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Rendering of new proposed Samuel Madden development (image courtesy ARHA)

The Alexandria Redevelopment Housing Authority (ARHA) is getting ready to tear down a cluster of affordable garden apartments in Parker-Gray and turn the lots into a larger mixed-use development.

Samuel Madden Homes at 899 & 999 North Henry Street currently comprises 13 two-story garden apartments built in 1945 with 66 affordable housing units. The homes were build to house defense workers during WWII and were transferred to ARHA’s predecessor in 1947. The plan is to demolish and redevelop on the site with two new buildings with 500 residential units

ARHA is headed to the Board of Architectural Review on Wednesday (May 18) for a permit to demolish and a concept review for the new development (items 6 and 7).

The staff report for the BAR described the homes as “contributing structures” to the Uptown/Parker Gray National Register Historic District, describing them as one of several groups of buildings by architect Joseph Henry Saunders, Jr. that helped establish the look of the Parker Gray neighborhood.

“As such, demolition of these structures requires a higher degree of scrutiny than non-contributing structures,” the report said. “Staff is always reluctant to recommend demolition of any building
that has historic or architectural significance, but several factors mitigate against retaining these buildings.”

The staff report said that while the homes are representative of a popular construction style in the area, there are ample enough “colonial revival” style buildings in the area. The report also said that while the scale of the buildings were once generally reflective of much of the neighborhood, there are several high-rise multi-use buildings in the neighborhood.

“Since the construction of this community, the scale and character of the neighborhood has undergone radical change,” the report said. “Samuel Madden now appears out of scale with the surrounding community.”

As for a permit for the new development, the staff report suggests that some further refinement is needed.

“Staff has been working with the applicant on the development of their documents and recommends that as the project progresses, the applicant explore different architectural motifs that relate to either the history of the site or to the surrounding buildings. The Board has often encouraged applicants to take design inspiration from the historical use of the general area of the city.

The staff report says the proposed building needs some touch-ups to bring it more in-line with some of the neighboring development.

“Staff recommends that the BAR request the applicant to return for a second Concept Review after addressing feedback from the Board and Staff. Staff finds that the height and scale of the project as submitted is appropriate for the immediate context,” the staff report said. “The applicant should continue to develop the massing and architectural character, taking into consideration comments from the Board and Staff.”

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Rendering of 1117 Queen Street home, courtesy Matt Gray

After having been deferred earlier this year, a tiny home planned for a lot in the Parker-Gray neighborhood (1117 Queen Street) is moving forward with a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Board of Architectural Review (BAR).

The application to build a two-story home on the 2,000 square foot strip of gravel was deferred at its July hearing to make fairly minor alterations to the design. Upon its return to the BAR last night, it won unanimous approval with very little discussion.

There was previously a house at the lot, according to a survey from 1877, but the home was demolished in 1935. Getting a new house built there was a challenge, though, as a staff report indicated that the property meets almost none of the city’s minimum zoning requirements.

“It’s not normal at all,” applicant Matt Gray told ALXnow earlier this year. “The problem is: you can’t build a house on it without zoning appeals. Nothing complies.”

The staff report said that, while the home doesn’t meet many on-paper requirements, it still fits with the character of the other buildings on the street.

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The PT Blooms LLC development at 805 Columbus Street is returning to the Board of Architectural Review for a certificate of appropriateness after having its hand slapped earlier this year for being too Old Towny.

The proposed development — designed by the Penney Design Group — is a five-story building with 78 residential units built on what is currently a vacant lot in the heart of the Braddock/Parker-Gray neighborhood. While the building would tower over some of the nearby two-story homes, the application notes that it’s tapered at the upper levels of the building to shift the height away from the street. Even so, several pending five-story developments for the area indicate that this sort of building could be the norm in the area within a few years.

The new application also included a page with comparisons to the current building design and the old Parker-Gray School that had been a centerpiece of the neighborhood until it closed in 1979.

An earlier special use permit (DSUP) indicated that PT Blooms LLC was looking for slight increases in allowable density for the project and a reduction in parking. The DSUP and site rezoning were approved last month.

Images via PT Blooms Development.

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Mayweather Boxing crew training in Braddock before the studio opens (photo via Mayweather Boxing + Fitness Old Town West/Facebook)

A new boxing/fitness studio franchise run by champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. is coming to the Parker-Gray neighborhood, with doors opening scheduled for next week.

Mayweather Boxing + Fitness, a group boxing and fitness gym, is scheduled to have a grand opening at 528 N. Henry Street on Saturday, Oct. 16. the gym will be the first Mayweather franchise location in Virginia, according to a press release.

Boxing already has a strong legacy in Alexandria, with the Alexandria Boxing Club just a few blocks away and local boxer Troy Isley competing in the Olympics earlier this year.

The new studio, as the press release calls it, is a 3,500 square feet space with boxing and exercise equipment along with trained instructors.

“We are beyond thrilled to bring Floyd’s methods and this incredible brand to Old Town Alexandria,” said Jeff Pienta, one of the franchisees along with Allison Pienta. “It’s really something you have to see and experience to believe, and it’s for literally everyone regardless of the fitness starting point.”

The grand opening celebration is planned to include a ribbon-cutting, live DJ, and vendor giveaways.

Photo via Mayweather Boxing + Fitness Old Town West/Facebook

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What a hot week in Alexandria. Here is the rundown.

Our top story this week was on the five men arrested after shots were fired in Old Town last month. There were quite a few crime incidents to report on, in fact, including a man who was arrested in the Landmark area after shooting his cat and a man arrested for selling marijuana and illegally possessing a gun.

Weather-wise, temperatures were in the high 90s this week, as the city once again offered cooling centers for residents needing shelter from the elements.

On Friday, HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge visited The Spire affordable housing complex in the West End. Fudge briefly met Mayor Justin Wilson and Congressman Don Beyer (D-8th) for a tour of the facility, as she later touted the Biden Administration’s Built Back Better agenda.

Have you been getting mite bites? You’re not alone. According to our weekly poll, a vast majority of the 600+ respondents reported getting bitten.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Five arrested after shots fired in Old Town North
  2. Alexandria updates COVID-19 guidance as cases increase
  3. Alexandria Police say drug debt was behind West End murder
  4. Child neglect suspect arrested after evading Alexandria police for six months
  5. Alexandria opens up on details for new guaranteed basic income program
  6. Amy DuVall quit her career as an environmental lawyer in D.C. to bake Italian cookies in Alexandria
  7. Former ACPS administrator Tammy Ignacio says experience matters in School Board bid
  8. Poll: Have you gotten the infamous mite bite in Alexandria?
  9. Development on West End lot could signal the start of Mark Center overhaul
  10. Parker-Gray development asks for more density and less parking
  11. ACPS is not requiring staff to get vaccinated before school starts systemwide August 24

Have a safe weekend!

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Five Alexandria men have been arrested and charged with attempted felonious assault by mob after a shots fired incident in Old Town North on July 21.

No one was injured in the incident, which occurred at around 6:35 p.m. in the 800 block of N. Henry Street in the Parker-Gray neighborhood. Multiple buildings were struck during the incident.

Arrested were Dennis Keels, 28, Samuel Felton, 24, Corey Mason, 21, Bob McNeely Jr., 21, and Javon Williams, 22.

“Keels was also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and discharging a firearm in public places,” Alexandria police said in a release. “Felton was also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. McNeely was also charged with discharging a firearm in public places.”

Earlier this month, police also found a firearm inside a gray Honda Accord that Felton and Mason allegedly drove, and which is in police possession.

Alexandria has wrestled with an uptick in shootings in the area since last year, even going so far as to ask residents for help in identifying suspects. The area where the shots were fired is near the Braddock Road Metro StationAlexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority properties and the Charles Houston Recreation Center.

The incident was investigated by Alexandria Police, with help from the Prince George’s County Police Department and the U.S. Marshall’s Capital Area Region Fugitive Task Force.

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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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What was an intense week in Alexandria. Here is the rundown.

History was made, as the new marquees at Alexandria City High School and Naomi L. Brooks Elementary Schools were unveiled this week, and the name changes to T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School will go into effect July 1. It’s a victory for civil rights, as the namesakes of both old schools had backgrounds steeped in racism. Maury was a Confederate leader and Williams was an ACPS superintendent who worked intently against racial integration.

City Manager Mark Jinks on Tuesday also announced his intention to retire at the end of the year. Jinks, who made the announcement to City Council, hinted to ALXnow last month that he was seeking retirement. Today (Friday, June 25) is also the last day for retiring Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown, who will be moving to the West Coast to deal with family matters. Assistant Chief Don Hayes is taking over as acting chief until a national search narrows down a preferred candidate for the job.

Law enforcement events also dominated this week’s coverage. On Tuesday, first responders saved a woman experiencing a mental health crisis who was dangling perilously off the Monroe Avenue Bridge, followed by news Wednesday that a suspect was arrested for a West End murder along with 16 others in a massive racketeering conspiracy. On Thursday, a barricade situation in the West End ended peacefully.

In this week’s poll, when asked whether transit improvements would make residents more likely to take the bus, 48% said they don’t take the bus often and won’t likely change their habits; 38% said they don’t often take the bus, although transit improvements might change that; and 14% said that they already frequent the Metro and DASH bus systems.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Alexandria woman dies after veering off road on Interstate 95
  2. Man suspected of raping 12-year-old stepdaughter in Landmark area flees to El Salvador
  3. JUST IN: Thieves break into more than 60 vehicles in West End
  4. JUST IN: Rarity as American Viper Rattlesnake found in Old Town
  5. Massive redevelopment of West End apartment building has neighbors worried about street parking impact
  6. UPDATE: Alexandria first responders save suicidal woman on Monroe Avenue Bridge
  7. City Council emphasizes marketing funding for Alexandria’s ‘Hot Girl Summer’
  8. Mother and boyfriend allegedly beaten by knife-wielding ex in Old Town North
  9. With eviction moratorium expiring, city pushes renters and landlords toward rental assistance
  10. Shortened Alexandria Birthday celebration is still on for July 10
  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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Rendering of 1117 Queen Street home, courtesy Matt Gray

It will be a cozy fit, but a local home builder is hoping to turn a small, empty gravel lot at 1117 Queen Street into a new single-family home.

The home first went to the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) in April where the appeal was approved with the condition that no construction can occur within three feet of a neighboring property. It’s now heading to the Board of Architectural Review on Wednesday, July 7, with questions remaining from the BZA about fire code implementation and setback requirements.

“I’m a little concerned about the setback,” said Lee Perna, a member of the BZA, in April. “It does appear exceedingly close… I’m a little concerned about property lines and having sufficient setback, as well as concerns about fire issues and spacing.”

Matt Gray, the applicant and owner of MSG Properties, said getting a home approved on the lot posed a unique challenge.

“It’s not normal at all,” Gray said. “The problem is: you can’t build a house on it without zoning appeals. Nothing complies.”

Gray said the city has existing plans that push mixed-use development throughout the Parker-Gray area, but it means things like setback requirements don’t match with the scale of a smaller development like this. The lot had once been part of a home. According to the staff report, records show a home existing on the property in 1877, though the original date of construction is unknown. The home was demolished in 1985.

“I’m really happy they let it go through,” Gray said. “It’s been sitting for almost 20-30 years. We took the risk and luckily owners worked with us.”

Gray said he worked with the city architect for months to get the house into a design that would be appropriate. If approved, Gray said the next step will be getting the home built as quickly as possible.

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Within the rather obscure confines of the Board and Architectural Review staff report this week resurfaced a long-simmering discussion: what is the cultural identity of the Parker-Gray neighborhood in 2021.

For years a historically Black neighborhood, Parker-Gray draws its name from the the Parker-Gray School that educated the city’s Black children when the the city’s school system was still divided by segregation.

But another identity for the area has slipped into colloquial use over the last few decades: the Braddock neighborhood, or sometimes the Braddock Metro neighborhood after the nearby Metro station and the adjacent, eponymous road. With the Metro station as a common point of reference, rather than a school over 40-years demolished, Braddock has also become a more popular name for the area for developers.

But as noted in the Board of Architectural Review report, there’s a risk that new development can erase more than just the name Parker-Gray, but the distinct cultural legacy of the neighborhood, particularly with developments capitalizing on the more common red brick appeal of Old Town to the south. “Braddock” is increasingly worked into the names of local developments, like the controversial (for other, non-name reasons) Braddock West development.

While much of the district is still listed as Parker-Gray in city documents — officially called the Parker-Gray Historic District — city records also refer to the area as the Braddock Metro neighborhood, specifically in regards to the Braddock Metro Neighborhood Plan. Outlets like the Washington Post have referred to the area as both the Braddock neighborhood and Parker-Gray neighborhood as well. ALXnow is likewise guilty of using both.

Are the names interchangeable to you or do they refer to different places/contexts within the area? Vote below and sound off in the comments.

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