Graham Center in West Falls Church (via Google Maps)

Graham Center’s days may be numbered.

The 61-year-old retail strip in West Falls Church has been targeted by the not-for-profit health system VHC Health for a future emergency department and urgent care center, according to a special exception application recently submitted to Fairfax County.

“This innovative hybrid model of a Freestanding Emergency Department combined with an Urgent Care Center (the ‘FSED-UCC’) will offer convenient and timely access for emergency patients, many of the Applicant’s scheduled outpatients, and the general public,” Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh attorney Kathryn Taylor wrote in a statement of justification for VHC Health.

Built in 1953, Graham Center was anchored for decades by Harvest Moon, a Chinese restaurant and banquet hall that became popular for wedding receptions after it opened in the mid-1980s. However, the restaurant closed permanently during the pandemic, leaving behind a mix of small shops, including eateries, a nail salon, a shoe repair outlet and a Vietnamese supermarket.

County property records show that VHC Health bought the 105,698-square-foot site at 7234 Arlington Blvd for $2.4 million in July 2023. The future of the still-operating tenants remains to be determined, but VHC Health’s application says the one-story retail building will be demolished.

VHC Health Vice President of Real Estate Acquisition and Development Adrian Stanton said in a statement to FFXnow that the organization has “maintained open and continuous communication with the tenants about plans for the site” since it purchased the property.

VHC Health chose the Graham Center location because we saw a need in the surrounding community for an important and currently unavailable care option — emergency department services co-located with urgent care services. VHC Health prides itself on offering convenient healthcare options in the communities where our patients live and work…Given the current condition of the property, the plan includes redevelopment as part of the County review and approval process. While we wait for approval from the County, we are still working to determine what other healthcare services and business development opportunities will be offered that will benefit the community most.

According to the Feb. 16 application, which was first reported by Annandale Today, the retail strip will be replaced by an approximately 24,250-square-foot, 40-foot-tall medical facility. About 14,000 square feet will be devoted to the emergency department and urgent care center, while the rest will house primary care, specialty and diagnostic imaging services.

The proposal continues VHC Health’s recent push to expand beyond its main hospital in Arlington with more community-oriented sites around Northern Virginia.

“The primary purpose of the proposed facility will be to decompress high emergency department utilization on the nearby Virginia Hospital Center campus and provide the surrounding community with an important and currently unavailable care option,” the application says. “In addition, the medical services of the FSED-UCC will be provided at a fraction of the cost for services typically furnished at conventional emergency departments or hospitals.”

A special exception is needed to allow the facility in a commercial district that limits office uses to 25% of the lot. The facility is categorized as an “office” under the county’s zoning ordinance because it won’t support overnight stays or regular ambulance usage, according to Taylor.

As part of the redevelopment, VHC Health has offered to eliminate access points to the property except for a northeastern entrance along Graham Road and a southwestern entrance along Arlington Blvd, which will be upgraded with crosswalks and ADA-compliant curb ramps.

Other proposed infrastructure improvements include:

  • An 8-foot-wide sidewalk along Graham Road to replace the existing 5-foot-wide facility
  • A new 12-foot-wide shared use path along Arlington Blvd, connected by internal crosswalks to sidewalks around the new building
  • A covered drop-off area for visitors and patients over the building’s main entrance, which will be on the east side
  • Closure of the Arlington Blvd service road, which will be turned “into open space that integrates pedestrian as well as bicycle infrastructure”
  • A expansion of the drive aisle that residents of the neighboring Kingsley Commons often use to access Graham Road and Arlington Blvd

Expanding the drive aisle to 22 feet wide will enable community members to continue using it “in a more efficient and safe manner,” the application says.

VHC Health estimates that the future emergency and urgent care facility will see 19,556 patients a year, though it’s expected to generate 1,279 fewer weekday daily trips than the current retail uses. The facility will be open 24 hours a day and have 40 employees, with up to 20 on-site at any given time.

It will be the first facility of its kind in Virginia, according to Taylor.

“Adjacent to residential communities and proximate to other commercial uses, the proposed medical office will complement surrounding uses and will be a significant asset to surrounding neighborhoods as well as Fairfax County as a whole,” the application concludes.

The application is currently awaiting a review by Fairfax County planners.

Image via Google Maps

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St. Paul’s Lutheran Church is seeking to sell part of its property in Idylwood, including a now-vacant building, to a housing developer so it can expand its sanctuary (via Google Maps)

Plans to build housing in front of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Idylwood have been resurrected.

After a previous attempt in 2019 sputtered out, the church has found a new developer partner to potentially buy vacant portions of its property at 7426 Idylwood Road and transform it with residential development.

The developer EYA submitted an initial pitch to Fairfax County last summer for approximately 65 to 75 townhouses that would be constructed on two parcels of the roughly 10.7-acre site, an EYA marketing manager told FFXnow. The church intends to stay and use the money from the land sale to fund an expansion of its building, which was built in 1968, per county records.

“EYA is interested in the site for townhome development given its proximity to nearby established retail amenities, Tysons Corner and the City of Falls Church for work and shopping, and a direct bus connection to the West Falls Church Metro Station,” EYA said in a statement. “…We look forward to continuing to engage with the community, staff and elected officials as we develop our plan for this site.”

EYA’s proposal revives a development plan filed in March 2019 by Toll Mid-Atlantic LP Company, an affiliate of the Delaware-based home builder Toll Brothers.

According to that application, St. Paul’s wanted to sell part of its property to pay for a “family life center” that was approved in 2005 but never constructed “due to financial constraints.” The church consists of a main sanctuary with an attached educational building, though it also owns a separate, now-vacant building that once housed Lutheran Social Services.

Toll Mid-Atlantic sought to replace the empty building and another undeveloped parcel — totaling about 5.85 acres — with 67 residential units, which would’ve been a combination of single-family townhomes and two-over-two multi-family units.

The county’s land use database indicates that the application was scheduled for a public hearing before the Fairfax County Planning Commission multiple times, most recently on Sept. 30, 2020, but it ultimately got deferred indefinitely.

To allow for EYA’s development, the county needs to revise its comprehensive plan for the site, which currently designates the entire church property as a future residential development with 16-20 dwelling units per acre.

With the church committed to remaining at the site, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed county staff on Tuesday (Feb. 20) to craft a plan amendment that would reduce the intensity of the housing envisioned for the site.

“Recognizing that the Church wishes to remain on site, and this impacts the available area for development and the design of the site, a Plan amendment for residential development at a lower density, with suitable conditions related to site design, recognizing retention of the existing Church, is appropriate,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said when introducing the request.

Recalling the previous attempt to develop the site, she added that “transportation improvements and others are key to this development.”

The proposed amendment will be added to the second tier of the county’s comprehensive plan amendment work program, meaning it will be reviewed concurrently with rezoning and special permit amendment applications. Submitted on June 27, 2023, EYA’s proposal is still in the “pre-application” stage, so it’s unclear when an official plan will be available.

According to a summary report from the Department of Planning and Development, the initial concept tweaks Toll Mid-Atlantic’s earlier design to allow for more open space and tree preservation. It also features a recommended sidewalk along Idylwood Road and commits to replenishing landscaping that screens the church from existing townhouses to the south.

Image via Google Maps

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Part of the “Sun Boat” sculpture at Lake Anne Plaza in Reston (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

IRS to Roll Out Free Tax Filing Website — “The IRS’s new Direct File website, a free site for filing a tax return, will open to the public in the coming days, the IRS announced Wednesday. But anyone who hopes to be among the first to use it will have to get lucky and check the website during limited and unannounced windows at the outset.” [Washington Post]

Tysons-Based Hilton Named in Hotel Price-Fixing Lawsuit — “A lawsuit alleging a group of hotel operators artificially increased the price of luxury hotel rooms with the help of a shared database has named industry titans Hilton Worldwide Holdings and Hyatt Hotels Corp. among a list of defendants.” [Bisnow]

Piglets Born at Frying Pan Farm — While still in mourning for its longtime draft horse Charlie, Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon recently welcomed some new animals. “Baby Pigs! Looks like the Groundhog was right because it feels like spring here at Frying Pan Farm Park. The barn has new #piglets! Bring the family for a stroll around the farm and say hi to the cuties!” [Fairfax County Park Authority/Twitter]

Virginia Governor Joins Anti-Abortion Rally — “Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears, both Republicans, joined thousands of Virginia activists Wednesday for an annual anti-abortion demonstration, where attendees denounced Democratic lawmakers who have blocked proposed restrictions since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.” [Associated Press/WTOP]

Longtime McLean Resident Turns 104 — “Friends, family, Kenyan drummers, neighborhood Fairfax County firefighters and staff at Lewinsville Adult Day Health Care in McLean gathered there recently to wish Serah Wankijiku Mbugua a very special happy 104th birthday. Born in rural Kenya on Jan. 1, 1920, Mbugua — whom everyone at Lewinsville calls ‘Mama Serah’ — has been a Lewinsville participant for 10 years.” [Neighborhood and Community Services]

Reston Hospital Announces New CEO — “Nathan Vooys, who served for the last three years as the chief executive officer of StoneSprings Hospital Center in Dulles, was named the new CEO at Reston Hospital Center. He will begin serving in that role on March 4.” [Patch]

McLean Polo Players Compete for National Trophy — Two athletes from McLean were among 10 players from Capital Water Polo, a team based at The St. James in Springfield, “selected by the USA Water Polo Olympic Development Program (ODP) to play…at the national-championship tournament in Chicago in mid-March. This is the highest number of players Capital Water Polo has ever sent to nationals.” [Gazette Leader]

Flying Squirrel Spotted Near Fairfax City — “A flying squirrel was recorded early Wednesday morning by the Ring camera, as it visited the home of a Patch reporter who lives just north of Fairfax City…This was the first time in 2024 that the family’s Ring camera captured an image of a flying squirrel, which is a nocturnal animal. The squirrel was spotted twice in previous years, including a short stop on the family’s windowsill.” [Patch]

It’s Thursday — Expect a mostly cloudy day with a high near 54, accompanied by a south wind blowing at 6-11 mph and gusts reaching up to 18 mph. Rain is likely at night, mostly after 1 am, as temperatures drop to a low around 47. The chance of precipitation is 60%, with potential for less than a tenth of an inch of new rainfall. [Weather.gov]

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Fairfax Connector bus on Spring Hill Road (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated at 11:35 a.m.) Fairfax Connector workers have launched a strike after months of negotiations for a new labor contract with Transdev, the company that operates Fairfax County’s bus service.

Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689, which represents about 638 bus operators and mechanics for Fairfax Connector, announced the strike just after midnight today (Thursday). Workers began hitting picket lines at garages in Herndon, Lorton and on West Ox Road in the Fairfax area at 2 a.m.

Due to the walk-off, Fairfax Connector has suspended service on 93 of its routes, starting at 9 a.m. The bus system serves approximately 26,000 passengers daily, according to its website.

“We encourage our users to please use alternative methods of travel. We apologize for any inconvenience,” the transit agency said.

The bus system can’t resume operations until the drivers and mechanics return to work, a Fairfax County Department of Transportation spokesperson confirmed.

Members gave the union the authority to call a strike on Dec. 29, nearly a month after their existing contract with Transdev expired on Nov. 30.

In a news release, the union said there remains “a vast divide” between its demands and Transdev’s, and a strike became “unavoidable” after 12 bargaining sessions due to “Transdev’s unfair labor practices and regressive bargaining.” It also criticizes Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay for an alleged “refusal to weigh in.”

“The Union remains committed to bargaining in good faith to reach a tentative agreement on a new contract and intends to continue to meet with Transdev even while on strike,” Local 689 said in a statement. “Several key priorities in a new contract for Local 689 include true retirement security, more sick days, competitive wages for bus operators and mechanics with regional transit companies, and balanced labor-management rights.”

Transdev said in a statement that it’s “disappointed” the union initiated a strike despite what it describes as a “generous offer” that included $126,000 in annual pay and benefits for a majority of drivers and $128,000 annually in pay and benefits for 78% of mechanics represented by ATU.

“This unexpected action has had a severe impact on the community, particularly those who depend on the Fairfax Connector for their daily transportation needs,” the contractor said. “Transdev put forth a comprehensive proposal that includes significant wage increases, healthcare benefits, retirement savings, bonuses, guaranteed minimum hours, and additional perks tailored to employees of all experience levels.”

In a statement to FFXnow, McKay said it would’ve been “inappropriate” for him to interfere with the contract negotiations, since Fairfax County isn’t a directly involved party.

I have been in communication with the County Executive and his team throughout this process and was aware of the impasse. I was not, however, aware that a strike would occur which has left the almost 26,000 daily users of the Connector without the service they rely on. I fully support the ability of Connector drivers and mechanics to be treated, and compensated, fairly. The service they provide to our residents is high quality. I also support the ATU Local 689’s right to advocate on behalf of their members. My hope is that the union and Transdev can reach agreement on a contract that is in line with similar transit services in our neighboring jurisdictions and that respects the exemplary work of drivers and mechanics. Additionally, while transit service is essential, the cost is ultimately borne by our residents and must also be considered in these negotiations. Connector service needs to be sustainable not just now but in the future.

Connector workers last negotiated a contract in 2019. Then represented by ATU Local 1764, they went on strike for four days that December before signing an agreement to resume work on Dec. 8. A new, four-year contract was ratified on Feb. 29, 2020, averting a potential second strike.

Read more on FFXnow…

ShowPlace Icon Theatre at The Boro in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The 96th Academy Awards are just under a month away, which means there’s still time to catch up on this year’s nominees.

To help out, ShowPlace Icon Theatre in Tysons will host upcoming, “special” screenings of “Barbie” and “The Holdovers,” two of the films seeking to upset “Oppenheimer” on its steady march toward winning the Oscar for Best Picture.

Greta Gerwig’s record-breaking comedy will screen on Thursday, Feb. 29, while Alexander Payne’s Christmas-set throwback to the 1970s will screen on March 7, just days before the Oscars ceremony on March 10. Both screenings will start at 7 p.m.

With both movies available to watch at home, either on physical discs or online, The Boro theater is banking on a discount to attract audiences. With a $15 ticket, patrons can get a small popcorn and their choice of a soda, beer or wine.

Per its website, the theater typically charges $18.75 for evening showings, and drinks range from $6.50 for a beer bottle or can to $15 for some of the wines.

Tickets for the special screenings can be purchased through Eventbrite.

Located at 1667 Silver Hill Drive, ShowPlace Icon originally opened in February 2020 — just before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Fairfax County. After a one-month attempt at reopening, it officially reintroduced itself to the community in April 2021.

Tysons is also home to an AMC at Tysons Corner Center and CMX CinéBistro in Tysons Galleria.

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The Pakistani clothing store Khaadi will open at Tysons Corner Center on Feb. 24 (courtesy Khaadi)

(Updated at 2:30 a.m. on 2/22/2024) A Pakistani fashion company will soon leave its first footprint in the U.S. with the unveiling of a new Tysons store.

Khaadi is set to launch a 5,500-square-foot “Experience Store” at Tysons Corner Center this Saturday, Feb. 24, a company spokesperson confirmed to FFXnow. The retail outlet will be located on the mall’s second floor near Barnes & Noble.

This will be Khaadi’s first physical location in the U.S., but it has already expanded outside of its home in Pakistan to the United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates, totaling 50 stores worldwide.

“Khaadi sees the US market as the next crucial step in its global expansion journey,” Khaadi spokesperson Tinath Saeed Fahd said. “The United States, with its vast retail landscape, presents abundant opportunities for brands offering unique and diverse products and Khaadi is prepared to embrace these opportunities.”

Tysons Corner Center was chosen as the site for Khaadi’s U.S. introduction because of its status as “Virginia’s premier shopping destination,” Saeed Fahd added.

“[It] highlights Khaadi’s ambition to expand its international presence and build connections with a wider audience that extend beyond shopping,” she said.

Here’s more from the company on its background:

Founded in 1998 by Shamoon Sultan, Khaadi is a leading retail brand which has experienced unprecedented growth from a single store selling hand-woven fabric to 50 stores spanning the globe from Pakistan to UAE, UK and now US.

Khaadi’s commitment to innovation and pushing the boundaries of fashion, means it’s always looking for ways to evolve designs. The brand’s designs are known for their vibrant colors, intricate craftsmanship and connection to Pakistani and Eastern culture and heritage. Khaadi’s aesthetic is a mix of traditional and modern elements, which help create a unique and contemporary feel, catering to a wider audience globally.

With the Muslim community as a primary audience, Khaadi sells both fabrics and ready-to-wear clothes, including kurtas, shawls, pants, shirts, skirts, jumpsuits, and other formal and casual items.

The Tysons store was “carefully” designed to celebrate “creativity, style and individuality,” according to Saeed Fahd.

“The modern, minimal space hosts a curated collection of everyday versatile ready-to-wear assortments along with accessories for an effortless style solution,” she said.

(Correction: This story previously said Khaadi will offer gift-wrapping options. A spokesperson says that won’t be available at the Tysons store.)

After making its introduction in Tysons, Khaadi plans to continue expanding in the U.S. with stores anticipated in Texas and New Jersey in the next two years.

Khaadi will continue a fashion-focused year for Tysons Corner Center, which welcomed Rothy’s last month and is set to add Primark and Mango.

The mall has also lured the restaurants Maggiano’s Little Italy and the Cheesecake Factory away from their longtime homes in Tysons Galleria. The chains are expected to move this summer and in the fourth quarter of 2024, respectively.

Read more on FFXnow…

Fairfax County Government Center (staff photo by James Jarvis)

As anticipated, Fairfax County is looking at a tight budget for the coming year that will once again lean primarily on residential property owners to offset a declining commercial tax base.

County Executive Bryan Hill has proposed a 4-cent increase in the real estate tax rate, even as he presented an advertised fiscal year 2025 budget to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors yesterday (Tuesday) that largely limits spending to obligations like public schools and employee compensation.

If adopted, this would be the county’s first real estate tax rate increase in six years, Hill said in a message to the board. Last year, Hill proposed a flat tax rate that the board ultimately reduced by 1.5 cents to $1.095 per $100 of assessed value, though property owners still saw their bills go up by $412, on average, due to rising home values.

The proposed tax rate of $1.135 per $100 for FY 2025, which starts on July 1, would raise the average tax bill by just over $524 and generate $129.28 million in revenue, according to the county.

“We are seeing some residential growth, but our commercial values have declined, resulting in an overall real estate growth of just over 2.7%,” Hill said. “Paired with significant expenditure pressures — particularly for employee pay and benefits, transportation requirements, and continued inflationary impacts — balancing this proposed budget has required difficult decisions.”

Home values up, commercial values down

Real estate tax revenue provides about 66% of the county’s general funds, which supports most county operations, from public safety agencies to libraries and parks. For FY 2025, more than three-quarters of that revenue (76.7%) will come from residential owners, who are facing an average assessment increase of 2.86% for 2024.

Though the number of home sales in the county last year declined, prices have continued to climb “due to low inventory,” Hill said. The average value of the county’s over 357,000 taxable residential properties for 2024 is $744,526, up from $723,825 in 2023.

By contrast, non-residential property values have dropped for the first time in three years by 1.24%, a dip mostly driven by a struggling office market. About 21.6 million square feet, or 17.2%, of the county’s 119.5 million square feet of office space is vacant — an uptick from last year’s rate of 16.7%, which was already a 10-year high.

With another 1 million square feet of office space under construction, mostly in Metro’s Silver Line corridor, the pressure to revitalize or replace under-utilized office buildings will likely only intensify going forward.

“That space is going to be snapped up quickly, which is going to create situations around our county that will be then vacant,” Hill said when asked by Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk about possible remedies. “We have to figure out ways to fill those spaces, whether it is converting or doing something different on that plot of land. We have done a pretty good job in certain areas of revitalizing…but we need to do more.”

Schools and compensation dominate spending

With some growth projected from other sources, including an 8.8% increase in personal property taxes and a proposed 10-cent-per-pack increase in taxes on cigarettes, the county anticipates getting $363.22 million more in revenue than it did this budget year.

However, Hill says he proposed spending only on “adjustments which I feel are essential to maintain the quality workforce and dependable services upon which our residents rely.”

As is typical, nearly half of that funding — $165 million — would go to Fairfax County Public Schools. Though that’s more than the $144 million increase that FCPS got last year, it falls short of the $254 million sought by Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid, who proposed a 6% salary increase for all employees in a budget plan adopted by the school board earlier this month.

The 10.5% funding increase is the largest that FCPS has requested since fiscal year 2007, and the dollar amount is the highest in the county’s history, according to Hill.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay called the FCPS request “entirely unrealistic,” and Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck questioned the affordability of even the amount recommended by Hill. At the same time, McKay and other board members made clear that they fault the state more than FCPS for the gap in funding.

A study released last year found that Virginia spends about $1,900 less per student than the national average. Just meeting the average would give FCPS another $345 million, whereas Fairfax County would need to raise its real estate tax rate by another 3 cents to fulfill Reid’s request, according to Hill.

“When you start in the hole as we do, that revenue has to come from somewhere, and it puts a strain on every other thing that we need to do in the county, from public safety to human services to affordable housing,” McKay said. “…In a difficult budget year, it’s very clear what the challenges are and where they begin.”

About 42% of the county’s remaining available funds — $148 million — is targeted for employee compensation, including a 2% market rate adjustment (MRA) for general county workers and the government’s commitments to unionized police and fire employees under collective bargaining agreements approved in December.

Those negotiations led county officials to consider moving away from using market rate adjustments to determine worker pay raises, since calculations can vary from one year to the next, Hill said. Instead, a standard cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) could be used “in future years to provide some predictability for our employees and for budget planning.”

Worker representatives were unimpressed by the proposed compensation, which accounts for 42% of the advertised budget. Tammie Wondong, president of SEIU Virginia 512’s Fairfax County Government Employees Union chapter, said the union is “disappointed” to not see full funding for a 4% MRA.

“Unfortunately, whether it’s an MRA or COLA, the County Executive’s budget proposals fail to keep their promise to employees,” Wondong said. “That’s why we’re organizing and look forward to our union election later this year so we can bargain and lock in fair pay in a collective bargaining agreement.”

Dave Lyons, executive director of the Fairfax Workers Coalition, expressed doubt that the draft budget will be sufficient to address staff shortages and keep the county competitive with other jurisdictions.

“The County needs to do better — and not just in terms of compensation,” Lyons said. “We must make sure our most vulnerable citizens are supported. We need to back our folks in Juvenile Courts, our workers in School Age Childcare (SACC) and those doing the difficult work of Child and Adult Protective Services. Our trades workers — those driving trucks, cranes and picking up our refuse — are increasingly contracted out because not enough county workers can be hired or retained. We’ve got to do better.”

County agencies identify savings

In anticipation of a lean budget, Hill had asked all county agencies to provide options for reducing their budgets by up to 7%, a process that identified $36 million in net savings and 84 positions that could be eliminated without negatively affecting operations or existing employees.

Many of the savings come from getting rid of long-vacant positions and job or program consolidations, but there will be some community impacts. The Department of Neighborhood and Community Services, for example, has proposed closing its Hayfield Secondary School School-Aged Child Care site “due to low utilization,” and Fairfax County Public Library says it can save about $55,000 by adjusting the number of computers at each branch based on their usage and another $10,000 by providing black-and-white printers instead of color ones.

The budget also increases various fees, including for zoning and land development services, senior center memberships and athletic fields and gyms.

Other proposed allocations include:

  • $10 million in additional Metro support
  • $7.7 million to maintain 72 early childhood education slots that were funded by federal money and staff to support affordable housing efforts
  • $3 million for the Fairfax County Park Authority initiatives like mobile nature centers and bamboo removals
  • $5.9 million for information technology upgrades
  • $1.27 million for General District Court probation counselors and to add support staff for the new Lorton District Police Station

Hill noted that the Metro funding could change depending on the transit agency’s final numbers, which have already been revised from initially dire projections, and any contributions from Virginia. The state Senate gave Metro no new funding in a budget proposal released Sunday (Feb. 18), while the House of Delegates included about $150 million over two years in its draft.

Though no new positions are being added yet, the coming fiscal year will kick off the county’s plan to merge its animal shelter and police protection services, despite objections from the local police union. The advertised budget shifts a position from the Fairfax County Police Department to the Department of Animal Sheltering to create a new chief animal control officer, according to Christina Jackson, the county’s chief financial officer.

“We expect to see more major movement in the FY 2026 budget,” she told the Board of Supervisors.

The board will advertise a ceiling for the FY 2025 tax rate on March 5 and hold public hearings on April 16-18. The budget will be marked up on April 30 and adopted on May 7.

In addition to attending the public hearings, community members can comment online — an option available for the first time in Spanish and Korean — and by phone (703-890-5898, code 1379) and email ([email protected]). Comments can also now be texted with the phrase “FY25Budget” to 73224.

Read more on FFXnow…

Morning Notes

A mural in Fairfax Circle depicts the Old Town Square splash pad (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

TSA Gives First-Ever Tour of Springfield Warehouse — “In a non-descript building right off I-95 in Springfield, Virginia, there are thousands of artifacts from the Transportation Security Administration. Old X-ray machines, explosive detectors, TSA call kiosks, counterterrorism pamphlets and guides are all stored, in a warehouse containing the wall-to-wall physical history of the agency.” [NBC4]

Tysons Developer’s Real Estate Plans Unclear — “Lerner Enterprises hasn’t announced any acquisitions, sales, renovations or new office leases since 2022. The 72-year-old firm also hasn’t provided updates on the millions of square feet of planned development it has in its pipeline, including the fate of two demolished shopping malls where communities have been waiting years to see activity.” [Bisnow]

Reston Resident Details CIA Career in New Book — “Over the course of her 27-year CIA career, Jonna Mendez, pulled off dazzling capers…Now 78 and living in Reston, Mendez’s career as a master of disguise is revealed with jarring transparency in her new memoir, In True Face: A Woman’s Life in the CIA, Unmasked, available March 5.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Navy Veteran Celebrates 100th B-Day at Local Hooters — “For the 10th year in a row, U.S. Navy veteran Glenn Ward celebrated his birthday at the Hooters in Fairfax City. But this year was a little different, because on Friday, the Arlington resident turned 100. Friends and family members from California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Nevada showed up…for a party that included balloons, cake and chicken wings.” [Patch]

Bailey’s Crossroads Office Set for Demolition Has History — “A soon-to-be-demolished office building in Bailey’s Crossroads once housed a company that played an important played a role in the Cold War. The two-story cinderblock building at 5623 Leesburg Pike…is being torn down to facilitate a second drive-through lane and an expanded parking lot for the McDonald’s next door.” [Annandale Today]

New Amenities Coming to Woodlawn Ballpark — “Following several years of grassroots fundraising and advocating with Fairfax County, the Woodlawn Little League will soon witness the groundbreaking of a comfort station and concessions building at McNaughton Fields Park.” The 784-square-foot facility will feature “a concession stand, restrooms and storage.” [On the MoVe]

Tysons-Based Capital One to Buy Credit-Card Rival — “Capital One’s $35.3 billion deal to buy Discover is a long way from being completed. But consumer advocates and some lawmakers are already raising questions about how the proposed merger could affect credit-card users — many of whom are already under pressure from high interest rates and record debts.” [NBC News]

Tysons Show Featured in Netflix Comedy Special — “That’s how Taylor Tomlinson opens her new Netflix standup special ‘Have It All,’ which premiered this past week on Feb. 13 and currently ranks in the Top 10 TV Shows on Netflix. It was filmed at Capital One Hall…on Nov. 18, 2023, just weeks after announcing her new late-night talk show ‘After Midnight.'” [WTOP]

It’s Wednesday — Expect sunny skies and a high of 49 degrees, accompanied by a light, variable wind that will increase to around 6 mph from the southeast in the morning. The night will remain mostly clear with temperatures dropping to about 32 degrees, and a gentle southeast breeze blowing at 3 to 5 mph. [Weather.gov]

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Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology’s current admissions policy will remain in place after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider a lawsuit alleging that it discriminates against Asian students.

The Supreme Court denied a petition for a hearing today (Tuesday) by the Coalition for TJ, an advocacy group that sued the Fairfax County School Board in 2021 after the admissions process for the highly competitive magnet school was revised with the goal of diversifying the student body.

The Supreme Court’s decision not to take up the case ends a legal battle that lasted nearly three years and could’ve upended diversity initiatives in public education nationwide.

“We have long believed that the new admissions process is both constitutional and in the best interest of all of our students,” said School Board Chair Karl Frisch, who represents Providence District. “It guarantees that all qualified students from all neighborhoods in Fairfax County have a fair shot at attending this exceptional high school.”

The school board voted in December 2020 to eliminate a standardized test and application fee that were previously required for students seeking admittance into Thomas Jefferson High School (TJ). The board also raised the minimum grade point average for applicants, guaranteed eligibility to the top 1.5% of eighth graders at each middle school and added essay requirements and consideration of “experience factors” such as a student’s status as a recipient of free meals or involvement in special education.

Spurred by student activism after Fairfax County Public Schools reported that fewer than 10 Black students had been accepted in both 2019 and 2020, the policy overhaul has resulted in more diverse classes at TJ, particularly in terms of geography and income, since the changes took effect in 2021 for the Class of 2025.

Though Asian students got 61.6% of offers for the freshman class that entered last fall, compared to 19% for white students, 6.7% for Black students and 6% for Hispanic students, the Coalition for TJ has argued that the revised policy was designed to reduce the number of Asian students at the school, violating Constitutional protections against racial discrimination.

A district court judge agreed with the coalition in 2022 that Asian American students were “disproportionately harmed,” ordering FCPS to scrap the new admissions policy. However, that ruling was overturned last May by an appeals court panel that found the coalition had failed to prove that the school board “adopted its race-neutral policy with any discriminatory intent.”

The coalition petitioned the Supreme Court to pick up the case after the justices ruled in June 2023 that colleges can’t explicitly consider race as part of their admissions processes, ending decades of affirmative action programs intended to boost Black, Hispanic and other often underrepresented students.

Pacific Legal Foundation senior attorney Joshua Thompson, who represented the Coalition for TJ, says the Supreme Court “missed an important opportunity” to address admissions policies like the ones adopted for TJ that don’t explicitly consider race but still affect student demographics.

“Today, the American Dream was dealt a blow, but we remain committed to protecting the values of merit, equality, and justice,” Coalition for TJ co-founder Asra Nomani said in a statement. “…For the courageous families who have tirelessly fought for the principles that our nation holds dear, this decision is a setback but not a death blow to our commitment to the American Dream, which promises equal opportunity and justice for all.”

In a statement from FCPS, Frisch noted that TJ has accepted students from every Fairfax County middle school and maintained an average grade-point average for its incoming classes of 3.9 over the past three years.

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Inova Center for Personalized Health (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The University of Virginia is expanding its presence in Fairfax County.

The Charlottesville-based institution will add a new site for its Northern Virginia campus next year in Merrifield, where it has leased 55,000 square feet at the Inova Center for Personalized Health (8095 Innovation Park Drive), the Washington Business Journal reported last week.

According to the WBJ, UVA will move into the second and third floors of Building C on Inova’s campus, which opened in 2015 and features a conference center, a sports medicine hub, a fitness and rehab center, and cancer services in the Schar Cancer Institute. Designated for office and educational uses, Building C already hosts health care programs for Shenandoah University.

Intended to serve the university’s significant base of students from the D.C. area, UVA Northern Virginia’s Fairfax site will house a variety of degree programs as well as classes for high school students and workforce training, the WBJ says:

The university’s new space, slated to open in January, would serve as a D.C.-area base for programs across the university’s schools and departments, such as master’s degrees in health or engineering. It’s also designed to serve as a hub for education beyond its degree programs: classes for high schoolers in creative writing, forensic science and coding set for this summer; or, perhaps, trainings for companies, in which employers would cover the costs for their employees.

The site will also be used as a space for testing new programs that could later be expanded to other campuses.

“The populations are different,” UVA Northern Virginia Dean and CEO Gregory Fairchild told the WBJ. “Thinking and testing you’ll see us do will probably — potentially, over time — lead to something different here that we wouldn’t do in Charlottesville.”

UVA launched its Northern Virginia campus in Rosslyn on Sept. 22, 2021, offering courses for its schools of business, engineering, education, data science and continuing and professional studies. Officials said at the time that the Arlington site was “just the beginning” of their plans for the region.

The university previously shared space with Virginia Tech at the Northern Virginia Center (7054 Haycock Road) in Idylwood, but it left in 2020 after declining to support a redevelopment. The property was sold last fall to a development team that will transform it into a construction hub with housing, a Virginia Tech research lab and a headquarters building for HITT Contracting.

UVA’s new site at the Center for Personalized Health will build on its existing collaboration with Inova Fairfax Hospital, which serves as a teaching hospital for the university’s medical students.

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Shake Shack has staked out an opening date in Tysons.

The fast-food restaurant’s new location at Pike 7 Plaza (8350 Leesburg Pike) will welcome its first customers at 11 a.m. tomorrow (Wednesday). Free merchandise, including custom mugs, phone Pop-sockets and stickers, will be available for roughly 100 patrons.

In addition, Shake Shack says it will donate $1 for every sandwich sold on its opening day to Northern Virginia Family Service, a nonprofit that provides financial and housing assistance, physical and mental health services, early childhood education programs and other community resources for those in need.

This is Shake Shack’s fifth location in Northern Virginia and its second in Tysons, where it can be found just east on Leesburg Pike (Route 7) inside Tysons Corner Center. The company also has restaurants at the Mosaic District in Merrifield, inside the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly and in Arlington.

The Pike 7 Plaza location, however, utilizes a relatively unique concept.

Newly constructed in the shopping center’s parking lot, the 3,200-square-foot building features outdoor patio seating and a “drive-up” window exclusively for drivers picking up online orders. The drive aisle for the window can fit 11 to 12 vehicles, according to the plan that Fairfax County’s board approved in 2022.

A Shake Shack representative says the company has “a few” other drive-up locations, but this is the first one in Northern Virginia.

“We’re delighted to bring a new Shake Shack location to our loyal fans in Northern Virginia at Pike 7 Plaza,” a Shake Shack spokesperson said. “This easily accessible spot, complete with a drive-up window for added convenience, allows us to connect with our guests more effectively and meet them where they’re at. Our team is excited to become part of the community, offering our signature warm hospitality, top-quality ingredients, and a menu filled with exciting options.”

Started in 2001 as a hot dog cart in New York City, Shake Shack opened its first restaurant in 2004 and now has over 500 of them around the world. Recently, it has focused on expanding digital sales and adding drive-thru locations, which were introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to the milkshakes suggested by its name, the business sells burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, crinkle-cut fries and frozen custard. It’s also currently serving a limited-time “Korean style” menu featuring a fried chicken sandwich, barbecue burger and spicy Korean barbecue fries.

The Pike 7 Plaza restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Online orders can be placed through Shake Shack’s website and mobile app.

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