Alexandria, VA

Morning Notes

Longtime Bishop Ireton Teacher Dies — “It is with sadness but also with great faith in our Lord that we share that Mr. Ron Umbeck, a beloved faculty member at Bishop Ireton for more than 50 years, passed away earlier this evening. He is now at peace in Heaven and we are sure that he met St. Peter with a math book, a crossword puzzle, an It’s Academic prep sheet and a Bishop Ireton pin. He loved this school, but more importantly, he loved his students and his Bishop Ireton family.” [Facebook]

Mayor Talks About Coronavirus on PBS — “My thanks to ⁦@AlexandriaVAGov⁩ Mayor ⁦@justindotnet⁩ for spending time with us to talk #Virginia re-opening, concerns about virus spread, and how he’s balancing the two. Our report, produced by ⁦@courtneyknorris, on ⁦@NewsHour⁩ tonight…” [Twitter]

NVTA Provides $195 Million to Duke Street, Richmond Highway Projects — “Two major roadway projects in the Alexandria region received funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. The Duke Street Transitway received $75 million, which completes its funding request.” [Alexandria Living]

Fairlington United Methodist Church Warns of Scammers — “Scammers are out in full this summer. Please either a) ignore emails like this or b) report it to your email provider. This is not Janine’s email address, nor does she sign her emails Rev Janine Howard (nor does she break all sorts of grammar rules…) [Facebook]

Photographer Helps Unemployed Residents With Headshots — “Alexandria photographer Sam Fatima wants to do his part to help turn things around. He has partnered with Headshot Booker and Brookfield Properties for a new initiative aimed at helping the unemployed have a fresh start.” [Zebra]

Virtual Pub Craw Starts Wednesday — “In 2020 the 7th Annual Port City Old Town Pub Crawl is going virtual! Throughout July join Port City and our friends in Old Town as we celebrate good food and beer all month long.” [Facebook]

DASH Installing Digital Displays — “We’re busy installing new digital displays that show bus arrival info and alerts. We’ve installed more than 30 so far.” [Facebook]

New Job: Server — “Chadwicks Restaurant is currently looking to fill FULL- and PART-TIME server positions. Must be honest, hardworking, and capable of working well with others. Experience not a priority.” [Indeed]

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As The Waypoint at Fairlington moves forward, some old traffic concerns and misconceptions about the project have resurfaced.

The Waypoint, and 81-unit affordable housing development at Fairlington Presbyterian Church (3846 King Street) was approved in 2018, but old criticisms of the project’s added density flooded the comment sections when the city applied for federal funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development HOME Investment Partnerships.

Some nearby communities are supportive of the project. The Fairlington Citizens Association, which represents roughly 7,500 residents near the project, was generally supportive of the project.

“While the FCA Board takes no position on the specific design of the pending proposal — though we have heard no complaints about it from any of our residents — we believe it aligns well with the church’s history and mission,” the FCA said in a statement to city staff. “The FCA also supports the effort to provide affordable housing, which is essential to the sustainable growth of our community, and believes that the proposal would make an important contribution to expanding affordable housing in this part of Alexandria.”

Others like Carter Flemming, president of the Seminary Hill Association, which represents many of the neighbors nearest to the church, said the lingering discontent is a result of residents both feeling like they were ignored during the civic process and a general fear that the project will only exacerbate problems at the intersection of Van Dorn Street and Menokin Drive.

“It’s a tricky intersection at best,” Flemming said. “Adding this many cars coming out from a garage, people are concerned about that.”

A traffic study by contractor Wells and Associates looked specifically at that intersection, and found that traffic levels were within acceptable parameters, although there were some delays at the site.

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The Fairlington Presbyterian Church is another step closer to building an affordable housing complex in its parking lot.

City officials announced Thursday they will submit a request early next month for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development HOME Investment Partnerships funds for The Waypoint at Fairlington — a four-story, 51,000-square-foot development at 3846 King Street.

The church has been considering development proposals on the property since 2016. The City Council approved the project in 2018.

City officials said the project would not have a “significant impact on the human environment.”

The affordable multi-family building will accommodate residents making between 40%-60% of the area median income. The building is planned for 81 rental units, including three efficiencies, 12 one-bedroom apartments, 49 two-bedroom apartments and 17 three-bedroom apartments.

Council previously approved a $7.65 million subordinate loan for the project, in addition to funding nine project-based rental assistance vouchers. Developer Wesley Housing, which is partnering with the church on the project, also received low-income housing tax credits from the Virginia Housing Development Authority last year.

Alexandria is currently experiencing an affordable housing crisis, and the city has pledged to produce or develop 2,000 affordable housing units by 2025. The city has also agreed to produce an additional 1,950 units by 2030 in order to meet its regional housing goal set by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, which aims for the region to produce 320,000 affordable housing units.

Construction is planned to begin in late summer.

The Notice of Intent Request for Release of Funds and the Notice of Finding of No Significant Impact for the Waypoint at…

Posted by Office of Housing, City of Alexandria, VA on Thursday, April 16, 2020

Images via Wesley Housing

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After 33 years, birding and nature store One Good Tern (1710 Fern Street) near Fairlington is closing as longtime owner Charles Studholme faces a grim kidney failure diagnosis.

“It’s doctor’s orders,” Studholme explained, then with a chuckle. “Well, the doctor’s orders were to stop three years ago.”

Studholme said the plan is to close the store “when the inventory runs out.” Initial plans were to do so by the end of October, but he said that will likely run into November with closure before the end of next month.

Virtually everything in the store outside of bird feed is marked with an at least 25 percent discount. The walls are lined with birdwatching paraphernalia, from telescopes clocking in at several hundred dollars to bird-themed socks and earrings at $10.

But One Good Tern is more than a store. Like a busy bird feeder, customers come and go, chatting and chirping at each other. As the store comes into its final stretch, there’s a constant flow of people in and out. It’s a gathering place for a niche community, with Studholme at its heart.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do once he goes,” one customer said.

Studholme didn’t found the store — a man named Mark Farmer founded it in 1986. Studholme started working there part-time in 1999 and two years later, bought it from the woman who’d replaced Farmer. Studholme, who’d previously worked in other retail jobs, described himself as a shopkeeper through-and-through who has had a longtime passion for birds.

He was born in Massachusetts and his father worked in fish and wildlife. Studholme recalled that all of his father’s friends also worked in that field and talk of nature filled his house. One friend went on a walk on the beach with Studholme when he was five and while most adults tended to ignore children, she talked to him and really listened to his questions.

“I knew about birds, but that was really the extent of my five-year-old knowledge,” he said. “She pointed to the sanderlings running down to the water’s edge and coming back to avoid getting wet, and it really anthropomorphized them. I found out later that was Rachel Carson, who wrote Silent Spring and ignited the eco-movement in America.”

Studholme said that beach walk with Carson helped to shape his passion for birds and nature, though he didn’t it until later. But since then, Studholme has passed that passion for nature onto visitors to the store. It’s mostly birds, but customers come into the store and ask Studholme about things like hibernation patterns of chipmunks and other nature questions.

“I was able to feed the robins the cranberries like you suggested,” a customer told him.

“He’s got all the knowledge,” another said.

One customer came in to ask whether he should take a position in a rare-bird focused organization.

“It’s a thankless job,” Studholme said, “but when has that ever stopped you? You worked at the Pentagon.”

Studholme doesn’t hide from his customers that he’s facing the end stage of kidney failure. A transplant could extend his life for ten years, and he said he’s keeping his options open, but Studholme said many of the treatments involve a great deal of pain and his preference would be to spend his final years in comfort.

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As Alexandria struggles with affordable daycare, a new facility is in the works near the Fairlington neighborhood.

A special use permit has been filed for Our First Step Daycare Center, a new daycare center planned for 2500 N. Van Dorn Street. The facility is planned by Liz Villa, who currently runs Little Rising Stars Daycare Center in Falls Church.

No pricing has been established for the Alexandria location, but Villa said the Falls Church facility charges $350 per week, which includes meals, sign language and Zumba classes.

Villa said the Alexandria facility will offer a bilingual program with a play-based curriculum. The program, she said, will be more structured than the Falls Church one, requiring a prepared and credentialed staff.

“I see there are a lot of schools around here that focus on one method of teaching, but not every kid learns the same way,” Villa said. “We have to be open to different learning styles.”

Villa said she started running the daycare program as an in-home facility to care for two of her own kids. Now with her oldest child aging out of the Falls Church program age range, Villa said the program in Alexandria will aim at a pre-school level.

“One thing I’ve learned is about being sympathetic to the parents,” Villa said. “I’ve never experienced dropping off my children at a center with strangers, so throughout the years, I’ve learned to be sympathetic to that.”

Our First Step Daycare Center is planned to have a capacity of 50 children, but Villa said she doesn’t expect to build to that until a few years down the road.

Next month, Villa said the proposed daycare will be going to the City Council to secure the permit.

Photo courtesy Liz Villa

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