Alexandria, VA

As The Waypoint at Fairlington moves forward, some old traffic concerns and misconceptions about the project have resurfaced.

The Waypoint, and 81-unit affordable housing development at Fairlington Presbyterian Church (3846 King Street) was approved in 2018, but old criticisms of the project’s added density flooded the comment sections when the city applied for federal funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development HOME Investment Partnerships.

Some nearby communities are supportive of the project. The Fairlington Citizens Association, which represents roughly 7,500 residents near the project, was generally supportive of the project.

“While the FCA Board takes no position on the specific design of the pending proposal — though we have heard no complaints about it from any of our residents — we believe it aligns well with the church’s history and mission,” the FCA said in a statement to city staff. “The FCA also supports the effort to provide affordable housing, which is essential to the sustainable growth of our community, and believes that the proposal would make an important contribution to expanding affordable housing in this part of Alexandria.”

Others like Carter Flemming, president of the Seminary Hill Association, which represents many of the neighbors nearest to the church, said the lingering discontent is a result of residents both feeling like they were ignored during the civic process and a general fear that the project will only exacerbate problems at the intersection of Van Dorn Street and Menokin Drive.

“It’s a tricky intersection at best,” Flemming said. “Adding this many cars coming out from a garage, people are concerned about that.”

A traffic study by contractor Wells and Associates looked specifically at that intersection, and found that traffic levels were within acceptable parameters, although there were some delays at the site.

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It was quite a year in Alexandria. It’s safe to say that 202o will be just as busy, but in the meantime let’s take a look at the top stories from the last year.

1. The Seminary Road Diet 

Few local transportation stories have gotten as much attention as City Council’s 4-3 decision on the Seminary Road diet. The move seems simple enough — consolidating from four to two lanes in both directions between N. Quaker Lane and Howard Street with a turn lane in the middle and bike lanes on both sides. Public discord over the change prompted the creation of a Facebook page, which has dramatically turned up the temperature on the issue, even leading to City Councilwoman Amy Jackson to publicly call for a complete reversal on the decision and restart of the process.
See: More Work on Seminary Road This Spring If the State Will Pony Up the Cash
More: Virginia Theological Seminary Weighs In Favor of Seminary Road Diet


2. Legendary Titans Pass Away 

Alexandria lost a number of inspiring figures in 2019, including members of the state championship-winning 1971 T.C. Williams High School football team. The team, who were immortalized in the 2000 film “Remember The Titans” starring Denzel Washington, lost coach Herman Boone, assistant coach Bill Yoast and players Petey Jones and Julius Campbell.


George Washington Middle School. (File photo)

3. ACPS fully Accredited for First Time in 20 Years

It took two decades, and in September Alexandria City Public Schools system announced that all of the city’s public schools reached their state mandated benchmarks to be fully accredited for the 2019-2020 academic year. Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings said that the success didn’t come by chance and that it took six superintendents and a lot of “planning, preparation and dedication for all students to experience success regardless of their life circumstances” to get ACPS where it is today.


4. Ground Broken at Potomac Yard Metro Station

After decades of finalizing plans and making deals, ground was finally broken in December for the construction of the Potomac Yard Metro station. The plan is to open the $320 million station by spring 2022, and while development will result in the demolition of the Regal Potomac Yard movie theater, the area will positively be booming with the eventual addition of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, a new mixed-use redevelopment, Amazon HQ2 in Crystal City and much more.

“This has been a quarter-century in the making,” Mayor Justin Wilson said at the groundbreaking. “This is a big… deal.”


5. Alexandria’s Summer Metro Shutdown 

Did you have to get creative in your commute over the summer? You weren’t alone. Thousands of commuters in the area were forced to make alternate plans so that Metro could make crucial improvements to all of the station platforms south of the Reagan National Airport station. The shutdown meant expanded Metro and DASH bus routes, morning trolley rides from the King Street station, Potomac Riverboat Company Water Taxi ferries from the Alexandria Waterfront into the District and more. The renovation is part of a $300-$400 million project to rebuild 20 outdoor platforms throughout the Metro system. Once reopened, commuters were introduced to new speakers for clearer public announcements and emergency notifications, stainless-steel platform shelters, passenger information display screens and energy-efficient LED lighting.

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When it comes to Alexandria’s transportation network, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

After intense backlash from everyone from local residents to city officials, the Alexandria Transit Company approved a vision plan that restores some DASH bus transit through Seminary Road — for now.

A new route, N12, will replace the current AT-2 route on Seminary Road and Janneys Lane. The route connects the Mark Center in the West End to the King Street Metro station. According to the new vision plan, the route will run every 30 minutes on weekdays and will be discontinued on weekends.

AT-2 was originally cut from DASH’s vision plan, which favored moving the system towards frequent service in densely populated parts of the city at the cost of routes through more spread-out neighborhoods in the heart of Alexandria. The change was met with outcry from residents along the route who said they rely on the bus to take them to the hospital and down to Old Town.

“The N12 service is a result of input received during the outreach process and is subject to a board-adopted ridership benchmark over the next five years,” the report said.

The city’s website elaborated that DASH will set benchmarks and monitor ridership on the route to evaluate, further down the road, if the route should be maintained.

The overall aim of the new plan is to shift towards high-frequency service with buses running every 15 minutes all day, every day in areas like the West End, Potomac Yard and Old Town. DASH said the new plan will offer useful, frequent transit for 120,000, compared to the 40,000 currently served. The high-frequency lines are also designed to go through neighborhoods with a high concentration of low-income residents and minority residents.

Though approved by the DASH board, the new plan will still need to be adopted by the City Council and WMATA. If adopted, the new route would be scheduled for launch in summer 2021, with phases of the plan being implemented through 2030.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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(Updated 1:30 p.m.) A chase by the Virginia State Police ended with a crash at the intersection of Fort Williams Parkway and Seminary Road

The car being chased wrecked shortly after noon and Virginia State Police took the suspect into custody “without incident,” according to Lt. Courtney Ballantine, a spokesman for the Alexandria Police Department.

The intersection was closed as of 1 p.m., but Ballantine said it should reopen shortly.

Police said Virginia State Police involvement meant the pursuit almost certainly started on one of the nearby interstates — the intersection is a mile away from I-395 — but the details on where and how the chase began were unclear.

Photo via Google Maps

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The squeaky wheel on the bus may get the grease, as the Alexandria Transit Company Board of Directors has directed staff to find a way of restoring or replacing a bus line through Seminary Road cut from current plans to overhaul the bus network.

DASH, the city’s bus system, is preparing to shift its bus service from a model focused on widespread coverage of the city to one that focuses on high-frequency service in densely populated corridors.

One of the casualties of this change would be the AT2 bus line. The bus line starts in Lincolnia and works up through the West End to the Mark Center before running down through the heart of Seminary Hill and into Old Town.

Steve Sindiong, an urban planner for the City of Alexandria, said that the DASH Board of Directors told staff at an earlier meeting that they need to go back and restore service in that corridor.

“That’s what we’re working on right now,” Sindiong said. “We’re looking at different approaches to service on Seminary [Road] and Janneys [Lane].”

The removal of the lines caused outrage at a meeting at the Burke Branch Library in October, where a packed room of local residents said they were concerned that they would lose access to the city’s bus service.

DASH tweeted that AT2 riders would be able to reach Old Town through a transfer at Landmark Mall or Southern Towers, but plans for the bus routes by 2022 eliminate service east of Inova Alexandria Hospital (4320 Seminary Road).

Sindiong said the replacement bus line would have, at a minimum, some weekday service.

The city is also currently in discussions with the Department of Defense, which funds the AT2x route that runs directly from the King Street Metro station to the Mark Center. It is currently an express bus, meaning it makes no stops on Seminary Road, but staff said in the October meeting that they were cautiously hopeful that it could be opened up to local residents.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Don’t be surprised if you see a lot of fire department and police activity at Beth El Hebrew Congregation in Alexandria on Monday — it’s just a drill.

The synagogue at 3830 Seminary Road will be hosting a “a critical incident training exercise” from 8-11 a.m. and 6-9 p.m. on Veterans Day (Nov. 11). Alexandria police and firefighters will be conducting the exercise.

“Residents should expect police activity, interment road closures and a variety of police and fire vehicles,” police said via social media.

Photo via Google Maps

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After a series of community meetings, a public hearing is scheduled next week for a plan that could radically reshape how the city’s DASH bus network operates.

The big selling point of the new plan is that it would increase the frequency of buses in the city’s current and planned high-density corridors, like Potomac Yard and the Landmark/Van Dorn Corridor. In many of these locations, buses would be running at least every 15 minutes all day, every day.

More buses in the higher-density corridors would also increase access to the frequent bus service in concentrations of low-income residents, giving nine out of every ten low-income residents in Alexandria access to frequent bus service, according to a press release.

But the other side of that shift towards rapid-service corridors is that the plan will reduce or, in some places, entirely eliminate bus routes through the residential neighborhoods in Alexandria’s core. Routes like AT2, which runs through the heart of Seminary Hill and connects to Old Town, would be removed from DASH service — though the bus service is still attempting to negotiate with the Department of Defense to open up an express line that connects the King Street Metro station to the Mark Center for nearby residents.

The Alexandria Transit Company Board is scheduled to meet next Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 5:30 in the Council workroom inside City Hall (301 King Street). The public is invited to the meeting to express their thoughts on the changes.

An online survey about the changes is also available for interested residents and riders to fill out.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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The community engagement process for a new Douglas MacArthur Elementary School project has kicked off.

The new, more modern Douglas MacArthur Elementary School (1101 Janneys Lane) is scheduled to open in January 2023. Students will start using swing space in the former Patrick Henry Elementary School after the current, 1940s-era MacArthur Elementary is demolished in June 2020. The new project has a total budget of $56.6 million.

The manager of the project spoke at a meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 29. One of the recurring topics from people in attendance was greater community use for the building, including “space inside for community use” and a suggestion that “the school needs to feel like a community asset.”

The commentary comes as the City Council and School Board have been engaged in a long-running discussion over how much space in school projects should be used for non-school purposes, like administrative offices or affordable housing. The discussions have grown more urgent over the years as the city begins running out of space to locate new projects.

A timeline at the Tuesday meeting showed the school’s concept design finishing up at the end of the month, with the rest of the design phase running from December 2019 to the end of 2020. Construction of the new project is scheduled to start in September 2020 and finish November 2022.

Some parents at the meeting expressed confusion that other school projects had been finished in one year, or slightly over, and wanted to know why construction for MacArthur was expected to take nearly two years. Staff explained that the extra time accounted for working through the city approval process with some time allotted for demolition at the start of the project.

Another community discussion, intended to help shape the ultimate design of the school, is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 9, from 9 a.m.-noon at the MacArthur Elementary library.

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The power is out in part of Alexandria’s Seminary Hill neighborhood.

Dominion is reporting just under 1,400 customers without electricity as a result of a broken pole, according to the company’s outage map.

The power is expected to be restored between 3-6 p.m., just in time for Halloween trick-or-treating. (Though expected severe storms will bring the possibility of additional outages tonight.)

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The Washington Capitals are hosting a free street hockey class for children in Alexandria.

The class is planned for the Seminary Road Roller Rink at Francis C. Hammond Middle School (4646 Seminary Road) in Alexandria tomorrow (Wednesday). The class will run from 4:45-5:45 p.m. after a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The class is part of a series that the Capitals have hosted across the region celebrating refurbished outdoor rinks. The Capitals renovated the rink at Hammond Middle School, replacing the boards around the rink and adding a new scoreboard.

The class is aimed at children between ages 8-14. Equipment for the clinic will be provided and all participants will receive a free hockey stick.

If you’re over 14 but still intrigued by the new roller hockey rink, there is an adult league with leagues varying from novices to advanced levels.

Photo via Facebook/ACPS

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Alexandria is getting its first laser tag arena this winter.

Doyle’s Outpost will be located in the Seminary Plaza Shopping Center in the former AMF Seminary Lanes Bowling Alley at 4620-A Kenmore Ave.

“We’re aiming to open in mid-December,” said owner Kevin Fagan, who formerly owned the Planet Fitness adjacent to the upcoming arena. “But we’ll definitely [be open] before the end of the year.”

Fagan spent $700,000 renovating the space, per construction records filed with the City of Alexandria. In addition to a massive, DC-themed laser tag arena, the 15,400 square-foot space will be home to over 30 arcade games, a Hologate virtual reality center, and a communal space for events and parties.

And for the hungry laser-taggers, Doyle’s Outpost is planning to establish a full-service bar and kitchen with over 25 televisions.

“We’ll have a full kitchen with an elevated menu,” Fagan said. “[And a menu featuring] appetizers, salads, flatbreads, panini sandwiches, craft hot dogs, bowls, and baked pastas.”

According to records with Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control, Doyle’s Outpost applied for a wine and beer permit last November.

Once open, a round of laser tag will cost around $8, Fagan said, with plans to incorporate bundled arcade games-virtual reality-laser offers along with weekday specials.

The nearest laser tag arena to Alexandria is ShadowLand on Franconia Road, south of Four Mile Run in Fairfax County. (Despite its Alexandria mailing address, it is, in fact, in Fairfax). There’s also an UltraZone laser arena in Baileys Crossroads in Arlington.

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A relay at St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School, a private school in the Seminary Hill neighborhood, is planned this weekend to help raise money for early childhood education in Alexandria.

This is the second year for the relay, which raises money for Child and Family Network Centers (CFNC). The organization has raised $31,120 so far but aims to raise $120,000 to help provide free pre-kindergarten to at-risk children in Alexandria.

The organization says it costs approximately $12,000 per year, per child for a Pre-K education.

According to Relay for Pre-K’s website:

“Our families make just too much to qualify for Head Start, but not nearly enough to afford private preschool. A child’s ability to be ready for school impacts their life’s future. Getting them ready for school is one of the only changes we can make in a child’s life that will change the odds that predict who they will become when they are middle-aged adults. The path that determines who a child becomes links all the way back to preschool. When you invest in CFNC, you are investing in the child, the family, and the City of Alexandria.”

Registration for the event opens at 9 a.m., with the walk starting at 10 a.m. Teams can register in advance online.

Photo via Amy Jackson/Facebook

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