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Via Rebuilding Together DC-Alexandria/Facebook

A local nonprofit dedicated to helping people repair their homes in Alexandria just received a $200,000 sustainability grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation.

Rebuilding Together DC – Alexandria says that the funds will allow it to improve “climate resiliency for marginalized populations by addressing home improvements and energy-efficient retrofits.”

“This $200,000 sustainability grant from Wells Fargo will enable Rebuilding Together to advance housing affordability and racial equity in our underserved communities in Washington DC and Alexandria VA by providing sustainable housing upgrades,” said Katharine Dixon, President & CEO of Rebuilding DC – Alexandria. “We are excited to get started on new programs that directly address energy efficiency in the homes of our neediest clients.”

Last year, Wells Fargo donated $1.45 million to the nonprofit.

“Climate-friendly housing helps the environment and contributes to better community wellbeing, yet far too many households in the D.C. area have the least access to renewable energy,” said Victor Burrola, Vice President of Philanthropy & Community Impact for Washington, D.C. at Wells Fargo. “Through our support of Rebuilding Together, this important climate resiliency initiative aligns with our ongoing efforts to help individuals and families increase energy-efficiency, save money, and reduce their carbon footprint in their homes.”

RTDCA was founded in 1986, and is among the 130+ Rebuilding Together affiliates. The nonprofit has dedicated $8.8 million toward local revitalization efforts to homeowners in need, and more than 30,000 volunteers have donated their time and energy on more than 3,000 projects.

The nonprofit provides year-round repair services, but much of its effort is focused on National Rebuilding Day on April 27.

RTDCA said the funds will be used to create the following:

RTDCA will utilize Wells Fargo’s grant funds to create quality, sustainable home environments and reduce potential negative health impacts. The expanded holistic work will include improved energy-efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions in their income-qualifying clients’ homes. 

Such work may include whole house audits for each family/individual served and a combination of the following climate resiliency retrofits:

  1. Insulated doors/windows
  2. Efficient/electric HVAC/hot water units
  3. Algae-based air filters/purifiers
  4. Ventilation (including fireplaces)
  5. LEDs, light sensors
  6. Energy Star appliances
  7. Sealing/insulation of attics/ducts/holes
  8. Weatherization
  9. Smart/programmable thermostat
  10. Gas stove to electric and/or battery/induction conversion
  11. Low-flow toilet/showerheads
  12. Cellular shades, ceiling fans
  13. Smart power strips
  14. Planting of shade trees, drought resistant plants, indoor plants
  15. Funds will likely also be used for some community revitalization projects such as tree plantings, to increase and improve community health and neighborhood pride.

Via RTDCA/Facebook

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Rendering of center-running bus lanes on Duke Street (image via City of Alexandria)

Alexandria’s bus rapid transit (BRT) ambitions for Duke Street are getting a federal boost.

The Federal Transit Administration announced that Alexandria will receive $550,000 in grant funding for transit-oriented development planning on the Duke Street corridor.

Last year, the City of Alexandria voted to move forward with dedicated bus lanes on portions of Duke Street, part of an effort to make the material roadway more transit-friendly.

According to the grant:

The city of Alexandria will receive funding to plan for TOD along the proposed Duke Street Bus Rapid Transit corridor. The planned BRT corridor will provide transit access along an approximate 3.7-mile stretch of Duke Street, connect two ends of the City from the planned West End (former Landmark Mall) mixed-use development to the King Street Metrorail Station and Alexandria Union Station, which will connect Duke Street to regional transit and commuter rail.

The project is estimated to cost a total $87 million. Construction is scheduled to start sometime in 2026.

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Police at shooting scene near 5563 Holmes Run Parkway (staff photo by James Cullum)

The Alexandria Police Department and Alexandria Commonwealth Attorney’s Office were recently awarded large grants to curb a skyrocketing surge in gun-related crime incidents in the city.

The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services recently awarded APD with a $250,000 grant for gun violence and prevention, and the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office with a $497,000 grant to prosecute gun-related crimes.

“(T)he two departments will use those funds to collaborate on targeted initiatives to more effectively support impacted areas of the community and prosecute firearm-related crime,” APD said in a news release.

The city’s gun-related crime incidents jumped 100% in 2022, and APD said that the city is committed to reversing the trend.

Much of that crime occurred on Beat 34 in the Edsall Road corridor, and APD said that it will contract with a program coordinator to help prevent “localized cycles of violence.”

According to APD:

APD will contract a Program Coordinator to provide strategic leadership for an interagency Work Group and serve as a liaison to the community focused on the department’s Beat 34, comprising an area of southwest Alexandria focused around the Edsall Road corridor which has seen a marked increase in crime from 2022 to 2023. In that time frame, Part I (violent and property) crime increased by 67% in Beat 34, while Part II crime (crimes against society and lesser property crimes) increased by 179%, far outpacing the rest of the city.

Installing a coordinator for the Beat 34 Work Group will also strengthen the ongoing collaboration between APD, the Sheriff’s Office, the City Manager’s Office, the Department of Community and Human Services, Code Administration, the Office of Housing, and Alexandria Public Schools. With all parties unified, resources can be strategically deployed to where they are most needed in the city to reduce gun violence. Through the establishment of sustainable processes, the new Program Coordinator will also set up the Beat 34 Work Group to continue to smoothly operate on its own, effectively supporting that section of Alexandria.

The funding was made available through DCJS’s Firearm Violence Intervention and Prevention Grant Program supporting Operation Bold Blue Line. The funds must be spent by Dec. 31, 2025, according to APD.

According to APD:

APD, the Commonwealth’s Attorney, and additional partners around the city are focused on putting this new funding toward tackling this public safety threat from all angles: prevention on the front end, and then collaboratively prosecuting to ensure that criminals are held accountable.

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Friends of Guest House just won a $2 million grant (via Instagram)

An Alexandria nonprofit recently announced that it has been awarded a $2 million grant from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott’s Yield Giving Fund.

The $2 million grant for Friends of Guest House is a lifesaver, executive director Sonja Allen said in a statement. Allen said that the funds won’t solve all of the nonprofit’s challenges, but that it will make a difference in helping women reenter society after incarceration.

“This transformative grant from Mackenzie Scott’s Yield Giving is a testament to the dedication and impact of our organization over the past five decades,” Allen said. “We are deeply grateful for this extraordinary gesture of support that will enable us to strengthen our programs, reach more women in need, and create lasting positive change in our community.”

Friends of Guest House is one of 361 nonprofits that were awarded funds, out of more than 6,300 applicants, after the open call for community led and focused organizations was announced.

“While we are immensely joyful for this generous grant, our work is far from over,” Allen said. “This grant will not solve the problem of the lack of resources and grace available to our women as they reenter our community. But it is a lifesaver. To be blunt, this transformative gift came at the most opportune time to help make our mission more sustainable for the future.”

Scott is the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and recently made national headlines when she announced that she was giving away $640 million from her fortune to nonprofits.

via Instagram

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Sculpting at The Art League (image via The Art League/Facebook)

Alexandria’s Office of the Arts has opened grant applications to the Foundant! Annual Arts Programs.

The grants are designed to help local arts organizations, artists, and service providers, according to the application, with each application reviewed by a Grant Task Force.

The arts programs must occur between July 1, 2024, and June 30, 2025. The deadline to apply for a grant is March 29.

The grants require a 1:1 cash match from the artist or organization.

“Grants made through this category are up to $12,500 and shall not exceed 50% of total program budget,” the application said.

According to the release:

The Office of the Arts will conduct a series of webinars to assist interested applicants navigate the Foundant online grant management program and to prepare their grant applications. All applicants are required to attend one of the grant webinars. If applicants are not able to attend a webinar, they must set-up an appointment to receive one-on-one training.

Grant Webinars:

  • Thursday, February 8 at 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, February 13 at 5 p.m.
  • Thursday, February 15 at 2 p.m.
  • Tuesday, February 20 at 4 p.m.
  • Wednesday, February 21 at 1 p.m.

To request a webinar link, email [email protected].  With the request, state the date and time of the webinar you wish to attend along with the name and email address for the person who will be attending.

Photo via The Art League/Facebook

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A DASH bus in Old Town Alexandria (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Alexandria’s DASH bus system is seeking state funding for a project to add new information screens inside the city’s buses.

A pilot program would install information screens that would help show things like upcoming stops, transfer connections, service alerts and more.

According to a grant application for $200,000:

This pilot would allow DASH to install two information screens onboard up to 10 buses that would display upcoming bus stops, transfer connections, service alerts, advertisements, and other customer outreach information. These infotainment screens would enhance overall accessibility and ease of use for DASH riders. DASH would be one of the first transit agencies in the state to install such screens on their buses and could install the screens on all buses going forward if the pilot is successful.

The project would require a 20% match from the city with an estimate that supporting the new screens would cost an additional $10,000-$15,000 annually.

Another $100,000 grant application would provide funding for new camera systems on buses to help bus operators see people or objects in blind spots created by the two front pillars on the bus.

“The screens would be mounted on the pillars to effectively remove these dangerous blind spots for bus operators,” the application said. “This could greatly improve bus and pedestrian safety and would promote ongoing Vision Zero objectives.”

The biggest application, though, is for $37 million request for operating assistance for rising labor and fuel costs. According to the application:

Operating assistance to jurisdictions is allocated based on system size and system performance for both DASH and DOT paratransit. Operating costs have increased over the past few years due to labor and fuel costs. The amount the Commonwealth can provide in operating assistance varies annually but has typically been between 20% and 30%.

The grant applications are scheduled for review at a City Council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 23.

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Heidi DeuPree and Keith Harmon canoeing down Union Street in Old Town, Friday, October 29, 2021. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandrians who have been trying to flood-proof their homes should find it a little easier to get city funding.

Alexandria’s Flood Mitigation Grant Program received an update in October that makes it easier for property owners to access and boosts the amount of funding homeowners can receive. One of the big changes is that residents no longer have to show past flooding, meaning they can make precautionary improvements to homes that haven’t been hit with flooding before.

According to a release:

Effective October 24, 2023, the City of Alexandria updated the Flood Mitigation Grant Program to open eligibility to all property owners by removing the requirement to show past flooding. The Grant program was also updated to increase the maximum amount of the 50/50 matching funding for eligible flood mitigation measures on association common areas up to $25,000.

That $25,000 is a dramatic increase compared to the previous $5,000 matching grant for improvements to common areas.

According to the release:

The Virginia General Assembly modified Virginia Code to explicitly state that grant funding can be used by associations for flood mitigation projects, effective July 1, 2023. This increase in matching grant funding for association common areas is reasonable given that the cost of flood mitigation measures is typically much higher for common areas. Individual condominium owners may still apply for up to $5,000 of matching grant funding for their units.

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A DASH bus at Southern Towers (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

While the plan is to eventually create a new transit hub in the Landmark Mall redevelopment, the city is looking for grant funding to make the key transfer point more bearable in the near term.

The Transportation Commission is scheduled to vote on Wednesday, Oct. 18, to endorse a grant application to the Department of Rail and Public Transportation for up to $544,000.

A memo from Transportation and Environmental Service Deputy Director Hillary Orr said the hope is for funding to make improvements ahead of the new transit center, which isn’t scheduled to open until 2028.

“The City requests authority to apply for the new category of Passenger Amenities to provide shelters, benches, and real-time signage at the planned transit center in the West End development until a permanent structure is built,” Orr wrote. “Currently, this is a high ridership location and key transfer point with more than 500 boardings per day.”

Orr said the city was awarded $13 million in funding for the new transit center, but that construction funding won’t be available until FY26. While the full transit center won’t open until at least 2028, Orr noted that bus operations could begin using the area as a transfer point sometime in 2024.

“This funding would allow for proper amenities at a major transfer facility serving multiple local bus routes and two future bus rapid transit corridors until a permanent structure is constructed,” Orr wrote.

The temporary improvements would include 12 bus shelters and real-time signage. Once the transit hub is completed, the city said the temporary bus shelters can be relocated.

The total project cost is estimated at $800,000, with the City matching funding up to $256,000 if the grant is approved.

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Police investigating a shooting in the Andrew Adkins development (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria is pursuing a Federal grant to help hire more police officers for patrol and investigations units left understaffed by higher-priority investigations.

At a meeting tomorrow, the City Council is scheduled to vote on a grant application to the FY 2023 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program. The vote is largely ceremonial: retroactively approving a submission filed in August for up to $43,152 and allowing Alexandria’s City Manager to file all necessary documents.

Alexandria has been experiencing an uptick in violent crime in recent years with some areas, like the area near the Braddock Road Metro station, experiencing multiple shootings. The staff report said the hope is to use the funding to help hire police for other units, like patrol, for areas of the city where Part I crimes — murders, burglaries, etc. — are being committed.

According to the staff report:

Staff proposes to use the FY 2023 JAG funds to hire back officers to replace those temporarily assigned to investigate Part I crimes, including, but not limited to: robberies, larcenies, burglaries, weapon violations, and homicide response/investigations. The City most recently applied for and received JAG funding for this purpose in September 2021.

When needed, officers will be able to sign up to work on specific details targeting a specific area of the city where Part I crimes are occurring. Officers can also be selected from various units (i.e., patrol and investigations) that may work a task force or special detail and JAG funds are used to hire back officers with overtime pay to fill their normal assignments in patrol.

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A pair of grants totaling $38 million should help boost Alexandria’s electric bus fleet ambitions.

The City of Alexandria and the Alexandria Transit Company (DASH) have been awarded $24 million from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) in grants to expand its electric bus fleet and continue high-frequency bus service.

“The grant will be used to purchase 13 battery-electric buses and to install charging infrastructure at the City’s bus maintenance and storage facility,” the city said in a release. “The grant will also provide funding to upgrade the DASH facility with additional electrical capacity and to cover the cost of additional training and workforce development programs related to fleet electrification.”

DASH also received a $14 million grant from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission’s I-395 Commuter Choice Program.

“The funds will be used to maintain high frequency service levels on DASH Lines 35 and 36A/B through Fiscal Year 2025,” the release said. “DASH was also awarded funding to purchase two 60-foot articulated electric buses to increase capacity on Line 35, the busiest route in the entire DASH system.”

Converting Alexandria’s DASH bus system to an electric fleet is a long and often costly process. Earlier this year,  DASH General Manager Josh Baker said the city is still buying diesel buses because the funding wasn’t in place to buy electric buses.

“I think we can get to a place where electrification is part of good repair, but at the moment, that cost differential is not funded,” Baker said at the Transportation Commission.

Even $38 million burns pretty quickly with the considerable cost of electric buses. DASH officials said each electric bus costs $1.2 million while diesel buses cost $600,000, not to mention some of the infrastructure cost — though early indications are that electric buses may be less expensive to operate and maintain than diesel buses.

Still, Baker said the grant funding will help boost Alexandria along the path to getting more electric buses on the streets. The city’s goal is to have the entire DASH fixed-route fleet all-electric by 2037, which will require all new bus purchases starting in 2027 to have zero tailpipe emissions.

“The City is committed to reducing its environmental impact and improving air quality,” Baker said in the release. “The purchase of zero-emission buses is a major step forward in achieving these goals. The new buses will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality for all residents of Alexandria.”

Rep. Don Beyer put out a statement applauding the federal investment.

“The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is making our air cleaner, our region more connected, and our economy stronger,” Beyer said in a release. “These smart investments will help reduce emissions and create new jobs in Northern Virginia, throughout the region, and across the country. When we put our constituents and communities first, we can grow the middle class and rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure. This is the way.”

Photo via DASHbus/Facebook

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