Alexandria, VA

Looking for a grocer to suit your dry goods needs in Old Town? Mason & Greens will be opening its doors at 913 King Street this spring, but there’s a couple of catches — the store won’t accept cash and in the interest of sustainability you’ll have to bring your own bags and jars.

“We are living in a time where we can no longer kick the can down the road about taking care of our planet,” notes the Mason & Greens website. “Mason & Greens brings the community of Alexandria and its surrounding areas the ability to shop sans plastic. Sans disposable bags. Sans unnecessary waste. And knowing that your buying power is going to support companies who care about reducing waste we can start to combat the frivolous throw-away culture that has crept in all around us.

Just what exactly will Mason & Greens sell? That is still being ironed out, and the business is described on its Instagram account as a “boutique shop selling not so common goods that are oh so good for the planet.” It also touts itself as the D.C. area’s “first bulk
and zero waste shop.”

The store will be located in a 2,300-square-foot Victorian town house, which was built in 1888 on land that was once owned by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Anthony Charles Cazenove. It’s situated between The Majestic restaurant and Misha’s Coffeehouse.

Photo (top) via Mason & Greens/Instagram, (bottom) via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Lead in Soil Near Oronoco Bay Park — “Research for the Combined Sewer Overflow remediation project uncovered a mysterious cache of lead along the waterfront… It was during exploration at CSO-001, the outfall near Oronoco Bay Park, that RiverRenew came across the lead… RiverRenew is taking extra precautions to remove the impacted soil.” [Alexandria Times]

T.C. Teacher Goes Extra Mile — T.C. Williams 11th grade English teacher Corrina Reamer, who teaches immigrant and international students with limited English proficiency, has raised money for a library of 1,000 books “so her students would learn to love reading.” [Washington Post]

Mag Lists Alexandria Traffic Concerns — “In the past month, we asked Alexandria residents to answer this question: ‘What is your biggest concern about transportation and/or commuting in the Alexandria area, and what do you think should be done to make it better?’ Here are the responses we received.” [Alexandria Living]

Local Robotics Team Advances to State Tourney — “The St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School Upper School robotics team Thunderstone advances to states! They competed January 11-12 at the Salem Qualifier and finished the day as the top-ranked team and captained the winning alliance.” [Zebra]

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Morning Notes

New Environmental Academy in Alexandria — “‘It’s that time of year again – Academy Time and there is a brand new Academy this Spring, the Eco-City Academy (promoting sustainability in the City), bringing the total to seven academies,’ exclaims Elaine Scott, Senior Community Liaison in the City’s Office of Communications and Public Relations.” [Zebra]

Seaport Foundation Looking to Expand — “The small, timber-frame building along Alexandria’s waterfront is noticeable — and it may be joined by another building as the Alexandria Seaport Foundation looks at expanding its space and services… The foundation wants to build a second waterfront building on the north side of the pier near their current location, allowing it to serve more youth and have space for larger projects.” [Alexandria Living]

Community Fire Academy Applications Open — “Apply to participate in our Spring 2020 Community Fire Academy program and get an inside look at how your fire department operates. Applications are now open through Friday, Jan. 31.” [City of Alexandria, Twitter]

Port City Hiring Local Sales Rep — “This is a unique opportunity to work for a dynamic, entrepreneurial company to maintain and expand our market presence to more locations in Northern Virginia. The Northern Virginia Territory Manager is responsible for sales of Port City Brewing Company’s products in Northern Virginia for on/off premise accounts. We have over 1000 existing accounts in the Northern Virginia area and with your help, will see this number grow exponentially.” [Brewbound]

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Taylor Run stream in pretty bad shape, but the City of Alexandria wants to revitalize it into a healthy stream rich with native vegetation.

“It’s in the design phase right now,” said Jesse Maines, division chief for Stormwater Management. Maines estimated the design was about halfway completed, but the department is still reaching out to local stakeholders and continuing internal discussions about the eventual design.

The stream starts near T.C. Williams High School and the Chinquapin Recreation Center, then runs parallel to King Street, eventually emptying into Cameron Run.

Maines said the stream has seen severe erosion over the years as new development has funneled ever-increasing amounts of stormwater through the ravine. There are places where the stream’s banks are a nearly 90-degree drop-off. Restoration of the stream will also help improve water quality to meet the Chesapeake Bay cleanup mandates, the city said on its website.

“We’re considering different kinds of techniques,” Maines said. “This isn’t your grandfather’s stream restoration. The main focus back in the day was just stabilizing everything, but now we [use] natural channel techniques. We want to use those techniques that allow vegetation to be established and hold the banks in.”

The new stream restoration efforts aim to make those banks gradual with native vegetation that slows the water and creates ecological stability. As a bonus, a slower stream with native vegetation could also help return more wildlife to the stream, starting with local macroinvertebrates — bugs, for the less scientifically inclined among us — that dwell in calmer pools of water.

Maines said the design for the project is estimated to be completed sometime around spring or summer this year, followed by a few months of paperwork and procurement, with construction activity starting late this year or the beginning of 2021. Once construction starts, Maines says it’s estimated to take about a year to complete.

After the work gets underway, Maines says the biggest impact the community is likely to see is more truck traffic along King Street near the high school. Construction hours are currently scheduled to be 7 a.m.-5 p.m. during the week, though that could change to 9 a.m. to minimize the impact of truck traffic on buses and other school traffic.

The total cost of the project is currently projected at $4.5 million, though this doesn’t include other features that could be incorporated during the design process. That funding is evenly split between a grant from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and matching funding from the city.

The City of Alexandria is scheduled to host a meeting discussing the Taylor Run Stream Restoration project next Thursday (Jan. 16) from 7:30-8:30 p.m. at Douglas MacArthur Elementary School. The meeting will include presentations from the Dept. of Project Implementation and Dept. Transportation and Environmental Services, the city said in a press release, with both departments available to field questions from the public.

Photos via City of Alexandria

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(Updated at 11:50 a.m.) Alexandria will no longer collect glass curbside for recycling, starting next year.

Starting Jan. 15, if you’re hoping to get your glass recycled rather than just tossed out with the trash, you’ll have to take it down to the purple bins at one of four facilities in southern Alexandria.

According to the city, glass recycling can be dropped off at:

Only glass bottles and jars — of any color — can be dropped off, though they have to be emptied and rinsed first. The change reflects the reality that single-stream recycling of glass is no longer feasible from an economic and environmental standpoint.

“Currently, glass collected for recycling by our contractors is ending up in landfills due to a variety of issues, including recycling contamination, rising recycling costs, and lack of a regional glass processing capacity,” the city said.

For residents who don’t want to take a trip to the big bins, glass should be tossed out in the trash starting Jan. 15.

After China stopped accepting some recyclable materials from the United States, the cost of recycling in the United States skyrocketed and left localities nationwide grappling with what to do with costly waste.

Alexandria is just the latest locality to ditch glass. Arlington County eliminated glass recycling in April, though like Alexandria several locations were designated as drop-off locations to be sent to Fairfax County, where the glass is crushed and used in road and other projects. Prior to the change, Arlington said, glass placed in curbside recycling bins was just being sorted and ultimately sent to landfills — not recycled.

According to the city website:

The City is actively monitoring the market for a viable option to recycle glass and working with our neighbors to propose and advocate for innovative solutions. While glass is still accepted in the blue recycling bin, the City has partnered with Fairfax County and established four drop-off centers to improve the recyclability of glass. Glass separated at these centers will be hauled to a processing plant in Fairfax County to be recycled into gravel and sand that can be used locally. These end products can be used in landscaping, construction projects, and even remanufactured into new glass items.

On Twitter, some residents were upset with the announcement from Mayor Justin Wilson last night, though the mayor pushed back on the assertion that Alexandria can do much to solve the larger glass recycling problem. Still, curbside glass collection could eventually be restored, Wilson said.

Photo via City of Alexandria

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Morning Notes

Work Starts on Potomac Yard Metro — “Monday afternoon workers prepared to clear brush and deliver fill for the new Potomac Yard Metro Station… Environmentalists are against the project because it calls for work in nearly 4-acres of wetlands north of Potomac Greens Drive and west of the George Washington Parkway. A permit was approved for the wetlands work on November 15.” [WJLA, Twitter/@ABC7TimBarber, Alexandria Times]

Crash on Telegraph Road — Alexandria police and firefighters responded to a potentially serious crash along Telegraph Road at Duke Street around noon on Monday. A driver, initially reported to be trapped and bleeding from the head, was rushed to a local hospital. [Twitter/@AlexandriaNow]

It’s Giving Tuesday — “Giving Tuesday started in 2012 to promote charitable giving during the Christmas season. Last year, approximately $400 million in donations was raised online in the U.S… Here are some nonprofits to support in Alexandria.” [Patch]

Nearby: Topgolf Closing Soon — “The first Topgolf in the United States will close in January. Dallas-based Topgolf will lay off the 198 employees of Topgolf Alexandria by Jan. 15, according to a Work Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) filed earlier this month.” [Washington Business Journal]

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The Four Mile Run Conservatory Foundation was announced as the recipient of a $10,000 grant from Dominion Energy to help local students learn about Four Mile Run — the creek that runs between Alexandria and Arlington.

The funding goes to the Nature Explorers and Restorer Project, which aims to help local elementary and middle school-age children in Arlandria and other surrounding communities, according to a press release.

“Exploring nature up close and improving things by hand, kids build a personal relationship to land, water, and community that makes them happier, healthier, and stronger in their environmental stewardship,” Four Mile Run Conservatory Foundation President Kurt Moser said in the press release. “Dominion’s support allows us to provide quality programming where kids make scientific observations, protect natural lands, and discover the miraculous urban ecosystem here at Four Mile Run.”

Participants in the program learn about various aspects of the local ecosystem and use scientific equipment to make observations and keep a journal. The grant will help pay for equipment like binoculars and microscopes, as well as the mud boots and gloves necessary for work in the muddy waters along Four Mile Run.

The Four Mile Run Conservatory is a non-profit established in 2016 to promote natural restoration and advocacy following years of work to return to the wetlands to their natural state.

“Since its founding, the Four Mile Run Conservatory Foundation has engaged more than 450 volunteers in over 3,000 hours of service at lower Four Mile Run, planting more than sixty trees, removing four tons of litter, and documenting over 165 species of flora and fauna,” the group said in the press release.

In August, the group led a series of kayak cleanups where volunteers in kayaks collected 155 pounds of trash, primarily plastic bottles.

A Fall Hawk Walk is planned on Sunday, Nov. 17, at 10 a.m. Guests are invited to bring binoculars and field guides to watch for migrating hawks and other avian residents of the park.

Photo courtesy Four Mile Run Conservatory Foundation

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A bridge spanning the last gap on the Alexandria side of the Four Mile Run Trail has been put into place, but the trail remains impassable for pedestrians.

“The bridge installation does complete the restoration project in this portion of the park,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities. “The installation is complete and its opening is pending final inspections. We anticipate it being open in two weeks.”

The trail starting at Mount Vernon Avenue currently dead-ends at an unnamed tributary with no connection to the other half of the trail, which runs to Route 1 and connects with Arlington and the Mount Vernon Trail.

The bridge was installed on Sept. 11, but orange construction barriers prevent access to the bridge on both sides of the trail.

The bridge is the final piece of a restoration project for Four Mile Run that started in 2006. The wetlands park officially opened in 2016 but work has continued since then on naturalizing the stream bank.

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Alexandria wants you to plant a tree.

Specifically, the city needs some help to get 40 percent of the city covered with trees by 2035, a goal expressed in the city’s Environmental Action Plan.

A native tree sale is underway through Wednesday, Oct. 30, to encourage residents to plant trees native to Alexandria in their yard. Trees for sale include:

  • Flowering Dogwood: $40
  • Black Oak: $35
  • Pitch Pine: $40
  • Tulip Poplar: $20
  • Chestnut Oak: $35
  • White Oak: $40
  • Black Gum: $40

For those without yards in which to plant, residents can also purchase a tree and have it planted at no cost on city property near their residence or at a local business, provided the site is approved by the city arborist.

Trees can either be purchased online or at the Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center (5750 Sanger Avenue).

The city is already close to its tree canopy goals, achieving 36 percent in 2016, according to the Environmental Action Plan.

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