Newsletter
Heron, a proposed hotel development at 699 Prince Street, image via Monarch Urban

Alexandria’s City Council was overall supportive of an arrangement presented earlier this week to invest — sort of — in a new Old Town hotel.

A proposal backed by the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership would have the city help fill gap-funding for a hotel project at 699 Prince Street that fell through when the pandemic hit. Interior demolition was already underway when the pandemic made it impossible to secure financing on a new hospitality project, said AEDP President and CEO Stephanie Landrum in a presentation to the City Council on Tuesday.

Landrum said the city’s hospitality industry has plummeted over the last couple years and in some cases it’s more beneficial to convert those properties to residential, here Landrum said the city’s economy would benefit more from a luxury hotel.

“We’re seeing what we could classify as obsolete hotels, dated in terms of their age or their amenity base isn’t what travelers want today, or their location isn’t amenity approximate,” Landrum said. “We’ve decided as a city that [hotel conversion] is helping achieve priorities like housing availability, but we need a good mix of commercial projects in the city to balance the tax base. while we continue to improve or encourage hotel conversions in some places, have to encourage hotels to be built in viable locations.”

Landrum said a hotel at 699 Prince Street would generate 500% more revenue to the city than a residential project and require little social or infrastructure uses, with no burden placed on schools and little pressure on park use.

“The cost of people who reside in a hotel is much less than residents,” Landrum said.

The site was once the Hotel George Mason, built in the 1920s but was later converted to offices and served as headquarters for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Landrum said there financing structure being proposed limits the risk involved for the city. The city, through AEDP, would pay bond trustees out of a 1% cut of the sales and use tax generated by the hotel after the project is complete and begins to generate revenue. The project is estimated to generate roughly $2 million annually in revenue, which Landrum said was a “significant amount of money” for the city to come from one project.

“We are agreeing to support this project, but if this is unsuccessful that debt has no bearing on the city, it’s all on that project,” Landrum said.

But Landrum said while she expects AEDP will likely get “phone calls” from other potential hotel developments if the project is approved, Landrum warned that the circumstances around the city’s involvement with this project were relatively unique.

“This project unique in historic preservation, in size and scale,” Landrum said. “I don’t think a new hotel being built for long-term stay in the West End or to service the new Virginia Tech campus in Potomac Yard will have the same set of circumstances. The number one provision is that you have to prove you have a gap you can’t close.”

The City Council approved first reading of the proposal, which is scheduled for a public hearing at the Saturday, Jan. 22 City Council meeting.

The main concern expressed by the City Council was over the handling of labor on the project. City Council member Alyia Gaskins asked about creating project labor agreements and other progressive labor arrangements for the hotel development, but Landrum said the profit margin is already so slim it’s unlikely the project would be able to support that.

“This project came to us because of a gap in financing,” Landrum said. “A lot of the things you’re talking about unfortunately comes at an additional cost. We’ve talked a little about this… we understand how real and impactful those additions are. For a project of this scale to enact some of those things would make the project not feasible. [We’re] talking about a 20-25% increase in cost for some of the labor concessions.”

The project presentation boasted that the project would bring in 19 full-time jobs and 90 part-time jobs, but City Council members expressed uncertainty at whether those employees would be paid a wage that would allow them to live in Alexandria.

“I really like the model for this, where what we put into this is based on what we’re getting out of it in terms of revenue,” City Council member Kirk McPike said. “We’re not talking about a dime of city money going forward without coming to us from this project… [but] without paying levels where they could live in Alexandria, we’re not benefitting Alexandria workers.”

Staff agreed to come back at the Jan 22 public hearing with more information about wages for employees at the hotel.

“There are things that as good human beings, citizens, and representatives we want to do but we also need to get projects done for the greater good of the community and what is the cost-benefit of some of these decisions,” Landrum said. “We try to thread that needle right now when there isn’t a clear policy at the council level and brought forward a project we think is obviously a great community good.”

6 Comments
Heron, a proposed hotel development at 699 Prince Street, image via Monarch Urban

This week, the City Council is docketed (items 27 and 28) to review a proposal for the city to, in a round-about way, be involved in the financing of a new luxury hotel in Old Town.

With hotel revenue going into freefall during the pandemic, the prospect of building or renovating hotels in Alexandria hasn’t been a particularly financially appealing option, but a report prepared by Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP) and city staff said that’s going to be a hit to tourism in the city as people travel again.

At the City Council meeting tomorrow (Tuesday), the Council is scheduled to vote on a “tourism development plan” developed with the Virginia Tourism Development Financing Program (TDFP) to provide gap financing for a hotel project at 699 Prince Street.

The project is coming to the city for financing because the project is below the anticipated yield investors would hope for. According to the tourism development plan being presented to the City Council, the anticipated operating profits for the hotel are between 6.5% and 7% — below the 10% yield targeted by investors for financing before the pandemic. According to the report:

The project’s $69.6 [million] (includes building sale) ancipated cost will be capitalized with approximately $45.2M (65% loan-to-cost) senior construction financing, and approximately $10.27 million of net historic tax credit proceeds. The remaining $14.13 million will be funded through a combination of TDFP proceeds and investor capital.

It’s a somewhat complicated chain of financing, but a graph in the presentation lays out some of the financing web.

Hotel project financing, via City of Alexandria

The tourism development plan laid out to Council also highlighted some of the issues with hotel room supply city-wide. One of the big issues, the plan said, is that residential units are seen as a safer bet than hotels. The report noted that the city has lost five hotels in the last two years.

“The major challenge for Alexandria’s tourism economy is our recent reduction in hotel room supply,” the plan said.”The loss of hotel rooms is largely a result of the booming residential real estate market. With low-interest rates and increasing post-Covid migration from urban centers to suburban communities, the demand for residential housing in Northern Virginia is causing many hotel property owners to convert their properties to residential. As a result of these conversions, Alexandria’s hotel base dropped 17% in the past two years.”

The report also said while there are “upscale properties” in the city, there are no real luxury hotels in Alexandria.

“This proposed development would fill a void in the market and in turn, increase City revenues by increasing our Average Daily Rate,” the report said.

The report also said the new hotel would provide large meeting spaces that are in short supply in Old Town.

Finally, Alexandria would benefit from more hotel meeting space in Old Town. Our largest conference hotel, the Hilton Mark Center, is located on the City’s West End, a 20-minute drive from Old Town. Within Old Town, Alexandria has only three properties that can accommodate a large meeting (200+) — the Westin, the Hilton Old Town and Holiday Inn & Suites. Despite the walkable and historic downtown that many meeting planners and their attendees are seeking, Alexandria loses mid-size meetings to adjacent localities like Arlington, VA and National Harbor, MD.

The report from AEDP and city staff, though, said the expectation is for the hospitality market to rebound this year and next — how the ongoing wave of Covid cases from the omicron variant affects those projections isn’t said.

“In the recent HVS market study, the tables indicate demand for higher-end hospitality that will surpass pre-Covid levels in 2022-2023 and point to continued growth thereafter,” the report said. “Targeted for delivery in the 2023 timeframe, the Project will be well-positioned to capture this demand.”

At the meeting on Tuesday, the City Council will vote both on creating a “tourism zone” at the site to incentivize hotel development and, immediately after, a tourism development plan for the proposed hotel.

9 Comments

Morning Notes

Alexandria chooses historic trolley as 2021 holiday ornament — “The City of Alexandria is now taking orders for its 2021 Trolley ornament, depicting Car 303 of the Mount Vernon Alexandria & Washington Electric Railway. The fleet of art deco cars were purchased in 1918 for the essential trolley line that connected Del Ray commuters to DC and tourists to Mount Vernon. Car 303 ran until the railway’s closure in 1932. It became a diner in 1936.” [Zebra]

Missing 83-year-old West Ender found safe — “Mr. Navia has been located.” [Twitter]

Early voting starts Friday — “Early voting for the Nov 2 General Election begins Fri, Sep 17. In Alexandria, ballot includes contests for VA Governor; Lt. Governor; Attorney General; House of Delegates; Commonwealth’s Attorney; Sheriff; Mayor; City Council & School Board.” [Twitter]

Chamber ALX sets legislative agenda — “Over the last decade we have been an outspoken voice for the completion of Potomac Yard metro, redevelopment of Landmark Mall, streamlining small business regulations and a champion of countless issues directly impacting the business community. We are proud to be entrusted with amplifying the voice of the diverse businesses in our city…” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s weather — “Mostly cloudy skies early will become partly cloudy later in the day. Hot. High 92F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph… A few clouds (in the evening). Low 71F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Chef De Cuisine at The Alexandrian — “Sage Hotel Management is currently seeking a Chef De Cuisine for our King & Rye restaurant located inside The Alexandrian Hotel, in Alexandria, VA.” [Indeed]

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Hotel expansions to increase meeting planning options in Alexandria — “Alexandria is continuing to expand its hotel offerings with an extensive multi-million dollar renovation of the Sheraton Suites Old Town Alexandria…The historic George Mason Hotel is set to undergo restoration in 2021 (and) will have two buildings located in Old Town, and will feature 141 hotel rooms, two restaurants, rooftop dining and outdoor dining. The Hilton Alexandria Mark Center will also begin a $10 million renovation starting in late November, with a target opening of the first week in January 2022.” [Previewmeetings.com]

ALIVE! resumes collecting food — “Community members are welcome to drop off purchased or collected food items at 801 S. Payne St. ALIVE! accepts donations on Thursdays from 3 to 7 p.m and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.” [Zebra]

Neighborhood Restaurant Group honored for pandemic pivot — “Alexandria-based Neighborhood Restaurant Group has been nominated for a RAMMY Award, presented by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW). Their nomination is in a new, coronavirus-influenced category: Most Impressive Pivot to Provisions or Market.” [Alexandria Living]

Locals theorize that bug bites could be tied to cicadas — “The Facebook group members have hatched a theory that these bites are tied to oak itch mites, or pyemotes, which are thought to feed on cicadas eggs. Similar outbreaks of itchy bug bites have coincided with periodic cicada cycles in Chicago and Northern Ohio.” [ARLnow]

Kids restore preschool playground and garden boxes —  “Thanks Trinity United Methodist Church youth group & @Volalex Breaks with Impact (BWI) youth group who restored the ALIVE! preschool playground and garden boxes. They’ve been busy weeding, pruning, and cleaning but still needs much more!” [Twitter]

Today’s weather — “Except for a few afternoon clouds, mainly sunny. High 89F. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph… Generally fair (in the evening). Low 63F. Winds N at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Anthropologie key holder — “At Anthropologie we tell stories – of products thoughtfully designed, crafted, and curated, and of a collaborative, inventive community. We are, above all, devoted to our customer – to the smart, creative individual who seeks beauty wherever they go.” [Indeed]

0 Comments

What a hot week in Alexandria.

With temperatures hovering in the mid-90s, the week started with a power outage at a 17-story apartment building in Landmark area. The outage lasted five days and residents had to find accommodations until the building reopened Friday afternoon.

On the coronavirus front, Alexandria experienced a slight uptick, and the health department says unvaccinated residents account for a majority of new cases. There have been 39 new cases reported so far this month in the city, and 13 cases were reported on July 9. That was the biggest single-day jump since May 20, when 18 new cases were reported.

In school news, this week we spoke with Alexandria High School Principal Peter Balas, who said that his staff are ready to fully reopen for full-time in-person instruction when the 2021-2022 school year starts on August 24.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Here’s the plan for Alexandria’s birthday celebration this weekend
  2. City Council approves massive high-rise project without affordable housing near Eisenhower Metro station
  3. ‘Call Your Mother Deli’ signs lease in Old Town
  4. Del. Mark Levine raises eyebrows with letter that passes buck on constituent service
  5. Shortened Alexandria Birthday celebration is still on for July 10
  6. Alexandria City High School is ready to reopen at full capacity next month, principal says
  7. School Board Member Jacinta Greene faces reelection, wants race relations taught in ACPS
  8. Tropical Storm Elsa’s dregs tear through southern Alexandria
  9. Poll: Do you agree with reallocation of school resource officer funding?
  10. West End high-rise apartment building evacuated after power outage
  11. The Alexandria Police, Sheriff’s Office and Fire Department all want raises

Have a safe weekend!

0 Comments
Hotel Indigo garage, via Google Maps

Hotel Indigo (220 S Union Street) is hoping to turn its 69 parking spaces into a mutually beneficial arrangement for Old Town visitors.

Developer Carr Properties said it gave the required total of 69 parking spaces, but hasn’t gotten the expected usage since the hotel opened.  The developer said it’s hoping to change its permit to allow some of those spaces currently usable only by hotel visitors to be used by tourists and other Old Town visitors.

“Since the hotel became operational several years ago, the parking garage of 69 spaces has not been utilized as envisioned during the original DSUP process,” the applicant said in a Development Special Use Permit (DSUP) request to the city. “Additionally, since the original DSUP approval, the parking ordinance was amended to allow a minimum of .2 spaces per hotel room for areas within an enhanced transit area (applies to the Property).”

Carr Properties is hoping to bring Hotel Indigo in line with the current requirement for hotels.

“Because the existing garage is underutilized and less hotel parking is now required, the Applicant seeks to amend the DSUP approval (which included a parking reduction SUP) to allow for .2 spaces per hotel room instead of .58 spaces per room as originally approved,” the developer said. “For 120 hotel rooms, this rate would allow for 24 spaces for hotel and restaurant patrons (and employees); with 3 handicapped spaces to remain; and 42 spaces for third-party use.”

The garage would maintain its current valet service, but would add optional self-parking for non-hotel visitors. The public access could also be closed off if the hotel reaches higher levels of occupancy.

The change is docketed to go to the Planning Commission on Sept. 9. The applicant said the change to the 69 spaces could be to the shared satisfaction of the hotel and waterfront visitors.

“This tailored management will allow for the best utilization of the parking spaces by both hotel patrons and waterfront visitors,” the applicant said. “Ultimately, the Applicant anticipates that managing the parking this manner will fill an unmet parking demand that will be growing during the warm weather months, as the Alexandria waterfront continues to attract residents and tourists.”

Via Google Maps

2 Comment

Morning Notes

Washington Post brings in reporter to cover Arlington and Alexandria — “We are thrilled to announce that Teo Armus is joining the local government and politics team to cover Arlington and Alexandria. Teo has been a reporter on the Morning Mix team for nearly two years, during which time he has shown incredible range, delivering compelling reads about murder hornets in Washington state and a ‘Stop the Steal’ organizer’s claims that three Republican lawmakers helped him with plans for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.” [Washington Post]

Alexandria Symphony playing at City’s birthday celebration on July 10 — “The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra (ASO) announced recently that it will perform at the annual Alexandria Birthday Celebration on July 10. Two companies owned by residents are making the performance possible through their support: Networking and Engineering Technologies, and KSA Integration.” [Zebra]

Alexandria Police Department admissions test is on May 26 — “THIS JUST IN! Join APD to serve and protect the incredible Alexandria community. It starts with the written exam. Take the test this Wednesday, May 26 at 5:00 pm. Click the link to sign up: research.net/r/AlexandriaVA You could end up joining our first academy class of 2022.” [Twitter]

Cat hotel files special use permit — “A cat hotel may be opening in Alexandria. JNL Bean, LLC filed a special use permit request to open a cat-exclusive hotel and grooming business at 2391 Dove St., just southeast of the Duke Street/Telegraph Road interchange.” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s weather — “Cloudy early with partial sunshine expected late. High 81F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph… Mainly cloudy. Low 71F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Education fellow (paid) — “The National Women’s History Museum is pleased to announce the opening of the 2021 NWHM Virtual Summer Education Fellow Award. This program is open to K-12 educators, especially history or social studies teachers, for approximately eight weeks during the summer of 2021.” [Indeed]

2 Comment

Alexandria Police are actively investigating a harrowing incident that occurred earlier this month in a room at the Days Inn/Super 8 hotel at 110 S. Bragg Street in the West End.

On May 8, police responded to a report of a sexual offense against a woman in room 381. Once at the scene, police found a large blood trail outside the hotel room that continued along the third floor.

The woman told police that “she has been engaging in prostitution in order to afford her drug addiction of heroin,” according to a search warrant affidavit. She said that she met a client via a MegaPersonals ad posted on the internet, and that the man became violent while they had sex for money.

The woman said that she screamed for a man who she pays 20% from her income, and told police is her “protection”. The man burst into the room and a fight ensued. At one point one of the men was injured by a large knife, although just who held the knife was unclear in the affidavit and police would not comment on the matter.

The woman told police that “she thought someone was going to get murdered,” and that she was renting the room from another patron of the hotel staying down the hall in room 378. In that room, police found a small plastic bag with a white powder substance, two syringes and a spoon. She also said that she wanted to talk with the man who arranged the MegaPersonals ad, and police found the man’s contact information in her phone under the name “My King”.

Police could not confirm what the substance was in the bag, or if any charges or arrests have been made. None of the suspects have been booked in the Alexandria jail, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s an active investigation of a felonious assault in a room at a hotel at 110 S. Bragg Street that left a man with a laceration to his head,” APD Senior Public Information Officer Amanda Paga told ALXnow.

Map via Google Maps

2 Comment

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!

2 Comments

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.

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list