Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s (ARHA) newly released Annual Agency Plan outlines the public agencies ongoing efforts at modernization and acquisition of affordable units in Old Town, with a particular focus on being more involved in rental-assistance programs.

The plan outlines areas of change for the organization, with the organization required to explain new activities in the current fiscal year. This year, one of those categories involves changes in “Mixed Finance Modernization or Development”. In its explanation, the document explained that ARHA is continuing to work on demolition of older units under Housing and Urban Development code Section 18 and rental assistance demonstration — rental assistance that ensures existing low-income units remain affordable — of others.

“To date, the repositioning has resulted in HUD Section 18 approval of 213 units (Ladrey, Park and Saxony). ARHA has received CHAPS for the RAD conversion of 220 units (James Bland I, James Bland II, Old Dominion, West Glebe, Chatham Square and BWR),” ARHA said. “The goal is to reposition as many properties as possible over the next five years so that ARHA can voluntarily convert its portfolio of units when there are less than 250 remaining public housing units. ARHA is implementing the repositioning policy consistent with HUD rules requiring that tenant protections remain in place and that tenant share of rent will not change beyond the current 30% of household income.”

The documents also noted that ARHA has selected 11 potential development partners to increase the overall number of affordable units by making units available to households earning between 30-60% of area median income.

The next big project for ARHA will be the redevelopment of the Ladrey building that will replace the existing units with units kept affordable through housing vouchers in addition to other residential development.

“In 2021, the Board of Commissioners will issue a redevelopment opportunity for the combined site of the existing Ladrey building together with the adjacent former ARHA site,” ARHA said. “The goal is to construct a multifamily building to house the existing 170 units at Ladrey by converting the units to project-based vouchers (HUD has approved the Section 18 reposition for this property) and add additional affordable and market rate units. The building will have an onsite management office, amenity space for use by all the residents, underground parking and units that meet current building codes.”

In the annual plan, ARHA said the push for more rental assistance can offer more flexibility and can supplement the public housing with project-based vouchers — units where residents pay some costs and ARHA makes up the remaining difference in utility and rental costs.

“Through the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program, ARHA will continue to own its properties and provide its residents with expanded choices and opportunities,” the public agency said. “ARHA will also have the ability to evaluate and immediately address many needed capital improvements and will continue to serve the same population. The RAD program offers ARHA an opportunity to transition from its current public housing funding platform to a more stable, predictable and sustainable funding source, the Project-based Voucher (PBV) program, which will be administered by the ARHA. The same families who are eligible today for public housing will be eligible for the PBV program.”

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Morning Notes

Video shows married gay couple facing down deluge of anti-gay, anti-Asian slurs — “Neighbors say they’ve never heard anything like it anywhere. Vile anti-gay slurs caught on a Ring camera hurled at a gay couple in the heart of Old Town Alexandria. Anti-Asian slurs too. All in a long-simmering dispute over a back alley parking space. The white couple caught on tape insist they’re not anti-gay or anti-Asian, but the language is pretty rough.” [WUSA9]

Little Free Pantry opens outside Charles Houston Recreation Center — “Located right next to the rec center, with a fresh coat of blue paint and packed full of everything from peanuts to fajita kits, the new Little Free Pantry is the culmination of five years of work for Old Town resident Hope Nelson. Little Free Pantries, which allow residents to donate as much as they want and take as much as they need, have sprung up across the country as part of a grassroots movement to provide short-term solutions for food insecurity.” [Alex Times]

Apothecary Museum celebrating Harry Potter’s birthday on July 31 — “In honor of Harry Potter’s birthday, Alexandria’s Apothecary Museum is offering a special tour for families that will explore the old Apothecary and the historic muggle medicines that inspired the Herbology and Potions of Harry’s world.” [City of Alexandria]

Today’s weather — “Generally sunny despite a few afternoon clouds. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High 96F. Winds SSW at 10 to 15 mph… A few clouds [in the evening]. Low near 75F. Winds SSW at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Apprentice general manager — “Chipotle is growing fast – we’re opening a restaurant every two days and we need leaders to grow with us! Our Apprentices assist in the day-to-day operations of our restaurants – learning what it takes to run a strong business, hire and train great people, and grow our company.” [Indeed]

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It’s not 1805, so the local apothecary reopening may not have the relevance it once did, but the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum in Old Town is rejoining several other local historic sites this weekend as it reopens for public visits.

The apothecary at 105 South Fairfax Street was once the go-to spot for medicine, farm equipment, and other necessities. The apothecary was converted into a museum in 1939 and purchased by the city in 2006.

According to the city:

Starting on July 11, the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum will reopen for guests, joining Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, Alexandria Archaeology Museum, and the Alexandria History Museum at The Lyceum, and Friendship Firehouse Museum. Alexandria Black History Museum, Fort Ward Museum & Historic Site, and Freedom House Museum remain closed for ongoing renovations.

The Apothecary Museum will offer two different tour experiences — a self-guided tour for $5 per adult, $3 per child (5-12) of the first floor including a souvenir booklet or a guided tour for $8 per person ages 5 and up of the 2 floors of the Museum. Current City of Alexandria COVID policies will be in effect.

According to the city website, the current exhibit profiles how pharmacies got around the restrictions of prohibition.

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Morning Notes

Alexandria man charged with storming U.S. Capitol on January 6 — “After storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, a Northern Virginia man began forming his own militia-like group in the D.C. suburbs and building up a supply of explosives under the guise of a Bible study group, according to federal prosecutors. Fi Duong, 27, appeared in court Friday and was released to home confinement pending trial, over the objections of prosecutors who sought stricter terms. According to the court record, at the time of his arrest he had several guns, including an AK-47, and the material to make 50 molotov cocktails.” [Washington Post]

Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial dedication on July 24 — “Join Historic Alexandria in honoring Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial’s inclusion in the African American Civil Rights Network (AACRN). The free dedication will include a wreath laying by the 31st Masonic District, a reading by representatives of the United States Colored Troops (USCT), and remarks by Reverend Taft Quincey Heatley. The ceremony will take place rain or shine.” [City of Alexandria]

New mural in Old Town — “Check out the new mural being painted at ESP Tea and Coffee’s back patio area!” [Twitter]

Today’s weather — “Cloudy skies with periods of rain later in the day. High near 85F. Winds SSW at 10 to 20 mph… Rain early (in the evening)… then remaining cloudy with showers late. Low around 70F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 80%. Rainfall near an inch.” [Weather.com]

New job: Bartender and server at Rock It Grill — “Busy karoake bar, the more experience you have, the more money you’ll make.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria will spend millions on emergency financial support programs, stormwater repair, childcare and dozens of other projects as part of its first portion of American Rescue Plan Act funding.

“Now the really hard work begins,” Mayor Justin Wilson said after Council’s unanimous passage of a plan Tuesday night. “I think this is an opportunity to make some transformational investments.”

The City received its first $29.8 million on May 17, and has to spend the total $59.6 million in funding by Dec. 31, 2024. Alexandria is getting substantial funding by being counted as both a city and county — along with 41 other cities across the country — and will get its second allotment in May 2022.

Federal funds will not directly go to individual businesses, but some are allocated toward the funding of business districts for trial street closures, ABC-licensed special events and public access parklets.

“Our thought was that direct assistance for businesses was best provided, and continues to be provided, through the federal government at scale,” Alexandria Economic Development Partnership CEO Stephanie Landrum told Council. “We are much better equipped as a community, and certainly as an economic development group to reach a wider swath of businesses than we ever have been. And so part of our challenge and responsibility is to make sure all of those businesses know about other programs not being provided by the city.”

The 30 projects include:

  • $4 million for an Alexandria Community Access and Emergency Support program to determine which city services are eligible for residents, including emergency financial aid, rent assistance and child care
  • $3.7 million in stormwater repairs at the Hoofs Run Culvert
  • $3 million for a Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot, which will give $500 in gift cards to 150 poor families for 24 months
  • $2.8 million for a Unified Early Childhood Workforce Stabilization Initiative to “support hundreds of childcare providers and early childhood educators, provide a safe and healthy learning environment for thousands of children, and help parents, especially women, get back to work.”
  • $2.5 million for food security to ensure two years of continual free food distributions at hubs throughout the city
  • $2 million for Alexandria Housing Development Corporation flex space to expand city services for the Arlandria neighborhood
  • $1.9 million in flash flooding spot improvements throughout the city
  • $1.1 million to scale up a workforce development pilot
  • $800,000 to make permanent the closure of the 100 block of King Street
  • $620,000 to fund the Out of School Time Program to help with learning loss associated with the pandemic
  • $560,000 to the Alexandria Economic Development Authority fund commercial business districts for trial street closures, ABC-licensed special events and public access parklets
  • $500,000 for Visit Alexandria marketing efforts
  • $295,000 to fund two new Office of Historic Alexandria tourism experiences on the city’s history with civil rights and and the Duke Street Corridor
  • $253,000 to increase services for LGBTQ and BIPOC communities
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A male suspect has been arrested for the Wednesday morning bank robbery at EagleBank in Old Town.

“Responding officers took a male suspect into custody minutes after the robbery,” Alexandria Police said in a release. “This is an active investigation.”

The incident occurred just before 9 a.m., police tweeted. The bank opens at 8:30 a.m. and is located at 277 S. Washington Street, which is near the intersection with Duke Street.

No suspect description was provided, and police said to expect activity in the area. No one was reportedly injured in the incident.

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Morning Notes

Simon Pearce Glassware store opens Friday in Old Town — “Vermont-based glassware-maker Simon Pearce will open its doors Friday at their new store in Old Town Alexandria at 721 King St., according to a spokeswoman for the company. The space was formerly home to Papyrus, the greeting cards and gift wrap store.” [Alexandria Living]

Family raises $70K+ in GoFundMe campaign for mother with cancer — “Our lives changed forever three weeks ago when our mom was unexpectedly diagnosed with an advanced cancer known as metastatic adenocarcinoma. The diagnosis took us completely by surprise. Three months ago, she was walking five miles a day, eating a pescetarian diet, going on her own day trips. She started reporting shortness of breath and fatigue in late March, but doctors were unable to diagnose these symptoms as cancer until early June.” [GoFundMe]

Alexandria Library expands hours and capacity — “As of July 6, all library locations are open on Fridays, while Beatley Central Library and Duncan Branch Library are open Sundays as well. Libraries have increased to 50 percent occupancy including staff. Limited volunteers may return at the discretion of the building managers. Meeting rooms remain unavailable, and most library programs continue virtually. Covered drinks are permitted but not food.” [Patch.com]

Goodies Frozen Custard and Treats makes it official with ribbon cutting — “Excited to cut the ribbon and welcome Goodies Frozen Custard & Treats officially to Alexandria! A local business with an adaptive reuse of a historic building, and…really tasty!” [Facebook]

Today’s weather — “Generally sunny despite a few afternoon clouds. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High 97F. Winds SSW at 10 to 15 mph… Generally fair. Low around 75F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Summer lifeguards — “Applicants must be punctual, responsible, able to take/follow directions and multitask. Prior experience is not necessary but a current Lifeguard certification is required. Certification courses are available for selected candidates.” [Indeed]

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The Heritage stirred up significant community uproar in the lead up to its approval in February, and now the project is coming back to public review for its design phase.

The project, once described by some on the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) as “Lipstick on a Pig“, is comprised of three new apartment buildings in southeast Old Town along S Patrick and Washington Streets. Each of the buildings scale from three and four stories up to seven stories in parts.

Block 2 of the project, between S Columbus Street and S Alfred Street, is located entirely within the Old and Historic District boundary. Block 1 is half-inside the boundary. Block 4, and a potential future development site labeled Block 3, are entirely outside of the Old and Historic District.

Borders of Old and Historic District as it runs through the Heritage project, image via City of Alexandria

In a presentation prepared for the BAR, the applicant said there were some redesigns to Block 1, including greater variation in heights and efforts to adjust windows and details to be more in keeping with Old Town’s historic feeling. Renderings show these alterations to be minor to the point of being almost indistinguishable.

Minor adjustments to Block 1 of The Heritage project, image via City of Alexandria

The application noted similar alterations for Block 2 of the project: revised brick detailing and window types, added balconies, and some changes to building material coloration.

Minor adjustments to Block 2 of The Heritage project, image via City of Alexandria

While the project was unanimously approved at the City Council, several on the Council expressed reservations about the building’s size and impact on the neighborhood density. But each member of the City Council ultimately said the promise of almost 200 affordable housing units was too much to pass up.

The project is scheduled to be reviewed at the Wednesday, July 21, BAR meeting.

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It was a quick week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

With summer in full swing, three Alexandria athletes have made it on the U.S. Olympic Team — sprinter Noah Lyles, high-jumper Tynita Butts-Townsend and boxer Troy Isley.

In other sporting news, Old Town businesses beat Del Ray in a controversial softball game Wednesday, adding fuel to the fire of an intense rivalry.

It’s been super hot out lately, and the City urged caution and reminded residents to take advantage of special cooling centers.

On the COVID front, the city’s DASH bus service announced that one of its drivers passed away from complications from the virus.

Meanwhile, Mayor Justin Wilson believes that the city has met its 80% vaccination threshold, while Virginia Department of Health data says about 65% of residents over the age of 16 are partially vaccinated. The Alexandria Health Department, which just launched a COVID-19 test and vaccine pilot at T.C. Williams High School, says the data does not take into account city residents vaccinated in Washington, D.C., and Maryland.

It’s also July 4 weekend, and in this week’s poll we asked whether readers plan on traveling, with 67% of respondents voting to stay home, 27% opting to travel by car and just 6% traveling by air.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Researchers call out shoddy craftsmanship in buried 18th century Alexandria ship
  2. Man suspected of raping 12-year-old stepdaughter in Landmark area flees to El Salvador
  3. Landmark Mall plan approved as Planning Commission demands better environmental considerations
  4. Alexandria leaders acknowledge serious security issues with elimination of school resource officer funding
  5. Shortened Alexandria Birthday celebration is still on for July 10
  6. Alexandria eyes bus rapid transit and bike lanes for Duke Street
  7. Parker-Gray tiny lot home moves forward with some unique challenges
  8. Alexandria woman dies after veering off road on Interstate 95
  9. City talks strategy on making Chirilagua/Arlandria neighborhood Amazon-proof
  10. UPDATE: Man taken into custody as West End apartment barricade situation ends peacefully
  11. BREAKING: California man arrested for West End murder, indicted with 16 others in massive racketeering conspiracy

Have a safe weekend!

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The Basilica of Saint Mary in Old Town is looking for city permission to make some expansions to the church grounds and make parts of the property more accessible.

The designs for a new bridge are headed to review at the Board of Architectural Review on Wednesday, July 21, as part of a broader process of adding to the Basilica School of Saint Mary. The church is hoping to add a new new library and media center to the campus, and install a connecting bridge that will help make the different parts of the facility more connected.

“The proposed addition consists of a two-story bridge connection between the main building and Stephen’s Hall,” the Catholic Diocese of Arlington said in its application. “The addition was initially presented to the BAR for concept review on April 3, 2019, while review of the associated development special use permit and preliminary site plan was underway.”

The BAR at the time endorsed the change and the DSUP for the site was approved by the City Council in April this year. The Catholic Diocese said in the application the goal of the addition is to

“The connection will provide a secure, interior path for students and faculty to walk between the buildings,” the applicant said. The proposed addition will provide the school with additional space to accommodate and enhance the experience of its students.”

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