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(Updated at 10:45 a.m.) Alexandria Police reported a sudden death Wednesday morning in the City’s Arlandria neighborhood.

The death was reported in the 3900 block of Mount Vernon Avenue at around 6:45 a.m., and the area from Executive Avenue to Russell Road was temporarily shut down, but the street was reopened as of 10 a.m.

The 55-year-old male victim was found in the doorway of a building, according to Alexandria Police.

No arrests have been made in connection to the incident.

No information on the victim was released, and the cause of death will be determined by a medical examiner, police said on social media.

Via Google Maps

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Del Ray Cigars & More will open at 2104 Mount Vernon Avenue on Friday, April 8, 2022. (staff photo by James Cullum)

A new smoke shop is opening on April 8 (Friday) on Mount Vernon Avenue in the heart of Del Ray, according to its manager.

Del Ray Cigars & More will open at 2104 Mount Vernon Avenue, and will offer cigars and cigarettes, vaping devices and liquids, and cannabidiol (CBD) products.

Owner Ahmed Zamani is out of the country and could not be reached for comment. Zamani also owns Main St. Cigars & Vapes in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

The building, which was built in 1902, was most recently home to the Counseling & Empowerment Center, which is now treating clients in an online-only format. It has been under redevelopment since last summer.

When open, its hours will be 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. throughout the week, except on Fridays when it will be open until 8 p.m.

The shop will join a number of nearby vape shops, including Avail Vapor at Potomac Yard and the Tobacco King & Vape King Cigar and Hookah.

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A movement decrying Bonaventure’s  proposed mixed-use development in the heart of Del Ray launched online this month, and its organizer says the plan will ruin the neighborhood’s peaceful vibe.

Nate Hurto and a few dozen of his neighbors aren’t happy about the proposal to convert the old 88,500-square-foot former home of the Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services building at 2525 Mount Vernon Avenue into a four-story, 43-foot-tall building with 12,530 square feet of retail and 79 rental units.

Hurto, a 15-year resident of the neighborhood, launched SaveDelRay.org earlier this month.

“We’re not anti-development or against progress,” Hurto told ALXnow. “We just want everybody to take a concerted look at this, and most importantly to let the City Council and the Planning Commission and everybody else know that this is important to us.”

Hurto says the development ignores the guiding principles of the city’s Mount Vernon Avenue Business Area Plan, which includes preserving the historic scale and character of the neighborhood and providing convenient parking and transportation solutions.

“Go to the site and imagine a building that’s twice as tall as the existing structure,” Hurto told ALXnow. “I think if you stand at the corner, where Pork Barrel BBQ and Tops Of Old Town are,  just look north on Mount Vernon Avenue. Imagine a structure that’s twice as tall right there on the street, right next to the houses. It does not convey a small town neighborhood feel, it does not convey any of the historic sense of place.”

Bonaventure owns the 144-space parking lot across from Pat Miller Square on Mount Vernon Avenue and E. Oxford Avenue, which will be available for residents living in the new building. The company says that the residential and retail parking required for the project can be accommodated and will be provided in the the existing lot in the 2400 block of Mt Vernon Avenue.

“We want an emphasis on ensuring that there is sufficient parking for the development, that traffic controls are in place,” Hurto said. “Instead of fundamentally altering the community, we want the developer to look at this project and say, ‘How do I make this really fit into Del Ray?”

As for SaveDelRay’s strategy, Hurto wouldn’t say much.

“Sign up for our mailing list, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram and you’ll see the strategy unfold,” Hurto said.

Bonaventure last briefed the Del Ray Citizens Association on the project in February, and wants the plan to go to the City for review in November. That would be followed by the final site plan and building permit process, and upward of a year-and-a-half for construction. That means, barring unforeseen circumstances, that development would start in the fourth quarter of 2023 and be finished in approximately 20 months.

Images via Bonaventure

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Ready for all-day brunch in Del Ray? Matt & Tony’s opened today (March 16) at the former Charlie’s On The Avenue.

Alexandria Restaurant Partners bought the 3,000 square-foot space at 1501 Mount Vernon Avenue last fall with the intention of turning it into a concept called Joe’s Kitchen, but those plans were scrapped when ARP managing partner Matt Sloan announced he was leaving to open his own restaurant. ARP offered the space to Sloan, who moved to D.C. a year-and-a-half ago from Michigan to be the general manager of ARP’s Ada’s On The River and The Majestic.

“Thank you to EVERYONE who helped get us to this moment!” Matt & Tony’s wrote on Facebook.

The menu is based around an all-day brunch concept, and the restaurant is named Sloan and his great-grandfather Anton (Tony) Schabas, a pastry chef who emigrated to the U.S. from Austria at the turn of the 20th century.

Charlie’s closed in January 2020, after being in business for less than three years. Before that it was home to Fireflies for 15 years.

Matt & Tony’s is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and is closed Monday.

Via Matt & Tony’s/Instagram

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Del Ray boutique Kiskadee will be closing its doors when its lease expires on April 30, shop owner Celeste Crutchfield recently announced.

Crutchfield said she felt zapped on energy and full of dread when facing another two-year renewal on her lease.

“I don’t want to do it anymore, at least not at this point in my life,” Crutchfield wrote in a blog post. “I knew I didn’t want to stay in Kiskadee’s current building for a variety of reasons. I started looking for a new location, but I wasn’t feeling inspired by other spaces I looked at or the prospect of continuing as a small business owner.”

Kiskadee will close on April 3, and all full-priced merchandise is 20% to 30% off. If necessary, the store will reopen on April 18 to sell any remaining merchandise and fixtures.

Darby Rush and Neil Hall opened the women’s clothing and accessory boutique at 2205 Mount Vernon Avenue in 2007, and sold it to Crutchfield in 2017.

“The last two years, running a business in a pandemic has zapped me,” Crutchfield wrote. “What a doozy of a curveball for someone who had just started to know what she was doing. I’m proud that I was able to weather the storm and survive. However, it took everything I had. I have nothing more to give.”

This is not the end for the business, Crutchfield wrote.

“I just need a break and may reopen another brick-and-mortar store sometime in the future,” she wrote. “For now, I’m going to focus on the online segment of the business. The website will stay active, and I will add new products regularly. I also hope to do pop-ups and holiday shows. Please keep an eye out for these, which will be updated on our Instagram and Facebook accounts.”

Via Kiskadee/Facebook

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Del Ray Business Association Board Members and past Heart of Del Ray award winners present the 2022 Heart of Del Ray to Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap. Joey Civali of the Yates family represented Lena’s in accepting the award. (Via Bill Blackburn)

The thoughtful dining experiences have paid off. Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap was awarded the Heart of Del Ray award on Friday (Feb. 11), beating out four other local businesses.

More than 1,000 voters cast ballots for the spot that captured the heart of the community. The Del Ray Business Association presented the restaurant with a large heart-shaped award on Friday morning — just in time for Valentine’s Day on Monday, Feb. 14.

“It’s a great anchor for Del Ray and reinforces what we’re all about — the small, locally owned family business,” said DRBA board member Gayle Reuter. “They know their customers, and we know them. It’s what we look for in a community — a place where we all know and care about each other.”

Lena’s has been widely recognized for transforming the restaurant into creative and Covid-conscious dining spaces with Haiku fans to kill airborne pathogens. The second floor was converted into The Loft at Lena’s, a seasonal pop-up with new concepts and menus, and the top of their parking deck was made into the tropical retreat Lena’s Oasis.

“Lena’s didn’t just put up a tent with tables outside,” wrote one nominator. “They recognized people needed an escape during COVID, so they created an elevated dining experience — and it changes with the seasons!”

Lena’s is owned and operated by Alexandria Living Legends Jason and Loran Yates. It opened in 2015 at “Yates Corner” at Braddock Road and Mount Vernon Avenue, and is next door to Yates Dry Cleaning and across the street from the Yates Automotive Service Center.

The award was presented to Dolce & Bean last year, and Preeti Patel’s 7-Eleven on Mount Vernon Avenue in 2020.

“The past year has been hard on all of us,” Lena’s said on its website. “We created Lena’s Oasis to say ‘thank you’ and to give back to this wonderful community that has supported us through thick and thin for more than 57 years. An oasis is something calm in the midst of chaos. So, come to our safe space and relax for a while. You deserve it. We will get through this together.”

The other nominees:

Courtesy photo

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Local developer Bonaventure hopes their new shopping center in the middle of Del Ray could be constructed as early as summer 2025. That’s if all goes according to their plan.

Right now the plan for 2525 Mount Vernon Avenue is still in its conceptual phase, but includes a four-story, 43-foot-tall building with 12,530 square feet of retail and 79 rental units on the one acre lot. Bonaventure is not planning on including any affordable housing units in the project, and will instead contribute to the city’s Housing Trust Fund.

The 88,500-square-foot building is the former Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services. Bonaventure bought it for $22.5 million in the summer of 2019, along with the properties at 2401, 2403 and 2411-2419 Mount Vernon Avenue.

Bonaventure also owns the 144-space parking lot across from Pat Miller Square on Mount Vernon Avenue and E. Oxford Avenue, which will be available for residents of the new building, but shoppers will be relegated to parking on the street.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the developer wants the plan to go to the City for review in November, followed by the final site plan and building permit process, and then upward of a year-and-a-half for construction.

“If things go according to our schedule, we would go to public hearing in November,” said Cathy Puskar, an attorney for Bonaventure. “Following the public hearing, there’s a final site plan process and building permit process, and we would look to start construction in the fourth quarter of 2023, and the building would be completed in 18-to-20 months.”

Via Bonaventure

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Matt & Tony’s will open for all-day brunch this spring at the former Charlie’s On The Avenue, the new restaurant’s owner tells ALXnow.

Alexandria Restaurant Partners bought the 3,000 square-foot space at 1501 Mount Vernon Avenue last fall with the intention of turning it into a concept called Joe’s Kitchen, but those plans were scrapped when ARP managing partner Matt Sloan announced he was leaving to open his own restaurant.

“I was going to leave working for them and they came to me and said they have this building, this opportunity,” Sloan told ALXnow. “It was Scott Shaw, Dave Nicholas and David Clapp. Those guys are awesome. We have a great relationship and it just made sense. They offered to lease me the building.”

Sloan, a Michigan native, moved to D.C. a year-and-a-half ago to work with ARP. He opened the company’s Ada’s On The River as their general manager and then spent time working at ARP’s The Majestic.

“The plan is to open in middle-to-late March,” he said.

Sloan is now developing a menu based around an all-day brunch concept. He named the restaurant after himself and his great-grandfather Anton (Tony) Schabas, a pastry chef who emigrated to the U.S. from Austria at the turn of the 20th century.

Charlie’s (1501 Mount Vernon Avenue) closed in January 2020, after being in business for less than three years. Before that it was home to Fireflies for 15 years.

“The important thing going into this space is getting engaged with the community and doing something special for the neighborhood,” Sloan said. “We will have an emphasis on breakfast and lunchtime, with steak and eggs, chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits.”

Sloan says that the hours for the restaurant will likely be 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends.

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The Sushi Bar at 2312 Mount Vernon Avenue is closing for good tonight (Dec. 7), and will soon reopen as a Christmas-themed pop-up bar, owner Bill Blackburn informed ALXnow.

“Joy On The Avenue – A Christmas Pop-up Bar” will open in its place sometime next week, Blackburn said.

The Sushi Bar opened in 2013 — next door to sister restaurants Pork Barrel BBQ and Holy Cow Del Ray, which are all owned by the Homegrown Restaurant Group.

“It’s long been our intention to close it by the end of the year and to change it into something new,” Blackburn said. “We decided to accelerate that plan. Tonight will be the last night of The Sushi Bar. “

The bar will have light appetizers, and will serve holiday wine, beer and cocktails.

“We’re going to do that until the 31st instead, and then close it and remodel to a new concept,” Blackburn said.

Blackburn anticipates unveiling a new concept soon and then reopening at the end of February 2022.

Via The Sushi Bar/Facebook

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Hundreds of people turned out for the lighting of the menorah and Christmas tree at Pat Miller Square in Del Ray on Sunday night, December 5.

The evening was full of families and friends caroling with hot chocolate with marshmallows.

Retiring Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne made the countdown to light the 30-foot-tall tree.

“Thank you for 43 years of supporting me,” Lawhorne said. “I’ve loved every minute of it.”

Last year’s public tree lighting was canceled by the pandemic, and the event was a little smaller than in years past. Santa Claus, for instance, made a drive-by appearance, but was unable to stop for photos due to his busy schedule.

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