Alexandria, VA

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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The Alexandria Drive-In Theatre is returning with 10 movies in March, including cult classics like Jurassic Park, The Princess Bride and Remember the Titans.

All proceeds go to Athena Rapid Response Innovation Lab and the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria.

“Since the launch last August, the Alexandria Drive-In has quickly become a community staple, providing families and households with a safe activity during such a difficult time,” said Allen Brooks, Alexandria Drive-In co-founder. “The nostalgia of drive-ins mixed with the desire to be around others safely is something special, and we’re happy to be able to bring the community back together while fundraising for the Athena Rapid Response Innovation Lab as well as the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria.”

Athena Rapid Response has taken the helm of the event from Kelly Grant, a partner at ALX Community. Under Grant, the effort raised more than $100,000 for Alexandria nonprofits.

“I have never been more inspired with this community coming together as we did with the Alexandria Drive-In,” said Grant. “With ALX Community opening its third location, we are excited that Athena Rapid Response is going to carry the torch and continue the Alexandria Drive In. Stay tuned for many new community based initiatives that ALX will pioneer in 2021.”

Each screening can hold 215 cars, and tickets cost $40 per car. The movies are screened in the Victory Center parking lot at 5001 Eisenhower Avenue.

The March Movie Lineup is below:

  • Friday, March 5, 7:00 p.m. — Jurassic Park
  • Saturday, March 6, 6:30 p.m. — The Princess Bride
  • Saturday, March 6, 9:30 p.m. — Black Panther
  • Friday, March 12, 7:00 p.m. — Back to the Future
  • Saturday, March 13, 6:30 p.m. — Despicable Me
  • Saturday, March 13, 9:30 p.m. — Karate Kid
  • Friday, March 19, 7:30 p.m. — Goonies
  • Saturday, March 20, 7:30 p.m. — Into the Spider Verse
  • Friday, March 26, 7:30 p.m. — Get Out
  • Saturday, March 27, 7:30 p.m. — Remember the Titans
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Alexandria’s Recreation, Parks, and Cultural Activities (RPCA) is planning an overhaul of recreational park on Eisenhower Avenue to add new sports fields and other amenities.

Joseph Hensley Park at 4194 Eisenhower Avenue — just west of the Animal Welfare League — is currently an open field mostly occupied by a central baseball diamond. The new design will feature two baseball diamonds and a soccer field with synthetic turf.

According to the project website:

The proposed design plan has a number of amendments to the endorsed 2014 Joseph Hensley Park Improvement Plan. The proposed design plan will maintain diamond and rectangular athletic uses on site and upgrade the facilities. The proposed design plan will address stormwater and site drainage issues, increase parking capacity, upgrade the sports lighting, upgrade the two natural turf diamond fields, convert the rectangular field to synthetic turf, and improve site circulation and ADA access. The project will replace the current restrooms, add a play space, add a second park shelter, and add a multi-use court/performance space.

The project will have a phased implementation, with the first phase including the lower baseball diamond and new parking, along with other stormwater and accessibility improvements, as well as replacement of the existing restrooms.

The project is scheduled to go to the Planning Commission for review on Tuesday, March 2.

Image via City of Alexandria

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(Updated 1/28) The Victory Center on Eisenhower has long stood over a vast, mostly empty parking lot at 4901 Eisenhower Avenue, but a proposal headed to city review in March could replace the eastern portion of that lot with 139 new townhouse condominiums.

The condominium project by Winchester Homes will pack the townhome units, some of them back-to-back, into a section of the Victory Center lot. The developer purchased the property last April and the property was subdivided by the city last year. Retail is anticipated for the southwestern portion of the lot.

The project is slated to have 214 parking spaces and 64 tandem spaces, requiring it to seek special city approval given the city’s requirement of 252 spaces.

The project is scheduled for review at the Planning Commission’s March 2 meeting.

Images via City of Alexandria

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Right at the heart of the Hoffman Center, near the National Science Foundation and the AMC theater, is a street that bears the unglamorous name Swamp Fox Road. Now, the real estate company is in the final stages of having the name changed to honor the Hoffman Company founder Hubert N. Hoffman, Jr.

The proposal to rename Swamp Fox Road to Hoffman Street is scheduled to go to the Planning Commission on Jan. 5, then to the City Council on Jan. 23.

The Hoffman Company claimed in the application that the new street would honor a man who spent his life working to develop and improve Eisenhower East.

Mr. Hubert N. Hoffman, Jr. (“Hoffman Jr.”), a life-long- Alexandria supporter, dedicated to his family business and put his resources into transforming Eisenhower East into the vibrant mixed-use area that now surrounds the Eisenhower Metro Station and Eisenhower Valley. In 1958, Hoffman Jr. purchased nearly 80 acres of land in the Eisenhower Valley (See Figure 3). At that time, this area of the City was largely unimproved and overlooked by the rest of Alexandria. This would soon change as Alexandria continued to grow in the latter half of the 20th century.

The federal government acquired a portion of Hoffman’s land in the early 1960’s for the new Capital Beltway. In 1966, the Hoffman Company was founded by Hoffman Jr. to implement his vision for the Eisenhower Valley. Soon after in 1966, the Holiday Inn was constructed and opened for guests. In 1968, the Hoffman Company built Hoffman Building 1 and, in 1971, the company built Hoffman Building 2. The construction of these two commercial buildings and subsequent lease to the federal government was a major [economic] development success for the City of Alexandria. The Department of Defense was the original tenant of both buildings.

There is little remaining evidence to what “Swamp Fox” originally commemorated. Pre-development, the area was largely marshlands flowing down to nearby Hunting Creek — one theory of the street’s name. Another is that it celebrates Francis Marion, a leader in the Revolutionary War nicknamed Swamp Fox (and largely fictionalized for the 2000 film The Patriot).

According to the staff report:

Aside from this explanation, the origin is unknown although the Office of Historic Alexandria finds that it could be a reference to Francis Marion, a South Carolinian Revolutionary War officer nicknamed the “Swamp Fox”. As noted in an article from the Smithsonian Magazine, “Francis Marion was a man of his times: he owned slaves, and he fought in a brutal campaign against the Cherokee Indians.”

The report noted that the Naming Commission was unanimously in favor of changing the name.

Map via Google Maps

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