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Tysons Corner Center could potentially host another mass COVID-19 vaccination site if booster shots get approved for a broader population, local and state health officials say.

Fairfax County Health Director Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu told the Board of Supervisors during its health and human services committee meeting this morning (Tuesday) that the county and Virginia health departments are working together to establish a Community Vaccination Center (CVC) “at the Tysons location.”

The Fairfax County Health Department confirmed that “planning is ongoing” to revive the large-scale clinic that the Virginia Department of Health and Department of Emergency Management opened earlier this year in Tysons Corner Center’s former Lord & Taylor store.

“As with mass vaccination sites operated by the Fairfax County Health Department, the CVC would provide first, second, and third doses to anyone who is eligible based on [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and VDH clinical guidelines,” county health department spokesperson Lucy Caldwell said in a statement.

Fairfax County currently offers third shots of the two-dose Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to people whose immune system is compromised by a medical condition or certain medications and treatments, making them more vulnerable to severe illness if they contract the virus.

The county doesn’t have numbers yet on how many people in the Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, have gotten a booster shot.

“FCHD is waiting on additional data to become available from VDH to determine the number of Fairfax Health District residents who have received an additional dose,” Caldwell said.

A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee voted on Friday (Sept. 17) to recommend approval of booster shots for individuals who are 65 and older, people at risk of severe illness if they’re infected, and people whose jobs put them at high risk of exposure, including healthcare workers and teachers.

However, the committee voted decidedly against recommending a booster shot for everyone 16 and older as proposed by President Joe Biden’s administration, citing a need to see more safety data, particularly on heart inflammation issues that have been reported in some younger people after getting the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

The CDC’s independent advisory committee is scheduled to discuss whether to recommend authorizing booster shots when it meets tomorrow (Wednesday). Virginia and Fairfax County officials have said they’re working with pharmacies, hospitals, and other partners to plan for the possibility of expanding the availability of third vaccine doses.

Bringing back the Tysons CVC and other mass vaccination sites is one of many options currently under consideration, the Virginia Department of Health says.

“The FDA and CDC need to make their decisions before VDH can finalize its plans,” VDH spokesperson Cindy Clayton said by email. “We have been planning for several scenarios and will be able to share more information when we know more.”

Virginia opened the Tysons CVC on April 20 in conjunction with Fairfax County opening up COVID-19 vaccinations to all adults for the first time. Enabling the county to eliminate its registration waitlist, the site had the capacity to vaccinate 3,000 people per day.

The center closed on June 26 as state and local officials shifted their attention to smaller, more mobile clinics intended to target specific pockets of people who were still unvaccinated due to hesitancy or access issues.

During the Tysons mass vaccine site’s one month of operations, VDH administered 27,212 first doses and 50,956 doses overall, according to the department’s data team.

Because the COVID-19 vaccines are more widely available now from a variety of providers, including pharmacies and private health practices, Fairfax County doesn’t anticipate encountering the supply constraints for booster shots that hampered its initial vaccine rollout.

“Given that there will be ample vaccine this time around to meet demand, we are confident that people will have access, and then, through our outreach efforts, we will make sure that our equity clinics continue,” Addo-Ayensu said at today’s Board of Supervisors committee meeting.

Even as the discussion around booster shots heats up, many county residents have yet to get their first vaccine dose.

Almost 400,000 people in Fairfax County remain unvaccinated, including about 195,000 children under the age of 12, who remain ineligible, Addo-Ayensu told the board.

According to the FCHD dashboard, 811,922 Fairfax Health District residents — 68.6% of the total population — have received at least one vaccine dose, including 81.1% of adults 18 and older. 737,467 residents — 74% of adults and 62.3% of the overall population — are considered fully vaccinated.

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Nicole Liberatore has come a long way from handing cannoli to customers in a parking lot.

Less than two years after they started selling traditional Italian baked goods out of their Annandale home, Liberatore and her husband Dominick have turned their Bisnonna Bakeshop into a brick-and-mortar store at Tysons Corner Center, which welcomed its new arrival on Saturday (Sept. 18) with much fanfare.

“This has definitely been a real Cinderella story for us,” Liberatore told Tysons Reporter while piping creamy ricotta cheese filling into tubes of fried pastry dough.

The fairy godmother came in the form of Tysons Corner Center’s first-ever DreamStart competition, a “Shark Tank”-style contest where entrepreneurs pitched a product, service, or business concept for the opportunity to get three months of free rent at the mall, among other prizes.

Tysons Corner Center launched the competition in May with the dual goal of supporting local businesses and attracting new tenants to fill its vacant spaces, including the corner spot across from Barnes & Noble that Bisnonna has taken over from the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant.

While the 53-year-old shopping center has been insulated from some of COVID-19’s effects, the past year has still required a whirlwind of adjustments, as the pandemic accelerated some trends, like the shift to online shopping, that were already challenging traditional retailers and the malls that relied on them.

“Everybody’s been affected in different ways, so it’s all about being nimble and making sure we’re able to adapt not just to the pandemic, but all the things that change in the retail industry,” Tysons Corner Center Senior Manager of Business Development Services Becca Willcox said.

After the competition’s 21 applicants were whittled down to nine finalists, Bisnonna was named the grand prize winner on Aug. 11. The runners-up were fashion boutique Garçon Melanie, which opened on Aug. 28, and The Popcorn Bag DC, which is still in the works.

Willcox says the winners stood out as much for the narratives that their owners told as the products they sell. The property team from Macerich, which owns Tysons Corner Center, was especially drawn to Liberatore’s story of starting Bisnonna with recipes passed down from her and her husband’s grandparents.

“The family roots that they have…the way they take a traditional Italian pastry and infuse the cultures that are prominent here in the Northern Virginia area really stood out to us,” Willcox said. “It made us see that there was a big hole in what we offered here in Tysons and an opportunity to be able to really connect with the community through delicious food and product.”

Though she grew up in Maryland, Liberatore’s family comes from New Jersey. She met Dominick, a Jersey Shore native, while attending George Mason University and began learning to bake biscotti, pizzelle, and other traditional Italian desserts from his grandmother, a first-generation Italian American.

Bisnonna Bakeshop, Tysons Corner Center’s newest tenant, specializes in hand-crafted cannoli (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Since they had no formal chef training, Liberatore says it took years for the couple to get to the point where they could turn their hobby into a full-fledged business. But once Bisnonna started in the fall of 2018, it amassed a loyal following, as evidenced by the steady line of customers who cleaned out the bakery within four hours of its 10 a.m. opening on Saturday.

Bisnonna’s pastries are all hand-crafted, including its signature cannoli, so going from a home-based business that required pre-orders to a physical storefront brought both complications and rewards.

“We wanted to give people that quintessential Italian pastry shop experience, where they can come in, see a big, beautiful display case full of stuff,” Liberatore said. “…We weren’t able to do that before in the house, because we were making everything to order for each specific customer. So, now being able to provide people with more options is really exciting, but definitely a steep learning curve for us.”

Liberatore says it has been “super helpful” to work with Tysons Corner Center, which organized the grand opening event and provided marketing support in addition to the three months of free rent.

Greeted by a panel adorned with Liberatore’s family photos and a poster bearing a fitting quote from “The Godfather,” patrons could sit down at cafe-style tables to eat or get their first bite of a cannoli captured for social media via a “Crunch Cam.”

While she’d hoped the pandemic would have subsided by the time the shop opened, Liberatore credited Bisnonna’s customers for keeping the business afloat over the past year, and she was excited to interact with them more after being previously limited to those parking lot hand-offs.

“We are really excited about that, kind of the face-to-face that we’ve been missing,” she said. “Our customers have been so supportive of the journey…and we’re just really thrilled to be able to see them in person.”

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Morning Notes

County Library Launches Book Selection Service — “Beginning today, all of our branches are offering a new service called Library to Go. Not sure what to read? Simply fill out an online form and our librarians will fill a bag for you to pick up! It’s a great way to discover new-to-you titles.” [Fairfax County Public Library/Facebook]

Vienna to Honor Local Volunteers Today — “Volunteers who have made a difference in Vienna over the last two years will be recognized at the Mayor’s Volunteer Reception on Tuesday. The public is invited to attend the event hosted by Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert and former Mayor Laurie DiRocco at 6:30 p.m. on the Town Green. The location was moved from the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department to the Town Green due to a recent increase in delta variant COVID-19 cases in Fairfax County.” [Patch]

Afghan Resettlement Efforts Face Challenges — “Finding housing and hiring teachers are among the challenges facing resettlement agencies and school administrators in Northern Virginia who are preparing to accommodate many of the over 1,100 Afghan refugees expected to be resettled in the state.” [Inside NoVA]

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Morning Notes

(Updated at 9:55 a.m.) Former Container Store Gets New Name — The former Container Store at 8508 Leesburg Pike has been dubbed The PARC (People, Art, Recreation, and Community) as Fairfax County, the Tysons Partnership, and Celebrate Fairfax Inc. turn the vacant site into a community events venue. Determined by a social media poll, the name was announced on Friday (Sept. 17) at Celebrate Fairfax’s Tysons Block Party. [Celebrate Fairfax/Twitter]

County to Use Mobile COVID-19 Testing Lab — “The Fairfax County Health Department is deploying its mobile laboratory to provide COVID-19 testing in several locations starting Tuesday, Sept. 21. These mobile testing opportunities are for individuals who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or who may have been exposed to COVID-19.” [FCHD]

Tysons Corner Nordstrom Robbed — A man entered the Nordstrom in Tysons Corner Center (8075 Tyson Corner Center) at 5:22 p.m. on Sept. 11 and took merchandise while assaulting an employee. Three days later, the store was robbed again at 11:17 a.m. by a man who took merchandise and implied he had a weapon as he exited the store. No injuries were reported in either incident. [FCPD]

See New Scotts Run Fire StationFairfax County leaders celebrated the opening of the new Scotts Run Fire Station 44 at 1766 Old Meadow Lane with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday (Sept. 18). Community members can get a glimpse inside the station, which became operational on Aug. 14, with a virtual tour led by Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department Lt. Payne. [FCFRD/YouTube]

Police Officers Recognized at Cultural Festival — “Yesterday, our officers participated in the Korean American Festival, KORUS, at Tysons Corner Center. Several of our Korean American officers were recognized for their contributions to our community.” [FCPD/Twitter]

School Boundary Policy Meeting Tonight — Consultants hired by Fairfax County Public Schools will share information about their review of the district’s boundary policy at a virtual public meeting at 7 p.m. today (Monday). Requested by the school board in 2019, the review focuses on what factors should be considered when making boundary changes, rather than the boundaries for specific schools. Register online to get the meeting link. [Dranesville District School Board Member Elaine Tholen]

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The weekend is almost here. Before you let loose for today’s Tysons Block Party or head to bed for some much-needed sleep, let’s revisit recent news from the Tysons area that you might’ve missed.

These were the most-read stories on Tysons Reporter this week:

  1. State police identify victims of I-66 crash in Merrifield as a mother and two children
  2. Three people killed in crash, shutting down I-66 East in Merrifield
  3. Capital One Center cranes will start coming down as construction shifts to new phase
  4. Korean fried chicken eatery Bonchon lands space for first Tysons restaurant
  5. Vienna approves cottage housing development on Courthouse Road

Ideas for stories we should cover can be sent to [email protected] or submitted as an anonymous tip. Photos of scenes from around the community are welcome too, with credit always given to the photographer.

You can find previous rundowns of top stories on the site.

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On the heels of its Scotts Run opening, Archer Hotel is now taking aim at another site in the Tysons area.

This time, instead of building a new building from scratch, hotel management company LodgeWorks Partners plans to renovate and convert the existing Hyatt House property in Merrifield into an Archer Hotel, adding an eighth location to its proprietary, boutique brand.

While Archer Hotels comprise the bulk of its portfolio, LodgeWorks also owns and operates hotels from larger, national companies, including four Hyatt Houses, which were designed for extended stays.

Located at 8296 Glass Alley, the seven-story, 148-room Merrifield Hyatt House has been at the Mosaic District since the mixed-use development opened on the old Multiplex Cinemas site by Route 29 in 2012.

With the renovation, the site will become Archer Hotel Falls Church. It is LodgeWorks’ first conversion, according to President Mike Daood.

“We developed this hotel back in 2012 as an upscale, independent lifestyle hotel — and it’s incredibly exciting to return to those roots,” Daood told Tysons Reporter by email. “…It’s an irreplaceable asset in one of the area’s most innovative retail and entertainment districts and a tremendous fit for Archer.”

According to Archer Hotel’s website, the conversion process will begin on Dec. 15 with remodeling work starting in January 2022. The hotel will remain open during its renovation.

“With thoughtful planning, we’ll work to ensure that our guests are comfortable with minimal disruption during the transition,” Archer Hotel says.

Like Archer Hotel Tysons, which opened near the McLean Metro station on Tuesday (Sept. 14), the Merrifield location will offer four different room designs. Amenities will include an AKB hotel bar with food and beverages, daily turndown treats for guests, and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Daood says Archer’s two D.C.-area hotels “will tout Virginia-centric design and stories,” but every site in the brand is unique.

“Each will be special in its own right,” he said.

Archer Hotel’s expansion comes amid continued struggles for the hospitality industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association projected in August that the industry will finish 2021 with a $59 billion decline in revenue from business travel compared to 2019, exceeding the nearly $49 billion lost in 2020.

According to the analysis, which was conducted by Kalibri Labs, the D.C. region’s market will collect $2.7 billion less from business travel this year than it did in 2019 — an 86.5% dip. The only market expected to see a bigger difference is New York City, which has an anticipated revenue gap of $4 billion.

Local hotel managers and workers started to see some signs of life early this summer, but occupancy rates were still around 50%, noticeably down from pre-pandemic times. A study commissioned by Tysons Partnership predicted the area’s hotels might not recover until 2025, and that was before the Delta variant clouded the future once again.

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Morning Notes

Early Voting Starts Today — Voters can now cast their ballots for the Nov. 2 general election by mail or by visiting the Fairfax County, North County, and Mount Vernon government centers. Virginia has three statewide offices and all 100 House of Delegates seats up for election, and Fairfax County voters also face a school bond question. [Fairfax County Government]

Parents of Sexual Abuse Victim Object to Plea Deal — The family of a girl who was sexually abused by a relative wants a Fairfax County Circuit Court judge to reject a plea deal today (Friday), arguing that the 17-year maximum prison sentence is insufficient. They feel Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano has prioritized defendants over victims, a criticism increasingly leveled against progressive prosecutors across the U.S. elected on promises of reducing mass incarceration and addressing historical inequities in the justice system. [The Washington Post]

Virginia Adds QR Codes to COVID-19 Vaccine Records — “As requests for proof of COVID-19 vaccination by businesses and employers increases, the Virginia Department of Health has announced that QR (quick response) codes are now available. Virginia is now the fifth U.S. state to adopt the SMART Health format for QR codes.” [Fairfax County Health Department]

Vienna Unveils Annual Holiday Ornament — “The town of Vienna later this year will begin selling a 2021 holiday ornament, which depicts the ‘Taking Flight’ bronze statue situated in front of the Vienna Community Center. Vienna Town Council members on Sept. 13 unanimously approved the sale of the ornaments, which will be available at the community center, Town Hall and at the upcoming Oktoberfest celebration.” [Sun Gazette]

Tysons 5K Run Raises Money to Feed Community — “Tysons Partnership is proud to have sponsored the @foodforothers Tysons 5K and Fun Run. Sunday’s Fun Run raised over $91,000 for community members facing food insecurity. Thank you to everyone for your support and participation in this year’s race!” [Tysons Partnership/Twitter]

Merrifield Church to Celebrate 151st Anniversary — “The First Baptist Church of Merrifield will kick off their 151st Homecoming Anniversary Weekend on Saturday, September 18 and Homecoming Sunday Service on Sunday, September 19. Immediately following the worship service we will have a soft opening Ribbon Cutting ceremony followed by Lunch on the Grounds.” [Greater Merrifield Business Association]

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The KORUS Festival will return to Tysons Corner Center this weekend (courtesy KORUS)

After taking last year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the KORUS Festival will return to Tysons Corner Center this weekend with an expanded scope that is expected to include acknowledgements of local first responders and the nationwide rise in hate crimes, particularly those against Asian people.

Now in its 18th year, the KORUS Festival is put on annually by the Korean American Association of Greater Washington (KAGW) as a celebration of the local Korean American community. Organizers say it’s the largest cultural festival by a single ethnic group in the D.C. region.

This year’s festival will be held in the Bloomingdale’s parking lot at 8100 Tysons Corner Center from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday (Sept. 18) and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday (Sept. 19). A Maryland version of the event is scheduled for Sept. 25-26 at Westfield Montgomery Mall.

The free festival will feature food and retail vendors, games, a beer garden, a kids’ zone, and live performances, including taekwondo demonstrations and musicians ranging in genre from K-pop to Caribbean jazz.

Anna Ko, the festival’s stage and performances director, says COVID-19 health protocols will include temperature checks and a mask requirement for people who aren’t fully vaccinated.

“We are providing hand sanitizers, masks, first aid stations as well as a mandatory temperature check for all attendees,” Ko said. “The safety and the health of the public will be of top priority. If you are not vaccinated, please wear masks at all time.”

While KAGW remains the main organizer, the association decided to broaden the festival’s focus this year by partnering with community nonprofits, including Celebrate Fairfax and the Asian American Chamber of Commerce.

Ko says the event will also serve as a platform to show appreciation for first responders involved in Fairfax County’s pandemic response and to raise awareness about the need to combat anti-Asian hate crimes.

“KORUS is the ONLY event at this capacity by an ethnic group, Korean Americans,” KAGW President Steve Lee wrote in an email. “We have opened the door to ALL diversity to get to know each other and others better to fight against Asian hate and any hate issues.”

According to Ko, county officials plan to award COVID-19 first responder teams on stage when they’re scheduled to appear at 5 p.m. on Saturday. State legislators will be present as well.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay has been invited to present the recognition, according to Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik, whose district includes Tysons.

The KORUS Festival’s prominence reflects the increased visibility of the D.C. region’s Asian American communities, which have grown over the past couple of decades.

Released in August, demographic data from the 2020 Census showed that Asian residents now make up 20.3% of Fairfax County’s total population — up from 17.4% in 2010 and 13.1% in 2000 — contributing to the county’s new status as a majority-minority county.

However, the county has not been immune from the uptick in discrimination against Asians that has been seen across the U.S. during the pandemic, as illustrated in March when a student reported being harassed with anti-Asian slurs at Longfellow Middle School in McLean.

Bias crime and incident reports have increased in each of the past three years, according to the Fairfax County Police Department. The clear majority of cases have involved anti-Black discrimination, but the number of anti-Asian incidents went from six in 2019 to nine in 2020.

According to FBI data released on Aug. 30, the U.S. hit a 12-year high in the number of reported hate crimes in 2020, driven in particular by increased attacks against Black and Asian individuals.

“Hate crime is an issue in many places of our United States,” Ko said by email. “We are trying to change it in our area through this multi-cultural event, so we all can be united as one America and better America.”

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Morning Notes

Health Department Tweaks Approach to Quarantined Students — Starting today (Thursday), students who have been exposed to COVID-19 can complete wellness checks and get guidance from the Fairfax County Health Department online instead of having to wait for a phone call. The change is part of an ongoing effort to speed up the contact-tracing and quarantining processes so students can return to school buildings. [FCHD]

Local Arts Groups See Bright Spots Amid Upheaval — “Fairfax County’s art scene is under-funded, under-capacity and still weathering the pandemic, but several upcoming projects will bring it closer to its potential, the president of ArtsFairfax said. The county’s prospects are changing more quickly than at any other point in her 12 years with the organization, Linda Sullivan told the Greater Tysons Citizens Coalition during a Sept. 9 roundtable.” [Sun Gazette]

Vienna Schedules Meeting on Economic Strategy — The Town of Vienna will hold a public meeting from 6-7:30 p.m. on Sept. 30 for residents to discuss a draft economic development report that looks at how the town could more effectively attract and support businesses. The town hired a consultant in January to conduct a market study and propose an economic development strategy that were released in June. [Patch]

Italian Bakery Sets Tysons Corner Grand Opening — “Handcrafted Italian pastry is coming to Tysons Corner Center! Celebrate the Grand Opening of DreamStart Winner Bisnonna Bakeshop on Saturday, 09/18 with family-friendly activities starting at 10am” [Tysons Corner Center/Twitter]

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Bonchon, which specializes in Korean double-fried chicken, plans to open its first Tysons restaurant in May 2022 (courtesy Bonchon)

Given Bonchon’s overall ubiquity, it might surprise some residents to learn that the Korean fried chicken purveyor has yet to make an entry into the Tysons area.

That will change next year, when Bonchon opens its first Tysons location at 8603 Westwood Center Drive near Route 7 and the Spring Hill Metro station.

The restaurant chain announced today (Wednesday) that it recently executed a lease for Suite 100 in the Westwood office and retail complex, which counts Paisano’s Pizza and the Indian restaurant Bombay Tandoor among its current tenants.

Bonchon anticipates opening its new 2,600 square-foot restaurant in May 2022.

“Bonchon has been wildly popular across the state of Virginia but in particular in the DMV area,” Bonchon CEO Flynn Dekker said in a press release. “With each new Virginia location, we are reminded just how much the taste of our ‘hometown’ has been welcomed into the hearts and homes of so many.”

With a name that translates to “my hometown” in Korean, Bonchon was founded in South Korea in 2002 and expanded into the U.S. in 2006. It now boasts more than 370 restaurants worldwide and over 100 American sites, more than 20 of them in Virginia.

Right now, however, the eatery closest to the Tysons area is off of Old Lee Highway just outside the City of Fairfax. Korean fried chicken fans have also been able to get their fill from rival chain Chi Mc, which opened a location in the Town of Vienna in June 2020.

Other Bonchon locations in Fairfax County include Reston, Herndon, Centreville, Annandale, and Springfield. There are also sites in Arlington and the City of Alexandria.

The company says it plans to open two dozen new locations in 2022.

The Tysons Bonchon will take over the space most recently occupied by I-Thai’s Side Street and Sushi Bar, which has been reported closed on Yelp.

The Thai restaurant’s website remains up, but the phone number is no longer in service, and Tysons Reporter didn’t immediately receive a response from the listed email address.

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