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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Morning Notes

Free Krispy Kreme doughnut offered to vaccinated people — “Anyone who has received one or two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine can request one free glazed doughnut. A COVID-19 vaccination record card must be shown to receive the offer.” [Patch]

Waterfront art exhibit ‘Groundswell’ on display — “The installation features a ground mural depicting the floor of the Potomac River and more than 100 wood pilings throughout the site. They will range in heights from 12 to 42 inches, in accordance with the river floor topography or bathymetry. Each 14-inch-diameter piling is topped with a cobalt blue mirrored surface etched with growth rings that suggest the passing of time.” [Alexandria Living]

Nominations deadline March 25 for environmental award — “There’s still time to nominate a local environmental hero for the Ellen Pickering Environmental Excellence Award! Nominations are due this Thursday, March 25, and you can find the nomination form here.”  [Twitter]

Today’s weather — “Partly cloudy skies during the morning hours will become overcast in the afternoon. High 63F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph… Cloudy skies early with showers later at night. Low around 50F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 60%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Bartender and server — “We are a waterfront restaurant and event venue in North Old Town Alexandria seeking qualified servers/bartenders to join our professional family. You must be experienced, personable, and have a passion for hospitality!” [Indeed]

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It’s the Kobayashi Maru of developing in Old Town: how do you simultaneously create a building that fits in seamlessly with the historic nature of Old Town without being seen as imitating it?

The issue was recently brought up at a Waterfront Commission meeting on Tuesday in a discussion about the proposed redevelopment of an existing parking garage at 101 Duke Street into townhomes.

On paper, the project seems like the end result of “lessons learned” after years of controversy surrounding the development of the Hotel Indigo across the street. The project is residential, less than 50-feet tall, and is comprised of red brick to fit in with the neighborhood. Members of the Waterfront Commission praised most aspects of the plan, and member Barbara Saperstone in particular praised the developers for going above and beyond in efforts to reach out to neighbors and soliciting genuine feedback, but one criticism was that the project hews a little too closely to the historic look of the surrounding buildings.

“When we have new buildings we want to make sure they don’t mimic historic buildings such that it has an almost Disneyland-like effect of avoiding fake history,” said Commission member Gina Baum. “There is this discussion of new vs. old, and it was one of the things in waterfront planning that was important to many people.”

Members of the Commission said that while they building should fit into the neighborhood, it shouldn’t directly ape the architectural motif of older buildings.

“That area was industrial, much of that part of the street was industrial,” said member Christa Waters. “In keeping with what Gina said about the waterfront plan: we don’t want to fake it, we want it to be more authentic, and we also want to admit that these are being built now. I don’t see the need to have everything look as though it were trying to be a colonial era house. I know we’re all just in the land of opinion here but I want to make sure that there’s a little balance.

On the flip side, member Eldon Boes said he was tired of the modern industrial look, as opposed to older industrial looks. During earlier waterfront arguments over development, one of the more vocal criticisms of newer projects was that they looked at odds with the nearby historic buildings.

One member of the Commission noted that the developer isn’t likely to get more clarity on the issue when they go to the Board of Architectural Review, where the panel is as evenly divided between architectural traditionalists and modernists.

One other question raised in the Waterfront Commission meeting was the impact on parking from the redevelopment of the garage. Public access to the garage was cited as adequate parking in the development of the Hotel Indigo, but now it seems that with the hotel’s parking being to underused that could swing the other way.

A representative of the developer said that the city requirement for hotel parking today is half of what it was when Hotel Indigo went through the planning process, and the logic of the reduction is evident in the mostly empty garage. The developers of Hotel Indigo are currently in a permitting process to convert some of the valet parking in the garage to public parking.

“The smart, unhelpful answer form a zoning attorney would be ‘it doesn’t matter what’s in that garage,'” said zoning attorney Ken Wire, “but the reality is it’s a fair question and we should answer it. The top two levels are reserved parking that are 1/3 to 1/2 full now. The loss of public parking is the first floor. We have some data we will share with utilization, so it does have an impact. But coupled with Hotel Indigo, I think that impact won’t be as dramatic as if the hotel stayed public parking only.”

Image via City of Alexandria

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Morning Notes

Beyer Enthusiastic After American Rescue Plan Passage — “THERE IT IS: the House just passed the American Rescue Plan, sending the bill to President Biden’s desk for signature! We did it!!!” [Twitter]

Metro Service Cuts Averted With Passage Of COVID Relief Bill — “While it will take more time to work out all the details, including Metro’s exact share of this funding, the $1.4 billion provided by the American Recovery Plan for our region’s transit agencies will allow us to avert the painful service reductions and layoffs that were on the table.” [Patch]

ACPS Transitions Special Education Middle-to-High Schoolers to In-Person Instruction — “Our hybrid schedule allows for students to return to the classroom two days a week.” [ACPS]

Del Ray Business Association Launches ‘Del Ray to Delray Beach’ Raffle — “One of the things we’re looking forward to most is traveling again.  This fun promotion is a way to say thank you to the community for their tremendous support of our small businesses, and to encourage customers to continue to shop local as we wrap up these tough winter months.” [Zebra]

Wooden Benches Replaced at City Marina — “The City Marina received a little facelift! All the old wooden benches have been replaced with new park standard benches. The new benches will improve visitor experience and aesthetics at the City Marina. We hope you get a chance to check them out!” [Twitter]

Today’s Weather — “A few passing clouds, otherwise generally sunny (during the day). High 76F. Winds SSW at 10 to 15 mph… Partly cloudy skies in the evening, then becoming cloudy overnight. Low 57F. Winds SW at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Experienced Sushi Chef — “Kaizen Tavern is expanding and we are looking for a Sushi Chef. We offer a great salary, benefits and the opportunity to grow a business together. The position is meant for a skilled, passionate sushi chef.” [Indeed]

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Groundswell, a new art installation paying homage to Alexandria’s maritime history, will be installed at Waterfront Park later this month, the city recently announced.

New York-based artist Mark Reigelman was chosen for the third in the city’s Site See: New Views in Old Town public art series. Groundswell features more than 100 raw wood pilings ranging from nine to 39 inches in height and mirroring the Potomac River’s floor topography.

Reigelman incorporates the drastic measures Alexandria took to develop its shoreline.

“Starting in the 18th century, thousands of wood pilings were driven deeper into the Potomac River over time, thereby shifting the city’s waterfront over decades. This allowed Alexandria to develop and grow its sprawling dock into a major commercial port,” according to the city. “Each 14-inch diameter piling will be topped with a cobalt blue mirrored surface etched with growth rings that suggest the passing of time.

“These mirrored surfaces will shimmer in the light like water and reflect the sky and faces of passersby. Visitors to the site will be immersed in this shimmering landscape as they navigate through the pilings considering their place in the city’s history at this moment in time.”

Groundswell will be on display until November.

Riegelman, who works and lives in Brooklyn, is not ashamed of singing his own praises. He was named one of the “Coolest Dads of 2019” list by Fatherly magazine, and has been featured in the The New York Times, New York magazine and Vogue. Other installations have been featured at the Shanghai Museum of Glass, Britain Museum of American Art and Museum of Modern Art.

“Quite simply, Mark Reigelman is a genius,” the artist says on his website. “He bears his burden with the grace and sophistication not often seen in someone so young, so talented and so very handsome. His genius is exceeded only by his modesty and benevolence. Those who know Mark are blessed, and those who do not can only hope for such good fortune.”

The previous installation at Waterfront Park, Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies, was relocated to Old Town Pool (1609 Cameron Street).

Photos via City of Alexandria

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