Alexandria, VA

Morning Notes

Beyer Co-sponsoring Legislation to Impeach U.S. Attorney General — “Accusing political opponents of “sedition” then morphing into an arch libertarian when Trump cronies are indicted. Attacking career prosecutors for doing their jobs. AG Barr is a menace to the rule of law–I’m cosponsoring legislation to begin impeachment proceedings against him.” [Twitter]

Absentee Voting Begins Today in Alexandria — “The ballot includes contests for President and Vice President of the United States, one member of the U.S. Senate, the member of the U.S. House of Representatives from the 8th Congressional District, and two amendments to the Constitution of Virginia.” [Patch]

King & Rye Opens in Alexandria — “Check out @Alexandrian_VA’s new restaurant, King & Rye. This downtown restaurant opened earlier this month, and features a large outdoor patio, intimate terrace, and full bar serving specialty cocktails. The perfect location for a private event.” [Twitter]

Douglas MacArthur Elementary School Rebuild Comes in Over Budget — “City Council approved a development special use permit on Saturday for the Douglas MacArthur Modernization Project, which is currently $5 to $7 million over budget. The project, which involves demolishing the existing Douglas MacArthur Elementary School and rebuilding a new one, will increase the school’s capacity from 558 to 850 students.” [Alex Times]

Alexandria Police Conduct Deescalation Training — “Yesterday APD’s Tactical Training and Response Unit conducted officer safety and deescalation training with the Traffic Safety Section. These training’s teach ways to stabilize situations so that more time, options, and resources can be called upon.” [Twitter]

Murphy’s Grand Irish Pub Celebrates Half-Way to St. Patrick’s Day — See Irish music on a Facebook Live performance from Thursday night. [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “During the day, partly to mostly cloudy. Slight chance of a rain shower. High 74F. Winds N at 10 to 20 mph. At night, a few clouds. Low 49F. Winds N at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Marketing Manager — “Develop and manage strategic, comprehensive marketing campaigns for NSBA (National School Boards Association) revenue- generating products, services and events.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

A Quarter of Alexandria Voters Have Requested Mail-In Ballots — “Over a quarter of Alexandria’s registered voters have applied for a ballot by mail for this November’s election (!!!). Ballots will be mailed out beginning next week when in-person early voting also begins. You can apply online today for a mail ballot!” [Twitter]

Seven Alexandria Students Make National Merit Scholarship List — “Students from Alexandria area high schools have been named 2021 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists, taking the first step in securing a scholarship in the competitive program.” [Patch]

Beyer Criticizes Trump for Complaining Over Scandals — “You were recorded admitting you deceived the entire country about the danger of a virus that has killed more Americans than all wars since WWII combined. Can’t lie your way out of this one.” [Twitter]

ACPS Needs Donations for School Supplies — “While this year is considerably different because of the coronavirus pandemic, students still need essential supplies. ACPS is asking for community support. However, instead of donating physical items, they request that interested parties donate funds electronically.” [Zebra]

Alexandria Police Officer Appointed to State Board — “Governor Ralph Northam announced on September 4 that he has appointed Alexandria Police Officer Bennie L. Evans to the Commonwealth of Virginia Criminal Justice Services Board.” [Facebook]

Here’s Seven Things to do in Alexandria This Fall — “Enjoy a cruise aboard the tall ship Providence or set out for the new cat café or coming-soon dog bar. Contemplate new outdoor artwork like the ‘Come Together’ mural in Old Town. Mask up and visit just-opened independent businesses including the D.C. area’s first zero-waste sustainable grocer plus the national eco-conscious brand Patagonia, coming to King Street in September. Twelve new restaurants will tempt you with takeout or outdoor seating. Don your face mask and discover what’s new in Alexandria.” [Visit Alexandria]

Workforce Development Center Offers Job Counseling — “Are you recently unemployed or want to change your career and don’t know where to start? We are now offering free one-on-one Job Search Coaching to help Alexandrians who have experienced job loss during the pandemic.” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “Thunderstorms likely during the day. Potential for heavy rainfall. High 83F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 80%.Thunderstorms likely in the evening. Then a chance of scattered thunderstorms later on. Low 73F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 80%.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Scholarship Fund of Alexandria Assistant Director — “The qualified applicant will be eager to support the organization’s effort to help Alexandria high school students obtain college scholarships and college and financial aid advising. This position is full-time, year-round and provides an opportunity to work in a small, dynamic, mission-driven, collegial nonprofit organization.” [Indeed]

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The pool tables are gone, there’s no dancing and everything is spread out, but singing karaoke at the Rock It Grill is still going strong with some new additional safety features.

“Our regular Rock It customers are beyond wonderful,” said owner Laura Seiss. “As far as employees that are back, everybody who wanted to work is working.”

The 31-year-old restaurant and bar at 1319 King Street spent its formative years as the country western-themed hangout GW’s until 1997, when it rebranded itself as Rock It Grill in 1997. It was the only place in town that offered karaoke seven nights a week for years. It was also a popular spot for Halloween and other parties.

The changes don’t mean a thing to Roger Vasilas, the owner of The Lamplighter, which is just up the street. Nearly every day at lunchtime you’ll find him at Rock It, spending his free time eating familiar food and seeing familiar faces.

“I’ve got too many good memories of this place to pick one that stands out,” Vasilas said. “I know everybody here. I can have a conversation about anything with anybody here.”

Manager Hana Harris has worked for Seiss the last 11 years, and was temporarily laid off for two months before Rock It reopened at the end of May.

“This place is like ‘Cheers’ because everybody knows your name here,” Harris said. “Business is starting to slowly pick up bit by bit.”

Now there’s karaoke Wednesday through Saturday. The deejay stands behind a plexiglass screen and receives songs from staffers who give them written requests from customers.

“The best is that everybody cheers for everybody with the karaoke,” Seiss said. “It’s heartwarming. The thing about us is that somebody can walk in the first time, and when they come back the regulars welcome them back.”

Seiss has been unable to pay rent throughout the pandemic and has paid her landlord 25% of the government loan monies she has received, she said. The business has gone through the ALX Promise accreditation through the Alexandria Health Department, and she says her staff of nine full and part time employees are working hard to keep things clean and safe.

“We don’t want to go backwards, and we’re working really hard,” Seiss said. “We’re not a takeout kind of place, and people like to come here to hang out.”

Image via Rock It Grill/Facebook

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The new bus loop — a centerpiece of the King Street-Old Town Metro Access Improvement Project — was scheduled to open in March, but the city now says completion is still four to six months away.

“While delays have continued, we can provide an updated estimate for completion of the phase 1 bus loop,” Lydia Durand, a management analyst with the Department of Project Implementation, told ALXnow. “At this time, we anticipate an approximately four-six month time frame for reopening the bus loop. This accounts for construction of the bus loop, restoration of utilities, intersection signalization, and integration into the DASH, WMATA and City traffic operations systems.”

In 2012, the City Council approved a safer and larger transit area outside the Metro station, with better pedestrian-crossings through the bus loop. The project has been in-progress since November 2018 when the bus loop was closed, but has faced significant delays.

According to the city website, full completion of the project is now scheduled for Spring 2021.

“This project has experienced delays,” Durand said. “Staff continues to actively manage the contractor’s progress on this project and is taking all steps within our contractual rights to hold the contractor accountable for completion of this project in a productive and timely manner.”

Durand said cost increases for inspection and construction oversight could happen, but that they are anticipated to fall within the contingency funding allocated for the project budget.

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A new convenience shop called Old Town Mini Mart is working through the city’s approval process to open in the heart of Old Town.

According to documents filed with the city, Old Town Mini Mart is planned to open at 822 King Street, once home to Old Town Pack & Ship. That store is still open, staff there said, it just moved around the corner. One of the co-owners of the new Old Town Mini Mart is Rodrigo Restrepo, who is listed as the owner of Old Town Shoe & Luggage Repair next door to the proposed market.

According to the application, Old Town Mini Mart will be:

Small convenience store offering coffee/tea, water, sodas, beer & wine, sandwiches and snacks, chips, candy and few household sundries. There will be a small sections where one can pull food/drinks from refrigerated displays and or serve coffee/tea. to take with. Will also offer Virginia Lottery

The application notes that the market will also serve alcohol.

If approved, location will be open Monday-Friday from 5 a.m. to midnight, and from 6 a.m. to midnight on Saturday and Sunday.

The proposed market is scheduled to go to the Planning Commission for a hearing on Oct. 6.

Photo via Google Maps

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It’s been a bumpy ride for drivers on the West End traveling along King Street, but that should change after next week.

The City of Alexandria is planning to start resurfacing King Street between S. 28th Street and S. 25th Street, a portion of the street passing Array at West Alex and the busy intersection with S. Walter Reed Drive.

“The work will start on Monday, July 27, and is expected to end on Friday, July 31, weather permitting,” the city said in a news release. “Due to high traffic volumes during the day, paving will take place overnight on weeknights from 8 p.m.-5 a.m. Traffic and parking in the immediate and surrounding areas may be redirected during work hours. Please observe all parking and detour signage.”

The city said residents affected will receive advance notice by letter or construction signs.

“City staff will be onsite managing the project; roads will fully reopen to traffic at the end of each shift,” the city said. “The City recognizes that night paving may be an inconvenience to residents living along this section of King Street. Thank you for your patience and support as we work to improve the City’s infrastructure.”

Photo via Google Maps

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King’s Ransom — an Old Town cocktail lounge in a spot many locals may remember as the speakeasy PX — had the distinct misfortune of opening in mid-February, scarcely a month before a global pandemic would shut down nearly every business in Alexandria.

The restaurant at 728 King Street is back, however, and has announced a series of new social distancing-friendly activities, including a series of cocktail classes.

“We’ve launched a series of unique classes that take place every Tuesday night,” the restaurant said in an email. “There are two seatings of 10 people each. Guests get to chat with Jon Schott and Alex Taylor (cocktail gurus) in addition to a representative from the featured spirt. The classes include four unique cocktail courses with food pairings.”

The next class is on Tuesday, July 28, and will feature cocktails made only with local ingredients and Catoctin Creek, a brewing company from Purcellville, Virginia.

“Join King’s Ransom and Catoctin Creek for a special evening as we welcome back our neighbors,” King’s Ransom said. “Guests will enjoy 4 courses paired with cocktails using local ingredients and executed with molecular mixology. Catoctin Creek Spirit Specialists will share the distillery’s history including a chance to sample their #InThisTogether Infinity Barrel Rye.”

Tickets are $75 per person. Details on the cocktails, and tickets, are available online.

Photo courtesy King’s Ransom

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Morning Notes

Alexandria Man Has Washington Football Team Name Trademarks — “Phillip Martin McCaulay, 61, has made dozens of submissions to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for almost a dozen potential names and other iterations of them.” [WTOP]

Police Department Celebrates 150th Birthday — “150 years of exemplary service to the citizens of Alexandria! Happy anniversary to the Alexandria Police Department founded on this day, July 15, 1870.” [Facebook]

Alexandria, Arlington Apply for Grants to Fund MV Trail Widening, King Street Improvements — “Arlington County and the City of Alexandria are applying for a pair of grants that would bring significant changes to the Mt. Vernon Trail and a portion of King Street near Fairlington.” [ARLnow]

The Heritage Development Gets Smaller — “The original proposed plan included 842 new units with parking underneath the park area. After receiving feedback and concerns about the height and mass of the original plan, the proposed number of units has been reduced to 777, with 774 parking spaces underneath the new structures.” [Alexandria Living]

Carpenter’s Shelter Gets $15K Donation — “Carpenter’s Shelter has not stopped serving the homeless during the pandemic. Recently, the organization received a $15,000 donation from the nonprofitAmerican Water Charitable Foundation and Virginia American Water.” [Zebra]

New Job: Team Member — “Toastique in Old Town, Alexandria and is seeking team members to help create smoothies, gourmet toasts, and run the POS system. Employees will be joining a team to create a fun, clean, fresh environment for a gourmet toast and juice bar in bustling Old Town! No specific skills or experience needed, but applicant must be excited to interact with customers and serve healthy, fresh food to the community.” [Indeed]

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After some back and forth about the “Old Town” letters, plans to revive the marquee above the former Old Town Theater are headed to the Alexandria Board of Architectural Review tonight (Wednesday).

The site at 815 1/2 King Street is undergoing renovation to turn into a Patagonia — an outdoors clothing and equipment store. The location was build as the Richmond Theater in 1914, according to a staff report, with a permit for “moving pictures, bowling alleys and billiards.” In 1929, a metal marquee was added, which may have been replaced or updated in the 1950s.

The distinctive “Old Town” sign wasn’t added until 1980, but staff had earlier nudged Patagonia towards keeping the sign intact.

“While the ‘Old Town’ sign on top of the marquee was a later replacement for the ‘Richmond’ theater sign, it had been in place for a significant period of time and was embedded in the cultural memory and considered historic in its own right, so the previous owner was convinced to retain a slightly modified version of that sign,” staff said in the report. “Staff is pleased that the applicant has agreed to retain the culturally significant Old Town sign.”

Alexandria has fairly rigorous sign policies and an illuminated sign would typically be verboten, but staff said an exception should be made in this case for the Patagonia sign being installed.

“While internally illuminated individual letter signs are not typically approved in the historic districts, staff finds it appropriate in this location for a couple of reasons,” staff said in the report. “The theater has a history of BAR approved internally illuminated signs — starting with ‘Richmond’ in the 1950s and ‘Old Town’ in 1980. Furthermore, staff also supports the illuminated sign due to its location under the marquee because the canopy keeps the first floor of the building in shadow nearly all the time and the moderate illumination will identify the store entrance.”

The store itself is planned to open in September, according to Alexandria Living Magazine.

The former Old Town Theater isn’t the only King Street locale from the 1800s getting a touch up to be reviewed at the meeting tonight; a pair of buildings on upper King Street with could undergo a renovation to take them back to their pre-1950s design.

Insert photo via City of Alexandria

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The former Pines of Florence and Aftertime Comics buildings at 1300 and 1304 King Street may not stand out much to the casual Old Town visitor, but faded brick buildings have a historic legacy that a new development hopes to bring out again.

The property at 1300 King Street is being redeveloped with an L-shaped building that will have 33 multifamily units over ground-floor retail, Washington Business Journal reported. Though it’s just one building, the project’s design is aimed to appear like two: with a red brick building facing King Street and a grey brick one facing S. Payne Street.

Part of the development will include some restoration of the historic buildings at 1300 King Street. According to the staff report:

Ethelyn Cox states in Historic Alexandria, Street by Street, that the building at 1300 King Street was built in 1813 and that the building at 1304 King Street was constructed between 1800-1805. Material details observed on site visits by staff confirm that construction period. Both masonry buildings are two-stories in height with three bays and metal-clad gable roofs. The corner property has had several one and two-story rear additions over the years, with commercial uses fronting on King Street and service and automobile related uses on the South Payne Street elevation.

However, before there was area was protected as part of the Old & Historic Alexandria District, permits show in 1957 the building was covered with a faux stone attached with stucco. The staff report says that the bondstone — the brand name for the faux stone used in the ’50s — should be removed with the original brickwork exposed. The stucco damaged the original brick finish, however, so the masonry will need to be repainted and repaired during the redevelopment.

The new designs for the residential building west of the historic property also include a distinctive balcony with metal tracery reminiscent of the New Orleans French Quarter.

The project is scheduled to go to the Board of Architectural Review tomorrow (Wednesday).

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After 50 years in business, The Irish Walk at 415 King Street will close by the end of July.

“It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that after 50 years in business; The Irish Walk will be closing its doors on July 31, 2020,” owner Patty Theobald said in an email. “From the original owners, the Butler Family, to the Troy Family, to me and my staff, we have all enjoyed getting to know our customers and community over the last five decades.

Theobald said coronavirus was just the latest in a series of financial hurdles that were just too much for the business to withstand. The Irish Walk isn’t alone either, many businesses in the city are facing a slow recovery as sales remain low.

“The last couple of years have been financially hard on all of us,” Theobald said. From the government shutdown, to the summer closing of the Alexandria Metro stations, and now the pandemic; we all have suffered in ways we couldn’t have imagined,” Theobald said. “The Irish Walk is one business, in a long list of businesses that is finding it impossible to bounce back after this third financial hit.”

The store owners and staff left their customers with one last message of encouragement.

“We have fitted some of you with your first Irish dance shoes, ordered your wedding bands, watched your children grow, celebrated your anniversaries and helped you find the perfect gifts,” Theobald said. “We have appreciated hearing about your trips to Ireland and your family’s Irish histories and celebrating the big day with you…St. Patrick’s Day. It has been a joy.”

Photo via The Irish Walk/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Del Ray First Thursday Porch Party Today — “The Del Ray Business Association presents First Thursday Porch Party: Red, White, and Blue from 6 p.m. to dusk on Thursday, July 2. In the spirit of Del Ray’s summer street festivals, the event features a wide range of activities that promote community while maintaining social distancing standards.” [Facebook]

Major Residential Development Breaks Ground — “About 300 residences and a large parking garage are replacing an old office building in Alexandria’s West End.” [Alexandria Living]

DASH Bus Mobile Tracker Launches — “The new mobile-friendly DASH Tracker is finally here with new features and improved information to make finding your next bus a snap! Where will you go with the new DASH Tracker?” [Facebook]

Al’s Steak House Won’t Have Indoor Seating — “As we enter Phase 3 Al’s will continue not to have indoor seating available. Our space is too small to accommodate customers dining in and customers picking up their orders.The social distancing would be non existent. We do offer two tables for outdoor seating. Al’s will continue to accept call in orders and Delivery.” [Facebook]

Rebuilding Together Alexandria Slowly Getting Back on Track — “Our team was looking for a socially-distant project to get us out of the office and back into the community. We mulched the grounds of local nonprofit, Friends of Guest House. Check out the before and after!” [Facebook]

Mason & Greens Grand Opening Moved Online — “When news about the coronavirus began to spread, the Marinos knew they would have to cancel their big grand opening event.” [Alexandria Living]

Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden Open House Saturday — “Explore the history in your own backyard with free, self-guided tours of the Lee-Fendall House on July 4th! Face masks are required and we will be limiting the number of visitors allowed in the museum at one time to allow for social distancing.” [Facebook]

New Job: Host or Hostess — “Looking for an energetic individual to control the flow of the dining rooms, and be the first happy face guests see when entering Village Brauhaus.” [Facebook]
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