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Four Mile Road in Arlandria (image via Google Maps)

After work on city sidewalks and alleyways, Alexandria is headed back to Seminary Road for more neighborhood street resurfacing over the next week.

Between yesterday (Sept. 6) and next Friday (Sept. 16), the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services will be hitting up several neighborhood streets around Seminary Hill and Arlandria.

“Residents whose streets are scheduled for resurfacing receive advance notice of paving work — typically by displayed project signs and/or letters,” the city said in a release. “Temporary ‘No Parking’ signs will also be posted before work begins. Please be sure to observe signs to avoid tickets and towing of vehicles.”

The full list of streets being resurfaced over the next week:

  • Bennett Street (from Saylor Place to end)
  • Saylor Place (entire length)
  • Sterling Avenue (from North Quaker Lane to end)
  • Coventry Lane (from North Quaker Lane to end)
  • South Floyd Street (from Duke Street to Wheeler Avenue)
  • Notabene Drive (from Old Dominion Boulevard to Four Mile Road)
  • Four Mile Road (from Mount Vernon Avenue to Florence Drive)
  • Aspen Street (from Landover Road to Russell Road)

Image via Google Maps

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Outage on Seminary Hill (image via Dominion Energy)

Updated 11:50 a.m. — As of around 11:30 a.m. the power outage was resolved

Earlier: Around 900 Alexandria residents are currently without power due to an outage near James K Polk Elementary School.

The school itself hasn’t been hit with the outage, but Dominion’s outage map says 895 of their neighbors have.

The cause of the outage is still under investigation. The area was also hit with outages during the storm last week.

The estimated time of restoration is between 1-4 p.m., though those tend to be conservative estimates.

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A conceptual rendering of The Waypoint at Fairlington (Image via Wesley Housing)

Updated 8/5 — The Feathers Bilingual Academy is opening at the Fairlington Presbyterian Church at the same site, not at The Waypoint at Fairlington

A new daycare center called Feathers Bilingual Academy has submitted an application to open at Fairlington Presbyterian Church (3846 King Street) near The Waypoint at Fairlington, a new 81-unit affordable housing development set to open this fall.

The application said the center focuses on early education for children ages 16 months to 5 years old.

Feathers Bilingual Academy will have a capacity for 52 children with approximately eight teachers. There have already been some job postings for positions like pre-school teacher and bilingual toddler lead teacher.

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North Jordan Street, slated for street repaving (image via Google Maps)

July is packed with holidays in Alexandria: Independence Day, the city’s birthday, and most importantly peak street repaving season.

The Department of Transportation and Environmental Services unveiled the latest batch of streets targeted for resurfacing and maintenance over the next two weeks, many of them around the Seminary Hill and North Ridge neighborhoods:

  • Anderson Lane (from West Windsor Avenue to Richards Lane)
  • North Garland Street (from Fort Worth Avenue to End)
  • Greenwood Place (from Seminary Road to Circle)
  • King James Place (from Seminary Road to End)
  • Westminster Place (from Monticello Boulevard to End)
  • Mayer Place (from Allison Street to End)
  • George Mason Place (from Monticello Boulevard to End)
  • North Howard Street (from North Jordan Street to Raleigh Avenue)
  • Juniper Place (from North Jordan Street to End)
  • Knox Place

The city is also working through sidewalk maintenance, including further work on the King Street sidewalk that started earlier this year.

Image via Google Maps

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Seminary Road and N. Jordan Street, image via Google Maps

Parts of Seminary Road were shut down last night and early this morning after what police are investigating as a single-vehicle crash following a possible road rage incident near Inova Alexandria Hospital.

Police said there were gunshots reported during the road rage incident. Alexandria Police spokesman Marcel Bassett told ALXnow that the car that crashed was reportedly the victim of the road rage incident and swerved off the road to avoid gunshots.

“Seminary Road from Howard to Jordan Streets is temporarily closed,” police said. “This is due to a single-vehicle car crash stemming from a possible road rage incident in which shots were fired.”

Police said there were no injuries as a result of the shooting, but minor injuries were sustained in the crash.

Seminary Road from Howard to Jordan Streets was closed last night but reopened early this morning.

Image via Google Maps

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Seminary Hill Association President Carter Flemming and former Mayor Kerry Donley at Agenda Alexandria, image via Agenda Alexandria/YouTube

There are individual developments that can attract controversy but stepping back there’s a broader issue addressed at an Agenda Alexandria discussion last night with city leaders, developers and civic association representatives: whose vision shapes the future of Alexandria?

The discussion, moderated by Board Member Rod Kuckro, tackled a variety of development issues, including the slow death of office and commercial space in projects over the last few years.

For Carter Flemming, President of the Seminary Hill Association, there’s a concern that resident voices are being drowned out by the interests of developers.

“The voices of citizens need to be a better part of this equation,” Flemming said. “Many of the civic associations and the Federation believe over the last few years, the role of our associations and voices has been lessened as voices of developers and urban think tanks have taken a bigger role in our city… Many of us do not believe the City is working together with current residents. They’re building for a future we may or may not be a part of, but we should have a voice.”

On the City side, former Mayor Kerry Donley said there is an inherent incentive towards development for the City, as new development means more tax revenue to fund services.

“The City derives the bulk of its revenue from real property taxes; that’s how we grow and provide services,” Donley said. “It’s not accurate to say the council or the city is always looking in the developer’s favor, but under our way of governing in the Commonwealth of Virginia there is an inherent incentive for this locality and every locality to develop real property because that’s where we derive revenue to provide services.”

Donley and others in the discussion also outlined significant changes coming to what’s developed in Alexandria. Donley said the big push is for residential development, as brick-and-mortar commercial businesses were already facing a difficult battle against online retail pre-pandemic and a shift towards remote work drove a stake through the office market.

“Demand for commercial space is next to nill, but demand for residential is the highest and best use for properties,” Donley said.

Karl Moritz, Director of Planning and Zoning for the City of Alexandria, said the challenges from the pandemic and more force the city to reconsider older plans.

“We are, as Kerry was saying, facing a set of challenges that none of our jurisdictions have faced before,” Moritz said. “There is certainly a desire to ensure that our master plan, which is guiding orderly growth, is reflecting new challenges that are coming.

Moritz also said there’s a much greater emphasis now on bringing additional voices to city meetings beyond just civic associations.

“Our expectation is that people who have never been involved before are added to the mix,” Moritz said. “It’s a stronger system when more voices are heard.”

Austin Flajser, President & CEO of The Carr Companies, said he believes the voice of developers in city policymaking is overstated.

“Fundamentally, [development] starts with the rules in place,” Flajser said. “It starts with a small area plan and that shapes the concepts of what is viable and not viable… If there are developers that have a big voice in the process, I’d like to meet them. I don’t feel like I have a big voice in the process. We follow the rules as laid down.”

The next step, Flajser said, is to look at market demand.

“Just because I’m allowed to build a hotel doesn’t mean I’ll build a hotel if the demand isn’t there,” Flajser said. “I can’t imagine someone building an office building in the near future.”

One of the touchier topics raised in the discussion was single-family zoning. While city leaders have been reconsidering zoning laws in a push toward greater equity, some local residents have expressed concerns that the end goal is the elimination of single-family zoning.

The topic was raised, but only Moritz responded and with a somewhat nebulous answer:

First, because I’m a planner of a certain age: personally I feel I have responsibility as part of the regulatory infrastructure that allowed what started out as an intentional disinclusion of people of color from single family neighborhoods, intentionally keeping families of color from wealth-building opportunities, and that for years we pretended it hadn’t happened and it was okay because we’d legislated that people couldn’t be disciminated against. But that ignores the long-term impact on those families.

It’s a good idea to come together and talk about those things. As for what comes out of those conversations: I have an extraordinary optimism about Alexandria and its ability to talk through issues like that and come up with the right approach. I believe that those conversations would be healthy and I look forward to doing my part.

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The Alexandria Housing Development Corporation is planning to head to city review by the end of the year for a new project that will add 31 affordable housing units to the Seminary Hill neighborhood at 4547, 4555, and 4575 Seminary Road.

“The Applicant, the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation (AHDC) is seeking to consolidate three lots into one and build a condominium project that includes 31 affordable for-sale townhouse-condo units that target average median incomes (AMI) at or below 80% and 8 rental and for-sale multi-family units,” AHDC said in an application.

Three of the multi-family units will be 4-bedroom housing units operated by Sheltered Homes of Alexandria, which will help expand the number of intellectually disabled adults currently served at the group home at 4547 Seminary Road. The remaining five multi-family units will be for sale at 80% AMI or below.

Each of the townhouse units will have 2 parking spaces in an attached garage, the application said. The multi-family units will have access to 19 surface parking spaces, with 12 spaces for residents and seven for visitors.

“The applicant firmly believes that this project serves many goals of the city, but most importantly, by increasing affordable homeownership opportunities for residents with low and moderate incomes, it serves the goals of the city’s Housing Master Plan,” the AHDC application said. “Particularly, the project furthers the city’s goal of creating economic diversity among city residents resulting in strong, resilient neighborhoods…”

The project is scheduled to be reviewed at the Planning Commission on Dec. 7.

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The Seminary Road Diet took center stage Tuesday night, as City Council candidates met in the first of three West End forums.

City Council candidates Canek Aguirre (incumbent), Alyia Gaskins, Kirk McPike, Patrick Moran and Sarah Bagley were the first batch of candidates to speak at the Seminary Ridge Civic Association candidate forum.

The group was first questioned on the role of civic associations in policymaking discussions, since 13 civic associations were opposed to the road diet, which was approved in a 4-3 Council vote in 2019.

Aguirre voted for the road diet, and said that the opinions of the civic associations were taken into consideration at the time.

“I don’t think that the civic associations were ignored,” Aguirre said. “We listened, we disagreed and that showed in our vote… I want us to be able to get back to a place where we can be able to disagree in a civil way.”

All the candidates said that civic associations are important, as are the recommendations from the city’s board and commissions.

McPike said that, if elected, he intends to conduct regular town halls across the city, and to work with civic associations to participate.

“It’s important that we’re hearing from a wide range of opinions and the civic associations can be channels by which to bring that input into our policymaking process,” McPike said. “The next council has to be ready to help the city fully recover from the effects of this difficult year. And I believe in my time working on city Commission’s and my legislative skills from Capitol Hill will enable me to hit the ground running on day one, to help the city do exactly that.”

Moran previously said that he would vote to reverse the road diet if elected, while Gaskins said that she would not reverse it and that funds could be better spent elsewhere.

Most candidates were opposed to the idea of colocating affordable housing on the grounds of Alexandria City Public Schools, but none want to back an ordinance preventing it from happening.

“We have to look at everything that’s on the table,” Aguirre said. “If it’s an argument around safety, then I fundamentally reject that argument, because when you look at the schools that we have today in Alexandria, you literally have schools that are across the street from million dollar homes and from public housing. If you don’t believe me, come take a trip with me. I’ll take you around the different schools and show you.”

Bagley, who runs an affordable housing nonprofit in D.C., said that schools need to be left alone.

“We have a shortage of capacity for schools themselves and for classrooms and recreational spaces and pools and all those issues,” Bagley said. “While I think we have many other more pressing ways to use our city on spaces, I would not push for a permanent bar to consider it in an architectural consideration.”

Moran only wants colocation of housing for teachers at ACPS.

“Alexandria’s average starting pay for teachers is $56,000,” Moran said. “That’s not enough to live in our city…. I don’t think we ought to be looking at housing for any other types of scenarios to meet our housing goals. I think that we can find solutions alternatively for that, but for teachers, yes.”

The second forum will air at 7:15 p.m. on Thursday, May 20, and feature candidates Bill Campbell, John Taylor Chapman, Darryl Nirenberg, Bill Rossello and Meronne Teklu; followed by the final Council candidate forum on Monday, May 24, with Kevin Harris, Amy Jackson, Jim Lewis, Florence King and Mark Shiffer.

The mayoral forum between Mayor Justin Wilson and former Mayor Allison Silberberg is at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 27.

Early voting has already started, and the Democratic primary is June 8.

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Hot off the heels of announcing a new affordable housing development for Arlandria, the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation (AHDC) is headed to public outreach for a proposed affordable housing development in the Seminary Hill neighborhood.

The plan is to build 37 units — 31 townhomes and 6 condominiums — at 4547, 4555 and 4575 Seminary Road, next to the existing fire station and across from Hammond Middle School.

The development will include two garage spaces per townhome, plus 18 surface parking spaces. The development will preserve approximately 51% of the site’s current open space, AHDC said, and improve pedestrian access to city-owned park land.

AHDC said in an FAQ that all of the units at the site will be affordable at up to 80% of area median income, a standard measurement for housing affordability.

In the FAQ, AHDC said that housing at that level of affordability is very much in demand.

“For a lot of families, even though this is ‘affordable’ housing and 80% AMI income is defined as ‘low-income’ by HUD, the reality is that these units are still out of reach for many,” AHDC said. “The solutions to this problem are complex, and financing for building units that serve even lower income levels is scarce. That said, 80% AMI units — often referred to as workforce housing units — are still in demand in Alexandria. It’s a part of the “missing middle” of housing and can support workers who provide critical services to Alexandria. Using wages from recent job postings, a household that consisted of an entry-level firefighter and a cook for a senior living facility, with one or two children, would qualify for this development.”

The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 25, at 7 p.m. via Zoom.

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(Updated 4 p.m.) Shortly after the first community meeting on plans for Landmark Mall, Inova is planning to host a second meeting tomorrow to discuss potential rezoning of Inova Alexandria Hospital’s current Seminary Hill site.

Current plans for the hospital are to be rezoned and redeveloped as residential properties, a move that has drawn some praise from local civic associations, according to Alexandria Living Magazine.

Still, the final vision for what new development looks like at the current Seminary Hill location is unclear. The City clarified that no permits or plans have been approved so far.

According to a news release from the City of Alexandria:

On December 22, Inova, in partnership with Foulger-Pratt and the City, announced a redevelopment proposal to construct a new hospital and mixed-use district at the former Landmark Mall site. In order to facilitate the relocation of the hospital from its current location to Landmark Mall, Inova plans to work with the community as it moves forward with a request to rezone the existing hospital site at Seminary Road for a variety of residential uses.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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