What a hot week in Alexandria.

With temperatures hovering in the mid-90s, the week started with a power outage at a 17-story apartment building in Landmark area. The outage lasted five days and residents had to find accommodations until the building reopened Friday afternoon.

On the coronavirus front, Alexandria experienced a slight uptick, and the health department says unvaccinated residents account for a majority of new cases. There have been 39 new cases reported so far this month in the city, and 13 cases were reported on July 9. That was the biggest single-day jump since May 20, when 18 new cases were reported.

In school news, this week we spoke with Alexandria High School Principal Peter Balas, who said that his staff are ready to fully reopen for full-time in-person instruction when the 2021-2022 school year starts on August 24.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Here’s the plan for Alexandria’s birthday celebration this weekend
  2. City Council approves massive high-rise project without affordable housing near Eisenhower Metro station
  3. ‘Call Your Mother Deli’ signs lease in Old Town
  4. Del. Mark Levine raises eyebrows with letter that passes buck on constituent service
  5. Shortened Alexandria Birthday celebration is still on for July 10
  6. Alexandria City High School is ready to reopen at full capacity next month, principal says
  7. School Board Member Jacinta Greene faces reelection, wants race relations taught in ACPS
  8. Tropical Storm Elsa’s dregs tear through southern Alexandria
  9. Poll: Do you agree with reallocation of school resource officer funding?
  10. West End high-rise apartment building evacuated after power outage
  11. The Alexandria Police, Sheriff’s Office and Fire Department all want raises

Have a safe weekend!

0 Comments
Landmark Mall rendering (image via City of Alexandria)

The plans to redevelop Landmark Mall are moving forward — but with a corollary added at the Planning Commission last week that requires the developer to step up their green energy policies and caused some tension on the Commission.

Dissatisfaction with the developer’s green energy plans were first expressed by Commissioner Stephen Koenig. He acknowledged that the developers hit the bare minimums required, but suggested the city should wield its power of approval for greater density to push for more.

“I am disconcerted this does not propose, and the city does not yet require, an explicit vision… carbon neutrality,” Koenig said. “If this is 2.4 million square feet of new buildings, creating a dozen new blocks, were animated by such a vision it would make an exemplary contribution to our efforts.”

Koenig’s amendment calls on the developers to prepare an energy and resilience plan to the satisfaction of the Director of Planning and Zoning to be included as part of the application to the City Council.

Koenig said he generally supported the project, but said he thought the environmental protections should go further.

The suggestion caught flack from the developers like Jay Kelly, vice president of development at Foulger-Pratt. Kelly said the Landmark Mall developers have gone above and beyond existing city policy and the additional requirement would be harmfully vague.

Planning Commission members Nathan Macek and Mindy Lyle also spoke out against Koenig’s amendment.

“I think this expectation goes beyond anything we’ve specified in policy to date,” Macek said. “I think we have to lay out our specific policy expectations — we haven’t drawn that line yet… I’m not comfortable making that extra leap with this specific case when we haven’t laid that expectation out there.”

The policy recommendation exposed a rift on the issue between those on the Planning Commission who believed the city should flex its authority to get more from the project and those who were concerned demanding too much could kill the long-awaited plans to “fix” the Landmark Mall site.

“This is sending a message that we think this kind of information needs to be there, and in the context of an application that is not only logically related to what is going to happen in the future but is not unduly burdensome on developer,” Planning Commissioner Dave Brown said. “One hand washes the other. We are not asking for much.”

But for Lyle, the threat of losing forward movement on Landmark Mall was a dire one after years of false starts.

“The entire West End is asking to have this property move forward,” Lyle said. “If you look at all of the letters we’ve received, this property has been a blight for as long as I can remember. The city stepping in to work with property owners to move this forward is a win-win on all fronts. This has been needed since 2003.”

Koenig’s amendment carried 3-2, with Lyle and Macek voting against it, and was incorporated into the main Landmark Mall package, which was unanimously approved despite Lyle’s and Macek’s misgivings about Koenig’s addition.

3 Comments

The building blocks for what will become a sweeping mixed-use development replacing Landmark Mall are almost in place. A small discussion about street ownership could also have big implications for the future of the site’s identity.

The Eisenhower West Landmark Van Dorn Implementation Advisory Group met on Monday to put some of the finishing touches on some of the initial framework discussed over the last few months. One of the major points of discussion is over who will own the roads.

While The Wharf is cited as an inspiration behind some of the development concepts at the former Landmark Mall site, some at the advisory group meeting pointed to the city’s Carlyle neighborhood for inspiration.

“If it’s a private street, we would require public access easements so everyone has access, making sure it’s open and available to everyone,” said Jeff Farner, Deputy Director of Planning and Zoning for the City of Alexandria

Jonathan Rak, a partner at law firm McGuireWoods, said his leading preference would be for privately owned streets with public easements.

“All of these framework streets will have public access easements so that they function with the same types of access as any dedicated street,” Rak said. “As a comparison, all streets in Carlyle are privately owned but have public access easement and look, smell, and feel like any other public street.”

Rak said privately owned streets with public access easements can help give more flexibility with how the street is built and how it operates.

“In terms of why we’ve been asking for some private streets… one of the things we want to be able to do is enhance paving materials in those areas,” Rak said. “Having a private street gives us more flexibility in terms of paving materials. [If we] want to have the ability to close down some portions of those streets to make them into farmers markets, street festivals, those kinds of activating type uses, private street with public easement lets us do that.”

There are other questions and concerns moving forward that will need to be addressed down the road by the City Council and Planning Commission. Agnes Artemel said there are still lingering questions about sustainability and building heights — particularly minimum heights, as some developers have come back to the city saying they aren’t planning to go as high as some earlier estimates.

The Planning Commission is scheduled to review the early plans for Landmark Mall at the June 24 meeting, with those plans headed to the City Council on July 6.

Image via City of Alexandria

7 Comments

A new private school, The Linder Academy, could move in above the Old Town if it gets permission Planning Commission and City Council meetings next month.

The Linder Academy is headed to the Planning Commission on Tuesday, June 1, to review the proposal to allow the academy to operate at 601, 607 and 609 S. Washington Street and 710 Gibbon Street.

“The applicant proposes to operate a private academic school with more than 20 students on the subject properties,” the staff report said. “The school would occupy both existing buildings and serve up to 105 students from kindergarten to seventh grade. There would be 14 to 16 employees on site. The school will not prepare food on-site and would instead order from a catering service that would bring the food to the school, with a likely on-line ordering system for families to choose their lunches that will be delivered on a daily basis.”

One of the buildings, 607 S. Washington Street, is a Victorian building that was constructed sometime between 1897 and 1898. All of the buildings have been used commercially since the early 2000s, the report noted.

Staff is recommending approval, saying it’s unlikely the new school will not have too big of an impact on nearby residents.

“Staff does not anticipate neighborhood impacts, given that this area has a mix of commercial and residential uses surrounding the proposed school,” the report said. “Although there is a limited potential for traffic congestion on South Washington during pick-up and drop off times, staff believes the space in the parking lot is sufficient to accommodate the morning and afternoon transfer of students.”

If approved at the Planning Commission, the project will go to the City Council on June 19 for review before opening this fall.

Photo via Google Maps

2 Comments

While much attention is being paid to Inova Health System’s plans for Landmark Mall, the hospital is also slowly moving forward with plans to convert the existing hospital space to houses.

At the June 1 Planning Commission meeting, Inova is seeking to have the land use designation for the hospital at 4320 Seminary Road changed from industrial to medium residential — in keeping with the housing type throughout much of the surrounding Seminary Hill neighborhood.

“The proposed ‘Residential Medium’ land use designation is in character with the predominant residential land uses in the Seminary Hill/Strawberry Hill Small Area Plan,” staff said in a report. “As the hospital is planning to relocate to Landmark Mall, changing the land use designation from ‘Institutional’ to ‘Residential Medium’ will benefit the surrounding properties by reducing the impacts of the existing hospital use.”

The report also said that changing the use will reduce the overall impact of the site on local traffic and on the sanitary sewer capacity.

“Future redevelopment consistent with the RB zoning will be designed to meet current stormwater management requirements, which are much more stringent than when the hospital and subsequent additions were built,” the report said. “New streets, parking, and fire access will be provided with any future redevelopment plan and will be designed to meet all applicable City standards.”

The report noted, however, that any development at the site is still at least seven years off.

“The hospital will remain on the Property until approximately 2028 when the new hospital at Landmark Mall is completed,” the report said. “As such, any additional student generation would not be realized until the construction of the new residential development is complete (approximately two years after 2028) and can be accommodated at that time through renovated and planned school facilities in the West End.”

9 Comments

When the Victory Center parking lot does eventually get turned into a housing development, locals won’t have to go far to get their car checked out.

The Planing Commission is scheduled to review an application by Vijay Laxmi LLC to open a light automotive repair shop at 4936 Eisenhower Avenue, directly across from the Victory Center.

“The applicant anticipates serving five customers daily and would operate with two employees,” staff said in a report. “The hours of operation would be 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday.”

City staff expressed support for the development in the report. The area’s flexible zoning is part of what’s allowed some unique small businesses nearby to thrive.

“This small-scale automobile repair shop is not expected to produce neighborhood impacts,” staff said, “as there are several automobile repair shops in the surrounding area and in the same industrial/flex space complex.”

Photo via Google Maps

7 Comments

It was another busy week in Alexandria. Here are some of the highlights.

This week, ALXnow profiled Mayor Justin Wilson and his opponent, former Mayor Allison Silberberg. The pair are facing off in the June 8 Democratic primary, and have vastly different ideas on city governance.

Alexandria Police released its 2020 crime data this week, revealing a 19% increase in Part 1 crime and 15% reduction in Nuisance crimes. ALXnow also reported a number of noteworthy crime stories, including the release of a video showing a chase suspect who died after his arrest in D.C. on April 12, and the indictment of a West End murder suspect.

This week also brought the unbelievable story of locals chasing down suspected shoplifters in Del Ray.

On the vaccine front, the Alexandria Health Department paused Johnson & Johnson vaccinations, following new concerns about potential side effects.

In school news, Alexandria City Public Schools will shift to three feet distancing in classrooms on April 26. Additionally, the School Board has started a conversation on reducing the number of members from nine to six.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. BREAKING: ‘Alexandria City High School’ chosen as replacement name for T.C. Williams High School
  2. JUST IN: Dr. Stephen Haering suddenly retires as director of Alexandria Health Department
  3. Southern Towers residents nervous as landlord steps up eviction proceedings
  4. Man stabbed at Old Town intersection
  5. NEW: Locals chase down suspected shoplifters in Del Ray
  6. JUST IN: T.C. Williams JV football team walks off field after alleged racial slur, spitting incident
  7. Man faces 10 years for DWI in horrific West End crash in Safeway parking lot
  8. Planning Commission approves controversial subdivision, plants potential loophole for future denial
  9. JUST IN: Video released of police arresting chase suspect who died in D.C.
  10. JUST IN: Six Alexandria Police officers put on administrative duties after chase suspect dies
  11. JUST IN: West End murder suspect faces life plus 13 years in prison

Have a safe weekend!

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

2 Comments

It was a historic week in Alexandria. Here are some of the highlights.

President Joe Biden visited the Neighborhood Health COVID-19 vaccine site at Virginia Theological Seminary on Tuesday, just before announcing that the date for adults to get access to the vaccine has been moved to April 19.

The Alexandria School Board, on Thursday night, voted to change the name of T.C. Williams High School to Alexandria City High School.

The School Board also voted unanimously to reduce the distancing requirement in ACPS schools from six feet to three feet, all the while community support is growing to expand in-person instruction to more than the current two days a week. Summer school is currently planned to begin in July and will be four days a week, and ACPS is planning on reopening to five days a week at the beginning of the next school year.

Our top story was on the T.C. Williams Titans junior varsity football team walking off the field after an incident with the Robinson Rams on Monday night. Robinson Rams players allegedly spit at and made a racial slur against T.C. players. The incident has prompted Fairfax County Public Schools to announce a “stand-down” meeting for all athletic teams and coaches to discuss “appropriate behaviors required to play sports in FCPS.”

Additionally, six Alexandria Police officers were placed on administrative duties after a chase suspect died while in custody. Police responded to a call for shots fired in the 800 block of North Patrick Street, and multiple buildings and vehicles were struck. The driver of the vehicle crashed on Interstate 295, and then jumped over an overpass barrier and fell more than 20 feet and was tased by police, arrested and later died.

Important Stories

Top Stories

  1. JUST IN: T.C. Williams JV football team walks off field after alleged racial slur, spitting incident
  2. BREAKING: Shots fired in Old Town leads to chase that ends in D.C.
  3. JUST IN: President Biden set to visit Alexandria vaccination site Tuesday
  4. National Park Service announces George Washington Parkway to go on a diet
  5. Neighborhood Health vaccinating thousands at sites in Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax County
  6. JUST IN: Woman arrested after fight on King Street Metro station platform
  7. UPDATE: $8,500 reported stolen in terrifying West End robbery
  8. JUST IN: President Biden visits COVID-19 vaccine site at Virginia Theological Seminary
  9. COVID-19 update: Alexandria moves into vaccination phase 1C
  10. JUST IN: Six Alexandria Police officers put on administrative duties after chase suspect dies
  11. Fairfax County man arrested for three burglaries, released three days later

Have a safe weekend!

Photo via T.C. Williams Football Boosters/Facebook

2 Comments

A subdivision that could lead to the demolition of a 19th century Alexandria home got its recommendation of approval from the Planning Commission Thursday night, but included a Death Star exhaust port-type hole that could blow up the process down the road.

The owner of the house at 506 N. Overlook Drive is seeking a permit to adjust the property lines for two parcels on the site, the first steps toward what will eventually involve tearing down the house on the property.

The home was built in 1878 by Hampshire Fractious, a freed Black man who lived in the city sometime in the late 19th century. Not a lot is known about Fractious, and much of the historical legends that came up about the home over the last few months have little basis in reality (Walt Whitman has no known connection to the house, for instance).

The house is not listed on the city’s register of properties over 100 years old, but staff said that was in large part due to a timing issue several years ago when one of the pervious owners had attempted to go through the paperwork to have that designation applied, but it was never finalized.

The applicant noted in the meeting that much of the interior of the house had been gutted and overhauled within the last ten years.

“The interior been completely gutted and redone about 10 years ago,” said Zachary Williams, an attorney for the applicant. “There’s nothing original inside the house. If there was any historical significance it was erased long prior to our owning the property.”

But neighbors said all they’re asking is to see whether or not the house is as historic as is claimed before plans for demolition move forward.

“This house may be one of the only post-Bellum residents built by Black residents still standing,” said Charles Kent, past President of the North Ridge Citizens’ Association. “We’re asking for city staff to access before irreversible changes are made.”

The discussion at the Planning Commission meeting for the subdivision last night showed a division between the more strict-interpretation, by-the-book interpretation of the city’s authority from staff and a city attorney and the more leeway Planning Commission members found in interpreting some of the city’s conditions for approval.

While staff argued that the historical aspect of the house couldn’t be considered as part of the subdivision request, Planning Commission member Dave Brown led the ultimately successful push to include a requirement in approval that historical analysis experts in city staff be given access to the property to make an assessment and determine the historic value.

Brown’s core argument was that subdivision requests can be denied if there’s potential to harm neighbors, and approving a subdivision without knowing more about the historic value of the house could be a detriment to the neighborhood.

“At this point, in the absence of a historical analysis, we don’t have adequate information to make a judgement about one of the fundamental criteria we have to make a judgement about to vote on the subdivision,” Stephen Koenig summarized. “I think I follow that and have a sympathy for that.”

Brown included access to the house as condition for approval, saying that if the analysis by staff found that there was little left to preserve then there weren’t any grounds for deny the subdivision request when it reached City Council. But if the analysis came back saying there was historical value, then it was an issue the City Council could address with more awareness and understanding of what was being discussed.

Brown’s motion, and the recommendation of approval with his condition added, were both unanimously approved by the Planning Commission.

Image via North Ridge Citizens’ Association

2 Comments

The Basilica School of Saint Mary (310 S Royal Street) in Old Town could grow by two new buildings if a new development application goes through.

The Catholic Diocese of Arlington is requesting permission to build a new library and media center at their 400 Green Street property.

“St. Mary’s has operated on the Property since 1948, and has grown and changed along with the needs of the student body and the community,” the diocese said in the application. “The proposed addition would connect two school buildings on the Property and allow students to safely travel between the two classroom buildings. Site improvements include reorienting the parking lot and student pick-up and drop-off area, adding one elevator for ADA accessibility, and other landscaping and playground improvements.

Even with the added buildings, the diocese said the floor area ratio (FAR) of 0.7 is still significantly below the permitted 1.5 FAR.

“The proposed addition connects the southeast corner of the Main Building with the northwest corner of Stephen’s Hall and contains approximately 19,298 square feet of floor area on the library level,” the diocese said.

The proposal will also add a new tower to the campus, described as “architecturally distinct from the existing cupola” but still borrowing from parts of the main design.

The new design also aims to cut down on the traffic from the school piling up on nearby streets.

“Currently, the existing pick-up and drop-off pattern involves significant queuing in surrounding streets and neighborhood,” the diocese said. “In order to internalize the pick-up and drop-off traffic, the Applicant proposes to reorient the pick-up and drop-off area to the rear of the school, behind the gym. Parents will enter the School from South Royal Street, drive under the proposed addition to the rear of the school, where faculty will direct the pick-up and drop-off process. To exit the School grounds, they will drive down a one-way alley along the western side of the Main Building and exit on to Green Street.”

The item is scheduled for review at the Thursday, April 8, Planning Commission meeting.

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list