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Music, local food and beer is on tap this weekend for the Portside in Old Town Summer Festival at Waterfront Park.

This year, the event is merging with the 44th Annual Alexandria Jazz Fest, and the free events will be held on Friday (June 17) from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 1 to 9 p.m.

The Portside Festival is organized by Visit Alexandria and the City’s Office of the Arts.

“New this year, the event merges with the  on Friday evening to showcase jazz performances and readings by Alexandria poets,” Visit Alexandria said on its website. “Saturday the festival continues with an eclectic musical lineup, local food, hands-on art and history activities and more.”

Food will be provided by Borinquen Lunch Box, Chalkboard Wings & BBQ, Dolci Gelati and The Italian Place.

Additionally, Port City Brewing Company will provide these beers:

  • Optimal Wit (Belgian-style white ale, 4.9%)
  • Beach Drive (Golden ale, 4%)
  • Downright Pilsner (Bohemian style pilsner)
  • 4.8%; Monumental (IPA, India pale ale, 6.7%)

Friday schedule

  • 6 to 6:15 p.m. — Opening remarks
  • 6:15 to 7 p.m. — Cubano Groove
  • 7:15 to 8 p.m. — VERONNEAU
  • 8:15 to 9 p.m. — Eric Byrd Trio

There will be poetry read between sets by:

  • Zeina Azzam, Alexandria’s Poet Laureate
  • KaNikki Jakarta, Alexandria’s former Poet Laureate
  • An up-and-coming Alexandria youth poet

Saturday Schedule

  • 1 to 1:15 p.m. — Opening remarks
  • 1:15 to 2 p.m. — Eli Lev (folk rock)
  • 2:30 to 3:15 p.m. — La Unica (Irish Latin rock)
  • 3:45 to 4:30 p.m. — ilyAIMY (folk rock)
  • 5 to 5:45 p.m. — Rob Curto’s Forró for All (Brazilian forró)
  • 6:15 to 7:15 p.m. — Ras Band (Ethiopian reggae, jazz and funk)
  • 7:45 to 9:00 p.m. — Pablo Antonio y La Firma (salsa, merengue and bachata)

Via Facebook

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Tea served at Lady Camellia (photo via Lady Camellia/Facebook)

Six months after Lady Camellia Pastry and Tea Room first announced it was looking to move into Alexandria, the owners seem to have found their new waterfront home.

According to a special use permit, Macaron Bee is applying to move into 225 Strand Street. Restaurant owner Deborah Kim said while the name on the special use permit is Macaron Bee, the location will be Lady Camellia Pastry and Tea Room.

The tea room, once described by Washington City Paper as “a six-year-old’s tea party fantasy“, had been located in Georgetown before it closed last year.

Kim said plan is to open late this year.

“[We’re opening] towards the end of the year; sometime in the fall,” Kim said. “We’re trying to serve British-style afternoon tea and high tea dinner.”

Image via Lady Camellia/Facebook

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The Alexandria Police Department has closed several streets near the waterfront due to flooding.

“The street closures run from King and Union Street To Prince and Union Street,” the Alexandria Police Department said in a tweet. “Cars parked in the area may be relocated.”

The tide is rising in Alexandria with high tide expected at 3:15 p.m.

The flooding comes after a fairly rainy weekend for the region.

Tidal flooding is a fairly common problem along Alexandria’s waterfront. A flood mitigation plan to combat future flooding is in the works, albeit with a reduced budget.

Image via Google Maps

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Abandoned railway at GenOn power plant (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

Alexandria’s annual budget process wrapped up this week with a $839.2 million fiscal year 2023 budget approval and special tax relief for car owners.

Meanwhile, an uptick in opioid overdoses among children has Alexandria City Public Schools considering adding Narcan to schools and city officials issuing warnings about counterfeit Percocet.

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The city of Alexandria is getting ready to drop $102 million to fix flooding along the waterfront.

A proposal by the Waterfront Commission’s Flood Mitigation Committee, pitched to the Waterfront Commission at their April 19 meeting, outlined the potential pump stations, underground stormwater detention chambers, and streetscape and other stormwater infrastructure improvements for the ongoing efforts to implement the Waterfront Small Area Plan.

“This scenario has an estimated cost of approximately $102 million, consistent with the CIP funding allocated to Waterfront Small Area Plan implementation,” the draft plan said. “According to City staff, estimated costs are accurate at the level of detail appropriate for this stage in the planning process. Affordability will continue to be evaluated during the design-development process as construction and material costs continue to escalate in excess of historic average rates typically used to account for inflation.”

The cost is scaled back from earlier plans with cost estimates ranging from $170 million to $215 million.

Its proposed features include pump stations in Waterfront Park and the Queen Street right of way, south of Founders Park, underground stormwater detention chambers under Waterfront Park and Founders Park, and retention of the recent improvements in northern Waterfront Park at the foot of King Street,” the plan said.

The plan indicated areas where costs were cut, like using a cost-effective paving material in the streetscape improvements, but other bigger costs were averted by shifting the focus from ideal improvements to restoring the existing waterfront bulkheads.

Waterfront Park restoration plan, image via City of Alexandria

This would maintain the existing bulkhead rather than replacing or encapsulating it in its entirety. This approach will provide the intended level of flood protection at a reduced capital cost. Both staff and the committee acknowledge that deferred investments in eventual bulkhead replacement will still be required, and not precluded, by this approach.

The plan also notes that some of the improvements cut back in the plan should still be pursued in later budgets:

CIP funds allocated by City Council to Waterfront Small Area Plan implementation were originally intended to complete a full slate of waterfront capital projects, including parks and flood mitigation improvements. Given recent changes in program scope and high capital cost escalation, the budget is no longer sufficient to accomplish all anticipated elements. The committee recommends that additional budget be reserved in future year CIPs to finish parks as envisioned in the plan, or that alternate revenue streams be adopted to fund park and public space improvements. In addition, the City should continue to proactively pursue funding from federal and state grant programs, private philanthropy, and other sources to fund improvements that realize the City’s vision for the waterfront.

The document said that, where possible, the plan has built-in options for future investments. In other cases, like at Waterfront Park, future improvements could cost more in the long-term as a result of having to redo parts of the park.

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While Gen Z has decided, correctly, that Alexandria is superior to D.C., at least one local attraction is headed to the further shore for much of this year.

The Tall Ship Providence is planning to move to The Wharf for the “2022 cruise season” while construction is ongoing at the Senator John Warner Maritime Heritage Center in Old Town.

“The ship will spend most of the 2022 sailing season at The Wharf in Washington, D.C.,” the Tall Ship Providence Foundation said in a press release. “Providence will be in Alexandria, VA for select events throughout the summer and return home early November.”

The new center will eventually be the permanent home for the Tall Ship Providence and will allow the ship to host new educational programs and increase the number of visitors — though the Foundation did have to scale back some ambitions for the site.

“The Maritime Heritage Center will continue to serve as an economic development attraction attracting visitors from across the country and the world,” the Foundation said.

In the meantime, Tall Ship Providence Foundation President and CEO Clair Sassin said the move to The Wharf can help boost the ship’s profile.

“Providence’s visit to The Wharf gives us the opportunity to increase the awareness of the ship and the new  Maritime Heritage Center to different audiences while generating ticket sales in a high foot traffic area,” said Sassin. “Our goal was to keep Providence in the DMV for the 2022 season and we are delighted to be working with the team from The Wharf.”

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Almost exactly four years after archeologists recovered three 18th-century ships from under the Old Town Waterfront, Alexandria is planning on sending at least two of them back to Davy Jones’ Locker.

Three ships were discovered under the Robinson Landing construction site in March 2018. While the most intact of the trio was sent to Texas A&M for study and will get a new Torpedo Factory exhibit next month, the other two have sat in water tanks in the DASH bus barn. At a meeting of the Waterfront Commission, City Archaeologist Eleanor Breen said that sometime this year the city will start moving the ships out of their 12×24-foot tanks and out to Ben Brenman Pond (4800 Brenman Park Drive).

“Based on [an] assessment, the recommendation was that [the ships] be stored at the bottom of Ben Brenman Pond; at the south end of the pond,” Breen said. “Jack [Browand, division chief of Parks and Cultural Activities] summarized it perfectly the other day: ‘We’re resinking three ships in a pond five miles west of where they were found.”

Breen noted this isn’t the first time rediscovered ships from this time period have been resubmerged. A Revolutionary War-era barge was discovered then re-submerged near Baltimore. Breen said the pond was chosen because it was the least risky to the timbers and would be the easiest to access. The “ponding” project received funding in the FY 2021 CIP.

“We’re finalizing the project schedule, including a date for pre-construction meeting on-site,” Breen said. “It will begin in April and last 4-6 months. We will offer a family-friendly event during ‘ponding’ process and in the future will be installing site interpretation.”

Meanwhile, Breen said a feasibility study for a potential new waterfront museum could start later this year with the idea of the museum eventually being home to the most intact ship. The study will look at potential funding and business models, as well as reviewing the sustainability of a waterfront museum.

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I Love You park design, via City of Alexandria

The new kitschy “I Love You” public art installation at Waterfront Park (1 Prince Street) is scheduled to be unveiled on March 25.

The new installation by Miami artists Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt features illuminated neon pink lights spelling out “I Love You” mounted on a 15-foot high display and will “bathe visitors in a soft pink hue,” a press release from the city described with an unusual touch of sensuality. The color scheme had earlier been described by Office of the Arts Director Diane Ruggiero as “Pepto-Bismol pink.”

“Below, a hand-painted ground mural of a pink and white carpet will define the space as an open room welcoming everyone,” the release said. “The unexpected and luminous social space will invite visitors to get lost for a few moments in this fictional realm.”

“I Love You” will be the fourth public art display in the park since the Mirror Mirror exhibit opened in 2019. The release noted that the City will be working with regional artists for more public art activations this spring that “respond” to “I Love You,” no word yet if any of those activations will say “I Know.

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A stretch of the waterfront could be getting new permanent railings after being stuck with unsightly temporary fencing for years.

The area of the waterfront at 1 Pioneer Mill Way, where BARCA Pier & Wine Bar is, could be getting a new permanent railing.

The proposal is scheduled for the consent calendar — items usually approved with little or no discussion — at the Wednesday, March 3 Board of Architectural Review meeting.

The addition is designed by OLIN, the studio handling much of the waterfront redesign, and will be designed to complement other nearby features at Waterfront Park.

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Rendering of the unit block of King Street with street closure, image via City of Alexandria

Alexandria could be converting another block of King Street to a pedestrian-only zone this spring.

At a meeting of the Waterfront Commission earlier this week, city staff presented both plans for a pilot to close the waterfront end of King Street and examined the future of the 100 block of King Street, which has been permanently closed and converted into a pedestrian zone.

Transportation Planning Division Chief Christopher Ziemann said a pilot to close the first block of King Street — called the unit block — would be a three-month program and would run from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The closure would also hook around to close part of The Strand.

The closure would still allow for emergency vehicles and maintenance vehicles to access the block but would be closed to other traffic. The closure would also eliminate some park spaces along both King Street and The Strand.

During the pilot, Ziemann said staff would check in with stakeholders, monitor the closure’s impact, and collect public feedback.

Waterfront Commission member Nathan Macek led a vote to support the closure pilot, but with the refinement of some of the parking, deliveries and crosswalks sections. The motion passed with only City Council member Sarah Bagley abstaining because it would be headed to City Council for a vote.

Kayte North, division chief of Mobility Services, also provided an update on future improvements to the 100 block pedestrian zone.

“We’re working on implementing short-term improvements to make this block a little nicer while we wait to see if we can turn this into a capital project for the future,” North said. “We had some ARPA money allocated to this block, so we’re using that money for these projects.”

There are currently metal barricades along the block, but North said the city is looking at adding bollards in the future. Long term, North said staff are looking at putting future improvements together as a capital project to be budgeted accordingly.

A more short-term change, North said, is making the curbside pickup and loading zones on Lee and Union streets — currently implemented as a temporary measure — permanent. North said this change would also let the city put up more permanent signs to show that these are no parking areas intended for loading and curbside pickup only.

“In the past, we’ve had some problems with the signs we put up disappearing, so we’re working on different sign text to put up there,” North said. “Those would probably be installed in the next month or so.”

As the city refines the pedestrian zone, Macek said he hopes the city does more to push car parking further by a car length or two from the intersection of King and Union streets.

That creates a pedestrian visibility hazard at what are two very busy crosswalks on both the north and south side of King Street at the Union intersection. The more we can get rid of cars at that immediate intersection, the easier it becomes for people to cross and not feel like you’re trying to dodge out in front of a car parked right there… Let’s be realistic about this. We’re talking about space for one person to park their car versus hundreds of people who walk through that intersection. It’s not like we’re saying we’re getting rid of all the parking in Old Town by doing this. We have to be willing to say the benefit of one person being able to park their car there for a few hours is overridden by all of the people who cross there who would benefit.

While North said city staff is hesitant to recommend anything that could result in more parking loss, they would look into it. Waterfront Commissioner Gina Baum warned that Old Town residents could likely object to any further loss of parking in the area.

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