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Perfect Pita in Old Town North, image via Google Maps

(Updated 3/11) If you’ve been around Old Town North, you know the Perfect Pita in question.

It sits at 951 N. Fairfax Street street, but it’s perhaps better known as the franchise location situated in a tiny standalone space. At an Urban Design Advisory Committee meeting yesterday (Wednesday), the committee endorsed plans for The Perfect Pita to expand the building and upscale its operations.

Architect John Savage, who designed the building in 1985, discussed a bit of history for the building presented plans for an upgrade to the site that could expand operations for The Perfect Pita.

Savage said in 1986, a branch bank was built on the site in the current building’s footprint, but it was not successful and both building and land were sold to The Perfect Pita.

New The Perfect Pita designs, image via Savage & Associates

The location has been very successful, and now The Perfect Pita is looking to expand operations to include a new kitchen, on-site eating areas and additional bathrooms. Savage also said the new upgrade should also give more circulation inside the famously cramped building and have more display cases for food.

The new plans also include a new two-story outdoor seating area with the goal of having outdoor seating for 40 guests.

As part of the development, the owners are also offering to work with Alexandria Archaeology to develop historic interpretative signs detailing neighborhood history.

Image via Google Maps

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Photo via Cafe 44/Facebook

Rooftop bar and restaurant Cafe 44 (44 Canal Center Plaza) is getting could be getting a new bar, indoor dining room and more.

According to a special use permit (SUP) filed with the city, the outdoor restaurant could be expanding further into the Canal Center Plaza office building with new dining and cooking space.

“The expansion will feature a commercial kitchen, service and storage areas, a bar, indoor seating, a private dining room, and terrace seating,” the SUP said.

The SUP says that outdoor and indoor dining will have the same hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. on Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m.-11 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m.-10 p.m. on Sunday.

Photo via Cafe 44/Facebook

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A leading Alexandria nonprofit that has given away millions pounds of food since the pandemic began is preparing to open two food distribution center for residents.

Just where the new ALIVE! centers will be located in the city is still under wraps, but the nonprofit hopes to make an announcement soon and open before the end of this spring. The plan is to make a one-stop shop for residents to get connected to city services.

“There will be one on the West End and one in the north side of Alexandria,” ALIVE! Executive Director Jennifer Ayers told ALXnow. “It’s something that the organization’s wanted to do for a while, The idea is to network community and create a one-stop-shop for clients to get connected to other resources in one place at a time that’s convenient to them.”

Ayers said that her organization is now giving out upward of 150,000 pounds of food every month. Before COVID-19, ALIVE! was giving out about 30,000 pounds of food every month, and during the peak months of 2020 and 2021 increased to 200,000 pounds per month. That equates to providing food nowadays for about 3,000 families monthly, and the nonprofit has gone so far as to provide 5,000 families with food through multiple programs and monthly distributions throughout the city.

The next ALIVE! food distribution will be conducted at three sites on Saturday, Feb. 5. The event will be from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Cora Kelly Elementary School (3600 Commonwealth Avenue), Northern Virginia Community College (500 Dawes Avenue), and William Ramsay Recreation Center (5650 Sanger Avenue).

Photo via ALIVE!/Facebook

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Plans for the GenOn plant redevelopment aim to swap out the area’s current Chernobyl-chic with a Dutch design concept to prioritize pedestrians and bicyclists over cars.

In a presentation to the Parks and Recreation Commission last week, representatives from Hilco Redevelopment Partners (HRP) said the two main routes through the planned development will be split between one intended for vehicle traffic and one that prioritizes pedestrian and bicycle traffic. The latter is called a woonerf and has been implemented in the Netherlands since the 1970s.

The pedestrian street doesn’t prohibit car traffic — ala the 100 block of King Street — but aims to woo pedestrians and cyclists with open space and programming while nerfing cars to walking speeds. The street could also be closed for events or during the summer months.

“We think it’s vital that front roadway be prioritized for bicycles and pedestrians, really pedestrians,” said Melissa Schrock, senior vice president of mixed-use development for HRP. “I think it really can function as a bit of a calm street during typical traffic hours during the day and on evenings and weekends. One of the reasons we’re planning it this way is to have tactile differentiation that encourages cars to go ‘maybe this isn’t really where I want to be’ and turn around to go back to the spine street.”

But Schrock said HRP is reticent to shut down the street to vehicle traffic entirely, saying there could be uses like food trucks.

“We don’t think it’s a bad thing that vehicle traffic should ever pass down there, like food trucks,” Schrock said. “It’s certainly our intent that, if cars are there, that they know that they’re secondary or tertiary to the main activity there and there are distinct periods of time where they aren’t there at all: like summer months and activities.”

Overall the development will have nearly six acres of open space. When combined with Norfolk Southern’s rails-to-trails project and the National Park Service’s Mount Vernon Trail, the area as a whole will have over 14 acres of public open space.

Simor Beer, a principal with landscape architecture firm OJB, said there’s also potential for where the development abuts the water, like kayak launch points and a dock for a water taxi service.

“Along the waterfront to the north of the site [is a] unique peninsula of wooded landscape that touches down to the water,” Beer said. “[We] envision birdwatching and other natural activities here as a place to stop along the trail.”

But much of this land, Beer noted, belongs to the National Park Service (NPS). Some on the Parks and Recreation Commission said that the NPS can be uncooperative when it comes to sharing land with private developers. Schrock said HRP has been in discussions with the NPS and she’s hopeful that something can be worked out.

“We made a conceptual submission to them to get their feedback,” Schrock said. “While it’s true that they don’t like people messing with their stuff, I think they’re very open to the vision we’re communicating here. We want this to be an open and inviting space. We have an opportunity to take down the fence around our property, erase that line, and connect to the Mount Vernon Trail. It’s not negating what the Mount Vernon Trail accomplishes, but working with them to improve upon that.”

A work session with the city is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 22, with public hearings in June. Schrock said the plan is to start demolition at the end of 2022 with shovels in the ground for new development in early 2024.

“I commend the team,” said Commissioner Stuart Fox. “As you guys noted, this is a really complex project… one of the parties went into bankruptcy, there are the environmental issues, and it’s probably the biggest eyesore in the city, certainly in Old Town. So transforming an eyesore into a tremendous opportunity for the city is not an easy project.”

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The Electra America Hospitality Group sees Alexandria’s red brick facade and wants it painted black.

The Holiday Inn Express in North Old Town could be rebranded to Hotel AKA as the hotel appears to move into an emo phase. A request for alterations to the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) includes a number of changes for the hotel at 625 First Street and 510 Second Street, perhaps most notably a new coat of black paint on the brick facade.

“The Applicant is proposing to re-brand and renovate the existing hotel,” the application to the BAR said. “the Proposed renovations include the demolition of limited portions of the facades and certain building features, but the building itself will remain. A number of exterior alterations are proposed to enhance the appearance of the building.”

The building is notably not historic, having been constructed in the 1970s, so the application said there’s no design or textural grounds for rejection. There will also be no changes to the height, mass or scale of the building.

“The existing brick facade will be repainted black,” the application said. “The proposed color will integrate the brick facade with other proposed building materials which include a metal standing seam roof, metal window frames, and metal guardrails and trellis features. The proposed brick color is compatible with existing buildings in the immediate vicinity of the Property.”

Other changes include the replacement of the shingled roof with a metal one, cutting down the vehicular drop-off area new entrance canopy and more.

“The exterior alterations represent improvements to the existing facade that will result in a more attractive and aesthetically pleasing appearance,” the application said.

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The four-story, three part development at 1300 King Street could be finished by this time next year, according to a partner in the joint venture.

The former homes to Pines of Florence and Aftertime Comics at 1300 and 1304 King Street (at the corner of S. Payne Street) are now shells of their former selves. The buildings were erected in the early 19th century and are in the process of being restored by developers The Holladay Corporation and The Foundry Companies.

Additionally, the partners are building a 31-unit apartment complex next door, complete with ground floor retail and below grade parking. The project will add about 6,000 square feet of new street-front retail to King Street.

“We expect it to be complete this time next year, or a little later,” Rita Bamberger, senior vice president at The Holladay Corp. told ALXnow. “It’s fair to say that these development projects take a long time.”

The Holladay Corporation’s most recent development in Alexandria was in 2012, with the Printer’s Row town house project in Old Town North.

Via City of Alexandria

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Morning Notes

Hank’s Oyster Bar moving to Old Town North — “Award-winning Chef Jamie Leeds spoke up on a social media post this morning to confirm that yes, Hank’s Oyster Bar is moving to the Old Town North neighborhood, into the space formerly occupied by Hank & Mitzi’s, an Italian restaurant named after her parents, that she closed in June 2020.” [Zebra]

Safeway donates to ALIVE! — “This morning, [the] Safeway Foundation presented ALIVE! with a $9,159.38 grant to ensure children in the City of Alexandria, VA have access to a healthy breakfast this fall 2021. [ALIVE!/Twitter]

Rail Magazine gives positive review to Yellow/Blue Line Metro experience — “Heading down to ALX via National Airport on the YL/BL… IMO, DCA is the most accessible U.S. airport by transit in terms of convenience to the metro area & distance from gate to train. [Rail Magazine/Twitter]

Kismet to host grand opening this week — “Honored to stop by and cut the ribbon to formally open Kismet Modern Indian in Old Town!” [Justin Wilson/Twitter]

Alexandria Shop Small Week starts Nov. 26 —  “In support of Alexandria’s large community of independent boutiques, Visit Alexandria on Thursday announced the city’s biggest shopping week of the year, the second annual Alexandria Shop Small Week, Nov. 26 to Dec. 2.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

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Tidelock office park (photo via Google Maps)

Plans to convert a North Old Town office park into a mixed-use space are headed to city review early next year.

TideLock Property Owner, LLC is looking at turning the Tidelock office park at 1033, 1055 and 1111 N. Fairfax Street into mix of residential and retail development. Plans submitted to the city indicate the developer is looking to convert the existing space and add new density rather than demolish and rebuild.

A development special use permit application describes it as a “three building conversion with a mixed use development of 234 multifamily residential units and approximately 6,594 square feet of retail and approx. 5,000 square feet of arts and cultural uses.”

Tidelock redevelopment plans, via City of Alexandria

Initial plans unveiled last year indicated that the developer hoped to connect the property more to the Mount Vernon Trail and offer a music venue that could be a “mini-Wolf Trap” for the area, Alexandria Living Magazine reported.

The application is scheduled to go to the Planning Commission at a meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 4.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Contaminated Legacy: From slave plantation to industrial pollution, a hidden history of North Old Town — “The land where the power plant is now located was once a slave plantation owned by the first rector of Christ Church, Townshend Dade. In the 1920s, the area experienced rapid industrialization. The American Chlorophyll Company set up operation on the spot where the power plant would later locate the coal pile. And the Potomac River Clay Works had an operation on what is now the parking lot of the power plant. Neighbors in North Old Town say they want all that contaminated soil cleaned up rather than capped in place and left where it is, a common way to deal with these kinds of heavily polluted sites.” [Gazette]

Alexandria Symphony Orchestra opens fall season — “So thrilled the @Alex_Symphony is back, live and in-person at the Schlesinger Center! Live music is back, masked and vaccinated and better than ever!” [Twitter]

Today’s weather — “Cloudy early. Scattered thunderstorms developing later in the day. High 81F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 40%… Scattered thunderstorms in the evening. Partly cloudy skies overnight. Low around 65F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 50%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Alexandria haunted pub tour guide — “We specialize in performing haunted pub tours. Think ghost tour combined with Pub Crawl and there you have it. Our website is www.NightlySpirits.com and we are currently looking for tour guides to work 2-3 days per week, but possibly more depending on the season. Our pub tours operate Wednesday-Sunday evenings, so you must have evening and weekend availability. Tours run roughly 3 hours. We are looking for exciting, life-of-the-party tour guides. If people find you boring, don’t bother applying. You also must be able to learn quickly, memorize a script and ACT IT OUT, as well as be able to interact with the group. Typically our tour guides have worked in a bar/restaurant or have some acting skills as well as the ability to herd cats.” [jobshq.com]

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Morning Notes

Alexandria appoints flood mitigation manager — “Effective Oct. 11, Daniel Medina will serve as the Flood Action Alexandria program manager. The new position will include coordination across city departments on the flood mitigation program and manage the city’s stormwater capital project lineup.” [Patch]

McAuliffe, Youngkin unload in feisty final Virginia debate — “Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin bickered their way through the second and final debate of Virginia’s competitive governor’s race on Tuesday, trading attacks and accusations from the start of the hourlong meeting.” [Politico]

Taste of Old Town North is Thursday — “Don’t miss The Taste of Old Town North, September 30 at 4p.m. Great food, music and more at this free event happening at Montgomery Park.” [Twitter]

Here’s a list of great walks in Alexandria — “Known for its walkable lifestyle, Alexandria is a city best experienced on foot.” [Visit Alexandria]

Today’s weather — “Mostly sunny. High 73F. Winds N at 5 to 10 mph… A mostly clear sky. Low 52F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New job: Pet sitter and dog walker — “Alexandria Pet Care seeks an experienced career pet expert to work with animals in their homes.” [Indeed]

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