The Alexandria Drive-In will be discontinued after this Saturday night’s performance of Shrek.

With life returning to normal and movie theaters and entertainment venues coming back, event organizers decided to shut down the operation.

“As vaccination numbers rise and we are, thankfully, able to return to our new normal; celebrating in person with friends and families, attending events, and even going back to movie theaters, we have made the difficult decision to discontinue the Alexandria Drive-in after July,” organizers from The Garden wrote on the drive-in website.

The effort launched with Jurassic Park last August in the parking lot of the Victory Center at 5001 Eisenhower Avenue, and the first several shows were completely sold out.

“We loved the Drive-In,” said founder Kelly Grant of ALX Community. “It was the best example of a community coming together.”

Grant would later win the city’s Philanthropist of the Year Award for her effort, since more than 12,000 people safely saw movies on the big screen again. More than $150,000 was also donated to ACT for Alexandria, the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria and Athena Rapid Response.

Shrek will start at 9 p.m. and tickets are $40 per car.

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It was a quick week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

With summer in full swing, three Alexandria athletes have made it on the U.S. Olympic Team — sprinter Noah Lyles, high-jumper Tynita Butts-Townsend and boxer Troy Isley.

In other sporting news, Old Town businesses beat Del Ray in a controversial softball game Wednesday, adding fuel to the fire of an intense rivalry.

It’s been super hot out lately, and the City urged caution and reminded residents to take advantage of special cooling centers.

On the COVID front, the city’s DASH bus service announced that one of its drivers passed away from complications from the virus.

Meanwhile, Mayor Justin Wilson believes that the city has met its 80% vaccination threshold, while Virginia Department of Health data says about 65% of residents over the age of 16 are partially vaccinated. The Alexandria Health Department, which just launched a COVID-19 test and vaccine pilot at T.C. Williams High School, says the data does not take into account city residents vaccinated in Washington, D.C., and Maryland.

It’s also July 4 weekend, and in this week’s poll we asked whether readers plan on traveling, with 67% of respondents voting to stay home, 27% opting to travel by car and just 6% traveling by air.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Researchers call out shoddy craftsmanship in buried 18th century Alexandria ship
  2. Man suspected of raping 12-year-old stepdaughter in Landmark area flees to El Salvador
  3. Landmark Mall plan approved as Planning Commission demands better environmental considerations
  4. Alexandria leaders acknowledge serious security issues with elimination of school resource officer funding
  5. Shortened Alexandria Birthday celebration is still on for July 10
  6. Alexandria eyes bus rapid transit and bike lanes for Duke Street
  7. Parker-Gray tiny lot home moves forward with some unique challenges
  8. Alexandria woman dies after veering off road on Interstate 95
  9. City talks strategy on making Chirilagua/Arlandria neighborhood Amazon-proof
  10. UPDATE: Man taken into custody as West End apartment barricade situation ends peacefully
  11. BREAKING: California man arrested for West End murder, indicted with 16 others in massive racketeering conspiracy

Have a safe weekend!

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The Sportrock Climbing Center has been pretty packed since President Joe Biden visited with the First Lady and Governor Ralph Northam last month.

Sportrock staff claim that it’s the first time any president has ever visited a climbing gym, and that it has shined a spotlight on their 35,000 square-foot operation. On a recent weekday evening, every parking spot was taken outside their location at 5308 Eisenhower Avenue. Inside the massive gym, masked and unmasked climbers hung out, lifted weights, belayed, and worked their ways to the top of the tallest climbing walls in the Mid-Atlantic.

“I think what the President did was put Sportrock in the public consciousness for people who had never heard of climbing before,” Sportrock’s marketing manager Jeff Shor told ALXnow. “It’s definitely elevated our spotlight.”

Biden visited the gym to celebrate the lifting of COVID-19 regulations across Virginia, although some measures are still in place at both the Alexandria and Sterling locations. All climbers are currently required to wear face masks on Mondays after noon, and on weekends in the morning.

It’s a far cry from where the gym had come from at this point last year, having recently reopened to dramatically reduced capacity after a three-month shutdown. SportRock, which offers private instruction and a number of fitness classes, was also forced to switch in-person practices to a virtual format.

The eased restrictions are a welcome relief for 16-year-old Abigail Humber. The Arlington resident has been climbing at the gym since she was eight years old, and works with Taylor Reed, the director of the Sportrock Performance Institute, which is a 9,000 square-foot climbing facility connected to the main gym.

“I come here pretty much every day for training,” Humber said. “I am, homeschooled and I spend all of my time climbing. And so yes, I am the ultimate climbing nerd, especially combined with Taylor, who’s also a huge climbing nerd. We geek out together in the gym all the time about rock climbing, and it’s honestly the best. I just want to keep doing this for as long as I can, and if that means being a professional climber, then that’s what I want to do, because climbing is what I love, and climbing is what keeps me wanting to get up every morning.”

Some of Reed’s students regularly commute to the gym from North Carolina, like 19-year-old Charlie Osborne and 13-year-old Tessa Huang.

Osborne is a USA Climbing competitive climber in bouldering and lead climbing. He’s been climbing for 13 years, and has Olympic aspirations, and says he trains in Alexandria specifically because of Reed.

“He’s very technically focused, when it comes to climbing so he helps me realize all my weaknesses and strengths and how I can better myself in those certain areas to apply it to the wall,” Osborne said. “Before I usually started training with him, I was super strength focused, and I’d have all this all these abilities, but I didn’t know how to use them properly.”

Reed said that climbing boosts self esteem, and that the gym is full of athletes of all ages intent of solving puzzles with their bodies.

“These kids are kind of insane when it comes to how climbing has consumed them,” Reed said. “But you get this this interesting dynamic between youth and adults in the climbing gym where they’re all planning on the same problems and trying to share information about getting to the top of the wall. And that’s the element that allows for an inspiring community.”

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When the Victory Center parking lot does eventually get turned into a housing development, locals won’t have to go far to get their car checked out.

The Planing Commission is scheduled to review an application by Vijay Laxmi LLC to open a light automotive repair shop at 4936 Eisenhower Avenue, directly across from the Victory Center.

“The applicant anticipates serving five customers daily and would operate with two employees,” staff said in a report. “The hours of operation would be 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday.”

City staff expressed support for the development in the report. The area’s flexible zoning is part of what’s allowed some unique small businesses nearby to thrive.

“This small-scale automobile repair shop is not expected to produce neighborhood impacts,” staff said, “as there are several automobile repair shops in the surrounding area and in the same industrial/flex space complex.”

Photo via Google Maps

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Alexandria Police are investigating a spike in the number of airbags being stolen from vehicles in the middle of the night.

The most recent incidents were reported on Feb. 28, when up to nine vehicles were broken into and airbags were stolen from the Southern Towers apartment complex in the 4900 block of Seminary Road in the West End. There were also up to 15 airbags stolen at the end of last October in the 5000 block of Eisenhower Avenue.

It appears that these are two isolated incidents, according to police.

“They’re not particularly targeting Southern Towers for larcenies,” APD officer Bennie L. Evans told the Southern Towers community in a Zoom chat last week. “It’s just something that happened, partly because of the locality and access to the interstate.”

Police Chief Michael L. Brown said airbags are easy to steal, and their thefts are part of increasing regional and national trends.

“Those are very expensive parts, and they’re easy to move in a secondary market,” Brown said.

Police are asking residents to file a report if their airbags are stolen, and advise folks to lock their vehicles, take out valuables and call 911 in case of suspicious activity.

Map via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Mayor Wilson announces he’s on the ballot for reelection — “We are in a unique and challenging moment for our City. Our success has never been assured. It has been created through generations of leaders who have placed the City’s future first.” [Zebra]

West End Walgreens robbed — “The Alexandria Police Dept is investigating a commercial robbery at the Walgreens in the 4500 blk of Duke St. It happened just before 10pm. two suspects robbed the store then fled in a vehicle. Details are still developing. Expect police activity in the area.” [Twitter]

City Manager to talk about future of Eisenhower Valley — “Join us for a virtual breakfast with the City Manager, Mr. Mark Jinks, on Wednesday, March 31, 8:30AM on Zoom.” [eventbrite]

Today’s Weather — “Sunny skies. High around 60F. Winds WNW at 10 to 20 mph… Clear skies. Low near 40F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New job: Regular babysitter for one child — “I work from home but need time in the morning to focus on work. I need a sitter who come in a few hours in the morning Monday thru Friday. Will get the baby ready for the day, do some bottle clean up and prep, take the baby for a walk and just overall entertain him. He will be 6 months in April.” [Indeed]

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What a week in Alexandria.

Our top story this week was on a plan to install hanging gardens in the Carlyle neighborhood.

Still, a lot of other stuff happened. While Alexandria City Public Schools opened their doors to hybrid learning, City Council made headway on a collective bargaining ordinance and rejected the Braddock West development.

Here are some other important stories this week:

Here are this week’s top stories:

  1. The Caryle neighborhood could be getting its own Hanging Gardens
  2. Residential neighborhood with 139 townhomes approved for Victory Center site
  3. Police Chief updates Del Ray community on recent crime incidents
  4. City Council takes rare step and strips local business of special use permits
  5. City passes ordinance limiting large trucks from parking in business zones
  6. Just Sold in Alexandria: March 16, 2021
  7. Alexandria looking for feedback on proposed North Beauregard Street repaving
  8. Local vaccination efforts accelerated with new vaccine supply, city preps for phase 1c
  9. Waterfront Commission tries to avert ‘Disneyland-like’ development in Old Town
  10. Poll: Do you agree with the City Council’s rejection of the Braddock West project?
  11. Alexandria’s initial and continued unemployment claims just jumped by double percentage points

Have a safe weekend!

Image via City of Alexandria

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A new residential neighborhood could soon be replacing the long empty parking lot just east of the Victory Center on Eisenhower avenue.

The plan is to bring 139 new townhomes to 4901 Eisenhower Avenue on a 6.9 acre parcel that is currently a parking lot.

The move brought some praise from members of the City Council who have waited years for some forward movement at the large lot. The development plans were approved at the Saturday City Council meeting — the same week that Inova announced it would be operating a vaccine clinic in the main building.

“It’s good to see this development moving forward,” said Council member Del Pepper. “It will be a real asset here.”

One concern raised by Council member Amy Jackson is the impact the new development could have on the area’s school system. Jackson said it was an issue the City Council would have to be mindful of as more developments start to fill out Eisenhower Avenue.

“I see this is zoned for Tucker and hammond, and then Alexandria Public High School,” Jackson said. “As we move forward and build on Eisenhower, I hope we’re taking into consideration that while much of the units provided may be smaller, two-bedroom units, that there may be children living here: not just singles or early unmarried couples.”

The staff report estimated an average of 17 new children added to the school system by the new development — fairly low figures staff said is consistent with the type of development being proposed. Jackson supported the new development, but said it was an issue the city should keep an eye on.

“I’m concerned about over-enrollment and not having school capacity needed to support density,” Jackson said.

No affordable housing is planned for the site, but the developer will contribute $1.2 million as part of a proffer.

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What an eventful week in Alexandria.

Thursday, March 11, marked the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic in Alexandria. As the vaccine rollout slowly improves, the most recent news is the allowance of restaurant workers to get the vaccine. Just over 38,000 doses have been administered in the city, and of that 14,661 residents have been fully vaccinated. The city also wants 80% of residents vaccinated by July 31.

Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne also announced that he will not seek reelection this fall, bringing an end to his 43-year law enforcement career. Lawhorne’s protege Sean Casey is now running for the seat in the June 8 Democratic primary.

Criticism against the proposed renovation of the Taylor Run Stream continued this week, and even City Councilwoman Amy Jackson has decided to join residents in opposition.

More than 220 people participated in our poll this week on school resource officers. More than half of respondents said that ACPS should hire more SROs, 30% said the program should be eliminated and 11% believe SROs should only work part time.

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

Our top stories this week:

  1. Inova to Launch New Vaccine Clinic Inside Revamped Victory Center
  2. Battle Royale: Princess Street Development Duel Returns to City This Month
  3. Just In: Captain Sean Casey is Running for Alexandria Sheriff
  4. Alexandria Police Arrest Seven People and Seize Drugs, Guns and Cash
  5. Development Questions Remain for New Braddock West Project Headed to City Council
  6. City Could Help Turn Hotels Emptied by Coronavirus Into Affordable Housing
  7. Just Listed in Alexandria
  8. Do You Like the Suggested Names for T.C. Williams and Matthew Maury?
  9. A Year Late, Contractor Eyes Spring Completion for King Street Metro Access Improvement Project
  10. Superintendent Proposes New Names for T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary
  11. Councilwoman Amy Jackson Argues With School Board Over MacArthur Elementary Construction Schedule

Have a safe weekend!

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(Updated 3/2 at 1 p.m.) Local tech co-building space Building Momentum (5380 Eisenhower Avenue) is launching a series of after-school tech camps for Alexandria students.

The news comes as Alexandria City Public Schools readies to send students back into schools. Building Momentum, based out of small collection of businesses on the west end of Eisenhower avenue, will start with welding and electricity clubs tomorrow.

Classes will be available for all rising 6th through 12th graders.

“The program launches next month with spring sessions for middle school and high school-age students slated to begin March 2 and go through June 16,” the company said in a press release.

The release noted that the classes will be limited to nine students to comply with state restrictions, with masks and social distancing required.

“The classes were born with the intention to provide area students with hands-on learning experiences not always touched on in a traditional school setting,” Cecily Wynne, education associate with Building Momentum, said in the press release. “Innovation Academy sessions are geared specifically for kids and teach a variety of science and tech-based skills such as welding, coding, circuit making and many other engineering methods all within a safe, socially-distant environment.”

According to the release:

  • Spring Session: After-school Welding Club, March 2-April 27: Welding Club features MIG welding, multiple team challenges, and personal projects over the course of 9 weeks. Cost: $330 including $25 non-refundable registration fee.
  • Spring Session: After-school Electronics Club, May 5 – June 16: Electronics Club features creating circuits, learning how to use Arduino, soldering, and a personal project over the course of 7 weeks. Cost: $260 including $25 non-refundable registration fee.
  • Summer Session: Welding Week: Build Your Own Gravity Go Kart, July 5 – August 27: Welding Week features MIG welding, the engineering design loop, teamwork, constructive criticism, and building in a 5-day week. The week wraps up with a design presentation and race between the gravity kart teams. Cost: $475/person, including $50 non-refundable registration fee.

The program will also have 10% discounts for military families.

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