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Morning Notes

Alexandria appoints flood mitigation manager — “Effective Oct. 11, Daniel Medina will serve as the Flood Action Alexandria program manager. The new position will include coordination across city departments on the flood mitigation program and manage the city’s stormwater capital project lineup.” [Patch]

McAuliffe, Youngkin unload in feisty final Virginia debate — “Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin bickered their way through the second and final debate of Virginia’s competitive governor’s race on Tuesday, trading attacks and accusations from the start of the hourlong meeting.” [Politico]

Taste of Old Town North is Thursday — “Don’t miss The Taste of Old Town North, September 30 at 4p.m. Great food, music and more at this free event happening at Montgomery Park.” [Twitter]

Here’s a list of great walks in Alexandria — “Known for its walkable lifestyle, Alexandria is a city best experienced on foot.” [Visit Alexandria]

Today’s weather — “Mostly sunny. High 73F. Winds N at 5 to 10 mph… A mostly clear sky. Low 52F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New job: Pet sitter and dog walker — “Alexandria Pet Care seeks an experienced career pet expert to work with animals in their homes.” [Indeed]

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Visit Alexandria launched a new advertising campaign last week focusing on attracting Black visitors. Using federal funding from the  American Rescue Plan Act, Visit Alexandria hired D.C.-based Creative Theory Agency to develop the “Drop-in” campaign with help from business owners and leaders around the city.

“We’re thrilled to roll out this major new campaign to build on our last 8 years of painting a more complete and inclusive picture of Alexandria,” said Visit Alexandria President & CEO Patricia Washington. “Our destination is more ready than ever for this campaign given the City of Alexandria’s investment and development of new Black history experiences through the Office of Historic Alexandria, citywide priority around race and social equity, as well as newly-opened businesses and the transformation of our waterfront.”

The below one-minute campaign video will be viewed by visitors within five miles of Alexandria across “YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Pathfinders Magazine,” according to Visit Alexandria.

Featured locals include Stuart Robinson, manager of Misha’s Coffee, Manumission Tour Company owner John Taylor Chapman and Brandon Byrd, owner of Goodies Frozen Custard & Treats.

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Spice Kraft Indian Bistro, courtesy Chris Cruz/Visit Alexandria

Over 70 restaurants city-wide are planning to host special deals on meals for the biannual Restaurant Week.

The local event is organized by Visit Alexandria and features meal specials at restaurants across the city — though most of them are in Old Town and Del Ray.

There are a few restaurants highlighted in the city’s west end: like Clyde’s at Mark Center (1700 N Beauregard Street) and City Kitchen (330 S Pickett Street) near the former Landmark Mall.

The event is scheduled to start tomorrow (Friday) and run until Sunday, Aug. 29.

According to the Visit Alexandria website:

Enjoy Alexandria Restaurant Week from August 20 to 29, 2021 and show your support for the city’s large community of locally owned restaurants. For 10 days and two weekends, more than 70 restaurants in Alexandria, Virginia, will offer a $49 in-person and/or to-go dinner for two. Nearly 50 of the participating restaurants will offer solo diners a $25 in-person and/or to-go dinner for one in addition to serving the $49 dinner for two.

Restaurant Week first launched in 2009. A press release from Visit Alexandria noted that the dinner-for-one option was added during the Winter Restaurant Week due to increased interest from single diners during the pandemic.

A full list of participating restaurants is available online.

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Shopper at 2020 Sidewalk Sale, via Visit Alexandria/Facebook

The city’s annual sidewalk sale is scheduled for August 14 and 15, and according to Visit Alexandria, the program is on track to be the largest one so far.

According to Visit Alexandria, over 70 local boutiques have signed up for the seasonal sale. The sale is located along several city sidewalks in Old Town and Del Ray, with a focus this year on the pedestrian-only blocks at 700-1100 King Street. The stores will be featured in outdoor exhibits with deeply discounted merchandise.

Activities are also planned along King Street and throughout Del Ray, including jazz music on the 1000 block of King Street on Saturday, from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 1:30-2:30 p.m. On Sunday, local singer-songwriter Dan Barry will perform from noon to 3 p.m.

“Explore local items ranging from fashion and jewelry to home decor, culinary goods and environmentally friendly products for your everyday needs,” Visit Alexandria said in the press release. “Check out new Sidewalk Sale participants, including Goldfinch, Harambee Books & Artworks, Kate & Lo (pop-up boutique), Lilly Pulitzer, Mason & Greens, Mint Collective and RocketFizz Alexandria.”

During the event, parking will be free at four of the city’s garages on Saturday and Sunday.

  • Courthouse Square Parking Garage – 111 S Pitt Street
  • Market Square Parking Garage- 108 N Fairfax Street
  • USP Parking Garage – 220 N Union Street
  • Thompson’s Alley Parking Garage – 10 Thompsons Alley

The event is a partnership between Visit Alexandria, the city, the Old Town Boutique District, the Old Town Business Association, Old Town North and the Del Ray Business Association.

Via Visit Alexandria/Facebook

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Olympic Donut, courtesy Elizabeth’s Counter

With Alexandria being represented at the Olympic games, some local restaurants are celebrating with special events and meals.

According to a list put out by Visit Alexandria, there are some of the local specials and events planned for the Olympics.

  • The Dog Games at Barkhaus (529 E. Howell Avenue) — Saturday, Aug. 7, 5-8 p.m. The dog-friendly bar, restaurant and dog park at Potomac Yard will host “The Dog Games” — a dog competition with free dog medals, along with food and drink specials for the humans. A portion of the proceeds will support the Special Olympics.
  • Olympic Donut from Elizabeth’s Counter (804 N. Henry Street) — starting Friday, July 23. Formerly Sugar Shack, the Braddock vegan food stop will have special “Olympic Donuts” — vanilla glazed with a blend of red, white, blue, gold and silver stars.
  • Olympic Viewing Prix Fixe Menu at Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap (401 E Braddock Road) — Del Ray restaurant Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap is hosting specials in the restaurant’s beer garden, which also features five TVs for viewing the games. Specials include Bronze, which is a 10″ pizza and a draft beer or glass of wine for $25, Silver, which is Bronze but with a white bean dip or spinach artichoke dip for $37, or Gold, all the above and a dessert for $47.
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Alexandria will spend millions on emergency financial support programs, stormwater repair, childcare and dozens of other projects as part of its first portion of American Rescue Plan Act funding.

“Now the really hard work begins,” Mayor Justin Wilson said after Council’s unanimous passage of a plan Tuesday night. “I think this is an opportunity to make some transformational investments.”

The City received its first $29.8 million on May 17, and has to spend the total $59.6 million in funding by Dec. 31, 2024. Alexandria is getting substantial funding by being counted as both a city and county — along with 41 other cities across the country — and will get its second allotment in May 2022.

Federal funds will not directly go to individual businesses, but some are allocated toward the funding of business districts for trial street closures, ABC-licensed special events and public access parklets.

“Our thought was that direct assistance for businesses was best provided, and continues to be provided, through the federal government at scale,” Alexandria Economic Development Partnership CEO Stephanie Landrum told Council. “We are much better equipped as a community, and certainly as an economic development group to reach a wider swath of businesses than we ever have been. And so part of our challenge and responsibility is to make sure all of those businesses know about other programs not being provided by the city.”

The 30 projects include:

  • $4 million for an Alexandria Community Access and Emergency Support program to determine which city services are eligible for residents, including emergency financial aid, rent assistance and child care
  • $3.7 million in stormwater repairs at the Hoofs Run Culvert
  • $3 million for a Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot, which will give $500 in gift cards to 150 poor families for 24 months
  • $2.8 million for a Unified Early Childhood Workforce Stabilization Initiative to “support hundreds of childcare providers and early childhood educators, provide a safe and healthy learning environment for thousands of children, and help parents, especially women, get back to work.”
  • $2.5 million for food security to ensure two years of continual free food distributions at hubs throughout the city
  • $2 million for Alexandria Housing Development Corporation flex space to expand city services for the Arlandria neighborhood
  • $1.9 million in flash flooding spot improvements throughout the city
  • $1.1 million to scale up a workforce development pilot
  • $800,000 to make permanent the closure of the 100 block of King Street
  • $620,000 to fund the Out of School Time Program to help with learning loss associated with the pandemic
  • $560,000 to the Alexandria Economic Development Authority fund commercial business districts for trial street closures, ABC-licensed special events and public access parklets
  • $500,000 for Visit Alexandria marketing efforts
  • $295,000 to fund two new Office of Historic Alexandria tourism experiences on the city’s history with civil rights and and the Duke Street Corridor
  • $253,000 to increase services for LGBTQ and BIPOC communities
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Alexandria’s tourism bureau just got the most visits ever on its website, but it’s a mixed bag for businesses on the ground.

The Visit Alexandria website got 274,000 visits in May, which is 45% higher than May 2019, CEO Patricia Washington reported in a Zoom meeting last week.

“While there’s a lot of really strong signs of recovery and we’re seeing some significant signs that recovery is underway in earnest, we have to keep in mind that we still have a long way to go,” Washington said. “Our hotels still lag. We’re seeing an uptick in weekend leisure occupancy. RevPAR is still down by more than 60%. That’s just indicative of the fact that all of our sectors have a long way to go to recover and that’s why the American Rescue Plan funding is so important in ensuring that we are accelerating a full and complete recovery for all.”

It’s been more than a month since the City lifted its face mask mandate, and some businesses have thrown out COVID restrictions altogether. Many are short-staffed, like the Potomac Riverboat Waterfront Taxi, which has had to shut down multiple tours and boats in its fleet as a result.

Many businesses reported booming sales on the weekends, which has largely be dependent on the weather.

Unruly customers recently raised a ruckus at Daniel O’Connell’s Irish Restaurant and Bar on lower King Street.

“COVID is definitely over in O’Connell’s,” restaurant President Niamh O’Donovan told Visit Alexandria in a Zoom meeting last week. “Because I will say, we had probably the rudest guests come into the restaurant over the weekend. One of my extremely valued bartenders who’s been with me for over 10 years got screamed at four times just in two hours Sunday morning alone.”

O’Donovan said she had to hold her tongue with two female customers in particular, and said that customers need to be a little more delicate with staff in the hospitality industry.

“That’s just so frustrating for staff who have been working so bloody hard this past year and some, and they’ve been working for less pay, working harder,” she said.

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With this week giving Alexandrians their first taste of warmer weather, locals are turning their attention to the upcoming cherry blossom season.

This cherry blossom season, generally running through March and April, is a regional celebration of the Japanese tree marred for the second year by the specter of COVID-19.

Local tourism group Visit Alexandria has compiled a list of activities that help locals celebrate the holiday while respecting COVID precautions — though some activities are higher risk than others.

In terms of viewing the cherry blossoms, Visit Alexandria said one of the best ways is via Potomac Riverboat Water Taxi. Water Taxi admission is $13 for one-way trips or $21 for round-trip tickets. The boats depart the Alexandria Marina (1 Cameron Street) and have limited capacity to allow for social distancing.

“Cruise from Old Town Alexandria to Washington, D.C., to enjoy the famous cherry blossoms from the water,” Visit Alexandria said in the events rundown. “Potomac Riverboat by Hornblower offers a 25-minute direct water taxi from Old Town to The Wharf development in D.C. From the dock at The Wharf, it is a 10-minute walk to the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin… Water taxis are operating at half capacity; masks and physical distancing are required.”

Another options is electrical bike tours along the Mount Vernon Trail starting at 210 N. Lee Street.

A few local restaurants are planning on offering specials to celebrate the festival. Captain Gregory’s at 804 N. Henry Street is planning to host a Cherry Blossom Celebration on March 26 from 5-10 p.m.

“Captain Gregory’s will host an outdoor patio celebration of the cherry blossoms in partnership with Beam Suntory,” Visit Alexandria said. “Enjoy a mobile highball cart, themed décor and more. Savor Captain Gregory’s ‘Winter in Tokyo’ menu in-person or celebrate the Japanese blossoms at home with takeout. The menu includes a selection of Japanese spirits such as Suntory whiskey, Roku gin, Haku vodka, sake, yuzu and other Japanese staples like sochu, alongside savory dishes such as edamame and crab hushpuppies. Cocktails to-go are available from sister shop Elizabeth’s Counter’s grocery section.”

Other restaurants offering cherry blossom specials include:

A free cherry blossom exhibition will also be on display at the Torpedo Factory Art Center (105 N. Union Street) from March 31 to May 2. All three floors will feature displays of floral-themed art. Admissions is free and the gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Photo courtesy L. Barnes/Visit Alexandria

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As Congress deliberates approval of a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, Alexandria is trying to figure out how it will spend its share.

Alexandria is anticipating $26 million to $34 million, depending on the final plan. The $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal includes $350 billion for local governments.

“Our pleas for Washington to come to the table with some significant local government expenses have apparently nearly been answered,” Mayor Justin Wilson said at City Council’s legislative meeting on Tuesday. “

Last year, the city received $27.5 million in federal funds that were allocated to the state government. This time, the federal funds would go directly allocation to localities, and would be available in May at the earliest.

City Manager Mark Jinks presented a preliminary proposal to Council on how the funds should be spent. It resembled the city’s 2020 Coordinated Community Recovery Plan, which focused on food insecurity, rental eviction prevention and small business grants. Jinks said that the city has been waiting for federal funding since last May, when the U.S. Senate sat on Heroes Act funding after it passed through the House of Representatives.

“We want to get your feedback, let you know where we are, and we’ll come back in probably the beginning of April when we know what the appropriations are,” Jinks said. “What we don’t know is how long do we have to spend the money. If we have three or four years to spend
it, then that’d be a different spending strategy, then if like the last bill said, you had to spend it in 12 months, which we did.”

Alexandria’s consumption tax receipts, including sales, restaurant and lodging revenue generated about $65 million per year, according to Visit Alexandria CEO Patricia Washington.

“This year we’re forecasting to be down $13 million before recovering halfway back up to $58 million in FY22,” Washington said.

Kate Garvey, the director of the city’s Department of Community and Human Services, wants to continue the supporting eviction protection efforts, as well as the city’s food assistance program with ALIVE!.

“It depends a lot on the amount of money that comes to us,” City Councilwoman Del Pepper said.

Wilson said that the city should use the funds to make structural investments for lasting changes.

“Instead of funding childcare, let’s get a childcare facility,” he said, and asked that city boards and commissions fill out a survey on how they think the funds should be spent. “Let’s build capacity that is our going to outlast just recovery of this year, and help us in the future.”

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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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