Alexandria, VA

Alexandria is a good place to weather a recession — potentially good news on a day in which the Dow plummeted more 2,000 points at one point.

The city ranked No. 23 on a new list of the 25 “Most Recession-Resistant Cities” in 2020, according to the website SmartAsset. Nearby Arlington ranked No. 15 on the list.

Alexandria and others on the list — Frisco, Texas was No. 1 — were ranked on the basis of employment, housing and social assistance available to residents.

“The Great Recession wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy, with unemployment peaking at 10.1% in October 2009,” a SmartAsset spokesperson said, in introducing the rankings. “Not all cities, however, were hit equally by this economic crisis and some are better equipped to weather the next downturn.”

Federal employment and growth spurred by Amazon’s HQ2 should help cushion blows from a new recession in Alexandria, though the last major downturn — the Great Recession of the late aughts — did have negative impacts on small local businesses and nonprofits.

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Morning Notes

Suggestion of Affordable Housing at School Sets Listserv Ablaze — “A contractor for Alexandria’s public schools set off an online firestorm by accidentally including a rendering of an apartment building with affordable units in a presentation about modernization plans for an elementary school… the mistake occasioned a ‘3 day+ rager‘ about affordable housing, racism, and–because this is Alexandria–dockless scooters, the halal chicken slaughterhouse, and a ‘road diet’ imposed on a different leafy neighborhood.” [Washingtonian]

Pushback on (Actual) Affordable Housing at School Proposal — “Members of the MacArthur Advisory Committee and the community were left scrambling last week after the city indicated it would be exploring affordable housing on the Douglas MacArthur Elementary School site. The announcement that the city would not only be exploring co-location options, but also providing funding to Alexandria City Public Schools for an architectural exploration of potential housing options, surprised members of the advisory committee.” [Alexandria Times]

Neighbors Decry Church Expansion Plans — Nearby residents are speaking out against and appealing Alexandria Presbyterian Church’s expansion plan, expressing concerns about the size of the planned building and the possibility of increased traffic. The proposal, however, does not go beyond what standard zoning allows for the site and thus is unlikely to be nixed on appeal. [Patch, Alexandria Times]

Alexandria Glass Drop-off Deemed a Success — “Fairfax County said this month that the glass coming from dedicated collection bins in Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax County and elsewhere in Northern Virginia has been of sufficiently high quality that, in addition to being crushed and used as construction materials, some is now going to a processing facility and is being recycled into new glass products, like bottles and fiberglass.” [ARLnow, Fairfax County]

Child Car Seat Inspections This Weekend — “Come this Saturday’s (Jan 25) FREE APD Child Car Seat Safety Inspection (from 8AM-12PM). Make sure your child’s car seat is installed properly! Open to everyone–you don’t need to be a Alexandria City resident. There will be covered parking in case it rains.” [Twitter]

Old Town Restaurant Makes Mag’s Top 20 — Nasime, at 1209 King Street, is No. 13 on Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants list. The magazine wrote: “This sliver of a Japanese dining room in Old Town serves a single five-course menu — a great value — each night.” [Washingtonian]

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Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson is one of six mayors who are making a difference and “shaping urban America,” at least according to The Hill newspaper.

Wilson made the list, which was published Wednesday, alongside the mayors of Kansas City (M0.), Tampa, Brooklyn Park (Minn.), Minneapolis and Phoenix.

In its write-up, the paper lauded Wilson and the city for helping to bring the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus to Potomac Yard, in conjunction with Amazon’s HQ2 coming to Arlington.

More from The Hill:

…when two local governments just outside of Washington put together their bid for Amazon’s HQ2 project, they decided on a different approach, one that would provide a lasting benefit to the city of Alexandria and Arlington County even if Amazon’s tax revenues didn’t fill the gap. To prove to Amazon that its residents would be qualified for the estimated 25,000 high-tech jobs the company would bring, the cities helped bring a new Virginia Tech campus to their region.

“There was very much a feeling that the benefits of the [Amazon] investment were going to accrue to a very small percentage of the residents,” said Justin Wilson, the Democratic mayor of Alexandria. “We felt like there was an opportunity to chart a different course.”

Working together across their shared border, Alexandria’s government and the Arlington County Board… are planning for new housing growth, workforce development, collaboration with the new Virginia Tech campus and area schools. They plan special outreach to minority- and women-owned businesses, and they hope to protect low-income housing in minority-heavy communities near Amazon’s coming Crystal City hub.

“We looked at every opportunity that we thought would be able to seize the benefits of this investment and make sure it benefitted everyone in the community,” Wilson said. “We’re still fleshing this all out. The good news is there’s real excitement in the community.”

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Morning Notes

Alexandria Among Most Festive Xmas Cities — Thanks in part of the Scottish Christmas Walk Parade and the annual boat parade, Alexandria has made Wall Street 24/7’s list of the Most Festive Christmas Cities in the U.S. [24/7 Wall Street]

City Warns of PCP Overdoses — “The City of Alexandria has responded to eight overdoses related to suspected phencyclidine (PCP) use in the past two months, one of which was fatal. City officials are concerned about the potency and deadly nature of the PCP being distributed and used in the region.” [City of Alexandria]

Confederate Statue Struck — “The Appomattox statue in Old Town commemorating Alexandria’s Confederate troops was struck by a vehicle last night. Its base looks like it was moved quite a bit by the impact.” [Twitter/@Drubaru]

Local Doctor Honored — “For Dr. Jennifer Lightfoot of Alexandria, hearing loss hasn’t held her back. In fact, it shaped her life’s work and recently won her a 2019 Oticon Focus on People Award… Winning the award in the practitioner category solidified the belief in her work with hearing impaired children.” [Patch]

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Alexandria has ranked highly on the 2019 Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Municipal Equality Index of cities, with a 90/100 score, but it also highlighted where there’s room to improve.

Alexandria’s lowest category is in non-discrimination laws, where HRC gave Alexandria 15 of 30 possible points. Of localities in Virginia, Alexandria ranked third behind Richmond and Arlington. Where Alexandria loses is in its protections for gender identity, where there are no protections in employment, housing, or public accommodations from discrimination.

Mayor Justin Wilson said that much of this goes back to the Dillon Rule, which means that localities like Alexandria can only exercise powers expressly granted by the state. But Wilson, and others in city leadership, have said they’re hopeful that the new Democratic majority in the Virginia legislature will mean loosening some of those local restrictions.

“The remaining points that we’re missing have to do with areas where some of the state law limits us,” Wilson said. “There’s some ambiguity for what we can do and can’t do. I suspect we’re also about to see some state laws change in that regard [concerning] laws on gender identity and gender equality.”

Wilson said the biggest current issue is that, depending on how it’s interpreted, state law forbids localities from including protections against discrimination for gender identity and expression the way localities can for other protected classes. Wilson says this extends to city government, where some benefits have been extended for transgender employees.

There is still more work to be done for offering protections, Wilson said.

While Richmond and Arlington face the same Dillon Rule restrictions, where Arlington rates higher is in services it provides to support LGBTQ youth, homeless, and the elderly, none of which HRC said was available in Alexandria.

Photo via Human Rights Campaign

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Morning Notes

Carpenter’s Shelter Getting Amazon Donation — “A nonprofit that is building a $2 million facility for the homeless in Old Town Alexandria says it has reached its fundraising goal after receiving $300,000 from Amazon, Inc… The donation from Amazon is the latest example of how the retail giant is trying to be a good corporate citizen in Northern Virginia.” [Washington Post, Patch]

Digital Plaudits for City — “Alexandria has been ranked the fourth top digital city of its size in the United States, according to the 2019 Digital Cities Survey… This is the 15th consecutive year Alexandria has been ranked in the top 10, including two years in first place.” [City of Alexandria]

MacArthur Students to Relocate to Henry — “Alexandria City Council has given the green light to Alexandria City Public Schools to use the old Patrick Henry Elementary School facility as temporary swing space for Douglas MacArthur Elementary School students, potentially reallocating $60 million dollars and speeding up the delivery of the new school.” [ACPS]

Closures Planned for Thanksgiving — “All City of Alexandria government offices will be closed on Thursday, November 28, and Friday, November 29, in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday.” [City of Alexandria]

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Morning Notes

Residential Parking Permit Changes in the Works — “Changes to the city’s residential parking permit program are underway and both residents and businesses are concerned about what the proposed changes could mean… The most controversial change, which staff has since removed from its list of recommended changes, would have eliminated the three-hour parking option for non-permit holders in RPP districts.” [Alexandria Times]

Port City Brings Home Gold Medal — “Several Northern Virginia craft brewers brought home medals from the 2019 Great American Beer Festival, including two gold medals… Port City Brewing in Alexandria won a gold medal for its German Pilsner in the Kellerbier or Zwickelbier category.” [WTOP]

T.C. Grads Raise Money for Scholarships — “Nobody remembers the T.C. Williams Titans like former graduates, and this week the final totals were tallied in the annual Clash of the Titans fundraiser for the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria. In all, T.C. alumni raised $46,736 for the fund, which annually gives $1 million in scholarships. And this year, bragging rights for the class to raise the most goes to… the T.C. Williams Class of 1993, which raised $5,870.” [Zebra]

More Plaudits for the City — “Southern Living Magazine has named Alexandria the perfect setting for a Hallmark Christmas movie… “You’ll find yourself wondering: ‘Was that Candace Cameron Bure I just saw crossing King Street?'” Southern Living wrote. [Alexandria Living]

Smoke Alarm Drive This Weekend — “VOLUNTEER OPP: We’re partnering with @RedCrossNCR to install smoke alarms for residents in the Westover area on Saturday, Nov. 16.” [Twitter/@AlexandriaVAFD]

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Morning Notes

Del Ray More Influential Than Old Town? — “For many years, Old Town dominated city politics. Del Ray didn’t even become part of the city until 1930. Now it seems the influence of the ‘little neighborhood that could’ has become outsized. Del Ray has about 250 more active registered voters, and those precincts had a higher turnout last year.” [Gazette Packett]

Old Town Ranks High on Oprah Xmas List — “Old Town Alexandria in Northern Virginia was recently named one of the 19 most magical Christmas towns and villages within the world, by O, The Oprah Magazine. Old Town ranks No. 7 on the list, followed by Santa Claus, Indiana and Mont Tremblant, Quebec.” [WTOP, Alexandria Living]

Holiday Toy, Gift Card Drive — “The holiday season can be a tough time for families affected by domestic violence and sexual assault. The City encourages the community to support these families by donating gift cards or unwrapped new toys.” [City of Alexandria, Twitter]

Local News Roundtable Discussion — ALXnow’s Vernon Miles was among the local journalists to appear on T.C. Williams High School’s daily news show, Behind the Headlines. Topics discussed included “scooters in Alexandria, Amazon coming to Arlington and the controversy of T.C. Williams football field lights.” [YouTube]

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Next time you find yourself on the 400 block of Queen Street, take a moment to look around and realize you’re on one of the most charming streets in America.

The designation comes courtesy of Insider.com, which also included Boston’s Acorn Street, Charleston’s Rainbow Row and San Francisco’s Steiner Street on the new list.

“Alexandria, Virginia’s Old Town district is filled with picturesque, cobblestone streets and charming historic homes,” the publication wrote. “Queen Street in particular offers exquisite views and is known for being the location of America’s skinniest historic home.”

Photo via Google Maps

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The City of Alexandria is among the country’s best small cities, according to new rankings.

Condé Nast Traveler magazine ranked Alexandria the No. 3 small city in the U.S. Charleston, South Carolina ranked first on the list, which was based on votes from 600,000 readers about cities with a population under 350,000 people. Santa Fe, New Mexico ranked No. 2.

“Washingtonians are all in on the secret, but it’s no surprise the rest of the world is catching up: Alexandria, Virginia, the charming, historic city just across the Potomac River from our nation’s capital, draws travelers and would-be residents alike,” the magazine wrote. “Most folks start to imagine moving there just after setting foot in Old Town, once they’ve strolled the red brick sidewalks, clocking street after street of perfectly preserved rowhouses from the 18th and 19th centuries.”

The ranking included a a sun-washed photo of restaurants Vermilion and Vaso’s Mediterranean Bistro on King Street.

Alexandria beat out Savannah, Georgia (fourth place) and Key West, Florida (fifth place) and Aspen, Colorado (sixth place) in the list of top ten cities.

“When you visit, scope out King Street, packed with boutiques, restaurants, and specialty shops, before landing at the waterfront,” the magazine advised. “End the day at Gadsby’s Tavern, where some of our founding fathers used to drink, and don’t mind the actors in colonial garb performing for you.”

Washington, D.C., meanwhile, ranked No. 5 among large cities on the list.

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