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Protected bike lane in Clarendon (image via City of Alexandria)

The City of Alexandria announced last week that four existing bike lanes will be getting new protection, including physical barriers, this summer.

Alexandria Transportation & Environmental Services announced the change last week — but it turned into a pretty busy news week after that.

The city will add four buffers to bike lanes on:

  • King Street (Janneys Lane to Radford Street)
  • North Van Dorn Street (Braddock Road to Menokin Drive)
  • Pegram Street (Polk Avenue to North Pickett Street)
  • Seminary Road (North Howard Street to Quaker Lane)

The City of Alexandria website said each of the streets currently has painted buffer zones but no physical barriers. While many of the physical barriers on bike lanes are obviously not strong enough to stop a car, it still provides a physical demarcation that helps keep drivers out of the bike lane.

While the Seminary Road bike lane conjures to mind heated discussion over traffic impacts, the city said the new barriers will have no impact on traffic.

The bike lanes are expected to be installed sometime this spring or summer.

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A smoking heating and air system has closed Bugsy’s Pizza Restaurant & Sports Bar at 111 King Street for the foreseeable future, the restaurant owner told ALXnow.

Owner Bartolo Paz said that smoke came out of the furnace this afternoon after it was turned on by restaurant staff, that no one was hurt, and that there is minimal damage.

“They had to cut out some drywall and insulation,” Paz told ALXnow. “Nothing major.”

The Alexandria Fire Department responded to the commercial building fire call for service at around noon, according to dispatch reports.

A favorite sports bar in Old Town, Bugsy’s is named after Bryan Watson, the former defenseman with the Washington Capitals pro hockey team. Watson opened the business in 1983 as Armand’s Pizzeria & Grille with the upstairs bar, The Penalty Box. Watson sold the business to Paz in 2013, and died in 2021.

Paz said that he hopes to reopen the restaurant soon.

The restaurant released the following statement on social media:

Good afternoon,

Unfortunately earlier today we experienced a fire inside our building, everyone is okay but this has caused us to close down for the foreseeable future. We apologize for the inconvenience but we will keep everyone updated as soon as we get the updates ourselves and we look forward to opening back up as soon as possible so we can continue to provide all our customers with exceptional service. Thank you so much for understanding and we hope to see everyone soon.

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1101 King Street (image via AREP)

A new conversion from an office to a ‘luxury rental development’ has broken ground in Old Town.

American Real Estate Partners (AREP) is converting the 200,000-square-foot office building at 1101 King Street into a 200-unit apartment development called CityHouse Old Town.

The office building was built in 1983, predating new regulations on density in the area established in 1992. While the project involves significant interior changes, the exterior modifications are relatively modest.

According to a release:

Located in the heart of King Street in historic Old Town Alexandria, AREP is converting a former 200,000 SF office building and transforming it into CityHouse Old Town, a community comprised of approximately 200 homes ranging in size from 525 square-foot studios to deluxe three-bedroom apartments with a den to accommodate hybrid work and private wraparound terraces for the majority of homes.

The seven-story property, with its six-story interior atrium, rises above the surrounding buildings, providing panoramic views of Old Town, the riverfront, and DC monuments. Residents will have access to a concierge, private club suite, and state-of-the-art fitness facility, as well as a wide array of food & beverage destinations just a few steps away from their door.

American Real Estate Partners said in the release that pre-leasing at the building is scheduled to start in the summer of 2025 while construction will be completed later that fall.

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Updated 2/27: Justin Marino, owner of Mason and Greens, reached out to ALXnow. Marino said:

We would like to thank the community, the City and all who have supported our small business over the years. We had a good run, and hope we introduced you to new items that are good for you and the planet, and different ways to live a cleaner and better life. We will miss our customers the most, the Mason & Greens family wishes you the best, and much success in your journey to a more sustainable future!

Zero waste boutique Mason and Greens (913 King Street) seemingly closed in Old Town earlier this month.

The store closed earlier this month with no public notice. Calls to the store went unanswered and the doors were locked at the store, with all the interior shelves emptied.

The shop opened in Old Town in 2020 with a focus on sustainable, zero-waste products, offering an eco-friendly alternative to other grocery stores.

The other Mason and Greens location in D.C. closed last October.

A picture of the sign in front of the store just before the closing was sent to ALXnow with notes attached to the board:

We’re abruptly closing and displacing all our employees just like the DC Store! Going out of business. Goodbye. Come and get what’s left! And let the employees know about current job openings! Thanks!

Sign outside of Mason and Greens (photo contributed)
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The annual George Washington Birthday Parade is returning to Alexandria on President’s Day (Monday, Feb. 19). Here’s what you need to know.

The theme of the 101st annual parade is “George Washington: Alexandria’s Living Legend,” and this year’s parade marshals are the recipients of the prestigious Living Legends of Alexandria award.

According to parade organizers:

The Grand Marshal will be representatives of the Living Legends of Alexandria, individuals who have contributed to the community in an exemplary and lasting way that has significantly impacted the quality of life in Alexandria and serves as an inspiration to others. 2024 is also the 275th Birthday of the founding of the City of Alexandria.

Thousands of freemasons, city-related groups and nonprofits, and politicians march in the parade, which the city says is the oldest and largest of its kind in the world. The free event was first held in 1923 to commemorate the cornerstone laying of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial at King Street and Commonwealth Avenue.

The parade begins at 1 p.m. at the intersection of South Fairfax Street and Gibbon Street. Participants will then march north on South Fairfax Street to City Hall (301 King Street), take a left at Queen Street, and another left at S. Royal Street to the reviewing stand, which will be located at the intersection of N. Royal Street and King Streets. The parade route ends at the intersection of S. Royal Street and Wilkes Street, and the parade is scheduled to end at 3 p.m.

Parade organizers will also select the first, second and third-ranking participants in the following categories:

  • Antique vehicles
  • Masonic lodge with the best spirit
  • Community/fraternal group
  • Float
  • Historical unit
  • Honor and color guards
  • Military units and drill team
  • Youth groups
  • The spirit of George Washington

Additionally, the winning restaurant in this year’s annual Cherry Challenge will be announced.

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

The 2024 George Washington Birthday Parade route (via GW Birthday Parade)
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Alexandria City Council Member John Taylor Chapman wants to pursue making the 200 block of King Street into a pedestrian zone, and employees managing many of the businesses on that block have mixed feelings.

The move would mean having a pedestrian-only zone next door to City Hall’s Market Square (301 King Street) going all the way down to the waterfront.

Chapman told ALXnow that his plan is in its infancy, but that he will ask city staff about the feasibility of extending the pedestrian area that was permanently approved for the unit and 100 blocks of King Street in late 2022. The City closed the 100 block of King Street to car traffic in 2020 to help small businesses with outdoor seating during the pandemic, and the unit blocks of King Street and Strand Street were later added to the pilot.

Chapman is running for reelection and lists creating more pedestrian-only areas in his campaign platform.

“We’ve done the zero block and the 100 block (of King Street), and the 200 block is the next step,” Chapman told ALXnow. “Now I’m talking to those retailers to see if I can get their buy-in.”

Nearly half of the street parking on the eastern portion of the 200 block is taken up by a parklet rented for outdoor dining by The Warehouse restaurant at 214 King Street.

Ethan Wagner, manager of Old Virginia Tobacco (210 King Street), says a pedestrian zone will be a burden on his customers. He also said that the 200 block was shut down during the recent Scottish Christmas Walk Parade on Dec. 2, and that his employees had a hard time finding parking for work.

“There’s at least 15-to-20 parking spots right outside,” Wagner said. “I like the idea in theory, but I’m not a big fan of it because of the parking.”

Jaylen Walker, manager of Kilwins Chocolates and Ice Cream (212 King Street), said that the closure could be an issue for handicapped customers who need to be transported near the front door of the business.

“There’s a lot of parking garages nearby, and realistically, people are already down here to begin with,” he said. “The handicap issue is my only thing.”

survey of community feedback on the closure of the unit and 100 blocks found that 91% (of 1,853 survey respondents) rated the pedestrian zone as very positive.

The city’s transportation division chief, however, said last year that extending the pedestrian zone to the 200 block could be problematic, as it has fewer restaurants that lend themselves to outdoor seating.

Clint Mansell, manager of the Principle Gallery (208 King Street), said that customers and clients like dropping off their art by parking directly in front of the gallery.

“There’s more retail and fewer restaurants on this block,” Mansell said. “There’s a European feeling to it, the walkability. I have mixed feelings. It would be nice to have some time to think about this.”

Todd Lippert, the longtime assistant manager at Comfort One Shoes (201 King Street), is all in favor of the idea.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Lippert said. It’s about time that people in Old Town forget their cars and begin to walk, enjoy their lives, enjoy their shoes and enjoy their walks.”

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King Street-Bradlee Safety and Mobility Enhancements Project area (image via City of Alexandria)

The Department of Transportation and Environmental Services (T&ES) is hosting an open house next week on safety enhancements planned for King Street.

T&ES is planning a series of changes along King Street near the Bradlee Shopping Center. A community meeting to discuss the changes is scheduled for 5-7 p.m. on  Thursday, Feb. 15, at the Fairlington Presbyterian Church (3846 King Street).

Feedback collected by the city said the roadway is currently confusing and not very pedestrian friendly, with crosswalks on only one side of the street and some confusing intersection design, according to a presentation from city staff.

The changes, first announced late last year, could include bike lanes and more sidewalks along the road.

The plans to improve that stretch of King Street are particularly timely, with Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) leaders expressing concern about pedestrian safety in the area, especially with students walking back and forth between the two Alexandria City High School campuses.

The design process is set to kick off this spring and will run through Spring 2027.

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Chase Bank cut the ribbon on its new location in the heart of Old Town this morning.

Chase Bank bought 628 King Street for $11 million in December 2022, more than double its assessed value ($5.2 million last year), according to Alexandria property records. The building was previously a Banana Republic for decades, and closed along with The Gap at 622 King Street in January 2022.

“It is an honor for us to be a part of the Old Town community,” said branch manager Wendy Turner at the ribbon cutting. “It is such a privilege to be a part of this charming and historic community of Old Town residents and business owners, and we;’re so excited to be here.”

Chase Bank first moved to Alexandria in 2019, across the street at 106 N. Washington Street. The New York-based company has 114 locations in the D.C. metro area and plans on having 140 locations by the end of 2025.

A permanent sign will be erected within the next several weeks, staff told ALXnow.

“When we look at our locations we really want to make sure they’re visible and accessible,” said Chase Bank regional manager Alfonzo Guzman. “We’re going to be here in Old Town for a long time.”

The building at 628 and 622 King Street was constructed as a 600-seat theatre in 1854. During the Civil War, the building was named Washington Hall General Hospital, and contained 100 beds for Union soldiers. The building was later a laundromat and an insurance firm before it burned down and was rebuilt.

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The Virginia ABC store at 3815 Mount Vernon Avenue in Arlandria (via Google Maps)

Liquor store thefts jumped more than 200% in Alexandria in 2023, according to the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority.

There are six Virginia ABC stores in Alexandria. The store with the most incidents is the Arlandria store at 3815 Mount Vernon Avenue in the Del Ray North Shopping Center, which saw 43 incidents of theft last year, up from just eight reported incidents in 2022. The store with the highest amount of theft is at 501 Montgomery Street in Old Town North, which saw 23 incidents.

Virginia ABC said that there were a total of 100 reported thefts from Alexandria stores last year, versus 31 thefts in 2022, an increase of 222%. The increase in thefts isn’t just being felt in Alexandria, but throughout Virginia.

“Sometimes there were more than two thefts in one day,” an employee of the Arlandria store tells ALXnow. “They just walk in, take bottles and walk out. We don’t stop them, we just call police and they come in and review the security footage and sign insurance forms.”

Virginia ABC does not employ security guards in its network of 400 stores, and is undertaking a “multi-pronged approach to address retail and internal theft,” according to Pat Kane, a public relations specialist for Virginia ABC.

“No product in our store is worth risking the safety of our team members and customers,” Kane said. “Virginia ABC values its relationships with local law enforcement. Staff are trained to gather actionable information to generate usable suspect information and leads.”

Kane said the changes include:

  • Emphasizing staff interaction with customers
  • Minimizing the quantity of high-theft products that are placed on shelves at any one time
  • Moving products for maximum visibility by staff members
  • Enhancing camera systems
  • Ensuring the sight lines of camera systems
  • Lowering inventory levels at stores
  • Adding additional in-store staff

The Alexandria Police Department said that liquor store thefts pose a significant risk to the public, and that any suspicious activity should be reported by calling 911.

“Larceny with intent to sell or distribute stolen products is a felony and can result in jail time,” said APD Communications Manager Tracy Walker. “APD is aware of this crime trend occurring nationally and within our community and we make patrol of these store areas a part of our daily field operations and the broader strategy to suppress retail robberies.

Thefts from Virginia ABC stores in Alexandria in 2023 and 2022 (via Virginia ABC)

Via Google Maps

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A Pennsylvania man was arrested for his third driving while intoxicated offense in five years and driving on a suspended license after allegedly crashing his car into The Majestic Restaurant’s outdoor patio and a number of other cars in Old Town on Thursday, Dec. 28.

The incident at The Majestic occurred at around 1:30 a.m., and the 25-year-old suspect was later arrested at around 6:30 a.m. after allegedly crashing a 2002 Camry with temporary tags into two unoccupied parked vehicles near the intersection of Commerce and S. Payne Streets.

The damages are estimated at around $15,000, according to Scott Bogue, the restaurant’s manager.

“That includes propane tanks, heaters, crowd control barriers, planters, not to mention the time it too the gardener to buy the plants and plant them,” Bogue said. “He hit every single table, every single chair. You would have thought that an 18-wheeler plowed into the restaurant.”

Bogue said that police linked the suspect’s car by a portion of the front bumper that was left in front of the restaurant. Bogue said that Alexandria Restaurant Partners, which owns The Majestic, is not pressing charges and is getting compensated through the suspect’s insurance.

The suspect was charged with driving on a suspended license and for his third DWI in less than five years, which is a Class 6 felony punishable by up to a year in prison and/or a $2,500 fine. He was released on a $1,000 bond that afternoon and has his first court appearance on Friday, Jan. 5.

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