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Bucatini Carbonara at Thompson Italian (image via Thompson Italian/Facebook)

The former Hank’s Oyster Bar location at 1024 King Street could become a new location for Thompson Italian, an Italian restaurant in Falls Church.

According to a new special use permit filing by “King Street Italian, LLC”, the Italian restaurant could be taking over the spot vacated by Hank’s in March when the restaurant moved to Old Town North.

According to the permit, the operation of the restaurant will remain consistent with previous special use permits except for a change to alcohol sales codified during the pandemic.

“The operation of the restaurant will remain consistent with the special use permit approval dated June 16, 2012, with the exception of the requested elimination of condition #12,” the application said. “The Applicant requests an amendment to the conditions to eliminate Condition #12 since the October 17, 2020 Zoning Ordinance amendment to Section 11-514 revised the special use permit standards for restaurants to state that ‘on and off premises alcohol sales, consistent with a valid ABC license are permitted.'”

The application said there will also be minor interior changes.

“Minor interior renovations are proposed to the lower level kitchen, main level service area, and other finishes as shown in the enclosed plans,” the application said. “Minor exterior changes are proposed to the doors, light fixtures, and signage. These changes have been reviewed by historic preservation staff.”

Image via Thompson Italian/Facebook

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Bauer’s Optical at 4680 King Street is permanently closed.

The shop was broken into in January — one of many eyewear sellers that have been broken into this year across the region. About $17,000 in glasses was stolen from the store, which is located in the Shoppes at Summit Centre, a shopping center in the northwest corner of Alexandria.

There was another eyewear heist at a shop in Old Town in February, followed by $20,000 in eyewear stolen from a MyEyeDr store in Belle Haven in May.

Rappaport Co. is managing the Alexandria property, although the shop is still full of merchandise.

The phone number for Bauer’s Optical is now unlisted and the website has been taken down.

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There’s a new reason to go to the Hyatt Centric Old Town.

Indo-Chinese restaurant Indochen is now open at the hotel (1625 King Street) serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. This is the second Indochen in Alexandria, after its location at 4906 Brenman Park Drive in Cameron Station.

The menu has been curated by Chef Ram Thapa, who is bringing his hometown food of Nepal to the restaurant’s tables. Diners can enjoy a traditional American breakfast, as well as lunch and dinner menus that include items like chop suey, chow mein, and Indian dishes like butter chicken, samosas and palak paneer.

“Along with the excitement of leading one of Alexandria’s newest hotels, I am thrilled to work alongside Chef Ram Thapa and bring a new energy to the lobby to create a refreshing experience for every guest,” says General Manager Sam Selvi. “With easy access to breakfast, lunch and dinner options, Indonchen enables visitors to discover cuisine that encompasses the best of Indian and Chinese culture.”

The space was previously home to French & Southern.

The new restaurant is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The Indochen team at the Hyatt Centric Old Town. (Via Facebook)

Via Facebook

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Redesigned 515 King Street (image via GTM Architects/City of Alexandria)

After few months after purchasing 515 King Street — the big brutalist building in Old Town with a big clock on the side — Douglas Development is pitching a building overhaul to the city’s Board of Architectural Review (BAR).

The purchase of 515 King Street is just one of many recent acquisitions along King Street by Douglas Development.

According to a permit application scheduled for review at the Wednesday, June 15 BAR meeting. According to the permit, planned changes for the building include:

  • A new painted exterior to the brick building — images included with the application show it as a darker grey.
  • Added storefront windows along King Street and the other sides of the building
  • A new office lobby canopy facing King Street
  • A new “address sculpture” (in lieu of a tree in a planter box on King Street)
  • Expanded ground floor storefront

The building will also have a 5th-floor roof deck facing King Street. The new building will also have railing along a raised sidewalk to make the building ADA accessible from King Street.

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Rendering of the unit block of King Street with street closure, image via City of Alexandria

Alexandria’s King Street pedestrian zone initiative is getting a boost this weekend as the zone’s size will double for the next few months.

The pilot was approved by the City Council in April and will run from this Friday, May 27, through Monday Sept. 5 — Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day weekend.

The pedestrian zone will be expanded to temporarily convert the unit block of King Street, between Union Street and the Strand, into a car-free zone with in-street dining similar to the zone on the 100 block of King Street. A release from the city said it will be closed to all vehicular traffic except emergency and municipal maintenance vehicles. Visitors are also encouraged to walk their bicycles and scooters in the area.

There’s precedent for the pilot project to become permanent if it goes well. The pedestrian zone on the 100 block of King Street started as a pilot project in 2020 but became permanent in 2021.

The full city release is below the jump:

Read More

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Some changes could be coming to the King Street pedestrian zone to make the block’s change a little more permanent.

The Board of Architectural Review is scheduled to review a certificate of appropriateness for new bollards at either end of 100 block of King Street at the Board’s Thursday (May 5) meeting. The use of bollards was already approved in January, but the type approved in January was not rated for withstanding vehicle crashes, so a new type needs to be approved for locations like the 100 block where they’re designed to block vehicles.

“This request is for a second bollard type that is rated for vehicle crashes and could be used on the block where needed, such as at the Lee Street end,” the application said. “The bollard will be black to be as similar in style as possible with the previously approved bollard. The previously approved bollard will remain an option for other areas, potentially the Union Street end. Final selection of the two bollards, quantity, and location will be determined after coordination with an engineer and the utility companies.”

Bollards planned for 100 block of King Street, image via City of Alexandria

The addition of 20 bollards are part of an effort to make the area safer for pedestrians to prevent vehicles from crashing into the zone.

“Manufacturer testing has determined that these proposed bollards provide the ability to arrest a 5,000 lb. vehicle traveling up to 20 miles per hour,” the application said. “In addition, they are removable, which offers the ability to maintain the bollard over time and increase its use-able life span. They can be easily replaced without having to go through the costly re-installation of the entire bollard unit.”

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515 King Street, image via Google Maps

Update 3:50 p.m. — The PR firm representing Douglas Development said the transaction hasn’t been closed yet. While the original closing date was today, the PR firm said it is being delayed until tomorrow (Friday).

Earlier: The distinctive quasi-brutalist building at 515 King Street is the latest acquisition by Douglas Development, which has been snatching up several buildings along King Street in Old Town.

In a release today, the company said Douglas Development purchased the 70,000 square foot site from Brookfield Properties for $12 million.

“We see enormous potential and value in this submarket, and 515 King St. will be a terrific addition to our Old Town, Alexandria portfolio,” said Matthew Jemal, vice president of Douglas Development Corporation, in the release. “This acquisition will allow us to continue to work with great companies that are looking to grow and further expand their portfolio in the region, while also contributing our value and repurposing useful spaces.”

Along with the purchase, Douglas Development said there will be a series of improvements to the building.

“Capital improvements will include a lobby renovation, ground floor retail renovation, designated office suites and the upgrade of co-working spaces,” the company said, “with the additional plans to refresh the public spaces and incorporate a gym, locker rooms and more.”

The release said Douglas Development is currently in the process of negotiating with prospective tenants for new retail spaces, including a new restaurant.

“The property also has parking,” the release said, “which is unique for Old Town.”

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Rendering of the unit block of King Street with street closure, image via City of Alexandria

Updated 7:45 p.m. — Christopher Ziemann, division chief for Department of Transportation & Environmental Services, said in an email:

What City Council approved last night was not the pedestrian zone directly. This requires an ordinance change, which requires a public hearing. That Council approved last night was the first reading of the item and to set it for public hearing on April 23. On the 23rd, there will be a public hearing on the topic, which will most likely involve a presentation, discussion, questions and public comments.

Alexandria’s City Council approved first reading of the temporary closure of the unit block of King Street and a block of the Strand to vehicle traffic, with a full hearing planned later this month.

The full public hearing is scheduled for Saturday, April 23.

If approved, the closure is set to last for three months, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, with staff checking in on local businesses and monitoring pedestrian traffic over that time to gauge the impact. The pilot follows a similar path to the closure of the 100 block of King Street, which was made permanent last year.

The new zone will bring outdoor dining to the sidewalk and parking areas if the restaurants get permits. Deliveries and loading will be shifted to Union Street. Movable barriers and movable bicycle racks will also be set up on the block.

The block had been the endpoint for the King Street trolley, though that was changed to the block outside City Hall after the closure of the 100 block.

In one of our recent unscientific polls, 40% of respondents they wanted the pedestrian zone to be expanded for a few more blocks, but not for the whole of King Street to be turned into a pedestrian zone. Around 33% said they wanted everything up to the King Street Metro station to be converted into a pedestrian zone.

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The demolition and redevelopment of 628 King Street, formerly Banana Republic, is headed to review at the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) as the developer hopes to make some changes to the upper part of the building.

Currently, the building’s second floor is an almost entirely windowless brick facade. Jemal’s Gap Corner King, LLC, part of Douglas Development, is applying to demolish part of the north and west parts of the building to add windows to the second floor.

628 King Street proposed development, image via Douglas Development

“Staff supports the proposed demolition, as the proposed changes will improve the appearance of the building, which currently appears imbalanced and bulky due to the lack of second-floor fenestration,” the report said. “The character-defining features of the building will be retained, and the overall proportions will be improved. The wall surfaces to be demolished are not of old and unusual or uncommon design, and they could be reproduced easily. Staff therefore recommends approval of the Permit to Demolish.”

The staff report says there was a 19th-century building on the site that was in poor condition and the 1949 BAR “reluctantly” approved demolition and redevelopment. the retail building at the site was combined with adjacent buildings for a store design referred to by the BAR at the time as “simple and dignified.”

Banana Republic and Gap Outlet closed at the location in January after decades in business.

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The pedestrian zone on the 100 block of King Street has been a hit, so much so that the city is looking to expand the program to the unit block, which prompts the question: what should be the ultimate extent of the pedestrian zone project?

Last year, the City Council voted unanimously to make the closure on the 100 block permanent. The city is also taking a look at ways to make the 100 block’s pedestrian zone “look” more permanent. A new proposal going to the Planning Commission and City Council in April will put a similar pilot project into effect for the end of King Street and The Strand by the waterfront.

City staff have said the unit block is a natural extension of the 100 block’s closure, with that permanent closing having already reduced vehicle traffic on the unit block, but should the program continue up to the 200 block? Should the pedestrian street program eventually extend up to the King Street Metro station, as some have suggested, or should it remain just a feature of the blocks closest to the waterfront?

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