Alexandria, VA

The old Robinson Terminal North, once the abrupt northern end to the Old Town waterfront, is no more.

Demolition was mostly wrapped up this weekend after a quick tear-down, and the plan is to make the location part of the broader effort to reform Old Town’s sewer system called the RiverRenew program.

“Behind me is the Robinson Terminal North warehouse,” said Kelvin Coles, deputy design manager for the RiverRenew program, in a video. “Many residents and visitors will recognize this large steel building as the dividing landmark between Oronoco Bay park and Founders Park.”

The property a coal storage facility, along with other industrial uses, and ultimately a Washington Post shipping hub before it was decommissioned in 2013.

The property is adjacent to outfall 1, one of four sewer outfalls in Old Town that is the subject of the combined sewer system overhaul. On average, there are around 30 overflow events at outfall 1 alone. The plan is to build a diversion facility to direct the outflow into a tunnel.

Construction on the new project is expected to begin in spring 2021 and continue through winter 2024. The facility will be mainly below ground once complete.

Above ground, the plan is to extend Pendleton Street into a promenade. The program is planned to feature benches and potential space for programming.

Pendleton Street Extension image via RiverRenew

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Eight years after the GenOn power plant closed, a developer has purchased the property and is planning to redevelop the site.

Hilco Redevelopment Partners, based out of Illinois, announced the purchase of the 20-acre site today, the Washington Business Journal first reported.

“We’re excited for the opportunity to redevelop the old Potomac River Generating Station site,” said Roberto Perez, Chief Executive Officer of Hilco Redevelopment Partners, in a press release. “Hilco Redevelopment Partners is committed to remediating this extraordinary site to the most current environmental standards and transforming it into a new and exciting development that will best serve the community and create economic growth and opportunity for all stakeholders.”

The site has been a large part of the city’s Old Town North ambitions, included a plan earlier this year that involved splitting the lot into three smaller parcels. The city hopes to have the site converted into a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood.

“For two decades, we’ve been seeking to change use of that site,” said Mayor Justin Wilson. “[We’ve been] trying to move away from antiquated coal fire to productive use. It was dogged community activism that we were able to get that plant closed. Now, we have a new owner who is ready to achieve that vision. I think we’re pretty excited to see that all come to fruition.”

Wilson emphasized that a significant portion of the lot will remain open space alongside new mixed-use development.

“This is a great step forward for the city,” said Wilson. “Unused power plants are better than operating ones, but neither are particularly good uses. We envision this to be a sustainable area, with some cutting edge sustainability practices.”

Wilson also noted that Hilco Redevelopment Partners has a background in working with industrial sites.

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It was a historic week in Alexandria.

Alexandrians overwhelmingly helped reelect U.S. Senator Mark Warner and Congressman Don Beyer, and 80% of voters chose Democrat former Vice President Joe Biden for president over incumbent Republican President Donald Trump.

Out top story this week was election-related. It turns out that before election day several Alexandria households with Joe Biden signs were sent letters with a Northern Virginia postage mark stating that Biden is a pedophile. The Chair of the Alexandria Democratic Committee advised that anyone who receives such notes should call the police. The police, in turn, are sending along the information to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Additionally, 91 people participated in our weekly poll. This week we asked about election night plans, and 65% of respondents said they were staying home to watch the results, 24% had no eleciton night plans, 10% planned to protest that evening, and 1% were going to an election night event.

School News

Alexandria City Public Schools were back in action this week — sort of. While the ACPS opened in-person classes on Thursday, fewer than 10 students made it to class. There were about 60 students eligible to go back to school, since only kids with kindergarten through second graders with disabilities were allowed to attend Jefferson-Houston PreK-8 IB School.

It was the first in-person public schooling in Alexandria since the pandemic shut down schools in March. ACPS plans to expand opening for all citywide special education students by December. Meanwhile, however, hundreds of parents want the school system to open and have started the #OpenACPS messaging campaign.

Also in school news, a two-year-long court battle was settled with the city and 15 Alexandria homeowners were settled regarding the addition of stadium lights to Parker-Gray Stadium at T.C. Williams High School.

The Week in Crime

The week started with news that there were two shootings in Alexandria over the weekend.

The was also the story of a 17-year-old on the run since last month after allegedly stealing a car in the West End. The juvenile, who later admitted stealing the car, was seen by the victim — a federal law enforcement officer — driving past his house, and the victim got into another of his cars and followed the suspect. The victim got the juvenile out of his car and held him at the scene until police arrived, and the juvenile left the area after being charged.

We also covered the story of the ‘Beltway Bank Bandit’. Freddie Lee McRae, 34, of Washington D.C., pleaded guilty to three counts of brandishing a firearm during a series of bank and shoe store robberies in and around Alexandria in 2018 and 2019. He will be sentenced on February 23, 2021, and faces up to life in prison and a mandatory minimum of 21 years in prison.

Health and Business

As of Friday there were 76 deaths attributed to the coronavirus in Alexandria, and the case count stands at 4,444, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Latino residents continue to lead the case count.

We also reported that longtime Del Ray staple, Al’s Steak House, is for sale since the owner passed away.

This week also saw fewer continued and initial unemployment claims in Alexandria.

Here are ALXnow’s top stories of the week in Alexandria:

  1. Alexandrians with Joe Biden Yard Signs Get Anonymous Letters Saying Biden is a Pedophile
  2. Del Ray Staple Al’s Steak House for Sale After Owner’s Death
  3. Republican Jeff Jordan Running Uphill Battle Against Incumbent Rep. Don Beyer
  4. Braddock West Project Headed to Planning Commission Later This Year
  5. Identity Released of Old Town North Suspect Killed in Shootout
  6. Soft Opening for New Chicken Joint in North Old Town Today
  7. Alexandria Parents Start #OpenACPS Sign Campaign as School System Begins Partial Reopening
  8. Juvenile Allegedly Steals Car and is Tracked Down by Victim in the West End
  9. BREAKING: Massive Power Outage Reported in Alexandria
  10. The Alexandria Drive-In Just Kicked Off an Encore Series on Halloween
  11. Did You Know: The Tall Ship Providence Encountered a Ghost Ship in 1777

Have a safe weekend!

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What an intense week in Alexandria.

Our top story was on the massive power outages that affected tens of thousands of residents on Friday, October 23. Without providing specifics, Dominion Energy told City Council this week that outages in Alexandria and Arlington were “unique,” and caused by a piece of equipment that failed at its Glebe Road substation. City Councilors responded that there have been at least eight outages since May.

Monday started with news that an Alexandria Police officer was shot in Old Town and that the 27-year-old suspect was found shot to death near a construction site.

Police were called to the Holiday Inn & Suites in Old Town North after reports that shots were fired in the lobby of the hotel. Police chased two suspects on foot and a shootout ensued. The officer was shot in the lower body and was later released, and the other suspect later turned himself in to police.

On the coronavirus front, there are now 74 deaths in Alexandria and there are now or have been more than 4,200 cases since the pandemic began in March. Latino residents continue to lead the case count. This week the Alexandria Health Department reported that majority of recent coronavirus cases in Alexandria might be the result of contacts at home, indoor gatherings and eating out.

Restaurant-wise, we reported the soft opening of a new chicken joint in North Old Town.

Additionally, the Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies art installation at Waterfront Park will be taken down next month at Waterfront Park, and the installation will temporarily be moved outside of Old Town Pool (1609 Cameron Street).

We also reported that more than 50% of Alexandria voters have already cast their ballots.

Additionally, more than 240 people participated in our weekly poll. With Halloween on Saturday, this week we asked about trick-or-treating plans, and 38% of respondents are not celebrating Halloween this year, 31% are not trick-or-treating but have other plans, 17% plan to trick-or-treat with modifications, and 14% plan to trick-or-treat as usual.

Here are ALXnow’s top stories of the week in Alexandria:

  1. BREAKING: Massive Power Outage Reported in Alexandria
  2. BREAKING: Virginia State Police Seek Alexandria Man After Police Shootout
  3. School Board Shelves Plan to Reopen Schools in 2021, Students with Disabilities Transitioning Back Next Month
  4. Republican Jeff Jordan Running Uphill Battle Against Incumbent Rep. Don Beyer
  5. Here’s Where Alexandria Residents Might be Getting COVID-19
  6. BREAKING: Shooting Suspect In Custody, Police Announce
  7. Police: Man Killed in Car Crash on N. Van Dorn Street
  8. Identity Released of Old Town North Suspect Killed in Shootout
  9. Police: Shots Fired in Braddock Area on Monday Night
  10. The Chewish Deli Opens New Location in Old Town
  11. Police Assist Man With Psychotic Episode in West End

Happy Halloween!

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Herndon-based Wooboi Hot Chicken is hosting a small “soft opening” today at a new location opening in North Old Town (531 Montgomery Street).

The soft opening is scheduled to run from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. though those who want to try the chicken should lean towards the earlier side, as Wooboi Hot Chicken said there is a limited supply today.

“We have 100 chicken breasts and 400 tenders to sell!” the restaurant said.

Today and tomorrow, the location is cash-only. The restaurant said on Facebook that at the grand opening on Monday, they will accept cards, cash, and apple pay.

Sandwiches or a basket of chicken tenders are $8.99 ($10 with tax included, for purposes of planning how much cash to bring) and sides are $3.99 ($4.50 with tax).

Photo via Wooboi Hot Chicken/Facebook

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Virginia State Police have identified the 27-year-old suspect who died in a shootout with Alexandria police in Old Town North on Monday, October 26.

Michael K. Nelson of Fairfax County was found dead with a stolen firearm near the intersection of Montgomery Street and North Fairfax Street, according to Virginia State Police. His alleged accomplice, 26-year-old Mitchell Thompson, later turned himself in and was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

“Nelson’s remains were transported to the Office of the Medical Examiner in Manassas for examination and autopsy, which remain ongoing,” according to VSP.

At around 5 a.m. that day, police responded to a call for shots fired inside the Holiday Inn & Suites (625 First Street) in Old Town North, according to police. Witnesses reported that a robbery occurred in the lobby of the hotel and that multiple shots were fired. Police established a perimeter and two suspects were spotted at around 5:50 a.m. and engaged in a shootout with police.

“When the officer and the two adult males reached the intersection of North Royal Street and Second Street, the officer and one of the two suspects exchanged fire,” according to VSP. “The officer was shot and both suspects fled the scene again on foot. The officer has been treated and released for non-life threatening injuries sustained in the shooting.”

Police expanded the search at 6:24 a.m. and police K9 teams found Nelson near the intersection of Montgomery Street and North Fairfax Street, according to VSP.

“As Alexandria police officers engaged with Nelson, shots were fired by both Nelson and officers on scene,” VSP reported. “Nelson died at the scene. A stolen firearm was recovered in his possession.”

VSP said the investigation is ongoing. Three Alexandria police officers are on routine administrative since the incident.

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(Updated at 11:10 p.m.) At least three Alexandria Police officers are on routine administrative leave after a shootout that left one suspect dead near the intersection of N. Fairfax and Montgomery Streets.

At 5 a.m., police responded to a call for shots fired inside the Holiday Inn & Suites (625 First Street) in north Old Town, according to police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine. Once at the scene, police were told by witnesses that a robbery occurred in the lobby of the hotel and that multiple shots were fired.

Police established a perimeter and located a possible suspect and a chase ensued on foot, Ballantine said. The suspect allegedly shot an officer in the lower body at N. Royal and 2nd Street. The officer sustained a non-life threatening wound and has since been released from the hospital.

The male suspect then ran to the area of N. Fairfax and Montgomery Streets and more gunfire was exchanged.

“Officers shot toward the suspect and the suspect shot toward the officers,” Ballantine said. “The suspect was found deceased in the bushes when the sun came up.”

Ballantine did not confirm whether police shot the suspect.

Heavily-armed officers could still be seen searching the area after the suspect was found dead.

“Alexandria police officers and K9s, including some with tactical gear, are walking through North Old Town to search for additional evidence as part of the ongoing investigation into this morning’s shootings,” according to police. “The public should not be alarmed at this police activity, but please avoid the area today if possible.”

This afternoon, Virginia State Police identified a 26-year-old Alexandria man, Michael David Thompson, as a person of interest in the shootings. He has since turned himself in, state police announced Monday night.

VSP provided additional information about the investigation:

The Virginia State Police, at the request of the City of Alexandria Police Chief, is investigating a series of shooting incidents that occurred Monday morning (Oct. 26, 2020). State and local police are still working to locate Mitchell D. Thompson, 26, of Alexandria, Va. He is now wanted on one felony count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and is believed to be currently armed. The public is encouraged to call the Virginia State Police at 703-803-0026 or email at [email protected] with any information related to his whereabouts. Thompson is a white male with brown eyes and long, brown hair he was last seen wearing in a “man-bun.” He is 6’8 in height and weighs 245 lbs.

The incident began Monday at approximately 5:01 a.m. when the Alexandria Police Department received a 911 call for shots being fired at a hotel in the 600 block of First Street in Old Town Alexandria. As officers were responding to the scene, two individuals involved in the shooting had fled the hotel on foot. A perimeter was immediately established and search efforts were underway. Further investigation at the hotel determined that an armed robbery had taken place inside the hotel. No one inside the hotel was injured.

At approximately 5:50 a.m., an Alexandria Police Officer located two suspects – one of them Thompson – and a foot pursuit was initiated. When the officer and the two adult males reached the intersection of North Royal Street and Second Street, the officer and one of the two suspects exchanged fire. The officer was shot and both suspects fled the scene again on foot. The officer has been treated and released for non-life threatening injuries sustained in the shooting.

The search perimeter was expanded and police K9 teams located, at approximately 6:24 a.m., one of the suspects near the intersection of Montgomery Street and North Fairfax Street. As Alexandria police officers engaged with the adult male suspect, shots were fired by both the suspect and officers on scene. The male suspect died at the scene. A stolen firearm was recovered in the male suspect’s possession. No law enforcement at this location were injured.

The man’s remains have been transported to the Office of the Medical Examiner in Manassas for examination and autopsy. Next of kin notification is still pending.

The investigation remains ongoing at this time into all three incidents by state police, with the assistance of the Alexandria Police Department and the ATF.

Mayor Justin Wilson said that he appreciated APD’s quick response in finding the suspect, getting the word out to the public and protecting the public from harm.

“My concern right now is with our officer who was injured,” Wilson said. “I know the entire community joins me in wishing for a quick recovery for the officer and expressing our gratitude for their service to our community in a very dangerous situation this morning.”

During the incident, North Old Town was on lockdown as residents were urged to seek shelter while police searched for the suspects. Residents from Washington Street to the river were urged to stay indoors with the doors and windows locked until notified otherwise by police.

More from social media:

James Cullum contributed to this story

Photo and video via Taylor Brown / Map Via Google Maps

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Chris Edwards, executive chef at Old Town Italian restaurant Hank & Mitzi’s, won on the Food Network’s reality show Chopped on Tuesday night (Sept. 29).

Edwards beat three other chefs for $10,000 and bragging rights, although the episode was taped in June 2019 and he had to keep his mouth shut about what happened for more than a year.

“It’s nice,” Edwards told ALXnow. “My kids think I’m pretty cool right now. My kids know that I’m not chopped.”

Edwards said that the pressure to perform on deadline was intense, but that he trusted his instincts.

“When you have 20 minutes to cook, you have to make a decision and go with your gut,” he said. “It is tough, but as a chef in the restaurant I can tweak things in the moment, but in that pressure cooker you can’t change direction. You have to go with the flow and I’m proud of what I did.”

The 43-year-old Edwards is a graduate of Johnson and Wales University, and cooked around the world before joining JL Restaurant Group, which owns Hank & Mitzi’s, in 2017. He lives in Woodbridge with his wife and two children.

Edwards said that appearing on a reality cooking show was always one of his aspirations.

“I always told myself that it was something I aspired to do,” he said. “I would really love to do it again, and even be back on Chopped.”

In recognition of the win, Hank & Mitzi’s (600 Montgomery Street in Old Town) is trying to capitalize off the publicity and is now open for lunch.

“We are expanding our hours,” Edwards said. “We’ve got great fresh food. I have a great team in here. We’re working hard.”

The show will air again tonight at 9 p.m.

So how does our Executive Chef Chris Edwards celebrate his big win on Food Network Chopped? By starting LUNCH SERVICE!…

Posted by Hank & Mitzi's Italian Kitchen on Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Is this the face of a #chopped Winner? YOU BETCHA!!!!Congratulations to Chef Chris Edwards on his stellar win this evening…we are so happy for you and your well deserved win!!

Posted by Hank & Mitzi's Italian Kitchen on Tuesday, September 29, 2020

https://twitter.com/AlexandriaVA/status/1311296067246288900

Photo via Hank & Mitzi’s/Facebook

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Alexandria Police are investigating smash-and-grab incidents at three ABC stores that occurred at night on August 25 and 26.

“We have had three instances of ABC stores burglarized,” APD spokesman Lt Courtney Ballantine told ALXnow. “All high end liquor. Fairfax (County) has had similar incidents.”

The following stores were broken into after hours.

Ballantine said that there are multiple suspects and no descriptions are available.

As previously reported, there has been a 12% increase in the number of larcenies in the city this year. A surge in violent incidents in Old Town has also prompted APD to increase their presence on the street.

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Alexandria Police are investigating a single gunshot that was heard in the area of Wythe and Fayette Streets in the Parker Gray/Braddock neighborhood on Sunday afternoon.

There were no reported injuries. Police found no suspects and nothing was reportedly hit. The incident was reported on Twitter just before 3 p.m. on Sunday. It occurred just blocks from the Braddock Road Metro station and a number of local businesses, town homes and apartments.

The gunshot was the latest in a string of shootings that have occurred in the area. The uptick has prompted the Alexandria Police Department to increase their presence in the area, and Police Chief Michael L. Brown said at a recent community meeting that the shootings are occurring at odd times throughout the day.

Map via Google Maps

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Even though it’s just three blocks away, Heather Lesley doesn’t let her teenage daughter walk to the Braddock Road Metro station to meet her when she gets back from work.

“I don’t feel comfortable letting her do that anymore,” Lesley told ALXnow. “My neighbor has bullet holes in the brick wall of their home.”

Ever since the pandemic started, Lesley has noticed an uptick in violent crimes in her neighborhood in the Parker Gray section of the city, and it was only three weeks ago that she called the police after hearing four gunshots. She’s a U.S. Air Force veteran with two kids and her husband is deployed overseas with the Army until next year and is now considering moving from the area.

“I was in bed watching a movie, with two teenagers downstairs,” Lesley said. “I went to my back window and I couldn’t see anything, because last summer a man got shot and made his way to our mailbox area in our homeowners association, and that’s where EMTs found him, so I knew to look for something.”

The Alexandria Police Department’s strategy to combat the uptick in violent activity is to increase their presence in the area, and Lesley and her neighbors have noticed more APD cruisers parked at the Post Office at 1100 Wythe Street. Police are also asking for information from those who have witnessed some of these incidents to call 703-746-4444 or 911 in an emergency.

“Clearly we are concerned about the uptick in firearm-related incidents in Parker Gray/Old Town, and around the City,” Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson told ALXnow. “The Police Department has had increased presence, both marked and unmarked in the neighborhoods for the past several weeks and that will continue.”

According to a community crime map, there have been five aggravated assaults in Old Town this month alone, dozens of “other” assaults, and two residential burglaries. Also this month, Wilson appealed to the police to do something about an increase in vehicle thefts.

There have been reports of four shootings in Old Town since July 9. 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, although police would not release their identity since it would impede the investigation. In June, a man drove himself to the hospital after being shot in the 700 block of North Fayette Street.

As previously reported, there was also a crime spree in the city during the height of the pandemic during a reduction of police presence. Additionally, on March 31, a 17-year-old was shot in what police suspect was a targeted attack. The victim was playing basketball on Tancil Court and his mother later refused to let him talk to police out of fear for his safety, according to police records.

Many of these incidents have occurred within a mile of each other, sometimes within blocks.

On July 30, Police Chief Michael L. Brown conducted an in-person community meeting at Charles Houston Recreation Center to talk about the incidents. He was joined by Wilson and City Manager Mark Jinks.

“The other difficult thing about these shootings is that they’re not happening on a regular basis, or a scheduled basis, they’re happening at a variety of times,” Brown said. “We’re trying to stop this trend.”

Many of the incidents are occurring around Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority public housing, and for the last several months the ARHA board of directors has had special virtual meetings every week to discuss developments during the pandemic.

“It’s unfortunate that these things are happening but we have increased policing that we feel will make a huge difference,” said ARHA Board Member Willie Bailey, who is also a former city councilman. “We have stepped up security at the properties by installing more cameras. We have also started an ARHA Resident Safety Committee where the residents can discuss their issues and have a say in the safety and well-being of their community.”

Lesley’s husband comes home next summer from his deployment, and she says she will make up her mind to move between now and then.

“We love this area, we love this neighborhood and Old Town,” she said. “We love our neighbors, but it’s beginning to be too much.”

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Morning Notes

Beyer Introduces Pandemic Response Accountability Legislation — “Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) today introduced the Supply Chain Accountability Act, legislation that would require the Administration to explain its strategy for fixing key breakdowns in the pandemic response. Beyer serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means, which has partial jurisdiction over healthcare matters.” [Beyer.house.gov]

Coronavirus Cases at 2,995 in Alexandria — “Positive tests up 19 to 2,995 in the City 7-day Positivity Rate up to 5.7% 3 new hospitalizations Still safer at home, wash hands, wear masks and support our essential workers.” [Twitter]

Nelson Greene Advocates Renaming T.C. Williams High School for Retired Judge Dawkins — “Here is a model to be followed, and imitated. So let’s do the right thing and change the name to Judge Nolan Dawkins and really let him know what we think about him and his service, his life and have a model for all.” [Zebra]

New Italian Restaurant Opening in Old Town North on Thursday — “The restaurant, from chef and restaurateur Jamie Leeds, is the long-awaited replacement for Hank’s Pasta Bar, that closed last year for renovations.” [Alexandria Living]

Del Ray Cakery Becomes Del Ray Cookie Company — “Over the last year or so, my business has gone in a different direction. I have been doing so many cookies, so I decided it was time to move my business in a different direction.” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “Partly cloudy in the morning followed by scattered thunderstorms in the afternoon. High 91F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 60%. Locally heavy rainfall possible.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Commercial Interior Designer — “Share a passion for transforming client work environments with amazingly innovative designs. Builds on and manages the client relationship to create an exceptional client experience. Provides design services to dealership customers, including programming, space planning, typical development, 3-D virtual experience, specifications and site-to-plan review.” [Indeed]

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