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ALXnow editor Vernon Miles’ bookshelf (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

With book bans on the rise, the Alexandria Library is partnering with Elaine’s Restaurant (208 Queen Street) in Old Town to host a free reading from books on banned lists nationwide.

The free event tomorrow (Wednesday) will allow locals to read a 3-5 minute segment from a favorite banned book, like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Kite Runner or Harry Potter, or just come to listen. The event will be held on the second floor of Elaine’s Restaurant from 7-9 p.m.

A list of frequently challenged books is available online.

According to the event listing:

The Freedom to Read is a right, but books are still being banned throughout the country. And the numbers are up, “In a time of intense political polarization, library staff in every state are facing an unprecedented number of attempts to ban books. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom ALA documented 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources in 2022, the highest number of attempted book bans since ALA began compiling data about censorship in libraries more than 20 years ago.” from The American Library Association.


The Alexandria Police Department just announced three major new hires.

APD announced Monday that it will welcome new Assistant Police Chiefs Raul Pedroso and Tina Laguna, as well as Communications Manager Tracy Walker.

“We are expanding APD leadership at a necessary time when our community is looking to us for more information sharing and innovative approaches to crime reduction,” Hayes said. “We look forward to the incoming expertise they will bring to further bolster our collective commitment to public safety in Alexandria.”

The assistant chief positions have been vacant since Police Chief Don Hayes was formally promoted in April 2022. The new hirings restructure the department to have three assistant police chiefs, as opposed to the two assistant chiefs (one of whom was a civilian) under previous APD Chief Michael L. Brown.

Pedroso will be the department’s assistant chief and commander of the Criminal Investigation Bureau. In that role, he will lead APD criminal investigations, crime scene investigations and Special Investigations. Pedroso was previously a major in the Coral Gables Police Department in Florida. He attended the FBI National Academy and has a master’s of science degree in criminal justice from Florida International University and a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Florida, according to his LinkedIn page.

Laguna will take charge of the APD Administrative and Technology Bureau, as well as “areas related to accreditation, training and recruitment, along with fleet, facility, and records management,” according to APD. She is currently the assistant chief overseeing investigative services at the Manassas City Police Department, and is the first Black woman to achieve the rank. She has a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree in Criminology, Law, and Society from George Mason University, according to MCPD.

Walker was the public affairs director for the Richmond Police Department since 2021. She has been in marketing and public affairs for decades and has a bachelor of the arts degree from the University of Texas San Antonio, according to her LinkedIn page.

Pedroso and Laguna will formally join the department on Oct. 23 and Walker started on Monday, according to APD.


A 34-year-old Alexandria man has been charged with allegedly attempting to abduct a woman in Old Town earlier this month.

At around 11 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 1, 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.

Xavier Cooper, 34, was arrested on Sept. 29 and charged with abduction with intent to defile. Cooper is being held without bond in the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center, according to APD.

On Sept. 15, the Alexandria Police Department said that it was aware of social media reports regarding the incident. APD did not refute anything that was reported below on NextDoor:

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 investigation is active, and anyone with information can call Detective Michel Matteson at 703-746-6721 or by email at [email protected]. Digital media can be uploaded here. Tipters can remain anonymous.

Exterior renovations planned for Ace Hardware expansion at 801 S Washington Street (image via City of Alexandria)

After six months of internal renovations, Old Town Ace Hardware could be getting an external facelift to match.

Zebra reported that Old Town Ace Hardware spent six months on a 5,000-square-foot expansion of the shop at 809 S. Washington Street, expanding into two adjacent and vacant storefronts. The expansion comes with a new Benjamin Moore paint store, more power tools and more.

Exterior design plans submitted to the Board of Architectural Review show the adjacent storefronts operating as having themed entrances with the corner at 801 S Washington Street featuring a new logo for the Benjamin Moore paint store.

Old Town Ace Hardware is hosting a grand reopening sale from Oct. 13-15 with a celebration on Saturday, Oct. 14, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Zebra reported.

The exterior renovation plans are heading to the Board of Architectural Review on Wednesday, Oct. 18.

Gadsby’s Tavern (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

Alexandria is pretty indisputably the champion of Halloween in the region, and every year, the city’s museums get in on the action.

Two museums around Alexandria are offering special tours in October exploring poisons and death in the City of Alexandria.

Gadsby’s Tavern Museum (134 N. Royal Street) has Death at the City Hotel, an event that uses the death of actress Anne Warren at the hotel in 1808 to explore how Alexandrians at the time would have viewed death and grieving.

The event is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 13 and Saturday, Oct. 14, from 7-9 p.m. Tickets are $45 per person or $30 for volunteers/Office of historic Alexandria members.

According to the Office of Historic Alexandria’s This Week in Historic Alexandria newsletter:

As is per custom, portrayal of grief can include black clothing, armbands, and jewelry, which can include the hair of our deceased friend. Join us in 1808 and learn about the unwritten social guidelines of mourning periods and the “proper attire” wealthy, free Alexandrians would have adhered to and how others would have their expressions of grief suppressed by social and economic status and, even written law. As we explore these topics guests will sip delicious spirits (two drink tickets included) and create their own individualized, wearable mourning pendant (or magnet) using designs inspired by popular death iconography of the time period. 21 and older only.

Meanwhile, the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum (105-107 S. Fairfax Street) is hosting its Poisons at the Apothecary Museum. The tour runs Saturdays, Oct. 14, Oct. 21 and Oct. 28 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Tickets are $15.

According to the newsletter:

Come explore the sinister side of medicine on the Apothecary Museum’s Poisons Tour. This one-hour tour explores several different types of poisons, their historic uses at the Apothecary, and what we know today. Recommended for ages 18 and older.

Lastly, tickets are on sale for an acclaimed Edgar Allan Poe reading returning to the Lyceum on Oct. 30 and Oct. 31.

Glynn Jones Salon at 720 King Street (via City of Alexandria)

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.

Jamieson Avenue closure in the Carlyle neighborhood (image via RiverRenew)

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.”

A rendering for 301 N. Fairfax Street in Old Town (via City of Alexandria)

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.”

Virginia Tech and the Torpedo Factory Art Center are collaborating on a sound installation at the Target Gallery (via City of Alexandria)

Virginia Tech and Alexandria’s Office of the Arts are collaborating on “Innovation and Creativity,” a year-long series of projects at the Torpedo Factory’s Target Gallery.

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.

A free grand opening for the latest installation, Synaptic Soiree, will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16.

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.”

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