Alexandria, VA

It’s the end of another work week in Alexandria!

There was a lot of crime this week, as police responded to multiple shots fired incidents in the Parker Gray area on September 2. There was also another carjacking in the West End — the latest in a recent uptick that prompted Mayor Justin Wilson to ask the public for help in reducing the number of vehicle-related thefts.

But there is also some good news to report, as businesses are opening in the city despite the daily pressures of the pandemic. This week we took a look inside The Company Of Books used book store in Del Ray, and we covered the city’s new Wellness District, which is providing a number of free programs and discounts for the recently expanded Wellness Month.

Also this week, Alexandria City Public Schools cut down a 150-year-old tree to make way for a concession stand. The move was criticized by activists and former Mayor Allison Silberberg. With the destruction of the tree, the renovation project for the Parker-Gray Stadium has now officially begun.

What stories impacted you this week? Let us know in the comments.

Here are our top stories this week in Alexandria.

  1. Alexandria Woman Uninjured in Tuesday Carjacking at Gunpoint in Potomac Yard
  2. Beatley Central Library Closed Until Further Notice Due to ‘Emergency Conditions’
  3. Police: Three Alexandria ABC Stores Broken Into, High-End Liquor Stolen
  4. Police Investigating Multiple Gunshots Fired in Parker Gray/Braddock
  5. Alexandria’s COVID Positive Testing Rate Lowest in Region
  6. Halal Slaughterhouse Construction Begins, Opening Reset to Mid-November
  7. Update: Chalk Graffiti Decrying Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf Sprayed In Front of Wrong House
  8. Braddock ‘Elizabeth’s Counter’ Last of Regional Chain After Bankruptcy Filing
  9. Police: Three Alexandria ABC Stores Broken Into, High-End Liquor Stolen
  10. North Potomac Yard Plans Going to Planning Commission, Board of Architectural Review
  11. ACPS Cuts Down 150-Year Old Tree to Make Way for Concession Stand

Have a safe weekend!

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Morning Notes

COVID Cases in Alexandria Jump by 21 — “The latest update from the City on COVID-19: Positive tests up 21 to 3,436 in the City; 7-day Positivity Rate down to 4.0%; 1 new hospitalization; Still safer at home, wash hands, wear masks and support our essential workers.” [Twitter]

Alexandria Democratic Committee Hosting Virtual Labor Day Picnic — “Thrilled to announce that the Biden Harris campaign’s National Political Director Erin Wilson will be joining the ADC as a special guest at our Labor Day Celebration!! You will not want to miss this unique opportunity to hear from Erin about the upcoming 2020 election!” [Facebook]

Former Mayor Silberberg Laments Loss of 150-Year-Old Tree at T.C. Williams High School — “You could almost hear a collective gasp throughout the city as the news spread. It didn’t have to be this way. Almost 3,000 Alexandrians, including me, had signed a petition to save the Witness Tree, which was so aptly named by McArthur Myers…In fact, with a little more creativity, the tree could have been a focal point of the stadium’s new design. The stadium’s architects should have been far more creative in using the tree as a centerpiece for its new plaza.” [Facebook]

Beyer Says Trump Trashed George H.W. Bush For Being Shot Down in WWII“Trump referred to former President George H. W. Bush as a ‘loser’ for being shot down by the Japanese as a Navy pilot in World War II (Bush escaped capture, but eight other men shot down during the same mission were caught, tortured, and executed by Japanese soldiers).” [Twitter]

Here’s How ACPS Will Virtually Track Attendance — “Every day counts when it comes to school… (F)ind out how we’re tracking attendance and what you can do to help your child be present and ready for learning at home.” [Facebook]

Alexandria Soccer Association Starts Nine-Week Course — “The Alexandria Soccer Association introduced ASA School+, a nine-week educational program for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, according to a news release.” [Alex Times]

Story Time: Sheriff’s Deputy Reads ‘Ten Apples Up On Top’ — “We would not, could not resist another Dr. Seuss classic! So this week Deputy Sahar Sherzai is reading ‘Ten Apples Up On Top.'” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “Sun and clouds mixed with a slight chance of thunderstorms during the afternoon. High 87F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%. At night, partly cloudy skies. Low 62F. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Recruiting Manager — “The role of the Recruiting Manager will support the qualitative recruiting function across all aspects of qualitative market research projects including bid process, recruiting, vendor management, invoice reconciliation, through to project close process. Administrative tasks related to the function include (but not limited to); supporting the project bids process, drafting market research screeners, coordinating project scheduling between RAs and recruiting vendors, tracking of project recruiting documents and project consent forms, invoice reconciliation.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria City Public Schools today cut down a 150-year-old oak tree to make way for a concession stand as part of the renovation of Parker-Gray Stadium at T.C. Williams High School.

“Shame,” Alexandria activist MacArthur Myers told ALXnow. “A crime has been committed.”

There were more than 2,850 signatures on a Change.org petition to save the “Witness Tree,” but the school system said that saving the tree was not feasible given site constraints and that 31 trees will be planted along the T.C. property line.

“Happy to report the renovation project is underway this morning at the Parker-Gray Memorial Stadium,” wrote the T.C. Williams High School Football Boosters in a Facebook post. “Thank you Alexandria City Public Schools for making this happen for the students and residents of the city!”

Tree removal marks beginning of the stadium improvement project

Happy to report the renovation project is underway this morning at the Parker-Gray Memorial Stadium. Thank you Alexandria City Public Schools for making this happen for the students and residents of the city! @TCWSports #TitanPride

Posted by T.C. Williams High School Football Boosters on Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Courtesy photos

21 Comments

Alexandria has put another summer work week to rest.

As the City Council enjoys a legislative break, the School Board conducted a virtual meeting to discuss the renaming process for T.C. Williams High School. Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr., and the board advocate a public engagement process that could result in the board voting to change the name this December, followed by a vote on a specific name next spring. A group of community activists, however, believe that the name should be taken off immediately, since ACPS acknowledged Williams was an avowed racist and segregationist.

This week, readers also responded to stories about public safety, local businesses, entertainment, real estate listings and an update on absentee ballot requests.

Not included in this week’s list is Friday’s story about an increased police presence in Old Town after an uptick in violent crime.

What stories impacted you this week? Let us know in the comments.

Here are our top stories this week in Alexandria.

  1. Fire Department Says $1 Million in Damages and 21 People Displaced in West End Fire
  2. Lena’s in Del Ray Applies for Large Second-Floor Expansion and To-Go Alcohol Sales
  3. New Convenience Store ‘Old Town Mini Mart’ Coming to King Street
  4. Police Investigating ‘Shots Fired’ Report in West End
  5. Man Arrested for Forging Over $10,000 in Checks from Alexandria Dentist
  6. Del Ray Shell Station Robbed on Saturday
  7. ACPS Still Cutting Down 150-Year-Old Tree, Preparing for Parker-Gray Stadium Renovation
  8. Drive-In Movies Coming to Alexandria on August 29
  9. Truck Lit on Fire, Stripped of Identification at City Impound Lot
  10. Listing of the Day: 428 N Washington Street
  11. Alexandria Sees Record High Absentee Ballot Requests

Have a safe weekend!

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Morning Notes

Alexandria Man Wins $100,000 in Virginia Lottery — “Darrar, who used to be a small business owner, bought the winning ticket at Global Food, 1476 North Beauregard Street in Alexandria for the July 28 drawing. He plans on saving his winnings.” [Patch]

COVID-19 Cases Increase by 16 — “Positive tests up 16 to 3,146 in the City 7-day Positivity Rate up to 5.8% 3 new hospitalizations Still safer at home, wash hands, wear masks and support our essential workers.” [Twitter]

Beyer Refutes Trump Claim on Coronavirus Testing — “The United States has a quarter of the world’s cases and a fifth of its deaths with only 4% of its population. That isn’t because of testing — which STILL isn’t good enough — it’s because President Donald “it will disappear soon” Trump ignored the scientists and let it spread.” [Twitter]

Environmental Council of Alexandria Writes School Board Asking to Save 150-Year-old Tree — “As with the Potomac Yard Metro Station which destroyed dozens of mature trees in a wetland despite the availability of alternative sites, the City cannot continue to tell citizens that they are too late to preserve tree canopy and open space. The City should be preserving our tree canopy without requiring citizens to review architect’s drawings before learning of destruction of trees and open space. How is the City to be taken seriously about its claim to be an ‘Eco City’ when it continually elevates construction convenience over trees and open space? It’s never too late to do the right thing.”

Polk and Ramsay Students Invited to Pick a Free Book Today — “Before selecting a book, children will be given a mask and gloves for their well-being.” [Zebra]

Today’s Weather — Showers in the morning, then partly cloudy in the afternoon. High 83F, low 64F. Winds N at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 40%. [Weather.com]

New Job: Digital Audience Manager — “The Digital Audience Manager leads the National Military Family Association’s micro-audiences pivoting between brand awareness initiatives, organizational campaigns, programmatic promotion, and press outreach and response.” [Indeed]

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Construction will soon begin to renovate Parker-Gray Stadium at T.C. Williams High School, and that means a 150-year-old oak tree will soon be demolished, according to Alexandria City Public Schools planning staff.

Over the last several weeks there has been renewed discussion over the fate of the Witness Tree, which the school system said must go to make way for a new concession stand. A Change.org petition to save the tree even garnered more than 2,500 signatures.

John Finnigan, the acting director of Educational Facilities for Alexandria City Public Schools, said that a contractor for the project has been chosen and that work will likely begin in the next few weeks.

“It’s a very tight site and that is a very large tree right in the middle of our developable footprint,” Finnigan said in an online chat on Monday night. “The tree was unfortunately unable to be saved, but because of that we are planting around 31 new trees.”

Alexandria activist and historian MacArthur Myers says it is shameful to cut the tree down.

‘The Witness Tree is part of the soul of the Woods Place community,” Myers said. “ACPS has missed another opportunity to heal the community.”

Boyd Walker said that cutting the tree down conflicts with the city’s climate goals.

“It is unfortunate the school board has refused to request to save a tree that would provide oxygen, shade and carbon capture for decades to come, to the future students at the school and the athletes who will use this field,” he said.

Finnigan said that construction will be conducted from Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 pm.

According to ACPS, the project includes:

  • The addition of an eighth lane on the track
  • Replacement of the artificial turf
  • The addition of restrooms
  • A new concession stand
  • A ticket booth
  • Replacement of the score board and placement on the other end of the field
  • Egress safety lighting
  • A new press box to replace the condemned one on the other side of the field to improve the quality of lighting for images and video for media
  • Field lighting
  • An upgraded the sound system to comply with the City of Alexandria’s Noise Ordinance, enhance the quality of the sound, disperse the sound via multiple speakers and direct it away from houses along the fence line
  • A 10-foot-tall wooden fence between the stadium and neighboring homes

Photo by Boyd Walker

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It was a busy week in Alexandria.

Alexandria Police apprehended the suspect in the city’s only murder this year, and he is currently in the hospital suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Additionally, violent crime events are happening throughout the city, and in the Parker Gray neighborhood of Old Town and in the West End in particular. This week saw the fourth shooting in Old Town in less than a month.

The number of coronavirus cases continues to climb, as well, and the president of Inova Alexandria Hospital discussed some of her concerns in the days ahead.

Here are our top stories this week in Alexandria.

  1. BREAKING: Alexandria Police Ask for Public Help in Finding Man Wanted for Murder
  2. Alexandria’s COVID-19 Death Count at 60, Hospital Concerned About Rising Cases
  3. BREAKING: Police Investigating Homicide in West End Residential Community
  4. BREAKING: Murder Suspect Was Released After COVID-19 Court Delay, Allegedly Kills Former Girlfriend Before Trial
  5. Alexandria Police Chief Criticized by Staff Over Officer Fired for Unjustified Use of Force
  6. Activists Protest at Alexandria Home of Acting DHS Chief Chad Wolf
  7. Police Investigate Fourth Shots Fired Call in Old Town in Less Than a Month
  8. ACPS to Cut Down 150-Year-Old Tree This Month to Make Way for Concession Stand
  9. Man Injured in Violent Carjacking in Old Town
  10. BREAKING: ACPS Announces Online-Only School in the Fall
  11. West End Silver Diner Opens Next Week but Harris Teeter Won’t Open Until Next Year

Have a safe weekend!

Photo via Alexandria Police Department

5 Comments

Plans on cutting down a 150-year-old oak tree at T.C. Williams High School to make way for an expanded concession stand are going forward, with the contractor reportedly cutting down the tree at an undetermined time this month.

Activist Paul Alan Friedman has talked with the contractor, who told him that the tree will be taken down in August.

“The concession stand project is budgeted at $5 million, as I understand it,” Friedman said. “If you can afford to spend five million on a project like this, you can afford to save the tree. We don’t blame the contractor, but this is about putting pressure on the school board to change their approach. It’s the fault of the people making the policy.”

 Over the last several weeks, a small movement has sprouted to save the tree, with a recently launched Change.org petition that garnered more than 1,600 signatures. Additionally, a group of residents are willing to engage in civil disobedience to stall its destruction.

Alexandria City Public Schools, however, said that the tree can not be saved and that when all is said and done that the new facility will include landscaping and 31 newly planted trees.

“We empathize with the members of the community who wish to see the tree remain and worked with the architects right from the beginning to see if this tree could be saved,” ACPS spokeswoman Helen Lloyd told ALXnow. “Unfortunately, it was realized early in this process back in early 2018 that saving the tree was not feasible with the site constraints (square footage, setbacks, contours and storm water management). Construction would occur in the tree’s drip line, damaging roots and compromising the health of the tree.  The plans have shown the removal of the tree since submission in 2018 with additional plantings around the periphery of the development.”

The property around the tree was acquired via urban renewal in the 1960s, and much of it once belonged to the Wood family. Jason Wood, who now lives in the house his father built behind T.C., used to play under the tree as a child.

“What a gorgeous tree,” Wood said. “It just doesn’t make sense to me. When you look around this area here with all the rest of this land to put the concession stand somewhere else, they always tend to come into this Black neighborhood and want to put something next right behind someone’s back door.”

Alexandria Living Legend Rosa Byrd attended a recent meeting at the tree and said that the plan for the concession stand should be changed.

“I’m sure they can angle it another way so that don’t have to destroy this tree,” she said.

Help me save the Titan tree. It will provide oxygen to the future athletes on this new field. 1500 hundred people have…

Posted by Boyd Walker on Sunday, August 2, 2020

Courtesy photo by Boyd Walker

9 Comments

It was another busy week in Alexandria.

Our readers overwhelmingly responded to Sunday’s protest at the Alexandria home of acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, and the story has more than 380 comments. This week also saw its first homicide, which occurred in the West End, in addition to a number of crime events in the Braddock area.

Not included in our weekly list is late-breaking news on Friday that Alexandria City Public Schools want a virtual-only school year starting in September. Residents have been waiting throughout the summer for the school system to make up its mind, and ACPS has conducted numerous virtual chats with students, parents and staff over the last several weeks.

Here are our top stories this week in Alexandria.

  1. Activists Protest at Alexandria Home of Acting DHS Chief Chad Wolf
  2. BREAKING: Police Investigating Homicide in West End Residential Community
  3. Former APD Officer Peter Laboy Gets His Driver’s License Seven Years After Being Shot in the Head
  4. Just Listed in Alexandria
  5. Students and Residents Putting Daily Cover Over T.C. Williams High School Name
  6. BREAKING: Flooding Reported in Parts of City, AFD Responding to Multiple Emergency Calls
  7. Shots Fired Tuesday Night in Braddock Neighborhood
  8. Alexandria Delegate Wants City to Fire Officials or Police Who Espouse QAnon Theories
  9. Save the Tree Petition at T.C. Williams High School Garners Nearly 1,000 Signatures
  10. Man Injured in Violent Carjacking in Old Town
  11. COVID-19 Update: Deaths at 57, Case Count at 2,735 in Alexandria

Have a safe and fun weekend!

Staff photo by James Cullum

3 Comments

A petition to keep a 150-year-old oak tree from being torn down at T.C. Williams High School for the construction of a concession stand has gotten nearly 1,000 signatures.

“Some Alexandria citizens have already stepped up to say they will protect the tree, some even going so far as to say they will chain themselves to it,” notes the Change.org petition. “Let us show them our support and tell the city and school board NO to killing this tree.”

The tree was reportedly supposed to be cut down last week, but is still standing. ACPS did not respond to ALXnow’s calls for comment on the situation, and if it is possible to scuttle plans to cut it down.

“Much consideration has been given to finding a way to save this tree which unfortunately is positioned in the middle of the site where the concession and restroom area will be,” ACPS spokeswoman Julie Allen told ALXnow in a statement last week. “When planning, the goal was to locate this facility as far as away from the neighborhood on Woods Avenue as possible to minimize its impact on residents. Although we understand and agree that losing a mature tree is regrettable, 31 new trees and other landscaping will be planted.”

There will also be a demonstration near the construction site on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

“This project is not essential, especially when we don’t have students in schools, nor do we have football teams or fans allowed to attend games,” Alexandria activist Paul Alan Friedman wrote on Facebook. “No later than the end of August it will be gone if we don’t act. In about a week, it will be under control of the company hired to cut it down. There must be another way.”

Save the Tree at TC! (TC Williams High School)Join us! Meet up with us at the gate next to our WITNESS TREE and…

Posted by Paul Alan Friedman on Monday, July 27, 2020

Photo via Boyd Walker/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Mayor Says Heroes Act Ignores Local Government — “The Heroes Act, adopted by the House of Representatives included $89.6M in funding for Alexandria, which nearly replaced the revenue we are projected to lose this year. The bill released in the Senate tonight doesn’t even mention local government. They cannot be serious.” [Twitter]

ACPS Hosting Reopening Chats Today — “School Board Representatives, Lorraine Johnson and Ashley Sanchez-Viafara (both seniors), to lead Student-focused Reopening Community Chats.” [ACPS]

ACPS Publishes Frequently Asked Questions on T.C. Williams High School Name Change Process — “Today, T.C. Williams High School is proud to educate students from 120 different countries, with 121 different languages spoken. Alexandria City Public Schools views our diversity as a strength. Ensuring racial equity is at the heart of the school division’s Strategic Plan: Equity for All 2025. While we still have work to do inside our schools, the school’s name does not align with who we are as a community.” [ACPS]

Vice Mayor’s Jogging Route Reads ‘Mask Up’ — “A reminder, courtesy of my weekend run (while wearing a face covering).” [Twitter]

Friendship Firehouse to Celebrate Annual Birthday… At Your Place — “This year marks the 246th birthday of the Friendship Fire Company. Usually it is celebrated with a festival. But because of public health concerns, the celebration will have to take place from home.” [Zebra]

Demonstration to Save Witness Tree at T.C. Williams High School on Thursday — “Join us! Meet up with us at the gate next to our WITNESS TREE and behind Alexandria’s high school garage on THURSDAY 7/30 at 7:30 pm!!!” [Facebook]

Sidewalk Sale Set for Next Month — “The pandemic won’t stop one of Alexandria’s summer traditions. The annual Alexandria Summer Sidewalk Sale is set to happen on Saturday, Aug. 15 and Sunday, Aug. 16 at Old Town, Del Ray and other city businesses.” [Patch]

Today’s Weather — High temperature of 92 degrees, and a 60% chance of rain between 3 and 4 p.m. [Weather.com]

New Job: Midday Dog Walker — “Are you between roles or just looking for a way to stay active and interact with lots of furry friends? Waggy Walkys is looking for pet-loving dog walkers in your area!” [Indeed]

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A number of Alexandrians are trying to save a 150-year-old tree from being cut down in place of a new concession stand outside the T.C. Williams High School football field.

The tree is reportedly scheduled to be cut down this week, and a number of residents are saying they will tie themselves to the tree, or at least the opening to the construction fencing that has been erected around the concession stand, which is part of the modernization the Parker-Gray Memorial Stadium at T.C. Williams High School. It includes a new concession stand, bathrooms and storage space.

“Much consideration has been given to finding a way to save this tree which unfortunately is positioned in the middle of the site where the concession and restroom area will be,” ACPS spokeswoman Julie Allen told ALXnow in a statement. “When planning, the goal was to locate this facility as far as away from the neighborhood on Woods Avenue as possible to minimize its impact on residents. Although we understand and agree that losing a mature tree is regrettable, 31 new trees and other landscaping will be planted.”

The project was approved in the fall of 2018, and the initial design would have saved the tree, however that would have pushed the building toward the fence line near neighboring property lines.

Former Mayor Allison Silberberg joined a handful of community activists at T.C. on Monday night to talk about the issue.

“This oak tree is very old and absolutely beautiful and large, and it’s the only tree that would provide shade out there,” she said. “I felt very strongly that the concession stand and bathroom facilities should not be near residential homes. I urged the staff of ACPS and the city to look at putting it at the other end, closer to the school and they felt that there wasn’t enough room.”

MacArthur Myers said that, if possible, he would chain himself to the tree.

“It’s always going to be Parker-Gray Stadium,” Myers said. “You don’t have to tear everything down.”

Susie Saffelle Hughes said she spoke with the City Arborist, who told her that the tree is healthy.

“After races the kids make a beeline over to that area because that particular tree offers such relief from the heat of the sun beating down,” Hughes said. “There isn’t another shade tree around that’s not a dinky little stick. Also for grandma and grandpa who can’t sit in the bleachers in the hot stands… it’s a welcome relief to sit at one of the picnic tables under the shade tree.”

There is a mighty oak behind TC Williams by the concession stand that they may cut down for a new refreshment stand….

Posted by Boyd Walker on Monday, July 20, 2020

Photo via Boyd Walker/Facebook

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