Morning Notes

Bryan Watson, former NHL player, Bugsy’s Pizza founder, dies — “Watson founded Bugsy’s Pizza Restaurant and Sports Bar in 1983, crafting it into a favorite sports bar in Old Town Alexandria. It was initially known as The Penalty Box before adopting his nickname ‘Bugsy’s’. As reported by the Capitals, Watson displayed various artifacts, sweaters, equipment and photos at Bugsy’s and shared stories of his hockey career with customers.” [Patch]

Alexandria native serves with U.S. Navy Amphibious Squadron — “Lt. Anton Ekman is a 2011 graduate of Bishop Ireton High School and 2015 U.S. Naval Academy graduate. Today, Ekman serves as a cryptologic warfare officer.” [Zebra]

Townhomes proposed at former Topgolf and Ruby Tuesday in Kingstowne — “Developers has been attempting to find new uses for the site since 2016 when a mix of townhomes, multifamily units and 70,000 square feet of retail space were proposed.” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s weather — “Intervals of clouds and sunshine (during the day). A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High 94F. Winds SSW at 10 to 15 mph… Partly cloudy (in the evening). A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. Low 77F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

News job: Recreation coordinator — “In pursuit of service excellence, the Recreation Coordinator works closely with the Recreation Manager in developing, implementing, and overseeing free and fee-based programming at one of the City’s recreation centers.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria’s history with slavery makes Juneteenth a particularly important holiday.

June 19 recognizes the emancipation of slaves in the United States, and the date is expected to soon be a federal holiday, even though Alexandria has recognized it since 2019.

But because June 19 falls on a Saturday this year, the City is also recognizing Friday, June 18, as a holiday.

“We should all be looking at ways that we can help our community, especially in the context of a pandemic which has particularly ravaged communities of color,” said Audrey David, executive director of the Alexandria City Black History Museum, in a recent blog post, “Start by exploring the Black History Museum’s Preserving Their Names online only exhibition, released to coincide with the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, which features images of objects and digital photographs from the new Black Lives Remembered Collection.”

The Alexandria Black History Museum is also presenting a virtual performance on Saturday with the Washington Revels Jubilee Voices.

The holiday means most, but not all, City employees will have Friday off. Parking restrictions will also be lifted at legal parking spaces throughout the city, however Alexandria City Public Schools will be open.

What’s open

City-run facilities and services that will be open include:

Closures

The following City services are closed Friday:

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A new exhibition coming to the Torpedo Factory will spotlight a visual, sound, and interactive expression of the struggles Black women face.

The new exhibit is called We, Too, Sing America by Ọmọlará Williams McCallister.

According to the press release:

Target Gallery, the contemporary exhibition space for Torpedo Factory Art Center, presents its annual competitive solo exhibition, Ọmọlará Williams McCallister: We, Too, Sing AmericaMCCallister (pronouns: O/love/beloved) created a site-specific multisensory exhibition that is a place of community contemplation and healing.

The exhibition opened in late May and is scheduled to run through Sunday, July 18. And virtual reception is scheduled for this Friday, June 11, at 7 p.m.

The exhibit is part of McCallister’s series Domestic Work. According to a press release from the Torpedo Factory, the exhibit “confronts the extraction of emotional labor, caretaking and other domestic work from Black women that is expected, depended upon, normalized and erased in public and private spaces.”

The artwork consists of 1,440 muslin squares hand-embroidered with a description of an everyday act of emotional labor, with squares dyed to read “for you,” “for me,” or “for us.”

According to McCallister:

We, Too, Sing America is a memorial to the small everyday acts we have undertaken to support ourselves and each other as we have collectively moved towards building a better future and weathered the storms of COVID, of white-supremacist anti-Black terror, of the intersecting forms of oppression we face/d these past many months. In this work, I use accumulation and repetition of ritual acts, art objects, images, and sound to explore the relationship of the individual act, individual person, individual moment to the collective, and to collective world building.

Photo via Reese Bland/Torpedo Factory

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Several largely-intact ship hulls found underground in Old Town a few years ago could see new life in a proposed “Waterfront Museum” in the early stages of consideration in the upcoming budget.

The possible museum could house and display the timbers of at least one of the four-total ships found under new developments in 2018.

To be clear: the idea of the museum is still in its nascent stage. A feasibility study to “assess the viability” of the potential museum.

In addition, in FY 2022 $125,000 is requested to conduct a Waterfront Museum Feasibility Study to assess the viability of a history center as recommended in the Waterfront History Plan and the Waterfront Area Plan. If supported, the museum would house items such as the conserved ship timbers of an 18th century merchant ship and associated artifacts excavated as part of the Robinson Terminal South and Hotel Indigo construction projects.

Derelict ships were often used part of the foundation when the city was expanding its waterfront at the end of the 18th century. One of the most intact ships was once a cargo freighter, with holes showing where certain Caribbean worms had eaten away at the wood and dendrochronology indicating that the ship’s timbers were originally from Boston and had been cut down in 1741.

The discovery of the ships made national headlines, with the relatively intact state giving archeologists a chance to analyze artifacts from the city’s heyday as a port.

The timbers from the ships were shipped to Texas A&M for further study and preservation — mainly involving the slow extraction of water from the long-buried timbers and careful treatment to ensure the frames don’t lose integrity in the process.

A scale model of the ship is available in the Alexandria Archaeology Museum on the top floor of the Torpedo Factory Art Center, but the museum would be too small to house timbers from the ship, which is around 25 feet wide and 46 feet long.

The feasibility study comes in addition to $102 million also being considered for infrastructure improvements along the waterfront. The budget item notes that prices have increased dramatically since many of the infrastructure improvements were first proposed.

According to the budget memo:

$102 million over the ten-year CIP to support the design and construction of the Plan-recommended infrastructure, including flood mitigation, prioritized through community engagement processes. Projected construction costs have increased due to further scope refinement, further design development, and market drivers. Cost estimates have been escalated to anticipated mid-construction date. The most significant changes were due to more detailed design for stormwater and pumping system, structural bulkhead, and electrical infrastructure. The current CIP budget is funded at approximately 50% of the current cost estimate. Alternative strategies and value engineering studies are currently underway. The design-build process will likely include further alternatives analysis and cost development to facilitate a firm budget. It is anticipated that the CIP budget request will be further refined after the project alternatives and value engineering process is complete.

The waterfront items are part of a larger FY 2022 budget discussion scheduled for the April 8 Planning Commission meeting.

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Morning Notes

Virginia Rolls Back Some Restrictions on Dining, Outdoor Gatherings — Effective Mar. 1, Virginians will be able to buy and drink alcohol at restaurants, food courts, breweries, distilleries, and wineries until they are required to close at midnight. The changes to the current executive order come amid declining rates of hospitalizations and infections and rising vaccination rates in the Commonwealth, Northam said during a press conference this morning (Wednesday).” [Reston Now]

Alexandria Black History Museum Launches Online Exhibition — “Following George Floyd’s murder on May 25, 2020, the Alexandria Black History Museum (ABHM) requested that Alexandria residents share their thoughts, artwork, and more. ABHM wanted to document the Alexandria community’s response of this tragic event and preserve it for future generations. An online exhibition featuring the items received so far launched recently on the Historic Alexandria Online portal. The items collectively are called the Black Lives Remembered Collection.” [Zebra]

Leaders Predict What Alexandria Will Look Like in the Year 2050 — “You pop into the Torpedo Factory and delve into the immersive beauty of art and technology combined, then get your caffeine fix with ease as a retinal scan captures your regular favorite brew — fair trade of course, because all coffee is these days. With a coffee in hand, you board one of the free electric trolleys that departs every 10 minutes from King Street to any of the city’s neighborhoods — Potomac Yard, Inova West, Carlyle, Arlandria, Del Ray and more.[Alexandria Living]

Council Approves Newport Village Development — “UDR Newport Village LLC, has received approval for a development special use permit to tear down two garden-style apartments and build a multifamily residential building with 383 units near Northern Virginia Community College. According to the plans, 24 units would be studios, 255 would be one-bedroom units, and 104 would be two-bedroom units. At least a dozen of the units would be affordable, and the developer is making a contribution to the affordable housing fund.” [Alexandria Living]

City Environmental Award Nominations Open — “Know someone who is committed to protecting the environment and sustaining Alexandria’s natural resources? Nominate them for the Ellen Pickering Environmental Excellence Award by March 25.” [Twitter]

George Washington Reenactor Conducting Community Conversations — “Join George Washington every Friday in February as he discusses his life during various periods of his life and engages the audience. The first week will be about his youth, the second week will delve into the American War for Independence, the third week will cover his post-war retirement at Mount Vernon and his time presiding over the Constitutional Convention, and the last installment will cover his Presidency and final retirement years.” [Visit Alexandria]

Today’s Weather — “Mainly sunny (during the day). High 52F. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph… Partly cloudy (in the evening). Low 31F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Pastry Chef/Baker — “Seeking a full time pastry and/or bread baker for high quality artisan bread and pastry company. We are looking for a creative self starter who has attention to detail and a variety of skills from cookies and brownies to cakes, ice cream, mousses, desserts and pies- laminating skills a plus but not necessary. Creativity, drive and a strong work ethic are critical. This position comes with a lot of freedom to develop new items and grow the business. You will be producing a menu of set items according to our recipes but we are looking for someone who can creatively and efficiently develop and add more items- this is a growth position.” [Indeed]

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It was a cold and snowy week in Alexandria.

Our top story this week was on plans to redevelop the GenOn power plant in Old Town North. It looks like deconstruction of the plant will start in 2023 and developers are looking at converting it into an urban, mixed-use property with housing.

The short work week started with news that Alexandria reached 10,000 cases of COVID-19. The latest figures show that there are 10,113 cases and 104 total deaths in the city, according to the Virginia Department of Health. The city’s seven-day moving average is now 35.1 cases.

A 49-year-old homeless woman was found dead in Arlandria on Tuesday morning, and the mayor told us that homelessness is on the rise in the city. ALXnow is following up with the city on the issue.

Tuesday morning also brought news that Alexandria City Councilman Mo Seifeldein abandoned his run for mayor and will not seek reelection to council. Seifeldein was hired as a trial lawyer by the U.S. Department of Labor in Jan. 2020, and while he can finish out his term on council, he can not run unless he files as an independent candidate.

In other election news, the race for city council is starting to get crowded, as Bill Rossello, a co-founder of the Bring Integrity Back to Alexandria Facebook Group, just threw his hat into the ring.

On the vaccine front, the waiting list has surpassed 45,000 and it may be until late summer that the vaccine is widely available in the city. On Thursday, Mayor Justin Wilson also asked the governor to open vaccine eligibility for restaurant, personal care and retail workers.

More than 200 people responded to this week’s poll on power outages. There have been a number of outages over tha last year, and 73% of respondents reported experiencing an outage, while 26% report that their homes haven’t been impacted.

In case you missed them, here are some other important stories this week:

Here are our top stories of the week in Alexandria:

  1. Developers Lay Out Multi-Year Timeline for GenOn Plant Redevelopment
  2. BREAKING: Homeless Woman Found Dead on Mount Vernon Avenue
  3. Alexandria Boxer Troy Isley Goes Pro With Big Fight Next Week
  4. Seifeldein Not Running for Mayor, Leaving Alexandria City Council
  5. ALXnow’s Top Stories this Week in Alexandria
  6. Director of Finance: Alexandria’s Real Estate Assessments Are a ‘Tale of Two Markets’
  7. Local Business Owner Robbed of Car While Pumping Gas at Old Town Gas Station
  8. Torpedo Factory Overhaul Heads to City Council Next Month
  9. Snow: Up to 6 Inches of Snow and Ice Expected in Alexandria
  10. BREAKING: Alexandria Police Investigate Second Car Stolen While Owner Pumps Gas
  11. Local Facebook Watchdog Group Founder Bill Rossello Announces Run for City Council

Have a safe weekend!

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A plan to reinvigorate the Torpedo Factory is headed to the City Council for review early next month after a quick introduction last Tuesday.

The city took over the Torpedo Factory Art Center in 2016 and relations with the artists in the facility have sometimes been tense, with disagreements over how leases should be handled and some artists expressing frustrations at ongoing rent during the pandemic.

In the upcoming plan for the Torpedo Factory, city staff laid out a strategy they hope will drive up engagement at the facility when tourism slowly crawls back into Old Town when coronavirus has passed.

According to the plan:

Increasing the number of guests and increasing the intensity of their learning and artistic experience will make the Art Center a premier arts destination for the region. Interactive, immersive experiences, family fun, festivals and art fairs are all ways to increase the public engagement and enjoyment of the Art Center. The re-imagined Art Center, with its emphasis on public engagement and alignment with the City’s art and waterfront development plans, will create a new personality and identity for the Art Center. This new identity will need to be marketed to a wider audience.

Part of this plan is to make the Torpedo Factory more events and dining focused, with an emphasis on hosting arts festivals and family-friendly entertainment to get more people in the door.

The new plan also hopes to overhaul the first floor to prioritize hands-on activities for visitors and more “public-facing” features.

The last part of the plan, and the one most behind-the-scenes but also the one that could have the biggest impact on artists in the facility, involves a “re-jurying process to ensure vibrancy and vitality based on new artist selection process.” The plan could involve cycling more artists through the facility with existing artists competing against newer applicants for spaces.

Long term, the city is also planning to bring in a contractor to identify maintenance issues in the building and sort through the building’s infrastructure needs.

The plan is scheduled for a more in-depth discussion at the upcoming March 9 City Council meeting.

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A new exhibit at the Torpedo Factory Art Center set to launch tomorrow aims to blend the virtual and in-person tourism that’s likely to be a cornerstone for local galleries as the pandemic rages on.

The series is called Movements, Moments and features six filmed movement-based performances as part of a larger gallery featuring 20 artists.

The series also incorporates elements of national dialogue over the last year, from protests over racial inequality to feelings of isolation brought about by coronavirus.

According to a press release:

LaRissa Roger’s filmed performance piece ‘We’ve Always Been Here, Like Hydrogen, Like Oxygen’ is a two-channel video depicting Roger’s rubbing her body with an orange. The fruit recalls the murder of Latasha Harlins, whose death after being wrongfully accused of stealing a bottle of orange juice inspired the 1992 LA riots. The work addresses what it is to inhabit the world in the body of a black woman. She uses the orange as symbolism of being pasteurized, commodified, and sold for consumption. This motion and action of cleansing herself is an act of self-care and resistance.

The exhibit is scheduled to launch with a virtual reception via Facebook Live tomorrow, Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. The exhibit will be open Wednesday-Sunday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. with limited visitor capacity to allow for social distancing. The gallery is on view through Sunday, March 7.

Image courtesy Torpedo Factory Art Center

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Alexandria city staff are proposing that the Torpedo Factory Art Center undergo a transformation. The city, which took over the waterfront attraction in 2016, is looking at a new jurying process for artists, installing pop-up shops and restaurants, a renovated first floor with family-friendly “make-it spaces” and more educational experiences.

The “Action Plan for Vibrancy & Sustainability at Torpedo Factory Art Center” is the culmination of multiple city reports on how to improve the facility, which traditionally sees more than a half a million visitors annually. Staff say that 24- month short-term and five-year long-term plans have been developed to take care of immediate and long-term needs.

“As the Art Center re-imagines itself for the 21st century, it will need to challenge its internal policies, practices, and business model in accordance with best practices and industry standards to become a sustainable organization,” according to the action plan. “Its resources will have to be optimally deployed to maximize the impact of every dollar.”

As for the artists and the jurying process, the report said that the city should:

  • Design and implement an impeccable, credible, artist selection process to determine studio leases. Grounded in best practices, selection is based on art quality, ability to work and interact with the public, working for greater good of Art Center/community, and diversity including media, place in career, and personal background.
  • Similar to current “Post Grad Residency” at the Art Center, establish specific short-term studio residences for specific demographics such as career level or new media.
  • Offer artists professional and business development seminar(s) (open to all).

The Art League school is the largest tenant, and staff would “investigate” moving it to the first floor of the building. The next largest occupant is The Alexandria Archeology Museum, and Ivy Whitlatch, chair of the Alexandria Archaeology Commission wrote City Council asking that the city focus on the art center’s historical background as a munitions factory that built torpedoes during World War II.

“Together, this short-term action plan and long-term plan will combine to shape a 21st Century Art Center ready to successfully and sustainably serve the City of Alexandria and greater community for the next decade,” notes the action plan.

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Morning Notes

New Torpedo Factory Art Features Local Waste — “The AlexRenew Wastewater Treatment Facility treats a mix of sewage and storm water. The facility runs the wastewater through a series of settling tanks and treatment processes to remove nutrients before discharging it to tributaries of the Potomac River. The brown-colored media was crowdsourced from thousands of area toilets, according to Len.” [WWD Magazine]

Work Resumes on the Fairfax Building with the Massive Fire — “It’s been 10 months since a devastating fire at the South Alex construction site near Alexandria, Virginia, but the project is back up and running.” [WTOP]

New Cafe Vía Volcán Profiled — “Twenty-plus years after buying a farm in the Volcán Barú area of Panama and a little over one year since they began selling roasted beans, Chris and Janina McCausland have opened a brick-and-mortar store for Vía Volcán Coffee in the Old Town neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia.” [Daily Coffee News]

Officials Celebrate Big Week for Alexandria Affordable Housing — “We broke the ground on the Wesley Housing Waypoint project, bringing 81 units serving 30-60 AMI and… We cut the ribbon on Bloom by Carpenter Shelter & AHDCHousing with a new shelter and 97 units (40-60 AMI)!” [Twitter]

Zebra Profiles Local Jeweler Who Changed Christmas in Old Town — “For 32 years, David Martin has made jewelry sparkle in his Alexandria shop, Gold Works, but his iconic charms aren’t all he has done to beautify our city. Take a walk up King Street at this festive time of year and you’ll see firsthand how Martin has beautified Alexandria.” [Zebra]

Local Nonprofit and VT Alum Build Desks for Students — “Building Momentum, a local “problem solving organization,” has been providing easy-to-assemble desks to Alexandria students since the start of the fall 2020 school year, and now some Virginia Tech alumni have joined the project…” [Alexandria Times]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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