It might look like another shuttered business, but the former Container Store building in Tysons has come in handy for Fairfax County recently.
The county bought the site (8508 Leesburg Pike) near the Spring Hill Metro station in late 2019 after the Container Store relocated to 8459 Leesburg Pike in 2018.
A few months later, the county’s Department of Economic Initiatives revealed it would use the 19,000-square-foot building for its inaugural pilot “Activate Fairfax: 8508 Uncontained” to support small businesses. While the project faces delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, the county has taken advantage of the vacant space for personal protective equipment (PPE), Rebecca Moudry with Fairfax County said.
“It’s actually been a bit of a silver lining having that space because it has been housing PPE equipment for the county and other supplies — serving as a kind of like other storage needs in this time,” Moudry, who is the director of the Department of Economic Initiatives, said.
The county’s Department of Procurement and Material Management started using the space for PPE storage a few months ago, and now is storing not just PPE but also library holdings, Moudry said.
“From what I understand, PPE is being received and deployed daily, and so the library holdings are more static,” Moudry said. “The PPE has been largely moved to the logistics center just to get it in and out in an easier way than at the Container Store.”
While it’s temporarily getting used to help the county combat the coronavirus pandemic, the pop-up plans for the building are still in the works, Moudry said.
After applications for pop-up ideas closed in April, a steering committee reviewed the proposals and eventually narrowed it down to one applicant, Moudry said. Currently, the county is negotiating with that applicant and working on a feasibility study.
While it’s one applicant, the building — and possibly its parking spaces — may or may get used in several different ways.
“We were always looking for an operator that we could potentially move into a lease with, so that operator could engage multiple partners and multiple uses certainly, and I think that came through in the responses,” Moudry said.
Originally, Moudry said the goal was to get the pop-up operator in the space by this fall. That timeframe will likely get pushed due to COVID-19 delays — Moudry’s department pivoted earlier this year to providing resources to small businesses, like launching the microloan and Fairfax Rise grant programs.
“Small businesses have been hit extremely hard over the last number of months and we are still in the pandemic,” Moudry said.
But the pandemic hasn’t stopped the “8508 Uncontained” project, which Moudry said relies on the Made in Fairfax network and small businesses in the area to be successful.
“Those producers need to be around,” Moudry said. “We need to find ways to help them continue in existence or be prepared to come back with the economy. So that’s really been our focus.”