Alexandria, VA

Old Town waterfront restaurant Virtue Feed and Grain could make a recent its outdoor dining expansion permanent if the closure of a nearby alleyway by the waterfront goes through.

At the Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday, March 2, the city is putting forward a proposal to close Wales Alley between S. Union and Strand streets to vehicle traffic.

According to the staff report, the closure would allow Virtue Feed and Grain at 106 S. Union Street to expand an outdoor dining accommodation granted last spring.

According to the report

In Spring 2020, the Virtue Feed and Grain submitted a request to use more of the alley for outdoor dining. Indoor dining was limited, and additional space was needed to meet social distancing requirements. To accommodate this request, the City temporarily closed the alley to vehicular traffic to allow the restaurant to expand further north into the alley, while maintaining pedestrian access along the north side. This expansion was approved through the City’s temporary outdoor dining program that was created to allow for additional dining space in the public right of way. The concept of closing this portion of Wales Alley had also been discussed prior to the pandemic as a way to provide additional pedestrian space and more connections to the Waterfront.

The report notes that the city would continue to own the alleyway, but would operate licensing agreements for its use with nearby business owners. Staff also said that, in addition to helping a local restaurant, the closing would help further advance plans to increase pedestrian access and circulation around the waterfront.

“This portion of the alley does not provide any significant benefit to traffic circulation,” the report said. “By eliminating vehicles from this area, more space is provided for pedestrians and reduces conflicts.”

Staff recommended approval of the closure in the report.

Photo via Virtue Feed and Grain/Facebook

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The GenOn Plant on the Potomac is getting redeveloped, but don’t expect to see mixed-use development on the site anytime soon.

The first public meeting for the planned development was held last night (Thursday) and mainly served as a meet-and-greet for the community and the developers.

Mary Catherine Gibbs, an attorney representing the developers, said early on that designs for the mixed-use development to replace the power plant wouldn’t be coming until significantly further down the line. Gibbs repeatedly referred to the meeting and upcoming public engagement as “the beginning of the beginning,” a notion repeated by others throughout the meeting as they laid out the timeline.

“Deconstruction starting in 2023, we would also be submitting a DSUP plan for infrastructure as well [around the same time] to be done with those approvals and ready to start first phase of development when we’re done with remediation in early 2023,” said Melissa Schrock, senior vice president of mixed-use development at developer Hilco. “[Construction] would be sometime between 18-31 months after.”

Schrock and others said the plan is to develop the parcel as an urban, mixed-use development with housing. Representatives of the development weren’t shy about saying that the upcoming plans for Potomac Yard and Amazon’s HQ2 also play a role in how the site will ultimately shape up.

While much of the development remains to be decided, one of the more intriguing proposals brought up during the meeting was the suggestion that the GenOn replacement could implement some sort of water-based transit — ala the Waterfront Taxi.

To get to all of that, though, the project is going to have to go through significant environmental rehabilitation to bring the former power plant site up to code.

“We’re starting with enviromental and sustainability,” said George Needs, the other Hilco vice president of mixed-use development. “Remediation is expensive, but we have expertise to do it with in-house environmental expects and bring these projects to regulation closure.”

Needs said plans for both the demolition and the redevelopment of the site will likely span several years.

“This is a very visible project, it’s a prominent waterfront site, so we know how important this is and as we think about conceptualizing a plan we know the key to success is a plan that engages with the public, is transparent, and builds trust,” Needs said. “It’s a generational project, a 10-plus year commitment.”

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Morning Notes

COVID-19 Deaths Now at 94 in Alexandria — “The latest update from the City on COVID-19: 2,929 Alexandrians vaccinated; 3 additional deaths (94 total); Positive tests up 80 to 8,387 in the City (637 in last 7 days); 7-day Positivity Rate up to 10.5% 2 new hospitalizations.” [Twitter]

Northam Says Virginia Ready for Inauguration — “Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said his state is ‘ready’ as the FBI warned of possible violent demonstrations at capitols across the country, ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.” [Twitter]

Mayor Says Volunteers Needed for Vaccination Efforts — “As we dramatically expand our vaccination effort and prepare for the long-haul, we will need many more volunteers. We need those with medical training and without to join our Alexandria Medical Reserve Corps. Please sign-up today!” [Twitter]

Ada’s On The River Opens on the Waterfront — “It was a dilapidated warehouse. We backed out a couple of times. We thought originally this might be too far south; it’s not King and Union, but it’s awesome. The pedestrian traffic is amazing.” [Alexandria Living]

Virtual Events Planned for George Washington Birthday Celebration — “This year marks the 289th anniversary of George Washington’s birth. Next month, his adopted hometown will introduce new and virtual events to celebrate. Unfortunately, because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the annual parade has been cancelled. But there are still exciting events planned for residents to enjoy.” [Zebra]

Alexandria Police Permanent Medication Drop-off Temporarily Closed — “The Permanent Medication Drop Box at Alexandria Police Headquarters will be closed from today, January 14 – January 25.” [Twitter]

Today’s Weather — “Mostly cloudy with some showers in the afternoon. High 53F. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 70%… Rain early (in the evening)… then remaining cloudy with showers late. Low near 35F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall near a quarter of an inch.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Front Desk Clerk — “Borger Management, Inc. has an opportunity for a customer service enthusiast interested in working as a part-time Concierge from 3 PM – 11 PM Fridays, Saturdays, and holidays.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Waterfront Shipping Container Bar Starts to Take Shape — “On Monday morning, the shipping containers were moved from the barge to the pier for a portion of the restaurant.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

Drop Boxes Announced for Medication Disposal — “Unwanted medication can be dropped off at one of these 3 locations. Do not flush unwanted medications down the toilet or drain.” [Twitter]

Alexandria Earns Perfect Ratings on Municipal Equality Index — “According to the HRC website, the MEI measures the inclusiveness of residents in cities around the county who identify as LGBTQ+. This year, Alexandria received a perfect score of 100 percent on the index.” [Zebra]

Final Report Released on CARES Act Funds — “While we await additional Federal action, it is important to recognize how the City has quickly put the $27.8M we have received to benefit the residents and small businesses of our community.” [Twitter]

Episcopal High School Seeking English Teacher — “Episcopal High School is looking for a full-time English teacher beginning in the fall of 2021. Candidates must be prepared to teach students at every level in this four-year boarding school.” [NAIS Career Center]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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A quarterly report on the status of Alexandria’s capital projects is headed to the City Council tomorrow (Tuesday) with some bad news: the pandemic has created some setbacks and additional challenges for anticipated projects across the city.

At the Potomac Yard Metro station, a contractor out of Pennsylvania was unable to make progress on the work for part of the summer due to COVID-19 restrictions

“Work on the AC Switchgear building slowed while WMATA and the Contractor discussed quality concerns with the concrete placement for the east and south walls,” the report said. “The Constructor submitted a notice of a potential delay based on a subcontractor being required to return to Pennsylvania — COVID 19 restrictions.”

Since then, construction has continued on various parts of the station, like the platform foundations, elevator pits, and the A/C Switchgear building.

“WMATA finalized the Change Order to add the South Pavilion to the Contractor’s contract,” the report said. “This action continued past the initial completion timeframe as a result of extended WMATA review time.”

The Waterfront Plan now faces a year of potential funding delays as a result of the pandemic.

“All FY21 funding has been deferred to FY22 due to COVID-19 economic impact,” staff said in the report. “Additional changes were submitted to spread the funding over FY21-FY23 based on when the funding will be needed. As project design optimization and estimations continue, more accurate project costs can be provided.”

Plans for four miles of a transitway corridor along Van Dorn and Beauregard streets were hit with a delay this summer, but has made progress since. The procurement process for the project was delayed due to COVID and phase 2 of the project, an extension up to Southern Towers, was placed on hold following a change of ownership of Southern Towers. Meetings between staff and the new owners have since been scheduled.

Two stream restoration projects also could be impacted by the pandemic: the Strawberry Run stream restoration and Taylor Run stream restoration. Recently, Taylor Run completed the design review and is moving into public engagement, but the report noted that COVID impacts mean the project schedule is subject to change — and to allow additional time for public feedback. Strawberry Run’s estimated completion date has likewise been delayed due to COVID and to allow additional time for feedback.

Some final planned improvements for Windmill Hill Park were in jeopardy over the summer, the report said. The city added a living shoreline and other improvements to the Old Town park to combat debris issues, but a planned Phase II — including a northern pier at the site — had its funding pulled away due to the city’s budget crisis. Since then, the project has been added to the procurement plan for the third quarter of this fiscal year and an updated timeline is imminent.

For the long-troubled King Street Metrorail improvements, the project is likely to require additional funding despite earlier estimations that added costs would still fall within the contingency budget.

The Contractor will continue working towards the completion of Phase I – Reopening of the Bus Loop and overall project completion. Staff will continue to monitor and track the construction progress, working closely with the Contractor’s leadership to advance the project to completion. Additional funding needs resulting from the prolonged construction duration (extension of the CMI services contract) and to cover the cost of unforeseen site and design issues (beyond the existing construction contingency) to be addressed by Staff.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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The Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies art installation at Waterfront Park will be taken down next month at Waterfront Park, and the public is being asked to weigh in on a proposal to temporarily move the installation outside of Old Town Pool (1609 Cameron Street).

The four figurative sculptures by Olalekan Jeyifous are meant to convey Alexandria’s history with African American quilting and textile designs, and was unveiled in March. The installation is the second to occupy the public art space at Waterfront Park, after the Mirror Mirror installation in 2019.

A community meeting on the topic will be held on Thursday, October 29, from 7-8 p.m.

No replacement installation has yet been made public.

The full message from the city on the move is below the jump.

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Alexandria will release a draft action plan for revitalizing the Torpedo Factory Art Center today (October 16), and the proposal on the table includes a front entrance on the waterfront and a more interactive experience for families.

The city took over operations of the Torpedo Factory in 2016, and the art center traditionally sees more than a half a million visitors every year. But Diane Ruggiero, the city’s deputy director for recreation, parks and cultural activities, says that it doesn’t have a family-friendly atmosphere.

“A lot of the focus of the plan is about activating the first floor, kind of changing that initial experience that people have when they come into the art center,” Ruggiero told ALXnow. “We do know that folks want a more engaging and interactive experience from an arts perspective.”

There are more than 80 studios in the building, and artist studios take up 70% of the building. The largest tenant, The Art League school, art supply store, gallery and offices takes up 12% of occupancy. Its next largest occupant is The Alexandria Archeology Museum.

“I think the liveliness of the Art Center has always been something that has come back as a criticism of the Art Center, even pre-COVID,” Ruggiero said. “Some of the feedback that we had from the community is that there’s not a lot going on there that’s family friendly.”

The draft plan was developed by two consultants and Ruggiero says it will be on the city’s website later today.

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Alexandria’s Black residents have lived and worked along the Alexandria waterfront years before the city was founded in 1749, and a new African American Waterfront Heritage Trail helps to tell their stories.

The self-guided tour of the trail, which is a community initiative supported by the the city’s African American Heritage Trail Committee and the Office of Historic Alexandria, should take folks about 45 minutes to complete at a leisurely pace.

“In the 1820s, Alexandria became home to the largest domestic slave trading firm, which specialized in the sale and trafficking of enslaved African Americans from the Chesapeake to the Deep South,” according to the African American Waterfront Heritage Trail website. “The Civil War revolutionized social and economic relations, and newly freed African Americans found new job opportunities as a result of the waterfront’s industrialization. The Potomac River played an important role in leisure activities too, including picnicking, boating, and fishing, much as it does for Alexandrians and visitors today.”

The trail takes visitors to the waterfront at the foot of King Street and then to the corner of North Royal and Montgomery Streets.

“An amazing committee of community historians have put this amazing history trail together!” wrote City Councilman John Taylor Chapman on Facebook. “Who’s going to check out on the next sunny day?”

Participants can check out the 11 stops with a StoryMap.

An amazing committee of community historians have put this amazing history trail together!!! Who’s going to check out on the next sunny day?

Posted by John T. Chapman on Monday, October 5, 2020

Image via African American Waterfront Heritage Trail

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The Old Dominion Boat Club (ODBC) will present the Alexandria Planning Commission in November (Nov. 5) with a plan to build a floating wharf and pier outside its clubhouse at 0 Prince Street.

“The floating pier will provide facilities for transient boat mooring for larger boats due to the water depth along its expanse and for rowing crew shells and chase boats either for planned events/regattas or emergency needs,” according to an application for the special use permit.

The application continues, “The ODBC also proposes to add a floating wharf over the shallow water in its riparian rights to allow and support current and new uses that include small boat mooring and launch and retrieval of crew shells and kayaks to support increased recreational use of the Potomac River.”

The total square footage for the project is 2,688 square feet, and the club noted in its application that it will remove the floating structures if the city needs the space for flood mitigation infrastructure improvements.

“The proposed new floating wharf at the site would encourage increased recreation use of the site and support ODBC water dependent uses,” notes the application.

The city issued a certificate of occupancy for the ODBC Clubhouse at 0 Prince Street in 2017. The club was previously located at the foot of King Street. That property was exchanged with the city for a number of nearby lots downriver in order to build a public walkway and make flood mitigation improvements.

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Morning Notes

Beyer Condemns Trump for Coronavirus Statement on Blue States— “This is quite simply one of the most appalling and inhuman statements ever uttered by an American President.” [Twitter]

Chewish Deli Set to Open First Permanent Location — “When Linzey stumbled upon the Pendleton Carryout Co. space for sale this summer at 807 Pendleton St., he wasn’t exactly looking for a store location. But, Linzey knew that if a spot in Old Town ever opened up, he would want to take it.” [Alexandria Living]

Alexandria EMS Captain Appointed to State Board — “EMS Captain Lisa Simba was recently appointed to the State EMS Advisory Board by Gov. Ralph Northam. Capt. Simba has been with AFD for more than 30 years.” [Twitter]

Art League Offering Online Classes — “All skill levels are welcome. Select from more than 50 classes.and workshops. They range from basic painting and drawing instruction to computer-based digital illustration and GIF creation. Classes meet via Zoom. In between sessions, students can stay in touch through Google Classroom or by email. And because classes are virtual, students do not have to be in the Alexandria area to participate.” [Zebra]

Today’s Weather — During the day, cloudy with occasional showers. High 74F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 70%. At night, periods of rain. Low 63F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall near a half an inch.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Foundation Relations Manager — “Supports the National Military Family Association Development department in the development and implementation of a comprehensive foundation grants development program.” [Indeed]

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