The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra will officially return to in-person performances with an hour-long program at Alexandria’s 272nd birthday celebration on Saturday, July 10, on the waterfront.

“We’re really excited to be there for the community,” Melinda Kernc, ASOs director of development and marketing, confirmed to ALXnow. “We did what we could during COVID, and now to meet in person is really exciting.”

The program on July 10 has been shortened to an hour (it’s usually an hour-and-a-half), and to discourage crowds there also won’t be cannon fire punctuating the symphony’s rendition of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture during the fireworks. Last year’s event, which usually attracts tens of thousands of visitors to Old Town, was held virtually.

ASO will also return for their first full season of shows starting the first weekend in October with Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center at Northern Virginia Community College.

The symphony will release their upcoming show schedule in the next couple of weeks, Kernc said.

There will be five separate shows between October and April, and performances will be held at 7:30 p.m. at NOVA on Saturday nights and 3 p.m. the following day  the next day at George Washington National Masonic Memorial.

“We are planning for the first half of our season, which goes through December,” Kernc said. “We’re not going to have intermissions in order to keep people from congregating. Other than that, we’re planning to have full capacity in the Hall.”

The pandemic forced ASO to adapt, and musicians ended up playing virtual events, as well as more than a dozen at socially distant musical venues at The Rectory in Old Town and senior living facilities.

“We’ll continue to do community events when we can,” Kernc said. “We’ll also continue to do some kind of virtual event maybe once a year where we actually can put our concerts out, because we reached over 2,000 people with our Christmas performance, and that’s a bigger audience than our largest venue.”

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The Alexandria Fire Department has rescued a woman in a stalled car near the Alexandria waterfront, as the City contends with a continuing Flash Flood Watch and rising water levels.

The driver called 911 at 10:46 a.m. after getting stuck on Strand Street, and said that she couldn’t open her car door because of the rising water, according to AFD Senior Public Information Officer Raytevia Evans.

AFD’s Inland Water Rescue Team arrived at the scene at 10:51 a.m., and helped the driver out of her car.

“The water was at the door or vehicle and she couldn’t get out,” Evans said.

The Flash Flood Watch was issued yesterday and remains in effect throughout the evening.

High water levels have not been reported in other areas of the City, Evans said.

“High tide in the Old Town area was at around 11 a.m. this morning,” she said. “We’re monitoring the rest of the City, but right now we’re not seeing any abnormal water levels in some of the usual places where we get flooding, like around Cameron Run, or Eisenhower Avenue and Telegraph Road.”

The fire department is asking residents to stay informed on local weather patterns and to stay away from standing water.

“Make sure you’re paying attention to local weather reports about the flooding,” Evans said. “If you see standing water do not walk through it. Do not drive through it. We’re asking people to be careful. Stay vigilant. If you find yourself in a situation please to call 911.”

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Morning Notes

Sheriff Dana Lawhorne to receive Lifetime Valor Award — “In recognition of his retirement, we are pleased to honor Sheriff Dana Lawhorne with a Lifetime Valor Award at this year’s Valor Awards. Join us virtually, on June 22nd, to honor Sheriff Lawhorne’s 43 years of law enforcement service to Alexandria.” [Chamber ALX]

West End Business Association hosting 1 p.m. conversation with Mayor — “Take this opportunity to ask questions and connect with Mayor Justin Wilson about how he would continue to serve the city of Alexandria.” [WEBA]

Chinquapin Recreation Center closing for improvements June 26 — “The City of Alexandria’s Chinquapin Park Recreation Center and Aquatics Facility (3210 King St.) will close Saturday, June 26 through Monday, Sept. 6, for several planned facility improvements and annual cleaning.” [Zebra]

Vaccine Equity Clinic on Route 1 in Fairfax County offering free transportation — “The Health Department and Fairfax Connector have partnered to offer free transportation to those who want to get vaccinated at the clinic, located in the former Safeway site at 7451 Mount Vernon Square Center in Alexandria. Fairfax Connector’s Free Vaccine Shuttle will run along Fairfax Connector’s line in that region.” [Fairfax County]

Annual Waterfront Commission walk is today — “The walk will be in person starting at (5 p.m. at) the intersection of Oronoco and South Union Streets and will proceed south to Robinson Landing. The walk is anticipated to end at 6:30 p.m.” [City of Alexandria]

Fire Department conducting community meeting on restructuring today — “The Alexandria Fire Department (AFD) will implement an organizational restructure, effective Saturday, June 12, 2021. The goals of the changes are to improve service efficiency and response times across the City; reduce cost; increase safety on the roadways; and improve response preparedness for specialty teams such as the Technical Rescue, Hazardous Materials, and Inland Water Rescue teams. AFD Representatives will present the upcoming changes to the community and answer questions.” [City of Alexandria]

Today’s weather — “Rain showers in the morning with numerous thunderstorms developing in the afternoon. High 81F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%… Thunderstorms in the evening, then variable clouds overnight with still a chance of showers. Low around 65F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 70%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Ghost tour guide — “US Ghost Adventures, a national tour operation is seeking energetic storytellers to lead 90-minute walking tour groups downtown. This part-time position is ideal for self-motivated candidates looking for a fun way to make extra income in the evenings.” [Indeed]

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After two years in development, Misha’s Coffee opened its second location in Old Town over the weekend.

The new shop is located in a prime spot next to Waterfront Park at 6 Prince Street, and around the corner to Big Wheel Bikes and Chadwicks. The two-level coffee shop will also feature beer from the Port City Brewing Co. and cider from Lost Dog Cidery — as the final license hurdles are cleared.

Misha’s was founded in 1991, and operated out of its iconic first location at 102 S. Patrick Street until owners Misha Von Elmendorf and Andrea Seward decided to move to 917 King Street in 2019. That was about the same time that work started on the Prince Street location, which took two years to get off the ground.

The new Prince Street location has the vibe of the original. Large, brightly colored paintings by artist Kirsten Avne decorate the walls, and the carefully crafted jazz playlist is reassuringly stellar. It’s also got more electrical outlets, and soon outdoor seating will extend to the end of the block.

“This location feels more like 102 South Patrick,” Misha’s manager Stu Robinson told ALXnow. “It’s just the energy. Coming in here now is like sunshine after the storm. People are happy to be in this new space, and even our employees are happy to be here.”

For now, the new coffee shop’s hours are 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. the rest of the week.

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A waterfront building at the very end of King Street could be getting a new rooftop restaurant.

The building at 101 N. Union Street, home to Vola’s Dockside Grill and Hi-Tide Lounge — and known more by locals as where Jamey Turner usually sets up his iconic glass harp — could soon be refitted to add an accessible roof with a new restaurant.

Staff first brought up the potential change at a Waterfront Commission meeting earlier this month. It’s just talk for now, staff said, as building owner Route 66 hasn’t filed an application yet. Staff said preliminary discussions have indicated there will also be some changes to the ground level.

The building is adjacent to the Torpedo Factory, but the city clarified that they are separate buildings. Any potential restaurant will also have to go through the Board of Architectural Review first.

“The owners of the building at 101 N. Union Street (a separate building from the Torpedo Factory) are contemplating a rooftop restaurant and ground-floor changes to this building,” said Alexandria communications officer Andrea Blackford. “The proposed changes will require a Special Use Permit, as well as BAR approval of a Permit to Demolish and Certificate of Appropriateness.  Staff anticipates a submission in the coming months.”

Photo via Google Maps

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You remember how we knew basically nothing about the proposed Waterfront Museum study? Turns out, many in the city doesn’t either.

At a Waterfront Commission meeting on Tuesday, the Commission took a second look at the Waterfront Museum study and the costs associated with it.

The museum, as suggested in the memo, would house some of the hulls of ships discovered on the waterfront and countless artifacts found in the area:

In addition, in FY 2022 $125,000 is requested to conduct a Waterfront Museum Feasibility Study to assess the viability of a history center as recommended in the Waterfront History Plan and the Waterfront Area Plan. If supported, the museum would house items such as the conserved ship timbers of an 18th century merchant ship and associated artifacts excavated as part of the Robinson Terminal South and Hotel Indigo construction projects.

“I have questions myself about this,” said Nathan Macek, the Planning Commission representative on the Waterfront Commission. “I don’t have any background on this and I don’t know what anybody on the Commission does. It would be helpful to flag this for discussion or even an update from city staff who could speak to what this is.”

Jack Browand, division chief of Parks and Cultural Activities, said the funding would help determine the feasibility of the museum, and later look at the design process and what the museum would cost, but cost was a major concern for members of the Waterfront Commission as the city looks at a budget heavily strained by the pandemic.

“I want to know how much this will cost and if this is the best use of our funds when we’re not certain how this whole pandemic ending will play out,” Commission member Christa Waters said. “You’re talking about $125,000, and City Council members would tell you that’s not a lot of money, but here and there it adds up.”

Waters noted that the Waterfront Commission has discussed the possibility of a museum for years, and most recently considered putting the boat on the roof of the Torpedo Factory, though there are concerns the roof isn’t fit to hold it.

“I think we need a little more precision in what we’re asking for and a little more direction,” Waters said. “I think this is not the year to do this.”

Waterfront Commission member Charlotte Hall reminded the others that there had previously been an effort to get a museum for the waterfront going and it failed.

“I’m quite alarmed that this is coming out in a letter that we’re supporting and that we know nothing about,” Hall said. “A friendly reminder that, while I’m in favor of a Waterfront Museum, we had a Waterfront Museum at the north end of the Canal Center and it failed, and it failed for a couple of reasons. I have a hard time supporting a study for something I know nothing about because I want to make sure it’s not another study that’s just going to go on the shelf.”

Commission members asked questions like where the museum would be, but Macek explained there were few answers with the study so early in the process.

“I don’t know anything more than what’s in this paragraph,” Macek said. “This feasibility study for the Waterfront Museum kind of came out of the blue.”

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Morning Notes

Private School, The Linder Academy, to Open in Old Town — “The Linder Academy, a private K-8 school, submitted a special use permit application to open a location at 601, 607 and 609 S. Washington St. and 710 Gibbon St. According to the application, the school will serve up to 105 students and 14-16 teachers and staff. There is a proposed outdoor play area in the courtyard between 601 and 607 S. Washington St.” [Alexandria Living]

Homegrown Restaurant Group vaccinates 300+ restaurant workers — “HGR volunteering today at the Alexandria Restaurant Vaccination Drive! 330 workers from 29 different restaurants will be vaccinated by the end of day. Many thanks to all the volunteers and to Alexandria Restaurant Partners for donating space to make this happen.” [Facebook]

City seeking artwork for Old Town North storm drain covers — “The City will commission up to three (3) artists to create up to two (2) original, site specific designs with a budget of $2,000 to design their artworks. The designs will be cast on approximately 24 stormwater covers throughout Old Town North, with a focus on Fairfax Street.  Artists will be required to visit the area and create a design that is representative and inspired by Old Town North.” [Zebra]

Alexandria Wedding Showcase giving away a $15K elopement package — More info on the prizes page at alexandriaweddingshowcase.com. The showcase starts April 17!” [Facebook]

Today’s weather — “Partly cloudy skies (during the day). High around 70F. Winds ESE at 10 to 15 mph… Cloudy with light rain developing after midnight. Low 52F. Winds SE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 70%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Barca Pier offering $250 bonus for bussers, food runners and hosts — “Are you searching for a SEASONAL POSITION? We would love to have you on our team!! We are offering a $250-dollar WELCOME bonus along with the ability to make serious money, we have full and part time openings for HOSTS, SERVER ASSISTANTS and RUNNERS (PERFECT FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS!) to join a growing Restaurant Company. We would love to meet you this week!! Please come prepared to Interview with a resume A MASK is required for Entrance, we are hiring on the SPOT with Positions starting ASAP!” [Indeed]

Photo via Homegrown Restaurant Group/Facebook

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Morning Notes

‘Barca’ opening today on waterfront — “Barca Pier offers 210-seats of open-air dining and is constructed from industrial freight containers that are situated on what used to be a bustling shipping pier.” [Alexandria Living]

Suffragettes honored with marker in Old Town — “As we close out #WomensHistoryMonth, check out the newly installed historic marker on the corner of S. St. Asaph and Prince Streets to commemorate an important American suffrage movement federal court case.” [Twitter]

Alexandria Library hosting e-book demonstration on April 12 — “Using the Libby app with a library card, readers can browse the library’s complete digital collection, instantly borrow titles, and read or listen for free. The service works with all major computer brands and devices.” [Zebra]

Today’s weather — “Rain likely (during the day). High 67F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall near a half an inch. Locally heavy rainfall possible… Rain showers early with a steady, soaking rain late. Increasing winds. Low 42F. Winds WNW at 20 to 30 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall around a quarter of an inch. Winds could occasionally gust over 40 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Food runner — “Needed high energy team member available for weekend work as food runners. Must be able to carry 40lbs. Only serious applicants please apply. Bilingual not essential but would be helpful.” [Indeed]

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Several largely-intact ship hulls found underground in Old Town a few years ago could see new life in a proposed “Waterfront Museum” in the early stages of consideration in the upcoming budget.

The possible museum could house and display the timbers of at least one of the four-total ships found under new developments in 2018.

To be clear: the idea of the museum is still in its nascent stage. A feasibility study to “assess the viability” of the potential museum.

In addition, in FY 2022 $125,000 is requested to conduct a Waterfront Museum Feasibility Study to assess the viability of a history center as recommended in the Waterfront History Plan and the Waterfront Area Plan. If supported, the museum would house items such as the conserved ship timbers of an 18th century merchant ship and associated artifacts excavated as part of the Robinson Terminal South and Hotel Indigo construction projects.

Derelict ships were often used part of the foundation when the city was expanding its waterfront at the end of the 18th century. One of the most intact ships was once a cargo freighter, with holes showing where certain Caribbean worms had eaten away at the wood and dendrochronology indicating that the ship’s timbers were originally from Boston and had been cut down in 1741.

The discovery of the ships made national headlines, with the relatively intact state giving archeologists a chance to analyze artifacts from the city’s heyday as a port.

The timbers from the ships were shipped to Texas A&M for further study and preservation — mainly involving the slow extraction of water from the long-buried timbers and careful treatment to ensure the frames don’t lose integrity in the process.

A scale model of the ship is available in the Alexandria Archaeology Museum on the top floor of the Torpedo Factory Art Center, but the museum would be too small to house timbers from the ship, which is around 25 feet wide and 46 feet long.

The feasibility study comes in addition to $102 million also being considered for infrastructure improvements along the waterfront. The budget item notes that prices have increased dramatically since many of the infrastructure improvements were first proposed.

According to the budget memo:

$102 million over the ten-year CIP to support the design and construction of the Plan-recommended infrastructure, including flood mitigation, prioritized through community engagement processes. Projected construction costs have increased due to further scope refinement, further design development, and market drivers. Cost estimates have been escalated to anticipated mid-construction date. The most significant changes were due to more detailed design for stormwater and pumping system, structural bulkhead, and electrical infrastructure. The current CIP budget is funded at approximately 50% of the current cost estimate. Alternative strategies and value engineering studies are currently underway. The design-build process will likely include further alternatives analysis and cost development to facilitate a firm budget. It is anticipated that the CIP budget request will be further refined after the project alternatives and value engineering process is complete.

The waterfront items are part of a larger FY 2022 budget discussion scheduled for the April 8 Planning Commission meeting.

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Waterfront restaurant Chadwicks (203 Strand Street) could be doubling down on its outdoor seating with a new second floor metal balcony.

A proposal headed to the Board of Architectural Review on Wednesday, April 7, would allow the restaurant to add a new metal balcony to the north side of the building, across from Big Wheel Bikes. The new outdoor dining would replace parking spots in the alleyway.

Owner Trae Lamond said opening up more outdoor dining had been in the back of his mind for years, but was really hammered home by COVID-19.

“I wanted to come up to a clever way to add outdoor dining ever since I bought the place in 2015 and struck out one way or another until I saw the simplest answer: put it right there in the alleyway,” Lamond said. “We started the process before COVID, then we went into survival mode for 2020. That was until the city bailed out all of us with the temporary outdoor dining expansion, which really opened my eyes to how important that was. It was such a slam dunk.”

The move follows a similar change from other restaurants to expand outdoor dining options, like nearby Virtue Feed and Grain’s expansion into an adjacent alleyway.

“We’ve had five tables before this, and it’s been that way since the early 2000s,” Lamond said. “But you look down at Charthouse, Virtue or Vola’s, and they’re killing it with the outdoor space.”

The new addition will come alongside other grade improvements to facilitate outdoor dining for the restaurant. Lamond said the expansion will be modest in scope, but still a significant growth over current offerings.

“It’ll be in the 40-50 range for seats,” Lamond said. “Not massive, but it’s going to beat the heck out of five tables.”

Images via City of Alexandria

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