Alexandria, VA

Hundreds of captivated Alexandrians watched a T-Rex scream on the big screen on Eisenhower Avenue on Saturday night, as a sold-out viewing of Jurassic Park kicked off the first show of the Alexandria Drive-In Theatre.

“We are over the moon,” Kelly Grant, Chief Operating Officer for ALX Community, told ALXnow on Saturday night. “The movie is playing, we’ve got over 215 cars all going and the food trucks are running.”

Sadly, all of the next five shows in the theatre’s first season are sold out. Next weekend is Back to the Future, followed a week after that by Trolls, then Field of Dreams, ET and Mamma Mia. The shows are held in the parking lot of the Victory Center at 5001 Eisenhower Avenue and food truck deliveries from Curbside Kitchen were made by couriers from Pedego Electric Bikes.

Grant said there is a waitlist of 600 people signed up for future shows. Proceeds (1,250 tickets sold at $30 apiece) will go to ACT for Alexandria and Athena Rapid Response.

“The funds are going to support everything from the racial equity work that we’re doing to COVID support work to the initiatives that we have right now to support arts organizations,” said ACT for Alexandria President and CEO Heather Peeler, who wants to see Black Panther next season in honor of its late star Chadwick Boseman.

Sally Tran watched the movie in the bed of her truck with her friends and family. The truck was outfitted with a mattress, cushions and blankets.

“I ordered tickets for every single weekend,” Tran said. “We got really lucky.”

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Just four days after announcing the launch of the Alexandria Drive-In Theatre, all six shows are sold out.

Now, with a waitlist of sponsors wanting to get involved, organizers are thinking about expanding the offerings, but only after they’ve ironed out the wrinkles from these first shows.

Kelly Grant, Chief Operating Officer for ALX Community, is managing the project and came up with the idea of offering safe entertainment for residents. She partnered with The Garden and will show a classic film every Saturday starting August 29 through the beginning of October in the parking lot of the Victory Center at 5001 Eisenhower Avenue.

“We what we wanted to really do is to be able to provide some safe family entertainment in a way that no one had to be concerned about their personal safety in the middle of a pandemic,” Grant told ALXnow. “We are thinking about expanding, but we want to do this right first.”

The proceeds of the shows (1,250 tickets sold at $30 apiece) will go to ACT for Alexandria and Athena Rapid Response.

Jurassic Park will start things off, followed by Back to the Future, Trolls, Field of Dreams, ET and Mamma Mia. Moviegoers will not be allowed to leave their cars, and food truck deliveries from Curbside Kitchen will be made by couriers from Pedego Electric Bikes.

Image via Alexandria Drive-In/Facebook

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An Alexandria climbing gym is surviving by its fingertips amid a slow recovery.

“We are talking about a year of survival,” said Sportrock spokesperson Sean Taft-Morales, “not a year of thriving.”

Sportrock is a climbing gym that boasts the tallest indoor rock climbing surface in the Mid-Atlantic. The gym has been located in the city since 1996 and has been part of a small enclave of western Eisenhower businesses that had been thriving before the pandemic.

The gym closed voluntarily before the governor’s order, with Taft-Morales saying the gym’s leadership felt it was unsafe to remain open. The gym was fortunate enough to not have to lay anyone off through the shutdown, but the slow recovery did lead to the first layoffs last month.

The gym’s survival this far has been owed largely to their community, Taft-Morales said.

“We’ve always been a very community focused gym, that’s one of the pillars of our model,” he said. “We’ve been here since the 90s, we’re not new, and it’s still locally owned and operated. Our connection with membership… that really came through for us. Not to the extent that we’re not feeling the financial effects, but had a number of members keep their memberships active through the pandemic and that helped.”

The gym reopened about a month and a half ago, but with heavy restrictions. The plan was, Taft-Morales said, to reopen more gradually over the summer, but those plans seem to have been overly optimistic as the city, and state, have remained at the same level of reopening.

“It’s a huge space,” Taft-Morales said. “According to regulations, we could have something like 350 people in the space. They’re just doing a percentage of your occupancy, which just seems totally nuts. We’re doing voluntary cap of 75 customers at a time.” Read More

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Alexandria Police are investigating the intentional burning of a truck in the city’s impound lot (5249 Eisenhower Avenue) on July 30.

An Arlington County police officer witnessed the burning of a black four-seat Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck and reported seeing a person jump into a getaway vehicle. Investigators later found that the Silverado had no tags and the VIN plate on the dashboard “appeared to have been removed,” notes a search warrant affidavit.

“The pickup truck sustained heavy fire damage to the passenger compartment,” the affidavit said. “A law enforcement officer witness on scene described hearing a loud whoosh sound and described the fire as immediately engulfing the entire vehicle. The officer then saw a person near the burning vehicle get into the passenger side of another vehicle, which then left the scene at a high rate of speed.”

A suspect description is not available.

According to the city, the impound lot processes about 3,000 vehicles every year. It is located near the Van Dorn Metro station, a number of businesses and apartments.

Map via Google Maps

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Want some entertainment away from home? Local business owners from ALX Community and The Garden are launching the Alexandria Drive-In Theatre, and starting August 29, one of six classic films will run every Saturday through the beginning of October in the parking lot of the Victory Center on Eisenhower Avenue.

The parking lot can hold up to 215 cars per screening, and the movies are:

  • Jurassic Park, Saturday, August 29
  • Back to the Future, Saturday, September 5
  • Trolls, Saturday, September 12
  • Field of Dreams, September 19
  • ET, September 26
  • Mamma Mia, October 3

“Our fall series of movies will hopefully lighten your heart and any worries you have while you and your neighbors enjoy a few hours together, apart,” said Kelly Grant, Chief Operating Officer for the ALX Community coworking office.

Tickets will cost $30 per car, and proceeds will go to ACT for Alexandria and Athena Rapid Response. Face masks will be required for patrons who leave their cars. The gates will open at 7:30 p.m. and the movies will start an hour later.

There will also be food trucks from Curbside Kitchen at the property, which was purchased by Stonebridge earlier this year. Vendors include The Chewish Deli, Gemma Gelato, Capital Chicken & Waffles and Bangkok House Food Truck.

“I love movies,” said Allen Brooks, Chief Operating Officer of The Garden. “During this pandemic, we want to be able to bring an opportunity to gather again and experience the joy of watching some of the classics and contemporary favorites.”

ALXnow first reported the rumblings of the drive-in theatre last month in our interview with critic Arch Campbell

Image via Alexandria Drive-In/Facebook

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Developer Monday Properties announced last week that tech company Johnson Controls will be moving into the company’s Cameron Run office park.

Johnson Controls is an Ireland-based company that produces fire, HVAC and security equipment. The building is currently home to Tyco Integrated Security — which Johnson Controls merged with in 2018 — Michael Baker and Savi Technology.

The Cameron Run office is a 145,244 square foot building nestled in the Eisenhower Corridor at 3601 Eisenhower Avenue. Monday Properties said on Instagram that Johnson Controls will occupy 28,000 square feet of the building.

It could prove a prudent move, with extensive future redevelopment planned for the area along Eisenhower Avenue around Cameron Run.

Photo via Google Maps
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Alexandria Police are investigating a series of smash-and-grab burglaries at seven businesses in the West End and along Eisenhower Avenue.

Assistant Police Chief Don Hayes did not say what was stolen would not comment as to whether the city is experiencing a crime spree.

The incidents occurred on the following dates and at these locations:

  • June 24 — 4603 Duke Street, Samurai Hibachi and Sushi Bar
  • June 24 — 4545 Duke Street, Hong Kong Express
  • June 24 — 2281 Eisenhower Avenue, Uptown Market and Cafe
  • June 24 — 2111 Eisenhower Avenue, Cafe Old Town
  • July 22 — 506 S Van Dorn Street, Thai Lemongrass
  • July 22 — 4603 Eisenhower Avenue, McCormick Paints
  • July 22 — 506 S Van Dorn D Street, another business in the shopping center

Although the multiple crime events were similar in nature and occurred on two separate days, Hayes would not comment as to whether the incidents are linked and said he would not discuss the facts of an ongoing investigation.

In April, a man was arrested for a crime spree after four gas stations in Del Ray and Old Town were broken into in a similar fashion and more than $45,000 worth of items was taken.

Staff photo by Vernon Miles

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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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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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Morning Notes

Hard Times Café Founder Passes Away — “Sad news. @HardTimesFun founder Fred Parker passed away last night. He was a very special friend and an icon in #AlexandriaVA. Thank you Fred for so many memories. You will never be forgotten #RIP” [Twitter]

Birchmere Joins Group to Lobby Congress for Coronavirus Relief — “With large gatherings forbidden throughout the country, the live music industry has ground to a halt, closing revenue streams and putting things like rent and payroll payments in jeopardy. More than 450 venues across the U.S. are banding together under the new group called the National Independent Venue Association to present one voice to lawmakers.”  [Washington Business Journal]

Potomac Coffee Donates to Carpenter’s Shelter — “Thank you, Potomac Coffee, for your incredibly generous donation of 200lbs of VERY aromatic coffee! As one of the many local businesses hard hit by the pandemic, we appreciate your giving spirit during these tough times!” [Facebook]

Presbyterian Cemetery Closes — “Thank you all for your comments. The cemetery tried to keep open after the city closed all parks and dog parks, but we were completely overwhelmed. Over the past four weeks we had people driving in from DC, MD and other parts of Virginia to exercise their dogs. Not only were we overrun, but people were not following the rules, were belligerent and at times threatening to staff. That and numerous other issues gave us no choice except to lock the gates and keep everyone out. Since this is the first time in years we are closed, the cemetery will tackle some much needed maintenance issues and needed enhancements and hope to open again once the COVID-19 crisis passes. We hope everyone understands and know that we appreciate your support.” [Facebook]

‘The Old Town Shop’ is Selling Disposable Face Masks — “The Old Town Shop carries DISPOSABLE FACE MASKS: 2 masks to a pack, and $5 per pack. The BFE 95 triple layer protective masks have a waterproof outer layer and a breathable inner layer. The 3D tensile design fully fits an adult face. Material is non-woven fabric with a flexible plastic nose bridge and elastic ear covers.” [squaremktg.com]

Video: Alexandria Firefighter Recruits Train in Smokehouse — “A pandemic doesn’t stop other emergencies from happening. The AFD Training Division continues to prepare our new members to respond to the call.” [Facebook]

Sheriff’s Office Talks With ACPS Third Graders — “With Alexandria City Public Schools closed, we’re finding new ways to stay connected with students. Today [April 24] Lieutenant Sean Casey and Deputy Morgan Garner joined Mr. Holland’s third graders for their lunch bunch via Zoom. They discussed online safety and did a fun demonstration showing the importance of proper hand washing.” [Facebook]

Riverside Gardens Families Play Dress-up — “It became something to look forward to. We’d all wonder, what will the Ferrys do tonight? For five nights we had ‘must-see Facebook!'” [Zebra]

Alexandrians Pitch ‘Burro’ Gardening Tools on Shark Tank — “Mollie Thorsen and her father, Bob, have come a long way with their innovative gardening tool, the original Little Burro.” [Alexandria Living]

City Sets Up Yard Waste Collection Site on Eisenhower Avenue — “The new facility will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays. You must show an ID with a City of Alexandria address.” [Alexandria Living]

Today is a Teacher Work Day for ACPS — “REMINDER: Monday, April 27 is a Teacher Work Day. Enjoy your weekend!” [Facebook]

Carol and Ryan Bailey Named Alexandria Living Legends — “Carol says she has spent her life paving the way for Ryan. She and her family still live in the house her grandfather bought in Del Ray in 1900. It has a historical marker on the front column and a sign in the front yard that says, ‘Spread Kindness, Build Community.'” [Gazette]

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Morning Notes

Victory Center Property Sold to Townhouse Developer — “Winchester Homes plans to build 138 townhouses ranging from 1,700 SF to 2,600 SF on the site. Winchester has built over 20,000 residential units across the Mid-Atlantic, including six communities that have opened in the last year. The deal comes after the Alexandria City Council in May approved a rezoning of the site’s 7-acre eastern parking lot that allows for a mix of uses. Two weeks later, Stonebridge acquired the property from PGIM Real Estate for $43M.” [Bisnow]

Alexandria Woman Arrested for Breaking Quarantine in Hawaii — “Kauai police arrested 31-year-old Desiree Marvin of Alexandria and 36-year-old Hawaii resident Adam Schwarze after they ignored orders to immediately self-quarantine.” [Alex Times]

Burke & Herbert Bank Responds to Limit on PPP Loans — “The Bank also has many applications in various stages of completion that had not yet been entered into the SBA system. While the SBA no longer is allowing us to submit applications to them at this time, we believe that it is in our customers’ best interest to continue finalizing these applications, collecting all required information and documentation, and readying them for immediate entry should new funding become available. Please continue to work with your banker to ensure that we have a complete application package ready for your business.” [Burke & Herbert]

Polk Elementary School Student Pens Inspiring Message — “This virus spreads. So can kindness. We’re in this together!” [Facebook]

Cheesetique Thanks Delivery Driver — “This is why it’s no exaggeration when I say that Malcom’s arrival is heralded with shouts, cheers, and sighs of relief from my team. And he’s out there EVERY DAY. He’s doing the heavy lifting to ensure that folks like us can take things the last 10 feet. Thank you to all of those ‘behind-the-scenes’ heroes who keep our businesses running. Thank you, Malcolm, for being there… with our cucumbers.” [Facebook]

Amtrak PD Officer Provides Pizza for Alexandria Police — “Ofc. Cameron Dux (AmtrakPD) is on a crusade to thank police officers during the pandemic. He delivered Valentino’s Pizza to our agency.” [Twitter]

RunningBrooke Launches Move2Learn-At-Home — “In an effort to make these as widely-accessible as possible, RunningBrooke videos can be viewed on ACPS-TV, RunningBrooke’s YouTube channel, multi-“classroom” Zoom fitness sessions, the RunningBrooke website and on social media platforms.” [Alexandria Living]

Junction Bakery & Bistro Delivering Soon — “Check it out, folks — our new Junction Delivery is almost ready to launch! We bring it to you: groceries, breads & pastries, family meals, and beer & wine — and pssst … cocktails coming too . Cheaper than Uber Eats!” [Facebook]

Carpenter’s Shelter Needs Food — “With the opening of the Safety Shelter at the Charles Houston Recreation Center, our food needs have expanded. We would like to thank our amazing community for jumping right in and helping to fulfill our needs within an incredibly short window. As of right now all of our meals are covered for the Safety Shelter through April 24th!” [Facebook]

Center For Alexandria’s Children Gets Face Mask Donation — “We received these cloth masks from Brooksie & Cas! Thank you so much for making and sending these to us. We are very grateful to you for helping to keep our team members safe. #StaySafe #StayHome #MasksForAll” [Facebook]

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The King Street Trolley runs from the King Street Metro down to the waterfront, but a section of the new Transit Vision Plan could extend that path down to the Eisenhower Metro station.

“The 2030 and 2022 Vision Plan Networks include the King Street Trolley with a potential extension from the King Street Metro to the Eisenhower Metro Station via the Carlyle and Eisenhower East districts,” the plan said. “This could provide a frequent connection directly between the large and dense activity center around Eisenhower Avenue Metro and Old Town.”

Proposed changes also include longer hours for the trolley. Currently, the trolley starts running at 10:30 or 11 a.m. on a 10-15 minute loop. The plan noted that this service means the trolley is not available for morning commuters, early shift workers, or others coming into Old Town before 10:30 a.m.

“The revised King Street Trolley also would operate with more traditional operating hours, including morning service,” the study said. “It should be noted, however, that due to the funding arrangement for the operation of the King Street Trolley, any potential changes to the trolley would require additional coordination and approval by City Council.”

The extension of the King Street Trolley is included in the longer-term goals for the project, with implementation planned by 2030.

The trolley is funded by hotel tax revenues from across the city, though the transit survey noted the current benefits are mostly confined to Old Town. The revised route would run through a neighborhood slated for extensive residential and commercial redevelopment.

“This raises an issue about the fairness of funding a free route in one part of the city that is paid for from hotel taxes across the entire city,” the study said. “[One option] would require fares on all routes, including the King Street Trolley. To offset the impact of this change on tourists and visitors, DASH could provide free passes to Visit Alexandria for all Alexandria hotels and other tourism entities.”

The plan does not make any recommendations for a fare policy.

The plan was adopted by the Alexandria Transit Company — which operates DASH and the King Street Trolley — in December. The Transit Vision Plan was presented to the City Council on Feb. 25 as an update. Implementation of the plan’s suggestions is scheduled to be considered next year as part of the Fiscal Year 2022 budget.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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