Newsletter

It was a busy fall week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

Our top story this week was on a plan to completely close off the 100 block of King Street as a pedestrian-only zone. The plan has been in the works since 2019, and was put into action last year. ALXnow’s poll on the subject had very one-sided results, showing 91% (791 votes) in favor of a permanent change.

There was a momentous groundbreaking this week, as city leaders converged for the $454.4 million RiverRenew Tunnel Project. The project is a major overhaul to replace Old Town’s combined sewer system and prevent 120 million gallons of combined sewage from flowing into the Potomac River.

School violence has become a major issue in Alexandria, as videos of fights at schools are surfacing on the internet, there have been arrests at Alexandria City Public Schools, and protests in front of City Hall on Monday and Tuesday this week.

As for the Alexandria juvenile who was shot in the upper body at the McDonald’s in the Bradlee Shopping Center last week, police say that there have been no arrests yet.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. City looks to permanently ‘pedestrianize’ a block of King Street
  2. UPDATE: Alexandria man charged with homicide after stabbing at BJ’s Wholesale Club in Landmark area
  3. Total Wine is taking shape in Potomac Yard
  4. ALXnow’s top stories this week in Alexandria
  5. Man buys luxury car with fake driver’s license at Lindsay Lexus of Alexandria
  6. Protestors rally to return police to Alexandria schools, but officials say behind-the-scenes talks have stalled
  7. Man arrested for posting lewd photos of Alexandria stepsister on Twitter
  8. Firecracker shuts down Alexandria City High School football game
  9. Adoptable Chihuahua Dory only weighs 3.5 pounds
  10. Mayor Wilson: Potomac Yard construction delay ‘could have nothing to do with Metro station’
  11. Police: Juvenile shot at shopping center near Alexandria City High School

Have a safe weekend!

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The groundbreaking for AlexRenew’s RiverRenew Tunnel Project was about as Alexandria as events get. The event was a who’s-who of current and former officials, complete with bagpipes, a poem about local sewage presented by the Town Crier, and even a cartoon mascot representing the boring machine getting ready to drill the largest infrastructure project in the city’s history.

The smiles and enthusiasm from city and state officials and organizations like the Potomac Riverkeeper Network were a marked departure from the occasionally contentious process that led to the $454.4 million RiverRenew project. Plans include replacing Old Town’s combined sewer system with a new sewer structure that will prevent 120 million gallons of combined sewage from flowing into the Potomac River.

“The Tunnel Project will include a two-mile-long underground tunnel, an open-cut pipeline, and other infrastructure to capture, store, and transport millions of gallons of combined sewage to AlexRenew’s wastewater treatment plant,” AlexRenew said in a press release. “There, these flows will be treated and cleaned prior to being returned to the Potomac River, reducing harmful overflow events from 70 to fewer than four each year.”

The city didn’t willingly enter into the project: the clean-up was mandated with a July 25, 2025 deadline by the state, over the objection of some local leadership. The project is currently scheduled to be finished on time.

“I’m proud of our role in bringing this great infrastructure investment today to life,” said Nancy Stoner, president of the Potomac Riverkeeper Network. “(T)his is critical infrastructure for protecting public health.”

Stoner said the eventual goal is to make the Potomac River swimmable again. Though later generations may not value the Herculean effort it took to get Old Town’s sewer system modernized, Mayor Justin Wilson said if it helps get the river into a cleaner state it will have been worth it.

“This investment prevents things from happening and provides an investment most people won’t really appreciate,” Wilson said. “People swimming in the Potomac years from now won’t really appreciate the investment. They’ll never see the investment, never understand it, but we will know, and we’ll know it was this generation that made the investment.”

Radhika Fox, assistant administrator for water for the Environmental Protection Agency, tied Alexandria’s experience in with nationwide efforts to improve water quality.

“This was one of the first loans I got to approve as part of the Biden-Harris administration,” Fox said. “One of the best bets we can make as a nation is to make these investments in our water infrastructure. It leads to environmental health, community vitality, that’s what this project is about. That’s a big, huge step Alexandria is taking today.”

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Morning Notes

Murphy’s reserves table for Marines lost in Afghanistan — “Last night, Friday, August 27, Murphy’s Grand Irish Pub on King Street reserved a table and set 13 places in honor of the 13 soldiers lost in Afghanistan earlier this week.” [Zebra]

4.1 million meals given to ACPS students during pandemic — “In March 2020, Alexandria City Public Schools called on Volunteer Alexandria to help distribute meals to students who were suddenly learning from home due to the pandemic… By the middle of August, Volunteer Alexandria and ACPS had delivered 4,106,889 grab-and-go meals and snacks to Alexandria students and their families.” [Alexandria Living]

Everyone can ride for free on DASH buses starting soon — “Starting Sept. 5, Alexandria City High School (ACHS) students will no longer need to use an app or ID card to board DASH buses for free. All passengers, including adults, will be able to board for free at all times.” [Zebra]

Firefighters to collect ‘fill the boot’ donations starting Tuesday — “The campaign will be managed by the Alexandria Fire Fighters Local 2141 firefighters union.” [Patch]

Today’s weather — “Some clouds and possibly an isolated thunderstorm in the afternoon. High 92F. Winds WSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%… Partly cloudy early with increasing clouds overnight. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. Low 73F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New job: Traffic control flagger — “AWP is North America’s leading traffic control specialist. Our Protectors work outside every day to make sure customer crews, drivers and our own teams get home safely.” [Indeed]

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Today on WAMU’s The Politics Hour, Mayor Justin Wilson laid out plans for flood infrastructure work, predicted a decision this fall over whether recreation centers will require proof of vaccination, and tacitly endorsed the Arlington-Georgetown gondola.

The discussion of the mayor took up the back half of the hour-long program hosted by Kojo Nnamdi and Tom Sherwood. As fitting the program’s name, the show started with a question of politics and whether Mayor Justin Wilson is planning to debate Republican candidate Annetta Catchings.

“No debates have been scheduled so far but I’d welcome the opportunity to have those debates if organizations want to schedule them,” Wilson said.

Wilson said he was also “disappointed” at the turmoil in the state-level redistricting committee.

“Step in the right direction, not it’s perfect,” Wilson said. “We’re seeing many of the challenges people feared. I hope the two parties will come together and craft a process on fair lines. I think voters were really clear about this.”

The major topic of conversation, as it has been throughout Alexandria this week, was flooding. Wilson reiterated an earlier commitment to accelerating the timetable for stormwater infrastructure projects but admitted that those will still take time.

“Where we have real problems are when we have intensity beyond what stormwater system can support,” Wilson said. “I haven’t heard any significant reports this time, but obviously Saturday/Sunday was devastating for residents. We had five inches of rain in an hour in some parts of the city. We had far too many residents who dealt with devastating damage, and for many of them this is the fourth time in two years. This adds to the urgency to address these major infrastructure challenges in many neighborhoods in our community.”

Wilson said the city is planning to spend $200 million on stormwater capacity projects over the next ten years.

“We’re doing everything we can to accelerate those projects,” Wilson said. “We allocated $6 million of rescue plan money to accelerate some of that work. Unfortunately, as we see these more intense, more frequent storm events, not going to be soon enough for a lot of our residents.”

The challenge with using more of the American Rescue Plan funding, Wilson said, is that the funds come with a timeline of when that money must be spent — for costs incurred by the end of 2024. Some of the larger projects are outside of that timeline.

Wilson said the city is looking at building resiliency on individual properties while working on longer-term infrastructure projects.

“This month launching grant program to provide up to $5,000 to people impacted by events or making resiliency improvements,” Wilson said. We’re encouraging residents and businesses to apply.”

During the interview, Wilson also endorsed last night’s School Board decision to require either vaccination or weekly COVID-19 testing for staff. Wilson said it’s likely the city will have a discussion in the fall over whether to require vaccination to use city recreation centers. Sherwood pressed on whether the city has that authority or not.

“In city facilities we’ve required masks,” Wilson said, “and in city facilities we have the authority to require vaccination.”

Though it’s outside of Wilson’s scope, Sherwood did ask Wilson on his opinions regarding progress reported by Alex Koma at the Washington Business Journal on a potential gondola between Arlington and Georgetown, a topic that’s become something of a joke to locals.

“Gondola, yes or no?” Sherwood asked.

“Anything that provides new transportation options is a good thing,” Wilson said. “We’ve experimented more with ferries. The river is typically the challenge.”

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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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AlexRenew headquarters, via Alexandria Renew Enterprises/Facebook

A new state grant could help fund the city’s expensive, state-mandated RiverRenew project and offset some of the sewer rate increases for Alexandrians.

According to a press release, Alexandria Renew Enterprises (AlexRenew) — which runs the RiverRenew project — has been recommended to receive a $50 million grant to support construction on the project. The RiverRenew project is an overhaul of the city’s combined sewer system in Old Town that results in millions of gallons of sewage flowing into the Potomac River ever year.

The grant funding is part of the $411.5 million American Rescue Plan (ARP) dedicated to restoring water and sewer infrastructure.

“Investment in our water infrastructure is crucial to a thriving Alexandria, and we are greatly appreciative of the Governor, our local delegation, and state leaders for their support of this historic program,” said AlexRenew General Manager Karen Pallansch in the press release.

Pallansch added that the funding could offset some planned sewer rate increases. A rate increase by 6.9% was deferred last year due to coronavirus but was implemented earlier this year. In the press release, Pallansch said the sewer rate increases to fund the RiverRenew program could last for decades.

The ARP investments will still need to clear the General Assembly at a special session on Monday (Aug. 2).

“We feel very good about the prospects of the General Assembly agreeing to the Governor’s proposal,” said Pallansch. “The Northern Virginia legislative delegation has been an important partner in this effort.”

Via Alexandria Renew Enterprises/Facebook

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RiverRenew Tunnel Project Map, courtesy AlexRenew

Massive infrastructure project RiverRenew has laid out a rough timeline for the ambitious three-pronged work throughout Old Town later this year.

The project is part of compliance with a 2017 Virginia law that requires Alexandria to overhaul the city’s combined sewer system, which has been dumping 130 million gallons of raw sewage into the Potomac River every year. The city is required to complete the overhaul by July 1, 2025.

In an email to ALXnow, RiverRenew Outreach Program Manager Sheeva Noshirvan outlined the schedule of the project moving forward.

Work at the AlexRenew site started the earliest, in May this year, and will be the last part of the project to finish — in July 2025.

The first community work for the RiverRenew project will be in October, when work starts on Royal Street for Outfall 2.

The full schedule is:

  • Royal Street (Outfall 2) — starting October 2021, ending June 2024
  • Pendleton Street (Outfall 1) — starting November 2021, ending October 2024
  • Hooffs Run Interceptor (Outfalls 3 and 4) — starting December 2021, ending May 2023
  • AlexRenew — started May 2021, ending July 2025.

RiverRenew is planning to host a series of virtual community listening sessions, where project staff meet with locals to discuss issues surrounding construction. The next meeting will be held Thursday, July 15, at 6 p.m., to discuss construction of a facility on Pendleton Street near Oronoco Bay Park.  A meeting the next Thursday, July 22, will discuss a similar facility on Royal Street near Jones Point Park.

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Morning Notes

Alexandria Black History Museum director speaks on anniversary of George Floyd’s murder — “Yes, there have been changes – Diversity and inclusion training are being taught in universities and the American workplace, some racists are being held accountable, corporations have promised new more transparent hiring procedures that would add African Americans to leadership positions, TV shows and advertisers have hired people of color in record numbers and The Oscars are not quite so #OscarsSoWhite anymore. All of this is meaningful, but it must be more than a quick fix. Everyone needs an ally, but being a true ally goes deeper than the protests. To be a real ally, you need to be there for the hard work, the messy work, and the unpleasant conversations about race and racism. You need to turn the mirror inward and make the personal changes that will help make your community a better place.” [Zebra]

Local chef appearing on FOX baking competition tonight — “Erinn Roth still can’t believe she was chosen to compete on FOX’s new baking competition show. ‘Crime Scene Kitchen’ premieres this Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET… The contestants are allowed to explore a kitchen that was recently used to bake a specific treat. They must use their baking skills and the clues left behind to determine what was baked and then they have two hours to recreate what they think it was. At the end of each episode, after two rounds, a team is eliminated.” [Alexandria Living]

Roy Rogers to reopen year and a half after Belle View Shopping Center fire — “The Roy Rogers in the Belle View Shopping Center will celebrate its long-awaited grand re-opening on June 1, the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce announced. Located at 1506 Belle View Blvd., the restaurant closed in October 2019 following a devastating multi-alarm fire that spread along the roofline of the shopping center. An investigation by the Fairfax County Fire Marshal’s office determined that fire began in a walk-in cooler at Yido Ramen and Sushi, which had opened just days before. [Alexandria Living]

Old Hat Bar opening delayed in Old Town by staffing challenges — “Residents eager to see Old Hat Bar open its doors in Old Town Alexandria will have to wait a little longer. The gastropub was set to open Friday, May 21 at 112 N. Saint Asaph Street, the former location of King Street Blues. But like other businesses in the food service industry, Old Hat Bar faces staffing challenges.” [Patch]

City to Host Town Hall on Anti-Asian Violence — The City of Alexandria invites the public to attend a virtual Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month Town Hall, “Contextualizing Anti-Asian Violence in the Age of COVID,” on Thursday, May 27, at 7 p.m. The virtual panel discussion focuses on the wave of racial incidents and attacks directed toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The panel features Elisabeth Chan, Sue Jean Cho, John Min, and Alexander Purrugganan,  faculty members of Northern Virginia Community College. Their presentation will be followed by an interactive question and answer session. The presentation is free, but attendees must register.” [City of Alexandria]

PHOTOS: Alexandria Fire Department train on the Potomac River — “Yesterday, some of our first responders participated in swift water boat operator training. #traineveryday #stayready” [Twitter]

Today’s weather — “Partly cloudy in the morning followed by scattered thunderstorms in the afternoon. Gusty winds and small hail are possible. High 93F. Winds SW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 40%… Scattered thunderstorms in the evening. Partly cloudy skies overnight. Low 68F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 40%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Crew at AMC Theatres — “AMC amazing. That’s the promise we deliver to nearly 35,000 associates, 240 million guests domestically, and 350 million guests worldwide each year. AMC has propelled industry innovation since 1920, and we continue to innovate by delivering premium sight and sound, new and improved food and beverage options, and diverse content in our state-of-the-art theatres.” [Indeed]

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(Updated 4:40 p.m.) Alexandrians could see their wastewater bill go up an average $50 per year with a new rate adjustment aimed at funding the extensive RiverRenew program.

The adjustment has been in the works for a while but was delayed last year in light of the impact of COVID-19 on the local economy. The rate would be in place for two years to finance AlexRenew’s state-mandated efforts to overhaul the city’s sewer system.

“The rate adjustment proposal includes a 6.9 percent increase on July 1, 2021, and 6.5 percent increase on July 1, 2022,” AlexRenew said in a press release. “An average residential customer may see a difference of about $4 per month for each of these increases, or an average increase of about $50 per year. The rate adjustment is critical to funding the ongoing construction of the RiverRenew program, scheduled for completion in late 2025.”

The press release noted that the RiverRenew program is estimated to cost $615 million — a substantial increase over the $370 to $555 million price range cited in 2019.

“Wastewater infrastructure is essential to keeping our community healthy,” said Karen Pallansch, AlexRenew General Manager, in the press release. “Our shared investment helps ensure the waterways that connect us are improved and preserved for future generations.”

A public hearing is on the rate adjustment is scheduled Saturday, May 22, at 9:30 a.m.

Photo via Alexandria Renew Enterprises/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Alexandria sixth most diverse midsize city in U.S. — “To determine the places in the U.S. with the most mixed demographics, WalletHub compared the profiles of more than 500 of the largest cities across five major diversity categories: socioeconomic, cultural, economic, household and religious. Alexandria ranks 18th overall but 6th among midsize cities.” [Alexandria Living]

Inova hosting virtual meeting on rezoning proposal — “Inova Health System will hold a third virtual community information meeting on May 3, from 6 – 7 p.m. to discuss the proposed master plan amendment and rezoning of the Inova Alexandria Hospital property at 4320 and 4250 Seminary Road. In order to facilitate the relocation of the hospital from its current location on Seminary Road to Landmark Mall, Inova will request to rezone the existing hospital site to allow for single family, duplex, and townhome residential uses.” [City of Alexandria]

City hosting meeting on redevelopment of Potomac River Generating Station property — “On Thursday, April 29 at 6 p.m., the City will host the second in a series of virtual community meetings regarding the transformation of the Potomac River Generating Site (PRGS) in the Old Town North. The meeting will focus on reviewing the 2017 Old Town North Small Area Plan (OTN SAP), which includes a framework for redevelopment on the site. Staff will also provide an update on implementation efforts since the Plan’s adoption.” [City of Alexandria]

Today’s weather — “Sunshine (during the day). High near 75F. Winds SW at 10 to 15 mph… Clear skies with a few passing clouds (in the evening). Low 56F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Commercial and residential painter — “Tech Painting Company is seeking full-time painters. We offer competitive pay plus benefits. Though having painting experience is a plus, it is not required. We are looking for people who work hard, have a positive attitude, and are eager to learn. You must also be a team player, follow direction well, and be reliable.” [Indeed]

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