Alexandria, VA

What a week it’s been in Alexandria.

Our top story this week was the report that Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. sends one of his children to Bishop Ireton High School. In case you missed it, the story first broke in Theogony, the T.C. Williams High School newspaper.

Hutchings also presented his plan for a phased reopening of ACPS starting next month. The results of a survey over virtual schooling were also released, revealing that screen time and childcare were among the top concerns of students, staff and families.

On the health front, Alexandria exceeded 4,000 total cases of COVID-19 since the first case was reported on March 11.

Additionally, more than 200 people participated in our weekly poll on traveling this holiday season, and 56% reported they will not travel, 27% still plan on traveling, and 17% still haven’t decided.

Crime-wise, we reported that a woman was assaulted in Arlandria on October 11; an arrest was made after an attempted armed robbery in the West End; a West End gas station was robbed of $1,700 in tobacco products; a woman ended up not being charged after firing a warning shot at a man in the 4300 block of Duke Street; and the mother of a man whose truck was stolen in Del Ray received an unexpected phone call from the thief.

There was some good news.

The southern entrance of the Potomac Yard Metro station is really taking shape, at least on paper. This week, the final plans going to the city were made public. The Board of Architectural Review will look at them at their meeting on Wednesday, October 21.

And in recognition of Oyster Week, ALXnow on Thursday emceed the first-ever “Pearl of Alexandria Oyster Eating Contest” between rival Del Ray and Old Town business owners.

Here are ALXnow’s top stories this week in Alexandria:

  1. Report: ACPS Superintendent Sends Child to Bishop Ireton High School
  2. Police: Illegal Drugs Sold in West End Via Snapchat During Pandemic
  3. Republican Jeff Jordan Running Uphill Battle Against Incumbent Rep. Don Beyer
  4. BREAKING: Suspect Arrested for West End Murder
  5. ISIS ‘Beatles’ Held in Alexandria Jail, Charged with American Murders in Syria
  6. Here’s What the Potomac Yard Metro Station’s Southern Entrance Will Look Like
  7. Superintendent Proposing Phased Reopening of Alexandria City Public Schools Starting in November
  8. A Dozen Restaurants are Participating in Old Town Oyster Week
  9. VIDEO: West End Murder Victim Identified
  10. ‘Brewski’s Barkhaus’ is Opening This Saturday
  11. Old Virginia Tobacco Co. Moves Directly Across Street from Longtime Old Town Tobacconist

Have a safe weekend!

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Six months after approving construction for the southern entrance to the Potomac Yard Metro station, the final plans are going to the Board of Architectural Review on Wednesday, October 21.

City Council unanimously approved the second entrance for the Potomac Yard Metro station in April. The project includes a bridge over wetlands that connects to the northern entrance, . The city is planning for the southern entrance to open at the same time as the station in March 2022.

The station’s designers have made small revisions to their initial proposal, and the final design has small modifications, including the size and angle of the southern pavilion entrance roof.

Images via City of Alexandria

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With federal funds drying up, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is proposing a number of service reductions that will impact Alexandria.

The transit system is asking for public feedback on the proposed reduction of bus lines and other weekday service announcements in a survey and a public hearing on Tuesday, October 13.

“The pandemic has cost Metro hundreds of millions of dollars and ridership remains extremely low,” WMATA said in the survey. “The service provided today is only possible thanks to federal funding (CARES Act) that will soon run out. Without additional federal help, Metro will have to use every option to balance the budget. This includes resuming Metrobus fare collection, limiting contractor use, furloughing employees, and deferring some capital program expenses. But service cuts and layoffs may also be needed this December.”

Under the proposal, all Metro stations would close at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and at 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Trains would run every 12 minutes, except in Alexandria. Since the Arlington Cemetery station will be closed for renovation from mid-February until mid-May, Metro is adding trains to allow for a six minute wait time for a detour taking travelers across the 14th Street Bridge to the Le Enfant Plaza station in D.C.

Additionally, Metrobuses will continue to not operate after midnight.

Proposed weekday bus service adjustments:

  • Operating hours would continue to be reduced on the following routes: 3A, 22A, 22F, 89M, H12, T2
  • Operating hours would continue to be increased on the following routes: 7A, 7F, N6
  • Frequency would continue to be reduced on the following routes: 1C, 2A, 2B, 3A, 5A, 7Y, 16A, 16C, 16G, 16H, 22A, , 22F, 42, 43, 62, 63, 64, 74, 83, 86, C8, C11, C12, C13, C14, D2, D4, D6, D8, E2, E4, F6, F8, F12, F13, G2, H2, H3, H4, H6, H8, H9, H12, L2, L8, M6, Metroway, N6, Q1, Q2, Q4, Q6, R4, R12, U4, U5, U6, U7, V8, W2, W3, W6, W8, X8, Z2
  • Frequency would continue to be increased on the following routes: 7A, 7F, K6
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Construction of the Potomac Yard Metro station is track as the City Council prepares to approve the final southern entrance site plan for the project this December.

“Right now we are both on time and on budget,” Daphne Kott, a project manager in the Department of Project Implementation, told City Council in a legislative meeting on Tuesday night. “Every day there’s three active construction areas… Working on the foundation of the platform, in the mezzanine and continuing to work on the north pavilion.”

The city has also been reimbursed most of $70 million worth of grants for the project, which is estimated to cost $320 million. Last month, Council approved a proposal adding Virginia Tech’s initials to the station, and the name change has yet to be approved by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

“It’s amazing to see something that we talked about for a quarter of a century finally start to come to reality,” Mayor Justin Wilson said.

The Metro station is planned to open by spring 2022.

Images via City of Alexandria

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Morning Notes

Kamala Harris’ Husband Douglas Emhoff Ecourages Voters in Alexandria — “Excited to welcome @DouglasEmhoff to Alexandria as he works to encourage voters to turn out and make his wife our next Vice President!34K+ ballots have been mailed.Nearly 8K in-person early voters….and we are just getting started!” [Twitter]

Councilman Chapman Takes Tour of Potomac Yard Metro Station Construction –“Some pictures from my tour this morning of the construction site of the Potomac Yard Metro!” [Facebook]

Art on the Avenue Goes Virtual This Weekend — “Happy October! While this year’s festival is different, we’re still working overtime to support local artists and maintain the creativity and spirit of this community festival that we all love. Our 25th anniversary festival kicks off online Saturday at artontheavenue.org!” [Facebook]

Casa Chirilagua Chosen for Pandemic Street Design Grant — “Very grateful for Casa Chirilagua to have been selected!” [Facebook]

Carlyle Council Showing ‘Jumanji’ Saturday Night — “Join us this weekend for our Saturday Cinema Series showing of Jumanji: The Next Level! Grab a movie bag special from Sweet Fire Donna’s, bring a chair or a blanket and enjoy the film!” [Facebook]

Michael’s Little Italy Calls For Unity Through Italian Food — “Maybe we’re all from different families, countries, political parties. But that doesn’t matter at Sunday dinner. As we approach this weekend, I have an idea: come together folks. We have pizza, pasta, wine, and each other. That is really all we need.” [Facebook]

Sheriff Reads Kids’ Story Online — “Sheriff Dana Lawhorne shares a new book with a very important message — Speak Up! When something really matters, one voice can indeed make a difference.” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “Some clouds in the morning will give way to mainly sunny skies for the afternoon. High 68F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph. Clear (in the evening). Low 47F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Fitness Operations Manager — “The Operations Managers are dedicated to making the fitness experience at our clubs an exceptional one. They create a clean, fun and friendly environment by training and motivating their staff. They also generate revenue, keep a clean and well maintained club, all while providing great customer service.” [Indeed]

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It’s the end of a busy week in Alexandria.

This week, our top story was City Council’s decision to extend the state of emergency in the city until March 31, 2021. That means that by the spring the city will have been under a state of emergency for more than a year.

Council also approved a proposal adding Virginia Tech’s initials to the Potomac Yard Metro station. Now the name “Potomac Yard – VT” goes before the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for final approval.

Evenings have been busy on the crime front, as there were calls for shots fired on Monday nightTuesday morning and Wednesday night.

Alexandria City Public Schools, on Friday, also sent out surveys to families regarding a phased reentry for in-person instruction, while reporting that 93% of students have checked into their online classes. Parents of younger students are complaining about too much screen time, and ACPS staff will present the School Board with an update on how the VirtualPLUS+ model is going in mid-October.

On Thursday, hundreds of residents honored late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a candlelight vigil.

Here are our top stories this week in Alexandria.

  1. UPDATE: Alexandria City Council Extends State of Emergency to March 2021
  2. ‘Landmark Overlook’ Would Completely Transform 8 Acres Across from Landmark Mall
  3. Alexandria Commuters to be Impacted by Arlington National Cemetery Metro Station Improvements
  4. Alexandria Restauranteur Participates in COVID-19 Vaccine Trial
  5. ‘Lipstick On A Pig’: BAR Rejects Heritage Old Town Proposal
  6. Did You Know: There’s An Old Bell in the Alexandria City Hall Clock Tower
  7. Just Listed in Alexandria
  8. West End Assisted Living Facility Going to Alexandria Planning Commission
  9. Police Investigate Shots Fired in Landmark Area
  10. ‘why ALEXANDRIA’ Podcast Launches in Del Ray
  11. Restaurants and Other Businesses for Sale in Alexandria

Have a safe weekend!

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Metro will shut down Arlington National Cemetery for platform improvements next spring, and construction will impact Alexandria commuters.

But with ridership at a prolonged and historic low, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority assured City Council on Tuesday night that it will be able accommodate inconvenienced travelers with increased shuttle service between the Pentagon and Rosslyn stations.

The Arlington Cemetery station will be closed from mid-February until mid-May. All blue line trains will be diverted to L’Enfant Plaza across the 14th Street Bridge, and Metro is adding trains to allow for a six minute wait time instead of 12 minutes. Metro anticipates it taking an extra four to 12 minutes for customers traveling to stations between Farragut West and Rosslyn and that there are potential travel time improvements for customers going to Federal Triangle or Metro Center.

“It’s interesting times and it’s anybody’s guess what the future is going to be, but right now we’re looking at system-wide between 10 and 12% of our normal Metrorail ridership, and the Virginia side tends to be on the lower side of that,” Peter Cafiero, Metro’s managing director of inter-modal planning told Council. “What we’re hearing from employers is it’s going to be awhile before anybody’s considering going back.”

Council approved a letter thanking WMATA for making transportation alternatives available.

“If we were in a normal ridership situation I think I would be saying that we need bus alternatives, particularly to get folks from Alexandria to Rosslyn, or potentially west for those folks who are doing those commutes,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “But given where we’re at… I just don’t know where we’re going to be when this when this goes on next year.”

Alexandria is familiar with the platform improvement project, as all four of its stations were shut down as part of it in the summer of 2019.

In the meantime, Metro faces making hundreds of millions in spending cuts, including altering services, schedule changes and layoffs. The transit system’s board chair says it will be forced to make tough decisions if federal CARES Act funding dries up.

“As tough as these choices are for this fiscal year, much deeper and more painful cuts will be required for the next fiscal year if federal relief doesn’t arrive in time,” said Metro Board Chair Paul Smedberg, who is a former member of the Alexandria City Council. “We hope people who depend on Metro will come forward to share their views about the proposed changes before the Board makes a final decision in November.”

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The Alexandria City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved a proposal adding Virginia Tech’s initials to the Potomac Yard Metro Station.

Council approved the name to be the Potomac Yard – VT station. Now the name change goes before the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for final approval.

Virginia Tech’s $1 billion Innovation Campus is promised to bring a massive redevelopment to the area. Earlier this month, Council deferred the name change after expressing concerns that the site would not meet Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority naming guidelines.

The Metro station is planned to open by spring 2022 and the Innovation Campus is scheduled to open in the fall of 2024. The campus will accommodate 750 computer science master’s degree students per year and more than 100 doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows.

Councilman John Taylor Chapman met with Virginia Tech on the matter.

“This is going to be a partnership, one that’s going to last as long as the station,” Chapman said at the meeting.

Photo via City of Alexandria

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Morning Notes

Beyer Says Trump Supported Murder of Portland Protestor — “In televised comments yesterday Donald Trump called for extrajudicial murder and later expressed his desire to remain in office past term limits imposed by the Constitution. Today members of the party that supposedly backs ‘limited government’ pretend not to know what he said.” [Twitter]

Second Round of Business Grants Available — “Applications for a second round of Alexandria Back to Business grants will begin Sept. 30 for qualifying small businesses and nonprofits to offset costs related to reopening or rescaling.” [Twitter]

Free COVID-19 Testing Today in Alexandria — “Free COVID-19 testing in Alexandria,VA on September 16, 2020.Please read flyer for more details. [Twitter]

Braddock West Developers Seek Community Input — “During their presentation, the team behind Braddock West provided details of their proposed plan for the lot located at 727 N. West St. directly across the street from the Braddock Road Metro Station. They intend to tear down 10 existing single-family homes and replace them with a 7 story residential building with retail space on the ground level and an underground parking garage.” [Alexandria Living]

Lena’s Wood Fired Pizza and Tap Selling Kits for National Pizza Day — “On Sept. 20 only, Lena’s will offer their Family DIY Pepperoni Pizza Kit for families to make together at home to celebrate the holiday commemorating this crowd-pleasing favorite food. The kit is available for take-out or delivery via LenasWoodfire.com.” [LenasWoodFire.com]

Today’s Weather — “During the day, a mainly sunny sky. High 77F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph. At night, a few clouds from time to time. Low 62F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Police Officer — “It’s your lucky day! APD has added new dates for police tests: 9/22 at 5 PM, 9/26 at 9AM, and 9/26 at 12PM. You must register in advance Bring your drivers license and a second original ID- US passport, social security card or birth certificate.” [Twitter]

New Job: Part Time Office Assistant — “Del Ray Artisans nonprofit is seeking an Office Assistant. This is a paid position for 12 hours per week, with a set schedule (Thursday and Friday 12-6pm). Position entails assisting the Office Manager with general office work with emphasis on organizational skills. Working knowledge of Microsoft Office / Google Docs required in an all-Mac OS environment. Del Ray Artisans strictly follows the ALX Promise Program, keeping visitors and staff safe during this pandemic.” [Facebook]

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The Alexandria City Council has pushed a decision to add Virginia Tech’s initials to the Potomac Yard Metro Station.

Virginia Tech’s $1 billion Innovation Campus is promised to bring a massive redevelopment to the area, although no buildings have yet to be constructed and no students are on site. Consequently, some members of council were concerned that the school’s request to add the name to the Metro station would not meet Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority naming guidelines.

“I am nervous about christening this Virginia Tech station when we have not seen an actual building,” said City Councilman John Chapman.

The Metro station is planned to open by spring 2022 and the Virginia Tech Innovation campus is scheduled to open in the fall of 2024. This and next month, the Alexandria Board of Architectural Review and the Planning Commission will receive half a dozen plans for the 1.9 million square-foot mixed use North Potomac Yard development. The campus will accommodate 750 computer science master’s degree students per year and more than 100 doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows.

Yon Lambert, director of the city’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services, said that making the name change now would save upward of $350,000 in rebranding should the decision to rename the station be made at a later date. He also said that WMATA would have to grant an exception for the name change, since a campus with 5,000 students is the usual baseline for a name change.

“What Metro has indicated to the city is that, assuming that we bring it forward to Metro before the end of this calendar year, it can be done without any additional costs incurred by the city,” Lambert said. “But if if the station name proposal is brought forward later, either in association with a map change or without a map change the cost can be significant, ranging from $350,000 on the low end to more than $1 million, and those numbers could increase significantly over time.”

Mayor Justin Wilson supported the name change.

“I just want to be crystal clear, in the future if anybody would like to invest a billion dollars next to one of our metro stations, I will lobby to put your name on the station,” Wilson said.

David Baker, a representative from Virginia Tech, said that there will be construction on site when the Potomac Yard station opens in 2022.

“When the station is open, there will be active construction happening,” Baker said. “We are on track as of today, and our obligation to the Commonwealth is to be open for classes and start having the student Innovation Campus in Potomac Yard by the fall of 2024.”

Photo via City of Alexandria

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Alexandria Police are investigating reports of multiple gunshots fired in the 700 block of N. Fayette Street in the Parker Gray/Braddock neighborhood early on Wednesday evening.

There were no reported injuries, no one was arrested and a number of shell casings were found at the scene. It is unclear if anything was hit, police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine told ALXnow.

The incident occurred blocks from the Braddock Road Metro station and near Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority public housing properties, the latter of which is installing security cameras, according to sources.

There has been one murder in Alexandria this year, and the incident occurred outside an apartment complex in the West End.

There have now been seven reports of shootings in Old Town since July 9 and nine total reports of shots fired around the city. There was also a stabbing in the area on July 17 and a violent carjacking on Euille Street on July 14One suspect was arrested after a July 11 shooting, but their identity has not been released.

Map via Google Maps

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The new bus loop — a centerpiece of the King Street-Old Town Metro Access Improvement Project — was scheduled to open in March, but the city now says completion is still four to six months away.

“While delays have continued, we can provide an updated estimate for completion of the phase 1 bus loop,” Lydia Durand, a management analyst with the Department of Project Implementation, told ALXnow. “At this time, we anticipate an approximately four-six month time frame for reopening the bus loop. This accounts for construction of the bus loop, restoration of utilities, intersection signalization, and integration into the DASH, WMATA and City traffic operations systems.”

In 2012, the City Council approved a safer and larger transit area outside the Metro station, with better pedestrian-crossings through the bus loop. The project has been in-progress since November 2018 when the bus loop was closed, but has faced significant delays.

According to the city website, full completion of the project is now scheduled for Spring 2021.

“This project has experienced delays,” Durand said. “Staff continues to actively manage the contractor’s progress on this project and is taking all steps within our contractual rights to hold the contractor accountable for completion of this project in a productive and timely manner.”

Durand said cost increases for inspection and construction oversight could happen, but that they are anticipated to fall within the contingency funding allocated for the project budget.

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