Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Arlandria Shindig: Hello and Goodbye

Join neighbors from around the Four Mile Run neighborhoods Thursday night at 7pm at the No. 9 Lounge at Evening Star, 2000 Mt Vernon Avenue.

This inaugural get-together, what we hope will be a semi-regular occurrence in the future, will also mark a bittersweet occasion.  It will be a chance to see off neighborhood hero and all around good guy, Nick Partee, as he embarks on a hiatus from Arlandria for the next few years.

Nick has been the driving force behind so much of what we've done in the last few years that we hope to give him a good send off.  We hope to see you there.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Why plan a park?

Earlier today, Nick Partee posted about the park planning meeting this evening at 7pm. The discussions about this parcel have been going on for quite a while, with presentations about it at the Four Mile Run Farmer's Market every week.  But several months ago, Nick has done a great write up available here.

But how did this happen?  Where are the funds coming from in today's tough budget cycles?  The answer is that there really is no money for this.  The City used open space funds to acquire the property a few years back and tear down some of the old buildings,  When the budget crunches came on, they were about to give up and tear down the last remaining building when the group of architects stepped in and donated their time to come up with a plan to do something temporary with donated time and materials and with the funds that had been slated for the demolition.  
A group of volunteers have done some clean-ups and renovations on the site already and anticipate providing a lot of the labor for any future work, just as we have at another new park property at Reed Avenue (see this earlier article about that).... which at this point the City isn't even mowing or tending to the dead trees (Nick personally took down a dozen with a HAND saw).  In this latter case, all of the plant materials were gleaned from back yard cast-offs in Beverly Hills, Del Ray and Arlandria; in other words, pulled from the trash. The mulch on site comes from ground up dead trees. The only money spent was on rental equipment (unless you count the repairs that Jim Russell had to make on his transmission that he wreaked pulling up fence posts).

The budget for the Four Mile Run Park expansion (the subject of tonight's meeting) is maybe about $200 at this point.  That's what a group of middle school kids raised this summer for the project at a car wash.  

But we're swimming in mulch and litter.  We really need help caring for the gardens, tree lawns and street trees that the City has never tended to, even in the boom years (here's what we tried to do with that).  And there's no end to the litter and trash that people keep dumping in our parks.  We've had a half dozen clean-ups this year alone and we could still keep doing it. 

And most of all we need advocates. After the middle school kids came out for a clean up this summer, I put the question to them: "how do we fix this so we don't have to keep coming out and cleaning up after other people?" Their answers were telling. What are yours?

Discuss Path Forward for 4 Mile Run Park Expansion Sites

The City of Alexandria is holding a meeting tonight at 7 PM at Cora Kelly Rec Center (map).  The topic is the path forward for the 4MR Park expansion. The meeting will concern what to do with the outdoor space used for the 4 Mile Run Farmers and Artisans Market, and the additional space between the market and the Run.

You may recall Architects Anonymous came up with a very promising plan for these parcels of land that were the inspiration for the Market and for saving the old Duron building for community use.  The community use building is set to begin construction, and now the community has a say in how to create a dynamic outdoor space that acts as a gateway to the City.

Here's the City's release and agenda for tonight. We hope to see you there!

Four Mile Run/Mount Vernon Avenue Park and Open Space Planning
Monday, September 20 Community Meeting
The meeting will be held 25 West Reed Avenue at the Cora Kelly Recreation Center and beginning promptly at 7:00 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to explore the open space properties, located at 4109-4125 Mount Vernon Avenue prior to the meeting. Please let neighbors and colleagues who are unable to attend the meeting know that additional comments are encouraged and can be submitted via email or hard copy to Laura Durham (see contact information below).

  • Welcome and introductions (5 minutes)
  • Overview of site and park planning process (5 minutes)
  • Community involvement and investment (5 minutes)
  • Update on Farmer’s Market use of the site (10 minutes)
  • Review of AA Concept Plan for the Duron building and four parcels (10minutes)
  • Identifying community-serving park elements
  • Attendees feedback/suggestions (45 minutes)
  • Questions and next steps (10 minutes)

Please send written comments to Laura Durham at or via post to 1108 Jefferson Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.

Friday, September 17, 2010

4MRMarket Report: Pedal Powered Edition

The Four Mile Run Farmers & Artisans Market always has plenty to offer folks, whether they walk, drive or come on a bicycle, but this week we spotlight the many folks who come to market using our great system of nearby trails and bike lanes. VéloCity returns to the 4MRMarket this Sunday with their mobile bike repair shop. But in addition, this week, they will be joined by the Alexandria Police Department.

Officers will be at the market from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. They will be offering information on registering a bicycle and providing bicycle safety tips along with the bike maintenance and tune ups that have become a regular feature at the market.

Registering a bicycle makes it much easier to track in the event the bicycle is lost or stolen and is among one of the several best biking practices we like to promote at 4MRMarket. Additionally, officers would like to educate cyclists and pedestrians about traffic laws.

This 4MRide event concludes Virginia Bicyclist and Pedestrian Awareness Week, a DRIVE SMART Virginia and Bike Walk Virginia initiative with approximately 160 companies and organization partners statewide. A key goal of Bicyclist and Pedestrian Awareness Week is to educate citizens in understanding the importance of sharing the road responsibly and with respect.

So get on your bike and come on out.


The Four Mile Run Farmers and Artisans Market (Alexandria, Virginia 22305) brings fresh, nutritious food to people of all income levels, provide an opportunity for local artisans and producers of goods to bring their wares to market, strive to reflect the diversity of the community, and improve the quality of life for Arlandria residents and visitors. It is part of an overall vision to expand and improve Four Mile Run park and the surrounding neighborhood.

4MRMarket is open every Sunday from 8am until 1pm from April through October in Four Mile Run Park at 4109 Mt Vernon Avenue, Alexandria.

For more info see:

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Renovating the Calvert

View of Renovated Calvert Tower with Low-rise addition along Mt Vernon Avenue
The signs have been up for a while now and not much has changed since we first talked about the concept plans over a year ago. Over the course of many months and several area meetings (reported here and here), UDR, the owner of the Calvert on Mt Vernon Avenue has fleshed out its plans for a major renovation of the aging building.

As Item #7 on the docket tonight for review by the Planning Commission at their September 7th meeting, the City staff report shows that UDR plans to reface the existing tower and replace the front parking lot and retaining wall with a mid-rise (4 story), street-fronting apartment building. The project is designed to maintain (and even expand) the rental housing opportunities in the area while bringing added vibrancy to the Avenue business districts.
The new construction will incorporate the existing ground-floor retail but move it adjacent to Mt Vernon Avenue. Some of the retail space will surround a central art or water feature in an open air plaza at the intersection of the T-shaped building as shown in the first graphic in this post. Most of the parking would be placed underground with some above-ground parking on the north side of the property, just as it is now. The current south parking lot would be replaced with green space adjoining Warwick Village and Goat Hill Park.

Build-out will take many months but it looks extremely promising. The renovation will revitalize an aging building, strengthen existing retail, and suggests that the Calvert will evolve along Complete Street principles.

Conceptual View of Streetscape at Renovated Calvert
Planning Commission meets at 7:30 pm tonight, but comments can also be sent via the City's website.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

4MRMarket Report: Busy as a Bicycling Bee Edition

Bee on a Bike in a Race by EHPlesser
As the Four Mile Run Farmers & Artisans Market enters into its 3rd month of operation, the one thing we've learned to expect is that each market day will be full of surprises.

Starting tomorrow, Sunday September 5th, the new surprise addition to 4MRMarket will be VéloCity. A bicycling cooperative established earlier this year in Old Town, VéloCity's mission is "to encourage a vibrant and inclusive cycling community by providing a non-profit, volunteer operated, do-it-yourself workshop for building and maintaining bicycles along with training, rides, and events to empower interaction, skills, fun, and freedom." VéloCity will be on hand with bike stands and tools to empower riders with DIY bike repairs on a bi-weekly basis, showing off 4MR Park as the hive of bicycling activity it is.

Two weeks ago we were surprised to learn that the Four Mile Run is home to very productive honey bees. Nearby backyard aviaries produce honey at almost 10 times the state average. Last week some of that honey found its way into the deliciously artisanal chocolates produced by Krishon Chocolates and sold at 4MRMarket just 1000 feet from the hives it came from. What won't surprise us is if some of the blue-ribbon-award-winning 4MR honey shows up in other market products soon.

Zelda's NOVA Soul continues to churn out new and interesting salad creations that sell out too quickly for some (well, me). And MT's Pastries continues to invent new recipes, now with a complete line of gluten and sugar free confections to compliment the world's best brownie and bread pudding muffin. (All best enjoyed with St Elmo's coffee in the Market Lounge).

The farm fresh beef from Stiffler Farm has garnered rave reviews with market goers heralding the great cuts of meat they produce. Northern Lights Seafood has been known to bring folks across town for their salmon. And Pleitez and Shlagel Farms bring the best produce around. Here's what a customer wrote about last Sunday's market after having unsuccessfully trying to get there for weeks,
"I loved the market. The tomatoes I bought were the best tomatoes I have had for about 10 years. They were absolutely delicious. Everything else was good as well."
Elsewhere, the reviews are coming in on services like Yelp.

Starting a new enterprise is daunting (especially one funded out of pocket with no hope of anything above 0% return), but the support has been overwhelming...and much appreciated.

There are still hopes to grow...and room to make it happen. Stayed tuned. 4MRMarket has wings. More surprises to come!


The Four Mile Run Farmers and Artisans Market (Alexandria, Virginia 22305) brings fresh, nutritious food to people of all income levels, provide an opportunity for local artisans and producers of goods to bring their wares to market, strive to reflect the diversity of the community, and improve the quality of life for Arlandria residents and visitors.  It is part of an overall vision to expand and improve Four Mile Run park and the surrounding neighborhood.

4MRMarket is open every Sunday from 8am until 1pm from April through October in Four Mile Run Park at 4109 Mt Vernon Avenue, Alexandria 22305

For more info see: