An industrial park on Vine Street, squeezed between the Van Dorn Street Metro station and the Beltway, could be replaced with a new mixed-use development — and a new potential connection to the Van Dorn Metro station.
The development plans, however, hinge on hopes that the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) express lane plans don’t bleed over onto the site.
The development proposed is just a smidge south of the Alexandria border with Fairfax at the Van Dorn Street Metro station. Plans submitted to Fairfax County shows the current industrial park could be replaced with offices and a hotel on the west end of the site and apartments with ground-floor retail on the eastern end, per a map of the proposed development.
The project would build a new pedestrian access to the Metro from the south and a potential pedestrian/vehicular connection to the opposite side of the Beltway, though what form those connections could take are vague in the development plans.
The plans propose minimal on-site parking requirements both because it is so close to the Van Dorn Street Metro station and to encourage Metro use.
The main thrust of the amendment is a request that requirements for access across the Beltway be kept flexible as the development works around the VDOT’s plans for the area.
The amendment notes that the comprehensive plan is very specific in its recommendation of a bridge over the Beltway connecting the site to Oakwood Road, but that could be complicated by the VDOT plans to add express lanes on I-495. With the site sitting so close to the Van Dorn Street intersection, VDOT’s changes to the interchange — like potential road widening or toll infrastructure — could interfere with any plans to build a bridge at the site.
“The schematic in Exhibit A does not show the bridge from Oakwood Road across the Beltway because of the potential such an alignment may never materialize depending on the final HOT Lanes design,” the application said. “The comprehensive plan text proposed with this nomination, as described below, provides flexibility for how such access could be provided in the future.”
The application asked for flexibility to adapt transportation plans for the site to VDOTs plans for the corridor.
Image via Google Maps
Two projects in Alexandria will receive $5 million apiece from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA).
The NVTA awarded the amounts as part of its six-year budget adopted on Thursday (July 14). The two projects are: to make S. Van Dorn Street and its bridge more transit and pedestrian-friendly for the West End Transitway, and replacement of a fair-weather crossing on the Holmes Run Trail, just behind William Ramsay Elementary School (5700 Sanger Avenue).
The West End Transitway project is needed as significant redevelopment and a new bus rapid transit route are planned for the area.
The South Van Dorn Street bridge near the Van Dorn Metro station is a four-lane crossing that connects the Van Dorn neighborhood with Landmark just to the north. The project will design dedicated transit lanes for the future West End Transitway on S. Van Dorn Street and the Van Dorn bridges between Metro Road and McConnell Avenue, a report states.
This project will also improve non-motorized facilities along the bridges for better connections between new developments and the Van Dorn Metrorail station. The existing Van Dorn Street bridge has a narrow sidewalk along the east side and no bicycle facilities.
The Holmes Run Trail crossing will be replaced with a prefabricated pedestrian and bicycle bridge.
“The project will allow trail users continuous, safe and reliable access to the City’s off-street trail facilities, as well as other regional trails, and the future West End Transitway,” according to the report.
NVTA gave out about $625 million to 20 projects total across the region with its latest program, with more than half the money going to projects in Fairfax County.
Photo via Google Maps
The city’s hopes to extend the Route 1 Metroway a few blocks north have been dashed by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA), and now city staff is looking at other transportation projects (page 50) around town that could use state funding.
At a Transportation Commission meeting, city staff is proposing two alternative projects for NVTA funding: improvements to the Van Dorn Street bridge and replacement of a Holmes Run Trail bridge.
Currently, the South Van Dorn Street bridge near the Van Dorn Metro station is a four-lane crossing that connects the Van Dorn neighborhood with Landmark just to the north. But with significant redevelopment and a new bus rapid transit route planned for the area, the city is looking at making the bridge more transit and pedestrian-friendly.
This project will design South Van Dorn Street and the Van Dorn bridges between Metro Road and McConnell Avenue to accommodate dedicated transit lanes for the future West End Transitway as well as improve non-motorized facilities along the bridges for better connections between new developments and the Van Dorn Metrorail station… The existing Van Dorn Street bridge currently includes a narrow sidewalk along the east side and no bicycle facilities.
The city said NVTA funding would cover the design phase of the project.
The second project the city hopes to fund is a replacement of a fair-weather crossing on the Holmes Run Trail just behind William Ramsay Elementary School (5700 Sanger Avenue).
“This project will replace an existing fair-weather crossing for the Holmes Run Trail with a prefabricated pedestrian and bicycle bridge,” the report said. “The fair-weather crossing is located approximately 400 feet north of the intersection of Beauregard Street and North Morgan Street in Dora Kelley Park.”
Like with the Van Dorn Street bridge replacement, the city is looking for design funding. If secured, staff said construction could begin as soon as FY 2026.
Photo via Google Maps
Where to Get the COVID Vaccine in Alexandria — “In early 2021, when more vaccine doses are available, people who are in essential and critical industries (including first responders) will receive vaccinations — some through their workplace, and others through doctors offices and local hospitals.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]
Christmas Restaurant Round-Up — “Below we’ve rounded up some options for meals around Alexandria. Some will offer special holiday menus, while others will be open for their usual dine-in and takeout menus.” [Patch]
Famous Alexandria Christmas Yard Goes Dark — “All of these details are important for you to know to understand why, when Vaughan recently found himself lying face down in a small creek in front of his house, unable to move his left leg, he cried. The tears weren’t for the pain of falling off a 16-foot ladder. That would hit him later. They were for the realization that the lights wouldn’t come on this year.” [Washington Post]
Jaguar Land Rover Dealership Announces Huge New Van Dorn Location — “For a long time, the Land Rover dealership on Duke Street has been bursting at its fence lines, and they are finally getting new digs on a six-acre parcel of land fronting Van Dorn Street in Alexandria, Virginia.” [Patch]
Staff photo by Jay Westcott
With Alexandria poised to potentially lose two Metro stations due to funding cuts, Rep. Don Beyer issued a statement blasting the proposed cuts as “apocalyptic” and said Congress should rally to pass a new set of funding.
Proposed cuts include ending service after 9 p.m., ending weekend service, reducing the number of trains, and closing operations at 19 stations. Two of those stations, Eisenhower and Van Dorn Street, are located in Alexandria.
“The proposed WMATA budget cuts would be apocalyptic for Metro service and devastate its workforce,” Beyer said in a press release. “This catastrophe must not be allowed to happen, and Congress can prevent it by passing a new aid package. WMATA is not alone in its massive funding shortfall, which is a direct result of the pandemic. Cuts like this will hit across the country without robust aid for state and local governments and specific targeted funding for transit.”
Metro had already been facing a death spiral before the pandemic, but the bad situation was significantly exacerbated by the loss of ridership — around a 90% decrease — due to COVID-19.
“On the Joint Economic Committee we predicted massive, urgent need for state and local government funding at the beginning of April,” Beyer said. “The House passed a legislative package that addressed that problem and included $32 billion in transit funding in May, but Mitch McConnell has blocked additional aid.”
WMATA is currently facing an estimated $500 million shortfall.
Beyer was not alone. Other local leaders also shared frustration at the proposed cuts and said measures must be taken to prevent the worst-case-scenario cuts.
This is what the worst case scenario looks like and should not happen.
This will irreparably harm our region, our economy and those that live here.
Supporting transit agencies and local governments must be a key component of future Federal stimulus.https://t.co/xRhiRoTkxs
— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) December 1, 2020
Mayor Bowser Statement on WMATA FY2022 Budget Proposal pic.twitter.com/62OTG0B5og
— Mayor Muriel Bowser (@MayorBowser) December 1, 2020
Staff photo by Jay Westcott
WMATA Considers Closing Two Alexandria Metro Stations — “The 19 stations that could face closure include those that are within one mile of other stations and those that are seeing the lowest usage. In Alexandria, that means the Eisenhower Station and Van Dorn Street station are on the list.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]
Local Program Supports Artists With Disabilities — “Coletta Collections, an artisan program for people with disabilities, is helping Alexandrians celebrate the holidays safely and sincerely.” [Zebra]
City Looking for Firefighters — “If you’re interested in working for the vibrant City of Alexandria, we invite qualified candidates to apply for our Firefighter I position.” [City of Alexandria]
Watchdog Group FOIA Shows Internal Disagreement in City Over Seminary Road — “[Yon Lambert] said roads for ‘all users’ were more important than roads that met fire department response needs. More to come.” [Twitter]
New Residential Building Promises Daycare and Retail in Braddock Area — “Right now, that property is primarily garage and warehouse space for a variety of auto and other businesses.” [Alexandria Living]
Van Dorn, Eisenhower Metro Stations Reopening June 28 — “Several stations and stops were closed in March, in an effort to conserve cleaning supplies during the early stages of the pandemic.” [Zebra]
Residential Proposal Made for Old Town North Building — “The project, at 801 N. Fairfax St., goes before the City of Alexandria Planning Commission this Thursday and may go before the City Council on July 7.” [Alexandria Living]
Nectar Coffee & Wine Bistro Closes For Good — “Susan and I have made the extremely difficult decision to close Nectar permanently. We have loved our business, awesome staff, customers and neighbors and are truly grateful for your business over the past 3 years. See you in the neighborhood!” [Facebook]
The Water Taxi is Back — “On June 22 the Potomac Water Taxi resumed service between Alexandria, National Harbor, and the District. Dining cruises resume on Saturday, June 27. To ensure the safety of all on board, a number of procedures are in place. The safety measures include requiring face coverings for all guests (ages 3 and up), physical distancing, touchless entry boarding and ticketing, and reduced capacity onboard.” [Zebra]
TEDxOronocoBayPark Cancels All 2020 Events — “We are excited to be bringing the TED content to the community virtually through the TED Circles program – save the date July 20 7 p.m.” [Facebook]
Alexandria Symphony Premiers Virtual Concert — “Welcome to Alexandria Symphony’s Garden Sounds! Enjoy music from ASO musicians and appearances from special guests Paula Poundstone, Alan Gilbert and more!” [Youtube]
New Job: Bartender — “Be a part the Silver Diner Family! We are hiring full-time Bartenders for all shifts for our Grand Opening in Alexandria! Full-time Bartenders at our established locations can make $400-$700 in tips per week!” [Indeed]
Metro Closing Eisenhower and Van Dorn Stations — “Metro’s Pandemic Task Force today announced the strategic closing of 17 additional stations, effective Thursday, March 26, 2020, in an effort to conserve critical resources and protect the health and safety of Metro employees and the public. This follows drastic measures already taken to reduce travel on Metro to essential trips only, leading to a Metrorail ridership decline of 90 percent.” [WMATA]
Inova Blood Services Needs Donors — “COVID-19 has heightened awareness of the necessity to be continuously diligent in protecting our donors both in our donor centers and while we are out in the community. Inova Blood Donor Services is fully committed to the health and safety of our blood donors and the patients who benefit from the generous blood, plasma, and platelet donations.” [Inova]
Locals Support Alexandria Police — “We would like to thank Starbucks for providing our officers with coffee, and Jackson 20 for providing our officers with fruit, and granola bars. We truly appreciate your support!” [Twitter]
Rotary Club of Alexandria Donates $10K to City’s COVID-19 Fund — “Recognizing many Alexandrians are already on the financial edge, the Rotary knows the grant will immediately be available to help meet the demand for emergency health and mental services, food, rent, utility, and childcare assistance.” [Zebra]
Court Appointed Special Advocate Training Goes Online — “Please say hello to this INCREDIBLE class of CASA Volunteers-in-Training! Our team has quickly moved training online so that we can continue to prepare these adults to advocate for children in our community who have been abused or neglected. We are so grateful for their commitment and flexibility as we move forward in these times.” [Facebook]
Del Ray Pizzeria Accepting Donations For Staff — “When you’re picking up your takeout, drop off donations of household products & nonperishable food items at Del Ray Pizzeria to help restaurant workers in Del Ray that are going through a very difficult time right now.” [Visit Del Ray]
School of Rock Alexandria Launches Remote Program — “School of Rock Remote allows us to provide the same level of instruction that we’re known for, but in a way that prioritizes health and safety.” [Zebra]
Del Ray Artisans Makes Schedule Updates — “ALL INDOOR PROGRAMS ARE CANCELLED from now through the end of April. Our two outdoor programs will have fewer than 10 people and remain on schedule.” [Facebook]
(Updated at 12 p.m.) A bald eagle rescued on Metro tracks has died — but not before revealing something interesting.
The eagle died earlier this week after being rescued near the Van Dorn Metro station tracks and rushed to the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center in Boyce, Virginia. His broken wing was a deep fracture down to the bone, and it was located too close to his elbow to ever heal properly, said service providers at the wildlife hospital.
But Blue Ridge staff said blood tests from the bird were a surprise.
“It’s actually our first eagle in three years not to have lead in its system,” said Dr. Jen Riley, the hospital’s director of veterinary services. “We test every single bald eagle that comes in because they tend to have very high lead levels.”
Riley told ALXnow that eagles are primarily scavengers and often absorb lead by eating dead animals shot with lead bullets. “There are huge amounts of lead in Virginia because we have such a huge hunting population,” she noted.
In the past, some eagles rescued in the area have had faced long recoveries from lead poisoning, among other injuries. Riley said finding an eagle with no lead in his body probably meant he was frequently fishing in the Potomac River.
“There’s definitely an awesome population of eagles near the Potomac, but that implies they have pretty good food there,” she said of the lead test.
D.C. has sunk billions into cleaning up its long-polluted waterways, and there are signs it may be paying off: scientists are spotting more dolphins downstream, and some hope it will be clean enough for humans to swim in soon. An eagle being able to regularly fish from the water may be another good sign — but Riley cautioned that a fish shortage might then have driven the bird to seek other prey.
“They probably just have a good amount of dead mice or rats along Metro tracks,” she said of her guess why two eagles this year have been found near the tracks. “Raptors in general are on our roads for that reason.”
Both raptors were transported to the National Eagle Repository, which collects deceased eagles for Native American ceremonies. The program is part of the Bald Eagle Protection Act, dating back to the 1940s, that restricts who can and cannot care for eagles and keep parts, like feathers. Although the eagle populations have rebounded since the country stopped using the notoriously deadly pesticide DDT, the federal protections remain in place today.
Riley said anyone who finds an eagle should contact their local animal control, and if they’re not sure who that is, they can contact state wildlife hospitals like Blue Ridge, which will help them find the right person to help.
After a rocky start, new plans are coming forward to redevelop an industrial site near the Van Dorn Metro
Two years ago, plans to redevelop an industrial property belonging to Vulcan Materials — a company that creates gravel, asphalt, concrete and other construction materials — near the Van Dorn Metro went cold. But Potomac Land Group II, LLC and developer Lennar are taking another crack at the property to develop townhomes, condo units and a commercial building.
“I’ve stood here with six different developers who have tried to make this work,” said Ken Wire, an attorney for the developers, at a Sept. 11 meeting of the Eisenhower West/Landmark Van Dorn Implementation Group. “Vulcan has done the dance with three or four purchasers over the years.”
The new plans call for townhomes on two blocks on the north side of the property along Courtney Avenue, with residential condominiums backing up against a railroad on the south side of the property. A hotel would sit at the corner of Courtney Avenue and S. Van Dorn Street.
Wire said the residences at the site would be considered “middle-market housing,” affordable to a broader array of potential residents than pricier projects elsewhere in the city.
“We don’t have a lot of middle-market housing,” Wire said. “What we’re thinking about here is delivering a variety of product types so that we can serve many different residents.”
The property at 701 S. Van Dorn Street is paradoxically a prime location for development and a challenge. The property is very close to the Van Dorn Metro station and along the Van Dorn Street corridor eyed for redevelopment over the next few years. But Wire said the property itself has some steep slopes and backs up close to the train tracks.
“It’s close to the Metro, but it’s a million miles away,” Wire noted near end of the meeting. “How do we make Backlick Run more than a trash heap?”
As part of the development proposal, the applicants are also offering 6.9 acres of the property as open space.
“It’s not [acres] of ball fields, though,” Wire cautioned. “It’s challenging open space on a grade.”
The site is currently used by Vulcan as a storage space for construction materials, mulch and trucks. Without a sufficient amount of density that will make a profit at that location, Wire said it will continue to operate as storage space.
“Without a certain amount of development rights, it’s highest and best use is what it is today,” Wire said. “If you put two townhomes there, guess what, it stays industrial. You need just enough development to make the new development worthwhile. Two townhouses here is not going to make it worth a sale.”
Wire said the fastest the development could come back for city approval would be next spring or summer.
“It’s a 2020 end of first quarter, second quarter-ish [item],” Wire said. “It will be after the new year that we come back with designs.”