investigate a series of indecent exposure incidents in Del Ray since last year.

The most recent incident took place on Jan. 21 between 6 and 6:30 a.m. in the area of E. Alexandria and E. Glendale Avenues. A Black male in his 20s or 30s was seen masturbating in the driveway of a home. Police were called and a K9 was used in tracking the suspect. The K9 lost the scent in an alleyway, according to sources.

“Since May 2020, we have 10 active indecent exposure-type investigations in the Del Ray area,” APD Senior Public Information Officer Amanda Paga told ALXnow.

Many of the incidents have occurred in the early morning.

Police Chief Michael L. Brown briefed members of the Del Ray Business Association on Thursday, Feb. 25, and will speak to the community on March 11. Brown reportedly told DRBA that a suspect was arrested in Old Town on Sunday for indecent exposure, but is unsure that it is the same suspect as the Del Ray incidents, according to a person who participated in the call.

Alexandria Police have not released details on the incidents, and only reported that there are varied suspect descriptions and 10 active cases.

The most recent similar incident occurred at around 6:30 a.m. on Friday, November 20, in the unit block of East Bellefonte Avenue. There was also another incident in the 2200 block of Mount Vernon Avenue at around 6 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 13, although police did not file a report for the Nov. 13 incident, as the officer told the victim who witnessed the exposure to call him if she saw the suspect again.

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Lauren Fisher has her work cut out for her.

By day, the psychologist is the co-owner of Del Ray Psych and Wellness, where she and her growing staff have been contending with a three-to-four month waitlist to see new clients.

Last year, she helped mobilize Del Ray’s Wellness District, a collaboration between wellness-related businesses that offered socially distant gong meditations, outdoor yoga and free mental health webinars. She also offered online therapy at a reduced rate.

Now Fisher, who was recently elected to a one-year term as president of the Del Ray Business Association, is working to figure out what 2021 will look like and how she can help the neighborhood’s 150-or-so businesses.

Fisher has lived in Del Ray with her husband, Ben, since 2004. We recently sat down with her to talk about her plans for the year.

ALXnow: Congrats on your recent election.

Fisher: Thanks. I’ve been really touched by the outpouring of support from people who were happy to see me become president. One of my main goals is to do a formal assessment of how businesses are doing.

ALXnow: The impact of the pandemic last year was so sudden, but you’ve taken charge of an organization that has strong community roots. What are you bringing to the table as a psychologist? 

Fisher: I’d like to make sure that our business owners have all the resources they need, whether it’s PPP, accounting information, or if they need more customers coming in the door, or even mental health support.

It’s important that we help preserve the community that we serve, because that keeps our businesses alive. Connecting is critical. We need connection and community.

We need to remind each other that we’re still here, that we care about each other and have each other’s backs.

ALXnow: You can feel that energy at a traditional Del Ray community event, like the Halloween Parade or Art on the Avenue, which draw tens of thousands of people. Like many parades and public events, both were canceled this year.

Fisher: People are hungry for connections. Just look at our First Thursday events. We’re apart, but we’re together. I think it means we have to a lot of on-the-fly thinking and observe all CDC and local guidelines to keep everyone safe.

I think we’re all looking forward to the restrictions lifting a little bit on how much we can gather, because that will make a difference. In the wellness community, we’re having conversations about can we do a fit crawl with all the fitness businesses in the area.

But the last thing we’d want to do is encourage any gathering when it’s unsafe. So, I’m hoping that some of that starts to change over the next few months, as more people get vaccinated.

ALXnow: What are you seeing with your patients these days? Any common psychological effects? 

Fisher: There’s a whole new wave of anxiety, with people asking, “Are we safe? How long do we wear masks? When can we travel? When can we see loved ones?”

I am lucky and grateful to live in this area, because when I walk up and down the street I see people I know, although there’s folks who haven’t left their houses and apartments for the whole entire year of the pandemic, for the most part.

ALXnow: What’s your pet peeve? 

Fisher: A weak handshake.

Photo via Well Ray/Facebook

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Photos: Snow in Alexandria

Alexandria got a few inches of snow Thursday and this morning, and ALXnow took to the icy streets to get some images before it all melted.

The city is no longer under a winter storm warning, although the National Weather Service predicts a slight chance for a winter storm late Sunday night and going into Monday for northern Maryland.

With temperatures predicted to get into the 60s next week, the forecast for this weekend calls for sunny but cold weather on Saturday, with temperatures peaking in the mid-30s and dropping to the low 20s. Sunday also looks like it will be sunny and cold, with a high temperature of 39 and a low of 29 degrees.

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Morning Notes

GoFundMe Raises $29K for Family of Bishop Ireton Student — “It is with a heavy heart that the BI community mourns the death of our fellow classmate Andrew Benson, who was taken from us much too soon. He was one of the nicest people we knew and was a member of the BI varsity soccer team. He played fullback  and was an avid soccer player and was one of the hardest workers on the team. He always had a smile on his face and he never failed to make you smile with a joke or make a stressful or hard day a little better.  Please donate if you can or remember him in your thoughts and prayers. All proceeds go to the family and to help with funeral arrangements.” [GoFundMe]

Holy Cow Honors Sue Kovalsky with ‘Burger of the Moment’ — “Sue, we appreciate you! This #BOTM is for you.” [Facebook]

Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter Announces Reelection Bid — “I hope that you will join us online for our campaign kick-off on Wednesday, March 3rd at 7:00 p.m. This will be a great opportunity to learn more about how you can be involved in this campaign and our vision of criminal justice reform.” [Facebook]

Virtual Open House on FEMA Flood Map Update Process — “The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is updating its flood maps of Alexandria and has requested that the City of Alexandria provide community outreach assistance. The City will host a virtual open house on March 1, from 7 to 8 p.m. Residents and businesses are encouraged to participate to learn more about the update to the floodplain maps.” [City of Alexandria]

Bennett-Parker Gets More Endorsements in Race for 45th District Seat — “I’m honored to announce I have been endorsed by Arlington County Board, Vice-Chair @kcristol and Board Member @libbygarvey! Both have an impressive record of public service and I look forward to continuing to work with them on the issues that are important to our region.” [Twitter]

ALIVE! Free Food Distribution Set for Saturday — “On Sat, Feb 20, 8:30-10:30am, @ALIVE4AlexVA will distribute food in Cora Kelly Elem School parking lot and parking lot B-1 of NOVA-Alexandria Campus (map at alive-inc.org, if college closes due to weather, distribution cancelled).” [Twitter]

Today’s Weather — “Intervals of clouds and sunshine (during the day). High 36F. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph… Cloudy (in the evening). Snow showers developing after midnight. Low 28F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of snow 80%. Snow accumulating 1 to 3 inches.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Real Estate Photographer — “Nova Virtual Tours, Inc. provides photography, videography, aerials, and interactive 3D Virtual Tours to all industries. We work closely with realtors in the Northern Virginia area to provide them with marketing tools and media to sell their listings, and we also work with commercial clients in many different industries within NoVa and beyond.” [Indeed]

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It’s hard to not love sweet things, and on Friday morning Dolce and Bean was presented with the annual Heart of Del Ray award.

“The neighborhood is just overwhelming,” Dolce and Bean owner Petros Grebre-Egziabher told ALXnow. ” I want also to express my love to this community that welcomed me with open arms and supported me every day for four years.”

The confectioner at 2003A Mount Vernon Avenue received a large heart from the Del Ray Business Association that he will display prominently for a year. Also in contention this year were St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub and Stomping Ground. More than 1,400 people participated in online voting, according to DRBA.

The heart display was officially moved on Friday morning from the location of the 2020 awardee, Preeti Patel’s 7-Eleven.

“Petros makes you feel like you’re the most important customer when you come in,” DRBA President Lauren Fisher said. “It’s like seeing an old friend. He just treats everyone like that and he does embody the heart (of Del Ray), and we are so happy to have him in our community. And he carries great chocolate.”

DRBA board member Gayle Reuter received notes effusively praising Grebre-Egziabher.

“Where do you go that when you walk in it warms your heart?” Reuter said at the award presentation. “Where do you go that makes you feel like this is a real community? That’s exactly what people said about you. They said the minute they walk through your door, you greet them with a smile.”

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Several figures instrumental Alexandria’s Civil Rights movement crowded a typically unremarkable Naming Committee meeting last week to express support for naming a park for former school board member Shirley Tyler.

The naming committee voted unanimously in support of naming the unnamed 3550 Commonwealth Avenue Park the Shirley Tyler Unity Park, a blend of the “Shirley Tyler Park” and “Unity Park” suggestions.

The virtual meeting was attended by Tyler’s children and a few Alexandrians who had been active in the Civil Rights movement, including a rare appearance by Ira Robinson, Alexandria’s first Black City Council member since Reconstruction.

Robinson was elected in 1970 after helping to calm riots following the murder of local teenager Robin Gibson in a 7-Eleven store. The School Board at the time was appointed, rather than elected, and it was Robinson who appointed Tyler.

“I’m on this call because McArthur Meyers made me aware [of the naming] and with Shirley Tyler being on it, the important thing to do would be to express my congratulations and talk about how much Shirley Tyler did for Alexandria when she was there,” Robinson said. “She was so independently dignified and professional. She was posessed of leadership, and a real no-brainer for getting things done. My only reason to show up is to show my respect and appreciation for a woman who did so much for Alexandria.”

Jack Browand, division chief for Park Planning, Capital Development & Waterfront, said the Lynhaven Civic Association suggested “Unity Park” in reference to the role the park played as a gathering place in the years after Gibson’s murder.

“In 1970 there was community strife after murder of community member,” Browand said. “Neighborhoods were at odds with each other. But as the neighborhoods came together it became a symbol of unity. Lynhaven suggested ‘Unity Park’ to represent that.”

Others who spoke in favor of the naming included Alexandria Living Legend Lillian Patterson. Kathryn Prigmore, Tyler’s daughter, said the combined name represented everything Tyler worked for.

“Behind her motivation for doing everything for the city was to unify the community,” Prigmore said. “That was why I suggested, after the last meeting, to add unity to her name.”

Councilwoman Del Pepper agreed and endorsed the name, along with the rest of the committee, which will head to the City Council for final approval.

“There wasn’t a leaf that turned that she wasn’t behind it,” Pepper said. “Something should be named for her, and this is an excellent thing.”

Photo via Google Maps

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