Alexandria, VA

Big changes are being planned for an 8.2-acre property directly across the street from Landmark Mall.

While only in the conceptual phase, the Landmark Overlook development would transform the corner of South Walker Street and Stephenson Avenue into a mixed use property with hotels or office buildings, two-level stacked condominium units, apartments and retail.

The Eisenhower West-Landmark Van Dorn Implementation Advisory Group was briefed on the plan last week by property owner Hekemian & Co.

“We’re excited about it,” Hekemian’s attorney Ken Wire told the advisory group in a Zoom meeting. “We think the commercial high visibility, the multifamily rental and the stacked condos are a good variety that continues to provide that texture in our community that we all value.”

The property is currently home to the Alley Cat Restaurant and Sports Bar, Dunya Banquet Hall & Restaurant (there since 1989), a four-story office building and a Big Lots store.

The northern edge of the property would be home to two hotels or office buildings depending on demand. The stacked condos in the western portion of the property would have up to 88 two-level units.

“It’s a wonderful site, and we’re obviously looking forward to a redevelopment proposal for it,” Chris Bell, a senior vice president with Hekemian, told the advisory group. “We’re also looking forward to see what happens to the Landmark Mall. We think it’s a real great driver for this site.”

In April, mall owner The Howard Hughes Corporation sent a message to Alexandria Living Magazine that it has no update on its redevelopment.

Images via City of Alexandria 

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Morning Notes

Former ACPS Chief Executive Officer Decries School System Leadership — “Some ACPS leadership and staff recognized a downward shift in my influence about a year ago. I remained focused. Then, this past December, after a disagreement about how to de-escalate transportation employee complaints, my position of chief operating officer, among other positions, was eliminated by the school board as part of what came off as a hastily generated restructuring plan by Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings Jr., Ed.D.” [Alex Times]

City Buys 10K Face Masks for Local Nonprofits — “This week, Griffin, Jenelle, and Caroline helped bag some of the 10,000 masks purchased by the City of Alexandria for distribution to local nonprofits!” [Facebook]

Sears at Landmark Mall Closing — “For many decades Sears has been a fixture of Landmark Mall. When the mall closed in 2017 for eventual redevelopment and stores closed inside one by one, somehow Sears remained.” [Zebra]

Hookah Lounge Opening in West End — “The Double Apple Lounge will be opening this coming Tuesday, July 7 in Alexandria’s West End. The restaurant, lounge and hookah bar is at 5101 Seminary Road, just west of the intersection at North Beauregard Street with indoor and outdoor seating and plenty of parking.” [Alexandria Living]

New Job: Pantry Team Member — “This position directly supports the food operations for United Community. The food operations consists of; A Monday-Friday Pantry where the area’s under served population, if registered, can come in and pick up food for themselves and their family, both shelf stable and fresh products.” [Indeed]

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An Alexandria man in his 50s has died of COVID-19, and there are now 1,824 cases in the city, an increase of 49 new cases since yesterday, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

There are now 42 deaths in the city related to the virus, and the most recent victims were two Alexandria men and a woman. The number of known cases is expected to rise in the city, as 3,000 tests were administered at Cora Kelly School and Landmark Mall on Monday.

It is not clear how many residents have recovered since the first case was announced on March 11, though Mayor Justin Wilson noted in a town hall last week that hospitalizations have been either level or trending downward.

There have been more than 900 new cases and more than a dozen coronavirus-related deaths in the city this month alone. A large percentage of deaths have occurred at long-term care facilities, and there has been one death of a person in their 20s. There are now 18 reported deaths of residents in their 80s and 14 deaths of residents in their 70s. The most recent death was the seventh person in their 50s to die from the virus.

Hispanic residents make up 17% of the population and are leading with the highest number of cases in the city, with 841 reported cases, six deaths and 75 total hospitalizations.

There have been 7,180 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests administered in the Alexandria so far, and the city’s seven-day positivity rate shows a 20% infection rate of those tested. There have also been 1,124 antibody tests in Alexandria. Across Virginia, there have been 275,074 PCR tests administered with a seven-day positivity rate of 13.9% (and 33,079 antibody tests).

Statewide, there have been 1,281 reported deaths (45 since yesterday), and 1,175 of those deaths are confirmed to have been COVID-19-related, according to VDH. There are now 40,249 cases (38,276 confirmed, 1,973 probable) and 4,385 hospitalizations (including 34 probable cases).

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Carrie Beyer and Jeff Flannery considered it their civic duty to get tested for COVID-19 on Memorial Day. Along with thousands of Alexandrians on Monday, the couple took their 18-year-old son to get tested at Cora Kelly School.

“We look at it as our civic duty,” Flannery told ALXnow. “I don’t think we would have come out at all unless Carrie convinced us, because we need to collect the statistics and get an accurate database of what’s going on in the city.”

The tests were conducted at Cora Kelly School and Landmark Mall — and both sites are located in the city’s most high-risk areas in the 22304 and 22305 ZIP codes, which include the West End and Arlandria, Potomac Yard and Potomac West neighborhoods. Today, the Virginia Department of Health announced there were three more COVID-19 deaths and 1,785 cases in the city, an increase of 31 cases since yesterday.

Last week, Governor Ralph Northam announced that the 3,000 tests would be administered in Alexandria on Memorial day, and that state’s most impacted areas will get additional testing throughout the remainder of the month. Northam delayed the first phased opening of Northern Virginia’s economy from May 15 to May 29 after receiving a letter from regional leaders, including Mayor Justin Wilson.

Wilson said that the free testing needs to continue.

“So far in the city, we’ve done just under 6,000 tests since March, and we’re doing about 50% of that one day, which is a significant expansion of our testing capacity,” Wilson told ALXnow. “I think the message that we’ve delivered to the Commonwealth is that this is great, this is wonderful, we need to keep it up.”

Wilson added, “I think we are achieving the 14 days of reducing positivity in the testing that’s occurring. We are experiencing reductions in the hospitalizations and new hospitalizations.”

On Sunday, Wilson signed another letter with his regional counterparts stating that the region has met four out of the six criteria necessary to move into phase 1 on May 29.

Alexandria Health Director Dr. Stephen Haering said that there is a widespread availability of tests in the city for symptomatic individuals. He also said that test statistics only reveal the tip of the iceberg as to the rate of infections in the city.

“What we do know is that of the results that we’ve had where there’s been ethnicity reported, that 47% of all the results in Alexandria have been among those who are Hispanic or Latinx residents,” Haering said. “We continue to have more transmission, and we will throughout every phase of reopening the economy. So, our message has been, even though there was going to be different phases of reopening at different times that we have to all remain vigilant with social distancing and meticulous hand washing.”

Sabine Meade, a sophomore at T.C. Williams High School, got the test with her mother and brother. She said that staying home has been frustrating since she’s sees friends and neighbors ignore safety guidelines.

“Our family has been really strict about social distancing,” she said. “It’s actually been really frustrating to see other people go and hang out with their friends and blow it off as nothing when we’re taking it seriously.”

Vehicle-side COVID-19 testing is available at Inova Primary Care – Old Town by appointment only, and the Alexandria Hospital is preparing for a surge of COVID-19 patients. Neighborhood Health has also pledged to continue free testing in Arlandria.

A huge thanks to city staff, Alexandria Medical Reserve Corps volunteers, Mako Medical staff, and Virginia Army National…

Posted by Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker on Tuesday, May 26, 2020

‪If you are planning to get tested for COVID-19 in Landmark drive-thru, please plan accordingly. It’s well organized. Great to see this many people interested in testing. ‬

Posted by Mo Seifeldein on Monday, May 25, 2020

Staff photos by James Cullum

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Three more Alexandrians have died of COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 37, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Two women and one man in their 70s are the latest victims of the virus. Two victims were black/African American and the third victim was Hispanic.

The deaths are the first reported since May 16, and there are now 1,627 cases of the virus, which is an increase of 50 cases since yesterday.

COVID-19 Drive-Thru Testing Locations Announced

Landmark Mall (5801 Duke Street) and Cora Kelly School (3600 Commonwealth Avenue) have been chosen as the locations for 3,000 free COVID-19 tests to be administered on May 25 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Residents are encouraged to wear a face mask and walk-up participants should wear sunscreen.

Governor Ralph Northam announced Monday that 3,000 free COVID-19 tests will be administered in the city, and that the state’s most impacted areas will get additional testing throughout the remainder of the month.

There have been 125 cases associated with 11 outbreaks in the city, and 103 of those cases have been health care workers. Nine of the outbreaks occurred at long-term care facilities, and 15 deaths have occurred at such facilities, although that number has not been updated since the city’s release on May 2. The other outbreaks occurred at a “congregate” setting and an educational setting.

large percentage of deaths have occurred at long-term care facilities, and there has been one death of a person in their 20s. There have also been 16 reported deaths of residents in their 80s.

Hispanic residents, which make up 17% of the population, have the highest number of cases in the city, with 767 cases, six deaths and 75 hospitalizations.

The areas of the city with the leading number of cases is the 22304 and 22305 ZIP codes, which include the West End and Arlandria, Potomac Yard and Potomac West neighborhoods. There are 478 cases in 22304, which has an estimated population of 54,003 people, and in 22305 there are 456 cases (with an estimated population of 16,095).

It is also not clear how many people have recovered.

There have been 5,367 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests administered in the city so far, and as of yesterday the city’s seven day average showed a 26.6% infection rate of those tested. There have also been 870 antibody tests in Alexandria.

There have also been 171 hospitalizations of residents, which is an indicator for the city as to whether it is appropriate to reopen the local economy by the governor’s extended May 29 deadline.

Statewide, there have been 1,099 reported deaths, and 1,064 of those deaths are confirmed to have been COVID-19-related, according to VDH. There are now 34,147 cases (32,428 confirmed, 1,709 probable) and 4,093 hospitalizations (including 27 probable cases).

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There are now 1,224 cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria, an increase of 31 new or probable case since yesterday.

No new deaths have been announced and there have been 30 fatalities due to the virus in the city. Additionally, the city’s Hispanic population leads with positive cases at 533 and four reported deaths.

The most recent fatality was a woman in her 70s, whose death was announced Saturday by the Virginia Department of Health.

There are nearly 400 new or probable cases in the city in the month of May alone. VDH also reported that there are 139 COVID-19-related hospitalizations in Alexandria, and that there have been 86 cases associated with 11 outbreaks in the city, and that 88 of those cases have been health care workers.

Nine of the outbreaks occurred at long-term care facilities, and 15 deaths have occurred at such facilities, although that number has not been updated since the city’s release on May 2. The other outbreaks occurred at a “congregate” setting and an educational setting.

Meanwhile, Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson and other regional leaders are asking Governor Ralph Northam to stall his phased reopening of the economy in Northern Virginia. It is not clear how many people have recovered from the virus, and an accurate count on the number of cases is difficult to maintain in Alexandria since the highest infection rates are in the city’s poorest areas.

The area of the city with the leading number of cases is in the 22305 ZIP code, although VDH did not provide updated data this morning on case and test counts by ZIP code. As of yesterday, the 22305 ZIP code, which includes the Arlandria, Potomac Yard and Potomac West neighborhoods, had the largest number of reported cases at 360, with an estimated population of 16,095 residents.

Local groups are demanding that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam authorize supplying 10,000 testing kits to the Arlandria area, and providing housing for poor COVID-positive patients living in jam-packed housing.

People under the age of 50 have been getting infected in greater numbers, while there were relatively few new cases for residents above the age of 70. A large percentage of deaths have occurred at long-term care facilities, and there has been one death of a person in their 20s. There have been 13 reported deaths of residents in their 80s.

There are now reportedly 632 females with the virus (with 16 deaths and 65 hospitalizations) and 589 males (with 14 deaths and 74 hospitalizations) who tested positive for COVID-19 in the city. The sex of three cases was not reported.

The age breakdown of deaths and new cases:

  • 80+     — 13 Deaths, 50 cases, 19 hospitalizations (Three new cases)
  • 70-79 — Eight deaths, 70 cases, 28 hospitalizations (No new cases)
  • 60-69 — One death, 106 cases, 21 hospitalizations (Three new cases)
  • 50-59 — Seven deaths, 155 cases, 27 hospitalizations (Six new cases)
  • 40-49 — Zero deaths, 246 cases, 20 hospitalizations (Eight new cases)
  • 30-39 — Zero deaths, 297 cases, 17 hospitalizations (18 new cases)
  • 20-29 — One death, 176 cases, four hospitalizations (Five new cases)
  • 10-19  — Zero deaths, 74 cases, one hospitalization (No new cases)
  • 0-9     — Zero deaths, 49 cases, two hospitalizations (Four new cases)

Statewide, there have been 850 reported deaths, which is an increase of 11 deaths since yesterday, and 823 of those deaths are confirmed to have been COVID-19-related, according to VDH. There are now 25,070 cases (23,889 confirmed, 1,181 probable) and 3,300 hospitalizations (including 22 probable cases). Additionally, 167,758 tests have been administered in Virginia.

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After several years of stops and starts, the redevelopment of Landmark Mall is as uncertain as ever.

City Councilman Canek Aguirre informed the Cameron Station Civic Association on March 7, 2020, that Howard Hughes no longer has any interest in the redevelopment project at Landmark.

The Howard Hughes Corporation, recently sent a message to Alexandria Living Magazine that it has no update on mall redevelopment.

“Sorry, no update for now, but we’ll let you know when we have a good update,” the representative wrote.

Howard Hughes’ plan on making the 51-acre site a mixed-use town center was approved by council back in 2013. Council then approved updates to the city’s master plan last year.

Mayor Justin Wilson recently wrote in his monthly newsletter that “there have been discussions between the City and Howard Hughes about potential public/private partnerships that will help spur the redevelopment, but as Howard Hughes continues with a restructuring, it remains to be seen who will ultimately bring Landmark through redevelopment.”

Landmark Mall is closed except for Carpenter’s Shelter , the Sears department store and two auto service centers, although Carpenter’s Shelter will be leaving its home at the Macy’s Department store sometime between July 1 and July 15. The mall has seen very little action since the vacant interior shell was used as a set for Wonder Woman 1984.

Wilson remains optimistic.

“Howard Hughes has not announced their intention for the Landmark site, but they have announced that they are reviewing all of their properties,” Wilson told ALXnow. “We are awaiting the conclusion of that process.”

The city released the following video in Nov. 2018:

ALXnow did not receive comments from Howard Hughes or Seritage Growth Properties, which owns the Sears department store.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Morning Notes

Landmark Mall Redevelopment Uncertain — “An official from Howard Hughes Corp., a Texas-based company that owns the 51-acre property and has been working on redevelopment plans for several years, said in response to email inquiries from Alexandria Living Magazine: “Sorry, no update for now, but we’ll let you know when we have a good update.” [Alexandria Living]

Volunteer Alexandria Needs Volunteers — “For those who are eligible to volunteer, we encourage to take measures and bring their own sanitizer, wipes, and keep distance from other people.” [Volunteer Alexandria]

Alexandria Restaurant Partners Donating 50% of Gift Cards to Staff — “Purchase a gift card today and 50% of all sales will be donated directly to an ARP employee relief fund. Plus, you’ll receive a 20% bonus gift card with all gift card purchases of $25 or more as a thank you for your support. Gift cards can used immediately at both Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap and Mia’s Italian Kitchen.” [Facebook]

City Asks Spring Cleaners to Leave Big Stuff Alone — “It is certainly a tempting time of year to start “spring cleaning” but we ask you to help protect our workers and not overwhelm the waste stream. Please hold on to bulky or excess household items and help us reduce excess waste generation as much as possible during this time.” [Facebook]

Inova Assures Safe Conditions to Deliver Babies in Hospitals — “We’re still delivering bundles of joy to families at Inova every day. We understand you might be concerned if you’re expecting in these rapidly changing times. But, please be assured Inova is leading the way to help you bring your little one, or ones, into this world as safely as possible.” [Facebook]

Alexandria Wedding Showcase Pushed to June 28 — “One lucky couple will win 250,000 Marriott Bonvoy Travel Points, good for a week-long honeymoon to one of thousands of locations worldwide from The Westin Alexandria Old Town.” [Alexandria Wedding Showcase]

Old Newspaper Clipping Documents Spanish Flu in Alexandria — “Spanish influenza is increasing in the city at an alarming rate. There are few houses in the city where there is not a case of the disease… Doctors are working overtime but are performing their duties heroically. Druggists are doing their share for the general good filling prescriptions.” [Facebook]

VIP Alexandria Magazine Going Digital in April — “Does this mean we are going ALL DIGITAL? HECK NO!  We LOVE print! And VIP Alexandria Magazine will be back, in your beautiful hands, by May when we release our Annual Health & Beauty Issue! Hang in there, Alexandria! We’re all in this together!” [Facebook]

Del Ray Creates Stuffed Animal ‘Zoofari’ — “The idea is for homeowners to put out stuffed animals in their front yards, porches, trees, flower boxes, gardens, and places where they can be seen. The kids and parents can then walk around the neighborhood locating them and checking off, creating a safe Zoofari scavenger hunt walk.” [Zebra]

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A crash has closed a section of Van Dorn Street near Landmark Mall, according to police.

The crash damaged a power pole and prompted the closure of Van Dorn Street between Duke Street and Holmes Run Parkway.

Police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine said it was a single-car accident that resulted in minor injuries to the driver, who was taken to a local hospital. The power company is on the scene, Ballantine said, but that it would be several hours before the pole was repaired. Drivers should expect the road to be closed for the duration of those repairs.

Police said on Twitter that people should avoid the area.

Image via Google Maps

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Alexandria Police are investigating more than $40,000 in car parts stolen from BMW of Alexandria in the Landmark Mall parking garage.

On Jan. 17, the sales manager for BMW of Alexandria (499 S. Pickett St.) told police that 10 BMW M-Series sedans and sport utility vehicles stored at the property had been stripped of their wheels and put on concrete blocks. The passenger side front windows were smashed and the lug bolt locks were taken from the glove compartments.

Video surveillance footage found two unknown suspects entering the parking lot at around 3:15 a.m. in an older GMC Yukon XL/Chevrolet Tahoe or a GMC Yukon XL/Chevrolet Suburban. The license plates of the GMC could not be read, but the vehicle is missing the passenger-side rear chrome wheel cover.

“The suspects were on the top floor of the parking garage for about 35 minutes before leaving the area,” police reported in a search warrant affidavit. “In the surveillance footage, two suspects can be seen and multiple car alarms are sounding from the victim vehicles… No other vehicles or persons are seen on the property of the mall with the exception of the Landmark Security vehicle in the former location of the Macy’s Department store.”

Landmark Mall is closed except for Carpenter’s Shelter, the Sears department store and two auto service centers.

Image via Google Maps

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Landmark Mall may be all but dead, but a trailer for the upcoming Wonder Woman 1984 revives the Alexandria landmark to its full ’80s glory.

Wonder Woman filmed in Alexandria and D.C. in 2018. The film will see Gal Gadot as Diana Prince — aka Wonder Woman — face off against Cheetah (Kristen Wiig) and Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal).

“WW84” was directed by Patty Jenkins, who also directed the first Wonder Woman film.

While the Sears remains open, most of the mall died a slow death until the handful of remaining shops closed in 2017. Towards the end, the mall was primarily long stretches of empty halls and food courts.

The city has been struggling for years with plans to redevelop the mall and revitalize the area. The City Council approved an ambitious master plan in April — which envisions a mix of residential properties, retail space and a transportation hub — and city staff are currently working through the details of implementing that plan.

While the movie trailer does show Waldenbooks, which did have a location in the mall, if the film is meant to take place in the mall and not as a stand-in for another location, the enclosed ceiling glimpsed in the trailer is a slight historical inaccuracy — the mall was not enclosed until the late 1980s.

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A group of teenagers allegedly led Virginia State Police on a high-speed chase off the highway and into the West End this past weekend.

Police were alerted to a stolen vehicle traveling north on I-95 early Saturday morning, according to Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for Virginia State Police.

According to Geller:

Virginia troopers caught up with the stolen 2016 Honda Civic as it was traveling on I-395 near Route 236. When Trooper J.S. Corvin activated his emergency lights and sirens to initiate a traffic stop, the Honda sped off at a high rate of speed and took the exit for Route 236. The Honda pulled into an apartment complex in the 6000 block of Tower Court where it struck a fire hydrant. The vehicle’s four occupants then fled on foot.

Geller said Trooper Corvin apprehended three of the vehicle’s four occupants, and the fourth was apprehended by another state trooper. All four of the occupants were juveniles, Geller said — three 15-year-old males and one 14-year-old female. All of the occupants were from Woodbridge.

Each of the four has been charged with one count of unauthorized use of a vehicle, one count of obstruction of justice by resisting arrest, one count of underage possession of alcohol, and for curfew violation, Geller said. Three were released to their parents while one of the males is still being held at a juvenile detention facility.

Alexandria police and a police helicopter assisted with the search for suspects.

The chase came days after another pursuit by state police ended in a crash on Seminary Road.

Photo via Google Maps

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