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Alexandria’s annual George Washington Birthday Parade brought the usual pomp and circumstance befitting the country’s first president.

This year’s parade marshals were the recipients of the prestigious Living Legends of Alexandria award. The theme of this year’s parade was “George Washington: Alexandria’s Living Legend.”

A number of political candidates marched (or rode) in the parade, including mayoral candidates Vice Mayor Amy Jackson and Alyia Gaskins, as well as Sheriff Sean Casey and Clerk of Court Greg Parks. City Manager Jim Parajon also marched, as did his counterpart in the school system, Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt. Former Mayor Allison Silberberg also marched in the parade with the “Coalition to Stop the Potomac Yard Arena.”

Alexandria’s next parade is the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Old Town on Saturday, March 2.

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Update at 3:35 p.m. — The Interstellar Influencer commemorates the Chesapeake Bay impact crater, not the Chicxulub crater 35 million years earlier that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs

Earlier: The asteroid collision 35 million years ago will be the latest public art at Alexandria’s Waterfront Park.

“Interstellar Influencer (Make an Impact)” will be formally unveiled in March and will be on display at the foot of King Street until November. It’s the sixth temporary installation at the site, and is being created by artist Jason Klimoski and architect Lesley Chang of New York City-based STUDIOKCA.

“At the foot of King Street on the shore of the Potomac River, an interstellar collision that took place not too far away and not too, too long ago between an asteroid and our planet is about to re-appear,” the city’s Office of the Arts announced. “Interstellar Influencer uses metal, water, and light to create a 1:1000 scale representation of the asteroid and the 85-kilometer-wide, 1.5-kilometer-deep crater it left behind that helped to shape the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed and the flow of water through its rivers and tributaries in the process.”

The installation will kick off Alexandria’s 275th birthday celebration programming, it was announced at Visit Alexandria’s annual meeting on Monday.

Chang said she wants the installation to “raise awareness of the fragility of our shared existence on this planet and the extraordinary (and sometime extraterrestrial) foundation of our modern cities and waterways.”

Klimoski said that we all live within the history that has shaped the planet.

“Sometimes you have to look at it from the point of view of an asteroid hurtling through space 35,000,000 years ago to appreciate just how incredible it is we’re here at all,” he said.

Alexandria’s 275th birthday, also known as ALX275, will mostly be recognized from April through mid-September.

According to Visit Alexandria:

The opening of waterfront public art installation Interstellar Influencer (Make an Impact)kicks off the 275th anniversary programming in the spring. Then, look forward to special editions of the 2-day Portside in Old Town Summer Festival in June, which features the ALX Jazz Fest, and the Alexandria City Birthday Celebration with fireworks over the Potomac on July 13.

Alexandria’s award-winning Port City Brewing Company will produce an original hoppy Pale Ale called ALX275, brewed with 275 lbs. of hops, that will be served on draft at the Portside Festival, at Port City’s Tasting Room and Old Town Pub Crawl and at more special events from April through September. Also in September, the 275th anniversary festivities include events for the 10th anniversary of the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial and the 50th anniversary of the Torpedo Factory Art Center.

New exhibits include Alexandria Archaeology’s “The Buried Ships of Robinson Landing” with scale models of the three excavated ships at a temporary new waterfront gallery space. The Alexandria Black History Museum’s Moss Kendrix exhibit will honor the nationally significant visionary who revolutionized how African Americans were depicted in the media in the mid-20th century. The special collection of artifacts will demonstrate how the D.C.-based advertising and public relations pioneer transformed the advertising industry, paving the way for the diversity of actors and models who today are featured throughout marketing creative. Meanwhile, Historic Alexandria’s oral history exhibition, “Mapping Alexandria: Stories of a Changing City,” is coming to The Lyceum in June. Interactive features of the exhibition include a story kiosk where the public can record and upload their own oral histories, an interactive map and more.

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Alexandria land use attorney Cathy Puskar claps at the Chamber ALX Best In Business awards, October 27, 2022. (staff photo by James Cullum)

The Chamber ALX has released the finalists for the Best in Business Awards, and the top businesses will be announced at a gala in Old Town next month.

It’s no secret that Don Simpson, Jr. is the chamber’s 2023 business leader of the year, since that cat was let out of the bag last month. Just who will receive the other highly coveted awards, however, is still secret. This year’s nominees are listed below, and winners are determined by a panel of previous awardees.

The Best in Business Awards, presented by Burke & Herbert Bank, will be held at the Westin Old Town Alexandria (400 Courthouse Square) from 6 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Octo. 12. The event costs $125 for members and $150 for non-members.

Land use attorney Cathy Puskar was named business leader of the year last year. Read more about last year’s event here.

Alexandria’s 2023 Best In Business finalists

Small Business of the Year

Medium Business of the Year

Large Business of the Year

Rising Star Business of the Year

Nonprofit & Association of the Year

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Hotel Aka with its black color scheme (via EAGH Alexandria)

More beautification efforts are underway at Hotel AKA Alexandria in Old Town North.

The 180-room boutique hotel at 625 First Street and 510 Second Street opened earlier this year and has since returned to the city to get more outdoor seating for an outdoor cafe.

Now, the hotel is asking the Board of Architectural Review for approval of a permit to demolish and a certificate of appropriateness for the “limited demolition” of a wall facing N. Pitt Street.

The windows would provide “visibility into ground floor spaces within the building in which the Applicant intends to establish community serving retail uses,” according to AKA’s application.

While the request doesn’t result in any major changes, Hotel AKA Alexandria says the payoff will be big.

“The Applicant’s proposed renovation and enhancement of the existing hotel will increase the value of the Property, create new jobs, and generate additional economic activity in the neighborhood by attracting tourist and hotel patrons to the area,” AKA said in its application. “The exterior alterations represent improvements to the existing façade that will result in a more attractive and aesthetically pleasing appearance.”

Proposed renovations at AKA Hotel in Old Town North (via City of Alexandria)

Pennsylvania-based Korman Communities owns 14 AKA hotels in the U.S., including in Alexandria, and one hotel in London.

The hotel was previously a red-brick Holiday Inn Express, and the new owners completed an extensive interior renovation and painted the exterior black. The building is on the border of the Old Town Historic District, was built in the 1970s and isn’t considered historic.

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The scene of a shooting on the 800 block of W. Glebe Road (staff photo by James Cullum)

It’s been a scorching week in Alexandria, punctuated by two major crime events.

Someone was shot multiple times in an alley several blocks east of the Braddock Metro station last Saturday, followed on Monday afternoon by the city’s fifth homicide this year — the fatal shooting of a 29-year-old man on W. Glebe Road in Arlandria.

It is not believed that the incidents are connected.

The Alexandria Police Department is now looking for a silver Nissan Rogue allegedly linked to Monday’s shooting.

No arrests have been announced from either incident, and this week Mayor Justin Wilson, City Manager Jim Parajon and Police Chief Don Hayes asked for the community’s help in identifying the suspects.

Top stories this week:

  1. Alexandria ditching ‘pay and display’ parking meters citywide (32618 views)
  2. Notes: Many federal employees who report to work Alexandria are still mostly remote (7448 views)
  3. Del Ray Gateway project construction to start before end of year, city says (6510 views)
  4. Construction suspended for Holiday Inn Express at former Towne Motel site in Old Town North (5346 views)
  5. ACPS ignores Gov. Youngkin’s recommended policies on treatment of transgender students (4829 views)
  6. DEVELOPING: Man transported to hospital in critical condition after shooting in Arlandria (4747 views)
  7. Pupatella Neapolitan Pizza opening before end of year in Old Town North, owner says (3857 views)
  8. Duke Street affordable apartment complex ‘Witter Place’ could be ready by late 2025, developer says (3598 views)
  9. Arlington man busted for allegedly selling stolen car to Alexandria man on Facebook Marketplace (2509 views)

Have a safe weekend!

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Construction of a Holiday Inn Express at 802 N. Washington Street has been suspended (via Architecture, Inc.)

(Updated at 5 p.m.) Development of a Holiday Inn Express in the former Towne Motel property in Old Town North has been suspended, the city tells ALXnow.

It appears the cost of construction was getting too great and the owner was not able to secure financing for the project at 802 N. Washington Street.

The property owner reported to City staff that progress on the project has been suspended,” City spokesperson Camila Olivares said. “Among the challenges are construction pricing and financing availability.”

The news comes years after a historic townhouse at the site was lifted and moved to make way for the hotel. The townhouse, which was built in 1910, was supposed to be moved back to be integrated into the new hotel, according to Architecture Incorporated.

Plans for the 72,000-square-foot, 98-room hotel were released in 2020 and the project was initially scheduled for completion by 2022, according to 2021 Old Town North Small Area Plan.

The property owner did not return calls for comment.

via Architecture Incorporated

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Outdoor terrace at Hotel AKA (image via City of Alexandria)

Like 1799 Prime Steak and Seafood, Hotel AKA (625 First Street) in Old Town North is heading to city review for a permit to dramatically upscale some courtyard seating.

The hotel — perhaps most notably for its strikingly dark facade — is hoping to increase its outdoor seating from 40 seats to 120 seats.

While it’s looking to get permission for 120 seats, the proposal said the plan is to accommodate 80 seats in an outdoor terrace on the western side of the building.

According to the proposal:

The outdoor terrace area was used by the previous hotel tenant (Holiday Inn) as an outdoor lounge area for its guests and included a pool on the northern portion of the terrace. The applicant in the current request proposes to convert the terrace to an outdoor dining area that would be served by both a bar area which would be constructed on the western portion of the terrace as well as the hotel’s main kitchen. The proposed outdoor dining area would be separated into approximately nine smaller group areas in order to create a sense of privacy for their patrons.

Many Alexandria restaurants embraced outdoor dining during the pandemic and, accordingly, the City of Alexandria has been trying to make the regulations governing outdoor dining a little less onerous.

An analysis of the proposal included an endorsement from city staff. The permit is scheduled for review at a Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday, June 6.

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Shots were fired in the 6200 block of Duke Street on April 30, 2023 (via Google Maps)

Alexandria Police say that no arrests were made or injuries reported after multiple shots were fired outside a West End hotel late last month.

APD responded at around 9:30 a.m. to the 6200 block of Duke Street for a report of shots fired, and found two bullet casings in the middle of the parking lot, according to a recently released search warrant affidavit.

Police then followed a blood trail to the Days Inn next door to a room on the second floor of the Days Inn by Wyndham Alexandria (110 S. Bragg Street West), where they found more blood, nine rounds of ammunition, a bottle of Johnny Walker whiskey and cigarette butts, according to the search warrant.

Police interviewed a hotel guest staying below the room, who reported that he’d heard a pop earlier in the day but as it was raining dismissed the sound as transformer.

APD said that the investigation into the incident is ongoing and that no victims of violence were reported. Anyone with information can contact APD’s non-emergency number at 703-746-4444. Callers can remain anonymous.

Image via Google Maps

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Alexandria’s transient lodging, from Airbnb to hotels, famously took a hit back in 2020, but there’s some good news.

At a meeting of the City Council last night celebrating some of the work of Visit Alexandria, Mayor Justin Wilson noted that transient lodging has continued to climb and overall consumption tax revenue now exceeds pre-pandemic levels.

“Given where we were three years ago, that’s an amazing turnabout,” said Wilson.

A monthly financial report (item 14) showed that transient lodging taxes continued to climb dramatically from FY 2022 to FY 2023.

“We are now at 22.5% on transient lodging ahead of where we were last year,” Wilson said, “which is an incredible turnabout for the community and obviously I think speaks to the financial return the tourism industry provides to the taxpayers in the city, but I think it’s broader than that.”

Wilson said tourism is a part of Alexandria’s DNA in ways that are more than just financial

“Three years ago, as many of the businesses in this sector were shut down, so many of our residents realized what they were missing in the rich contributions the travel and tourism industry provides the people that live here,” Wilson said. “They’re a part of our community and a part of what makes this a wonderful place. We’re happy to have ya’ll back, not just for financial reasons.”

Vice Mayor Amy Jackson said Visit Alexandria has helped spotlight some of the best parts of Alexandria and has helped boost the recovery of transient lodging.

The pandemic shone a bright light on our strengths and weaknesses,” said Jackson. “We just kept going through this and we are the place to be. We are where you want to be, where you want to visit, to live, work play and raise a family.”

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Actor Leon Preston Robinson (via Facebook)

Black resistance is the theme of the upcoming Virginia Black History Month Gala in Alexandria.

Actor, singer and producer “Leon” Robinson will be the keynote speaker for the annual event, which will be held at the Hilton Mark Center (5000 Seminary Road) on Friday, February 24, and Saturday, February 25. Robinson performed roles in “The Temptations,” “The Five Heartbeats,” “Cool Runnings,” “Above the Rim,” and as Little Richard in the 2000 film “Little Richard.”

The gala will also honor civil rights pioneer Betty Kilby Fisher Baldwin, who successfully sued the Warren County Board of Education to attend Warren County High School in the 1950s.

“African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms, and police killings since our arrival upon these shores,” said the Virginia Black History Month Association, which is hosting the event. “These efforts have been to advocate for a dignified self-determined life in a just democratic society in the United States and beyond the United States political jurisdiction.”

Tickets to attend the two day event cost $45 to attend virtually, $95 for general admission and $160 for adult VIPs.

The schedule for the event is below.

  • Black Health Health Fair — Friday, Feb. 24, at 4 p.m.
  • Relationship Seminar — Friday, Feb. 24, at 6 p.m.
  • Black Vendor Showcase — Saturday, Feb. 25, at 5 p.m.
  • The VIP Social with Keynote — Saturday, Feb. 25, at 5 p.m.
  • The Virginia Black History Month Gala — Saturday, Feb. 25, at 6 p.m.
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