Sunday, October 30, 2011

Trick or Treat!

No Left Turns

Students of FBI history may remember No Left Turns, a book written years ago by former agent Joseph L. Schott. Mr. Schott disclosed (among other things) that the late J. Edgar Hoover apparently ordered his drivers never to make left turns. Was this directive a common sense one to prevent delays -- the same reason UPS drivers are supposedly told to avoid left-turns -- or an unconsciously partisan mandate? Readers could only guess and chuckle.

No laughs here in Alexandria, however. The City is currently proposing a similar restriction regarding Washington Street during rush hour traffic. There are already many intersections on Washington Street where left turns are forbidden during peak morning and afternoon rush hours. But because of complaints about accidents involving left-turning vehicles, T&ES is proposing that the remaining unregulated intersections -- including a number in our neighborhood -- be closed off as well.

This means that south-bound vehicles needing to turn left to enter Old Town against north-bound traffic in the morning will be forced instead to take a series of right and left turns through our neighborhood (utilizing N. Columbus Street) to cross Washington Street. The reverse situation will prevail at evening rush hour, when north-bound motorisst seeking to turn left into our neighborhood will have to make a series of right and left turns through Old Town to cross Washington and enter our community.

At the last community meeting on this proposal, Old Town and Parker-Gray leaders reacted strongly against this proposal, which will have a potential negative impact on residential streets paralleling Washington Street not to mention Alexandria businesses, which have plenty to contend with already.

T&ES officials admitted that although accidents at these intersections were significantly more frequent than at similar intersections locations around town, the accident rate has not been increasing nor have there been fatalities. So what's the rush?

A final community meeting to discuss the proposal will be held on Thursday, November 10, 2011, at 7:00 p.m., City Hall Sister Cities Room 1101. There will be a short presentation by staff summarizing the safety study and proposed staff recommendations, followed by a comment and question and answer period. The staff presentation will be similar in nature to the presentation given at each of the two previous stakeholder meetings.

Based on input from the community meeting, T&ES staff say they anticipate bringing proposed recommendations forward to the Traffic and Parking Board for a vote at the November 28, 2011, board meeting.

Saved ... by the Bhel Puri

One of the Growler's favorite local eateries has long been Bombay Curry Company, located on upper Mt. Vernon Avenue in Del Ray. The tandoori-craving Cranky One has been anxious lately because earlier this year the popular Del Ray restaurant revealed plans to close in December due to the upcoming redevelopment of the Calvert complex where it is located.

Fortunately, the owners have just announced they have acquired a new home, located a little further down the Avenue at 2607 Mt Vernon.

This address has a particularly interesting tie to Parker-Gray: it was owned until recently by real estate speculator Nathan Carter, whose rental properties here in this community were the source of ongoing police and code enforcement activity, not to mention homeowner angst. It was a Carter family member along with investor James Turner who acquired the American Legion building at 224 N. Fayette and then flipped it to developer William Cromley.

Most of Mr. Carter's properties in Parker-Gray, where he once housed a pipeline of ex-inmates supplied by the City's corrections department, have been foreclosed in the last few years.

A for sale sign hung on the Mt. Vernon Avenue building briefly this fall, but the City's real estate assessment database code for the sale of this property -- MB -- indicates it may have been a deed in lieu of foreclosure to NVR Real Estate Management, which in turn sold the property to Bombay Curry. A list of 2011 delinquent property tax payments shows Mr. Carter owed back some $3,600 in back taxes as well.

When the American Legion post was moved, the remaining members shifted to 2607 Mt. Vernon Avenue, where the wooden sign from the old Fayette Street property indicated they were now housed. The word on the street was that City officials studiously ignored the fact that the building was not zoned or approved for public assemblies.

No word on where the last of the Legionnaires will relocate again.

Sign of the Times?

The Monarch project on N. Henry and Oronoco Streets, which mistimed the market and ending up going rental when the real estate bubble crashed a few years ago, has now been redubbed "The Henry" and is once again offering condo units for sale. A "grand opening" was held yesterday, with prices listed "from the low 300's."

Given the continued depression in the condo market which has been predicted to last for years, is this change in direction an isolated event? Or does it hold out hope for the Erkiletian and Madison projects, both of which were condominiums in the conceptual stages but broke ground in the last two years as apartment complexes?

More Signs of the Times?

The Growler was walking the dogs the other day and noticed signs indicating that a neighborhood institution, the venerable black-owned Lewis Funeral Home on N. Patrick Street, has shut its doors, apparently forever.