Alexandria, VA

It was another week full of news in Alexandria. Here are the top headlines of the week.

Our top story was on the 34-year-old Arlington man charged with distributing methamphetamine after reporting to police that he was the victim of an armed robbery in his fifth floor room at the Embassy Suites in Old Town. The investigating officer asked if there was anything illegal in the man’s room, and he reportedly said, “There is some meth in the room, but it’s for personal use.”

In local restaurant news, two pizza businesses filed special use permits to operate in the city. Stracci Pizza wants to operate at former Nectar Coffee & Wine Bistro in Del Ray and &pizza wants to open near the Hoffman Town Center in Alexandria’s Carlyle neighborhood.

This week, we asked residents about a proposal for a new Waterfront Museum. Out of 207 votes, 37% think it would be great; 35% don’t think the city should go through with it; and 28% like the idea of the museum but that now is the wrong time to do it.

Important stories

Election stories

Top stories

  1. Alexandria Police find meth, thousands in cash in hotel robbery investigation
  2. Alexandria City Council unanimously adopts collective bargaining ordinance
  3. Mayor Justin Wilson says 2021 Democratic primary is about the future, not a rerun of 2018
  4. D.C. man arrested for pharmacy burglaries in Del Ray and West End
  5. Southern Towers residents nervous as landlord steps up eviction proceedings
  6. Stracci Pizza files special use permit to operate at former Nectar Coffee & Wine Bistro in Del Ray
  7. JUST IN: Alexandria Police investigate suspicious package in Carlyle
  8. Alexandria City Council approves creation of Community Policing Review Board
  9. Recently reduced properties in Alexandria
  10. Here’s the order that City Council candidates will appear on the ballot for the June 8 democratic primary
  11. ‘Dogs Of Del Ray’ mural to be finished next month

Have a safe weekend!

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A 34-year-old Arlington man was charged with distributing methamphetamine after reporting to police that he was the victim of an armed robbery in his fifth floor room at the Embassy Suites in Old Town.

On March 24, at around 7:15 a.m., Alexandria Police responded to a 911 call and met the suspect in the lobby. He told police that he’d just been robbed of money by a man with a knife in his room. He also said that a backpack belonging to a friend of his was stolen.

The officer asked if there was anything illegal in the room, and the suspect reportedly said, “There is some meth in the room, but it’s for personal use,” according to a police search warrant affidavit.

In the room, the officer found a clear bag, inside of which was a glass pipe. The officer asked the suspect what the pipe was for, and he reportedly said it was for smoking methamphetamine.

Later that day, officers searched the room and, in the safe, found 144 grams of suspected methamphetamine, marijuana and thousands of dollars. They also found digital scales, empty plastic bags and “numerous” syringes in a desk drawer, “one of which contained an unknown suspected narcotic liquid while the others appeared to be empty,” according to police.

The suspect was booked and released later that day on his own recognizance. The man suspected of robbing him at knifepoint was not arrested.

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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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What a busy week in Alexandria.

Our top story this week was on Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Old Town shop fibre space on March 3. It was Harris’ first official visit outside of the White House since she was inaugurated, and she spoke about the American Rescue Plan with shop owner Danielle Romanetti.

Alexandria City Public Schools reopened for hybrid instruction this week, the first time since all school facilities were shut down on March 13. The school system reportedly welcomed back 1,200 special needs students in kindergarten through fifth grade. ACPS will open on March 9 for special education students, and then fully reopen its doors to hybrid learning for students on March 16.

On the coronavirus front, the number  of deaths due to the virus has climbed to 123, and cases are at 10,404 since the first case was reported on March 11, 2020. Mayor Justin Wilson says the city is doing well keeping the numbers down, although with a vaccine waiting list exceeding 45,000 and 3,000 vaccine doses being given out weekly, distribution will continue to be slow.

More than 550 people responded to this week’s poll on the proposed new names for T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School. About 60% of respondents said they were happy with Alexandria High School, but not with Naomi Brooks Elementary School; 25% said they liked both names; 8% didn’t like either name; and 6% didn’t like the high school name and were happy with the elementary school name.

In case you missed them, here are some other important stories:

Here are our most-read posts this week:

  1. Just In: Vice President Visits Old Town Shop Fibre Space
  2. Alexandria Wants Feedback on Building Spray Park in Del Ray
  3. El Chapo’s Wife to be Isolated in Alexandria Jail for One Month Per COVID-19 Distancing Rules
  4. Consultant Proposes Replacing Community Shelter with Mixed-Use Development
  5. Alexandria Advocacy Facebook Group Parodied in New Blog
  6. Superintendent Proposes New Names for T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary
  7. Patrick Moran, Son of Former Congressman Jim Moran, is Running for City Council
  8. ACPS Reopens its Doors and Evaluating Grading System for Traumatized Students
  9. Man Arrested for High-Speed Vehicle Race on I-495
  10. Meronne Teklu Enters City Council Race
  11. Neighborhood Spotlight: Old Town is the New Town

Have a safe weekend!

Photo via Peter Velz/Twitter 

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Regional losses to tourism and the hotel industry could be an unexpected windfall for Alexandria’s ongoing efforts to find affordable housing.

During a presentation to the City Council last week, Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP) President and CEO Stephanie Landrum said that the city could look at streamlining some rezoning to help transform hotels emptied by COVID into affordable housing units.

“We’ve spent a lot of the time in the past talking about office conversion and talking about the economics of that,” Landrum told City Council. “We are going to add hotels to that list. Where does it make sense to encourage the conversion of an older, perhaps considered obsolete hotel, and helping us accomplish maybe some of our affordable or other housing goals — and at the same time investing and encouraging in new hotels in the right spaces?”

The proposal comes as the city balances affordable housing needs with some public reluctance on colocation. The School Board voted unanimously against co-locating affordable housing at the Minnie Howard Campus of Alexandria’s high school, and ACPS noted that the proposal sparked community backlash.

Earlier this week, an ACPS consultant proposed either adding affordable housing to a community shelter or moving the shelter entirely and using the site as a mixed-use development with an affordable housing component.

Meanwhile the city — and the region as a whole — have seen a dramatic drop-off in hotel occupancy and revenues. Mayor Justin Wilson noted in a social media post that hotel revenue fell from $1.1 million in July 2019 to around $200,000 in July 2020.

Landrum told ALXnow that AEDP is currently looking over some of those strategies and will come back to Council with a more detailed report.

“We’ll give them a look at our commercial corridors, like office and hotel uses,” Landrum said. “It might be that some hotels decide that travelers aren’t going to come back for a long enough time and maybe they are not approximate to a metro or have enough amenities. They might decide hanging onto the hotel doesn’t make sense and might pursue sale or conversion.”

These would likely be hotels off Eisenhower Avenue or in the West End that don’t have immediate access to central tourism areas, Landrum said, so it’s unlikely this would apply to any Old Town hotels.

The proposal saw some initial support on the City Council, though it will take more research over the next few months to see what the city could do to facilitate that sort of turnover.

“I think it would be interesting in terms of looking at options for future viability in some of those sites,” City Councilman John Chapman told ALXnow. “With the need of housing, coupled with the fact that some hotels might not survive — so what would you do with those buildings?

Chapman said he’d like to see some hotels used as commercial or residential space, though the city will have to work with the building owners to determine that.

“I wouldn’t want to close the door to affordable housing without hearing more about what is planned,” Chapman said. “I’m not trying to jump the gun on that, but I want to say that there’s interest. We’re interested in whatever that second life is [for some hotels], but I don’t know what that process entails and how we change it in a way that makes it fit.”

Chapman said the city should do more to look at other localities to see if any others have gone through similar procedures and gather some lessons learned.

“Is it something we see across the D.C. metro area as it relates to tourism and hotels in their next life?” Chapman said.

Landrum said the city has seen that with some office buildings, and, in rezoning, has had to determine whether case-by-case whether it was appropriate to allow those parcels to have other uses. This has happened a few times before for hotels, Landrum noted, including:

  • Washington Suites Alexandria (100 S. Reynolds Street) being converted to The Mark Apartments
  • Crowne Plaza Hotel mid-conversion by Carr Companies to Venue.
  • Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham (420 N. Van Dorn Street converted to Broadstone Van Dorn Apartments

The first two had to undergo a zoning review, while the Broadstone Van Dorn Apartments conversion was done by-right.

“As we’re looking at impact on the real estate market, I think we should be proactive and decide whether this is something we want to pursue,” Landrum said. “Affordable housing is a major priority.”

Landrum said the city would likely start with one hotel space and work in partnership with a local affordable housing nonprofit to test the idea.

The city’s role in this process, Landrum said, would likely be facilitating discussions between property owners and affordable housing developers and nonprofits.

“We would want to talk with nonprofit housing and say ‘you should take a look at this’ or talk with affordable housing developers,” Landrum said. “I don’t see a situation where we would, as the city, step in and try to acquire it ourselves. Our role is to make recovery easy to remove hurdles. We should take next month or two to see: Are there any hurdles? Is there a way for this to happen without having to go through a bureaucratic process?”

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Morning Notes

Beyer Introduces Legislation to Honor Slain Capitol Police Officer — “Officer Brian Sicknick was a hero who gave his life in service to his country. It is fitting that Congress honor his life, courage, and ideals. @RepBonnie and I just introduced bipartisan legislation to commemorate Officer Sicknick’s life and sacrifice.” [Twitter]

City Councilman John Taylor Chapman Running for Reelection — “John needs your help to appear on the ballot for the June 8 Democratic Primary for Alexandria City Council. Although we would love to have a traditional in-person event, we need to adapt for everyone’s safety. So, stop by the Beatley Library parking lot for a safe, socially distanced drive-thru Meet & Greet to sign John’s voter petition. We’ll be taking the following COVID precautions: masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer. Feel free to bring your own pen (though we’ll have some on hand).” [Facebook]

This Friday is a Teacher Work Day for ACPS — “ACPS Reminder: No School for students this Friday, Jan. 29. It is a Teacher Work Day. Food distribution this Friday will only be provided at T.C. Williams High School and Hammond Middle School. Families who need meals should pick them up from one of these two locations.” [Twitter]

Capital Bikeshare Moves to New Location in Old Town — “@Bikeshare users: the St. Asaph & Montgomery station, adjacent to Gables Old Town North is being relocated today from St. Asaph Street to Pitt St., the other side of the building. Not familiar with Bikeshare? Visit alexandriava.gov/bikesharing.” [Twitter]

Richmond Highway Bus Rapid Transit System Taking Shape — “One of the largest projects that will transform Richmond Highway in the next decade is the construction of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system along the corridor. Last year, Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) began to hold public meetings about the project which is still in the early days of design and right of way acquisition.” [Alexandria Living]

Here Are the 100 Posters Kids Submitted for Martin Luther King, Jr Online Exhibition — “The exhibit also allowed many of the young artists to use the opportunity to paint messages regarding social distancing, and the importance of masking up and thanking our front line workers, topics close to many hearts this year.” [Zebra]

Local Nonprofits Receive $100K in Donations — “The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia awarded four nonprofits in the region with $25,000 grants to help improve vulnerable residents’ access to food on Jan. 21, according to a news release. ALIVE!, an Alexandria nonprofit that provides food, shelter and financial support for those in need, was one of the recipients of CFNV’s grants. The Arlington Free Clinic, Capital Area Food Bank and The House, Inc. also received grants…” [Alex Times]

Free Mount Vernon Admission By Reservation Offered On 2 Dates — “George Washington’s Mount Vernon will continue the tradition of free admission days for Presidents Day and Washington’s birthday, but advanced registration will be required.” [Patch]

Alexandria/Arlington Sorority Sisters Celebrate Inauguration of Vice President Harris — “As someone who participated in the Civil Rights movement of the 60s, I get emotional just thinking about this huge accomplishment and how far we as a people have come. The idea that a woman of color, who attended an HBCU, and who was raised by a single parent is now our Vice President is mind-boggling.” [Gazette]

Today’s Weather — “Sunny along with a few clouds (during the day). High around 35F. Winds NW at 15 to 25 mph. Higher wind gusts possible… Partly cloudy skies (in the evening). Low 22F. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Front Desk Agent — “Sage Hospitality is looking for a Front Desk Agent at the Alexandrian Hotel.” [Indeed]

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An Alexandria hotel faced some public scrutiny for housing Proud Boys and other right wing factions before the Capitol Hill riot, but now the Holiday Inn Alexandria-Carlyle is facing pressure from elected leadership to cancel reservations for identified extremists.

The hotel drew national attention before the protest as the lodging for the white nationalist group and a planned protest was cancelled after it allegedly received death threats.

Alexandria Vice-Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker sent a letter to the hotels asking them to cancel reservations for guests who publicly identify with one of the extremist groups reportedly planning to gather between Sunday, Jan. 17 and Wednesday, Jan. 20 to disrupt the inauguration of Joe Biden as President.

Yesterday, Airbnb announced that it would cancel all reservations in D.C. as security tightens for the inauguration events. HotelTonight reservations are also being cancelled. In December, a D.C. hotel that served as a rallying point for Proud Boys closed during a planned rally, leaving some of the group’s plans in disarray.

Photo via Google Maps

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Less than a week before the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden on Jan. 20, Alexandria’s Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker is asking hotels in the city to cancel reservations for the Proud Boys.

In a letter to the Holiday Inn Alexandria-Carlyle, Bennett-Parker said that it rented rooms to members of the Proud Boys before the Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol.

“It is my understanding that members of the Proud Boys, which has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, stayed at your hotel during their insurrection attempt earlier this month,” Bennett-Parker wrote. “These anti-democratic groups are inciting violence and must not be welcome in our city.”

On Jan. 4, a protest at the Holiday Inn was canceled for security concerns after a notification was posted on the pro-Trump site thedonald.win and a commenter said that if any Trump supporters arrived early to the hotel that “it’s time to give them a show of force.”

Bennett-Parker asked that Alexandria hotels cancel reservations with anyone associated with the group. The hotel is located one block from the Eisenhower Avenue Metro station, and reservations can be made online.

“There is another planned armed militia insurgence from January 17, 2021, through January 20, 2021,” she wrote. “Please join me in condemning these right-wing terrorists by denying them lodging at your hotel. Your actions will send a message that there is no place for hate in Alexandria. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.”

Photo via Grassroots Alexandria/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Beyer Accuses Trump of Racism — “Just more straight-up racism here from the man who couldn’t disown white supremacy on a national stage 24 hours ago.” [Twitter]

Alexandria GOP Chair Says Residents Fear Being Republican — “He said that the local Republican chapter is in full support of Donald Trump. He believes that Republicans in Alexandria may be silent but significant… He shared that many local Republican supporters fear repercussions if they make their opinions public.” [Alexandria Living]

Apartment-Hotel Company Leases Old Town Building — “Sonder USA Inc. has applied with Alexandria to operate the apartment-hotel coming to 805 King St. The 9,700-square-foot, four-story building, owned by North Carolina’s Asana Partners, has a Warby Parker eyeglasses boutique on the ground floor. Renovations are underway to convert the offices around and above that store to residential units, all with small kitchens, ranging from 225 square feet to 527 square feet.” [Washington Business Journal]

Alexandria Drivers Third Rudest in U.S. — “According to a study by Insurify, Alexandrians aren’t very nice people behind the wheel. In fact, we’re pretty darn rude.” [Alexandria Living]

Police Congratulate Retiring Parking Enforcement Officer — “Congratulations and best wishes to PEO (parking enforcement officer) Charity Roberts. Thank you for your 31.5 years of service–you will be missed!!!” [Twitter]

Living Legend James Henson Honored — “On Sunday, Sept. 27, the newest Living Legend of Alexandria, James Henson, received quite the surprise. Friends presented him with his official Living Legends portrait. They gathered outside the Departmental Progressive Club (DPC) to walk to his home.” [Zebra]

Today’s Weather — “Sunny, along with a few afternoon clouds. High 73F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph.A steady rain in the evening. Showers continuing late. Low 53F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 70%. Rainfall near a quarter of an inch.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Marketing and Communications Manager — “You will be responsible for supporting APCO’s communications and marketing efforts associated with elevating the organization’s profile within emergency communications. The ideal candidate will create and execute strategies that promote the organization’s programs and services while developing and implementing communications plans and related promotional collateral.” [Indeed]

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Old Town hotel The Alexandrian (480 King Street) is planning to kick off a new restaurant concept in the building’s central courtyard.

The new restaurant, King & Rye, features a menu centered around southern cuisine and whiskey.

“Located in the heart of Old Town Alexandria near the waterfront on King Street, King & Rye offers seasonal Southern American cuisine made from scratch with the highest-quality regional ingredients,” the restaurant’s website said, “alongside the finest selection of whiskeys and bourbons.”

The menu features dishes like roast chicken with dumplings, gravy and squash, or trout with corn, peppers and an onion bisque. Main courses generally run around $20.

The alcohol selection includes a variety of beers, including several varieties of local favorite Port City, alongside the advertised whiskey.

King & Rye is scheduled to open on Wednesday, September 9.

Photos via J20/Facebook

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