Alexandria, VA

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:

  1. Margaret Chisley Celebrates 109 Years in Alexandria
  2. Alexandria Police Officer Charged With Assault and Battery for Unjustified Use of Force
  3. New State Laws Pushed by Alexandria Take Effect Tomorrow
  4. Old Dominion Boat Club’s Waterfront Revival Plans Resurface
  5. Alexandria Renters Ask Governor to Extend Moratorium on Evictions
  6. Businesses Face Tough Recovery as Alexandria Lags Behind Neighbors in Consumer Spending
  7. New Catholic University Location Coming to Carlyle
  8. Old Town Garden-Style Apartments to Be Replaced by Multifamily Apartment Complex
  9. City Recommends Riding E-Scooters for Errands and Social Distancing
  10. 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

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Morning Notes

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]

New Job: Host or Hostess — “Looking for an energetic individual to control the flow of the dining rooms, and be the first happy face guests see when entering Village Brauhaus.” [Facebook]
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The owners of an Old Town apartment complex want to demolish four 1970s-era rental properties and redevelop them into two multifamily apartment buildings with 474 new apartments.

The Board of Architectural Review will discuss the matter on July 15 before moving their recommendation to the City Council.

The building owners are asking for a permit to demolish the properties at 431 S. Columbus Street, 900 Wolfe Street and 450 S. Patrick Street, and for the approval of a concept plan.

According to the city’s real estate records, the property includes three garden style apartments and one mid-rise apartment building built between 1976 and 1977. They are not historic in nature and the applicant is proposing that the property maintain affordable units to help the city meet its affordable housing stock, in addition to having the property rezoned to residential multifamily.

Images via City of Alexandria

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It was a busy week in Alexandria, and there is plenty to talk about.

The city is moving forward with phase three of reopening its economy on July 1, and the news comes as the death toll from the coronavirus moved up to 50 and the number of cases steadily rise.

It also looks like the upcoming Alexandria City Public School school year and city services will continue to be impacted until the virus is held at bay, and school and city staff are developing plans to stagger teleworking and in-person schedules for students and staff alike.

Restaurants are reopening like never before, which is to say that customers are cautiously welcomed as Health Department restrictions are slowly lifted and many establishments have expanded their outdoor seating.

Here are the top 11 most-read articles this week in Alexandria.

  1. Del Ray Pizza Restaurant Converts Parking Deck Into Tropical Oasis Themed Bar
  2. COVID-19 Cases Steadily Increase as Alexandria Releases Phase Three Reopening Guidelines
  3. Large Residential Development in Braddock Goes to Planning Commission Tomorrow
  4. Alexandria Now Has 50 COVID-19 Deaths, Cases Climbing by Double Digits Daily
  5. East Eisenhower Avenue Project Returns With A New Senior Living Component
  6. Students Likely to Rotate School Attendance When ACPS Reopens
  7. Alexandria Preps for Phase 3 Reopening on July 1
  8. Lights On: Two Nineteen Restaurant Reopening Today in Old Town
  9. Developers Take Another Crack at Converting North Old Town Office to Housing
  10. Housing Affordability and Cost of Living Get Low Rating in Community Livability Report
  11. Inova Alexandria Hospital Now Treating 20+ Coronavirus Patients

Feel free to discuss these or other topics in the comments. Have a safe weekend!

Staff photo by James Cullum

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After securing an endorsement at the Board of Architectural Review last month, the plan to turn 701 N. Henry Street into a 94 unit residential complex is headed to the Planning Commission tomorrow (Thursday).

The project will replace Alexandria Lighting and Supply with 94 unit residential building, 87 of which would be market-rate housing and 7 committed as affordable units.

The proposed building will have a 2,600 square foot area on the ground floor currently used as a lobby, but set aside for potential conversion to retail if other nearby developments move forward — similar to how another nearby proposed development scaled back its ground-floor retail offerings.

Development attorney Cathy Puskar said at the Board of Architectural Review that the developer decided “it’s not really a good spot” for retail, but that if a post office caddy-corner to the development is eventually redeveloped, the lobby space could be converted to retail.

A staff report on the project recommended approval of the development.

“This area is recommended to encourage development of mixed-use buildings between Patrick and Henry streets to improve pedestrian accessibility and activity along these high traffic corridors,” staff said in a report. “The proposed development is consistent with the goals and guidelines set forth in the Braddock Metro Neighborhood Plan.”

Several nearby developments are going through the approval pipeline and will add hundreds of new residential units to Braddock and North Old Town, including:

Photo via City of Alexandria

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After years of inaction, a new applicant is hoping to take a crack at converting the vacant Waterfront Center office building in Old Town at 801 N. Fairfax Street into a residential development.

“Interest in converting the nearly 50-year-old office building dates back to at least 2015, when the property owner for both office buildings approached the City about converting the 801 N. Fairfax Street building to residential,” said the applicant, A & A Limited Partnership. “The property owner demonstrated that floor area ratio (FAR), setbacks, parking and open space requirements could be satisfied in a ‘by-right’ conversion from office to multifamily residential.”

The project is scheduled to go to the Planning Commission on Thursday.

Converting the building to residential did require one Special Use Permit (SUP) for increased height to allow rooftop access — which would technically increase the height of the building by adding railings and dividing walls. An SUP was granted in 2017, but no action was taken and the permit expired.

“A contract purchaser of the 801 N. Fairfax Street building is the applicant for the current SUP and plans to convert the vacant office building to residential use,” the applicant said.

The plan is to convert the building into multi-family residential housing. While the building doesn’t comply with guidelines on height for that area, a staff report praised the proposal’s flexible use of an existing building footprint.

“Staff supports the SUP application for a building height increase that will provide additional flexibility for the adaptive reuse of the existing building at 801 N. Fairfax Street,” the staff report said. “The SUP increases the viability of converting the vacant office building into active residential use.”

Waterfront Center isn’t the only North Old Town office space getting a residential makeover: nearby office complex The Towngate has also requested permits to undergo a conversion to residential use.

Photo via Google Maps

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Over 13 years since it was originally proposed, a plan to turn the quiet southeastern corner of the Eisenhower corridor into a pair of mixed-use towers is coming back with some new proposed uses.

A project called 765 John Carlyle proposes turning the empty grass lot near what is still Eisenhower Circle — for now — into “two mixed-use towers conjoined by the common podium” according to an application by Carlyle Plaza, LLC.

While the original plan was for both towers to be office buildings, the new application says the southern tower will have 15 levels of senior living. The number of units, and price range, aren’t listed in the application. The northern tower will remain an office building in the new plans.

“The project will also include ground-floor retail to activate the adjacent streets,” the developer said. “The towers are conjoined at the base by an above-grade parking structure that ascends approximately four stories above the ground floor retail and lobby space.”

The new building is part of a broader plan to turn Eisenhower Avenue into a hub of commercial and residential activity, with a particular focus on the eastern end of that corridor to take full advantage of the nearby Patent and Trademark Office and relatively new National Science Foundation building.

The project is scheduled for review at the Carlyle/Eisenhower East Design Review Board on Monday, June 22.

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Pines of Florence in Old Town (1300 King Street) has closed, though how permanent that close is remained unclear.

An employee of Pines of Florence said over the phone that the closure was due to redevelopment for the building approved last fall. The redevelopment is planned to turn the block into a four-story mixed-use development with 31 condominium units and 6,400 square feet of ground-floor retail

The employee said the last day the restaurant was open was last Saturday and that it is currently unclear whether the restaurant will reopen and, if so, where.

“It’s not a full good-bye,” a sign on the door of the building said, “just taking a little break.”

The sign directed the loyal patrons of Pines of Florence to the sister restaurant Rosemarino D’Italia, which has locations in Del Ray at (1905 Mount Vernon Avenue) and in D.C. (1714 Connecticut Avenue NW).

“Trust us, we’re extremely touched during [this] moment, feeling every single bit [of] happiness, sadness, shocked and pride,” the sign said. “Thank you everyone for allowing [us] to be part of your journey and we will continue to create new memories in the future.”

Staff photos by Jay Westcott

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(Updated 6/24) A new mixed-use development featuring a ground-floor daycare facility is scheduled to go to the City Council for approval this Saturday (June 20).

There’s extensive redevelopment underway at the northern end of the Braddock neighborhood just south of Potomac Yard. A seven-story residential building with ground-floor retail and the aforementioned daycare is planned for the very northern point of that neighborhood on a triangular lot at 1200 N. Henry Street.

The 115 unit multifamily residential apartment building was initially approved in 2018, but the applicant — 1200 N. Henry LLC — is coming back to the City Council for approval of changes that include placing the daycare entirely on the first floor of the building at the cost of some of the planned retail development. The project was initially approved with 17,000 square feet of retail development, but that has dropped to 6,423 square feet. The change will raise the number of units to 119.

The change is emblematic of some hesitation on the part of Braddock developers to focus ground-floor space on retail. A nearby development at 701 N. Henry Street also prioritized lobby space on the ground floor, saying the area is “not really a good spot” for retail.

“Since the 2018 approval, the applicant discussed the daycare and retail configuration with providers and leasing brokers,” the applicant said. “Through these conversations, there was a strong preference for the daycare to be located entirely on the ground level with an adjacent playground to improve access and appeal to more age groups. Additionally, the retail space was considered too large and disjointed, with the space too dark to engage pedestrians.”

The building is described in the application as a “gateway” to the Braddock Neighborhood for those traveling south along Route 1.

A signature gateway feature at the northern corner of the building marks the entrance to the plan area with a tower element. The base of the tower contains diagonal columns that form an abstraction of the letters “AV” to represent Alexandria, Virginia, welcoming those headed southbound on Route 1 to the Braddock neighborhood. These columns face onto a publicly accessible park/plaza. The northern tip of the park/plaza is a potential location for public art, drawing pedestrians into the space and offering respite to those heading south from Slater’s Lane and Route 1 to the nearby Braddock Metro.

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The Towngate office complex in North Old Town (625 and 635 Slaters Lane) are requesting permits from the City of Alexandria to facilitate changing the office buildings into a residential building.

Most of the changes will take place inside the building, but the property is scheduled to go to the Board of Architectural Review on June 17 over a handful of exterior changes, like new doors, windows and siding.

“The applicant requests a permit to demolish and certificate of appropriateness for improvements… in order to convert the buildings from office to residential,” Brookfield Towngate LLC said in a statement. “No additions or increases in floor area are requested.”

Designs put together by Heffner Architects, PC, a local architecture firm in Alexandria, show the large open office spaces replaced with smaller individual units.

There is no information in the application yet about how many units will be included in the final building, or whether these will be town houses or apartments.

Images via Heffner Architects, PC

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Morning Notes

Developer Gets Financing to Build Apartments in West End — “Monday Properties announced Tuesday it secured a $66.8M construction loan from EagleBank and broke ground on the development at 2000 North Beauregard St. The project is planned to include 300 units in six to seven stories of wood-frame construction atop a two-level concrete podium. The apartments will be wrapped around an internal, 420-space parking garage.” [Bisnow]

Inova to Build Hospital, Considers Alexandria Campus Modernization — “The health system is also looking at options for ways to modernize the current Inova Alexandria Hospital — and noted that ‘all options, from renovating in place to relocation, are under evaluation. Additional information will be made available as this project develops.'” [Alexandria Living]

Beyer Calls Trump’s Vanity ‘Nauseating’ — “The day the United States hit 100,000 deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic Trump shares a messages calling himself ‘the greatest President in our history.’ His vanity is nauseating. He doesn’t care about you, your family, your health, or your safety. He only cares about himself.” [Twitter]

Local Lawyer and Musician Dies — “John Spaulding, 94, a traffic-law trial lawyer who also was a choir leader, musician and regular weekend pianist in the 1980s at the Fish Market Restaurant in Alexandria, Va., died April 5 at his home in Arlington, Va. The cause was congestive heart failure, said his wife, Polly Plumb deButts.” [Washington Post]

Student Collects 500+ Books for Middle Schoolers — “During the past few weeks, tenth grader Erin Machado and her mom have collected more than 500 middle school books from friends and neighbors, sanitized each one, and delivered them to Francis C. Hammond Middle School in Alexandria.” [Facebook]

‘The Garden’ in Del Ray is Not Reopening Outside — “We will take this time to continue to train staff with updated health department regulations as well as make the necessary updates to our business to ensure your safety upon reopening. We do have plans to incorporate take out from The Garden in the next couple of weeks. There will be new menu items, cocktails, growlers, and can beer to go. Please continue to follow us on social media and check out our website for further updates.” [Facebook]

New Job: Event and Promotions Assistant — “This firm identifies and develops new streams of revenue for clients through on-site promotions, innovative marketing strategies and advertising campaigns with a personal touch. This is an entry-level position with fully paid training and the opportunity for growth into an executive management role after completion of training program.” [Indeed]

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When construction on the $1 billion Virginia Tech Innovation Campus is completed, it will be a mostly walkable campus with underground parking and significant open space, according to a presentation Tuesday by the Virginia Tech Foundation and developer JBG SMITH.

The first phase of development will occur at the current location of the Regal Potomac Yard movie theatre, which is closed due to the pandemic. It is unknown if it will open again before construction begins.

The developers unveiled plans for the first phase of development, which includes the construction of a 9-10 story structure will be located along E. Reed Avenue, Potomac Avenue and a campus green space. The building, as well as the other Virginia Tech buildings, will be built to reach LEED Silver certification and the areas immediately around it will include lawns and walking paths.

There will also be a slope of less than 5%, meaning that there will be no steps or handrails on the campus.

“The overall illustrative plan shows the project’s contiguous an interconnected network of open spaces that stretch between Potomac Avenue and George Washington Memorial Parkway,” said Simon Beer, a landscape architect with design firm OJB. “All of the design of these spaces at this point are conceptual in nature, as we present them today. Our team is going to continue to work with the city with you and with each individual building’s architect as we continue the process.”

The open spaces include Potomac Yard Park, a Metro plaza, a market lawn and a pedestrian plaza. Virginia Tech will take up four acres of the northern end near the Alexandria border with Arlington, and the underground parking will be available once the buildings are finished.

The development will also see the construction of three academic buildings dedicated to computer science research and development programs. The permanent 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.

The city will undergo the approval process for the project’s preliminary infrastructure plan this June, in addition to an approval for a pump station to handle sanitary sewer flows from the proposed project and other off-site properties so that construction can begin in the fall.

Images via JBG SMITH

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