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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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(Updated 5/20) A stretch of vacant land and parking lots in the Parker-Gray could soon become a five-story, multi-family residential development with a redesign meant to evoke the neighborhood’s unique heritage.

The development is headed to its second Board of Architectural Review (BAR) meeting tomorrow (Wednesday). The building underwent a slight redesign after a February meeting when the board scolded the architect for trying to make an industrial waterfront-style building in lieu of respecting the historically Black neighborhood’s own unique — and distinctly not Old Town — aesthetics and style.

“The character of the three-story portion of the building has been modified to be more reminiscent of the historic Parker Gray school… than the industrial buildings more commonly found at the waterfront,” a city staff report noted.

The building went through a few more visual updates to bring it more in-line with other buildings in the neighborhood, like replacing glass balconies with black iron-railing.

The new building would be immediately adjacent to the Holiday Inn Express currently under development.

“Staff recommends that the BAR endorse the proposed design direction for the project,” staff said in the report, “shifting the tallest part of the building towards the east side of the site and revising the architectural character to make it more compatible with the immediate neighborhood.”

Images via City of Alexandria

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In what is possibly the ultimate example of making use of the city’s land scarcity, a new application coming up at the Monday (April 12) Board of Zoning Appeals meeting seeks to turn a Parker-Gray alleyway into a new single-family home.

The 2,000 square foot lot at 1117 Queen Street is strip of gravel between two other homes mainly used for street parking.

It isn’t the first time the property has been a home, however. 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.

A staff report on the proposal shows that the property meets almost none of the city’s minimum zoning requirements, but the staff report noted that in the broader context of the street those zoning requirements hold little water.

“The request is a reasonable deviation from the provisions of the CL zone of the Zoning Ordinance,” staff said. “The minimum lot area and lot width, front setback and side yard setback requirements do not reflect the existing historic development character of this neighborhood, nor do they reflect the building that was historically on this property for more than a century. The minimum lot area and lot width, and side yard setbacks result in this lot being unbuildable without variances.”

The staff report noted that no other residential lots on the block meet the minimum lot area either, with some of the lots being less than 1,9000 total square feet.

Ultimately, staff recommend approval of the new development.

Photo via Google Maps

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