Alexandria, VA

While further south Alexandria is finalizing plans for the northern end of the Old Town Waterfront, the overall north point of the Alexandria waterfront is about to get some love too.

At a Planning Commission meeting yesterday approved plans for several new pieces of Potomac Yard, including a sweeping new plan for a 4.6 acre extension at Potomac Yard Park that will run from just south of the planned Potomac Yard Metro station to Four Mile Run.

Sara Brandt-Vorel, a planner for the City of Alexandria, said the new park will be a large, contiguous open space with features like a children’s natural play area, an area for public art funded by developers, and a fitness station. The park also features several areas set aside as flexible lawns.

The planned park was mostly met with enthusiasm by Planning Commissioners.

“[This] is fundamentally one of the most powerful elements for the vision of Potomac Yard,” said Commissioner Stephen Koenig. “The southern portion, which has been part of the city for several years and has been a wonderful contribution to the development of the neighborhood, when it’s complete the park will stretch from Four Mile Run to where it connects at Braddock Road. I think this has been a fundamentally powerful conception aspect of Potomac Yard. It’s exciting to reach us with this culminating piece.”

Images via City of Alexandria

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The New York City-based property owner of the 65-acre Potomac Yard property will present plans to the Alexandria Planning Commission donate 4.5 acres for an extension of Potomac Yard Park.

The extension is part of Virginia Tech’s massive Innovation Campus development, and the contribution by property owner CPYR Theater, LLC includes handing over responsibility for a pump station that will handle sanitary sewer flows for Virginia Tech’s Sewer to Wastewater Energy Exchange system.

The pump station will be owned and maintained by AlexRenew.

The plans go before the commission on December 1.

The property is located at the former Regal Potomac Yard movie theater, which closed in March due to the pandemic and never reopened.

The extension includes green spaces, public art, stone walls, walkways, benches and a play area for kids. Plans also call for tree and shrub plantings, in addition to a fitness station, bike rack and bike station.

Images via City of Alexandria

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Morning Notes

Beyer: We Must Protect the U.S. Postal Service —  “I have been in touch with local postal officials, who express their commitment to ensuring the timely delivery and return of all ballots. This could be an issue in many parts of the country, however, and I will be working with my colleagues to exercise constant vigilance and ensure that elections are fair and safe. My Northern Virginia colleague, U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, serves as the chair of the Oversight Subcommittee on Government Operations, and with his tireless leadership the House will do all it can to fix these problems and restore operations and service at USPS.” [Gazette]

Three City Parks Scheduled for Improvements — “Projects at or near Powhatan, Hooffs Run, and Brenman Parks to occur over next two months.” [Zebra]

City Holding Virtual 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony Online — “Alexandria’s ceremony is prerecorded and virtual to avoid a large gathering during the pandemic. It will include remarks from Mayor Justin Wilson, City Manager Mark Jinks, and representatives from the Alexandria Fire Department, Police Department, and Sheriff’s Office. There will also be a “Return to Quarters” bell-ringing ceremony.” [Patch]

Alexandria Wedding Showcase Goes Virtual — “Tune in virtually on Sunday, Sept. 13 to hear from a variety of vendors on trends, wedding industry changes, and what you need to know while planning your wedding during a pandemic.” [Alexandria Living]

Carlyle Concert Series Starts Friday — “Enjoy the Carlyle Farmers Market while you attend the Concert! Alcohol is available for purchase at select vendor stands and bar as well BYOB-Bring Your Own Beverage will be observed in designated area.” [Facebook]

Harvest Moon Yoga Tonight in Del Ray — “Shine on Harvest Moon! Free outdoor yoga in Del Ray returns every Wed. Sept. 9 – Oct. 14, 6:00 – 7:00 pm at the Del Ray Psych & Wellness lot, 1900 Mt. Vernon Avenue (Corner of E. Bellefonte) in the Heart of Del Ray.” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “Cloudy early. Scattered thunderstorms developing later in the day. High 81F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 50%. Scattered thunderstorms in the evening, then mainly cloudy overnight with thunderstorms likely. Heavy and torrential downpours at times. Low 72F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 80%.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Dog Walker and Pet Sitter — “Are you a veterinary technician who has been pet-sitting under the table to supplement your income? Have you worried about your lack of insurance or back-up plan if you got sick? If so, then joining Cat Nanny Jess might be the answer to all your worries!” [Indeed]

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Alexandria is planning to redesign the small .7 acre Wilkes Street Park that runs through Heritage at Old Town.

As part of a planned redevelopment of Heritage, the city is planning to make the park more accessible and accomodating to all ages and abilities, according to the city website. The park also features a pedestrian and bicycle trail that connects Wilkes Street between S. Alfred Street and S. Columbus Street, a use that the city said would continue under the new design.

“The plan recommends improvements such as play areas, seating, and open passive areas,” the city said. “The proposed improvements will also feature a site-specific work of public art as approved by the Alexandria Commission for the Arts. Developers will construct the park improvements in phases, as a condition of their redevelopment approvals.”

Community involvement in the redesign is scheduled to start on Thursday, Aug. 13, with a virtual meeting at 7 p.m. via Zoom.

“The Wilkes Street public open space will be a visual and functional green connection for people rather than cars between the neighborhood east to the Wilkes Street Tunnel and west to the open spaces created by the cemeteries,” the city said in its guidelines for the redesign. “The improvements of the Wilkes Street public open space also present an opportunity to incorporate the history of the neighborhood through interpretive design elements.”

The guidelines say that the park is the only park within a five-minute walking radius in a community with lots of seniors.

The guidelines note that a survey last year of Alexandria residents said walking trails, outdoor public art, and access to nature were cited as some of the biggest needs for Alexandria residents.

A survey is scheduled to be available until Sept. 11, after which a developer design team will put together a series of options. The final design is scheduled to go to the Park and Recreation Commission in January for a public hearing and February for an endorsement.

Photo via Google Maps

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If you’re hoping to get into an Alexandria pool, grab the tickets while you can.

Every Thursday, the City of Alexandria will release tickets for family outdoor pool swimming or indoor lap swimming. Alexnadria’s outdoor pools are scheduled to be open until Labor Day (Sept. 7). Each ticket is valid for a 45-minute window.

“In accordance with Phase Three guidance, family open swim is permitted with ten feet physical distance maintained between swimmers not of the same household,” the city said on its website. “For open swimming tickets July 20 through September 7, due to high demand, households may reserve one ticket per day up to a maximum of three tickets per week.”

For lap swimming, only three individuals are permitted per lane.

The tickets are only available for Alexandria residents at this time except at the Chinquapin’s Rixse Pool.

The outdoor pool ticket fees are determined by age:

  • Child (0-4) with paid adult: Free
  • Youth (5-17): $3
  • Adult (18-59): $4
  • Senior (60+): $3

Guests are requested to show up ten minutes before their ticket time to undergo a health screening. Masks are required to be worn at the facilities but cannot be worn in the pools.

Photo via City of Alexandria

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If the vision presented to the Parks and Recreation Commission last Thursday remains through the development, Potomac Yard could be rife with flexible open space.

At the commission meeting, representatives of developer JBG SMITH and Virginia Tech outlined plans for flexibles spaces that could be used equally for casual strolls or busy markets.

Robert Brant, the developers, described the development’s centerpiece “market lawn” as a flexible open area designed with markets and seasonal pop-ups in mind. Brant said part of the plans include flexibility to expand those events into adjacent streets to create larger market or event spaces.

Brant said the plaza near the Potomac Yard Metro station is planned as a mix of tree cover and public art around a kiss and ride for the station.

A brief overview of the Virginia Tech campus open space detailed walking paths through a green open space in a traditional college campus format.

The park plans are scheduled to go to the Planning Commission and the City Council over the course of this fall and winter. So far, the plans for the open space at Potomac Yard were met with praise by commissioners.

“I’m excited about it,” said Gina Baum, chair of the commission. “I’m sure the rest of the commission is excited about it.”

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As part of a plan to revitalize Fort Ward Park, the City of Alexandria is planning to build a new playground at the site in a more publicly accessible area.

Moving the playground to the southern portion of the site was initially proposed in 2015. An initial design for the new park was released today (Monday) with design expected to continue through the spring and summer. Construction of the new playground is scheduled for Spring 2021.

Some equipment from the existing playground is planned to be carried over to the new site, which is just east of St. Stephens and St. Agnes Middle School. Some of the exterior portions of the site will include play-walls that are an homage to the fort’s bastions.

“In addition to the existing and new playground equipment, we are asked with including ADA compliant seating, picnic tables, a drinking fountain, and accessible parking in this design,” staff said.

The site was also the location of several homes in a black community from the early 20th century before the homes were condemned by the City of Alexandria or purchased for next to nothing to convert the land into the current park, according to the Washington Post. Staff said the playground will mostly be built above-grade so the ground beneath is preserved for future archeological study, though some areas where equipment has to be deeply anchored will be excavated.

“Community members have expressed concern that family cemeteries may be located on the proposed site of the playground,” staff said. “In response, Alexandria Archeology conducted extensive research and found no evidence… that the lots were used to bury deceased family members.”

The public review is scheduled to run until Friday, June 26. Feedback on the project can be submitted via email to [email protected]

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Morning Notes

City Leaders Participating in Town Hall to Discuss Race Relations — “Tuesday’s town hall (at 7 p.m.) will feature a range of speakers including Councilman John Chapman and School Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings Jr, Chief of Police Michael Brown and the City’s Race and Social Equity Officer, Jaqueline Tucker. There will also be opportunities for small group conversations and for participants to weigh in on the topics for future town halls.” [ALX Community]

Local Company Sees Strong Sales After May 1 ‘Shark Tank’ Appearance — “It really was a huge blessing because we just can’t be in stores right now, and we understand that, so we’re really grateful for the ‘Shark Tank’ episode to give us that push on e-commerce.” [Washington Business Journal]

Emergency Rent Assistance Applications Available Until Friday — “Funds in the amount of $600/month for up to three months will be provided directly to property owners on behalf of eligible tenants. Financial assistance will be provided regardless of citizenship status. Applications received through Friday, May 29 will be reviewed as part of the first application cycle, with priority given to applicants in the Tier 1 income range. Applications received after May 29 will be reviewed on a rolling basis contingent on funding availability.” [Facebook]

Councilman Chapman Decries Racist Emails from Public — “I wish someone would FOIA the city council for all of the racist emails and messages we get and post them publicly. Hell, if you don’t live in Alexandria, you should do that for your elected officials of color… cause we all have them.” [Facebook]

Alexandria to Distantly Honor of Class of 2020 Graduates — “On Saturday, June 13, 2020, residents of the most wonderful City of Alexandria will light up their homes in red, white and blue to support the graduating Class of 2020 from T.C. Williams High School. The George Washington Masonic Temple will be illuminated in red, white and blue on June 13 in recognition of our graduates. Let’s light up the whole city! Do your part, as best you can, to light up your home in red, white and blue to honor our graduates!” [Facebook]

AWLA Gives Away 5,000 Pounds of Pet Supplies — “The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria stepped up for pet parents in need, providing more than 5,000 lbs. of pet supplies to Alexandria residents in need since mid-March.” [Alexandria Living]

ACPS Provides Updates on Food Distribution — “ACPS has multiple distribution meal site locations throughout Alexandria for all ACPS students and children over the age of two.” [ACPS]

Parking Lots, Restrooms Reopening at Parks Along GW Parkway — “Parking lots and restrooms at parks along the George Washington Parkway in Virginia will reopen on Wednesday, June 3, after being closed to help slow the spread of coronavirus.” [WTOP]

City Advises Preparedness as Hurricane Season Begins — “June 1 marks the start of Hurricane season. Alexandria can be impacted by strong winds, heavy rain and flooding from tropical storms and hurricanes. Be Prepared: visit ready.gov/Hurricanes to learn how, sign up at alexandriava.gov/eNews for notifications and be #WeatherAware.” [Twitter]

Old Town Crier Prints June Issue on Wrong Paper — “Well….when it rains it pours! Just picked up the June issue at the printer and they printed the entire issue on the WRONG DAMN PAPER! No time to have it reprinted soooo….this issue is a throw back to the late 90’s!!” [Facebook]

New Job: Contact Tracer — “The Contact Tracer is an entry level public health professional responsible for identifying and contacting individuals who may have come in contact with persons recently diagnosed with an infectious disease associated with an outbreak or pandemic.” [Indeed]

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A suite of new improvements could be coming to the Schuyler Hamilton Skate Park and Luckett Field just off Duke Street at 3540 Wheeler Avenue.

The Planning Commission is docketed to review the new safety improvements at the park at the June 2 meeting.

Among improvements planned is new lighting for the skate park.

“Although the skate park is currently not lighted, many young skateboarders use the park after dark, particularly during late fall and winter months,” the parks department said in its application. “Other areas of the park, including the ball fields, are lighted through 10 p.m. The lighting from those areas does not reach the skate park.”

The application says the new lights would be user-activated by pressing a button and would stay lit for one hour unless activated again. The lights would not be able to turn on past 10 p.m.

There are seven new lights planned, each at a maximum of 25 feet up.

Planned improvements also include a new netting system around the ballfield, which would extend above the six-foot fence surrounding the facility.

“The netting provides additional safety to users, spectators and vehicles in the adjacent parking lots from balls topping the existing fence,” the application said.

Two new batting cages are also proposed for the baseball field.

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Two Alexandria men are in custody after a stabbing incident at Dora Kelley Nature Park in the West End on March 15 that left two victims in the hospital with serious injuries.

Edgardo Roman Guevara, 20, was arrested on March 31, and 19-year-old Cesar Loza Castillo was arrested on March 27. Both have been charged with malicious wounding and assault by mob, and are being held without bail in the Alexandria Jail.

Police interviewed the victims on the evening of March 15 at Inova Alexandria Hospital. They admitted to meeting at the park at night to smoke marijuana with the suspects in a secluded wooded area. Once there, however, things took a dark turn.

“At this time, [one victim] saw a hand come across his face and felt his neck being cut. [He] then fled the park heading back towards his vehicle,” notes the affidavit.

The victim pushed away the knife, and was then stabbed in the back. The other victim was then allegedly pinned against a tree by both suspects and stabbed repeatedly. The victims escaped from the scene and were driven to the hospital by another friend.

Police located Guevara’s cell phone at the scene of the crime, and the suspects were positively identified by the victims in a police lineup.

Image via Google Maps

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