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

Our top story was on President Joe Biden stopping by the Sportrock Climbing Center in Alexandria last Friday with First Lady Jill Biden and Governor Ralph Northam.

Seeing the president around town is getting to be a regular thing. The president, who also visited in April, discussed “the state’s progress against the coronavirus pandemic” and the celebration of “summer as Virginia lifts all COVID-19 distancing and capacity restrictions.”

This week, we also followed up on a New York Times report about the Virginia Theological Seminary making reparations payments to slavery descendants. The program was launched in 2019, and the school issued $2,100 in annual payments to 15 families in February.

On Wednesday, the Fire Department released its restructuring plan, which goes into effect June 12, and is intended to help emergency response times by shifting resources. AFD will conduct community conversations on the restructuring on Saturday, June 5, at 10 a.m.; Monday, June 7, at 2 p.m. and Thursday, June 10, at 7 p.m.

Closing the short workweek, on Friday Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown announced that his retirement. Brown’s last day is June 25, and the City Manager is soon expected to name an acting chief to lead the department while the city’s undergoes a national search for a permanent replacement.

Election stories

Important stories

Top stories

  1. UPDATED: President Biden and Gov. Northam visited Alexandria this morning
  2. JUST IN: Virginia State Police chase U-Haul pickup truck through Alexandria
  3. Bennett-Parker says Levine mailer on Commonwealth of Virginia letterhead is ethics breach
  4. Goodie’s Frozen Custard & Treats opens in Old Town
  5. Hank & Mitzi’s Italian Kitchen closes for the foreseeable future in Old Town North
  6. Volunteers needed this weekend to help clear dangerous stretch of Mount Vernon Trail
  7. Wilson and Silberberg mayoral debate finale opens possibility of ‘tweaking’ Seminary Road Diet
  8. Homegrown Restaurant Group gives employees raise to $15 an hour, will ease COVID restrictions at 6 restaurants
  9. ‘Rock It Grill’ eyeing karaoke expansion, bringing back Halloween party
  10. Here’s the order that City Council candidates will appear on the ballot for the June 8 democratic primary
  11. Ownership of Landmark’s streets could make a big difference down the road

Photo via White House/Twitter

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Nine years after closing, the GenOn plant is an otherworldly scene reminiscent more of Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Stalker” than the dense city-scape surrounding it.

Old railroad carts are rusted and mummified in vines. Trees burst through old offices. It’s an abandoned, contaminated wilderness that Hilco Redevelopment Partners is hoping to turn into a sprawling mixed-use development.

At a tour today, Hilco staff outlined some of the challenges — and opportunities — of redeveloping the former power plant.

The first obstacle lies in clearing away environmental issues. As a former industrial site, the soil will require significant remediation efforts from leaky storage tanks that have bled pollutants into the soil.

In terms of development, the primary x-factor is how much leeway Hilco will be able to get from its neighbors.

To the west, the site is bordered by a Norfolk Southern rail line that’s been out of use for years, but is still owned by the rail company.

Melissa Schrock, senior vice president of mixed-use development for Hilco, said Norfolk Southern has expressed an openness in the past to divest from the rail line. The company selectively participates in the “Rails-to-Trails” program, and Schrock said the city’s current envisioning for the rail line is as a linear park.

On the eastern side of the site, the GenOn plant is separated from the Potomac River by the Mount Vernon Trail, which is overseen by the National Park Service. While ultimately the developer hopes to do more to integrate the Trail into the site, Schrock said it’s too early to say if that will be possible.

“We’re very early in discussions with the Park Service,” Schrock said.

Lastly, there is a Pepco substation at the center of the property. The substation provides power to D.C. and is still active, meaning that it won’t be going anywhere despite development coming up around it. Schrock said the goal is to build something that will screen the facility from the surrounding development.

Schrock said that the substation can be utilized as a community asset in some way, although Pepco will have some say on the design.

“We’ve been working on a collaboration with Pepco and it’s been a great partnership,” Schrock said. “It’s too early to say what the screen will look like. We haven’t designed the screening but we want to turn it into an asset.”

Schrock said Hilco is planning to submit preliminary designs to the City of Alexandria in July with the first round of public comment to occur around in September.

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It’s Memorial Day weekend in Alexandria, and it’s also a short work week for ALXnow.

Yes, we’re taking a quick breather by taking off most of tomorrow (Friday, May 28).

Not to worry. We’re still covering tonight’s mayoral debate between Mayor Justin Wilson and former Mayor Allison Silberberg at 7 p.m. This will be the fourth and final candidate conversation hosted by the Seminary Ridge Civic Association, and our story will be published on Friday morning.

Our top post this week is about Hilco Redevelopment Partners, which is planning to host guided tours of the Potomac River Generating Station (PRGS) site in Old Town North. The tours will be held on June 4 and 5, and the property is being planned for a mixed-use development.

On a sad note, former Virginia Senator John Warner passed away this week at his home in Old Town. He was 94, and is being recognized around the country as a conservative icon from a bygone age of political cordiality. Also, on Sunday, former Alexandria Delegate Richard R.G. Hobson died.

And local businesses are adapting to this Friday’s easing of COVID restrictions throughout Virginia. In Alexandria, the Health Department is launching the new ALX Promise Gold accreditation program for businesses to complete in the days ahead.

Election stories

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Developer offers tours of abandoned Alexandria power plant before demolition
  2. Amazon Fresh supermarket planned for former Shopper’s Food Warehouse in Potomac Yard
  3. Photos: More than half of the Potomac Yard Metro Station is complete
  4. School Board says swimming pool colocation a form of ‘reparations’ for Alexandria
  5. Go-go music star-turned Alexandria teacher ‘Sugar Bear’ in the spotlight after Oscars shoutout
  6. Here’s a list of restaurants and other businesses for sale in Alexandria
  7. Here’s a preview of what’s ahead for Alexandria’s post-pandemic economic development
  8. Catholic Charities hopes to turn vacant Carlyle restaurant into workforce training kitchen
  9. Here’s the order that City Council candidates will appear on the ballot for the June 8 democratic primary
  10. Former Alexandria Delegate Richard R.G. Hobson dies
  11. Alexandria Police investigating knife fight, prostitution and drugs at West End hotel

Have a safe weekend!

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If you’ve been yearning for a tour of the Chernobyl-looking GenOn abandoned power facility overlooking the Potomac River before its torn down for redevelopment, the property’s developer is offering a unique opportunity to do so.

On Friday, June 4, and Saturday, June 5, from 8-11 a.m., Hilco Redevelopment Partners is planning to host guided tours of the Potomac River Generating Station (PRGS) site in Old Town North.

“The tours are the third in a series of community meetings regarding the transformation of the PRGS site and will offer members of the public an opportunity to visit the site,” Hilco said on its website, “which has been closed off from Old Town North and the waterfront for decades.”

The site was permanently closed in 2012. Hilco purchased the site last November and has announced plans to eventually convert the property into mixed-use development.

Tours are planned at 15-minute intervals and groups are limited to 10 people.

Alternative dates are June 18 and 19 if there’s inclement weather. Mobility assistance is available if needed and a translator will be available for those requiring Spanish language translation.

The spots have already partially filled up and, as or writing, only early-morning slots were available on Friday and Saturday.

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What a week in Alexandria. Here are some of the highlights.

The Alexandria City Council on Wednesday approved its Fiscal Year 2022 $770.7 million budget on Wednesday, and it includes a 2 cent real estate tax reduction. It’s the first time that’s happened in 15 years, and the budget also fully funds Alexandria City Public Schools’ request and includes a 1% raise for city and state employees.

But perhaps the biggest news of the week came with City Councilman Mo Seifeldein’s proposal to eliminate School Resource Officer funding from the budget. The effort was supported along by Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, Councilman Canek Aguirre and Councilman John Taylor Chapman, who voted along with the group after failing to save the program in a last-minute effort.

Crime stories dominated many headlines, and Police Chief Michael Brown spoke with us this week about his department’s efforts to reduce destructive elements throughout the city. More from that interview will be published next week.

In this week’s poll, we asked about the importance of political endorsements for local candidates. Out of 222 responses, 48% (107 votes) don’t consider endorsements while voting; 39% (86 votes) said endorsements influence their decision; and 14% (29 votes) feel that endorsements hold a lot of sway.

Election stories

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Parking issues plague Potomac Yard, city looks to create residential parking district
  2. Knife pulled on woman who chases would-be thieves in Old Town
  3. D.C. man arrested after 130 mph chase leads to crash on Interstate 495
  4. Police: Armed robberies occur minutes apart in Del Ray and Arlandria
  5. Two injured in hit-and-run in Old Town, driver leaves car and flees on foot
  6. Too noisy? City Council is considering revising Alexandria’s noise ordinance
  7. Alexandria City Council to end School Resource Officer program at Alexandria City Public Schools
  8. Alexandria man arrested for firing gun at 7-Eleven door near Braddock Road Metro station
  9. Here’s the order that City Council candidates will appear on the ballot for the June 8 democratic primary
  10. JUST IN: Power outages across Alexandria as strong winds hit the city
  11. What’s next for GenOn and the rest of Old Town North?

Have a safe weekend!

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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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It was a cold and snowy week in Alexandria.

Our top story this week was on plans to redevelop the GenOn power plant in Old Town North. It looks like deconstruction of the plant will start in 2023 and developers are looking at converting it into an urban, mixed-use property with housing.

The short work week started with news that Alexandria reached 10,000 cases of COVID-19. The latest figures show that there are 10,113 cases and 104 total deaths in the city, according to the Virginia Department of Health. The city’s seven-day moving average is now 35.1 cases.

A 49-year-old homeless woman was found dead in Arlandria on Tuesday morning, and the mayor told us that homelessness is on the rise in the city. ALXnow is following up with the city on the issue.

Tuesday morning also brought news that Alexandria City Councilman Mo Seifeldein abandoned his run for mayor and will not seek reelection to council. Seifeldein was hired as a trial lawyer by the U.S. Department of Labor in Jan. 2020, and while he can finish out his term on council, he can not run unless he files as an independent candidate.

In other election news, the race for city council is starting to get crowded, as Bill Rossello, a co-founder of the Bring Integrity Back to Alexandria Facebook Group, just threw his hat into the ring.

On the vaccine front, the waiting list has surpassed 45,000 and it may be until late summer that the vaccine is widely available in the city. On Thursday, Mayor Justin Wilson also asked the governor to open vaccine eligibility for restaurant, personal care and retail workers.

More than 200 people responded to this week’s poll on power outages. There have been a number of outages over tha last year, and 73% of respondents reported experiencing an outage, while 26% report that their homes haven’t been impacted.

In case you missed them, here are some other important stories this week:

Here are our top stories of the week in Alexandria:

  1. Developers Lay Out Multi-Year Timeline for GenOn Plant Redevelopment
  2. BREAKING: Homeless Woman Found Dead on Mount Vernon Avenue
  3. Alexandria Boxer Troy Isley Goes Pro With Big Fight Next Week
  4. Seifeldein Not Running for Mayor, Leaving Alexandria City Council
  5. ALXnow’s Top Stories this Week in Alexandria
  6. Director of Finance: Alexandria’s Real Estate Assessments Are a ‘Tale of Two Markets’
  7. Local Business Owner Robbed of Car While Pumping Gas at Old Town Gas Station
  8. Torpedo Factory Overhaul Heads to City Council Next Month
  9. Snow: Up to 6 Inches of Snow and Ice Expected in Alexandria
  10. BREAKING: Alexandria Police Investigate Second Car Stolen While Owner Pumps Gas
  11. Local Facebook Watchdog Group Founder Bill Rossello Announces Run for City Council

Have a safe weekend!

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It was a cold week in Alexandria.

With bits of snow and temperatures hovering at around freezing, our top story this week was on Allison Priebe, the local business owner who was robbed while pumping gas in Old Town. Police later released suspect photos and advise anyone pumping gas to keep their keys with them and lock their vehicles.

On the coronavirus front, Alexandria is now at 9,903 cases and no new deaths, which is an increase of about 150 cases since Monday’s report. Meanwhile, as the city contends with a growing vaccine waiting list, the Health Department is warning residents of COVID-19 vaccine scams.

More than 260 people participated in our weekly poll. This week we asked about voting in the upcoming City Council and mayoral elections, and 87% plan on voting in the primary and general election; 6% only plan on voting in the primary; 5% aren’t voting and 1% will only vote in the primary.

In case you missed them, here are some other important stories this week:

Here are our top stories of the week in Alexandria:

  1. Local Business Owner Robbed of Car While Pumping Gas at Old Town Gas Station
  2. BREAKING: Large Power Outage Reported in Old Town
  3. ACPS Releases Semifinalist Names for T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School Renaming
  4. Just In: ‘QAnon Shaman’ from Capitol Siege Transferred to Alexandria Jail
  5. Poll: What Do You Think of the Proposed Heritage Development in Old Town
  6. Mayor: Brace Yourselves, It Could be End of Summer Before City Moves into Next Vaccine Phase
  7. BREAKING: Councilman Mo Seifeldein Running for Alexandria Mayor, Hatch Act Conflict in Question
  8. Alexandria Sheriff: Jailed ‘QAnon Shaman’s’ Organic Food Request is Normal
  9. Just In: James Lewis Files Paperwork to Enter City Council Race
  10. Photos: The Regal Potomac Yard Movie Theater is Being Torn Down
  11. City Councilman’s Virtual Super Bowl Party Ambushed by Racists and Nazi Trolls

Photo via Alexandria Police

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Morning Notes

Alexandria Police Participate in Honoring Fallen Capitol Police Officer — “APD participated in the memorial service for fallen U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. Our officers rendered honors for Ofc. Sicknick, and joined the escort from the U.S. Capitol to Arlington National Cemetery. Our prayers are with his family and friends.” [Twitter]

Free COVID-19 Self-Testing Kiosks Available Around City— “Visit a Curative COVID-19 self-testing kiosk in Alexandria for a free test. Tests do not require government ID; service available in English and Spanish. Make an appointment at Curative.com. Walk up testing also available. For more info: alexandriava.gov/114730.” [Twitter]

Beyer Challenges House Republicans Over Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene — “Instead Greene uses her official position to double down on dehumanizing rhetoric. She claims she is a victim, and is raising money off the outrage over her calls for violence. Republicans can reject her violent ideology or accept it. That is the choice they have to make now.” [Twitter]

DASH Says All Riders Must Wear Face Masks Starting Feb. 8 — “Effective Monday, February 8, passengers without a mask will not be permitted on any DASH bus. In accordance with federal law, all passengers are required to wear a face mask that covers both the nose and mouth while awaiting, boarding, traveling on or disembarking any DASH bus to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Passengers who refuse to wear a mask will not be permitted to board any DASH bus. If a passenger removes their mask after boarding, they will not be allowed to continue their trip and must disembark the bus as soon as safely possible. DASH maintains a supply of masks on every bus for passengers without masks who cannot delay their trip to obtain one. If a passenger does not have a mask, they are encouraged to ask the operator for one when boarding the bus.”

Mayor Tours Shuttered Power Plant Before Community Meeting — “Next week (the 11th), the new owner of the former power-plant site on Alexandria’s northern waterfront will be holding a community meeting to discuss redevelopment plans. I had an opportunity to walk the site and discuss the future of this important location.” [Twitter]

City Says Essential Workers Should Pre-Register for Vaccine Waitlist — “Individuals in the Phase 1b frontline essential worker categories should pre-register for the COVID-19 vaccine waitlist by filling out this form. Those who have already completed the form should not fill it out again. Duplicates require additional staff time to clean and sort, and will not result in faster vaccination. AHD is simultaneously vaccinating those who are ages 65 and older and Phase 1b frontline essential workers.” [City of Alexandria]

Fish Market Gets Help from Barstool Fund — “The Fish Market, a family-owned business restaurant and raw bar in a centuries-old building, has been in business on lower King Street for 45 years. After submitting a video to apply for the Barstool Fund, the restaurant was chosen as one of the small businesses to receive money to help keep it open.” [Patch]

City Wins Award for Carpenter’s Shelter Development — “The City has received the 2020 Audrey Nelson Community Development Achievement Award for supporting the construction of The Bloom/Carpenter’s Shelter, an innovative project that co-locates 97 affordable housing units with a homeless shelter.” [Twitter]

Today’s Weather — “Sunny, along with a few afternoon clouds. High 48F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph… Cloudy with occasional rain after midnight. Low 37F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 70%.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Professional Dog Walkers — “As a Dog Walker with Fur-Get Me Not you can expect flexible scheduling, paid training, 24/7 support from both our office staff as well as our on-call managers– and more. Most dog walks are between the hours of 10:00am and 4:00pm, typically on a recurring schedule Monday-Friday. We compensate at $8.75 per 25-minute visit, and offer two walks per hour to maximize your earning ability — and all of our walks are one-on-one so you can develop great relationships with the dogs on your route!” [Indeed]

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Dominion Energy representatives say that the massive power outages that affected thousands of homes in Alexandria and Arlington last Friday (October 23) were “unique,” and caused by a piece of equipment that failed at its Glebe Road substation.

“This was a unique. Typically, you might experience an outage on one single circuit,” Tim Sargeant, Dominion Energy’s external affairs manager in Northern Virginia, told City Council on Tuesday night. “Needless to say the outage occurred on multiple circuits.”

Sargeant reported that at around 7 p.m., a piece of equipment at the station failed, which caused an outage to 16,504 customers.

“Electric service was restored to 11,247 customers within one minute with the remaining customers restored in increments ranging from 53 minutes to 80 minutes,” Sargeant said. “After the first restoration, approximately 8,000 customers experienced multiple moments of brief service interruptions during the next two hours.”

Then at around 9:15 p.m., another outage affected 8,017 customers after Dominion rerouted electric service to other circuits.

“The additional load on the circuit triggered protective devices that interrupted service as a precaution, as service was restored one of those customers in increments of 18 minutes, 14 minutes, and seven minutes,” Sargeant said, adding that Dominion will send the city a report on recent outages.

City Councilman John Taylor Chapman said that power outages in Alexandria have been too frequent.

Mayor Justin Wilson, for instance, listed outages on social media on May 10June 17, July 7, July 22, August 2, August 8, October 12 and October 17.

“That does seem like a lot of outages for a pretty short amount of time,” Chapman said. “We definitely want our residents to believe that they have reliable power.”

Wilson said that he getting carryout at a restaurant on Mount Vernon Avenue when the lights went out.

“I did watch two restaurants right in front of me close down, because they just gave up because of power going on and off and customer after customer walking up and being told to go away,” Wilson said. “To have a Friday night off, it’s heartbreaking for them. That’s a lot of lost revenue.”

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