Alexandria, VA

The July 4 holiday weekend is here, and it’s hard to believe that 2020 is more than halfway over. Not only has the year flown by, but so has the last week.

Alexandria joined the rest of Virginia in entering into the third phase of its reopening, the oldest resident in the city turned 109, a police officer was charged with assault and battery for a January arrest

Here are some of the top stories in Alexandria this week:

  1. Margaret Chisley Celebrates 109 Years in Alexandria
  2. Alexandria Police Officer Charged With Assault and Battery for Unjustified Use of Force
  3. New State Laws Pushed by Alexandria Take Effect Tomorrow
  4. Old Dominion Boat Club’s Waterfront Revival Plans Resurface
  5. Alexandria Renters Ask Governor to Extend Moratorium on Evictions
  6. Businesses Face Tough Recovery as Alexandria Lags Behind Neighbors in Consumer Spending
  7. New Catholic University Location Coming to Carlyle
  8. Old Town Garden-Style Apartments to Be Replaced by Multifamily Apartment Complex
  9. City Recommends Riding E-Scooters for Errands and Social Distancing
  10. Reminder: Next Phase of Reopening Starts Tomorrow but Indoor Mask Requirement Still In Effect

Be safe this weekend, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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More than 300 businesses across Alexandria are about to receive grants to help them through the city’s sluggish recovery from COVID-19.

Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP) announced that 309 small businesses in Alexandria would receive funding from the city’s Alelxandria Back to Business (ALX B2B) grants program. The program is supported in large part by CARES Act funding allocated by the City of Alexandria.

“76 percent of successful applicants qualify to receive $10,000, another 17 percent will collect $15,000, with the remaining 7 percent receiving $20,000,” AEDP said in a press release. “The grant amount is directly related to the size of the business.”

The ALX B2B program totals $4.4 million in local business assistance grants, $2.4 million of which came from federal CARES Act appropriations and $2 million from the Alexandria Investment Fund.

“In total, AEDP received 356 complete applications. 309 businesses qualified for funding through the program,” the partnership said. “Of the 48 applicants that did not qualify, most were ineligible due to the total number of employees being outside of the 2-100 employee requirement; delinquent city business taxes; their year-over-year revenue not meeting the stipulation of having decreased by at least 25 percent; or being located outside the corporate limits of the City of Alexandria.”

Recipients of the grants are being notified, after which AEDP said it will publish a list of grantees to the website.

AEDP said there is $900,000 in funding remaining from the initial round of the program, which the partnership hopes to put into a second round of the program with more CARES Act funding later this summer.

The press release also included a breakdown of demographics on what types of businesses the grants went to. Nearly half of the grant recipients were white.

  • 49% of recipients identified as White
  • 22% of recipients identified as Asian
  • 8% of recipients identified as Hispanic or Latin American
  • 6% of recipients identified as Black or African American
  • 15% chose not to disclose

AEDP noted that 49% of the recipients identified as male, while 40% identified as female, 10% did not disclose and 1% identified as transgender or non-gender conforming. AEDP said grant recipients spanned seven zip codes, including a sizable portion in the city’s West End.

“The COVID-19 pandemic poses significant challenges to businesses across the Washington, D.C. region, and Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, with the support of the City of Alexandria, is pleased to provide critical financial support to Alexandria’s small businesses during this difficult period,” Stephanie Landrum, President and CEO of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, said in the press release. “Alexandria’s business community continues to demonstrate resilience in the face of adversity, and AEDP is proud to support our community during the road to recovery.”

For businesses that receive grant funding, there are still restriction on how that can be used, including. According to AEDP, funding can be used for:

  1. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  2. Other equipment and supplies to promote health and safety
  3. Technology to facilitate e-commerce and/or virtual business operations
  4. Professional services related to the design and construction/alteration of the built environment necessary to promote physical and social distancing, as well as the actual costs for alterations
  5. Initial cleaning and disinfection services prior to reopening
  6. Rent or mortgage costs required to be made in order to reopen/restart

Staff photo by Vernon Miles

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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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It’s been a rough season for Alexandria businesses.

New data from Opportunity Insights, a Harvard-based team of researchers, shows that Alexandria has fallen lower than its regional neighbors in the percentage change in consumer spending. The data shows that consumer spending across the region started to tank around March 16, when the public schools closed, and for most of the region hit rock-bottom on April 1 when the Stay At Home order went into effect.

While Alexandria, Fairfax County and Arlington have all mostly been trending upward since then, that recovery has been slow. Alexandria’s consumer spending is down 25% compared to what it was in January, with Arlington not far behind it at 24.9%

Mayor Justin Wilson, who shared the data on Facebook, said that it was likely that the focus on hospitality industries in Alexandria was the reason the city was faring worse than some of its neighbors.

For local businesses, that data has been tangible as a struggle to adapt and survive amid COVID-19.

“This is our second week of being open to the public in limited numbers,” said Amy Rutherford, owner of Penny Post (1201 King Street) and Red Barn Mercantile (1117 King Street) in Old Town. “It’s been slower. I wish there were lines out the door, but it’s not.”

Rutherford said sales have been a mix of in-store sales, pickups, and online orders. While Phase 3 of reopening went into effect today, Rutherford said she’s been wary about easing off some of the capacity restrictions in the store.

“My team is still a little nervous about what it means to reopen,” Rutherford said. “I don’t think we need to do anything quickly… I think people in Northern Virginia are smart and they want to get out, but they’re being thoughtful and doing what’s necessary.”

The stores closed in Mid-March, but Rutherford said the month still had a strong showing because the beginning had been going to swell.

“Then April was not as good,” Rutherford said. “May was not as good as April. June was not as good as May.”

Rutherford said there was strong initial support for online shopping, but with so much else going on, Rutherford said the pace required to keep shopping online to keep the stores profitable was not sustainable. The store gets substantial business from tourism, Rutherford said, which is all but gone.

“We’re watching the news and always monitoring the cases,” Rutherford said. “We look nationally at where we are and in Alexandria where we are, and we’re taking the pulse of our customers and our team. All of that goes into the considerations before we make any more changes, [we have] to make sure everyone is doing well.”

Even so, Rutherford said it’s been nice to see some of her old customers in-person again.

“In-store sales have been nice,” Rutherford said. “It’s good to see people again and talk face to face, even though we’re behind a mask… Hopefully, we’ll ramp back up. For the year, it’s not terrible because we had a strong first quarter, but still pretty up in the air for what we plan to do or what it’s going to look like.”

The main thing Rutherford said has been a big seller has been puzzles, which people have flocked to ever since they’ve been stuck at home. While she enjoys the in-person interactions, Rutherford still said she hopes more people shop online rather than risking exposure at stores.

“The best thing folks can do is stay safe and not take any additional risks,” Rutherford said. “Then shop at the website or call in to come in when they can. Be understanding. I think people in NoVA are very understanding of policies and have been very patient. People have been kind to us.”

Image via Opportunity Insights

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Morning Notes

Rally for Rent Relief Today at Courthouse — “Join us to demand that Governor Northam stop evictions and redirect $1 billion for rent relief. Wednesday, July 1 at 11 am outside the Alexandria Courthouse.” [Facebook]

Longtime Alexandria Firefighter Retires — “AFD would like to congratulate Captain Sam Parker on his retirement after over 33 years of dedicated service to the citizens of Alexandria. We wish him all the best as he begins his next chapter!” [Twitter]

Le Refuge Restaurant Reopening — “🍴🍷BONJOUR🍷🍴!!!! We are very excited to announce that we are reopening MONDAY JULY 6TH!!! Thank you so much for your patience and understanding,We cannot wait to see everyone!!!” [Facebook]

Pedego Electric Bikes Closed Next Week — “Pedego Alexandria will be closed from July 5th through July 12th for a much needed and highly anticipated family vacation! Feel free to call and leave a message or send us an email and we will get back to you when we can.” [Facebook]

Kidcreate Studio Crafts New Approach — “Kidcreate Studio hosted its grand opening March 14 — the day after Alexandria and Fairfax County closed schools to slow the spread of coronavirus.” [Alexandria Living]

New Job: Experienced Sushi Chef — “Kaizen Tavern is looking for a Sushi Chef to join the team. We offer a great salary, benefits and the opportunity to grow a business together. The position is meant for a skilled, passionate chef. Work with a dedicated team of culinary and hospitality professionals, who are committed to providing the absolute best experience for their guests.” [Indeed]

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Disposable capes, face masks and meeting by appointment-only — The Ultimate Barber is back in business. The four-year-old shop at 2712 Richmond Highway is booked three weeks in advance, and shop owner John Hall says that’s to be expected during hard times.

“Hair is always going to grow,” Hall told ALXnow. “During the Great Recession, our business actually went up. Folks needed something nice to make me feel good. Something about that haircut experience makes you feel like a brand new person, a different person. It takes some of the weight off just for a while, anyway.”

Hall, an Alexandria native, has been cutting hair in the city for 35 years. The pandemic forced him to close both his barbershops (the other location is in Arlington) on March 23, and temporarily laid off his 14 employees until the shop was allowed to reopen on May 29. He was approved for a Paycheck Protection Program loan, and has new procedures in place, including a policy to not touch up beards so that faces remain covered.

While the social aspect of the barbershop might be gone for now, Hall said that his services are essential for his clients.

“We’re essential workers, and barbershops help people with their mental health,” Hall said. “One customer of mine always told me, ‘This is my therapy session.’ I never really understood what that meant at the time until the coronavirus. We make people feel better about themselves so when they look in the mirror they like what they see.”

Staff photos by James Cullum

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It was a busy week in Alexandria, and there is plenty to talk about.

The city is moving forward with phase three of reopening its economy on July 1, and the news comes as the death toll from the coronavirus moved up to 50 and the number of cases steadily rise.

It also looks like the upcoming Alexandria City Public School school year and city services will continue to be impacted until the virus is held at bay, and school and city staff are developing plans to stagger teleworking and in-person schedules for students and staff alike.

Restaurants are reopening like never before, which is to say that customers are cautiously welcomed as Health Department restrictions are slowly lifted and many establishments have expanded their outdoor seating.

Here are the top 11 most-read articles this week in Alexandria.

  1. Del Ray Pizza Restaurant Converts Parking Deck Into Tropical Oasis Themed Bar
  2. COVID-19 Cases Steadily Increase as Alexandria Releases Phase Three Reopening Guidelines
  3. Large Residential Development in Braddock Goes to Planning Commission Tomorrow
  4. Alexandria Now Has 50 COVID-19 Deaths, Cases Climbing by Double Digits Daily
  5. East Eisenhower Avenue Project Returns With A New Senior Living Component
  6. Students Likely to Rotate School Attendance When ACPS Reopens
  7. Alexandria Preps for Phase 3 Reopening on July 1
  8. Lights On: Two Nineteen Restaurant Reopening Today in Old Town
  9. Developers Take Another Crack at Converting North Old Town Office to Housing
  10. Housing Affordability and Cost of Living Get Low Rating in Community Livability Report
  11. Inova Alexandria Hospital Now Treating 20+ Coronavirus Patients

Feel free to discuss these or other topics in the comments. Have a safe weekend!

Staff photo by James Cullum

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When the pandemic hit in March, many mothers late into their pregnancies who were preparing to give birth in a hospital were left with difficult decisions.

For BirthCare & Women’s Health, a midwife service in Old Town, that meant a new wave of parents looking for alternatives.

“We’ve had a real influx of people in March — a lot of calls and people transferring in who were afraid to go to the hospital,” said Marsha Jackson, certified nurse-midwife and owner/director of BirthCare & Women’s Health. “There was so much that wasn’t known about COVID-19. Every day there was a change so people were uncomfortable going to the hospital… We have had more interest in home births.”

BirthCare & Women’s Health has been around for 33 years, opening as a home birth practice in 1987, and, four years later, expanding into a free-standing birth center at 1501 King Street in Old Town. The center provides an alternative to giving birth in a hospital, whether that means sending a midwife to a home to help a mother in her delivery or bringing her to their facility.

Jackson said the advantage of home births or births at the BirthCare & Women’s Health is that women can deliver their babies where they feel more comfortable and relaxed.

“One of the benefits has been families who are now pregnant or considering pregnancy are really closely looking at all of their options — and really considering having home or birth center birth,” Jackson said. “If she’s a healthy woman having a normal pregnancy, the safest place for her to give birth would be a place where she feels comfortable and safe. That place is oftentimes in her home.”

When the pandemic started, Jackson said her company also offered the benefit of not having mothers share a facility that was also treating a COVID-19 outbreak.

“We had to do a lot of screenings very quickly,” Jackson said. “We had a couple of clients transfer in [that] were due to have their babies in two weeks. We were able to get everything in place… One family had a baby within a week of their first visit.  The mom went into labor in the next couple of days and had the baby, and it was wonderful.”

Work at BirthCare & Women’s Health changed as well. Appointments were spaced out to avoid unnecessary contact between patients and the facility started using more telehealth for prenatal visits — but in-person visits and births continued.

“We wipe our bags more than we used to when we go to the homes,” Jackson said. “When we come, we have a couple of suitcases with supplies and equipment. We sometimes put down a surface where we put our bags on the floor. One of the things we found out: a lot of the things we’ve instituted to make sure things are sanitized — we were already doing that. Whatever we took out of the bags, we sanitize with alcohol or wipes before replacing them in our bags.”

The facility also limited the number of people present for births to ten: including the midwife and doula, but not including the baby. One of the biggest changes was asking visitors to a birth to self-isolate for a week before attending.

Even as Alexandria starts reopening, Jackson said she’s starting to see more mothers comfortable going back to hospitals, but that the service is still busier than it usually is.

“Our May census was full,” Jackson said. “Our census in August is full. A lot of that is due to COVID-19. In April, our census picked up. Before COVID-19 our numbers were a little down.”

Jackson said even as some parents are returning to plans to give birth at a hospital, the pandemic did put home births back into public awareness for prospective parents.

“A lot of the families that may not have considered the option for home births now are considering that,” Jackson said. “Our census for January is filling quickly. We limit clients to  20 per month, and we’re already more than halfway there. That’s early for us, to be almost full for that month.”

Photo via BirthCare & Women’s Health/Facebook

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Get your cigar ready. After three months of being shut down, Two Nineteen Restaurant (219 King Street) is reopening its doors to the public at 4 p.m. today. The restaurant has undergone a renovation, too, thanks to receiving a Paycheck Protection Program loan back in April.

“It looks beautiful now,” Two Nineteen’s owner Patty Charoentra told ALXnow. “We’ve completely repainted the interior and repointed the brick. We also installed an air tap draft beer system, so your beer is going to be super cold.”

Live music remains on hold at the venue for now, but 80% of the restaurant’s staff have been rehired, tables have been set outside and the Basin Street Lounge is ready to accommodate cigar, cigarette and pipe smokers.

Charoentra and her husband Kelvin Eap, both immigrants from Thailand, have owned Two Nineteen since 2005. They employ 20 full and part-time employees, and their daughter Eliza is the manager.

“We missed our customers and we can’t wait to reopen,”Charoentra said. “A lot of regular customers come back to see me, and I wanted to come back strong. I can’t wait for them to see how much work we have done for Two Nineteen.”

Staff photo by James Cullum

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(Updated 4:50 p.m.) There isn’t a lot of space inside Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap (401 E Braddock Road) to both reopen the restaurant to the half-capacity required in the second phase of reopening and maintain the take-out service, so restaurant operator Dave Nicholas said the restaurant decided to transform

“We decided that our to-go business is really strong,” Nicholas said. “Want to still be able to service neighborhood to-go. We decided to do a pop-up tent and concept on top of the parking deck behind the restaurant.”

The new venue is Lena’s Oasis, a covered pavilion with plenty of room for social distancing amid the curtains and tropical plants that transform the environment to more closely resemble Tahiti than the pizzeria near the Braddock Metro Station. It requires a reservation to enter.

“It’s sort of a tropical theme, selling some of our specialty menu items and five new cocktail/tropical drinks,” Nicholas said.

For now, Nicholas said Lena’s Oasis is the main dine-in location while Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap stays focused on take-out.

“We figured that we didn’t have the space inside the restaurant to properly social distance,” Nicholas said. “Meanwhile, this is 4,000 feet on top of the parking deck and we’re able to socially distance properly. It’s outside and covered, very tropical.”

Nicholas said the location opened on Monday.

“It’s been going well so far,” Nicholas said. “People walk into the space and it’s stunning.”

Photo via Lena’s Wood-Fired Grill/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Large Income Disparities in Alexandria — “White Alexandria is pulling in significantly more money than Hispanic workers and African Americans, according to numbers from the United States Census Bureau. A look at average income shows non-Hispanic whites make more than $85,000 a year. That’s more than three times the average income for Hispanic workers, $24,000, and more than twice the average income for black workers, $37,000.” [Gazette]

Water Taxi Returns to Old Town — “A face mask requirement and other safety measures are in place for the limited water taxi service.” [Patch]

Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden Hosting Juneteenth Trivia Night — “It’s long been on our calendar to celebrate Juneteenth – marking the legal end of slavery in the United States on June 19th, 1865 – with a trivia night that explores African American culture. We hope you’ll join us on Zoom this Friday night for this special evening! Tickets are FREE, but an optional donation will be split between us, Carlyle House Historic Park, and ALIVE. Pre-registration at our Eventbrite page is required.” [Facebook]

NVTA Recommends Full Funding for Duke Street Transitway — “The Duke Street Transitway was the City of Alexandria’s only request to the NVTA and the cost is estimated at $87 million. Alexandria received $12 million already, so this funding request is for the remaining $75 million.” [Alexandria Living]

North Potomac Yard Virtual Meeting at 7 p.m. — “The Virginia Tech Foundation and JBG SMITH is hosting virtual community meetings to provide information on the design of the proposed buildings and site-wide updates.” [City of Alexandria]

Casa Chirilagua Hosting Fundraiser Sunday — “Casa Chirilagua is a local community nonprofit serving the Central American Latinx community in City of Alexandria zip code 22305 – a hot spot for COVID-19. Because of the health and economic conditions, demand for Casa Chirilagua’s services has become enormous.” [Facebook]

‘Ascend Cycle’ Hosting Virtual Pride Ride — “A $15 minimum donation is requested for this event. 100% of proceeds will be donated. Sign up for the ride online and we’ll text you the Zoom code before class!” [Facebook]

YMCA Reopens in Del Ray — “Your local YMCA at 420 East Monroe Avenue is back in business. It opened for the first time in months this past Monday, June 15, along with the Arlington location. The Y is following a phased approach to reopening so you will see differences when you visit.” [Zebra]

New Job: Assistant Center Manager — “Mathnasium is a highly dynamic and fast-paced and is known for the great care we take with our students and employees alike… We’re looking for an Assistant Center Manager to assist at both our Alexandria City and Mount Vernon centers. The pay range we’re offering is $16-$18/hour depending on center performance.” [Indeed]

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On Monday, The Silver Parrot opened its doors after three months of being closed. The jeweler at 113 King Street is now open seven days a week, has updated its website for online sales — but the staff is a little concerned about the closing off of vehicular traffic on their block.

“It’s nice to be around people again,” store manager Megan Vail told ALXnow. “I live on my own, so it was like three months of talking to myself and my cats.”

The Silver Parrot is an Old Town staple that’s been around for nearly four decades. Vail and the company’s six full and part time staffers were temporarily laid off until late April when its Paycheck Protection Program loan went through.

In the meantime, Vail sold jewelry online for the shop with Facebook Live videos.

“I joked about it being my audition for the home shopping network,” she said.

Virtual shopping session! If you have any questions or things you’d like to see, let us know below!

Posted by Silver Parrot on Thursday, May 14, 2020

The pedestrian plaza that’s been opened by shutting down vehicular traffic on lower King Street has also been problematic so far for the small jewelry shop, which Vail said can get lost in the shuffle.

“One of the things that we discussed with the city and that we’ve expressed frustration with was that in the plan to close down the block to cars, we wanted to make sure that the available walkway for people was where the sidewalk currently is,” she said. “Now the sidewalk is in the street.”

The shop carries silver jewelry from around the world, ranging in price from $20 for silver earrings to $3,200 for intricate necklaces inlaid with colorful stones.

“We have something for every style, every age, every price, every occasion,” said shop bookkeeper Janet Cowley. “And we’re just one store. We’re not a chain and we’re not expanding into malls.”

The Silver Parrot is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. For the time being, only four customers are allowed in the shop at a time, and all customers must wear face masks.

We are officially open!A few notes on our changes:-We are limited to 4 customers at a time. -Face masks ARE required…

Posted by Silver Parrot on Monday, June 15, 2020

Staff photos by James Cullum

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