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Week in Alexandria
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Week in Alexandria

Goblins Coming

Halloween seems spookier now more than ever in Alexandria.There’s something about all those skeletons and cobwebs that have invaded the city this year. Maybe it’s something in the numbers. Strolling through the archives of the Alexandria Gazette, and you’ll come across this nugget from 100 years ago this week:

“The goblins will get you if you don’t watch out,” exclaimed the Alexandria Gazette on Oct. 24, 1919. “For there will be Jack o’ Lanterns a plenty in Alexandria on Hallowe’en Day, if the youngsters want them.”

Alexandria Gazette editor Michael Dwyer noted that farmers across Maryland and Virginia were shipping large quantities of pumpkins to the markets, and “mother will want the pumpkin pulp for pies.” He adds that all those new novelty stores in the city sell papier mâché lanterns, which he noted have replaced the “old-fashioned, home-made Jack o’ Lanterns.” Plus, he says, mischievous boys no longer use Halloween as an excuse to fill an old sock with flour and pelt passersby.

“Dignified Alexandria boys have abandoned that trick,” he explained.

Along the Waterfront

The transformation of the Alexandria waterfront is taking place so fast it’s difficult to remember a time when the waterfront plan was the hottest controversy in town. Tempers flared and the rhetoric was hot. Angry letters to the editor were penned, and fiery campaign speeches were delivered. Ultimately the plan to expand density was approved over fears that the size and scale of development would choke the narrow streets of Old Town.

“Even when I run into some of the harshest critics who were opposed to the redevelopment of the waterfront, particularly from the Boat Club, they say to me hey Mister Mayor thanks for what you were pushing for. This has turned out to be a very nice arrangement,” says former Mayor Bill Euille. “There’s always going to be a give and take. People are going to want to oppose something until they see it completed or near completion, then they jump on the bandwagon.”

Now that everyone’s jumping aboard the waterfront bandwagon, Euille says it reminds him of other times when neighborhood associations and advocacy groups. Specifically, he mentions opposition to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and the U.S. Patent Trademark Office.

“And then once it happens, everybody says wow this is really nice,” he says with a chuckle.

Smooth Sailing

Are rough seas ahead for the port city? Alexandria’s captain of industry says the weather’s fine for now.

Reacting to a recent report from the Stephen Fuller institute at George Mason University, Alexandria Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Joe Haggerty says he disagrees with the esteemed green eyeshades in Clarendon. He says the warning signs about the economy in recent issues of the Fuller Institute’s “Washington Regional Leading Index” are baffling.

“All of our businesses are telling us it’s tough to get employees right now,” says Haggerty. "The unemployment rate is low, and they’re really having trouble getting people in construction and in retail and in restaurants.”

In the old days, sentry boats might sail the Potomac looking for signs of enemy vessels. These days the Fuller Institute has the Washington Region Leading Index, a cocktail of data including retail sales, unemployment claims, consumer expectations and construction permits. Across the Washington metropolitan region, those sentry boats are all returning with dire warning signs. But Haggerty says the view from this side of the river isn’t as gloomy.

“We were hurt by the Metro shutdown, obviously, in Alexandria,” he says. “But still half of the retail outlets said their business was up over the last few months.”