Alexandria planning staff are recommending that City Council reverse a ruling by the Board of Architectural Review and allow a hair salon to keep an after-the-fact paint job on its exterior.
In May, the city was notified that the Glynn Jones Salon at 720 King Street painted a large portion of its exterior the color gray. On July 6, the Board of Architectural Review unanimously voted to deny the salon a certificate of appropriateness for the work.
While the salon is located in the Old Town Historic District, city staff do not believe the work has any adverse effect on the previously unpainted masonry.
“The Board found that painting the building’s yellow brick was not appropriate since yellow brick buildings are rare in Alexandria and the material can be considered a character defining,” city staff reported. “(S)taff does not believe that the after-the-fact work of partially painting previously unpainted masonry has an adverse effect on the building at 720 King Street, nor does it diminish the historic character of the historic district.”
Anthony Hughes is representing the salon, and said in the appeal that the facade of the building was constructed in the 1960s and is not historic.
“The brick used in the construction is not historically significant, as it is not part of the original structure,” Hughes said. “Therefore, any alterations to the exterior, including painting, should be evaluated based on the existing planning guidelines and not restricted by the historical context of the area, but on a case-by-case basis.”
According to the city:
The building at 720 King Street was built between 1891 and 1896. However, the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps show constant alterations and additions throughout the decades. The Sanborn Map of 1931 shows for the first time that the main building (front portion) was entirely made of brick. Therefore, the main building is considered an Early building (built before 1932) within the Old and Historic Alexandria District (Figure 2). However, the building underwent major renovations in 1967 (Permit # 24731) when the front/ north elevation was completely rebuilt, thus the front portion of the building is considered Late (built after 1931).
The Zoning Ordinance specifically prohibits painting previously unpainted masonry surfaces without BAR approval. However, the BAR does not regulate colors once buildings are already painted. The chosen color gray applied on the building’s storefront (without BAR approval) is subtle and does not subtract from or diminish the character of the building and/or the adjacent existing structures. Furthermore, the color gray has been historically appropriate to both Early and Late buildings within the historic districts.
The Alexandria Police Department (APD) is investigating an alleged attempted robbery and abduction in Old Town on Friday, Sept. 1.
At around 11 p.m. a 30-year-old woman flagged down an APD officer just outside the Firehook Bakery at 430 S. Washington Street to report she was the victim of an attempted abduction and assault, according to the police scanner.
The victim was treated at the scene for an injury to her mouth, according to the police scanner.
On Thursday night, nearly two weeks after the incident, APD confirmed that the incident occurred and that, “We are aware of recent social media posts about the incident.”
APD provided no details on the incident and did not respond to questions sent by ALXnow on Wednesday.
One of the posts on NextDoor said the following:
On sept 1, 2023, Friday of Labor Day weekend, a woman was walking across Wilkes Street and South Washington (Street) toward Firehook Bakery and a man following her grabbed her from behind and violently threw her to the ground, then put her in a choke hold and dragged her behind the bakery into the alley. A man in a car at the light turned down Wilkes (Street) and confronted the assailant and (the) woman ran to his car until police arrived. This was reported by police as a robbery and a kidnapping abduction. The gas station across the intersection got it on camera. The assailant has not been arrested.
The victim reported that the suspect is a Middle Eastern male in his 20s with a dark beard, tan backpack, baggy hoodie and dark pants, according to the police scanner.
The manager of the Exxon station at 501 S. Washington Street said he has a video of the incident and is willing to provide it to police, although they haven’t reached out to him and he hasn’t made an effort to send it to them. The manager refused to show the video to ALXnow.
“I have the video when they want it,” the manager said. “You see the man following her, and at the end of the Firehook he grabbed her. She was able to break away and she runs away and turns around and it looks like she’s asking him a question, and then he grabs her again and pulls her into the parking lot.”
Mayor Justin Wilson said that he was notified by a resident of the incident on Thursday.
“I do see a robbery posted in the crime reports, but that doesn’t match what is described in that social media post,” Wilson said. “I’m awaiting some feedback from APD.”
Anyone with information on this incident can call 703-746-4444, and anyone with video, photos, or audio footage of the incident can upload files here. Tipsters can remain anonymous.
Some upgrades to Alexandria’s stormwater management will mean a months-long closure of a road between the Carlyle neighborhood and Old Town.
The RiverRenew Project will require the closure of Jamieson Avenue between Holland Lane and S West Street, just north of the Alexandria National Cemetery.
At a City Council meeting earlier this week, Mayor Justin Wilson said intermittent closures started late last month but will escalate starting in October.
“From the first week of October through January 2024 [we’ll have] full closure of Jamieson in that section, 24/7,” Wilson said. “We have signs up, social media, mailings; we’re working to get the word out. There’s certainly a change coming and detours will be required.”
The RiverRenew project website said the closure is to allow work crews to access Hooffs Run.
“To prevent combined sewage from polluting and harming local waterways, RiverRenew crews must upgrade the Hooffs Run Interceptor at our construction sites north of Jamieson Avenue and within African American Heritage Park,” the website said. “RiverRenew crews must fully close Jamieson Avenue to through pedestrian and vehicular traffic while they work to connect these two areas.”
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a new development planned in Old Town is stirring up community frustration about height and density.
A meeting of the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) last week became a bitter argument between architecture firm Winstanley Architects, the lawyer for developer Hoffman and Associates, and nearby residents who say the plans don’t fit with the neighborhood.
Hoffman and Associates is hoping to build a new four-story residential development at 301 N. Fairfax Street — two blocks west of Founders Park and two blocks north of City Hall.
During the public comment, nearby residents said the proposed building is too large for the neighborhood.
“The current building at 301 N. Fairfax has an existing gross floor area of 30,459 feet,” said local resident Tom Foley. “The proposed development asks for a total gross floor area of 98,465 feet, tripling the size of the current structure.”
Foley said he and other residents feel the size and scale of the new building is not appropriate to the neighborhood.
“I am baffled how an architecture firm as talented and respected as Winstanley cannot come up with a design that comports with the historic ambiance and style of our Old Town historic buildings,” said Jana McKeag, Foley’s wife.
But specific concerns about square footage also gave way to broader concerns about the changing character of Old Town.
“Set a precedent that makes 301 N. Fairfax a first-of-its-kind emphatic statement that demonstrates to Hoffman and every developer coming behind them that attractive new construction can speak to our colonial history and still meet the appropriate size and number of units that will respect what our neighborhood can realistically accommodate,” Anna Bergman implored the BAR. “This is hallowed ground.”
Others accused the developer of lying to the nearby community and ignoring public feedback, threatening to fight the developer tooth and nail throughout the process.
“We will not allow you to steamroll over our rights and the city protections,” said Ann Shack. “With your attitude of total defiance despite our efforts we are now forced to meet you head on. Should you decide to continue down this path you chose, even though you knew in advance you were not complying with the city regulations and requirements, know that many of our residents are attorneys. We will force you to spend money before you put one shovel into the ground.”
Attorney Cathy Puskar, of Walsh Colucci Lubeley & Walsh, represented the developer.
“I carry this water bottle with me a lot, it says spread kindness,” Puskar said. “I do that to remind myself when I hear the false facts, the accusations, and the outright threats put to me, my client, and the architect, that I need to maintain my composure because that’s not what this is about.”
The project had a mixed reception from the BAR.
“I think you’ve made a lot of changes from the first [proposal]; I thought the first one was not appropriate,” said BAR Member Michael Lyons. “I still think it looks a little out of place. It’s certainly come 70% further than it was before.”
BAR Member Andrew Scott said, for the most part, he approved of the project — if there were a change in construction material.
“I think this is really beautiful work,” said Scott. “It’s really nice… I do not think fiber cement is an appropriate material for this street and you’re not going to get my vote with fiber cement.”
Scott said, contrary to some of the comments from the public, he didn’t see it as the BAR’s role to maintain the status quo of Old Town.
“It is not our mandate to prevent change in neighborhoods,” Scott said. “It is ‘Does this building compliment the neighborhood?’ And my opinion, as someone who has seen many of these… I think this fits in just fine.”
Others were less enthusiastic about the project.
“[It’s] an improvement, but given this elevation and the scale of the nearby buildings, I think it’s too massive,” said BAR Member Theresa Del Ninno. “I would not be able to support this proposal with the current massing.”
Others said the development was out of place in historic Old Town.
“This building belongs on the north end of Old Town,” said BAR Member Margaret Miller. “If I lived across the street from it, I too would have pause.”
After multiple work sessions with the BAR, Puskar said the developer was planning to take the project to the Planning Commission and the City Council rather than continue with reviews.
“We’re going to come back if it’s approved [at the City Council] for a certificate of appropriateness,” said Puskar. “There are a lot of details between now and then that we think will improve the building even more.”
One of those projects, Sound Horizons, opened Aug. 5 and runs through to Jan. 28. Visitors sit in the tesseract, an array of high-density loudspeakers, and experience an immersive environment of sounds curated for Alexandria by Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT).
Sound Horizons includes four sound installations:
- “Dear Younger Me,” a project about healing the inner Black girl, which features a series of Black women reading letters to their younger selves
- “Sonification of Cybersecurity Data,” a music installation that turns cybersecurity data into musical harmony of sounds
- “Liminal Spaces,” a fixed-media composition inspired by life’s in-between moments
- “Musical Connection,” a sound installation shedding light on the uncharted neural territories that music traverses when people living with Alzheimer’s disease engage in music-making
“Collaborating with one of the nation’s top innovative universities provides an opportunity to put Alexandria on the cutting edge, proving how art and creativity are a thread that runs deeply through all forms of innovation, be it scientific, cultural, engineering, health, or technological,” Brett John Johnson, the Torpedo Factory’s curator of artistic advancement, said in a statement.
According to Virginia Tech:
The performances push the limits of sound and performance; they will explore scored data composed of music exploring infectious diseases, neuroscience, including Atrium, meditation, PTSD, and more, as well as the juxtaposition of new technology and the human body.
A facilitated discussion will follow at the end of the show, so you can listen to the researchers and ask questions about their work.
The series of exhibitions, performances and events will wrap next September, which is just is time for the opening of Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus in Alexandria.
“Virginia Tech, with its Innovation Campus, is pushing the frontier of technology,” said Ben Knapp, executive director of ICAT. “Together with the Office of the Arts, we will be showcasing innovation in all of its forms.”
Galactic Panther Art Gallery has hosted live music and paid events since opening in 2021, and now its owners are asking the city for approval to host them.
Galactic Panther’s 1,900-square-foot art gallery has hosted comedy, improv, sound baths, yoga, open mic nights and live music for more than a year, and their proposal to continue with the events goes to the Planning Commission on October 3 and City Council on October 14.
“We plan to host paid events at the art gallery,” owners Eli Pollard and Erik Muendel asked in the application. “These events include art workshops, comedy, live music, yoga, sound baths and receptions.”
The owners said in their special use permit application that they expect the events to attract 20-to-30 people, although photos of events shared on the gallery’s Facebook page show events with more than 30 people in attendance.
“I started the gallery during Covid and (the city was) pretty relaxed about it, and it was this process of maturing and knowing the city,” Muendel said. “I’ve never been in retail and am new to these experiences, and we’re getting all our paperwork in place.”
Muendel continued, “We’re going to upgrade with a booking agent to bring in more touring musical artists. It’s a maturation of our programming.”
Galactic Panther (currently open Thursday to Sunday), already hosts the following events every week:
- Comedy every Wednesday & Friday
- Live Music by Jah Messenger Sound every Thursday
- Live Music 1st Saturdays
- Improv 2nd Saturdays
- Glow night Paint & Sip 3rd Saturdays
- Sound Bath & Yoga every other Sunday
- Open Mic every Sunday
Muendel is also the owner of ESP Tea and Coffee at 1012 King Street.
According to the city staff report:
- The applicant is proposing using the space for comedy and live music events which constitute the live entertainment use. They are also proposing art workshops, yoga and other classes that are the commercial private school use. All of these activities would take place in the existing gallery, which has an area to the rear of the space, which is currently equipped with a microphone and an amplifier
- Noise from live entertainment and activities, such as music, performances, and trivia, shall end no later than 11 p.m.
- Noise levels are anticipated to reach 80 decibels
Since it opened in February, Eddie’s Little Shop and Deli (1406 King Street) has been a spot to grab what you need and go, but that could change.
A new special use permit indicates the shop could be adding a little indoor seating soon, giving the bodega-like deli space an area for people to enjoy their meals.
“We are looking to provide seats for our [guests] to enjoy indoors during operating hours,” Deli owner Edward McIntosh wrote in a special use permit. “The table will be able to fit 10-12 guests at a time to create a commercial dining experience.”
Eddie’s Little Shop and Deli opened in the former Deli News & More space in February. The restaurant was inspired by the bodegas in New York City.
Photo via Eddie’s Little Shop and Deli/Facebook
Union Sandwich Company (101 N Union Street), a new sandwich shop, is now open in the Torpedo Factory building at the end of King Street.
The shop, from the same team behind Slaters Market, officially opened on Aug. 18 a little under a year after permits were filed. Union Sandwich Company features fresh salads, sandwiches, eclectic wine, beer and more.
The little grab-and-go shop is open daily from 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Photo via Andrew Wolfe/Facebook
The Alexandria Police Department (APD) is asking for help from the public in locating the suspects behind last Saturday night shooting in Old Town.
Police said that two men were shot when motorcycle and dirt bike riders who previously rolled through Arlington gathered at around 8:15 p.m at the Speedway and Liberty stations on S. Patrick Street (Route 1) near Franklin Street.
“Victim #1, a 30-year-old male, was located near the National Harbor and transported to a local hospital with a gunshot wound and is non-life threatening,” APD said in a release. “Victim #2, a 30-year-old male, was identified at a local hospital with a gunshot wound and is non-life threatening.”
No arrests have been made from this incident or from another Saturday shooting that left a man with life-threatening injuries in Arlandria. The Old Town and Arlandria incidents were not related, police said this week.
As with previous violent incidents, APD is asking the public for help. Anyone with information on the incident is asked to contact APD Detective B. Smith at 703-746-6159. Video, audio, or digital images relating to the shooting can also be uploaded anonymously.
(Updated at 7:30 p.m.) An Old Town property owner wants to tear down an office building in Old Town Historic District and replace it with a four-story multifamily apartment building.
The new development will include underground parking and a rooftop terrace.
The building owners, William Thomas Gordon III and his son William Thomas Gordon IV, bought the property for $4.6 million in 2014 from an office product and furniture dealer, according to city records.
The developer, 301 N. Fairfax Project Owner LLC, wants to demolish the existing three-story office building on the property that was built in 1977 and replace it with a 50-foot-tall building with one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments, a 67-space below-grade parking lot and a rooftop terrace.
The concept plan for the 25,000-square-foot property will go before the Board of Architectural Review on Wednesday, Sept. 6.
As for the height, the applicant provided examples of what four-story buildings look like in Old Town.
“The block, within which the property is located, is occupied by four-story brick structures with a combination of surface parking, structured parking at the ground floor and above grade parking,” the applicant said in the concept plan.
According to the concept plan submitted to the city:
The proposed building is set up as two massings, each facing the street and composed of three stories with a fourth-floor setback. While the four-story façade will be predominantly red brick, the three-story portions will take on the character appropriate to the context of the street frontage.
For the massing of the three-story portion facing Queen Street, the applicant is proposing a ‘Palazzo’ inspired architectural character with larger scale detailing in the width of the brick pier and windows. The entry of the building will be located at the Queen Street façade. For the massing of three-story portion facing N. Fairfax Street, the Applicant proposes to break down the width of the building to be appropriate to the townhouse width across the street. Stoops will be provided for the ground floor residential units to activate the sidewalk.