Newsletter
What two additional stories looks like on a 45-foot-tall structure. (Via City of Alexandria)

After public outcry over a rushed plan, the Alexandria Planning Commission deferred a city staff proposal to allow developers to build affordable housing into new apartment buildings up to 70 feet in height in areas where height limits are 45 feet or more.

There were more than 30 speakers at the meeting on Thursday, June 23, mostly residents of Del Ray.

Gayle Reuter has lived in Del Ray for 40 years, and said that the proposal would ruin her neighborhood’s small town feel.

“I understand the city is in need of and has promised increased affordable housing and endorsed the Washington COG Regional Housing Initiative,” Reuter told the Planning Commission. “If this is approved, developers will come to come in and the Avenue with its small town feel of mom-and-pop businesses where Main Street still exists will be gone forever.”

The proposal would allow developers bonus height of 25 feet in any zone or height district where the maximum allowable height is 45 feet.

Planning Commission Chair Nathan Macek asked city staff to present a refined proposal to the community before reintroducing it to the Commission for review again.

“I think it’s an important tool, and I think I think the actual impact would be very modest in terms of when it would choose to be enacted,” Macek said. “I don’t think you’re gonna end up seeing 70-foot buildings and this and that. That is sort of the extreme if every site were to redevelop, but I don’t think that that’s the reality of what would happen. But rather than speculate about that, I think we have a chance to step back and study it or provide some projections, some best guesses about what we’ll see so that we can inform the decision and possibly take it in steps with a pilot for a phased amount of density and we can revisit.”

Under the proposal, numerous areas of the city would be open for developers to move in and increase the height of 45-foot-tall buildings to a maximum of 70 feet in height — specifically along Mount Vernon Avenue in Del Ray, in Arlandria, Alexandria West, the Beauregard area, the Landmark area, Eisenhower West, Old Town North and Carlyle.

The proposal does not apply, however, to single family, two story and town home dwellings.

Areas of the city that would be impacted by the proposed change to height restrictions. (Via City of Alexandria)

Alexandria is currently experiencing an affordable housing crisis, and lost 14,300 (or 78%) affordable housing units between 2000 and 2022. Consequently, the city has pledged to produce or develop thousands of units to meet 2030 regional housing goal set by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

“While approximately 800 market-rate and affordable units of housing are currently generated per year in Alexandria, meeting the RHI (Regional Housing Initiative) goal involves the production of an estimated additional 300 units per year, of which 75 percent are recommended to be affordable,” staff wrote. “This represents an estimated additional 2,250 affordable units over the 10-year period…”

Save Del Ray founder Nate Hurto said that the community needs time to understand the potential impact of such a move.

“I think we really need to look at the impact that it could have communities have to the existing housing stock, and to the very nature and character of our neighborhood,” Hurton said. “How will it affect the existing stock of apartments, rentals, condos that are affordable? How will it affect businesses, especially along Mount Vernon Avenue and governed by the small area plan?”

Commissioner Stephen Koenig said that he was swayed by the input of residents.

“I’m certainly persuaded by the sort of breadth and depth of the input that we’ve had tonight,” he said.

Commissioner David Brown said that the City needs to reevaluate its approach.

“We we have a process where we figure out what works in particular places,” Brown said. “It’s called planning. We haven’t done any planning here. We need to look at each one of these zones, figure out what the likely impact is going to be in that zone and figure out whether or not that zone should be considered a candidate for affordable housing.”

According to the City:

At the core of the Bonus Density and Height Program of Section 7-700 is the idea that the affordable housing gained through incremental increases in density and height is a positive exchange.

Additionally, by its nature and in alignment with the City’s All Alexandria Resolution, the initiative provides affordable housing opportunities in locations that might otherwise not receive them, and this specific proposal could increase the likelihood of affordable housing in projects that are more mid-scale. Moreover, each project approved through this proposal would be reviewed rigorously and through a public process to ensure that additional density and/or height is designed in a way that respects the neighborhood.

The requirement that a project using this provision obtain a Special Use Permit means that all impacts of the project are thoroughly reviewed and mitigated as a condition of approval.

As for outreach, City staff noted:

The City undertook the following outreach: established a Bonus Height Webpage; developed and posted Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) in English, Spanish and Amharic; conducted two virtual community meetings–on April 12 (130 attendees) and May 19 (90 attendees); addressed questions during the meetings and posted Questions/Comments/Responses subsequent to the meetings; and advertised engagement opportunities through eNews and directly to Civic Associations and to those who contacted the City by email or other communication.

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The topic of Business Improvement Districts (BID) is back at Alexandria’s City Council and five years after one proposal was crushed, there are signs BIDs could be seen more favorably by a new Council.

BIDs are self-taxing districts established by property owners that aim to boost the economic vitality of the commercial area. There are a handful of BIDs in Arlington in areas like Crystal City, Rosslyn and Ballston. The BIDs organize activities and events in those districts, as well as handle amenities above and beyond what the city (or county, in Arlington’s case) would typically provide. The possibility of a BID in Old Town proved unpopular among many local businesses, however, who were concerned about the additional tax.

After several heated public debates, the City Council ultimately voted against the creation of a BID in Old Town.

“For those who have been up here for a little while, some of us have some scars from this,” said Mayor Justin Wilson, “but it’s good to be back talking about it.”

The new guidelines aim to make the creation of a BID a more structured process.

“The goal for creating these guidelines [is that] during the previous effort it was realized by the community that the lack of guidelines in the city was problematic,” Julian Gonsalves, assistant city manager for public-private partnerships, told the City Council at a meeting last night (Tuesday). “The idea behind adopting these guidelines is to create a framework first before any of these applications come in later on.”

The new guidelines include stipulations like requiring the support of at least 60% of businesses within the commercial district and an outline of ten steps from a letter of intent to final approval.

The goal for the new BIDs would be to turn commercial areas into hotspots of in-person commercial activity.

“Property owners might say: we want to have events for foot traffic here,” Gonsalves said. “Because of that foot traffic, it will be more beneficial for property owners to have restaurants or retails, it will make those more lucrative.

Gonsalves said the focus of a potential BID has shifted away from Old Town to parts of the West End that aren’t currently major attractions but are working through redevelopment plans.

“One of the examples being planned is Landmark or the West End,” Gonsalves said. “Right now there’s nothing there. In order to make sure that’s a hub for the city, they want to have a Business Improvement District so that you have foot traffic coming to a completely new hub that is competing with other districts around the region.”

City Manager James Parajon said BIDs can provide enhanced trash collection, enhanced amenities, and higher quality of lighting compared to what the city typically provides.

Vice Mayor Amy Jackson said she wasn’t on the dais for the earlier BID debates, but said she was generally supportive of the idea.

“I know I don’t have the scars from the dais like a couple other council members do here, but some of us that were running to be up here at that time also heard a lot from community members; both pros and cons,” Jackson said. “I was always in the pro-bid section or a lot of reasons… I hope a lot of businesses around Alexandria will continue to follow this form. I know a lot in the playbook continues to be tweaked and structured.”

Wilson said there’s potential for a BID to do good for the city’s lagging commercial sector.

“I’ve long supported the kind of collectivism that a BID can enable,” Wilson said. “A BID is what members make of it. Ultimately it will be what the collective property owners proposing a BID decide what is beneficial to them… We will see how this plays out and where we get them. They’re in use all over this planet, and there’s a reason they’re in use all over this planet.”

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Jollibee storefront in Lincolnia (image courtesy Jollibee)

Filipino chicken chain Jollibee announced that, after some earlier delays, the Lincolnia location is scheduled to open this Sunday, June 26.

The restaurant is opening at 4809 Beauregard Street in the Plaza at Landmark shopping center. The restaurant is scheduled to be open seven days a week from 9 a.m.-11 p.m, with both in-restaurant dining or to-go options.

In addition to chicken, the restaurant’s menu includes items from spaghetti to peach mango pie.

“We received an incredibly warm welcome last year when we first opened our doors in the DMV with our Wheaton, Maryland location,” said Business Group head Maribeth Dela Cruz in a release. “We knew immediately that we wanted to offer a convenient location on the southern side of D.C. so that those who live, work and play in Northern Virginia could enjoy their Jollibee favorites without having to travel far.”

The release noted that the Alexandria location is Jollibee’s 82nd location in the United States.

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Bauer’s Optical at 4680 King Street is permanently closed.

The shop was broken into in January — one of many eyewear sellers that have been broken into this year across the region. About $17,000 in glasses was stolen from the store, which is located in the Shoppes at Summit Centre, a shopping center in the northwest corner of Alexandria.

There was another eyewear heist at a shop in Old Town in February, followed by $20,000 in eyewear stolen from a MyEyeDr store in Belle Haven in May.

Rappaport Co. is managing the Alexandria property, although the shop is still full of merchandise.

The phone number for Bauer’s Optical is now unlisted and the website has been taken down.

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Inventory at a West End consignment shop (image via Evolution Home/Facebook)

A vintage market is celebrating its reopening this weekend in the Landmark neighborhood (861 S. Pickett Street) with a week of door prizes and refreshments.

Evolution Home is a consignment shop that moved into the Landmark neighborhood earlier this year but has been at various locations around Alexandria since 1999.

“Evolution Home’s Grand Reopening at 861 S. Pickett St. in Alexandria’s West End is the next step upward for the small business,” the shop said in a release. “Part vintage market, part antique mall, and part home goods consigner, Evolution Home is proud to build on 23 years of bringing Northern Virginia customers one-of-a-kind furniture, décor, and gifts.”

The grand reopening event will run from Saturday, June 18, to Friday, June 24, and will feature refreshments, door prizes and a prize wheel while supplies last.

“As our customers and sales have grown, so has our need for space,” owner Susan Driscoll said in the release. “This is our fourth move in 23 years, each move to a larger and better space.”

Image via Evolution Home/Facebook

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Alexandria Police continue to investigate a three-vehicle hit-and-run in the West End that downed a tree into the north bound lanes of N. Beauregard Street and Quantrell Avenue.

At around 4 p.m. on May 1, a 2013 silver Dodge Ram was found abandoned at the intersection near a 1995 Chevrolet G20 van it had just struck, knocking off the G20s front passenger side tire, according to a search warrant affidavit.

While investigating the scene, the driver of a 2017 white Honda Civic drove up and told police that the driver of the Ram hit his car at the intersection of N. Beauregard and N. Armistead Street — a block away.

Police found the owner of the Ram, who said that she was allowing a friend’s son to drive it, and that he lives less than a mile from where the crashes occurred, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Police then interviewed the friend’s son, who said that he was not driving that night, but that his friend “Leonardo” was driving the Ram back to his house, “because (the friend’s son) had been drinking alcohol and was self-admittedly intoxicated,” according to a search warrant affidavit.

The friend’s son said that Leonardo lived in an apartment complex nearby on Seminary Road, although the leaseholder of the home the friend’s son lives in told police that no one named Leonardo had ever been in her residence, according to a search warrant affidavit.

No arrests have been made in connection to the incident, which remains under investigation.

Via Google Maps

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D.C.-based real estate investment firm Willow Creek Partners has bought a West End 189-unit apartment complex.

Willow Creek Partners bought the property from Baltimore-based Continental Realty Corporation, the latter of which bought it for $23 million in 2011. The apartment complex was built in 1963, and includes one-, two- and three-bedroom designs and seven separate floor plans.

“Our team executed a great, value-add strategy at Ripley,” JM Schapiro, CEO of Continental Realty Corporation, said in a statement. “We repositioned the asset into a high-quality, yet affordable housing option within a growing submarket. Our team elevated many of property’s physical elements and improved the resident experience with modern property management tools and a customer-first approach. 101 North Ripley serves as another great example of CRC’s team adding value for both the resident and the investor.”

CRC renovated the property several years after buying it, and installed new windows and sliding patio doors, hallways and laundry rooms, and converted an outdoor pool into a 45-space residential parking lot.

Willow Creek owns 11 other apartment complexes spread across North Carolina, Colorado, Maryland and Virginia.

Via Google Maps

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Duke Street bridge of I-395, photo via VDOT

Drivers along Duke Street in the West End should expect lane closures starting tonight and continuing intermittently through Friday, June 24.

The closures are connected to work on the Duke Street bridge over I-395 near Lincolnia. Planned improvements for the bridge include replacing the concrete bridge deck and beams, upgrading the westbound sidewalk to a shared-use path and widening the eastbound sidewalk.

The project is expected to be completed in Winter 2023 or early 2024.

According to VDOT, there will be closures on:

  • Friday night, June 10: Two lanes of the southbound 395 Express Lanes between Seminary Road and Duke Street will be closed from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m., with two full stoppages of up to 20 minutes each occurring between midnight and 2 a.m. Backup dates are Saturday night, June 11 and Sunday night, June 12 in case inclement weather occurs.
  • Sunday night, June 12 and Monday night, June 13: The two left southbound I-395 general purpose lanes between Seminary Road and Duke Street will be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. each night.
  • Tuesday night, June 14 through Thursday night, June 16: The three left southbound I-395 general purpose lanes between Seminary Road and Duke Street will be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. each night.
  • Friday night, June 17: The three left southbound I-395 general purpose lanes between Seminary Road and Duke Street will be closed from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • Sunday night, June 19 through Wednesday night, June 22: The three left southbound I-395 general purpose lanes between Seminary Road and Duke Street will be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
  • Thursday night, June 23 and Friday night, June 24: The two right southbound I-395 general purpose lanes between Seminary Road and Duke Street will be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

VDOT warned that drivers should expect delays and are advised to use alternate routes.

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Fire Department recruits training on Feb. 14, 2020 (Staff photo by James Cullum)

As Alexandria’s population centers continue shifting westward, city leadership is looking at shifting more fire department resources toward the West End.

In his monthly newsletter, Mayor Justin Wilson outlined some of what’s ahead for the Alexandria Fire Department over the next few years.

“The approved Capital Improvement Program for 2023 – 2032 includes $57.5 million of renovation and maintenance funding for the remaining Alexandria fire stations,” Wilson wrote, “including a replacement of Fire Station 205 on Cameron Street and a replacement of Fire Station 208 currently on N. Paxton, with a new station on the existing Landmark Mall site.”

Wilson said five years ago, then-City Manager Mark Jinks oversaw an internal analysis that looked at how to prioritize fire station investments.

“The study did show that response times could be reduced as a result of moving four of the existing fire stations further westward,” Wilson wrote. “This proposal is just that: a suggestion for how the City might be able to optimize public safety response time around our City.”

The change comes as the city also starts to move other services, like the Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS), into the West End.

On the personnel side, the City of Alexandria is in negotiations with the firefighters union over pay and quality of life issues. The city has faced criticism from the union in recent years over inadequate staffing leading to situations like engines being put out of service and annual leave being suspended.

Future West End expansion of fire station coverage will still be costly and won’t happen overnight, Wilson said.

“Implementation will involve land acquisition and costly construction activities,” Wilson wrote. “As we move forward, however, this data can assist us in prioritizing how we invest in our fire stations, as well as take advantage of development and redevelopment activities to improve our infrastructure supporting these critical services.”

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1400 N Beauregard Street (image via Google Maps)

Alexandria police say they have a male in custody after a fatal shooting in the West End early this morning.

Bassett said the call for shots fired came in at 1:56 a.m. at 1400 N. Beauregard Street, part of the Brookdale at Mark Center neighborhood in the West End.

Alexandria Police spokesman Marcel Bassett said both suspect and victim were male and knew each other. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene and the suspect was arrested at the scene.

Neither the name of the victim nor the suspect have been released at the time of writing.

A man was shot multiple times last year less than a block away.

The shooting is the fourth homicide in Alexandria this year:

  • The first homicide victim was Elijah Williams, 25, in March, also in the West End.
  • The second homicide was an alleged attempted carjacking on May 13 that turned fatal when the driver shot and killed 18-year-old Jordan Poteat
  • The third homicide was the stabbing of 18-year-old Luis Mejia Hernandez on May 24. One 16-year-old has been arrested and charged with murder.

Image via Google Maps

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