Residents and neighbors of the Ladrey Senior High-Rise in Old Town North will get a chance later this month to chime in its proposed redevelopment.
The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) wants to demolish the existing 11-story, 170-unit affordable public housing apartment building at 300 Wythe Street and the former ARHA headquarters at 600 N. Fairfax Street and replace them with an L-shaped 270-unit, six-story affordable building at Fairfax and Wythe Streets. It is also proposed to be further reduced to five stories at Fairfax and Pendleton Streets and have an underground parking garage with 120 spaces.
The new building will house seniors and residents with disabilities on the two-acre property.
“Some of the design features in the new building will include, green design, ground level and rooftop open space, modern and energy efficient appliances, larger average units, underground parking, and sustainable landscaping,” according to ARHA. “All current Ladrey residents will be relocated at the expense of the developer and will have the right to return at the same rent level when the building is complete.”
ARHA and its partners Winn Companies and IBF Development are in the public comment phase of the project, and want to submit plans and relocate residents in the second quarter of 2024, with construction starting by the second quarter of 2025. If all goes as planned, the project would wrap by the first quarter of 2028, according to a June presentation.
ARHA will host a hybrid meeting on the project on Tuesday, Sept. 19, from 6 to 8 p.m. The event will in-person at ARHA headquarters (401 Wythe Street) and virtually via Zoom.
Things were looking up for Richard Romero, founder of Seichou Karate in Alexandria. The Old Town dojo is facing imminent closure thanks to redevelopment, but Romero finally found a new home just northeast of Springfield.
But, like a crane kick at the end of a karate championship, Romero said some surprising zoning issues have cropped up that could spell trouble for plans to open Seichou Karate at 5710 General Washington Drive.
“We found a place on General Washington Drive in Fairfax,” Romero said. “It’s in a warehouse-type structure. The space is just off I-395. It’ll be a good new home for us but we’ve encountered some difficulties.”
After 18 years in Old Town, Romero struggled to find a new space to fit the needs of the dojo. Romero said larger businesses like Amazon have been buying up warehouses and flex space in the area and, after 18 months of searching, he found a suitable location in Springfield.
Romero admitted he was so excited by the new location and worried he’d lose it that he didn’t do a feasibility study.
“I didn’t do a feasibility study and that was a mistake,” Romero said. “I had no idea we would run into so many bureaucratic complications.”
The main issue, Romero said, has been parking. Romero said the school will have 20 students and two staff and Fairfax County has told him that it means he needs 22 parking spaces, which is unlikely for the shopping center-like space.
“That’s where we’re really hung up right now,” Romero said. “They say I need 22 parking spaces, 24/7. But that doesn’t reflect how our business works.”
Romero said his classes get started around 4:30/5 p.m., which is when many of the nearby light industrial and supply businesses close.
“There’s plenty of parking if you go there any time of the day,” Romero said, “but the county says this space — with maybe 20 tenants in the whole building –simply doesn’t have enough parking spaces to include all the tenants.”
A Fairfax County spokesperson said because Seichou Karate is a new use for the site, it has different parking requirements than the previous tenant.
“When a new tenant has different parking requirements than the previous tenant, it requires a more in-depth review of the application by the county,” the spokesperson said. “The previous use was an establishment for production that only required four spaces. Seichou Karate is a school of specialized instruction that requires several more parking spaces to accommodate staff and students.”
The spokesperson said in these cases, the applicant must submit a parking tabulation to demonstrate the site can accommodate the parking required for this use, which the spokesperson said Seichou Karate has not.
“I’ve tried to reason with them,” Romero said. “I’ve said ‘please, look at the parking lot during the daytime’ but they say no, the rules are the rules.”
Romero said that parking tabulation required by the County is costly, around $5,500, with a $1,000 filing fee.
“To boot, since July, I’ve been paying two landlords,” Romero said. “We’re not causing congestion and there’s plenty of space… They’re not willing to apply those rules in a way that makes sense.”
Romero said he has to be out of his current space in Alexandria by Dec. 31 and it’s looking unlikely that Seichou Karate will be open in Fairfax by that time.
“Getting that ready by December, even if it were approved now, is fanciful at best,” Romero said. “It’s really a kafkaesque nightmare.”
More beautification efforts are underway at Hotel AKA Alexandria in Old Town North.
Now, the hotel is asking the Board of Architectural Review for approval of a permit to demolish and a certificate of appropriateness for the “limited demolition” of a wall facing N. Pitt Street.
The windows would provide “visibility into ground floor spaces within the building in which the Applicant intends to establish community serving retail uses,” according to AKA’s application.
While the request doesn’t result in any major changes, Hotel AKA Alexandria says the payoff will be big.
“The Applicant’s proposed renovation and enhancement of the existing hotel will increase the value of the Property, create new jobs, and generate additional economic activity in the neighborhood by attracting tourist and hotel patrons to the area,” AKA said in its application. “The exterior alterations represent improvements to the existing façade that will result in a more attractive and aesthetically pleasing appearance.”
The hotel was previously a red-brick Holiday Inn Express, and the new owners completed an extensive interior renovation and painted the exterior black. The building is on the border of the Old Town Historic District, was built in the 1970s and isn’t considered historic.
Pupatella Neapolitan Pizza will open in Old Town North before the end of the year, a managing partner for the local pizza chain told ALXnow.
Construction has begun on the building at 700 Slaters Lane, the former longtime home to Sam’s Custom Cleaners. The dry cleaner shut down a month after the death of owner Tony Tran in 2022.
Tran’s nephew Thien Ung is now the owner of the property and said that a neighborhood-centric pizzeria will be good for the space. For one thing, it’s hard to beat the location, as the building greets drivers along the George Washington Memorial Parkway into Old Town.
“I knew how important it was that whoever moved into the spot would have to contribute to the Old Town and Old Town North feel,” Ung said. “When Michael Berger, a managing partner with Pupatella, reached out to me, and after talking with his team and listening to their story and where they came from, it just felt right.”
Enzo Algarme, a native of Naples, Italy, founded Pupatella Neapolitan Pizza in a food truck in Ballston in 2007. Pupatella is his grandmother’s nickname and it means “little doll.”
The company now has eight locations: two in Arlington, at 5104 Wilson Blvd and 1621 S. Walter Reed Drive, Dupont Circle in D.C., Reston, the City of Fairfax, Springfield, Leesburg and Richmond. Locations are also being planned in Chantilly, Capitol Hill in D.C. and in Montgomery County, Maryland.
Berger says he wants to open at least five more restaurants in the area over the next several years.
“We’re really excited,” Berger said of the Alexandria location. “We’re really excited about it, and being a standalone building with visibility, parking — kind of a billboard-type location when you come in on the G.W. Parkway.”
As developer Hilco Redevelopment Partners (HRP) heads into the ambitious redevelopment of the GenOn Power Plant, the developer laid out some of their plans for the complex process of breaking the site apart.
Representatives of the developer spoke last week to the Alexandria Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) — full disclosure, this reporter is on the LEPC — about how the developers plans for abatement, remediation and deconstruction. The discussion was a follow-up to a previous LEPC meeting with Deputy Director for Infrastructure and Environmental Quality Bill Skrabak.
Mary Catherine Gibbs, land use counsel for HRP, said 2024 will likely be dominated by permit hearings for the project, with deconstruction and abatement starting in early 2025 — slightly later than the timeline laid out months ago.
The project is notable for the complexity of the environmental work that will go into making the former industrial plant a site safe for human habitation. Julianna Connolly is leading the remediation of the site and explained that remediation refers to anything on the ground level and below — like analyzing chemicals in the soil — while abatement refers to any of the environmental work above ground.
Connolly said there some of the sites of environmental contamination are already known.
“There’s an area on the site between the building and the river that had a known release from underground storage tanks,” Connolly said. “[They’re] still there, but closed.”
Connolly said the previous owner did remediation work to clean up the oil, but there’s still a residual impact on site that will need to be cleaned up.
Meanwhile, Connolly said her team has taken samples from across the site looking for more contamination — though the team hasn’t been able to sample under buildings yet. The early results, Connolly said, have been generally promising.
Metal content in the soil is generally below the standards set by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (Virginia DEQ). The main notes of concern in the soil samples are thallium, iron and manganese found above screening levels at a few locations. The screenings haven’t picked up polychlorinated biphenyls — a substance Connolly said is used to keep oil from lighting on fire — but she said it’s likely they’ll be found when her group checks closer to the transformers on-site.
Connolly said the next steps for her team are working through risk assessments for the site and developing a remediation plan.
“We already know we’re going to be working up near where the petroleum was, but we’re also identifying [other locations] on the site,” Connolly said. “We’re watching residual contamination very closely.”
For the above ground stuff, Nicholas Pullara, Vice President of development for HRP, said his team is combing through the site collecting regulated materials like asbestos, lightbulbs, electronic equipment and more.
“We’ve found asbestos, quite a bit of it, but it’s in good condition,” said Pullara. “We’ve found a slew of lightbulbs, things of that nature. We’re developing plans to remove all that prior to deconstruction.”
Pullara said HRP’s plan is to take the main power plant apart piece by piece rather than bringing it down all at once.
“We’re going to be sectioning out portions of the building and lowering them to ground piece by piece,” Pullara said. “We’re going after this in a very surgical [way] from a deconstruction perspective.”
For the eventual building deconstruction, rodent control will be put in place to keep a vermintide from flooding the nearby neighborhood. Pullara said HRP is looking for “non-poison solutions.”
For controlling dust from the site, Pullara said HRP will be using a lot of water.
“We’re going to use a lot of water,” Pullara said. “Asbestos needs to be wet when we put it in the bag… Water is key to dust mitigation. [We’ll have] high speed fans blowing a lot of water in a specific direction in a controlled manner. We want to focus the water where we’re creating that dust.”
Monitoring equipment will be set up for dust and vibrations from the site as well. Connolly said they know the air monitoring equipment works in in part because the smoke from the wildfires set off alarms at HRP’s project in Philadelphia.
Earlier discussion of removing pieces of the industrial plant from the site had indicated that barges might be an alternative to using trucks, but Pullara said the logistics at the site don’t work for removing debris into barges on the river.
Get your favorite Italian dish while you can, because A La Lucia will likely close by the end of the year, the restaurant’s owner tells ALXnow.
After more than 20 years in business, the popular Italian restaurant at 315 Madison Street will not relocate when Carr Companies starts construction on two acres of redevelopment for their Montgomery Center property in Old Town North.
Owner Mehran Nayeri was supposed to close by the end of this month, but shopping center management recently told him that they, The Art League and other tenants can stay in business at least until the end of the year.
“We’ve had a great ride over here,” Nayeri said. “But it’s time to move on. We had great customers, the best, and they supported us through the pandemic, which was amazing.”
Carr Companies bought Montgomery Center for $35 million from MRW Properties Inc. in 2021. The 1970s-era shopping center will eventually be replaced by an eight-story, 350,000-square-foot apartment building with 327 residential units, more than 25,000 square feet of retail and a 13,300-square-foot performance venue.
The intimate, 60-seat restaurant in Old Town North won’t relocate, Nayeri said.
“Now is the time to come and get some Italian food,” Nayeri said. “We’ll be here until we can’t be here anymore.”
Nayeri said that he and his wife are retiring from the restaurant business and likely moving from the area. He also said that the restaurant will have a number of events during the last three months to sell all of its art, furniture and wine.
“The paintings on the walls are by local artists, and we’ll be having an auction this fall to sell them,” Nayeri said. “We’ve had great memories here. It’s been so good.”
Image via Facebook
An event space just off the Mount Vernon Trail at Canal Center is looking to undergo a small expansion to make the Old Town North location a little more exciting.
Chalkboard Canal Center LLC, is proposing to add two temporary trailers to the event as well as a permit for live music to create a venue called The Bike Club.
The venue is on a 1.57-acre lot featuring 350 feet of frontage along the Mount Vernon Trail. The staff report notes that the City Council approved a zoning amendment to convert some of the office space to residential and retail use. The report says the build-out for those conversions hasn’t happened yet.
According to the application:
The applicant proposes to use two 8 by 20-foot trailers for cooking and beverage preparation within a small surface parking area adjacent to the plaza of the 99 Canal Center property. The outdoor dining area, to be known as The Bike Club, would include 60 seats and serve food and beverages, including alcohol. It would operate seven days a week and feature community events, live music, and activities such as trivia nights. Although some music may be classified as background music, the music offerings would be amplified at low levels by small public announcement equipment accommodating local singers, jazz, bands and acoustic musicians.
The location would operate Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-10 p.m. and Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to midnight.
The staff report recommended approval, saying the new location could be a nice spot for cyclists, runners and pedestrians along the trail to stop. The report also said the closest residential properties are 130 feet from the venue, meaning noise impacts are likely to be minimal.
According to the report:
Staff recommends approval of the applicant’s request for temporary trailers and live entertainment at 99 Canal Center Plaza. The temporary trailers, used for food and beverage preparation, and live entertainment provide a start-up business opportunity while enlivening the outdoor plaza which is largely unused by the community and Canal Center office workers. Located just 45 feet from the Mount Vernon Trail, it would also provide a convenient food and drink stop for bicyclists, runners and pedestrians using the trail.
The project is heading to the Planning Commission on Thursday, June 22.
The hotel — perhaps most notably for its strikingly dark facade — is hoping to increase its outdoor seating from 40 seats to 120 seats.
While it’s looking to get permission for 120 seats, the proposal said the plan is to accommodate 80 seats in an outdoor terrace on the western side of the building.
According to the proposal:
The outdoor terrace area was used by the previous hotel tenant (Holiday Inn) as an outdoor lounge area for its guests and included a pool on the northern portion of the terrace. The applicant in the current request proposes to convert the terrace to an outdoor dining area that would be served by both a bar area which would be constructed on the western portion of the terrace as well as the hotel’s main kitchen. The proposed outdoor dining area would be separated into approximately nine smaller group areas in order to create a sense of privacy for their patrons.
Many Alexandria restaurants embraced outdoor dining during the pandemic and, accordingly, the City of Alexandria has been trying to make the regulations governing outdoor dining a little less onerous.
An analysis of the proposal included an endorsement from city staff. The permit is scheduled for review at a Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday, June 6.
(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) Alexandria is one step closer to the demolition of the NRG Potomac River Generating Station site in Old Town North.
On Saturday, City Council unanimously endorsed the plant owner’s Coordinated Sustainability Strategy, which outlines a plan to electrify the future mixed-use development slated to be built there.
Next month, City Council will conduct a public hearing on Hilco Redevelopment Partners’ (HRP) infrastructure development site plan, which details its proposal to build a mixed-use district. HRP plans on analyzing special use permits for the property between now and 2026.
Mayor Justin Wilson said that the project will be instructive for future projects.
“When’s the thing going to get knocked down?” Wilson joked to Hilco. “Today? Tomorrow?”
“If you could advance all of the approvals necessary, we’ll get started even faster,” replied Hilco’s attorney Mary Catherine Gibbs.
“Electrification of primary building systems ensures that there is a future pathway to carbon neutral operations while simultaneously delivering a high level of building performance and comfort,” HRP said.
HRP reported it will have to overcome a pandemic-induced severe supply chain backlog for critical equipment such as transformers, however.
HRP anticipates demolition could start next year. The former power plant first opened in 1949, shut down in 2012, and was acquired by HRP in 2020.
The site needs extensive remediation after leaky storage tanks bled pollutants into the soil.
The coal-fired power plant also severely polluted the air, according to HRP:
The facility emitted 3.15 million metric tons of CO2e annually, among other contaminants, or nearly 200 million metric tons of CO2e over the course of its operation. Concerned citizens hired scientists to study the power plant’s pollution, which triggered local and state investigations into the site. Air quality studies found that the plant violated national ambient air quality standards for sulfur dioxide, particulates, and nitrogen oxide.
The eventual redevelopment will occur in three phases, each consisting of two blocks, beginning with blocks “A” and “B” at the southernmost portion of the property. HRP proposes 80% of the buildings in blocks A, B and C to be residential development with 20% dedicated to commercial spaces
“At its core, the project is the removal and remediation of a power plant,” Dustin Smith, the city’s green building manager, told Council. “Following a decade’s long community process to achieve this, the redevelopment will bring with it stormwater and transportation infrastructure improvements and additional areas of open space to the Old Town North neighborhood.”
In its sustainability strategy documents, HRP said that the development will be transformed into a “vibrant, urban, mixed-use community that will include office, residential, arts, hotel, entertainment, retail, and restaurant use.”
“The property will be reconnected to the surrounding Old Town North neighborhood through the extension of the existing street network and the seamless integration of new publicly accessible parks with existing and future public open space,” the developer wrote.
“The site will be accessible through public transportation, the pedestrian and bicycle network, and will engage the adjoining uses and buildings, offering Alexandria the ability to showcase forward thinking urban and sustainable planning and development,” it continued.
Images via City of Alexandria
The store’s last day at at 802 N. Fairfax Street will be on Saturday, April 29, after which it will be open on weekends. The new store at 2417 Mount Vernon Avenue in Del Ray will likely open in June.
“I’ve been starting to move in little by little,” Daly said of the new location. “I just installed the speakers for the stereo system.”
A former DJ at North Carolina State University, Daly worked for a record shop chain for years before founding Crooked Beat Records in 1997 in Raleigh. He moved the business to Adams Morgan in D.C. in 2004 and then to Alexandria in 2016.
Daly is now restocking his used vinyl records with a few estate sale deals.
“We haven’t been buying used records for more than a year to free up storage space,” he said. “Our used records are depleted 80%, and I’m now in talks to pick up 20,000 records in an estate collection.”
Record Store Day is Daly’s biggest day of the year, when world-famous artists release new work in vinyl, like Taylor Swift’s “folklore: the long pond studio sessions.” The store opens at 9 a.m. that day, and there’s a doorman to ensure 25 are allowed in at a time.
“You’ll see 300 people lined up around the block to get records,” Daly said. “A lot of high school girls are calling me about the Taylor Swift album. For some of them it will be the first record they ever bought.”
Record sales climbed 20% nationally last year, accounting for $1.2 billion in sales, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. It’s also the first time since 1988 that record sales have outpaced CDs.
“There’s a lot of factors to account for it,” Daly said. “Some would say records have a warmer sound, that they’re a physical medium and more tangible than CDs. For all our 25 years of being open, the vinyl customers are the most loyal. They just continue to come, sometimes from two and three hours away just to buy from us.”