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101 N Union Street (image via Google Maps)

A new sandwich shop could be coming to the Torpedo Factory building at 101 N. Union Street.

In a new special use permit filed to the City of Alexandria, the Hyndford Street Hospitality LLC said it plans to open a small sandwich shop in the space.

“We expect our patrons will be business people and travelling tourists,” the group said. “We will have approximately and no more than 20 seats, where customers can sit and enjoy their sandwich and drink.”

The permit said an emphasis will be on customers taking their meals off-site to their office, hotel or home. The restaurant is anticipated to serve between 50 to 100 patrons daily.

The restaurant could also offer on and off-site sales of wine and beer.

The hours of operation at the new business will be 9 a.m.-10 p.m., though no name is listed for the new business on the application.

Image via Google Maps

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For the fifth straight year, Alexandria was named in the top five best small cities in the country in the 2022 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards.

Alexandria took home the fourth spot this year after placing third the last two years in a row.

  1. Charleston, South Carolina
  2. Aspen, Colorado
  3. Santa Fe, New Mexico
  4. Alexandria, Virginia
  5. Savannah, Georgia
  6. Greenville, South Carolina
  7. Key West, Florida
  8. Santa Rosa Beach, Florida
  9. Palm Beach, Florida
  10. Wilmington, North Carolina

According to Condé Nast:

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.

Most folks start to imagine moving there immediately 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. When you visit, scope out King Street, packed with boutiques, restaurants, and specialty shops; then land at the waterfront, where you can watch the boats bobbing on the water before touring the Torpedo Factory Art Center, a collective of galleries and artists’ studios. End the day at Gadsby’s Tavern, where some of our founding fathers used to drink — don’t mind the actors in colonial garb.

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There are a number of ways to volunteer in Alexandria this fall.

Art lovers can get their fix by volunteering as gallery guides at the Torpedo Factory Art Center, and sports enthusiasts can become volunteer sport coaches. The Carlyle House also needs a volunteer tour guide.

There are also a number of tutoring and mentoring positions available, in addition to available food distributor and donation sorting positions.

“We need hundreds of people per week,” Volunteer Alexandria Executive Director Marion Brunken told ALXnow. “More people are in need now than ever.”

Here’s a list of Volunteer Alexandria’s new and upcoming opportunities.

  • Teach Kids to Read — “Wright to Read is a literacy tutoring-mentoring program that works to match volunteer tutor-mentors with Alexandria City Public School students who need extra support in their literacy skills. Our goal is not only to help give this child support along their reading journey (including access to books, resources, and a larger reading community), but also a mentor through elementary school and beyond.”
  • Distribute Food With ALIVE! — “Volunteers are needed to assist with multiple programs relating to their Food Program, ALIVE! House, and Alexandria Eviction Prevention Partnership Program will distribute food at Mobile Pop-ups and Truck to Trunk events, etc.”
  • More opportunities at ALIVE! — The nonprofit also needs drivers, a furniture moving attendant, and warehouse volunteers.
  • Theater group needs support — Momentum Collective is looking for a new board member, a costume designer and a set builder.
  • Youth Sport Coaches — Preside over team activities including all scheduled practices and games. Adhere to RPCA policies, rules and objectives Responsible for maintaining care of all RPCA Sports equipment. Lead by example among team parents to support the responsibilities of the referee and league leadership. Coach an assigned group of children and focus on skill development, safety, fair, play, sportsmanship and fun.”
  • 4-H Youth Development Club Volunteers — “We are currently looking for volunteers that would like to build clubs on any topic of interest, such as, dogs, sewing, robotics, or sports.”
  • Food Rescuer — “Food rescuers pick up surplus food from food donors in Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia (businesses, restaurants and grocers) and deliver it directly to receiving agencies (community kitchens, food pantries, etc.) that feed our hungry neighbors. In your own vehicle and on your own time, it usually takes only 30 to 60 minutes to complete this incredibly rewarding and essential mission. Get started on the website and app to see the complete schedule of local food rescue opportunities.”
  • Arise outreach volunteer — “ARISE is a new guaranteed income pilot program that plans to give $500 a month to 170 City of Alexandria residents for two years. A research team will evaluate the ARISE program outcomes which will inform future efforts and policy decisions.”
  • Sexual Assault Center Hotline Advocate — “Volunteers staff the 24-hour hotline on evenings and weekends. Volunteers provide accompaniment, emotional support, crisis intervention, advocacy, and referrals to empower survivors of sexual violence in person at the hospital/police department or over the phone. Volunteers must attend a 40-hour training.”
  • Shelter Supervisors with Alexandria Domestic Violence Program — “As a program that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, volunteers play a key role in providing services to those affected by domestic violence. Volunteers with our program interact personally with individuals in need–an opportunity that many find extremely fulfilling.”
  • Alexandria Library opportunities — The Alexandria Library needs a volunteer to run a games program for seniors, a volunteer with the Trash Trekkers program, a Knit Night volunteer, a computer class volunteer, and gardening support.
  • Tour Guide at Carlyle House Historic Park — “Looking for a fun and relaxing volunteer opportunity? Carlyle House Historic Park, a colonial house museum in Old Town Alexandria, seeks volunteer docents to give public tours of this historic building. Carlyle House, built in 1753, interprets the home and family of John Carlyle, a merchant and town founder.”
  • Sixth Annual Spooky Science Expo — “The Watergate at Landmark Youth Committee will be holding its sixth annual science event (Spooky Mad Science Expo) for kids and teens (October 15). The event will celebrate science and Halloween… As in every year, we are looking for volunteers to help us plan and run the event.”
  • Casa Chirilagua Volunteers — Casa Chirilagua is looking for one-on-one mentoring, their kids club, a volunteer to oversee the teen study hall, help with the high school program, a volunteer for teen bible study, and assistance with their middle school program.
  • Dog adoption event needs volunteers — “Lucky Dog Animal Rescue has an adoption event the FIRST Sunday of every month at the Potomac Yard PetSmart – 3351 Richmond Hwy, Alexandria, VA 22305. Come spend the afternoon with a Lucky Dog!”
  • Torpedo Factory Gallery Guide — “Gallery Guides must feel comfortable interacting with the public about the work at the exhibition with potentially sensitive content and handling artwork sale inquiries. Gallery Guides must be at least 18 years of age or older.”
  • Food and grocery volunteer — “For over 15+ years, as part of its Outreach Ministry, the Meade Memorial Episcopal Church has been committed to the Emergency Food Assistance Ministry, to help transform our community, our neighbors, and ourselves. The church provides lunches to residents from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. We need help to setup tables and distribute lunches every weekday, except on certain holidays. We are asking all volunteers to arrive at 11: 15 a.m.”
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Jeni’s Ice Cream by Alanna Rivera (image courtesy Principle Gallery)

A new exhibit launching this Friday, Aug. 5, highlights some of the newest faces at the Torpedo Factory Art Center.

The exhibition is opening at the Principle Gallery (208 King Street) with an opening reception on Friday from 6-8:30 p.m.

“Artists are the most important part of the Art Center, and we are excited to share their work in one exciting exhibition,” said Brett John Johnson, Director of Torpedo Factory Art Center, in a press release. “Partnering with Principle Gallery gives artists an opportunity to exhibit in a professional gallery while creating a more outward-looking Art Center connecting directly to the community.”

The artists were selected as part of a new jury process, one piece of a controversial new vibrancy plan that advocates say will revitalize the Torpedo Factory. Critics of the plan, however, have expressed concern that the planned changes will slowly push out artists and erode what makes the location special.

There will be work from 38 different Torpedo Factory artists on display in the gallery.

“Now more than ever, it’s important for arts organizations to collaborate in support of the arts, artists, and disseminating culture,” said Clint Mansell, director of the Principle Gallery. “The Torpedo Factory Art Center has been an institution in Old Town for almost 50 years and we are excited to team up for the first time to usher in the new class of artists and a new day
for the institution.”

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Changes coming to the Torpedo Factory Art Center have been among the more contentious discussions in Alexandria over the last few years, but the City of Alexandria is looking for two locals to serve on a board to help direct the art center’s future.

The city is looking for two at-large members for the Torpedo Factory Art Center Stakeholder Task Force.

“The at-large members will be part of a 20-member Task Force that includes, but is not limited to, artists, tourism representatives, local businesses, and Commissioners,” the city said in a release. “The at-large members of the Task Force will be selected through an open application process to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate.”

The goal of the task force is to guide the city’s policy toward making the Torpedo Factory more of an active attraction. Some of the current plans for the Torpedo Factory include changes to the ground floor that might bring in other uses at the cost of artist space.

“In alignment with the principles adopted by the City Council, a Stakeholder Task Force was established to develop an approach to address vibrancy and sustainability of the Torpedo Factory Art Center. The Task Force will work with a facilitator, staff, and consultants to broaden the scope of artistic expression and improve artist diversity,” the release said. “Task Force members will be expected to attend scheduled meetings as well as participate in the various community engagement activities (i.e., open house events, town halls, focus groups, etc.).”

The task force is expected to meet for around 10-12 months. Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, June 24.

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Spring gets into full swing in Alexandria this month, and there are dozens of events around the city to get you out of the house.

Visit Alexandria has compiled a list of events this month around town, including Easter egg hunts, book signings, a film screening and musical performances.

April events in Alexandria:

  • Outdoor cello concert: Listen to cellist Amit Peled at The Rectory in Old Town on April 7 (Thursday), from 5 to 6 p.m. and 6:30 to 7 p.m. Tickets cost $45 apiece for adults and $25 for children
  • Book signing at Alexandria Visitor Center: Meet John Adam Wasowicz, the Author of the Old Town Mysteries, Daingerfield Island, Jones Point, Slaters Land and Roaches Run. Two book signings will be held on April9 and 10 (Saturday and Sunday) from 10:00 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Easter Egg Hunt with the Old Town Business Association: On April 9 (Saturday) from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Historic event at Carlyle House: On April 9 (Saturday), learn from costumed interpreters about how Major General Edward Braddock, Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty’s Forces in North America, landed in Alexandria in 1775. Tickets are free, and the event is from 12 to 4 p.m.
  • Cherry Blossom Jubilee: On Sunday (April 10), enjoy live performance by taiko drum group Nen Daiko on the waterfront side of the Art Center, followed by an Art Center-wide exhibition of cherry blossom-inspired works by resident artists and galleries
  • Outdoor vocal recital: On Thursday (April 14), Mexican soprano Judy Yannini makes her Secret Garden debut in a program of selections from vibrant zarzuelas to beloved operas, from 5 to 6 p.m. and 6:30 to 7 p.m. Tickets cost $45 apiece for adults and $25 for children
  • Easter Egg Hunt at Lee-Fendall House: On April 16 and 17 (Saturday and Sunday), there will be Easter egg hunts at the historic property, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets cost $15 for children ages 2 to 12, $5 for accompanying adults
  • Outdoor bluegrass concert: On April 21 (Thursday), listen to father-son team Ken & Brad Kolodner, from 5 to 6 p.m. and 6:30 to 7 p.m. Tickets cost $45 apiece for adults and $25 for children
  • Advance screening of ‘TRASHY: a zero waste film’: The feature documentary follows its director as she tries not to throw anything away over the course of a year. The free screening at the Torpedo Factory Art Center starts at 6 p.m.
  • 89th Annual Old Town Alexandria Homes & Garden Tour: The long cherished event will be held on April 23 (Saturday), from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets cost $55 apiece if bought online and $65 at the Alexandria Visitor Center to tour the Carlyle House, Lee-Fendall House, River Farm, Gunston Hall, Mount Vernon and Green Spring Gardens
  • Alexandria Symphony Orchestra performance: The ASO will perform the music of Barber and Brahms at its April 23 (Saturday) concert. The event is from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. and costs $20-$85 for adults, $5 for children and $15 for students
  • Rocklands BBQ meat and greet party: The April 23 (Saturday) event features School of Rock performances and local vendors
  • Soul Food Saturday: On April 23 (Saturday), explore the contributions of African American innovation and tradition to American cuisine with a unique walking tour around Old Town. The event is from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and tickets cost $95 apiece
  • Earth Day tree planting: Join the Alexandria City Council on April 23 (Saturday) for a tree planting on Earth Day in Old Town, from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.
  • History discussion on African American housing crisis in Alexandria: On April 28 (Thursday), Dr. Krystyn Moon will examine how segregationist practices impaired Alexandria’s African American residents. The event is virtual
  • Old Town Alexandria Fine Art And Design Festival: On Saturday (April 30), more than 100 artisans, crafters, independent consultants and other local small businesses in John Carlyle Square
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The City of Alexandria is still mulling over what to do with the Torpedo Factory, but one way of paying for the expensive additions could lie in a program started under FDR.

At a meeting of the Waterfront Commission, representatives from the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP) outlined one potential path to financing the Torpedo Factory overhaul as part of a “public real estate entity.”

Christina Mindrup, VP for commercial real estate at AEDP, said the partnership has been considering the creation of a new public real estate entity that could help “unlock new financial resources” to assist with arts development in Old Town North, some of which has been stalled and fallen behind the pace of attached developments.

Mindrup said that AEDP is working with the city to assess whether this public real estate entity could absorb the Torpedo Factory.

“AEDP working with city manager office to evaluate whether [Torpedo Factory Art Center] building could be included with assets financially managed by public real estate entity in Old Town North,” Mindrup said. “We’re now exploring options for expanding role of the real estate entity to include governance of TFAC.”

The topic of TFAC changing governance has been a touchy one, but Mindrup said the change could open up a new source of funding in the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) of Alexandria. The low range of cost estimates, essentially the “do-nothing” build with only the most basic of needed repairs and improvements, is still estimated at $16 million. Cost estimates for more substantial improvements range up to $41.5 million.

“For those who don’t know, the Industrial Development Authority has been around forever,” Mindrup said. “It’s been around back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It was used to help jurisdictions rebuild and put investment in the area.”

Specifically, Mindrup said the IDA can issue tax-exempt bonds to borrow at lower interest rates to fund improvements. It’s a program already in use at other developments, such as the hospital development at not-Landmark Mall.

“This would become a financing tool to help us fund improvements towards the Torpedo Factory,” Mindrup said. “It’s really just a low-interest loan that’s a tool for non-profits.”

AEDP leadership emphasized that the program is just one of several tools being considered, but AEDP President and CEO Stephanie Landrum said one benefit is it could be a revenue source outside of the already strained city budget.

“[We were] asked , as the city is looking at particular governance models, some of which might create a nonprofit or ownership of building not by the city, what models are available to finance improvements,” Landrum said. “There is a cost for improvements that needs to be made that is large and we do not have the money to pay for it. The only way we’ve been looking for that money is traditional CIP or city budget.”

Landrum said AEDP is examining changes to funding that could be made under a different governance model.

“We’re looking at: if the government model changed, could IDA funding be made available?” Landrum said.

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The Alexandria Archaeology Museum announced on Twitter that a new exhibit coming to the Torpedo Factory will offer a digital guided tour of one of the ships found buried under Old Town’s waterfront.

In 2018, hulls from three mid-18th century ships were found buried underground during an excavation at the Robinson Landing development. The crown jewel of the archeological discovery, however, was a mostly intact lower hull from one of the ships.

The ship has become an object of intense study and even some belated shipbuilding criticism. The hull was even carefully taken apart and sent in pieces to Texas A&M for further study.

The eventual fate of the ship still remains unknown, with the idea of a new Waterfront Museum having been floated around as a possible home.

The new exhibit won’t take up as much space as the full ship eventually will: it’s opening in Studio #9 on the Torpedo Factory’s first floor.

The exhibit is scheduled to open Friday, April 1, and will be there until June.

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There’s been some drama around the future of the Torpedo Factory, but applications are opening next month for local artists looking to get in ahead of those changes.

“The City of Alexandria will be accepting resident artist applications for studio space at the Torpedo Factory Art Center (105 N. Union Street) beginning March 1,” the city said in a press release. “Individuals or groups of up to four artists are invited to apply for the studio jury for a three-year lease in one of the available studios. The deadline to apply is April 19.”

All artists over 21 are eligible to apply. The fee is $45 for new applicants or groups, but the release says that will be waived for current resident artists and individuals for whom the fee is a barrier. Artists can apply for a three-year lease or can become an artist pro tem and eligible to sublease.

The application is followed by a jury examining the work of an artist studio, the background of artists, how they communicate about their art and other factors.

The jury process was one of the recommendations from a 2019 plan for improving vibrancy at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. For the first time, current artists will have to compete against new artists for spots in the Torpedo Factory, but they have a few advantages. The release said incumbent residents can apply at no cost and will be given priority access to their current studios if they score high enough to earn a studio and list it as their top choice. The release says by 2024, all resident artists will have been juried through the new system.

“This is the first time that re-jurying for current artists is occurring in the Art Center’s 48-year history,” the release said.

“For more information about this process, attend an instructional webinar on either March 30 at noon or March 31 at 7 p.m.,” the release said. “The webinars will allow prospective applicants to review the process with City staff and receive live answers to application-related questions.”

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Ever since he was five years old, local muralist Patrick Kirwin has been drawing on walls. The artist behind the Dogs Of Del Ray mural has been busy during the pandemic, and his work is mostly positive.

Kirwin says that’s what his clients want these days.

“I have a younger brother who was pissed at me because I wasn’t doing political work, but I got to be who I am,” Kirwin told ALXnow in a recent interview. “I’m basically optimistic, try to be happy and don’t want to bring more garbage to the world. I want to have something that connects to people. I don’t want to make people angry.”

Kirwin, an Arlington-based artist, has taught drawing and painting courses at The Art league at the Torpedo Factory Art Center for years. He was raised with 12 siblings in Columbus, Ohio, and was sent to art school as a young child after his parents found him drawing on the walls of their home.

“They sent me to art school so I wouldn’t draw on walls, and now I’m back to drawing on walls,” Kirwin said. “I’ve gone full circle.”

Kirwin, who is married and has two children, moved to the area in 1984 to get his master’s at The George Washington University. He also taught at the Corcoran School of Art and Design, the Smithsonian, and the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton.

Kirwin’s work dried up because of the pandemic, prompting him to lower his prices. When he did that, the work started to pour in.

“I had to make cheaper bids,” Kirwin said. “Not real big things, like a 10-foot-by-10-foot outdoor painting in a backyard on Capitol Hill. I really built up a portfolio, and now people working at home and remotely they want something fresh, they want something exciting at home.”

He continued, “I learned to get a job you have to back it up with a lot of work. If someone wants work, I can bomb then with a lot of examples, and that’s important because competition is tight.”

In Alexandria last year, Kirwin also painted a mural in the alleyway of Union Street Public House. In it, George Washington is looking out of a window inside the pub.

“He is such a lively person, and I was able to see the mural day-to-day until it was finished,” Union Street employee Heather Smith said.

Kirwin also recently painted the interior of the new Tiki bar pop-up in Del Ray, and last year unveiled his “Dogs Of Del Ray” mural on the north side of Stomping Ground. The dogs mural, which faces the Pat Miller Neighborhood Square in the heart of Del Ray, showcases more than 100 of the neighborhood’s pooches.

For the time being, Kirwin is back to a massive project — a 30-foot-tall mural outside an apartment building in D.C.

“It will actually be a giant picture of a group of people taking a selfie,” he said. “It will be very, very big with a D.C. backdrop.”

Kirwin welcomes interruptions from people while he’s working.

“I love to talk to folks while I work,” he said. “Don’t be shy. Come and say hi.”

Courtesy images 

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