Alexandria, VA

Representatives of the new Landmark Mall development are planning to host a public meeting later this week for folks hoping to hear the latest on the concept plan and answer some questions.

A virtual community meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 13, at 7 p.m. via Zoom.

“With a live presentation format, representatives from the applicant team will provide an overview of the Landmark Coordinated Development District,” the applicant said in an email.

The session will also field questions posted by the community in a forum on the project website.

Plans for the redevelopment, particularly for the mix of residential and commercial space east of the hospital campus, has been moving forward over the last several weeks. Developers are hoping to create an active retail space along a public boulevard similar to The Wharf.

To join the meeting, folks can call in at 301 715 8592 or join via Zoom with meeting ID 919 9409 1745 and passcode 505116.

Image via City of Alexandria

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Stark differences were on full display Saturday night, as Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson and former Mayor Allison Silberberg sparred in a contentious debate on local issues.

Wilson defended his record since taking the mayorship from Silberberg in 2018. Silberberg, however, said she wants to restore the public trust, and that the city is at an inflection point.

“We’ve seen in the last couple of years certain decisions and policies that have been decided that really put our city at risk in many ways,” Silberberg said. “Our visions for the city are different. And our city is at an inflection point… It saddens me to hear so many residents express a profound loss of confidence and trust in our local government. As your mayor, I would certainly be very focused on transparency, and rebuilding the public trust.”

The hour-long debate was hosted by the Alexandria Democratic Committee, and moderated by Robert McCartney, a senior regional correspondent for The Washington Post. Wilson currently leads in fundraising and endorsements, and the debate comes on the heels of Wilsons’ endorsement by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam.

Silberberg presented herself as an environmentalist in favor of “smart growth,” while Wilson said that the city needs to match growth with transportation infrastructure.

“I’m inspired to turn what I’ve learned about our city’s resilience over the last year into a mission for our city’s future,” Wilson said. “I know that by investing in our kids, investing in our basic infrastructure, and making sure that we have an economy that can support the services that our residents expect and demand, Alexandria cannot only survive in the aftermath of this pandemic, but we can thrive.”

Silberberg’s tenure as mayor was plagued by lone 6-1 votes, and Wilson said that she voted against a number of important issues, including a controversial 5.7 cent tax hike in 2017 that resulted in significant capital improvement funding.

“I speak out for the people and I listen to our residents,” Silberberg said. “I’m certainly in favor of transit oriented development, that has been what we’ve all supported across the many years. But what I’m really for is smart growth. And what that means really, is that you don’t have unabashed out of scale overbuilding on every square inch, that you do keep some open space, which helps with the flooding.”

Silberberg criticized Wilson’s handling of COVID-19, and said that the city’s face mask ordinance needed to be passed sooner that the fall of 2020.

“It’s been a harrowing year for all of us,” she said. “I know a number of folks who have had COVID, and I’ve lost some friends. I don’t think we should have waited till October 1 with the outdoor mask order. Cities all across the country were helping restaurants, but the restaurants in the Bradley Center in the middle of the city and on the West End weren’t helped as much as other places, so we need to look at that across the board.”

Wilson said that the mask ordinance was the first adopted in Virginia, and was replicated by Northam in his statewide executive order. He also said that the city’s vaccination rate for Latinos is higher than for white residents, a result of “aggressive outreach” to the city’s nonprofits.

“I’m very proud of that ordinance,” he said. “Alexandria led the way in providing new small business flexibility using outdoor spaces, sidewalks, closing streets, parking lots and everything to help keep our businesses afloat. I worked with the mayor of Richmond to go down to the General Assembly and ultimately get the governor to include an executive order that allowed carry-out cocktails, which has helped keep our restaurants a floating all around our city. We spent millions of dollars a small business assistance again leading the way in the region, and helping our small businesses providing grants to small businesses all around our city.”

Silberberg also said that she would reverse the Seminary Road Diet, which she said is a transparency issue.

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In a crowded City Council election, the Alexandria Democratic Committee split the candidates into two groups for moderated debates, which posted Tuesday night.

Alexandria journalist Michael Lee Pope moderated the discussion, which touched on critical talking issues in city races over the last few years, from parking to broadband to — of course — Seminary Road. Interestingly, the coronavirus pandemic was not a main topic of discussion.

ALXnow featured the first debate on Wednesday.

This debate featured candidates John Taylor Chapman, Sarah Bagley, Amy Jackson, Kevin Harris, Patrick Moran, Bill Campbell and Kirk McPike. Answers are summarized.

The Democratic primary is June 8.

Seminary Road

A number of candidates support reversing the  Seminary Road diet, which has been a controversial issue for years.

Chapman voted against the proposal in 2019, and said he would vote to reverse it.

Moran — “I think a lot of the framework in which these conversations are made are so permanent,” Moran said. “I would spend the money to undo it.”

Campbell — “I absolutely would not spend any additional money to change that unless there was some new information that came up with regards to safety,” Campbell said. “And then you have to be responsible to take a look at that.”

Jackson would also vote to undo it, although she said that future road diets would have to be considered on a case by case basis.

“This became a ‘he said, she said’ in a lot of ways that I don’t think anyone on council was prepared for when city staff brought it to us,” Jackson said. “That just means that we have to do our own sleuthing and know the questions to ask after we’ve done our homework.”

McPike said he would not undo the road diet.

“I would not initially in this next council session, vote to revert the road back to what it was,” McPike said. “The intersection at Howard and Seminary is going to change in the near future when Inova Hospital relocates to Landmark Mall, and we don’t know what the needs are going to be along that stretch of road once that has occurred.”

Harris — “It’s one of those things that we ought to wait and see how it plays out before we try to change anything,” Harris said. “Because we’ve already wasted too much money creating the road diet. I think that we could use this money in other places.”

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506 N. Overlook Drive (image via North Ridge Citizens’ Association)

(Updated 2:30 p.m.) A fight to save a 19th century home in the North Ridge neighborhood is about to head to the City Council after nearby residents appealed an earlier Planning Commission decision.

The owner of the house at 506 N. Overlook Drive is seeking a permit to adjust the property lines for two parcels on the site, the first steps toward what will eventually involve tearing down the house on the property.

The home was built in 1878 by Hampshire Fractious, a freed Black man who lived in the city sometime in the late 19th century.

Nearby residents fought throughout the city process to try and save the house, but the Planning Commission approved the subdivision, although with a requirement that staff be able to access the house and study it to see if there is any remaining historic value.

According to a news release from the City of Alexandria, the City council will review the public appeal at the Saturday, May 15, meeting:

Public Hearing and Consideration of an appeal of the Planning Commission’s April 8, 2021 decision to approve a Preliminary Plat of a Subdivision (SUB #2020-00009) at 506 North Overlook Drive to re-subdivide two existing lots.

Image via North Ridge Citizens’ Association

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JBG Smith, the master master developer for Virginia Tech’s $1 billion Innovation Campus, just signed a deal to design, construct, manage and own 2 million square feet of mix-used property at Potomac Yard.

“Institutional investors advised by (project financial manager) J.P. Morgan Global Alternatives contributed a land site that is entitled for approximately 1.3 million square feet of development it controls at Potomac Yard Landbay F (North Potomac Yard), while JBG SMITH contributed adjacent land with more than 700,000 square feet of development capacity at Potomac Yard, Landbay G (the Town Center),” JBG Smith said in a release.

JBG Smith has a 50% ownership stake in the joint venture, and will act as leasing agent for future residential and commercial properties at the site. The move increases the company’s ownership development rights by more than 285,000 square feet.

“The plans call for two multifamily buildings totaling approximately 419,000 square feet that have been placed in JBG SMITH’s Near-Term Development Pipeline and could start construction within the next 12 months,” JBG Smith said. “The remaining 1.6 million square feet of mixed-use development across Landbays F and G is expected to be developed over time and, consequently, are included in the Future Development Pipeline.”

“We are thrilled that this joint venture will further the community’s collective long-term vision of National Landing as a thriving, transit-oriented, mixed-use destination and world-class innovation district,” said Ed Chaglassian, executive vice president and head of acquisitions at JBG SMITH. “This transaction will help ensure that the surrounding neighborhoods can grow in lockstep with Virginia Tech in ways that will complement and enhance its Innovation Campus.”

Virginia Tech plans on opening its four-acre Innovation Campus by fall 2024. Additionally, the Potomac Yard Metro station is expected to open by spring 2022. It is also located a mile south of National Landing, the future home of Amazon’s HQ2 project at National Landing, which is slated for a 2028 completion.

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Hilco Redevelopment Partners is preparing a sweeping redevelopment for the GenOn power plant in Old Town North, and at a public meeting held last week the developer and city staff gave an overview of how plans for the site fit alongside other nearby developments.

Jeffrey Farner, Deputy Director Department of Planning and Zoning, said the GenOn team faces the challenge of designing something that is in many ways the opposite of the current plant. The GenOn site is a closed off and very likely polluted site, and the city aims to work with the developer to turn the site into an open mixed-use development complete with open park space.

“How do we stitch this back into the fabric of the great neighborhood of Old Town North,” said Farner. “Many people in the community reinforced the fact that this is a waterfront community and we need to celebrate that in re-creating the streets and the parks.”

Farner said the site is planned to have 2-4 acres of waterfront open space, which will help increase the open passive areas along the river beyond just the stretch of the Mount Vernon Trail that runs through the site. Much of this, Farner said, will have to be developed alongside the National Park Service. The expanded waterfront access would allow for separate pedestrian and cyclist trails along with more amenities for trail users.

Staff at the meeting said public site tours are likely to start on June 4.

Michael Swidrak, an urban planner with the City of Alexandria, provided an overview of some other nearby developments close to the GenOn plant.

  • The Alexan (600 N Royal Street): Former a WMATA bus barn, The Alexan is being redeveloped as a 286-unit apartment. Swidrak said framing for the building is complete and workers are now applying exterior materials. Construction is likely to wrap up in 2022.
  • The Venue (901 N Fairfax Street):  Former Crowne Plaza, The Venue is a project to convert a hotel into 102 condominium units. The ground floor will have a 7,000 square foot theater space for MetroStage. Swidrak said occupancy for residential units will likely commence in late 2021 or early 2022.
  • The Muse (1201 N Royal Street): Former the Craddock Site, this spot at the northeast edge of Old Town will be turned into 73 condominium units and will house an Art League gallery space on the ground level of the building. Occupancy is scheduled to start in late 2021.
  • Towne Motel Redevelopment (802 N Washington Street): After the historic townhouse at the site was lifted and moved, redevelopment work has started on turning the building into a 98-room Holiday Inn Express. The project is scheduled to finish later in 2022.
  • Waterfront Center Conversion (801 N Fairfax): Waterfront Center is in the process of converting its office space into a 54-unit residential building. Permits for the project were approved earlier this year and construction is currently underway.
  •  Tide Lock Building (1033 N Fairfax Street): Swidrak said the applicant is still preparing a permit request, but will likely come to the city with a preliminary submission sometime in the next few weeks. The concept review sent to the city in 2019 included 232 rental and condominium units and 77,000 square feet of retail along with a 5,000 square foot arts anchor.

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Morning Notes

(Update at 10:30 a.m. Blue and White Carryout is still open. The tweet from a local news outlet was incorrect.)

City Council Rescinds Vote on Braddock West Development — “The matter will be taken up again for public hearing and vote on May 15, but a pending lawsuit by an Alexandria resident may delay a final decision.” [Alexandria Living]

West End Harris Teeter opening early this summer — “The new store, 62,000 square feet in size, will be located at West Alex, the new development that also includes Array, an apartment building and the Silver Diner restaurant that opened on the corner of King and N. Beauregard streets.” [Alexandria Living]

Southbound King Street exit on Interstate 395 closed for 2 weeks — “Drivers along King Street (Route 7) in Alexandria can expect a new temporary traffic pattern at I-395 beginning Monday morning, May 3, weather permitting, for work as part of the rehabilitation of the King Street Bridge over I-395, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.” [Zebra]

Today’s weather — “Showers early then scattered thunderstorms developing later in the day. High 73F. Winds S at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 60%… Scattered thunderstorms in the evening. Partly cloudy skies overnight. Low around 65F. Winds SW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 60%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Bilingual medical assistant — “Functions as a member of a program team by performing and documenting results of selected tests and measurements, maintaining adequately supplied workstations, maintaining a clean work environment, and promoting timely and efficient patient flow through the clinic. Has primary responsibility for the collection, processing, and recording of laboratory testing. Gives immunizations and other injectable medications under the supervision of the physician, nurse practitioner or registered nurse. Assists with patient treatments during clinical sessions.” [Indeed]

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It was a busy week in Alexandria. Here are some of the highlights.

Governor Ralph Northam and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visited Alexandria this week. Northam stopped by Pacers Running in Old Town, and afterward met with Cardona, Mayor Justin Wilson, National Education Association of the United States President Becky Pringle and Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane at Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School. Cardona was at the school as part of his “Help is Here” school reopening tour.

On Monday, demolition started at Douglas MacArthur Elementary School, and Alexandria City Public Schools says that the completion date is still on schedule for the new school to reopen the school in Jan. 2023. In the meantime, MacArthur students will continue to use the old Patrick Henry Elementary School as swing space.

There was big news for Alexandria nonprofits this week, as the Spring2ACTion fundraiser raised $2.5 million and broke last year’s online giving record.

There were also 682 votes in this week’s poll on outdoor dining and takeout. We asked whether the city should keep its expanded restaurant offerings after in a post-COVID environment. An overwhelming majority of 84% of votes cast (576 votes) want businesses to enjoy the same level of latitude; 13% (89 votes) said some modifications should be made and just 2% (17 votes) want businesses to go back to pre-pandemic operations.

Election stories

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Update: Four arrested, suspect’s mother among wounded in West End shootout
  2. NOW: Alexandria preparing new face mask ordinance as CDC says fully vaccinated folks don’t need them
  3. Alexandria celebrates Earth Day virtually
  4. COVID-19 Update: City says anyone who registered by April 10 for COVID-19 vaccine should have an appointment
  5. Police: Falling death of man in Landmark does not appear to be suspicious
  6. Del Ray restaurant The Garden to bloom into new outdoor area
  7. Parents and students protest for expanded in-person instruction outside ACPS Central Office
  8. JUST IN: ‘Open ACPS!’ group to rally in front of Central Office on Monday
  9. Here’s the order that City Council candidates will appear on the ballot for the June 8 democratic primary
  10. EXCLUSIVE: Here’s what the inside of the Halal slaughterhouse looks like on Colvin Street
  11. School Resource Officers at ACPS on chopping block as Police chief proposes alternative program

Have a safe weekend!

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Morning Notes

Early voting begins for June 8 Democratic primary — “Early voting will begin on April 23 for the June 8 Democratic primary election in the City of Alexandria. The ballot includes contests for Virginia Governor;Lieutenant Governor; Attorney General; House of Delegates (45th District); Mayor and City Council.” [Zebra]

Alexandria to renovate baseball field near Mount Vernon Community School — “The project is scheduled to begin Monday, April 26  and work will occur Monday through Friday from approximately 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Work is planned for the restoration of approximately 39,600 square feet turf. This includes the installation of irrigation. The work area will be closed to the public during the installation period.” [Zebra]

Bradlee-King Street road changes could be paused for resident input — “Earlier this year, the City of Alexandria planned to apply for a grant to fund significant changes along Upper King Street, including new bike lanes, narrowed car lanes, dedicated bus lanes and fewer left turns into a popular shopping center. Now, that grant application for the 0.5-mile stretch on King Street outside Bradlee Shopping Center may be put on hold as city officials go back to get resident input and make more specific plans for the roadway to meet expectations from the Virginia Dept. of Transportation (VDOT).” [Alexandria Living]

Church donates gift cards to elementary school families in need — “On Tuesday, March 23, 2021 Lazarus Ministry at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church informed ACPS that they will be donating $5,400 for the purchase of gift cards for families in need at William Ramsay Elementary School.” [ACPS]

Titan volleyball team going to state championship — “T.C. Williams (16-0) advanced to the first state championship game in program history, which it will host Friday or Saturday.” [Washington Post]

Today’s weather — “Generally sunny despite a few afternoon clouds. High near 65F. Winds W at 10 to 15 mph… Mainly clear (in the evening). Low 41F. Winds W at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Dog groomer — “Join us at A Dog’s Day Out in Van Dorn! We passionately deliver a great dog experience composed of play, affection, and socialization – all in a safe, friendly, and clean environment. We offer doggie daycare, boarding, and grooming for dogs of all shapes and sizes who play nicely and want to hang with the gang.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Animal Welfare League unveils van for onsite surgeries — “Biscuit, an eight-year-old gray and white cat, was the first to receive surgery.” [Zebra]

Free food distribution this Saturday — “On Sat, Apr 24, 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). More resources alexandriava.gov/115053.” [Twitter]

Sales center opens for the Muse development — “The eight-story Muse condominium will feature 73 units at 1201 Royal Street. Choices include 29 unique floor plans ranging from one bedroom to two bedroom with a den. Ten of the floor plans have spacious outdoor terraces, and the largest penthouse residences are 2,200 square feet. Prices start in the $800,000s.” [Patch.com]

Today’s weather — “Partly cloudy (during the day). High 56F. Winds WNW at 15 to 25 mph. Higher wind gusts possible… Some clouds early will give way to generally clear conditions overnight. Low 38F. Winds WNW at 10 to 20 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Parliamentarian — “National PTA is committed to effectively follow proper procedures when conducting its Board meetings and annual convention. The association has been utilizing the guidance of a Professional Registered Parliamentarian in accomplishing that goal. Candidates are being considered for the period July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022 with the possibility of a one-year extension.” [Indeed]

Photo by Mark Haney

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