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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This week, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is asking the public whether or not they’d want to see Virginia Tech added to the name of the new Potomac Yard Metro station.

The name would be associated with Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus, which is promised to bring a massive redevelopment to the area.

Several Metro stations in the system have other locations included, like Vienna/Fairfax-GMU. The additional names can pose a challenge though, like requiring removal if the facility closes — as is the case with West Falls Church Metro station, which has University of Virginia in the name despite UVA no longer operating a school near the station.

In September, the City Council unanimously approved the potential change, but final approval of the change still rests with WMATA.

Rendering via City of Alexandria

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What should the future Metro station at Potomac Yard be called?

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is seeking public input on what local residents and Metro users want the station to be called. While “Potomac Yard Metro Station” seems to be the obvious answer, there have also been efforts to tack “Virginia Tech” on to the name as well.

WMATA is also seeking feedback on the West Falls Church Metro station, which has University of Virginia in the name despite UVA no longer operating a school near the station.

“Metro is also seeking feedback on formalizing Potomac Yard Station as the name of the station currently under construction between National Airport and Braddock Road stations, expected to open in 2022,” WMATA said in a press release. “The station will be located less than a quarter of a mile from Virginia Tech’s new Innovation Campus, which is expected to eventually enroll between 2,000 and 3,000 students. The City of Alexandria Council passed a resolution recommending the addition of ‘VT’ (Virginia Tech) to the proposed station name.”

According to the press release, WMATA’s naming guidelines include:

  • Names should identify the station locations by geographic features such as landmarks or centers of activity.
  • Names should be distinctive and evoke imagery in the mind of the patron.
  • Names should be no longer than 19 characters, except for transfer station names, which should be no longer than 13 characters.

Rendering via City of Alexandria

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What a week full of news in Alexandria.

With city offices closed due to Veterans Day on Wednesday, there were still a number of big stories.

For the second week in a row, our top story was on a fraudulent mailer that was sent out to a number of residents before election day. In the story, households with Joe Biden signs posted in front yards were sent letters with a Northern Virginia postage mark stating that Biden is a pedophile.

On Monday, we reported the third murder in the city this year. Yousef Tarek Omar, a 23-year-old Texas man, was shot to death in the West End on the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 7. Police have released few details of the incident, except the victim’s name, the general time of the incident and that it occurred in the 4800 block of W. Braddock Road.

City Councilwoman Del Pepper announced on Tuesday that she will not seek reelection. Pepper has been on the Alexandria City Council since 1985.

“There’s really not much to say,” Pepper told ALXnow. “There’s a time for everything, and I just felt this was my time. I have enjoyed every minute that I’ve served on the City Council.”

We also covered the city’s recovery plan for parts of the city devastated by the pandemic, and it lists a number of programs and strategies for impacted residents and businesses.

On the coronavirus front, Alexandria surpassed 4,500 cases since the beginning of the pandemic in March. The number of fatalities is still 76, and Latino residents have the highest number of infections.

Additionally, our weekly poll got a lot of attention this week. This week we asked about Thanksgiving plans, and 60% of respondents said they were eating at home with their household, 30% are planning a small gathering with at least one guest, and 10% are planning a large gathering of family/friends.

  1. Alexandrians with Joe Biden Yard Signs Get Anonymous Letters Saying Biden is a Pedophile
  2. BREAKING: 23-Year-Old Shot to Death in City’s Third Murder of the Year
  3. ‘Clyde’s at Mark Center’ and Other Businesses for Sale in Alexandria
  4. Del Ray Staple Al’s Steak House for Sale After Owner’s Death
  5. The Waypoint at Fairlington to Break Ground Next Month
  6. Councilwoman Del Pepper Announces She’s Not Running for Reelection
  7. City Council to Consider Publishing Names of Delinquent Real Estate Taxpayers
  8. Upcoming Signage Plan Could Subtly Shape New Potomac Yard Skyline
  9. One Person Injured in West End Carjacking
  10. Alexandria Parents Start #OpenACPS Sign Campaign as School System Begins Partial Reopening
  11. Alexandria Surpasses 4,500 Cases of COVID-19, Counts Now Rising at Summer Pace

Have a safe weekend!

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The future of Potomac Yard’s building signage may seem overly technical, but the upcoming discussion at the Dec. 1 Planning Commission meeting could shape the future of the neighborhood’s new skyline.

The goal of the signage program, put together by Elkus Manfredi Architects and Roll Barresi & Associates, is to ensure the design of signage throughout Potomac Yard is consistent as new developments are brought forward.

“Phase 1 of the North Potomac Yard redevelopment will establish the Innovation District, a transit-oriented mixed use development characterized by activated streetscapes, a network of open spaces and a vibrant mix of retail, office, residential and academic uses,” a report on the program said. “Consistent with the North Potomac Yard Design Excellence Prerequisites and Criteria, this Coordinated Sign Program views signage from a district-wide perspective, and outlines a cohesive framework for unique and identifiable signage through the use of high quality graphics and a variety of signage styles that are integrated into architectural elements and streetscape throughout the district.”

The program provides a guidelines for the type, size and location of signs throughout Potomac Yard, along with placement and illumination guidelines. Similar sign programs exist in other parts of the city.

“This Coordinated Sign Program establishes a plan for the types, sizes and locations of signage throughout the district and establishes guidelines for sign materials, placement, and method of illumination,” the report said. “This Coordinated Sign Program does not prescribe a formula for the design of individual signs or sign elements, rather, it provides flexibility for individual tenants and users to design creative, unique signs that are integrated with the quality of the buildings and site design, thereby enhancing the visual experience of individuals throughout the district.”

Out, for instance, are the large flat-box style signs, signs with letters mounted above the roof, or signs with internally illuminated backgrounds.

According to the coordinated sign program, the plan is also for pedestrian and vehicle wayfinding signs to be located throughout Potomac Yard. The signs will have maps and other visual guides to help people navigating the new district find their way. Other signs will direct bicycle and pedestrian traffic to North Potomac Yard Park.

Vehicle wayfinding will direct traffic towards parking or to public destinations.

Image via City of Alexandria

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Morning Notes

Beyer says New White House Science Report is Misinformation — “This kind of ridiculous misinformation is something you would expect to see from the government of North Korea.” [Twitter]

Senator Amy Klobuchar Attends GOTV Event in Alexandria — “Glad to join @AlexVADems, @C_Herring, @AmyJacksonVA and Councilwoman Del Pepper at an early voting event in Alexandria, Virginia for Sen. Mark Warner and VA candidates up and down the ballot. Everyone, please make a plan and go vote!” [Twitter]

New Luxury Condos Near Amazon HQ2 and Virginia Tech in Alexandria — “Just minutes from Amazon’s new HQ2 complex in Northern Virginia, The FORTIS Companies of Washington, DC has broken ground on a 138-unit luxury condominium community called Dylan. Its planned 2022 delivery coincides with the highly anticipated opening of the new Potomac Yard Metro Station, a five-minute walk from Dylan’s front door. Dylan’s spacious one- to three-bedroom condos will average 1,200 square feet and will be priced from the $600,000’s to over $1 million.” [Zebra]

Upland Park Development Gets BDAC Approval — “On Monday evening, the Beauregard Design Advisory Committee (BDAC) hosted its the final meeting to discuss Phase 1 of the Upland Park development project, giving approval to the plans to build a new townhome community.” [Alexandria Living]

Fire Department Recommends Battery-Operated Candles this Halloween — “If you have fall/Halloween decorations, use battery-operated candles in jack-o-lanterns & keep all decorations away from open flames to prevent home fires. Read more about celebrating safely & preventing the spread of COVID-19 during your festivities.” [Twitter]

Today’s Weather — “Cloudy (during the day). High 73F. Winds light and variable. Rain showers in the evening will evolve into a more steady rain overnight. Low 59F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall near a half an inch.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Document Control Specialist — “Use knowledge of the legal process and legal terms to analyze the content of legal documents and determine the status of investigative or court proceedings; recognize documents that are missing; and work with attorneys, paralegals, and legal assistants to obtain and organize documents for filing.” [Indeed]

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This was a big week for Alexandria.

Our top story this week was the Alexandria School Board’s decision to reopen schools for students with disabilities, while the future reopening of school for elementary, middle and high schoolers remains in doubt.

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said that the only feasible option for reopening schools — based on distancing and staffing constraints — would be for students to rotate to in-person schooling only one day per week. Hutchings also appeared on CNN and said that ACPS is not likely to fully reopen until there is a vaccine for the coronavirus.

We also reported that the Alexandria City Council approved plans for Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus and the North Potomac Yard development plan, virtually paving the way for the college to open its doors to hundreds of students by 2024.

“This is a very significant set of decisions for the city, and is really going to shape, not just a portion of our city, but really the entirety of our city for a long period of time to come,” said Mayor Justin Wilson.

On the coronavirus front, there are now 75 deaths in Alexandria and there are now or have been more than 4,100 cases since the pandemic began in March. Latino residents continue to lead the case count.

Governor Ralph Northam and Virginia Transportation Secretary Shannon Valentine were in the city on Monday to unveil a team of new zero emission DASH electric buses.

We also reported that the City Council unanimously approved naming the 1000 block of Montgomery Street in Old Town “Earl F. Lloyd Way” in honor of the first Black man to ever play in the National Basketball Association.

Restaurant-wise, we spoke with one of the owners of a pizza and burger joint that is taking over the former location of Pizzeria Paradiso on lower King Street. The Chewish Deli is also now open in Old Town, and the owner of Del Ray Boccato says that his gelato shop will soon open.

Additionally, more than 175 people participated in our weekly poll. With the November 3 election around the corner, this week we asked about voting plans, and 65% of respondents voted by mail/absentee, 31% plan to vote on election day, and 4% are not voting.

Here are ALXnow’s top stories this week in Alexandria:

  1. School Board Shelves Plan to Reopen Schools in 2021, Students with Disabilities Transitioning Back Next Month
  2. City Releasing Torpedo Factory Draft Action Plan Today
  3. City Council Approves Virginia Tech Innovation Campus and North Potomac Yard Development Plan
  4. Alexandria Student Called N-Word in Online Forum, and Not By Another Student
  5. Republican Jeff Jordan Running Uphill Battle Against Incumbent Rep. Don Beyer
  6. The Chewish Deli Opens New Location in Old Town
  7. One Arrested After Attempted Armed Robbery in Alexandria’s West End
  8. Report: ACPS Superintendent Sends Child to Bishop Ireton High School
  9. Female Suspect Flees, Nothing Taken in Attempted Old Town Bank Robbery
  10. Alexandria and Arlington Want a New Future for the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center
  11. Alexandria Courthouse Deep Cleaned After Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19

Have a safe weekend!

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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The Alexandria City Council unanimously approved plans for the first phase of the massive North Potomac Yard redevelopment on Saturday.

Those plans include three academic buildings with significant open space dedicated to computer science research and development programs for the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, open space and a mix of six residential and office buildings.

“This is a very significant set of decisions for the city, and is really going to shape, not just a portion of our city, but really the entirety of our city for a long period of time to come,” said Mayor Justin Wilson.

Saturday’s approval was necessary for Virginia Tech to meet its timeline of being operational at Potomac Yard by fall 2024.

The first phase of the $1 billion campus will see construction of three academic buildings dedicated to computer science research and development programs at Alexandria’s border with Arlington. The permanent campus will take up four acres and will accommodate 750 computer science master’s degree students per year and more than 100 doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows.

“We made a commitment, the city made a commitment to do what he can do to get that campus and academic building open by the fall of 2024,” said land use attorney Cathy Puskar, who represents landowner JBG Smith. “And despite a pandemic and other interruptions, everybody has held to that schedule. So, it really has been a Herculean effort, and we’re really excited to be here today.”

The master plan amendment includes increasing building heights near the proposed Potomac Yard Metro station. Buildings in Block 15 would increase in height from 85 feet to 90 feet, and from 90 feet to 115 feet on Block 18.

Council is expected to approve the design of a pump station in the northern section of the property this winter. The property reserved for the pump station will be a temporary home for outdoor parking lots until the underground lots for the buildings under construction are ready.

Images via City of Alexandria

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What a week it’s been in Alexandria.

Our top story this week was the report that Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. sends one of his children to Bishop Ireton High School. In case you missed it, the story first broke in Theogony, the T.C. Williams High School newspaper.

Hutchings also presented his plan for a phased reopening of ACPS starting next month. The results of a survey over virtual schooling were also released, revealing that screen time and childcare were among the top concerns of students, staff and families.

On the health front, Alexandria exceeded 4,000 total cases of COVID-19 since the first case was reported on March 11.

Additionally, more than 200 people participated in our weekly poll on traveling this holiday season, and 56% reported they will not travel, 27% still plan on traveling, and 17% still haven’t decided.

Crime-wise, we reported that a woman was assaulted in Arlandria on October 11; an arrest was made after an attempted armed robbery in the West End; a West End gas station was robbed of $1,700 in tobacco products; a woman ended up not being charged after firing a warning shot at a man in the 4300 block of Duke Street; and the mother of a man whose truck was stolen in Del Ray received an unexpected phone call from the thief.

There was some good news.

The southern entrance of the Potomac Yard Metro station is really taking shape, at least on paper. This week, the final plans going to the city were made public. The Board of Architectural Review will look at them at their meeting on Wednesday, October 21.

And in recognition of Oyster Week, ALXnow on Thursday emceed the first-ever “Pearl of Alexandria Oyster Eating Contest” between rival Del Ray and Old Town business owners.

Here are ALXnow’s top stories this week in Alexandria:

  1. Report: ACPS Superintendent Sends Child to Bishop Ireton High School
  2. Police: Illegal Drugs Sold in West End Via Snapchat During Pandemic
  3. Republican Jeff Jordan Running Uphill Battle Against Incumbent Rep. Don Beyer
  4. BREAKING: Suspect Arrested for West End Murder
  5. ISIS ‘Beatles’ Held in Alexandria Jail, Charged with American Murders in Syria
  6. Here’s What the Potomac Yard Metro Station’s Southern Entrance Will Look Like
  7. Superintendent Proposing Phased Reopening of Alexandria City Public Schools Starting in November
  8. A Dozen Restaurants are Participating in Old Town Oyster Week
  9. VIDEO: West End Murder Victim Identified
  10. ‘Brewski’s Barkhaus’ is Opening This Saturday
  11. Old Virginia Tobacco Co. Moves Directly Across Street from Longtime Old Town Tobacconist

Have a safe weekend!

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Six months after approving construction for the southern entrance to the Potomac Yard Metro station, the final plans are going to the Board of Architectural Review on Wednesday, October 21.

City Council unanimously approved the second entrance for the Potomac Yard Metro station in April. The project includes a bridge over wetlands that connects to the northern entrance, . The city is planning for the southern entrance to open at the same time as the station in March 2022.

The station’s designers have made small revisions to their initial proposal, and the final design has small modifications, including the size and angle of the southern pavilion entrance roof.

Images via City of Alexandria

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Construction of the Potomac Yard Metro station is track as the City Council prepares to approve the final southern entrance site plan for the project this December.

“Right now we are both on time and on budget,” Daphne Kott, a project manager in the Department of Project Implementation, told City Council in a legislative meeting on Tuesday night. “Every day there’s three active construction areas… Working on the foundation of the platform, in the mezzanine and continuing to work on the north pavilion.”

The city has also been reimbursed most of $70 million worth of grants for the project, which is estimated to cost $320 million. Last month, Council approved a proposal adding Virginia Tech’s initials to the station, and the name change has yet to be approved by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

“It’s amazing to see something that we talked about for a quarter of a century finally start to come to reality,” Mayor Justin Wilson said.

The Metro station is planned to open by spring 2022.

Images via City of Alexandria

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Alexandria was dominated by violent crime events this week.

The second murder of 2020 occurred on Sept. 30, and ALXnow identified the victim as 57-year-old John Harding Pope. Mayor Justin Wilson and members of the City Council offered their condolences and said that justice will be served.

Our poll asking residents if they feel safe in Alexandria received more than 500 votes, and 60% feel somewhat safe, 29% feel very safe and 12% feel not safe at all.

Old Town regulars will also be sad to learn that Miegs Hodge, a 1982 graduate of T.C. Williams High School, died in a car crash on N. Washington Street on Tuesday, Sept. 29.

Not on this week’s list is Friday’s breaking news story that Jesse Bjerke, a former nurse at Inova Alexandria Hospital, was sentenced to 65 years in prison for raping two lifeguards at gunpoint.

There was some positive news. A new gym will be opening in the West End later this month, a local chef won on the ‘Chopped’ reality show, and the city’s unemployment rate continues to trend downward.

Here are ALXnow’s top stories this week in Alexandria:

  1. Homeowner Shot in Targeted Del Ray Home Invasion
  2. UPDATED: Driver Seriously Injured in Old Town Crash
  3. Police Investigate Violent Early Morning Crimes in Alexandria
  4. West End Shootout Wounds Two and Hits Buildings and Cars
  5. Alexandria Wants to Make Affordable Housing Contributions Mandatory for Developers
  6. Man Dies After Crash on N. Washington Street in Old Town
  7. Avanti Holdings to Build New West End Home for ‘Alexandria Lighting Supply’ Store
  8. Man Shot on Quantrell Avenue in City’s Second Murder of 2020
  9. Poll: How Safe Do You Feel in Alexandria?
  10. Republican Jeff Jordan Running Uphill Battle Against Incumbent Rep. Don Beyer
  11. Virginia Tech Pump Station Approval Paves Way for 4.5 Extra Acres at Potomac Yard Park

Have a safe weekend!

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