Newsletter

The wellness-related businesses in Del Ray are bottling their creative energies into a new blog.

Every Wednesday morning, the Wellness District Blog will publish two new posts to help folks navigate through the fog of stressful times. It officially launched at a glitzy outdoor party on Wednesday night in Del Ray.

The blog has 20 local wellness expert writers, and is the brainchild of Sara VanderGoot, the owner of the Mind The Mat Pilates & Yoga.

“I love to write, and I love to read, and I love wellness,” VanderGoot said. “Writing is the way to show the depth of what we all do. Not everyone gets to be right in front of us to see all of the aspects of wellness that we focus on.”

VanderGoot has a Master’s degree in creative writing, is working on a memoir and says she loves to edit other people’s work.

Topics covered so far include fighting stress with exercise, tips on getting kids to sleep earlier, and how to get into a routine now that school is back in session.

Dr. Lauren Fisherco-owner of Del Ray Psych and Wellness, is one of the bloggers.

“My theme will be on letting go,” she said. “I always talk about letting go of things that are holding you back. We often hold onto a lot more than we need to, and most people aren’t aware of what they’re carrying.”

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Morning Notes

New coffee shop opening in West End — “A new coffee shop will be opening in the Shoppes of Foxchase shopping center in Alexandria’s West End. Cortado Cafe is under construction now in the shopping center on Duke Street. It is taking the place of a now-closed Hair Cuttery between Massage Envy and La Casa restaurant.” [Alexandria Living]

Nonprofit teaches computer coding for free — “For over 20 years, the Alexandria nonprofit Computer CORE has helped adults learn computer technology and programming, thereby advancing their careers. The newest educational opportunity begins Tuesday, Sept. 14 with the virtual class Code Beats Computer Coding Camp. The free course will use hip hop and other music beats to teach computer coding.” [Zebra]

Alexandria to hold remembrance ceremony for 9/11 attacks — “The City invites the public to attend a remembrance ceremony Saturday, Sep 11, 10-11am, at Waterfront Park (1A Prince St.), to mark the tragic events of September 11, 2001.” [Twitter]

September is Recovery Month — “September is #RecoveryMonth and we are celebrating the gains made by those who are in recovery from mental illness and substance use disorders. Learn more and find out how you can help raise awareness of prevention and recovery options at alexandriava.gov/117342.” [Twitter]

Art on the Avenue returns to Del Ray Oct. 2 — “The event was virtual last year due to concerns about coronavirus. The popular event draws artists in more than 10 categories from food and books to sculpture, painting, bath and body products and more. In addition, attendees can enjoy music, visit the kid’s art corner and support local restaurants and businesses. In the past, the event has brought out 300 artists and 50,000 visitors. It has been named one of the best festivals in Virginia.” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s weather — “Sunny (during the day). High 79F. Winds NNW at 10 to 20 mph… Clear (in the evening). Low 58F. Winds N at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Play expert — “We provide family-focused therapeutic services to children age 0-12 years old. With a focus on play-based learning, TLBC believes that language and skill development should be a positive experience for both the child and the family.” [Indeed]

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What a busy week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

Alexandria City Public Schools reopened their doors to full-time in-person instruction on Tuesday, and there have been a few hiccups. On Friday, we published a video taken of a brawl inside Alexandria City High School, and a teenager was hit by a car while walking home from school in Del Ray on Thursday.

This week was dominated by crime stories, although other big events occurred, such as the City breaking ground on a new broadband network.

In our poll this week, we asked if readers agree with a proposed 5 cent tax on plastic bags. Out of more than 900 votes, 62% said it shouldn’t be implemented and 38% said it should.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Alexandria man arrested for beating up ex-girlfriend in Old Town North
  2. Fox put George Washington Middle School into a lock-in today
  3. Design realities could conflict with promises to speed up stormwater improvements in Alexandria
  4. City breaks ground on new broadband network
  5. Poll: Do you support the proposed 5 cent plastic bag tax?
  6. This Alexandria gym manager went rogue and launched a personal training business
  7. Alexandria kicks off Restaurant Week tomorrow
  8. Alexandria sees huge spike in COVID-19 cases in August, another death
  9. Poll: Have you been impacted by flooding in Alexandria?
  10. New Normal: ACPS fully reopens for first time since pandemic started
  11. Evolving COVID-19 decisions loom as Alexandria City Public Schools fully reopen next Tuesday

Have a safe weekend!

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Layout of Del Ray Gateway park, via City of Alexandria

Plans for a new fountain and “splash park” at the north end of Del Ray are moving forward as the city aims to have design finished by the end of the year.

The Del Ray Gateway project is a plan to redevelop a triangular park where Mount Vernon and Commonwealth Avenues meet into a water-based community play area.

At a meeting of the Alexandria Commission for the Arts, Diane Ruggiero, director of the Office of the Arts, said that an artist had been chosen for the park. Ruggiero said Béatrice Coron was selected from a group of 73 applicants.

“The sprayground will have a multi-seasonal, multi-generation use,” Ruggiero said. “We want to make sure the artwork is kid friendly and we want the artwork to serve a functional purpose.”

Splash parks, or spray parks, are parks with built-in jets of water that children can run through and play in.

“I love her work, I’m excited about this,” said Commissioner Beth Coast. “It’s about time Alexandria has a spray park. I used to drive my kids to Arlington, but now they’re 17 and they don’t need a spray park.”

Construction on the park is scheduled to start in 2022, and Ruggiero said for any with more immediate splash park needs could go to the Potomac Yard park that opened earlier this year.

“This will be a great addition to the community, the community is really excited about it,” Ruggiero said, “and this will be our first piece of artwork by a woman.”

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Morning Notes

First ALX Fit Fair set for this Saturday — “ALX Fit Fair, a day of wellness and fitness in the Carlyle neighborhood, is set for this Saturday, Aug. 28, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. There will be opportunities from more than a dozen local gyms and fitness studios to participate in 30-minute workouts every hour during the event, with workouts ranging from yoga, pilates, dance, and gymnastics to more intense workouts like boxing and CrossFit.” [Alexandria Living]

Old Town Cocktail Week serves up creative libations next month — “A week-long celebration of all things involving cocktails will return for a second year to Old Town Alexandria. The Old Town Cocktail Week will be held Sept. 10 to 19…” [Patch]

Animal Welfare League of Alexandria looking for youth volunteers — “Know a teenager who loves animals? The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria has a new Junior Volunteer program. They are seeking participants who are 16 and 17.” [Zebra]

Today’s weather — “A mainly sunny sky (during the day). Hot and humid. High around 95F. Winds light and variable… A mostly clear sky (in the evening). Low 73F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New job: Operations manager at bakery — “This busy location requires an experienced operator who has barista experience, training experience, performance management, and can handle the complexities of a bakery with various revenue streams. The ideal candidate has experience opening/closing the shop, developing processes and training tools as well as actively working the various positions (barista, expo, cashier, addressing service issues) through out the day. In addition to actively managing the day to day service and operations piece, the manager will be expected to work closely with the corporate chef and ownership on a regular basis to continue improving and streamlining the operation.” [Indeed]

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What a week in Alexandria.

Public uproar over Sunday’s flooding spilled out throughout this week, which continued to be threatened by near-daily flash flood advisories from the National Weather Service.

Our top story was on Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne, who criticized City Manager Mark Jinks on the city’s stormwater infrastructure. Mayor Justin Wilson says that multiple projects are underway and take time, and that the city is now looking into whether spot improvements and any other projects can be accelerated.

The group DrainALX has also gained popularity, as it continues to catalog stormwater issues and complaints. One Del Ray resident even told us that she’s turned to therapy after repeatedly spending thousands on a continually ruined basement.

Our weekly poll also found 55% of respondents (193 people) have experienced flood damage to their homes, 14% (74 people) have experienced other sorts of property damage and 31% (159 votes) have never had any property damaged by a storm in the city.

This weekend’s forecast is partly cloudy with a 50% chance of scattered thunderstorms on Saturday afternoon, followed by a 40% chance of thunderstorms Sunday night.

School issues

The week before school starts, the School Board unanimously approved Thursday night the requirement that ACPS staffers get the coronavirus vaccine.

“We do have authority to require testing and require vaccinations,” Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said at the board meeting. “However, there have been no cases where someone has contested that requirement. That has not occurred as of yet, and I’m sure it’s going to begin soon…”

In the meantime, Alexandria is also prepping COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. As Alexandria looks to accelerate stormwater projects, Sheriff gives city manager a D-
  2. The Four Mile Run Bridge in Arlandria will not fully reopen until fall 2025
  3. Institute for Defense Analyses announces Potomac Yard move-in later this year
  4. Woman behind DrainALX campaign shares frustrations and hopes from locals after Sunday flood
  5. HUD Secretary Fudge visits Alexandria, says affordable housing is a Biden Administration priority
  6. New census shows Alexandria not majority-white
  7. Alexandria School Board to discuss mandatory vaccinations for staffers this week
  8. After rampant flooding over weekend, another Flash Flood Watch is in effect for Alexandria
  9. Poll: Have you gotten the infamous mite bite in Alexandria?
  10. Alexandria Fire Department struggling with staffing shortage and forced overtime
  11. Stuck in quandary, Del Ray flooding victim seeks therapy

Have a safe weekend!

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A 26-year-old Alexandria man was arrested earlier this month for brandishing a firearm and domestic assault and battery.

The suspect was arrested at his job, a restaurant on the waterfront in Old Town on August 3. He was released the next day on bond.

On August 1, the suspect’s wife called police and said she feared her husband was waiting at home for her with a gun. She told them that she had recently ended things with him and that he was looking for her.

The victim told police that on July 29 at around 11 p.m., that she was ready to go out and was wearing something “flashy” that her husband didn’t like.

“At this point, she stated that she was sitting on the bed when (the suspect) physically asaulted her by pulling her hair and slapping her with an open hand,” police reported in a search warrant affidavit. “She reported he then retrieved a blue book bag from inside the closet.”

Police continued, “She explained that (the suspect) pointed this handgun to her temple and threatened to kill her,” police said. “(The victim) stated she was in fear of her life, she then unclothed herself in order to protect her life.”

The victim reported that her husband then raped her.

The suspect was arrested at his work, which is a restaurant on the waterfront in Old Town. He denied all of the charges, but said that he did, in fact, own a 9 mm handgun.

The Alexandria Sexual Assault Center and Domestic Violence Program is available 24/7 to listen and help at 703-746-4911.

“If you are a neighbor and know that an abusive incident is occurring, call the police immediately,” the city said. “Calling the police is simply the most effective way to protect the victim and children from immediate harm.”

Via Google Maps

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Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne is fed up and says the city’s stormwater management is a disaster. On Sunday, Lawhorne said he was helping a neighbor in Del Ray pump water out of his basement until 4 a.m.

“It’s the same summer repeated over and over again,” Lawhorne told ALXnow. “I’ve got basement damage and my shed in the back is destroyed. Whenever we get a big storm you’ll see two-to-three feet of water rushing into the back alley and our house gets engulfed with floodwater. It’s not sanitary.”

Sunday’s storm dumped five inches of water on the city in less than an hour. The city’s stormwater system gets overrun after rainfall of about three inches.

Mayor Justin Wilson says city staff are looking into which stormwater projects can get fast-tracked, and that money is not the problem.

“We’re exploring ways to accelerate execution of the plan, but more money is not the most significant need,” Wilson told ALXnow. “I am heartbroken for the residents and businesses impacted by this flooding. No one should have to fear for their safety and financial well-being every time it rains. I wish we could implement all of these projects tomorrow, but unfortunately they take time. These are very significant projects. We are working to accelerate these efforts as quickly as possible, as well as identify other ways to reduce the impact on our residents.”

Lawhorne says that City Manager Mark Jinks is at fault for underfunding flooding projects for years, and that the city keeps reliving the same summer over and over. Last summer, for instance, there were several major storms that resulted in the doubling of the stormwater management fee for residents to tackle backups, most notably in Rosemont, Del Ray and Old Town.

“Why do we tolerate this?” Lawhorne said. “I give the City Manager a D- for his unwillingness to pay attention to this issue prior to 2020, until the stormwater system crumbled and there was the political will to do something. I’m glad they’re making improvements now, but their plan falls short of accomplishing what needs to be done sooner rather than later.”

Lawhorne continued, “We will continue to pay the price for the next 10 years, just as we saw this last weekend. It’s been a year since all that flooding last year and we haven’t moved the needle. Where’s the results? I’m not saying we have to get them overnight, but good grief.”

Council’s approval last year provided hundreds of millions of dollars toward flood mitigation. Additionally, the city plans to spend millions in American Rescue Plan Act funding on the Hoof’s Run Culvert and spot improvements.

City Councilman John Taylor Chapman has also asked staff to look into redirecting ARPA funding, as well as shifting resources to tackle the issue now.

“It’s a shame to see this over and over again,” Chapman said. “I completely understand the frustrations of residents impacted by small, medium and large storms. We need to adjust and take care of this crisis situation.”

Alexandria announced on Aug. 13, the day before the deluge, that it will accept applications for its new Flood Mitigation Pilot Grant Program on Monday, August 30. Property owner can get a 50% reimbursement (up to $5,000) for flood mitigation projects at their homes.

One resident said on NextDoor that she spent more than $16,000 on drainage systems in her yard last year.

“I know I’m not alone in being frustrated by our flooding and infrastructure issues in Alexandria,” the resident said. “The city of Alexandria NEEDS to address and fix our flooding problems now.”

Lawhorne says he gets frustrated when he hears officials call for patience.

“They say that it’s a 100-year storm, and that it’s just Mother Nature,” he said. “The people who say that must live at the top of the hill.”

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What a hot week in Alexandria. Here is the rundown.

Our top story this week was on the five men arrested after shots were fired in Old Town last month. There were quite a few crime incidents to report on, in fact, including a man who was arrested in the Landmark area after shooting his cat and a man arrested for selling marijuana and illegally possessing a gun.

Weather-wise, temperatures were in the high 90s this week, as the city once again offered cooling centers for residents needing shelter from the elements.

On Friday, HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge visited The Spire affordable housing complex in the West End. Fudge briefly met Mayor Justin Wilson and Congressman Don Beyer (D-8th) for a tour of the facility, as she later touted the Biden Administration’s Built Back Better agenda.

Have you been getting mite bites? You’re not alone. According to our weekly poll, a vast majority of the 600+ respondents reported getting bitten.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Five arrested after shots fired in Old Town North
  2. Alexandria updates COVID-19 guidance as cases increase
  3. Alexandria Police say drug debt was behind West End murder
  4. Child neglect suspect arrested after evading Alexandria police for six months
  5. Alexandria opens up on details for new guaranteed basic income program
  6. Amy DuVall quit her career as an environmental lawyer in D.C. to bake Italian cookies in Alexandria
  7. Former ACPS administrator Tammy Ignacio says experience matters in School Board bid
  8. Poll: Have you gotten the infamous mite bite in Alexandria?
  9. Development on West End lot could signal the start of Mark Center overhaul
  10. Parker-Gray development asks for more density and less parking
  11. ACPS is not requiring staff to get vaccinated before school starts systemwide August 24

Have a safe weekend!

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Melissa Graves calls CrossFit her medicine.

Last year, though, she was forced to shut down her brick and mortar gym, CrossFit MVA at 1712 Mount Vernon Avenue in Del Ray. Graves and her team of a half dozen coaches kept the ship afloat with Zoom workouts, as members who stuck it out took home weight sets and medicine balls from the gym.

“It felt like a year, but it was probably only three months that we were out of this space,” Graves told ALXnow. “Even now I’m counting every day, one day at a time until we can function somewhat like normal.”

Graves says most of her clients are vaccinated against COVID-19, and those who aren’t are asked to wear face masks during the high-intensity workouts. Those workouts include weightlifting, rowing and gymnastics, and are alternately conducted inside the gym and in an outdoor tented area in the parking lot.

“I don’t like change, and I’ve never been a person that likes change,” Graves said “Being adaptable when those big changes were thrown at me really helped me to grow as a business owner and personally.”

A former Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter, the 44-year-old Graves started was introduced to CrossFit in 2008. She opened CrossFit MVA in 2014, and is personally ranked 86th worldwide and 63rd in the U.S. for her age group.

“When I discovered CrossFit, it literally became my medicine,” she said. “I got off antidepressants, I started eating better, I slept better, my mood changed. I was just a different person, like it literally my whole life and my personality.”

Graves continued, “The pandemic was just so tough on people mentally. So having us as an outlet every day for 45 minutes was huge for them, and I’ve heard from countless members tell me that if it wasn’t for these workouts that they don’t know what they would have done.”

Graves increased the monthly fee for members by $5 to make up for the additional space needed for six-foot distancing for athletes inside the box. It costs $235 for unlimited access to the gym, $210 for three workouts per week, and $185 for two workouts per week.

Nervous about CrossFit? Don’t worry if you’re not in great shape, Graves said.

“When people show up for a trial class, they see that there’s all different kinds of people in the gym,” she said. “Some people maybe are getting ready for a triathlon, there might be someone else who’s never worked out before, maybe a mom who just decided that she wanted to start CrossFit in her 40s. We have just everyone from every walk of life, and usually when people take a trial class they feel pretty comfortable.”

Courtesy Facebook

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