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After sailing through perilous economic waters, the Tall Ship Providence just shored up weekly tours until next spring.

The nonprofit is still tabulating the numbers, but expects that since launching in June 2020, thousands of visitors have been welcomed aboard the Tall Ship for tours and cruises. The Providence is a replica of the first naval warship commissioned by the Continental Congress in 1775, and visitors are welcomed aboard by an actor portraying Captain John Paul Jones.

“We were delighted to be able to have as many guests and customers aboard the ship as possible this summer and fall,” Claire Sassin, president and CEO of the Tall Ship Providence Foundation, told ALXnow. “It was a great joy, but there was also sadness because we just want to keep sailing.”

In August, the ship passed inspection with the U.S. Coast Guard and can now coast without a motor along the Potomac River with its sails unfurled. While still open for weekend and private cruises through next spring, the ship recently closed during the week.

“Being able to put the sails up is a completely different experience, and you do get to see what sailing was like back during the American Revolution,” Sassin said.

The pandemic forced the Foundation to alter its business plan to focus on small events, like private tours, wine tastings and beer cruises.

“We had not thought really about doing private tours until the pandemic came about,” Sassin said. “We’ve also added a whole layer of sanitizing in between every single tour, both at our Visitor Center and on the ship.”

In the days ahead, Sassin hopes to see the Tall Ship move to Waterfront Park by 2023, as massive plans are in the works to construct a barge, a new pier and cottages to house the ship and the Senator John Warner Maritime Heritage Center.

Future travelers in the cold months ahead can rest assured, as the ship has heating in the lower deck. In the short term, on December 11, 12, 18 and 19, Captain Jones will tell visitors the Christmas tale of the Schooner Rouse Simmons, which made perilous runs to deliver late-season Christmas trees, until it sank in a storm.

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19th century brewery on the waterfront, via AlexArchaeology/Twitter

(Updated 5 p.m.) Alexandria has a long history of beer, from Port City to prohibition, and a new excavation on the waterfront is sifting through one of the city’s older breweries.

City archeologists are currently at work at the Roberdeau’s Wharf/Harborside site (400 South Union Street), where they recently found a brick furnace and a coal bin associated with the circa 1830s brewery, according to the Alexandria Archaeology Museum’s Twitter account.

The site was also home to an older distillery built in the late 18th century as the waterfront was expanding out into the Potomac River to accommodate deeper draught ships.

A report on the site said the brewery was likely part of a multi-building industrial complex on the waterfront, along with an iron foundry and a locamotive works. By 1853, the site was listed as being part of the Portner and Ale Brewery and produced roughly 3,000 barrels of beer every year.

Photo via AlexArchaeology/Twitter

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Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights (photo via Visit Alexandria/Facebook)

Visit Alexandria has announced the return of the Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights early next month.

The event is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 4. The event is planned to feature dozens of brightly lit boats cruising along one mile of the Potomac River shoreline, Visit Alexandria said in a press release.

The event was one of those cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The boat parade is part of the weekend of festivities, including the city’s famous Scottish Christmas Walk and Parade. A similar boat parade is planned the same evening at 7 p.m. in D.C.

“Boat parade dockside festivities will entertain parade-goers from 2-8 p.m. in Waterfront Park at the foot of King Street,” Visit Alexandria said. “Festivities include a pop-up beer garden from Alexandria’s award-winning Port City Brewing Company and holiday music and giveaways from 97.1 WASH-FM. Hands-on activities from independently owned Alexandria businesses include a Letters to Santa postcard station from paper goods boutique Penny Post and a holiday ornament craft activity from AR Workshop Alexandria.”

The daytime activities will include a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus on a fireboat at 3:30 p.m.

Parade onlookers are encouraged to spread out for the viewing, with a list of suggested spots included in the press release:

  • Founders Park (351 N. Union Street)
  • Alexandria City Marina (0 Cameron Street)
  • Waterfront Park (1A Prince Street)
  • Point Lumley Park (1 Duke Street)
  • Shipyard/Harborside Park (1 Wilkes Street)
  • Windmill Hill Park (501 S. Union Street)
  • Ford’s Landing Park (99 Franklin Street)

Photo via Visit Alexandria VA/Facebook

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After reaching a high water mark around 3:30 p.m. at high tide — with some help from the rainfall — waters are starting to recede for now in Old Town.

Today, a combination of rains and coastal flooding brought the Potomac up to 5.99 feet, making today a “moderate flood” by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) standards. The record high is 8.7 feet from Hurricane Isabel in 2003. The National Weather Service warned that more flooding is anticipated at high tide around 4 a.m. tomorrow morning (Saturday), though it’s not forecast to get quite as high as water levels were this afternoon.

Strand Street and parts of Union Street were closed for much of the afternoon as locals gawked at the high water levels or tried to assist business owners in sandbagging the street-facing retail. The coastal flood warning is in effect until 2 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday).

Keith Harmon, a local canoeing through the flood, said this wasn’t the first time he’s been able to paddle his vessel along Alexandria streets.

“This isn’t the first time I’ve taken the canoe out on the road in Old Town,” Harmon said. “This is the second time for me. The last time was about four years ago.”

Plans for flooding prevention in the blocks most heavily affected today were presented earlier this month to the city’s Waterfront Commission Flood Mitigation Committee, but were dismissed as too costly and would likely have done little to stop “overtopping” as was seen today along the Potomac.

https://twitter.com/patpend/status/1454183498114375694

James Cullum and Vernon Miles contributed to this story

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Staff from Alexandria Toyota desperately piled sandbags in front of Chadwicks (203 Strand Street) as floodwaters started to swell and shut down several blocks of Old Town.

The National Weather Service has issued an areal flood warning for Alexandria, in addition to a coastal flood warning in place until Saturday.

Around 2:15 p.m., Strand Street and parts of Union Street were closed due to high floodwaters, with police and city staff warning drivers to turn back. Waters are expected to continue rising until high tide around 3:30 p.m.

Potomac River water levels (photo via NOAA)

Around the waterfront, locals helped pile sandbags in front of businesses and watched as water levels crept higher.

Several businesses and institutions closer to the waterfront, like the Torpedo Factory, were closed.

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(Updated at 9:30 p.m.) High water levels in Old Town marked the start of what could be several days of tidal flooding around Alexandria.

A Coastal Flood Warning is in effect starting tonight (Thursday) at 8 p.m. and running until 2 p.m. on Saturday (Oct. 30). The National Weather Service warned that high tides could flood parts of the city, particularly along the waterfront.

Several businesses around Old Town were already sandbagged and prepared for potential flooding. The city says it will be handing out sandbags Friday morning in anticipation of what NWS is calling “one of the biggest tidal flood events of the past 10-20 years.”

For those looking to use sandbags to protect their home, the city has a quick guide available:

  • Remove any debris from the area where bags are to be placed.
  • If tied bags are used, flatten them and flare the tied end. If untied bags are used, fold the open end to form a triangle.
  • To form a sandbag wall, place bags tightly against one another to form the first layer of defense.
  • Place succeeding bags on the folded or flared portion of the previous bag and stamp into place to eliminate gaps and to form a tight seal.
  • Stagger the second and subsequent layers of bags, similar to the pattern of bricks on a wall.
  • Never use bags to build a fortress around your property because this approach can trap water between sandbag walls and structures, causing further damage.

James Cullum contributed to this story

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I Love You park design, via City of Alexandria

The city has unveiled plans for the next art installation in Waterfront Park, which will be in place at the park for most of next year.

At a meeting of the Park & Recreation Commission Meeting, Diane Ruggiero, deputy director of recreation, parks and cultural activities and two-time ALXnow quotee this week, outlined the initial plans to work with R&R Studio in Miami on a new display meant to evoke joy and happiness after a dour couple of years.

The studio is run by husband-wife artist team Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt, who Rosario said have done previous installation art displays including a couple of pieces at Coachella.

The proposal for Waterfront Park is a 15-foot sign with metal letters, outlined in neon, that says “I Love You”. The park will also feature an open area of asphalt painted to look like a room’s carpet.

“There’s a sense of joy,” Ruggiero said. “It’s fun, it’s colorful. There’s an element of kitsch to it.”

Ruggiero said the color of the neon is still being decided as the artists work through figuring out what color shows up best. The current designs show the letters illuminated with what Ruggiero called “Pepto-Bismol pink.”

The idea, according to Ruggiero, is to have another photo-spot that draws people to the waterfront, like the Mirror Mirror exhibit in 2019.

The new park exhibit will run from March 19 — to correspond with the opening of the Cherry Blossom festival — until November 6.

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The National Weather Service (NWS) is warning that low-lying areas of Alexandria could see as much as two or three feet of tidal flooding for the next few days.

In a coastal flood warning, the NWS said from tonight (Thursday) at 8 p.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday (Oct. 30), high tides could flood parts of the city — particularly along the waterfront.

“Water is expected to approach buildings near King Street and Union Street,” the warning said. “Shoreline inundation up to one foot above ground is possible elsewhere.”

The warning noted that tides could reach four feet above normal levels at high tide, which in Alexandria is at 2:30 a.m. and p.m.

“Take the necessary actions to protect flood-prone property,” the NWS said. “If travel is required, do not drive around barricades or through water of unknown depth.”

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This week saw possibly the most contentious meeting between the City Council and School Board in years for a debate over School Resources Officers that ultimately culminated in the Council voting to temporarily restore the program. The reversal has been advocated by school officials and some parents, but was lamented by advocacy group Tenants and Workers United that saw it as a step-backward for racial justice.

The following day, ACPS was also hit with lockdowns at Alexandria City High School’s King Street and Minnie Howard campuses and Hammond Middle School, though police later said initial calls about a school shooting were unfounded. At the same time, a gas leak near Potomac Yard led to two homes being evacuated and the temporary closure of Richmond Highway.

Here are this week’s most-read stories.

Top Stories

  1. Man injured and juvenile arrested after fight at the McDonald’s in Bradlee Shopping Center
  2. In dramatic reversal, City Council brings back school resource officers to Alexandria City Public Schools
  3. Planned bus rapid transit route from Alexandria to Tysons rolls ahead
  4. Alexandria City High School on lockdown after anonymous threat
  5. Police: Call about shooting at Hammond Middle School unfounded
  6. City rethinks waterfront flood mitigation plans after seeing the price tag
  7. Tenants and Workers United upset by City Council restoration of school resource officer program
  8. City Council to consider swapping parking for ‘parklets’
  9. Man attempts to steal $1,850 in merchandise from Restaurant Depot with discarded receipt
  10. Project crowdsourcing Alexandria history aims to go nationwide next year
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The foot of King Street flooded with water is a dramatic visual that comes up nearly every time there’s flooding in Alexandria, but the city is facing some sticker shock for a long-planned fix.

At a meeting of the Waterfront Commission Flood Mitigation Committee this week, city staff presented a variety of plans that could help combat flooding on the waterfront, from a pair of cost-conscious options to options that put focus more on results than staying within budget.

City staff said that the three main sources of flooding on the waterfront are:

  • Stormwater overwhelming the stormwater-sewer system
  • The river backing into the sewer system
  • The river “overtopping” and coming into Old Town streets and parks

Matthew Landes, division chief for project implementation, said the last one — overtopping — happens less frequently than the other two. Landes presented two cost-based options for combatting flooding on the Waterfront within the capital improvement plan’s $100 million allocation for Waterfront improvement, but neither will fully fix overtopping from the river.

Waterfront flood mitigation cost-based option 1 (photo via City of Alexandria)

The first, which covers the Waterfront from Duke Street up to the northern end of Founder’s Park, mitigates rainfall flooding but makes no shoreline or park improvements. A combination of pumping stations, use of underground space at Founder’s Park, and more would help retain and remove floodwaters in the area. The project is estimated to cost $90 million, but staff said that could range from $63-136 million.

“On this project, we are prioritizing rainfall-runoff mitigation,” said project engineer Sara Igielski. “What that means we have to make sacrifices in terms of the other flooding that we have seen but we have identified rainfall-runoff and that backflow as being critical to addressing the funding we see most frequently.”

Landes said the project would meet two of the three objectives for managing water, but would do little to nothing for situations where the river rises and floods Old Town.

Waterfront flood mitigation cost-based option 2 (photo via City of Alexandria)

The other cost-based option presented would be hyper-focused on the area between Duke Street and King Street and would defer improvements north of King Street. The project would add a new bulkhead on the promenade along with a pumping station and underground retention at King Street park, but still would not hit all three of the flooding issues for Old Town and staff expressed concerns that flooding upstream could still lead to flooding in this area.

“This does not meet our flood mitigation goals,” Landes said. “It does not remove all of the floodings as we would want it to when we invest $100 million.”

But while staff also expanded on some more comprehensive and more expensive options with estimated costs of $170 million and $215 million, Committee members balked at proposed budgets.

“Everything you’re doing is more than we can afford,” Committee member Nathan Macek said. “That’s one-and-a-half elementary schools. I can’t imagine spending that kind of money to fix the flooding in this part of the city.”

Macek also noted that the Waterfront Small Area Plan approved in 2012 was intended as a parks and recreation plan, not an infrastructure plan, and the plans put forward by staff would allocate the full budget for the plan into flooding infrastructure. Macek said a more realistic approach might be building-specific enhancements to safeguard against damage from flooding.

“Everything we’re talking about here, to me, as much as I love the Waterfront, I couldn’t fathom the city spending this kind of money on this area,” Macek said. “Look at the flood problems we have here in Rosemont and other parts of the city with [$200-$300 million improvements] that will affect more homes and properties. [The] improvements and alternatives need to be paired back to be as minimal as possible while still providing amenities on the parkland.”

Trae Lamond, Committee member and owner Waterfront restaurant Chadwicks (203 Strand Street), said the first cost-based option was more than ample in its flood protection, but that the city can’t afford to defer the issue much longer.

“I would hate for us not to do anything and then have something terrible happen,” Lamond said.

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