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Business Matters

Learning at the Mall

How far did the empire of Orange Julius reach? What’s the capital of Banana Republic? Is Aeropostale aerodynamic?

These are some questions that may be posed by T.C. Williams High School students attending classes at Landmark Mall. According to a proposal members of the Alexandria City Council will consider this weekend, the long-suffering mall may be partially occupied by the Flexible and Extended Learning Opportunities Program. Students in the program have difficulty in a traditional classroom setting. And what could be more non-traditional than studying algebra at a mall?

The aim of the program is to remove students from the large-scale environment of a school with 3,000 students and put them in a different setting, hopefully reducing dropout rates and discipline problems in the processes. The school system hopes to occupy a 3,500 square foot space in the mall near the rear entrance and parking garage. The Landmark Mall classroom would serve up to 100 students each day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. School officials envision it as the first of several satellite classrooms for the high school, which could be as far-flung as Old Town or Arlandria.

“Courses will be blended in nature, combining 21st century online learning that is student-paced with facilitated instruction as well as direct instruction opportunities,” according to a memorandum from the school system.

Tourism Boom

Alexandria’s tourism industry is booming, leaving other Northern Virginia jurisdictions in the dust. Statistics compiled by the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association, tourism generates $22 million in tax revenue and provides 6,000 jobs. In the last four years, the industry grew 16.8 percent, drastically outpacing Prince William, Fairfax and Arlington.

“The scale of their promotional activities has not been the same as ours,” said Stephanie Brown, president of the association. “It’s because of a public-private partnership.”

Brown said that includes everything from hotel development to funding for a free trolley service on King Street. City Manager Rashad Young has proposed a $100,000 advertising campaign for “Charm-Ville,” full-page advertisements that will appear in a host of magazines including Town and County, Travel and Leisure and Real Simple.

“This will extend our reach even more,” said Brown.

Glazed Conditions

City officials have found some holes in operation of the Dunkin Donuts on Upper King Street, leading to a review this weekend of the operation’s special use permit.

The problems started in March 2011, when city officials discovered two minor violations of the 2007 special-use permit. That was corrected, but then another visit in August 2011 uncovered a major problem — restaurant supplies were being loaded from tractor-trailer trucks parked on King Street rather than from the alley behind the building. That violated condition 16 of the special use permit, which outlines how loading and unloading activities should take place. Subsequent conversations revealed that the business had changed ownership without approval.

“Because staff has observed ongoing violations of Condition #16 it elected to bring forward the SUP request, which might have been processed administratively, for full public hearings,” the staff report explained.

Hold Your Wallet

Member of the Alexandria City Council voted Tuesday night to authorize an advertisement for the maximum possible tax rate on residential and commercial properties at $1.008 for every $100 of assessed value. If approved, that rate would increase the average residential property tax bill by $98.