By Jordan Wright In the time-tested tradition of portraying dysfunctional families as a device, playwright Tracy Letts gifts us with a slyly engrossing gem about the Weston family – their children and their spouses. Set in a country home in Osage County, Oklahoma, Violet Weston holds her extended family emotionally hostage … and it’s riveting. I mean, who […]
By Jordan Wright
In the time-tested tradition of portraying dysfunctional families as a device, playwright Tracy Letts gifts us with a slyly engrossing gem about the Weston family – their children and their spouses. Set in a country home in Osage County, Oklahoma, Violet Weston holds her extended family emotionally hostage … and it’s riveting. I mean, who doesn’t want to witness another family’s meltdowns? It’s the stuff Shakespeare – and soap operas – are made of. Schadenfreude – the perfect prescription for diminishing our own problems.
Beverly Weston is a man of letters – published, pedantic and alcoholic – the poet patriarch of his large family. When he goes missing and family members arrive to help in the search, Violet is free to wreak havoc. Armed with a battery of opioids and anti-depressants, this pill-popping drama queen gleefully bullies and guilts her three daughters into disinheriting themselves. Divorce is a popular theme too. Within a mere three acts Letts throws every accusation and guilt trip on one and all. Expect a delectable bouillabaisse of toxicity in every caustic remark.
Gratefully, a superb cast subsumes our angst at their hair-raising conflicts by delivering some of the funniest lines ever. I wanted desperately to memorize a few of these snarky barbs. You will too. They might come in handy at your next family gathering. In one particularly funny/crazy/menacing scene at the supper table, as all the members are gathered around bemoaning Beverly’s fate, Violet toys with her knife, twisting it gleefully while alternately threatening and accusing each one in turn. Think Nurse Ratched, Virginia Wolfe and Miss Hannigan rolled into one tyrannical villainess. Fun, right?
Balancing out the madness is Johnna Monevata (Katarina Frustaci), a soft-spoken Cheyenne girl that Beverly hired as housekeeper before he disappeared, and who proves to be the heroine of the psychologically damaged lot.
Director Susan Devine is skillful at extracting a wide range of conflicting emotions from her cast as their respective characters veer wildly out of control from love to hate to sympathy.
Notable performances from Diane Sams as Violet, Gayle Nichols-Grimes as her bossy sister-in-law Mattie Fae Aiken, Tom Flatt as Charlie Aiken, Mattie’s browbeaten husband, and Nicky McDonnell as Barbara Fordham, one of Violet’s three daughters and a central character in the conflicts.
The production also stars Fred C. Lash as Beverly Weston, Carlotta Capuano as Ivy Weston, Michael Fisher as Bill Fordham, Camille Neumann as Jean Fordham, Paul Donahoe as Sheriff Deon Gilbeau, Elizabeth Keith as Karen Weston, Eric Kennedy as Steve Heidebrecht and Greg Wilczynski as Little Charlie Aiken.
Set design for “August: Osage County” is by Dan Remmers, lighting design is by Franklin Coleman, sound design by Alan Wray and costume design by Beverley Benda.
Highly recommended – especially for those with perfectly behaved families.
Jordan Wright writes about food, spirits, travel, theatre and culture. Visit her website at www.whiskandquill.com or email her at Jordan@WhiskandQuill.com
“Vision” is a fascinating word. Literally, it means to see, but true vision is the ability to see broadly, as is the cliché of seeing the trees quite well without being aware of the forest. Columnist Peggy Noonan once described a politician, based on policies they advocated, as visualizing an America of “tiny cars and […]
“Vision” is a fascinating word. Literally, it means to see, but true vision is the ability to see broadly, as is the cliché of seeing the trees quite well without being aware of the forest.
Columnist Peggy Noonan once described a politician, based on policies they advocated, as visualizing an America of “tiny cars and wind farms.” She thought it a small vision. Former President George H.W. Bush struggled with “the vision thing” – in unfortunate contrast to his predecessor.
What overarching vision does the leadership of our local government have for Alexandria?
It’s an important question that urgently needs answering. Based on recent policy decisions and those in the works, we have a lot of trees in Alexandria that don’t add up to a stand, let alone a forest.
Our current pieces of a vision seem to be:
A disdain for cars
This is evidenced by widespread elimination of parking spaces for bike lanes, bikeshare and development. Parking and traffic studies are done after development projects are approved, not before, when they could actually be useful as part of the decision-making process. Dubious data is cited as justification for parking elimination.
A preference for development over environment
What other conclusion can possibly be drawn after the Karig Estates episode and the Potomac Yard Metro saga, where environmentally destructive decisions were made when better alternatives were available?
A preference for development over livability
This mindset is proven time and time again on the city council dais. Saturday’s public hearing provided instances of three more businesses being granted variances that will inconvenience their neighborhoods in Del Ray and Old Town, including amplified outdoor music until 9 p.m. and a carry-out window open until 2 a.m.
A determination to push through initiatives rather than work toward compromise
First, the Iron Ladies sued the city over waterfront redevelopment, then ongoing lawsuits were filed involving the city and Karig Estates neighbors and the city and T.C. Williams High School neighbors. Now comes the new bombshell that the city intends to take a step toward granting permission to light all playing fields in the city at next month’s planning commission meeting. Our city leaders would do well to remember that wise, confident wielders of power operate with a softer touch.
These policy preferences seem to be the epitome of short sightedness – the very opposite of true vision. Development dollars appear to trump other considerations. Decisions driven by the goal of creating more vibrancy in Old Town and Del Ray seem to be informed by a perceived need to compete with National Harbor and The Wharf.
This cannot be stated strongly enough: Old Town and Del Ray are not National Harbor or the Wharf. If we try to be like them, if our goal is to lure regional visitors to Alexandria and then encourage them to roam our streets at 2 a.m., then we have utterly lost sight of what makes us special.
Alexandria attracts thousands of visitors from around the world each year because of our history, our cobblestone streets and old houses and our link to George Washington. When we pursue policies that make our historic neighborhoods unlivable, we endanger that rarest of species: the golden goose.
Fortunately for Alexandria, there are non-governmental leaders like Scott Shaw of Alexandria Restaurant Partners who are working to provide that mission vision. From backing the King Street Corridor initiative to raising funds to bring the tall ship Providence to Alexandria, Shaw is working from a vision of building on our history to create an enhanced art community.
Our goal should be to emulate Charleston or Annapolis, not National Harbor or the Wharf. Our history has to be at the core of Alexandria’s future. Important decisions must be made through the prism of our historic significance.
The destruction of Alexandria’s livability is not a vision. Increasingly, it’s a reality.
To the editor: If any taxpaying resident needed proof that they are nothing more than a cash cow to those ruling Alexandria, then simply savor this revelation: our city has decided to revise current zoning ordinances to allow 80-foot stadium lights at all athletic fields at every school field – public and private, elementary, middle […]
To the editor:
If any taxpaying resident needed proof that they are nothing more than a cash cow to those ruling Alexandria, then simply savor this revelation: our city has decided to revise current zoning ordinances to allow 80-foot stadium lights at all athletic fields at every school field – public and private, elementary, middle and high – and in all parks in Alexandria.
There was no lengthy outreach by the city to the citizens it serves through community discussions before this decision was made. The views of the neighborhood associations were not solicited. No cost projections have been presented to the public.
If this doesn’t make you feel like a cash cow, then here are other examples:
The Potomac Yard Metro: Justin Wilson – your next mayor unless a write-in candidate emerges to defeat him – apparently wants a Metro in Potomac Yard, and now – not later when the city has some of its mandatory costly infrastructure projects behind it.
Apart from the timing, here’s what else is wrong: Of several sites, the one selected with negligible public input will destroy irreplaceable wetlands protected by the Federal government. Does this bother you?
It should if you care about the city actively soliciting the views of the citizens it serves, preserving fragile wetlands and realizing a Metro will not reduce traffic nor produce wealth. If a Metro station could do this, then our existing stations would have long since eradicated traffic congestion and reduced our growing city debt.
T.C. Williams stadium lights: Years ago the city enticed an African American community to move from their homes so the high school could be built.
Among the lures used to persuade these families were new homes near the new athletic stadium, and a verbal promise their descendants claim was made that there would never be stadium lights.
Fast forward: Our rulers today decided this promise made is not a promise worth keeping. But this time, the affected African Americans will not be bullied. Several are part of a group that’s suing the city.
Since no revenue can be produced for city coffers by wetlands, nor can a stadium without lights be rented for use at night, you can quickly deduce where the city stands. You are a cash cow, nothing more, for these costly visions, massive light poles and destroyed wetlands.
To the editor: In my 45 years as a resident of Alexandria, I never recall having a burning issue that propelled me to write a letter to the editor. But, there is always a first time for everything. That issue is our school board election in November, as we live in a time in which […]
To the editor:
In my 45 years as a resident of Alexandria, I never recall having a burning issue that propelled me to write a letter to the editor. But, there is always a first time for everything. That issue is our school board election in November, as we live in a time in which educational policy and funding are critical.
I have been an educator throughout my work career, having my own special education consulting practice for 25 years, and have watched education happenings and issues both locally and nationally. As we enter our school board elections, we have many fine choices.
Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with Christopher Suarez, a candidate for school board in District A. I was very impressed with him. He not only has a background in teaching as a sixthgrade teacher in Chicago years ago, but he is a lawyer who works on pro bono cases for children with special needs.
Suarez and his wife have a young child, and another on the way, who will be entering our public schools in the near future. He is invested in our schools. Suarez was raised by a single mother – a police officer in the Chicago area – after his father died before his first birthday.
Suarez graduated from Chicago public schools, receiving free and reduced-price lunch, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an undergraduate and Yale Law School. He has a multi-faceted perspective of the school system that would prove to be invaluable to our city.
I hope all parents and voters in District A in Alexandria will consider and ultimately decide on voting for Suarez for School Board. As a parent of three children who graduated from ACPS, I certainly will be.
By Missy Schrott | firstname.lastname@example.org When the City of Alexandria broke ground on a new park at the base of King Street on St. Patrick’s Day, the event was a little less Irish than anticipated. Since city council adopted the Waterfront Plan in 2012, city staff, residents and media have called the park Fitzgerald Square. […]
When the City of Alexandria broke ground on a new park at the base of King Street on St. Patrick’s Day, the event was a little less Irish than anticipated.
Since city council adopted the Waterfront Plan in 2012, city staff, residents and media have called the park Fitzgerald Square. The name was first published in recognition of Lt. Col. John Fitzgerald, an Irish immigrant, Revolutionary War veteran and former Alexandria mayor.
In preparation for the park’s groundbreaking, however, City Manager Mark Jinks instructed his staff to begin referring to the space with a more generic label – King Street Park at the Waterfront – since it had not yet been officially named, according to city spokesman Craig Fifer.
The new name was published on March 6 in news releases and social media, but the groundbreaking itself took place on March 17, sparking outrage from Alexandria’s Irish organizations.
“Unfortunately, due to a complete coincidence, the groundbreaking was scheduled for as soon as possible and … it turned out to be St. Patrick’s Day in March,” Fifer said at an Alexandria City Council Naming Committee meeting on Sept. 12.
“That was not intended as any sort of slight or affront,” he said. “It was a total coincidence, and I certainly apologize for not thinking of that when we scheduled the groundbreaking.”
The Sept. 12 naming committee meeting was the first public meeting about the naming process for the park. The conference room in city hall was filled with about 20 representatives from the Ballyshaners and the Ancient Order of the Hibernians – Alexandria’s two dominant Irish organizations – donning green blazers and shamrock ties.
The naming committee includes Councilors Del Pepper and Tim Lovain, along with staff liaison Jack Browand, division chief for the Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities.
At the meeting, Fifer emphasized that both Fitzgerald Square and King Street Park at the Waterfront have been temporary placeholder names, as only city council has the power to adopt an official name for a park. He said the purpose of the meeting was to determine a public process for giving the park a permanent name.
Despite the committee’s objective to discuss the process and set a timeline, Fifer spent the majority of the meeting explaining the reasoning behind the placeholder name change in March. He acknowledged that the park has been referred to as Fitzgerald Square for the past five years, if not longer, and apologized that the city hadn’t switched to a more generic name sooner.
“To be perfectly honest, we started drafting an invitation, and we had to put something on the invitation,” Fifer said. “We realized that inviting people to the groundbreaking of Fitzgerald Square would not be appropriate because the park had never been named Fitzgerald Square.”
Fifer said the confusion dates back to the Waterfront Plan, which refers to the space as Fitzgerald Square multiple times. He said those who drafted the plan favored historic names over general or geographical names. Despite the references in the draft, however, council did not approve the suggested names when it approved the Waterfront Plan itself, Fifer said.
“The adoption of the small area plan by city council did not represent an official naming selection,” he said. “The names in the plan were recommendations or suggestions and really, the entire plan was a concept plan. Any of the individual actions that would be taken as a result of the plan would have to be approved separately.”
Fifer said when staff started planning the groundbreaking and realized there would have to be an official naming process approved by city council, Jinks stripped the Fitzgerald Square placeholder and replaced it with King Street Park at the Waterfront.
Mayor Allison Silberberg said there had been a lack of communication about the change within city hall.
“Until two or three days before the groundbreaking for the park, I was unaware that there was [an official naming] process underway,” Silberberg said. “The city manager said there has to be a naming process, but I think a lot of people thought that had already occurred because that’s what it’s always been called. … It had just always been Fitzgerald Square. I have documents in my office that didn’t say Interim Fitzgerald Square, just Fitzgerald Square.”
Terry Riley, president of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians, said he was frustrated with the lack of engagement between the placeholder name being changed in March and the meeting last week.
“For some time, all that we had was a number of people that are close to city council trying to get meetings, trying to get answers, without much success,” Riley said. “Up until [Sept. 12], because we weren’t getting any concrete answers, it was all just rumors and so forth, so it was very frustrating.”
Ballyshaners Chair Kim Moore said the lack of communication about the change was not only upsetting but emotional, as Ballyshaners founder Pat Troy, who died in March, had spent years advocating for the recognition of John Fitzgerald’s contributions to the city.
“Even before the Waterfront Plan was going into place, Pat Troy had been advocating to have John Fitzgerald Square,” Moore said. “… Pat would talk about it at public hearings, and then when the Waterfront Plan came through, and the Fitzgerald name was affixed, that looked to us like very good news.”
Fifer said city staff should have specified when the Waterfront Plan was adopted that the park would eventually have to go through an official naming process to avoid the confusion and frustration Fitzgerald’s advocates are now experiencing.
He said a Washington Post article last month added to the confusion. The Aug. 1 article, “Battle over park name shows that history is never the past in Alexandria” suggests that the city stopped referring to the project as Fitzgerald Square after receiving complaints about a connection between Fitzgerald and slavery. The article also mentioned the removal of a Robert E. Lee portrait from City Council Chambers.
Fifer said it was true that he had received about a dozen complaints about Fitzgerald’s association with slavery around the time of the groundbreaking, but that they had nothing to do with the decision to change how the park was referenced.
“Yes, we did receive complaints about slavery,” Fifer said, “but that’s a footnote, it is not the main story, and the point with regards to the naming process is that when we got those questions and comments and complaints, there wasn’t anything for us to do with them, because there was no naming process.”
That naming process kicked off with the meeting on Sept. 12. Fifer said the committee did not make any decisions at the meeting because they wanted to consider his presentation and the comments of the attendees. When the group meets again, it will determine a timeline for the public engagement piece of the naming process.
Fifer said the naming process is set to take place in the fall, and will most likely involve an online survey period for people to submit name suggestions, followed by a public hearing with a presentation of the survey results. The naming committee would then decide what name to recommend to city council members, who would vote on whether or not to adopt the name at a public hearing, most likely in December or January.
Riley said he is more committed than ever to advocate for John Fitzgerald’s name to be permanently adhered to the park. The Ancient Order of the Hibernians has a petition with nearly 1,500 signatures demanding that city council “immediately restore the name Fitzgerald Square to the waterfront project and institute changes to the project plans that emphasize the city’s deep Irish past and current culture.”
“They’re dismissing a war hero, a public servant, somebody who was wounded in battle, an immigrant, and … a veteran,” Riley said. “It’s not just an Irish thing. It’s not just an immigrant thing. It’s not just a Catholic Church thing. This seems to hit every key element.”
By Bryan Porter The process by which prosecutors and defense attorneys exchange information about a pending criminal case is called discovery. Criminal discovery is governed by the Rules of the Virginia Supreme Court, specifically by Rule 3A:11. Rule 3A:11 has stood virtually unchanged for almost four decades and has, in recent years, come under fire as being one of the least permissive discovery rules in the country. Critics have pointed […]
By Bryan Porter
The process by which prosecutors and defense attorneys exchange information
about a pending criminal case is called discovery. Criminal discovery is governed by the Rules of the Virginia Supreme Court, specifically by Rule 3A:11.
Rule 3A:11 has stood virtually unchanged for almost four decades and has, in recent years, come under fire as being one of the least permissive discovery rules in the country. Critics have pointed out that the prosecution is currently required to provide very little information to criminal defendants and that the quantity of material disclosed by the prosecution varies significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Some prosecutor’s offices hew closely to disclosing only the information required by the rule, while others, such as my office, are much more forthcoming. Indeed, in Alexandria, our standard practice is to provide “open-file” discovery to the defense.
Last year, the Virginia state bar created a task force composed of defense attorneys, prosecutors, law professors and judges to discuss changes to Rule 3A:11. The group was tasked with determining whether a consensus for rewriting the Rule could be achieved. I was flattered to be asked to serve, and was pleased to act as an unofficial secretary for the group.
The defense attorneys on the task force explained how they felt hamstrung and unable to provide effective representation for their clients if they did not have access to police reports and other germane material. Prosecutors pointed out the very real threat to victims and witnesses in violent cases and lamented a few situations where sensitive information
was provided during discovery and then wound up being posted online.
While both sides refused to back down on points of principle, it soon became clear that there was a middle ground on many reform proposals. As time progressed, I became convinced that compromise was possible. In the end, the group proposed a series of changes and reforms to Rule 3A:11, and I was pleased to learn that the Virginia Supreme Court adopted the proposed changes last week, effective July 1, 2019.
I cannot understate the importance of these changes. In my opinion, they represent the most important criminal justice reform in Virginia in the past decade. While the success of the task force belongs to the group collectively, I am proud that I played a role in bringing this reform about and that I was one of the primary authors of the text of the new Rule.
While avoiding an unnecessary dive into legal arcana, I would like to highlight some of reforms produced by the task force. First, the new Rule will require prosecutors to provide the defense with access to all relevant police reports associated with a case. Prosecutors must disclose any statement the defendant made about the facts and must disclose the statements of co-defendants about the case as well. Both the prosecution and the defense must disclose the names and opinions of any expert witnesses and both sides must provide the other with a prospective witness list prior to trial.
New provisions seek to protect victims and witnesses from undue pressure or threats of violence. In some cases, the prosecution can redact the personal information, other than the name, of a witness. If a prosecutor certifies that certain information may result in danger to a witness, he or she may mark it as “Restricted Dissemination Material” and
limit with whom the defense attorney may share it. The revised Rule will also provide the trial judge with the authority to enter a protective order to ensure that sensitive information is not disclosed unnecessarily or posted online.
The sign of a good compromise is when neither party to the negotiations walks out feeling as though they won, and that was surely the case here. The members of the task force debated in good faith, making concessions where they could, but standing on principle where they were compelled to do so. This Hegelian dialectic resulted in real discovery reform and helped us take a significant step toward a more just system. I am proud of the work of the task force and humbled to have served.
The writer is Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Alexandria.
By Debbie Luddington Are you caring for a family member or loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or other medical problems? Is it a struggle at times? Do you feel isolated and alone? Information and support is available. The City of Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services Division of Aging and Adult Services is once again […]
By Debbie Luddington
Are you caring for a family member or loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or other medical problems? Is it a struggle at times? Do you feel isolated and alone? Information and support is available.
The City of Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services Division of Aging and Adult Services is once again co-sponsoring the 32nd Annual Caregivers Conference, “Finding Hope and Harmony in Caregiving”, on Nov. 12, from 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., at
the First Baptist Church of Alexandria located at 2932 King St. All individuals who
are caring for or working with persons with dementia are encouraged to attend.
The event’s keynote speaker is Kim Campbell, widow of country music star Glen Campbell. Glen Campbell passed away from Alzheimer’s in 2017. Kim will speak about her family’s very public journey caring for Glen, and how she is involved in promoting care for other caregivers. Other topics include music therapy, dementia, optimistic aging, creative coping and a music practicum by the Forgetful Friends Chorus.
The conference recognizes that caregiving for someone with dementia involves the entire family – spouses, adult children, grandkids, siblings, neighbors and friends. This conference will provide valuable information on understanding dementia, ways to help yourself and your family member, activities you can do at home and more. Conference attendees will be
able to learn from the more than 40 vendors who will be on hand. Attendees will meet other caregivers, share stories and tips, eat great food and even have some fun.
The cost of the conference is $35 and includes breakfast, lunch, snacks, program materials and a certificate of attendance. There’s plenty of free parking. Professional CEU’s are available for attendance.
The deadline for registration is Nov. 6 or sooner in case it sells out. You can register online at www.nvdcc2018.eventbrite.com Limited free in-home respite care on the day of the conference for persons with dementia is available to allow caregivers to attend the conference, but needs to be requested by Oct. 19 by calling GraceFul Care at 703-904-3994. Please call 703-270-0043 for more information about the conference.
Can’t make the conference but still want to want to learn coping tips and connect with other caregivers? The City of Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services Division of Aging and Adult Services hosts a monthly caregiver support group.
This group meets on the first Wednesday of each month at the Adult Day Services Center from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Participants are full-time caregivers or family members or friends providing part-time caregiving.
Participants share their experiences, provide support for each other and receive resources to assist them with caregiving. For more information call 703-746-5999 or visit the Division of Aging and Adult Services’ website at www.alexandriava.gov/aging. Debbie Luddington is the long term care coordinator at the Division of Aging and Adult Services.
After being rescheduled due to weather, the King Street Art Festival will take place on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Because of the festival, parking will be prohibited on both sides of King Street from Washington to Union streets, as well as the 100 block […]
After being rescheduled due to weather, the King Street Art Festival will take place on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Because of the festival, parking will be prohibited on both sides of King Street from Washington to Union streets, as well as the 100 block of South Pitt Street, from 3 a.m. Saturday to 9 p.m. Sunday.
One block north and south of the cross streets between Washington and Union – Lee, Fairfax, Royal, Pitt and St. Asaph streets – will also be closed to traffic during the festival’s operating hours, though parking will still be available on the aforementioned streets.
Those who are driving to the festival may take Cameron, Fairfax or Royal streets to the 100 block of North Fairfax Street to enter the garage at Market Square. Drivers exiting the garage will only be able to turn left to get on Cameron Street.
The Art League Ice Cream Bowl Fundraiser and the Torpedo Factory Beer & Wine
Garden were also rescheduled to this weekend and will coincide with both days of the festival.
By Alexa Epitropoulos | email@example.com City council unanimously approved a master plan amendment that puts the city’s affordable housing strategy east of Route 1 into motion on Saturday at its first public hearing of the fall. The initiative, led jointly by Planning & Zoning, Transportation & Environmental Services and the Office of Housing, aims to retain 215 affordable housing units […]
City council unanimously approved a master plan amendment that puts the city’s affordable housing strategy east of Route 1 into motion on Saturday at its first public hearing of the fall.
The initiative, led jointly by Planning & Zoning, Transportation & Environmental Services and the Office of Housing, aims to retain 215 affordable housing units in the city’s Southwest Quadrant at developments Olde Towne West and the Heritage.
The project began as a proactive effort to keep the units affordable after the developments’ HUD contracts expire in 2019 and 2020. The potential redevelopment has brought forward concerns about density and traffic just two blocks from the intersection of Duke and South Patrick streets – one of the most congested spots in the city.
In order to retain the 215 affordable units, city staff estimates that there would be a
ratio of 3 to 1 market rate units to affordable units, meaning a projected 460 market rate units, an increase from the existing 104 market rate units.
Redevelopment of the privately owned housing developments poses a new challenge for the city, which typically only participates in the redevelopment of affordable housing developments it owns through the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
The planned expansion also creates logistical challenges, as it coincides with Alfred Street Baptist Church’s proposed block-wide expansion project, which would add 2,065 seats and remove 22 units of affordable housing on the historic church’s two-acre site.
The renovated church would encompass a block bordered by South Alfred, Duke, Wolfe and South Patrick streets. Councilor Paul Smedberg was concerned about the implications the planned redevelopment and density increase could have for traffic.
“Everyone is trying to get to one spot … the Beltway or the [Woodrow Wilson] Bridge. It creates all kinds of problems and issues,” Smedberg said. “It’s going to be a real challenge.”
T&ES Division Chief Christopher Ziemann countered that most of the traffic in that area is regional traffic that is neither coming to nor leaving Alexandria. He said not proceeding with the redevelopment could mean more housing density in Fairfax County.
Mayor Allison Silberberg said redevelopment was already underway in Fairfax County along its portion of Richmond Highway, to the south of the redevelopment. She said a parking study should have been conducted as part of the planning effort.
Ziemann said a parking study wouldn’t have been effective because the redevelopment is expected to take place over 15 years.
“As a whole, it makes more sense to look at each individual [development special
use permit] because there are various things that may happen,” Ziemann said. “Density could change, they may decrease their parking ratios. We may have autonomous vehicles by then.”
Councilor John Chapman also expressed concerns about what more development could mean for traffic. He urged city staff to be vigilant about development to the south of Alexandria’s portion of Route 1 as more development comes online in Fairfax County.
“We already have a situation here and we have hot spots in the city where we know all commuters, all travelers, are coming to. We need to be looking at that, regardless of any development,” Chapman said. “If we’re adding redevelopment, it’s going to exacerbate the situation.”
Planning & Zoning Deputy Director Jeff Farner said staff is working to collaborate with Fairfax County throughout the process.
Silberberg expressed skepticism about Alexandria City Public Schools’ enrollment projections. ACPS estimates that the redeveloped properties will generate 23 students over the next 15 years: 12 elementary school students, seven middle school students and four high school students.
The first phase, which would take place over the next five years, is expected to generate four students, while the second phase, over the next six to 10 years, is expected to generate 18 students.
The third phase, between 11 to 15 years from now, is only expected to generate one additional elementary school student.
ACPS Senior Planner Erika Gulick said that the calculations are as accurate as they
“We do our best to estimate. We know it sounds insane that only 23 students would be generated. But there are entire apartment complexes that have no ACPS students. Many students are coming from apartment complexes that are further west,” Gulick said. “With the best information we have, we are estimating 23 students over the course of the 15-year plan.”
Another projection in the presentation estimated that the redevelopment would
generate 20 additional vehicles per hour during morning rush hour and 25 additional vehicles per hour in the evening rush hour during the first phase (between zero to five years). According to the projection, phase two (between six and 10 years) would
generate 60 additional cars per hour in the morning and 30 additional cars per hour during the evening rush hour. The final phase (between 11 and 15 years) would generate 90 additional cars per hour in the morning and 70 additional cars per hour in the evening.
A long list of residents – some of them in favor of redevelopment, some of them in
opposition – spoke during the meeting.
Resident Brian Scholl criticized the process, saying that it didn’t truly protect residents. He said the project would displace residents of the affordable units, including seniors and residents representing diverse populations. He also said the project would cost the city more than what’s estimated.
“The city estimates the cost will be $0 for this project. That doesn’t take into account any needed school expansion, traffic improvements, transportation improvement,” Scholl said.
“If you believe the city’s estimates for this project, residents will not have children, will not go to work and will generally not leave their house.”
Sally Birmingham, who lives in a condo in Old Town Commons, said redevelopment would help surrounding residents like her.
“For the last four years, I have looked out of my window at a low-income area that is really aging and decaying,” Birmingham said. “It brings no, no incentive to anyone looking at our units [at Old Town Commons] to want to buy. … I’m concerned and I believe in support of this initiative, this strategy, that the city is going to start somewhere in being able to improve all of the things I just spoke about. I think they’re all interrelated. I think the time is now because our HUD contracts are coming to an end.”
Janice Kupiec, who lives in Old Town and has children enrolled in Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy, said the planned redevelopment would exacerbate the school’s already swelling enrollment.
“I learned that the school year started with 478 students enrolled in a building that’s designed for 322. There are five kindergarten classes and one of those classrooms is the former art room. … The impact of existing development on enrollment doesn’t appear, to me, to have been fully considered,” Kupiec said.
Many residents said there hadn’t been enough time to learn about all the impacts of the redevelopment, including the displacement of residents of Olde Town West III and The Heritage.
Zalikatu Cole, resident of The Heritage, said she hadn’t been informed of the charette process and the relocation.
She said she had moved in anticipation of Alfred Street Baptist Church’s redevelopment, only to be informed that she would be displaced again.
“My husband is legally blind and my mother is 82 years old and my daughter is in [her] third year in college. It’s also affecting my daughter, knowing we just moved
… and now we are going to move again,’” Cole recalled. “We’re not understanding fully what’s going on. … It’s very, very scary for us not to know where we’re going.”
Planning & Zoning staff present at the meeting said there had been engagement of residents at all levels, including by distributing flyers door-to-door with upcoming meetings listed. Staff also said the city is offering relocation counseling and resources and that residents would have first right of return.
“At a certain point, once the DSUP is submitted, there is going to be a relocation plan. At that point, there will be a hearing at all levels. We will talk to all the tenants so they can come and voice their concerns. Even before that, we’ll meet with tenants to clarify issues,” Office of Housing Analyst Caridad Palerm said at the meeting.
Private developer Aries Capital Partners wasn’t present at the meeting. Councilor Paul Smedberg said the lack of representation was concerning, especially as the redevelopment hinges on their cooperation.
“For something this important, of the scale, money, effort that’s going to go into this, the fact that the main development beneficiary doesn’t have a representative here – because I had a couple of questions I’d like to have answered from them – it’s, again, really poor,” Smedberg said. “There’s no guarantee they’re going to be here to carry this out. They could turn around and sell this property in two weeks. The fact that they’re not here today, it’s not good.”
Vice Mayor Justin Wilson praised the effort and said that, though there were still many issues to be addressed, incentives were the best way to retain Route 1’s affordable housing.
“Big picture, in response to some of the questions, this is a question around tradeoffs and how do we preserve affordable housing. In this case, committed affordable housing. … Ultimately, we don’t own these properties and we’re going to have to dangle some incentives. We’re going to have to make a trade-off to make this happen,” Wilson said. “Staff has done a good job on trying to arrive at a suggested package.”
Councilor Tim Lovain said, though all the details aren’t hammered out about the redevelopments just yet, that they will become solidified in time.
“This is not a DSUP, not a concrete development plan. It’s a long-term strategy. The details will follow,” Lovain said. “It’s a way to guide us and point us in the right direction.”
Councilor Del Pepper said, though the plan had flaws, it was worth supporting.
“I’m going to be supporting this – not because it’s perfect, but because it’s good,” Pepper said. “Charles Beatley always said ‘Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good.’ We have worked so hard with developments just to add maybe two units of affordable housing. We fought long and hard to partner with organizations and churches to get affordable housing and here is a chance for us to save some. It’s unfortunate that there aren’t more details. I had many of the same questions residents have. We’ll have all of those firmed up.
The intention is not to get into the grass, as it were.”
Council also voted to rename the project from Route 1 South Affordable Housing Strategy to the South Patrick Street Housing Strategy, which councilors said better represents the project’s redevelopment area.
Bishop Ireton kicked off construction of the school’s new academic wing with a groundbreaking on Tuesday. Bishop of the Arlington Diocese Michael Burbidge, Head of School Bishop Ireton and Mayor Allison Silberberg, among other school and faith leaders, were in attendance at the groundbreaking. The 40,000-square-foot building will be located next to the school’s […]
Bishop Ireton kicked off construction of the school’s new academic wing with a groundbreaking on Tuesday.
Bishop of the Arlington Diocese Michael Burbidge, Head of School Bishop Ireton and Mayor Allison Silberberg, among other school and faith leaders, were in attendance at the groundbreaking.
The 40,000-square-foot building will be located next to the school’s existing building on Cambridge Road. The new wing will have a bigger cafeteria, a media center, learning common areas, STEM labs, additional classrooms and collaborative learning spaces.
The groundbreaking comes a year after city council approved the project in September 2017. The first phase – demolition of the existing Oblate House and the construction of the classroom space, cafeteria, administrative offices and 38 parking spaces – is expected to be completed in 2019.
The second phase, also expected to be completed in 2019, will involve adding an auxiliary gymnasium and new main entryway, modernizing classrooms and completing a permanent northern parking lot.