Newsletter

Months after the majority of Alexandria residents were fully vaccinated, coronavirus precautions now turn toward booster shots aimed at keeping those vaccinations effective.

A Pfizer vaccine booster has already been approved and yesterday a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel authorized booster shots for Moderna’s vaccine.

In general, the boosters are being considered for those who received their second dose at least six months ago. The Pfizer booster is currently available for those 65 or older and those at heightened risk of COVID-19. The Moderna booster is being considered on similar guidelines.

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We’re nearing the end of the first full week of October, and around the city, various homes and local businesses are starting to get into the spooky mood.

Visit Alexandria has put together a roundup of Halloween-themed activities around town. While the pandemic is still ongoing, there’s been progress since last October when some iconic Alexandria Halloween events (like Lee Street trick-or-treating) were shut down.

After you vote, be sure to share what costume you’re putting together — if any — in the comments.

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Next month, the City Council is set to review plans that could make the pedestrianization of the 100 block of King Street a permanent feature.

Since last spring, one of the blocks of King Street closest to the Waterfront, between Lee and Union streets, has been closed to vehicle traffic. The streetscape around businesses like Pop’s Old Fashion Ice Cream and Paper Source is a pedestrian zone, and local restaurants have outdoor dining areas.

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, the Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on whether or not to make that closure permanent. The City Council is scheduled to raise the issue for discussion at their Oct. 16 meeting.

There was some uncertainty about the plan at the Waterfront Commission, where some expressed concern that the current design is lacking. Currently, the pedestrian zone is marked by an impromptu barrier, and it’s unclear so far what is being planned as a potential replacement if the change is made permanent.

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Shared living room, photo via Nathan Van Egmond/Unsplash

The city is going through a process of opening up some limitations on co-living — units with up to six individual suites that all share communal amenities.

Co-living is a little different from most apartments; typically having more residents than apartments and at a lower cost. Co-living is currently allowed in Alexandria, but requirements to go through a development special use permitting process and public hearings, among other restrictions, have been hurdles city staff are hoping get rid of. The new policy would certain development in residential zones to build up to two co-living units — with up to six-total suites — by-right, meaning without the need for public hearings and the city’s extensive permitting process.

The goal of encouraging more co-living development in Alexandria is increasing the supply of market-rate affordable housing, which has been in a downward spiral for years. But while most of the public comment at meetings has been supportive of the changes, Alexandria Living Magazine also noted that there are some public concerns that the co-living housing could become “flop houses,” a term typically denoting squalor in crowded living spaces.

Photo via Nathan Van Egmond/Unsplash

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Potential new Blue Line route (photo via WMATA)

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is eyeing a new Blue Line route that could be realigned to run from the Huntington Metro station in Fairfax across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge over to National Harbor.

The project was cited as one of the higher performing projects in a list of options aimed at boosting ridership. A cost-benefits analysis put the new Blue Line route, which would also go up to Georgetown, above alternatives like a Silver Line Express tunnel.

The revised Blue Line would cost $20-25 billion to build and $175-200 million to operate, the most expensive of the options presented, but it is also estimated bring in significantly higher revenue — $154.2 million — than any of the other options. The new National Harbor Blue Line route would bring in an estimated 180,000 new weekday trips.

It’s  unclear how the proposed Blue Line crossing at the Woodrow Wilson bridge would work — as a reallocation of space on the existing bridge, as part of an expansion, or as a separate crossing.

While Metro Board members expressed cautious enthusiasm for the project at a meeting last week, Metro leadership has been quick to point out that no plans for a new Blue Line have been finalized or approved.

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Shows are back across Alexandria, with venues like The Birchmere and Little Theater of Alexandria opening their doors again.

This weekend, Little Theater is showing August Wilson’s “Fences” and last month, The Birchmere featured Three Dog Night.

Even with a vaccine, it’s still a risk to go to an indoor concert of a theater with the coronavirus spreading in Alexandria. This city saw an uptick in cases in August, though hospitalizations have mostly remained steady.

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Superintendent Gregory Hutchings greets students (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

Alexandria students returned to classrooms for a full five-day school week last Tuesday, marking the start of what could hopefully be the first full year in-school since the pandemic started in early 2020.

Across the school division, Alexandria City Public Schools faced a series of hurdles — from extremely minor like a fox in the vicinity of a middle school to more serious, like a violent brawl in Alexandria City High School.

Four days before reopening, the School Board voted to require vaccination for staff, or that staff submit weekly COVID-19 tests.

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings has faced some criticism for his handling of school administration by former ACPS employees, but the School Board recently approved a contract renewal for Hutchings and included vocal support for the superintendent.

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What a busy week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

Alexandria City Public Schools reopened their doors to full-time in-person instruction on Tuesday, and there have been a few hiccups. On Friday, we published a video taken of a brawl inside Alexandria City High School, and a teenager was hit by a car while walking home from school in Del Ray on Thursday.

This week was dominated by crime stories, although other big events occurred, such as the City breaking ground on a new broadband network.

In our poll this week, we asked if readers agree with a proposed 5 cent tax on plastic bags. Out of more than 900 votes, 62% said it shouldn’t be implemented and 38% said it should.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Alexandria man arrested for beating up ex-girlfriend in Old Town North
  2. Fox put George Washington Middle School into a lock-in today
  3. Design realities could conflict with promises to speed up stormwater improvements in Alexandria
  4. City breaks ground on new broadband network
  5. Poll: Do you support the proposed 5 cent plastic bag tax?
  6. This Alexandria gym manager went rogue and launched a personal training business
  7. Alexandria kicks off Restaurant Week tomorrow
  8. Alexandria sees huge spike in COVID-19 cases in August, another death
  9. Poll: Have you been impacted by flooding in Alexandria?
  10. New Normal: ACPS fully reopens for first time since pandemic started
  11. Evolving COVID-19 decisions loom as Alexandria City Public Schools fully reopen next Tuesday

Have a safe weekend!

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Cat and plastic bags, photo via Daniel Romero/Unsplash

(Updated 11 a.m.) The city of Alexandria is considering implementing a new 5 cent bag tax at local stores; aimed at curbing plastic bag use and providing funding for enviromental clean-up and other projects.

A similar 5 cent bag tax was implemented in D.C. in 2010, and groups collecting trash around the area reported a three-quarter decrease in the amount of plastic bags being picked up and overall decreased plastic bag use — though some of those results have been brought into question.

The city said funding collected from the plastic bag tax could be put to use with:

  • Environmental Cleanup;
  • Providing education programs designed to reduce environmental waste;
  • Mitigating pollution and litter; or
  • Providing reusable bags to recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) benefits

Photo via Daniel Romero/Unsplash

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What a week in Alexandria.

Public uproar over Sunday’s flooding spilled out throughout this week, which continued to be threatened by near-daily flash flood advisories from the National Weather Service.

Our top story was on Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne, who criticized City Manager Mark Jinks on the city’s stormwater infrastructure. Mayor Justin Wilson says that multiple projects are underway and take time, and that the city is now looking into whether spot improvements and any other projects can be accelerated.

The group DrainALX has also gained popularity, as it continues to catalog stormwater issues and complaints. One Del Ray resident even told us that she’s turned to therapy after repeatedly spending thousands on a continually ruined basement.

Our weekly poll also found 55% of respondents (193 people) have experienced flood damage to their homes, 14% (74 people) have experienced other sorts of property damage and 31% (159 votes) have never had any property damaged by a storm in the city.

This weekend’s forecast is partly cloudy with a 50% chance of scattered thunderstorms on Saturday afternoon, followed by a 40% chance of thunderstorms Sunday night.

School issues

The week before school starts, the School Board unanimously approved Thursday night the requirement that ACPS staffers get the coronavirus vaccine.

“We do have authority to require testing and require vaccinations,” Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said at the board meeting. “However, there have been no cases where someone has contested that requirement. That has not occurred as of yet, and I’m sure it’s going to begin soon…”

In the meantime, Alexandria is also prepping COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. As Alexandria looks to accelerate stormwater projects, Sheriff gives city manager a D-
  2. The Four Mile Run Bridge in Arlandria will not fully reopen until fall 2025
  3. Institute for Defense Analyses announces Potomac Yard move-in later this year
  4. Woman behind DrainALX campaign shares frustrations and hopes from locals after Sunday flood
  5. HUD Secretary Fudge visits Alexandria, says affordable housing is a Biden Administration priority
  6. New census shows Alexandria not majority-white
  7. Alexandria School Board to discuss mandatory vaccinations for staffers this week
  8. After rampant flooding over weekend, another Flash Flood Watch is in effect for Alexandria
  9. Poll: Have you gotten the infamous mite bite in Alexandria?
  10. Alexandria Fire Department struggling with staffing shortage and forced overtime
  11. Stuck in quandary, Del Ray flooding victim seeks therapy

Have a safe weekend!

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