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Chewish Deli is open at the former Dunkin’ Donuts shop at 1640 King Street in Old Town. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Bagel lovers have a new spot two blocks from the King Street Metro station to get their fix. Chewish Deli softly opened its second brick-and-mortar at 1640 King Street in Old Town on Monday (August 8), offering a traditional Jewish deli cuisine of hand-rolled water bagels, hot pastrami sandwiches, and more.

Owner Gregg Linzey says he will hold a grand opening at some point, although he didn’t have a grand opening party for his first location at 807 Pendleton Street in the Braddock area in October 2020 — in the middle of the pandemic. The company was founded as a food truck seven months before that, and Linzey was forced to find a new space after the truck got into a crash and was taken out of commission.

Linzey, a former certified financial planner, says he found out about the King Street location while getting a haircut.

“It was a good opportunity, a great location,” he told ALXnow. “My barber, actually, opened up a shop in the same building and told me about the space while he was cutting my hair. I contacted the guys here. It worked out well. We’re looking forward to having this space next to the Metro and having dining inside.”

The 1,350-square-foot space is the former longtime home of a Dunkin’ Donuts.

“We came here thinking that the Dunkin’ Donuts was still here,” Tracie Middleton said. “My daughter and I peeked in and we thought, ‘Our taste buds are ready. Why not? We’ll try it.'”

As for further expansion, Linzey says he’s taking things slow. The company is having trouble procuring to-go containers and paper coffee cups.

“That is still not 100% decided,” he said. “Running from one location to two is a big change. My plan is to relax a little bit and get both locations running a little more autonomously. We’re trying to figure out our logistics and ordering, and we’re still running into issues with shortages on certain things, which is a bigger challenge now that we have two locations instead of one.”

Linzey lives in Old Town. He’s a native of Haverhill, Massachusetts, and spent years traveling to Brooklyn and eating fresh bagels with his grandmother.

“We’re really the only local bagel shop that puts ourselves out there as New York-style,” he said. “Our bagels are as good as they are because we’re not trying to do anything fancy. We boil them and use malt syrup for the sweetener.”

It costs between $2 and $4 for a cup of coffee, $2 for a single bagel and up to $10 for a bagel sandwich.

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A six-car Metrorail train hit a contractor work unit and derailed in the Alexandria Rail Yard in 2020 because an interlocking train operator was watching a movie trailer on an electronic device.

There were no injuries, but the February 10, 2020, incident is included in a scathing audit of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority by the Washington Metropolitan Safety Commission, which found “a culture that accepts noncompliance with written operational rules, instructions, and manuals.”

The audit identified several “safety gaps” related to staff training and certification requirements. It was compiled by WMSC staff and led by Chief Executive Officer David Mayer, and 14 recommendations were issued after finding that the transit system is “not meeting its own written requirements, does not have adequate procedures, processes or requirements, or does not have adequate training, coordination and supervision.”

The Alexandria Rail Yard incident occurred a month before the WMATA would be rocked by the pandemic and largely suspend its services. The operator was retrained on proper communication procedures 10 days after the incident, and a 2020 report detailing the incident outlines existing issues WMSC found with the transit system in the recent audit — namely a lack of proper training, radio protocols and oversight.

“In addition to this example at Alexandria Rail Yard, RTRA (the Office of Rail Transportation) managers interviewed for this audit were not familiar with the existence of hazard logs that Metrorail submitted to the WMSC as part of this audit, and several managers were not sure what hazards are supposed to be reported to them,” the audit determined.

Lack of oversight and training

The audit also found that WMATA is “not effectively training and certifying personnel authorized to operate trains on all active railcar fleets,” and that staff operate with outdated copies of Metrorail’s Safety Rules and Procedures Handbook.

The audit revealed “confusion related to the proper signals and rail alignment” at the King Street-Old Town Metro station in February 2021. A train operator incorrectly followed a route set for the Huntington station, and an investigation determined that the engineer for the territory had “inadequate training.”

“Metrorail does not effectively identify, track, communicate and address operational hazards as required by its Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan,” the audit found.

The audit recommends that Metro must develop better training procedures for personnel, and replace safety equipment with expired calibration dates, including electrical safety gloves.

“Metrorail must develop, require, and implement effective territory familiarization and physical characteristics training and take steps such as territory-specific certification to ensure adequate knowledge of physical characteristics prior to assigning operations personnel (such as train operators, rail supervisors, terminal supervisors, and interlocking operators) work on a line, in a terminal or in a yard,” the audit said.

The transit system is now required to develop a corrective action plan for the outlying issues no later than 30 days after release of the audit.

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The final touches are being made on the King Street-Old Town Metro Access Improvement Project.

On-site bus route testing will begin later this month, and bus service to new shelters will start in early June, according to the city. Contractor Fort Myer Construction Corporation was supposed to have finished the project last spring.

“There is no date for a ribbon cutting yet, but we are making progress,” Camila Olivares, a communications associate with the city’s Department of Transportation & Environmental Services, told ALXnow. “Staff is increasingly confident the project will be substantially complete this summer.”

Olivares said that the city will provide additional updates on the project this week.

Rendering via City of Alexandria

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Updated at 3:20 p.m. — An adult woman suffered minor injuries after an altercation with another woman on the platform of the King Street-Old Town Metro station in Old Town on Friday.

Alexandria Police and the Metro Transit Police Department responded to the incident at around noon.

According to MTP, the victim was struck with a cane or a pole and was transported to the hospital.

The suspect was identified as 41-year-old Jessica Williamson, 41, of Round Rock, Texas. Police said she was carrying a round metal object when she was arrested, and was charged with assault and battery.

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One of the most visible congestion points in the city is about to get revamped.

On Tuesday, the Alexandria City Council unanimously approved roadway improvements the the intersection of King Street, Russell Road and Callahan Drive, as well as a conversion to one-way for the service road leading up to the George Washington National Masonic Memorial.

I think it’ll be safer for one and all,” Alexandria City Councilwoman Del Pepper said.

Roadway improvements in the area include:

  • Signal timing optimization to reduce vehicle delay by 45 seconds
  • Upgraded crosswalks and pedestrian signals
  • A curb extension for shorter crossing and to slow turning vehicles
  • Bike facilities through the intersection

Improvements at the intersection have been in the works since 2015, when the city received a $1.2 million Federal Transit Administration grant. The next few years were spent collecting and analyzing data, and were met with delays due to “the combination of staff capacity and implementation of the King Street Metro Improvements Project and the 2019 Metro Summer Shutdown,” according to a city staff report.

The George Washington National Masonic Memorial Association wanted the access road shut down to vehicle traffic.

“Part of this project involves the access road around the traffic island, which connects the Memorial’s driveway to Callahan Drive,” the Association wrote in a letter to Council. “While the Memorial Association believes the modifications before Council for approval are a positive step, it is the viewpoint of the Memorial Association that this access road, which is used by motorists as a way to circumvent the traffic light at King and Callahan, should be permanently closed to vehicle traffic.”

Christopher Ziemann, the city’s Transportation Planning Division chief, said that the one-way conversion was a compromise.

Mayor Justin Wilson said that the traffic island in the center of the intersection will not be impacted, as it is designated as a national historic landmark.

“I think this is a step forward and certainly enjoys broad-based community support, which is great,” he said. “I appreciate staff’s efforts to build consensus on the changes on this intersection. I know this has been a long time coming.”

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The infamously troubled King Street-Old Town Metro Access Improvement Project could finish in the next few months after a full year of delays.

The city said the first phase of the project is still reportedly on track for the spring 2021 timeline established last March, when the project was originally supposed to be completed.

The contractor for the project is Fort Myer Construction Corporation (FMCC), and officials haven’t been shy about calling the contractor out for dropping the ball on the project.

“That contractor doing that work has failed the city in a variety of ways,” Mayor Justin Wilson said in a recent town hall. “We’re pursuing all options to make sure that contractor adheres to their obligations under that contract and makes the taxpayers of the city whole for the delay and for the failures of that contract. It’s a bad contractor experience and going to do everything we can to ensure the tax payers of the city and get that project done.”

Lydia Durand, a management analyst with the Department of Project Implementation, acknowledged the project’s troubled history but said that staff are overseeing the contractor’s work.

“This project has been a challenge and the contractor continues to be behind schedule,” Durand said. “FMCC’s latest schedule indicates that they will achieve substantial completion this Spring. Staff continue to closely oversee the contractor’s work to ensure the City receives the project to the quality level required by the contract.”

The goal of the project is to add capacity and new safety measures to the often crowded bus loop, where a woman was fatally struck in 2010.

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(Updated at 11:50 a.m.) Alexandria Police have reopened the area of King Street between Callahan Drive and Daingerfield Road after investigating a report of a suspicious package.

Police closed the area near the King St-Old Town Metro Station and the city’s Union Station after a report earlier of a suspicious package around 11:35 a.m.

Map via Google Maps

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Two men have been arrested after allegedly trying to resell stolen cars and nearly running over an Alexandria Police officer.

Michael Daugherty, an 18-year-old resident of Washington, D.C., and a 20-year-old man from Prince George’s County, Maryland, were arrested on Dec. 7 after allegedly fleeing the Yasini Auto Gallery near the King Street-Old Town Metro station in a stolen white Toyota RAV4.

The suspects allegedly refused an Alexandria Police officer’s order to stop and nearly hit him, according to a search warrant affidavit. The vehicle was later found abandoned less than a half mile away on Roberts Lane near the Mason Garden Apartments.

Alexandria Police have connected the incident with the November theft of multiple cars that were listed on the OfferUp website. In those cases, owners who advertised their vehicles for sale on OfferUP met the suspects at predetermined locations and were given false checks of up to $22,000. The suspects then drove away in the cars and at least one of the cars was listed on the same website.

The auto gallery ended up buying a Chevrolet Camaro for $4,000 that had been stolen on Nov. 4 after the victim had been given a false check for $23,000. The auto gallery then posted the car for sale on its OfferUp profile.

“We gonna bring you more cars anyway but we want at least 5 (thousand dollars for the Camaro),” the suspects allegedly told the Yasini representative, according to the affidavit.

After being contacted about the stolen car by Alexandria Police, the owner of the dealership reported on Dec. 7 that two of the suspects responsible for selling the vehicles were trying to sell him another one.

“Police arrived on scene… and attempted to stop the individuals in the vehicle by commanding them to stop after receiving confirmation they were the suspects,” police reported in the affidavit. “The vehicle did not stop and almost struck the officers attempting to stop the vehicle.”

Police found the suspects near the abandoned RAV4 and confirmed their identities by getting their cell phone numbers from the owner of the dealership.

Daugherty was released on bond on Dec. 8 after being charged with attempted assault on law enforcement, receiving/buying stolen goods and failure to remain at an accident involving property damage. The 20-year-old suspect was charged with violating a protective order and was released on bond that same day.

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The city anticipates that there will be more delays with the completion of the King Street-Old Town Metro Access Improvements Project.

City staff are skeptical that the first phase of the project will be completed by this December.

“We have what the contractor has stated, and what we what our observations are,” Terry Suehr, the city’s director of the Department of Project Implementation, told Council on Tuesday night. “They’ve stated December… They have not proven themselves able to keep on the schedule.”

The first phase of construction — eventually resulting in the opening of a brand new bus loop — was initially supposed to be finished last spring. A second phase includes lighting and landscape improvements, a new kiss & ride, and areas for car shares, taxis and shuttles.

The city website states that the full project will be finished by spring 2021.

Suehr said the city will have additional costs because of the delay, and staff are working up estimates. She is also now requiring the contractor to provide bi-weekly updates on their progress against a set schedule.

Rendering via City of Alexandria

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The completion of the King Street-Old Town Metro Access Improvements Project will likely be delayed past August, but it’s not clear for how long.

“This project is continuing forward,” Terry Suehr, the city’s director of the Department of Project Implementation, told City Council on Tuesday night. “The contractor continues to report that they are on schedule and are showing the schedule that shows them completing in August, but based on our observations of the progress that they’re making we suspect that they will not finish in August, so just notifying you all that we we do suspect that there will either be requesting extensions or we’ll be having to deal with contract measures to penalize them for not finishing on time.”

Mayor Justin Wilson said he hopes the city will be recouped for additional extensions due to the delay.

The construction project has nearly completely taken over the entrance to the Metro station, and has redirected bus bays and eliminated the metered parking and kiss & ride areas.

The first phase was supposed to be finished in March, but the start of construction was delayed by two months. It included the opening of a brand new bus loop. The second phase includes lighting and landscape improvements, a new kiss & ride and areas for car shares, taxis and shuttles.

This project has been in the works since 2006. The city council and planning commission approved the design concept in 2012, and the project is part of the city’s Vision Zero initiative by aiming to provide a safer and visually appealing environment for pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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