Alexandria, VA

Old Town Alexandria is widely renowned for it’s Christmas atmosphere, but it’s local inmates who do much of the work to get those decorations up.

In addition to the lights in trees on King Street, there are garlands and ribbons around poles and lamp posts throughout Old Town.

Amy Bertsch, a spokesperson for the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office, said inmates at the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center work on a voluntary basis to decorate Old Town.

“The Inmate Work Detail does put up some holiday decorations (garland and ribbon) along King Street, but not the lights,” Bertsch said. “Participation in the Inmate Work Detail is completely voluntary and inmates are compensated. They appreciate the opportunity to be out of the jail and working in the community.”

The holiday lights and decorations used to only go from the waterfront to Route 1, but David Martin, owner of Gold Works on upper King Street, spearheaded an effort in the early 2000s to have holiday decorations extend up King Street to the Metro station.

Staff photo by Vernon Miles

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The 600 block of King Street in Old Town — the one with the Chipotle and the Walgreens — is going to be briefly closed to car and some pedestrian traffic early tomorrow (Saturday) morning.

The block will be closed from 6-9 a.m. for construction work at 621 King Street, a Burke and Herbert Bank location, according to a press release from the City of Alexandria. A crew replacing equipment at the building will require a roadway closure for use of a large crane.

The sidewalk on the north side of the block will also be closed during the construction.

Photo via Google Maps

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The city-owned small parcel at 2 King Street — currently home to eight leased parking spaces — could have a big impact on the block at the end of King Street if the city approves a sale.

At the Waterfront Commission meeting this morning (Tuesday), staff said the city received an unsolicited offer for the lot in June from the current owners of the adjacent Fitzgerald Warehouse building. The City Council subsequently authorized staff to consider the sale and look into alternatives for the property.

Staff said the proposed plan would involve tearing down the late 20th-century addition to the historic property — which currently houses Thai restaurant Mai Thai — and replace it with a new extension that would take advantage of the waterfront view. The historic Fitzgerald Warehouse, where Starbucks is currently located, would not be torn down.

Staff was skeptical of the likelihood that another development could be built on the site, saying it could theoretically be its own building but “it would be a tight fit.”

One way or another, the parking spaces at the foot of King Street are likely going away soon. Jack Browand, division chief with the Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities, said that the current use does not fit with the city’s plans to make the surrounding streets more pedestrianized.

“Even if it stays with the city, it would be improved in some way, like turned into an outdoor seating area,” Browand said.

Whether the property stays with the city or is sold to a developer, several members of the Waterfront Commission said that part of the deal should be the inclusion of public restrooms or other public uses at the site.

Staff said a public meeting will be held in December to gather more ideas for what to do with the site, but no specific date has been scheduled.

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A new mixed-use apartment complex scheduled to open in the West End in early December has debuted three new pieces of public art.

At the front of the $200 million complex, Array at West Alex, artist Harry McDaniel has built a kinetic sculpture garden titled “En Pointe.” The artwork, which took three years to sculpt, involves large, abstract sculptures of people moving slowly in circles.

“As the design took form, I began to see the combined forms (in motion) as dancers,” said McDaniel. “That was not by intention, but the association stuck with me, so I settled on the title ‘En Pointe’ which refers to the dance position and describes the fact that each of the sections of the sculpture is balanced on a point.”

On the complex’s plaza, local artist Alma Selimovic has completed sculptures of bright flowers on a 45-foot wall, titled “Last Summer.” The blue, orange, and yellow flowers add life to an otherwise plain concrete wall.

“I love the area,” said Selimovic. “Last Summer is my first public sculpture, I’ve always wanted to build big pieces and I finally got the chance to do that in Alexandria.”

Along the nearby King Street, sculptor David Smedley has installed a tile wall titled “The Event” — an op-art, geometric abstraction made up of a mosaic of squares and triangles with a variety of colors.

Array at West Alex has 278 apartment units along with a mixed-use ground floor with multiple retailers.

In addition to a 62,000 square-foot Harris Teeter projected to open in early 2021, the complex has a Sports Clips barbershop, a Lifestyle Nail Salon, and a sushi restaurant slated with early 2020 openings.

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Police say the stop of a stolen vehicle led to a short pursuit on foot and three arrests.

Around 9 p.m. yesterday (Sunday), police stopped a vehicle on the 3000 block of King Street — a bit down the road from T.C. williams High School — according to Lt. Courtney Ballantine, a spokesman for the Alexandria Police Department.

Ballantine said the vehicle had been reported stolen in Fairfax County. After it was stopped, three suspects allegedly fled the vehicle. After a short foot pursuit, Ballantine said the three were apprehended.

A helicopter was called in to assist with the search, Ballantine said, but was ultimately sent back because the suspects were caught before it was needed.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Stolen Vehicle Prompts Police Helo — “The Alexandria Police Department stopped a stolen vehicle in the 3000 block of King Street. A helicopter has been requested to assist.” [Twitter/@AlexandriaVAPD]

Route 7 Bus Lanes Planned — “New plans for rapid bus stations and bus lanes along Route 7 in Northern Virginia show the changes that could come to the busy commuter route over the next decade. A new conceptual engineering report lays out 18 specific bus rapid station locations from Tysons to Alexandria.” [WTOP]

Hospital Uses Temporary Cowbell Alert System — “It got a little noisy at Inova Alexandria Hospital on Thursday, Nov. 7, as hospital staff had to get creative in the in-patient unit by giving patients cowbells during an upgrade to the call bell system. Extra hospital staff were deployed to help patients during the four hour shutdown before the system was back online. There were no reported issues.” [Zebra]

Thousands of Coats Donated — “It wouldn’t be the holiday season in Alexandria without Willie Bailey’s annual coat drive. By the end of the year, Bailey and his team of volunteers from the Alexandria Police Department, Fire Department, and Sheriff’s Office have distributed more than 4,000 winter coats to city youth.” [Zebra]

Nearby: Elaborate Light Display Taking Year Off — “Collingwood Lights will not open this winter, ending a tradition for thousands of local residents. Elaborate, music-synched light displays have given joy to many people for more than two decades at Bill and Jan Vaughan’s home at 1601 Collingwood Road. In 2018, the couple won $50,000 in ABC television’s ‘The Great Christmas Light Fight.'” [Alexandria Living]

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Deli, News & More at 1406 King Street in Old Town sells, as the name may suggest, deli sandwiches, news, and more. But it’s the “and more” that got the shop in trouble earlier this year.

The shop opened in 1994 as a newsstand, and in 1995 got authorization to operate a carry-out restaurant in conjunction with the newsstand. But as any one of the 150 patrons a day at the store may have noticed, half of the shop is a convenience store it was never authorized to operate.

A staff report on the zoning issue said that the unauthorized convenience store attracted patrons from nearby office and commercial buildings, hotels, and residents of the surrounding neighborhood.

During a routine inspection in June, inspectors cited the business for violation of its Special Use Permit for sale of alcohol. Further inspection found that the restaurant had expanded substantially beyond the carry-out restaurant and newsstand it was authorized for.

Deli, News & More is on tomorrow’s (Saturday) City Council docket as a consent item, meaning it will likely receive approval that will bring the store into alignment with its zoning, and locals can continue buying beer and necessities along with their news and deli sandwiches.

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Due to an emergency gas repair, Alexandria Transportation and Environmental Services (T&ES) announced on Twitter than a portion of the 1000 block of westbound King Street.

The block is between Patrick and Henry Streets, the north and southbound directions of Route 1 through Alexandria.

T&ES warned that drivers in Old Town near the closure should expect backups and seek alternate routes if possible.

Photo via Google Maps

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A new restaurant is in the works for the former Eamonn’s and PX spot at 728 King Street.

Tentatively labeled as “The Handover,” the restaurant has filed permit applications this week, seeking to serve beer and wine in a space with a seating capacity of up to 100.

A lawyer listed as representing the company behind the application — Monarch Novelties LLC — could not be reached for comment. No phone number was listed.

Construction is currently underway inside the building, with crews refurbishing the floors on the upper level where PX once was.

PX, a local speakeasy popular with fans of craft cocktails — a number of local officials were regulars, too — closed earlier this year, as did Eamonn’s, the fish and chip shop on the ground floor.

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Korean chicken restaurant Choong Man Chicken is coming to the northwest corner of Alexandria.

Paperwork filed for the new restaurant says it will be moving into Suite 4668 at Shoppes at Summit Centre (4700 King Street), though suite is currently home to nail salon that said they have no plans to close, while the nearby Suite 4686 is currently vacant.

The restaurant currently operates four other locations — in Annandale, Centreville, Gainesville and Fairfax. According to staff at another location, the restaurant is very tentatively scheduled to open in roughly two months.

Choong Man Chicken’s menu focuses, unsurprisingly, on chicken. Flavors range from simple fried chicken to curry and spicy garlic varieties, while options vary from wings and chicken tenders at $11 to whole chickens for $21.

The restaurant is also applying for an ABC permit to serve soju — an alcoholic drink from Korea — and beer.

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Morning Notes

Most City Facilities Open on Monday — “City of Alexandria government offices, libraries and recreation centers will be open on Monday, November 11.” [City of Alexandria]

Veterans Day Ceremony Planned — “The City of Alexandria and Friends of Rocky Versace will host the 18th Annual Veterans Day Ceremony on Monday, November 11, 1-2 p.m. at Mount Vernon Recreation Center (2701 Commonwealth Ave.).” [City of Alexandria]

More Details About ‘The Mill’ — “A restaurant partner has been announced for The Mill, a southern market and kitchen slated for a historic warehouse on the Alexandria waterfront. Builder Murray Bonitt of Bonitt builders announced James Beard Award-winning Chef John Currence will lead the restaurant concept.” [Patch, Zebra]

Del Ray Mom Has Tasty Business — “Heather Stouffer, who lives and works in Alexandria, launched Mom Made Foods from a card table at the Del Ray Farmers Market in 2006. The company is now helping parents nationwide and is on the cusp of launching a new option for lunch boxes.” [Alexandria Living]

Hazmat Scare Was Just Flour — “Scanner: Alexandria firefighters and hazmat team dispatched to a local trail for a report of a suspicious white powder. Arriving units determined the substance to be flour, used by local runners to mark the trail.” [Twitter]

Backups on King Street Due to Chicken Sandwich — “Around lunchtime today, the sandwich was causing a traffic jam in front of the Popeyes at 4675 King Street… One lane was effectively blocked along westbound King Street approaching the Walter Reed/Beauregard Street intersection as drive-thru customers waited over 40 minutes to get their hands on the savory combination of bread, fried chicken and sauce.” [ARLnow]

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If you’re one of the people who gets upset at Christmas being celebrated before Thanksgiving, you might be vexed by the City of Alexandria’s holiday schedule.

The official Tree Lighting Ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 23 at Market Square (301 King Street).

“Bring the family to spark the season’s spirit a week earlier than usual,” the city said in an event listing. “Due to the timing of Thanksgiving, this year’s event will take place the weekend before the holiday.”

(Thanksgiving is late this year, taking place on Thursday, Nov. 28.)

The event will include a performance of Santa’s Spectacular by the Metropolitan School of the Arts and holiday music from the T.C. Williams High School Advanced Choir, according to the event listing. After a countdown to the tree lighting, a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus is also scheduled.

Admission to the event is free and it will occur rain or shine.

Other upcoming holiday events in Alexandria include:

Photo via Visit Alexandria/Facebook

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