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Richmond Highway’s first parklet and Della J’s restaurant arrive at Mount Vernon Plaza

(Updated at 11:45 a.m. on 10/14/2022) The Richmond Highway corridor’s first parklet and southern food restaurant Della J’s are both getting grand openings at Mount Vernon Plaza next week.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is set for 11 a.m. on next Wednesday (Oct. 19) to unveil a new 3,200-square-foot parklet in the shopping center at 7694 Richmond Highway, adjacent to Moe’s Southwest Grill.

Mount Vernon Plaza is owned by Federal Realty, which also owns a number of other developments in Northern Virginia and across the country.

The new parklet is being touted as the first such amenity in the Richmond Highway corridor and will feature a trellis, porch swing benches, cafe seating, landscaping, and green space. Construction on the space began in May and finished about five months later.

The parklet was developed in partnership with the nonprofit Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation (SFDC), whose mission is to develop and support projects that help economic growth along Richmond Highway.

“We were excited to work with Federal Realty for the first parklet project on the Richmond Highway Corridor,” SFDC Executive Director Evan Kaufman said in the press release. “The team at Federal Realty immediately realized the value of this project, not only to their businesses at the Mount Vernon Plaza but to the general community in the area. We look forward to working with more visionary property owners to help develop parklets and community spaces up and down the Corridor.”

Kaufman told FFXnow that space like this is hard to find in the corridor and the addition of this parklet helps with the “liveability” of the community. There have already been talks of movie nights, public art, and other events in the space, he said.

“These types of projects…brings identity, character, and livability to the corridor that’s sometimes been lacking,” Kaufman explained.

The collaboration with Federal Realty could be a model for public-private partnerships at other developments along the corridor, he said. In fact, SFDC is already in talks with other Richmond Highway shopping centers about creating their own parklets.

Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, who is expected to be at the ribbon-cutting, also believes the parklet is a crucial amenity.

“The parklet will be a valuable amenity that will stimulate local growth, and attract visitors from across our region,” Lusk said in the press release. “Federal Realty’s investment is a clear commitment to making the Richmond Highway Area a destination defined by mixed-use and transit-oriented development.”

Della J’s is cooking again

Also officially opening its doors at Mount Vernon Plaza on Oct. 19 is Della J’s Delectables, the popular family-owned southern comfort food restaurant that started in Springfield before deciding to relocate to a larger space.

Now located right off Richmond Highway in a former Ruby Tuesday’s, the restaurant actually had its soft opening about a month ago, employees told FFXnow, but the full grand opening is next week.

Della J’s is owned by Alexandria natives Jerry and Lydia Young and serves up southern cuisine, like chicken biscuits, sweet potato pie, grits, fried fish, and barbeque meats. The new location is envisioned as a bit more “upscale,” with plans to eventually host live jazz music a couple of times a week.

Jerry Young grew up right behind what was then called T.C. Williams High School, and his dad was a member of the nearby historic Bethlehem Baptist Church in Gum Springs. Its current pastor, Reverend Dr. Darrell Keith White, is a regular at Della J’s.

Named after Jerry’s mom, the restaurant serves a number of the recipies that he helped her cook when he was a kid. Though she died at 68, cooking and booking remind Jerry of her.

“Cooking is a huge stress reliever for me,” he told FFXnow in June. “I have this ability to just open the cookbook up, look at a recipe, and pretty much nail it the first or second time.”

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