Alexandria, VA

Morning Notes

Latest Torpedo Factory Plan Redesigns First Floor — “As far as the first floor, staff plans to make the space more interactive, which could involve relocating artists throughout the building. Specifically, Ruggiero mentioned relocating a print-maker studio from the third floor to the first, as well as the Art League’s art supply store.” [Alexandria Times]

Alexandria Offers Emergency Child Care for Low Income Families — “The Alexandria City Council approved a request in September from DCHS and the Alexandria Emergency Child Care Collaborative (ECCC) to utilize Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to support this child care initiative. The initiative is limited to 150 children total, who will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.” [City of Alexandria]

Alexandria Restaurant Partners Seeking Chef for New Concept — “As we are moving our Majestic Culinary team to our newest Concept, Ada’s on The River, we are interviewing for an experienced and passionate Executive Chef and Sous Chef to join our team” [Salary]

Veterans Commemorate Amid Pandemic — “On Nov. 11, the Friends of Rocky Versace commemorated the 102nd anniversary of the armistice to end World War I with a Veterans Day ceremony at Blessed Sacrament School Hall, a change from its usual location at Mount Vernon Recreation Center due to COVID-19 restrictions.” [Alexandria Gazette]

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The Torpedo Factory Art Center is one of Alexandria’s cultural landmarks of the waterfront. But as the city moves forward with other modernizing changes to the waterfront, it is also turning an eye towards overhauling the Torpedo Factory to be more of a “hands-on” public attraction.

A series of recommendations in a recently released action plan include plans the city hopes will turn parts of the Torpedo Factory into a more engaging artistic space.

The first part of the plan is to “re-establish the Art Center’s identity for a 21st century audience.” In practice, this would mean greater utilization of the facility as a space for gatherings and festivities. The first action under that subheading is “celebrate food as art” with food and drink-centered events and festivals in partnership with restaurants and breweries.

Other proposals to re-establish the facility’s identity include implementing a focus on new technological development utilized in artwork and recurring family-friendly and educational experiences.

Lastly, this portion of the plan included a recommendation that artists are encouraged to participate in “on the road” pop-ups along the waterfront to bring the program more into the public eye.

Part of the plan involved reshaping the ground floor experience of the Torpedo Factory. The action plan called for better utilization and upgrades to first floor studios with more hands-on opportunities and “spectacles” likes printmaking and glass making. This would involve a reshuffling of existing studios to put “public-facing” features on the first floor.

In general, the plan highlighted more engagement with visitors over the traditional viewing experience of the Torpedo Factory. The reimagined Torpedo Factory would have “make-it space” type activities on the first floor. The Art League Store could also potentially be moved to the first floor in the redesign. Read More

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This was a big week for Alexandria.

Our top story this week was the Alexandria School Board’s decision to reopen schools for students with disabilities, while the future reopening of school for elementary, middle and high schoolers remains in doubt.

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said that the only feasible option for reopening schools — based on distancing and staffing constraints — would be for students to rotate to in-person schooling only one day per week. Hutchings also appeared on CNN and said that ACPS is not likely to fully reopen until there is a vaccine for the coronavirus.

We also reported that the Alexandria City Council approved plans for Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus and the North Potomac Yard development plan, virtually paving the way for the college to open its doors to hundreds of students by 2024.

“This is a very significant set of decisions for the city, and is really going to shape, not just a portion of our city, but really the entirety of our city for a long period of time to come,” said Mayor Justin Wilson.

On the coronavirus front, there are now 75 deaths in Alexandria and there are now or have been more than 4,100 cases since the pandemic began in March. Latino residents continue to lead the case count.

Governor Ralph Northam and Virginia Transportation Secretary Shannon Valentine were in the city on Monday to unveil a team of new zero emission DASH electric buses.

We also reported that the City Council unanimously approved naming the 1000 block of Montgomery Street in Old Town “Earl F. Lloyd Way” in honor of the first Black man to ever play in the National Basketball Association.

Restaurant-wise, we spoke with one of the owners of a pizza and burger joint that is taking over the former location of Pizzeria Paradiso on lower King Street. The Chewish Deli is also now open in Old Town, and the owner of Del Ray Boccato says that his gelato shop will soon open.

Additionally, more than 175 people participated in our weekly poll. With the November 3 election around the corner, this week we asked about voting plans, and 65% of respondents voted by mail/absentee, 31% plan to vote on election day, and 4% are not voting.

Here are ALXnow’s top stories this week in Alexandria:

  1. School Board Shelves Plan to Reopen Schools in 2021, Students with Disabilities Transitioning Back Next Month
  2. City Releasing Torpedo Factory Draft Action Plan Today
  3. City Council Approves Virginia Tech Innovation Campus and North Potomac Yard Development Plan
  4. Alexandria Student Called N-Word in Online Forum, and Not By Another Student
  5. Republican Jeff Jordan Running Uphill Battle Against Incumbent Rep. Don Beyer
  6. The Chewish Deli Opens New Location in Old Town
  7. One Arrested After Attempted Armed Robbery in Alexandria’s West End
  8. Report: ACPS Superintendent Sends Child to Bishop Ireton High School
  9. Female Suspect Flees, Nothing Taken in Attempted Old Town Bank Robbery
  10. Alexandria and Arlington Want a New Future for the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center
  11. Alexandria Courthouse Deep Cleaned After Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19

Have a safe weekend!

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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Alexandria will release a draft action plan for revitalizing the Torpedo Factory Art Center today (October 16), and the proposal on the table includes a front entrance on the waterfront and a more interactive experience for families.

The city took over operations of the Torpedo Factory in 2016, and the art center traditionally sees more than a half a million visitors every year. But Diane Ruggiero, the city’s deputy director for recreation, parks and cultural activities, says that it doesn’t have a family-friendly atmosphere.

“A lot of the focus of the plan is about activating the first floor, kind of changing that initial experience that people have when they come into the art center,” Ruggiero told ALXnow. “We do know that folks want a more engaging and interactive experience from an arts perspective.”

There are more than 80 studios in the building, and artist studios take up 70% of the building. The largest tenant, The Art League school, art supply store, gallery and offices takes up 12% of occupancy. Its next largest occupant is The Alexandria Archeology Museum.

“I think the liveliness of the Art Center has always been something that has come back as a criticism of the Art Center, even pre-COVID,” Ruggiero said. “Some of the feedback that we had from the community is that there’s not a lot going on there that’s family friendly.”

The draft plan was developed by two consultants and Ruggiero says it will be on the city’s website later today.

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Even after an unforgettable year stricken by a pandemic, Alexandria has been named one of the best small cities in the United States.

Alexandria took the fifth spot in the Condé Nast Traveler’s 33rd annual Readers’ Choice Awards. The city placed third last year and fourth the year before that.

Here’s the top five small cities in the U.S. this year, according to the magazine:

  1. Charleston, South Carolina
  2. Santa Fe, New Mexico
  3. Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
  4. Laguna Beach, California
  5. Alexandria, Virginia

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 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. 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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Morning Notes

City Opening Second Round of Small Business Loans — “Starting tomorrow @AlexandriaEcon will begin accepting applications for another $2.4M of grants for our small businesses. This is the second round of “Back to Business Grants” designed to aid business recovery. Apply online!” [Twitter]

Residents Invited to Join RiverRenew Advisory Committee — “AlexRenew is seeking a balanced and diverse group of citizens representing neighborhoods, businesses, and various interests who commit to being active and engaged in the stakeholder process.” [Zebra]

Deadline Today for Studio Space at Torpedo Factory — “The deadline to apply for studio space is September 30! Time is running out! Visit torpedofactory.org/artopps now for the quick application. Open to all visual artists ages 21+.” [Twitter]

Immanuel Church Pumpkin Patch Returning October 4 — ” The Immanuel Church on-the-Hill’s Pumpkin Patch is back! The Pumpkin Patch has been held each October for 27 years. The 2020 version is open every day from Oct. 4-31. Mondays to Fridays are noon to 6 p.m. and weekends are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.” [Zebra]

Myron Mixon’s Reopening in Old Town October 1 — “The restaurant, at 220 N. Lee Street near the Old Town waterfront, made its announcement Monday night. The restaurant’s namesake is a four-time world barbecue champion, cookbook author, television host and more. The Alexandria restaurant opened in early 2017.” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s Weather — “Mainly sunny (during the day). High 71F. Winds WSW at 10 to 15 mph. Clear (in the evening). Low 56F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: ACPS Communications Specialist — “Responsible for researching, developing, implementing and evaluating communications for special projects to include capital projects, facilities projects, communication projects and projects that support schools, departments and the superintendent.” [Indeed]

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The list of pivotal Alexandria women is long, and starting this weekend a new local nonprofit will lead the city in honoring the 100 year anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Living Legend Pat Miller recently founded Alexandria Celebrates Women with the goal of honoring Alexandria’s women of the past, present and future.

“Great women, they never give up,” Miller told ALXnow. “Because if you can’t get it done one way you find another way to do it. That is exactly what happened with the suffragists. They never gave up, even when they were in jail.”

Women’s suffrage came to a head in 1917 when more than 70 women were jailed, beaten and force-fed at the Occoquan Workhouse. Reports of their severe treatment largely influenced the passage of the Amendment, including the story of Lucy Burns, who was force fed through her nose and spent a “Night of Terror” with her hands cuffed above her head.

“Their case was heard at the Alexandria courthouse, and the judge found that they had every right to protest and were released,” Miller said. “They went back to exactly what they had been doing, and they had the political momentum behind them.”

Alexandria Celebrates Women will lead a bike ride on Saturday, August 15. The free, family-friendly event will start at 7:30, 8:00 and or 8:30 a.m. to accommodate small groups of eight riders or fewer. The event will begin near the Office of Voter Registration and Elections (132 North Royal Street) in Old Town. The 14-mile route will go through trails and neighborhood streets.

The 19th Amendment passed on August 18, 1919, and at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, August 18, 2020, Mayor Justin Wilson will issue a city proclamation to mark the occasion in an outdoor ceremony at the Kate Waller Barrett Library. Barrett was a social and voting rights activist throughout her life and was the president of the National Council of Women.

Additionally, artists in the Torpedo Factory Art Center’s Studio 311 are creating an exhibit to honor the centennial, in addition to including a life-size historic picture of suffragists.

“When you just think about the women in the city, how many women head up a department and organization?” Miller said. “It’s overwhelming and we’re not honoring them, we’re not showing how much we appreciate what they do. That’s all changing.”

Courtesy image

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Morning Notes

Bookstore Operator Denies Raiding Little Free Libraries for Stock — “A Nextdoor site dedicated to Del Ray in Alexandria has been roiled by allegations that the operator of a nonprofit used bookstore slated to open next week in Alexandria was visiting Little Free Libraries to obtain stock for his shop.” [Washingtonian]

City Extends Public Feedback Deadline on Accessory Dwelling Units — “The public is invited to watch the City’s latest presentation on ADUs and provide feedback through Aug 19 here. There will be a virtual open house on ADUs scheduled before the Planning Commission and City Counsel hearings this fall.” [Alexandria Living]

Tammy Mann Chosen as Business Leader of the Year by Chamber of Commerce — “The Chamber ALX is thrilled to announce that Dr. Tammy Mann, President & CEO of The Campagna Center, has been selected as the 2020 Business Leader of the Year. She will be honored at the annual Best in Business Awards, presented by Burke & Herbert Bank, on October 1, 2020.” [Alexandria Chamber]

Alexandrian Named 15th Chief of Navy Reserve — “Vice Adm. John B. Mustin relieved Vice Adm. Luke M. McCollum as Chief of Navy Reserve and Commander, Navy Reserve Force, during a change of command ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard, Aug. 7.” [Zebra]

Animal Welfare League Saves Raccoon — “We’re so glad some Alexandria workers spotted this raccoon on top of their truck and waited until our Animal Services Officers arrived so he could be safely returned to the wild. Officer Stanback was able to safely remove the little raccoon and release him after confirming that he hadn’t sustained any injuries.” [Facebook]

Torpedo Factory Hosting Virtual Conversation With Artist — “The events and public space activation team in the Office of the Arts is working with local artist Melanie Kehoss for a mini exhibition in Torpedo Factory Art Center.” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “Thunderstorms likely in the morning. Then a chance of scattered thunderstorms in the afternoon. High 82F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 80%. Locally heavy rainfall possible.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Construction Manager — “The Construction Manager is directly responsible for managing the safe, efficient and quality production of a team of Outdoor Construction Crews, equipment, materials and workmanship for small and large scale residential projects.” [Indeed.com]

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Morning Notes

Virginia Launches Coronavirus Tracing App — “Virginia is the first state in the nation to launch such an app. It is based on Bluetooth Low Energy technology jointly developed by Apple and Google (Android). Users can download the app from their mobile phone’s app store now. The more people who download and use the app, the more effective it will be in helping reduce the possibility for COVID-19 transmission.” [Alexandria Living]

Beyer Scolds RNC for Trump Candidacy Announcement — Would be an illegal use of taxpayer funds and government property, and one of the most corrupt acts of the Trump era to date. A statement of what their party stands for now?” [Twitter]

Torpedo Factory Opens New Interactive Show — “Melanie Kehoss designed ‘Through the Kitchen Door’ with the idea that her audience would be central to her work. It involves six household scenes from 1790 to the present that viewers can walk through to get a real sense of how America’s history has evolved.” [Zebra]

DASH Reminds Riders to Wear Face Masks — “Masks are required in Virginia, including on DASH buses. #MaskUp to help us protect our operators, riders and community from COVID-19.” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “Isolated thunderstorms this evening becoming more widespread overnight. Low 71F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 100%.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Account Executive — “CareClix, a Northern Virginia based company and the world leader in the Telemedicine Space is seeking a few select individuals to join our Resellers and Independent Account Executive salesforce. Successful candidates in this position can expect first year commissions of lower middle to high six figures.” [Indeed]

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Tourism in Alexandria isn’t what it used to be. With local economies devastated by the pandemic, First Lady of Virginia Pamela Northam visited Alexandria on Wednesday (July 22) to promote safe tourism and congratulate the city on winning a $10,000 grant for its Great Walks program.

“In 2018, Virginia tourists spent more than $26 billion here, and this put 235,000 people to work and contributed $1.8 billion in local and state tax revenue,” Northam told a small audience in the Torpedo Factory Art Center. “This year, however, our tourism and hospitality industries have been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.”

Northam was joined by State Senator Adam Ebbin, City Councilman John Taylor Chapman, Councilwoman Del Pepper, Rita McClenny of the Virginia Tourism Corporation and Patricia Washington of Visit Alexandria. None of the speakers said they would be taking vacations this summer, but instead would be making small outings and being careful not to contract the virus.

“When you’re ordering out, think about local and how you can support our local stores and restaurants, because they may not be here if we don’t support them,” Northam said.

The officials also praised Visit Alexandria’s ALX Promise program, which they said was important for consumer confidence. More than 300 local businesses have participated in the accreditation system that ensures compliance with health regulations.

Chapman thanked city residents for stepping up to help local businesses and donating time and effort to the city’s nonprofits.

“They are generously donating time and money to our nonprofits, and they are looking out for each other by being smart about masks and social distancing,” Chapman said. “We have 271 years of meeting challenges and overcoming them, and COVID-19 is just the latest and we will overcome this, too.”

McClenny said that promoting safety and tourism is a delicate balancing act.

“We know a revived tourism economy can help spur new economic activity and critical funds back into our Virginia communities,” she said. “Here, we also know that we must proceed responsibly and encourage travel in a safe measured manner.”

Washington said that tourism is essential for the city’s economy.

“Visitors contribute $50 million in hotel, restaurant and retail taxes to our city to help fund for city services,” Washington said. “The tourism sector accounts for 7% of the workforce and it supports our large community of small businesses. Right now this sector is threatened by coronavirus, so I cannot emphasize enough our gratitude to our state and local leaders for recognizing that it is absolutely critical to stand by these businesses so that Virginia’s hospitality sector comes back strong.”

Staff photos by James Cullum

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Tai Hwa Goh had to make her own flowers and plants when she was a kid.

The artist, whose work is premiering tonight with a virtual reception at the Torpedo Factory Art Center’s Target Gallery, was raised in South Korea in an apartment complex without plants, and Goh’s latest work is meant to express the dynamic existing between humanity living within the natural world.

“I didn’t have a garden as a child, and that’s very common in Korea,” Goh told ALXnow. “I want people to understand the relationship between organic growth and human desire. There is a tension, and people like to look at the bright side of my work, but it has a dark side, which is why I introduced industrial qualities, like concrete and plastic.”

Goh’s medium is the printmaking and paper installation of handmade flowers. She uses printed and cut wax paper, and her work was chosen from more than 150 artists in a national search.

The virtual reception is available via facebook.com/targetgallery on Friday (July 10) at 7 p.m., and Goh will provide audiences with a closer look at her work. The show runs until July 26.

Join us tonight for the livestream premiere of our virtual exhibition tour for Tai Hwa Goh and a thoughtful discussion…

Posted by Target Gallery on Friday, July 10, 2020

Photos courtesy Torpedo Factory Art Center

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In years past, the Torpedo Factory Art Center teemed with upward of a half-million visitors every year, but all that changed with the coronavirus. It’s one of Alexandria’s top tourist destinations, and despite the cancellation of all in-person scheduled programs and private facility rentals, the Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association will soon be looking for new artists to participate in its jury process.

The Torpedo Factory, which is owned by the city, is currently open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Wednesday through Sunday and closed Monday and Tuesday. Visitors are required to wear face masks and observe social distancing. The Target Gallery, for instance, now only allows 10 people at a time.

There are 82 artist studios in the art center. Nine artists ended their leases because of the virus, 41 asked for a temporary reduction in hours and 19 asked for rent deferrals, according to Alexandria’s Communications Director Craig Fifer.

“Artists were eligible for total deferment of rent through June 30 and then a 12-month repayment program, similar to the relief program for business taxes,” Fifer told ALXnow. “Artists with at least two employees were also eligible for the business grant program administered by AEDP (the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership).”

Artist studios take up 70% of the building, and the largest tenant, The Art League school, art supply store, gallery and offices takes up 12% of occupancy and will reopen to the public on July 15. Its next largest occupant is The Alexandria Archeology Museum, which remains closed until further notice.

The Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association (TFAA) is a thriving professional artists community of more than 250 juried…

Posted by Torpedo Factory Artists' Association on Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Staff photo by James Cullum

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