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Robinson Terminal North (image via Google Maps)

After years of stalled planning, the Washington Business Journal first reported that Robinson Terminal North redevelopment could be revived.

The Journal reported that a new development concept plan has been filed with the city’s planning department. The plan will include multifamily residential, ground-floor retail and a restaurant, with mixed-use residential buildings straddling N. Union Street.

The Rooney Properties website said the goal is to complete the project by 2025.

Robinson Terminal North was previously used as a warehouse for the Washington Post until 2013, according to Alexandria Living Magazine, and the Washington Business Journal noted that development plans surfaced in 2015, 2017 and 2019 but never moved forward.

Robinson Terminal North was once the site of warehouses before being torn down to make way for RiverRenew work. The northern edge of the property is planned as a promenade with benches and space for programming.

The Journal noted that Robinson Terminal North has long been a thorn in the side of the city’s efforts to make a comprehensive, walkable waterfront.

Image via Google Maps

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Pride of Baltimore II near Annapolis (image via Pride of Baltimore II/Facebook)

Patrick O’Brian enthusiasts rejoice: another Age of Sail replica ship is coming to Alexandria.

The schooner Pride of Baltimore II, a replica of the 1812 ship Pride of Baltimore, will be docking at Alexandria’s marina later this month.

The ship will be in Alexandria for a three-day visit from Friday, Oct. 20, to Sunday, Oct. 22. During that time, free deck tours will be available from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

“Tickets are not required for the free deck tours,” the release from the City of Alexandria said, “and will include a chance to talk with deck crew and a National Park Service (NPS) ranger to learn more about the War of 1812, Thomas Boyle, privateers, and the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail.”

The Pride of Baltimore II was “hoisted aloft and launched from her Inner Harbor birthplace on April 30, 1988,” the release said. Since then, the schooner has sailed 275,000 nautical miles and visited 200 ports in 40 countries, the release said.

Image via Pride of Baltimore II/Facebook

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The Old Town Alexandria waterfront (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Alexandria’s waterfront turns 293 this year and, may we just say, it doesn’t look a day over 200.

A symposium called The Alexandria Forum is returning next month to look back those nearly 300 years of history at the edge of the Potomac River. This year’s theme is The Waterfront Revisited: Birth and Rebirth, 1730-2023.

While Alexandria’s coastline as it exists today wouldn’t be built until a few years later, tobacco warehouses built in 1730 near the river’s edge turned Alexandria into a flourishing port.

The city was officially founded as a city in 1749, two years before Georgetown, and in the 1780s, the city began a massive project to replace the cliffs along the water’s edge with several more city blocks, creating the coastline as it exists today.

The Alexandria Forum will dive into this history, with new information from excavations and more.

According to the release:

The Alexandria Forum is returning! On October 20th, the Office of Historic Alexandria will host this day-long conference, launching with the theme – The Waterfront Revisited: Birth and Rebirth, 1730-2023. The program will be held at the Alexandria History Museum at The Lyceum and explore the theme of revealing the history of the Alexandria Waterfront through new research lenses, technologies, excavations, and sources.

Presentations will weave together the many strands of historical evidence currently under examination, from deeds to store ledgers, from manifests to material culture, and provide new insights. The event’s keynote speaker is Dr. Abby Schreiber, sharing her recent research on a comprehensive documentary study of the waterfront. Event speakers also include Molly Kerr, Audrey Davis, African American Heritage Trail Committee Members with Committee Chair Dr. Krystyn Moon, Blake Wilson, Dr. Garrett Fesler, Dr. Ben Skolnik, and Dr. Tatiana Niculescu.

The symposium is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 20, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Alexandria History Museum at the Lyceum (201 S Washington Street). Tickets are $60 per person, or $40 for Office of Historic Alexandria members, volunteers and students.

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Changes are coming to Chart House, the popular restaurant with panoramic views of the Alexandria Waterfront.

The restaurant at 1 Cameron Street filed a special use permit request to modestly increase the footprint of the outdoor dining terrace and install a motorized retractable pergola.

Per the application, Chart House serves an average of 3,000 customers weekly, and the construction would increase the square footage of the property from 41,422 square feet to 43,213 square feet.

The application was received by the city on July 24 and the last day of public comments on the proposal was August 8. It will now go before the Planning Commission and then City Council for final approval.

The restaurant is owned by Texas-based Landry’s Inc.,  and there are 24 Chart House restaurants located along waterfronts across the country.

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Flooding on lower King Street in Old Town, October 29, 2021. (staff photo by James Cullum)

A new report on the city’s Floodplain Management Plan offers a look at what’s ahead for flood mitigation projects around the city.

Two items in the report highlight progress on flood mitigation along the waterfront. Two parts of the mitigation plan are re-grading sections of lower King Street and nearby streets to improve drainage and minimize flooding and the construction of an elevated walkway along the waterfront.

“The city is currently in procurement of a Progressive Design-Build contract and is scheduled to have a contract in place in the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2024,” the report said. “The city intends to make improvements to the waterfront area and protect to elevation 6.0’ (NAVD88) between Duke Street and Queen Street including lower King Street, Union Street and The Strand.”

The report says the 10-year budget for the project is $48.2 million, with a total of $108.6 million appropriated for the project.

For the elevated walkway, the report says the current schedule is to have a contract in place in the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2024.

The report also said excavation of sediment from the channel bed of Cameron Run is scheduled for Fiscal Year 2024.

The report said four additional projects are currently under contract and in the design stage:

  • Mount Vernon Avenue cul de sac storm sewer improvements ($1.4 million) — flood mitigation for townhomes on Mount Vernon Avenue, including alley grading, drainage improvements and more. Construction is scheduled to start in February 2024 and be completed by November.
  • Hume Avenue storm sewer bypass project ($2.5 million) — flood mitigation for homes on Hume Avenue. A storm pipe will be installed to bypass the existing storm pipe. Construction is scheduled to start in June 2024 and be completed by March 2025.
  • Hooffs Run Timber Branch Bypass project ($60 million) — construction of a new storm sewer pipe system to transport stormwater from Timber Branch away from Hooff’s Run Culvert. Construction is scheduled to start in September 2026 and be completed by June 2028.
  • E. Glebe, Commonwealth, Ashby storm sewer capacity project ($50 million) — a conveyance capacity, storage, and green infrastructure upgrade for the often-flooded intersection. Construction is scheduled to start in April 2026 and be completed by January 2028.
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Thousands attended Alexandria’s birthday celebration on the waterfront on Saturday.

For a minute it seemed that rain on Saturday would result in a washout, like last year when the event was postponed. But skies cleared and grass dried enough for the event to continue as planned.

The annual event at Oronoco Bay Park (100 Madison Street) is always held the first Saturday after July 4, and this year featured performances by Three Man Soul Machine, the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, a declaration from Town Crier Ben Fiore-Walker, a poem from Alexandria’s Poet Laureate Zeina Azzam and brief speeches by city leaders.

City leaders also handed out more than 3,000 cupcakes before the grand finale fireworks display with the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra performing the 1812 Overture accompanied by howitzers from the 3rd US Infantry Regiment.

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The Portside in Old Town Summer Festival at Waterfront Park in Old Town. (Via Facebook)

Alexandria’s summer will kick off this weekend with the Portside in Old Town Summer Festival. Here’s what you need to know.

The free event, which includes the 45th annual Alexandria Jazz Fest, will be held at Waterfront Park (1A Prince Street) on Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 1 to 9 p.m.

“This free festival features an array of live music, local craft beer from Port City Brewing Company and fun for the whole family on the Alexandria waterfront,” said Visit Alexandria.

The musicians were chosen by the 2023 Alexandria Jazz Fest Activation Team, which includes John Hasse, a music curator at The Smithsonian Institution, Suraya Mohamed of NPR Music and Jeremy Castillo, the director of Performance and Contemporary Music at the Levine School of Music.

Food will be provided by Borinquen Lunch BoxChalkboard Wings & BBQ, Kungfu Kitchen, Dolci Gelati and The Italian Place.

Port City Brewing Company will provide the beer, as well as:

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

The Portside in Old Town Summer Festival at Waterfront Park in Old Town. (Via Facebook)

Friday schedule

Poetry will be read between sets by:

During the performances, muralist Aniekan Udofia will paint a new piece from 6 to 9 p.m. Udofia is best known for the mural at Ben’s Chili Bowl in D.C.

Saturday schedule

Image Via Facebook

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The Tall Ship Providence sailed up the Potomac River to its new permanent home at Waterfront Park in Alexandria on Tuesday, and the floating Senator John Warner Maritime Heritage Center will start offering interactive tours for the public starting this Saturday, June 17.

The effort to build the maritime center goes back to 2018, and construction started last year. In April, the center was floated up from Baltimore and final touches have been added to the two cottages housing an education center where visitors will get an immersive lesson about sailing during the Revolutionary War.

After walking through a security gate and gangway, visitors will get handed small character cards before their dockside tour of the ship.

“The year is 1776, and you will either be a cook, a carpenter, able seaman, a landsman, or a purser,” said Tall Ship Providence Foundation President and CEO Clair Sassin. “They’ll get a bit of history from the Education Center, where they’ll be informed on the ship, their new home for the next few months. And that’s when you leave and you get on Providence to meet Captain John Paul Jones and explore the ship.”

The hour-long tours run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and cost $24 for adults, $20 for military veterans and $17 for children ages 5 to 17. The ship will also continue sailing tours on weekends.

“The whole center can hold up to 120 people, and can also be rented out for events,” Sassin said.

The Providence, built in 1976, is a replica of the first naval warship commissioned by the Continental Congress in 1775. It was captained by famed Captain John Paul Jones, who famously said, “I have not yet begun to fight,” in response to a call to surrender in 1779.

The original Providence was destroyed to keep it from falling into the hands of the British in 1779, but throughout its tenure broke through a British naval blockade at Newport, captured 16 enemy ships and disrupted the fishing industry in Nova Scotia, which was a British food source.

A grand opening for the center with city leaders, donors and other stakeholders will be held on Thursday, June 22, from 4 to 6 p.m.

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The grand finale of Alexandria’s birthday celebration over the Potomac River, July 7, 2018 (staff photo by James Cullum)

Get your lawn chairs and picnic blankets ready for fireworks, because Alexandria’s 274th birthday celebration is happening in Old Town on Saturday, July 8.

The event at Oronoco Bay Park (100 Madison Street) draws thousands of people every year. It’s always held the first Saturday after July 4, and features performances from the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, a declaration from Town Crier Ben Fiore-Walker, a poem from Alexandria’s Poet Laureate Zeina Azzam and brief speeches by city leaders.

Mayor Justin Wilson, City Council members and other officials will also hand out birthday cupcakes to attendees.

The celebration kicks off at 6 p.m. and ends with a grand finale fireworks display at 9:30 p.m.

Visit Alexandria recommends these vantage points to see the best fireworks:

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Chadwicks owner Trae Lamond (on right) with general manager Sean Hall (staff photo by James Cullum)

Chadwicks (203 Strand Street) is about to get really busy.

From now until mid-August, it’s the strong season for the unpretentious Old Town staple that has graced the Alexandria waterfront since 1979. From the menu to decor, not much changes in the restaurant/bar (except a recent price hike) as owner Trae Lamond keeps his proverbial ship afloat through a gradually evolving seashore.

Chadwicks was once one of Alexandria’s only bars along the Potomac River, but over the last several years has been joined by BARCA Pier & Wine BarVola’s Dockside Grill, Ada’s on the River, Virtue Feed & Grain, among others. But there’s something to be said for a reliably good cheeseburger with a cold beer, as last year owner Trae Lamond and his team of 30 full and part-time employees took home the Chamber ALX’s Overall Business of the Year award.

Lamond is a 1999 graduate of T.C. WIlliams High School (now Alexandria City High School), and moved back home after getting a degree in history and art from James Madison University. Lamond started working as a bartender at Chadwicks in 2004, and then bought the business in 2015.

This week, ALXnow sat down with Lamond and his general manager Sean Hall to discuss the latest.

ALXnow: What’s the enduring attraction of Chadwicks? How have you kept it going all these years?

Lamond: I think it’s just the way we treat people. We don’t put on airs that we’re something fancier than we are. We are a home away from home for half of Old Town. The food is comfort food for the most part. We’re not going to offer you fillet of puffer fish with a tweezered-on microgreen, or whatever. We’re cheeseburgers and buffalo wings. We’re what you want and we’re not overcomplicating it. We’re just trying to be consistent and giving you what you’re looking for.

ALXnow: Post-pandemic, what are your main challenges now?

Lamond: Honestly, for a while things were in flux. Now it’s about putting butts in seats and keeping costs down, and costs are hitting us pretty high all over the place. One of the parts of us being the neighborhood friendly place is that we’ve always been priced a little bit below everybody else. It is very hard to do that and we held off for a long time, and basically took a bit of a hit as we were coming out of the worst of the pandemic.

COVID allowed for a reset mentality where I used to be like, “Oh, boohoo, I wish X, Y and Z was better.” Now it’s like, okay, when all of a sudden, you know, there’s sunny day flooding on Prince Street, I don’t care. Like, I care, but I used to feel like it was the worst possible thing that could happen.

ALXnow: The flooding on the waterfront no longer dampens your spirits?

Lamond: On the record, the city needs to fix the flood mitigation plan instantly. But yeah, it’s not the end of the world. It’s all about perspective. When you’re faced with what everyone thinks is like, holy smokes, maybe the end of small businesses in America. Restaurants were  hit so hard, and we came through that.

ALXnow: When did you raise your prices?

Hall: Early 2022. Prices were just skyrocketing. Sourcing things was tough for everything. Chicken wings and buffalo wings were very hard to find. So, we had to find whole new sources to get things, figure out what’s going to work for what we’re trying to put out. It wasn’t everything at once, but we consistently had to hunt down products to keep putting out something that people want. And it would be more expensive every time. It was like they were discontinuing things just to raise the prices later on. It really was a struggle. We’ve struggled with not raising prices for a long time and basically Trae didn’t want to do it. We had some heated discussions about it and finally he relented.

ALXnow: How did your customers feel about that? How dramatic was the price increase?

Lamond: Not that dramatic. A dollar here, 50 cents there. The most drastic was the crab cake sandwich. The price of crab more than doubled, and we’re not going to make a bad crab cake sandwich. We had to ask ourselves whether we wanted to take it off the menu or raise the price $5.

Hall: A lot of customers noticed the price increases. Not too many were upset about it because prices went up at restaurants across the board.

ALXnow: What’s the development around the waterfront mean for you? Is it a good thing to have all this local competition, or does it siphon away business?

Lamond: I think it’s all been very good for us. In the 200 block of Strand Street all we used to have was a gun shop, a gravel parking lot and warehouses. There was a strip mall that was at best three-quarters full, and Big Wheel Bikes.  We were the only restaurant and there was no reason to come here except for us. Seriously. Now, people want to go to Ada’s or BARCA, and they want to see what what’s going on down here.

Hall: Before we were a hidden gem. Now we’re along the path.

ALXnow: Seeing how far the waterfront development has come the last decade, what do you think about future development 10 or 20 years down the road?

Lamond: That’s what’s fantastic and frustrating about Chadwicks. We’re not going to all of a sudden get out the white tablecloths and replace all of our thoroughbred bartenders with mixologists. We’re just going to stay who we are. Our bartender is not going to make you a frilly lilac whiskey with bourbon smash, or whatever. What are we gonna do? We’re not going to reinvent anything. We’re just going to show up, open the place, keep welcoming people in.

It’s comforting to know that we’re the place in Old Town that can get away with it. Twenty years from now, I imagine our number one item is going to be a cheeseburger. Our bar is going to be one of the busiest bars on the waterfront. We’re going to be the only late night show in town unless someone else tries to wedge in on that.

ALXnow: There’s a long-running conversation on creating a Business Improvement District in Old Town. What do you think about it?

Lamond: I’m a big supporter of a BID. The government knows how to govern, but they don’t know how to run a small business. That’s why we need a BID to push business development, guided by us… Chadwicks is a very large building and we’d be paying $150 a month. I can afford that to try and put more butts in my seats. If it doesn’t work out then we can get rid of it.  Two, three years into this, if it’s a huge wash and 60% of businesses don’t want it, it’s over.

ALXnow: Do you envision opening more Chadwicks locations? 

Lamond: The idea of opening 20 more Chadwicks and becoming a mogul, I have no interest in that. Our game plan has been about consistency. What do you want? Here’s the burgers and french fries. We are as accessible as it comes, and our 99% of our focus goes into making sure that customers have a good experience at the restaurant, their food is cooked properly. The place is clean. We’re gifted with not having to reinvent ourselves every five years. We can just keep improving.

Hall: I think it says a lot about us that we’ve had so much long tenured staff for so long. We met our wives here and we’ve worked with our family members and friends. It’s an institution and it’s gonna be here forever.

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