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Fire on Wheeler Avenue (staff photo by James Cullum)

An inferno at a commercial warehouse on 4407 Wheeler Avenue Tuesday night could have a ripple effect on local seniors.

The fire, which was reported at 9:20 p.m., raged for hours and spread across three buildings. Over 1000 firefighters were called in from multiple jurisdictions and one firefighter sustained minor injuries.

The Alexandria Fire Department (AFD) said in a release that one of the businesses affected is Jeffrey’s Catering, which provides a significant amount of food for the local Meals on Wheels program.

According to AFD:

Among the affected is Jeffery’s Catering, a key provider for the “Meals on Wheels” program. The Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) and Senior Services of Alexandria are working together to assure continued delivery of meals to participating residents. For the most current information or to request assistance, please direct inquiries to the Division of Aging and Adult Services at 703-746-5999.

In addition, Alexandria Health Department (AHD) is working with affected food vendors to ensure that all temporary and repaired workspaces are permitted and can serve food safely as soon as possible.

AFD said the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

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Rendering of Benchmark at Alexandria (image via Benchmark Senior Living)

A new senior living community in the West End has hit a construction milestone and has targeted a 2024 opening.

The project recently “topped out” — meaning the superstructure of the building was finished. Benchmark at Alexandria will include 89 assisted living apartments and 26 memory care units with personalized care for those who need it once it launches sometime next year.

Benchmark at Alexandria is Benchmark Senior Living’s first outing in the Washington region.

“We’ve always thought of ourselves as a New England to Washington company, but we think of Washington as a natural extension of our geographic footprint,” said Benchmark Senior Living CEO Tom Grape.

Benchmark is coming to an area of the West End — near the intersection of N. Beauregard Street and King Street at the northwest tip of Alexandria — that’s become another development hotspot. While it hasn’t gotten the same attention as Landmark or Potomac Yard, that area’s seen significant new development, including affordable housing and a Harris Teeter.

“It’s an exciting area with lots of things happening,” Grape said. “We’re at a prime intersection in a mixed-use development with other activities, including retail uses and other residential uses. It’s a happening, vibrant spot.”

Grape said the notion of senior living as isolated communities is an outdated one.

“Our residents want to be able to access the things they’ve accessed for many years,” Grape said. “It will be a terrific convenience to go downstairs or go to the diner, and it will be convenient for adult children to visit. There’s a childcare center in the development to help with intergenerational activities.”

Grape said the new development will feature rooftop space and community amenities, like a club room and bistro.

The project is scheduled to launch in 2024. Grape said prices for units in the development have not been finalized yet.

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Meals on Wheels volunteer Susanne Young (via Senior Services of Alexandria/Facebook)

(Updated at 12:30 p.m.) Senior Services of Alexandria needs help delivering food to families with children this upcoming Thanksgiving week.

Volunteers need to pick up and deliver meals in the morning throughout the week.

“Volunteer drivers must use their own vehicle and have a valid driver’s license and current insurance requirements,” according to Visit Alexandria. “Volunteers should also possess the ability to lift 10-20 lb. containers into your vehicle and should be able to climb stairs, if necessary.”

To volunteer, email [email protected].

Meals on Wheels volunteers are needed until Dec. 1.

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Ladrey High Rise in Old Town North (image via Google Maps)

The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) has announced some next steps for plans to redevelop Ladrey High Rise, a public housing building in Old Town North.

The current building is an 11-story, 170-unit high rise building housing seniors and residents with disabilities. The redevelopment plans will see that building and an adjoining property demolished for a new mid-rise construction. The new development is slated to be a one-to-one replacement of the units on the site.

The building primarily houses seniors and residents with disabilities. ARHA said in the release the new development will increase the number of units on-site that are committed affordable units.

The building is currently fully occupied, with residents temporarily relocated during redevelopment. Earlier development plans noted that current residents will have a right to return — priority on new units given to current residents displaced during construction.

“This is the next big step in our plan for improving housing and the quality of life for all residents in our city,” said ARHA CEO Keith Pettigrew. “When completed, the units in the Ladrey High Rise will rival other modern housing developments in Alexandria. We look forward to hitting the ground running so that we can get these longtime residents into their brand-new homes as soon as possible.”

New amenities in the redevelopment include underground parking, meeting exercise and service rooms, and a community plaza. Residents will also have access to rooftop amenity spaces. ARHA said the redevelopment was spurred on in part by a need to make the building more accessible to residents with disabilities.

Kenneth Burton, a 20-year resident of Ladrey who uses a power wheelchair, said the in the release that the current building is not designed for him to easily get around.

“We are the ones who are going to live here, who will utilize the building day in day out, so it’s good to have a voice in the process,” Burton said. “We have been told Ladrey would be renovated and upgraded many times before, but it hasn’t happened yet. But now this time, I believe it will.”

In a release, ARHA said it selected Winn Companies and developer IBF Development to help spearhead the redevelopment plans. The project still has to work through the city’s redevelopment process.

“Both firms have extensive experience developing quality affordable housing communities regionally and nationally,” ARHA said in the release. “The proposed development plan will replace all the current Ladrey units and increase the number of apartment homes available to working households.”

Photo via Google Maps

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Developer Bonaventure broke ground last week on a six-story senior housing project just a few blocks away from the Braddock Road Metro station.

The project at 1112 First Street was formerly known as Aspire Alexandria, and was approved by the City in February 2020. It includes 133 one- and two-bedroom units, a 4,500-square-foot restaurant, underground parking and other “resort-style” amenities.

“Our housing portfolio may span multiple demographics, but our Bonaventure standard of excellence is the same — every property is purposely designed with excellence and the needs of the community in mind,” Dwight Dunton, Bonaventure’s CEO, said in a statement. “The future residents of this community will enjoy top-of-the-line and have unparalleled access to the best of Alexandria, helping to create a highly attractive destination that appeals to our target demographic.”

Bonaventure doesn’t have a name for the Old Town West property, which was previously home to Tony’s Auto Service for seven decades.

“The unnamed property will be situated within walking distance of the Braddock Road Metro Station, as well as I-495, King Street and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport,” Bonaventure said.

Bonaventure received a $50 million construction loan for the project in March, and said it expects apartments available to rent in late 2023. Units will only be available to residents who are 62 and older.

Photo via Bonaventure

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Morning Notes

Around Jones Point Park (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

BARCA Ranks Among Best in Nation — “An Alexandria restaurant has been lauded for its outdoor dining space and is among the top 100 places to dine al fresco, according to OpenTable’s new ranking. The ranking is based on diner reviews on OpenTable. BARCA Pier & Wine Bar made the 100 Best Outdoor Dining Restaurants in America for 2022, which was released by OpenTable on Wednesday.” [Patch]

Construction Begins on Old Town West Senior Living Project — “The multimillion-dollar development will feature a six-story building with underground parking, studio, 1- and 2-bedroom living options, and high-end amenities such as a 4,550-square-foot restaurant, 24-hour fitness center, club lounge, business center and media room.” [BusinessWire]

A Last Look Inside Landmark Mall — “YouTubers ‘The Proper People’ entered Landmark Mall just days before demolition started.” [Alexandria Living]

It’s Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 84 and low of 71. Sunrise at 5:57 am and sunset at 8:34 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Hermitage Northern Virginia, image courtesy Goodwin House

Alexandria-based Goodwin House Inc., a non-profit organization built around senior living, has acquired the West End senior living community Hermitage Northern Virginia with plans to undergo an expansion in the coming years.

While the current operator of Hermitage will remain in place until August 1, after that the facility will become part of Goodwin House.

Rob Liebreich, President and CEO of Goodwin House, said the acquisition of one not-for-profit of another is unusual for fortuitous because Goodwin House plans to keep staffing and pricing at Hermitage intact.

“It’s unusual for two non-profits to have this interaction,” Liebreich said. “[Hermitage] could have been bought by a developer or sold to a for-profit, but as not for profit, we can keep those residents in mind.”

There are currently around 100 residents in Hermitage, but Liebreich said the plan is to increase that to around 135.

“Going to take a good amount of work, but it’s a good product already and we think we can elevate that in the market,” Liebreich said.

Liebreich said talk about the acquisition started around three years ago. For Hermitage, it will be a chance to take advantage of the deeper well of resources available from the larger Goodwin House organization, which operates facilities in Alexandria and Bailey’s Crossroads. Meanwhile, Liebreich said the acquisition also gives Goodwin House Inc. a chance to expand its mission into middle-income residents.

“We’ll be able to serve more older adults in ways we haven’t been able to,” Liebreich said. “[Hermitage] is at a price point lower than what we currently offer and they offer a different amenity package. We’re excited to learn that model.”

Liebreich said many seniors are stuck in a “middle market” where they don’t qualify for government assistance programs but can’t afford the expenses of many senior living facilities.

Current monthly rates at The Hermitage are:

  • Assisted living rental rates range from $3,675 to $7,660
  • Long term care rental rates range from $9,900 to $13,100
  • Some residents pay additional fees for extra services.

Those rates represent an increase by the current operator, which will take effect in June, but Liebreich said there are no plans to increase the rates above that.

Liebreich said Goodwin House also plans to increase the pay structure for Hermitage staff to offer a “competitive living wage” and offer additional benefits, like an educational program.

The full press release is available below the jump:

Read More

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A rendering of the John Carlyle Center (courtesy of Cushman Wakefield)

With construction slated for later this year, the planned John Carlyle Center for Health and Wellness is looking for tenants.

The developer behind the 126,000-square-foot medical facility is starting to push out the word ahead of construction that space is available to lease. Cushman & Wakefield is handling the leasing of the medical offices and retail spaces.

“We are in active discussions with potential tenants including hospital systems, national and local specialty practice groups,” Cushman & Wakefield representative Lindsey Groom said.

The facilities are expected to begin construction at the end of the third quarter or beginning of the fourth quarter of this year but an exact date has not been determined as construction logistics planning and the permitting process continues. The project at 765 John Carlyle Street will also include a 268,000-square-foot senior living residence and four-level parking garage.

Groom said there is a lack of these type of medical office properties in Northern Virginia.

“With the average age of medical office buildings in the I-395 North submarket being 40+ years old, this brand new facility will help address this strain going forward and help meet the demand for specialty care by providing healthcare providers and their patients with access points and care delivery in communities that are currently underserved, as the area’s population continues to grow,” Groom said.

The project saw some bumps in January when the developer made changes to the approved design that city staff did not support.

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Alexandria seniors can now get free transportation from Alexandria Yellow Cab to get their COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot.

“The City’s Division of Aging and Adult Services is coordinating transportation for City of Alexandria residents to and from vaccination sites in or outside of Alexandria,” the City reports. “Individuals do not need to be signed up for Senior Taxi for this service.”

VDH says that unvaccinated Virginians make up a majority of new cases. So far, 93,630 residents have been fully vaccinated and 105,859 residents have been partially vaccinated. More than 68% of residents over the age of 18 have been vaccinated, and so have nearly 80% of seniors.

Seniors are allowed to bring a companion with them, and are asked to make a vaccination appointment by calling 703-746-5999 at least two days in advance.

COVID-19 by the numbers

In the meantime, the cases in Alexandria have climbed to 13,938, an increase of 177 cases since this time last week. The death toll remains at 148.

There has been no change in the 20 cases reported in Alexandria City Public Schools in October. There were also 64 cases reported last month in ACPS.

The seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases for every 100,000 people is 15.8, which is up from 13.9 last week. There have been just over 200 cases reported in the last two weeks, and the seven-day average of positive COVID-19 tests is 3%, according to the the Virginia Department of Health.

Alexandria has experienced high transmission for more than a month, while Manassas Park and Fairfax City are seeing moderate transmission, and Arlington, Fairfax County and Kings and Queens County have moved from high to “substantial” transmission.

The Alexandria Health Department also recommends that pregnant women get vaccinated.

Find vaccine providers in Alexandria here. If you feel sick, get tested.

Via ARHA

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Growing older hasn’t improved Dr. Robert Wallace’s memory, and he’s doing something about it.

For the last two months, the resident of Alexandria’s Goodwin House Incorporated has participated in StrongerMemory, a memory care program designed to combat memory loss in seniors. Goodwin House started the program in January 2020, with a handful of daily activities that encourage working memory and triggering brain activity in the prefrontal cortex.

“I never felt I had a strong memory,” said Wallace. “This deficit progressed a bit with age. So when the program became available, I thought it was worth trying.”

Wallace said reading the newspaper and doing math exercises helps, and that subjectively he noticed changes between when he was and wasn’t doing the memory care exercises.

The program has even received the endorsement of U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), who virtually celebrated Goodwin House’s work in being dementia-friendly at an event today (Friday).

City Council member Amy Jackson said that Alexandria will need more memory care-type programs in the coming years.

“[With my mother-in-law] I saw a decline in cognitive abilities,” said Jackson. “Stronger Memory would have helped her longevity. Our city’s senior population is growing every day, and as our senior population grows, we’re relying more on programs such as these so we can have important human interactions to continue to relate to each other on a personal level.”

There are nearly 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, and 5.6 million of them are seniors, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Photo via Goodwin House Inc./Facebook

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