Newsletter

After 15 years of treading water, the mixed-use development promised to residents of the MetroWest community south of the Vienna Metro station is finally inching closer to becoming a reality.

When it meets on Dec. 8, the Fairfax County Planning Commission is poised to approve revised plans that will enable developer Pulte Homes to construct 480 residential units across five buildings with a resident-only swimming pool, a public courtyard, and 35,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial uses, including retail and a daycare center.

“The overwhelming comment that I’ve heard in a lot of deliberations with the community is, ‘When are you going to be done?'” DLA Piper partner Antonio Calabrese, who represents Pulte, said at a public hearing on Nov. 3. “…We want to see the retail, we want to see the restaurants, we want to see the daycare, swimming pool, the amenities, the courtyard, and other things. So, we’re trying to achieve that objective.”

A rendering of the pool and courtyard that developer Pulte Homes has proposed for MetroWest (via Pulte Homes/Fairfax County)

The planned development will expand on the 500 townhouses and condominiums that Pulte has already built at MetroWest, which occupies 56 acres bounded by Saintsbury and Vaden drives to the north and west and Route 29 to the south.

Pulte has also built 206 units for residents 55 and older in The Atrium at MetroWest, and the developer Silverstone Senior Living added another 154 units with the opening of The Providence, an assisted living facility, in March.

Approved by Fairfax County back in 2006, the existing plans for MetroWest call for 2,248 attached residential units, 300,000 square feet of office, and 190,000 square feet of non-office commercial space.

However, the office buildings and 135,000 square feet of commercial space have yet to materialize, stalled by economic uncertainties and disputes between Pulte and fellow developer CRC Companies, which will construct the four buildings on the site closest to the Vienna Metro station.

As a result, the only dining option currently available to residents within walking distance is a takeout food service that The Providence opened to the public in October.

Though he didn’t elaborate on the conflict, Calabrese said last month that the developers were having “productive discussions” to resolve their issues before the planning commission votes on Pulte’s proffer amendments, which he argued will help advance both Pulte and CRC’s parts of the project.

“To be frank, there are a lot of factors that have held these properties hostage,” Calabrese said, citing the challenges facing the office market as one issue. “I think we now have before us a solution.” Read More

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Morning Notes

Warmer Winter Expected — “According to the National Weather Service (NWS), we will see above normal temps this winter w/ an equal chance of above, near, or below normal precipitation. We urge you to be prepared for #WinterWeater to keep you and your family safe!” [Ready Fairfax/Twitter]

Pandemic Prompts Change at Fairfax County Meals on Wheels — “Roycraft said that he, along with about 480 volunteers, used to deliver meals to elderly people in Fairfax County about three times a week. When the pandemic struck, this changed…But then, even as pandemic restrictions eased up, the county decided not to return to a volunteer-based delivery system.” [Fairfax Times]

McLean Student Bakes Way onto Food Network — “What started as a pandemic hobby has evolved into a small business for Finley, who estimates she has completed 20 orders to date, including cakes, cupcakes and cookies. Her skill caught the attention of the Food Network, which offered her the chance to compete in its Kids Baking Championship, premiering Dec. 27.” [WTOP]

Why Johnny Depp Sued Amber Heard in Fairfax County — “Despite the subtle language, the tenuous connection to Virginia, and the previous loss in court on a stronger claim, Depp sued Heard in Fairfax County — and has won four motions to dismiss in three years. On October 13, 2021, a Fairfax County judge ruled that because the processors and ink cartridges that delivered the words to the public were located in Virginia, Depp could sue Heard for libel in the state.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Local Church Collects Food Donations With Drive-Thru Nativity — For a second year in a row, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in McLean will hold a drive-thru Nativity event next week that will double as a food drive to support the nonprofit SHARE of McLean. Last year’s event drew over 1,000 cars and brought in enough donations to last the food bank two months. [Patch]

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After more than a decade on Church Street, Caffè Amouri has some competition in the Town of Vienna’s independent coffeehouse scene.

As shared by Vienna Business Association Executive Director Peggy James on the Vienna VA Foodies Facebook page, newcomer 29th Parallel Coffee opened its doors just down the road in Windover Square (106 Lawyers Road), the shopping center occupied by Plaka Grill and Papa John’s Pizza, on Nov. 21.

While they share a similar neighborhood-centered mindset, 29th Parallel differs in focusing on pour-over or hand-drip coffee and bringing in a variety of roasters, while Caffè Amouri roasts its own beans.

Co-owner Amir Khalil describes the shop as “counterculture” to chains like Starbucks, catering more to coffee connoisseurs who might prize craft over convenience.

“Everything is to-go, very fast. We take our time [with an] artisan kind of coffee,” Khalil told Tysons Reporter last week. “You come in, you order, and it takes a couple of minutes, but if you don’t have that [time], we have a different way to please that client.”

29th Parallel also has a coffee shop in Fairfax Station Square on Ox Road that opened in 2017.

The name comes from the 29th parallel south circle of latitude, which passes through countries like Brazil, Australia, and South Africa with strong coffee cultures. It also coincidentally nods to the business’ original Fairfax location on Route 29, according to Northern Virginia Magazine.

Like the rest of the food service industry, 29th Parallel has grappled with its fair share of challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, surviving by pivoting to online ordering and reducing its operating hours to manage labor costs.

However, the team also saw an opportunity to expand. Drawn to Vienna’s small-town atmosphere, they landed a space previously filled by Oreck Vacuum.

“I think this is a great fit for the community here,” Khalil said.

Like its Fairfax Station counterpart, the Vienna 29th Parallel gets beans from a couple of primary roasters — in this case, Delaware-based Brandywine Coffee Roasters and Black & White Coffee Roasters from North Carolina, with Annapolis-based Ceremony Coffee Roasters as another mainstay.

Starting next year, the shop will also rotate through different guest roasters, including Corvus Coffee Roasters and, potentially, Norway’s Tim Wendelboe, who Khalil describes as “a rock star of coffee.”

In choosing its distributors and vendors, 29th Parallel emphasizes community-based, independent businesses as much as possible, even bringing in milk from Amish farmers in Pennsylvania.

“It’s just how the economy and money stays within the community,” Khalil said. “…Locals coming to support local coffee shops, and we support local distributors and all those things. It’s all connected.”

Currently in soft-opening mode, 29th Parallel operates from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Khalil expects to have a grand opening sometime around Christmas or New Year’s Day, after which the shop will expand to regular 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. hours and offer a full menu of beverages and food, including sandwiches and pastries.

The gradual rollout stems in part from the global supply chain issues that have disrupted industries from grocery stores to automobile manufacturers. For 29th Parallel, those issues have affected product deliveries as well as the construction process. Replacing the building’s HVAC system, for instance, took two months, according to Khalil.

In the meantime, Khalil hopes community members in Vienna and the surrounding area will stop by to see what makes 29th Parallel different.

“People really loved it over there [in Fairfax], and I’m hoping that is the case here,” he said.

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Morning Notes

FCPS Settles Lawsuit Over Treatment of Students with Disabilities — “Three disability rights organizations…and the families of six students with disabilities had sued in 2019, alleging that students with disabilities in Fairfax schools experienced discrimination, trauma and physical harm through the excessive and improper use of seclusion and physical restraint. As part of the agreement reached Tuesday [Nov. 23], Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) will ban all seclusion practices and curtail its use of physical restraint by the next academic year.” [The Washington Post]

Black Friday Shoppers Return to Tysons Corner — Traffic and sales at Tysons Corner Center were roughly on par with 2019 for Black Friday, according to a senior marketing manager for the mall. She said the return of pre-pandemic crowds wasn’t surprising, since the shopping center has seen a steady increase in traffic over the past three weeks. [WTOP]

Fire and Rescue Department Offers Hanukkah Safety Tips — “Hanukkah starts this evening [Sunday] and runs through December 6. It is a joyous time, so please ensure you and your loved ones stay safe as the holiday season is the peak time of year for home candle fires. Get in S.T.E.P. (Safety Takes Every Person) With FCFRD This Holiday Season and candle with care!” [FCFRD]

McLean Rotary Club Recognizes Front-Line Service Workers — “Under the leadership of president John McEvilly, the Rotary Club of McLean has initiated a new program — ‘Dignity of Work’ Award. According to former McLean Rotary President Lynn Heinrichs, who chairs the initiative, the award ‘is designed to recognize and promote the great people working in the McLean community.'” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Retirement Puts Vienna Tree Assessments on Hold — “Due to staffing shortages stemming from a retirement, the Town is temporarily unable to conduct tree assessments on private property.  Tree assessments on private property are expected to resume in March 2022 after appropriate staffing levels have been restored.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

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Meerkats have taken over Tysons Galleria.

The 4-foot-tall, vividly colored replicas of the desert-dwelling critters started to emerge at the mall in mid-October before doubling their presence from 30 to 60 statues on Nov. 1.

The statues belong to a traveling art exhibit from the Italian collective Cracking Art, whose artists create work out of “recyclable” plastic to explore the relationship between the natural and artificial worlds, according to its website.

Tysons Galleria announced the exhibit’s arrival on Oct. 14, saying it hoped the “Meerkat Meetup” display would inspire “a sense of togetherness” and spark “conversation about caring for each other as well as the environment.”

“We wanted to bring this traveling art exhibit to Tysons Galleria as part of our continued effort to evolve our center as a premier spot for not only shopping but also lifestyle and entertainment,” the shopping center said in a statement. “We felt this was the perfect exhibit to present to our patrons because of what it represents — the meerkats standing tall in unison symbolize community and collaboration.”

Launched in 1993, Cracking Art describes itself as a movement of individual artists who share “a strong social and environmental commitment.”

With a dolphin as its first work, the collective uses animal sculptures to convey different meanings. Turtles, for example, represent perseverance and the connection between land and water, while snails’ regenerative abilities make them appropriate symbols of rebirth.

For “Meerkat Meetup,” the group was inspired by the animal’s reliance on teamwork and communication to survive in the deserts and grasslands of southern Africa that are their native habitat.

“The installation intent is to represent the importance of collaboration for dealing with and overcoming the events in our everyday life,” Cracking Art said. “In addition, by using vibrant and bright colours, we want to highlight the relevance of living with an open and positive approach.”

The meerkats will remain on display at Tysons Galleria from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. until the exhibit leaves for its next stop on Monday (Nov. 29).

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Morning Notes

Virginia Hospital Center Expands into Tysons — “The Arlington health system has purchased a building at 1760 Old Meadow Road where it’s setting up an orthopedic outpatient surgery center, according to VHC CEO Jim Cole. The hospital is now renovating a 14,900-square-foot area of existing building in a project expected to cost $6.4 million including construction and equipment…The facility is slated to open in mid-2022.” [Washington Business Journal]

County Releases FY 2023 Budget Forecast — Fairfax County anticipates a 5.7% revenue increase of approximately $279.6 million for fiscal year 2023, which starts July 1, 2022. However, the gains will be offset by continued declines in real estate values for office buildings and senior care facilities due to the pandemic. [Fairfax County Government]

County Police Focus on Recruitment and Violent Crimes — “While monitoring disturbing trends such as domestic homicides and increasingly violent vehicle thieves, Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis hopes to hire more officers and implement changes to modernize the police department. The county’s overall crime rate now is down by slightly more than 12%, or about 3,500 fewer victims compared with the previous year.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Town of Vienna Offices Closed Tomorrow — “Town offices and the Community Center will be closed Nov. 25 for Thanksgiving. There will be no trash collection on Nov. 25, crews will pick up along that route the next day. The Community Center will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 26, while Town offices will be closed.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Visit Fairfax Launches Holiday Gift Guide — “Ali Morris at Visit Fairfax, the county’s official tourism and hospitality promotion group, created the Fairfax County 2021 Holiday Gift Guide to showcase gift-worthy products created right here and the artisans behind the creations. You can shop by these categories: art and designs; body; chocolate; coffee; food; kids; pets; stocking stuffers; textiles; wine, beer and spirits.” [FCEDA]

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Home Depot in Merrifield (via Google Maps)

No criminal activity is suspected in the death of a forklift operator at the Home Depot in Merrifield, the Fairfax County Police Department says.

Police responded to the store at 2815 Merrilee Drive shortly after midnight today (Tuesday) after getting a call about a man trapped under a forklift.

According to the FCPD, detectives have determined that Paul Gato, 43, of Woodbridge was using the forklift to unload supplies from a delivery truck when the machine fell on its side, trapping him.

“The driver of the delivery truck heard the loud crash, noticed the deceased under the forklift and immediately summoned emergency medical services and police,” police said this afternoon in a news release.

The investigation remains active, and detectives are working with the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Program, which enforces work-related safety and health laws and regulations.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death, police say.

Results from the autopsy are not yet available, the medical examiner’s office told Tysons Reporter.

Photo via Google Maps

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Fairfax County’s plan to build more sidewalk on Chesterbrook Road was received warmly by the McLean residents who joined a virtual community meeting last Wednesday (Nov. 17).

The Chesterbrook Road Walkway project will add about 3,200 feet of concrete sidewalk with curb and gutter on the south side of the street — also known as Route 689 — from Maddux Lane to 41st Street on the Arlington County border.

The new sidewalk will extend a recently completed segment between Maddux and Kirby Road to create a continuous pedestrian facility on the narrow but heavily used road lined with single-family houses.

“In my exercising, I walk along this stretch of highway several times a week, and I’m well aware of the problems and the need for this sidewalk,” 35-year McLean resident Rich Cohen said.

Designed as a country road, Chesterbrook has evolved into a key route for commuters between McLean and Arlington. Plans to redevelop downtown McLean could further widen the gap between the needs of area residents and drivers.

The existing road design presents a number of obstacles, including the limited shoulder width, drainage issues, and utilities and landscaping that need to be relocated or cleared, Fairfax County Department of Transportation project manager Mark VanZandt noted.

While no major modifications are proposed, the roadway will need to be slightly widened in three spots to accommodate off-tracking vehicles. More pavement will be added, but the travel lanes will actually go from 12 feet wide to 11 feet, according to consultant Adam Welschenbach.

“This is to ensure that vehicles stay in their lane and do not drive over pedestrians,” he said.

Currently in the preliminary stages of the design process, the sidewalk itself will be 5 feet wide with a roughly half-foot buffer between the pavement and the curb.

The project will add eight ADA-compliant curb ramps, with crosswalks at Forest Lane and Brookside Road. Those locations were chosen because of their proximity to a lot of houses, Fairfax County engineer Masoud Hajatzadeh said.

FCDOT anticipates that the project will require temporary grading easements from 23 properties. The county also plans to modify and reconstruct 14 driveway entrances to accommodate the new sidewalk.

The Chesterbrook Road Walkway project will involve reconstructing several residential driveway entrances (via FCDOT)

Staff have not done a tree inventory yet, but VanZandt acknowledged that some clearing is inevitable, given the nature of the project, and the county won’t have the right-of-way needed to replant the trees.

“We do compensate homeowners for tree loss when the tree is on their property during land acquisition process,” VanZandt said. “I know the removal of a tree, it’s difficult to replace.” Read More

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Thanksgiving is still around the corner, but at Tysons Corner Center, it’s starting to feel a little like Christmas.

The mall kicked off its 2021 winter holiday season on Friday (Nov. 19) with a tree lighting ceremony that included live music and theater performances, complimentary s’mores and hot chocolate stations, and a pop-up market featuring some of its retailers.

Despite the chilly weather, the mood on the Plaza — where the tree lighting festivities took place — was relaxed, even cheery, as loud speakers blasted winter staples from Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

“Look at all the faces out here!” a man dressed as Santa Claus said when taking the stage just after 6:20 p.m. for the lighting of the approximately 50-foot-tall pine tree.

For Marvin Ramos and Catherine Romero, this was an opportunity to resume a cherished tradition after Tysons Corner canceled the tree lighting last year due to the pandemic, though the mall still hosted a few other holiday events.

Ramos has attended every year for as long as he can remember, thanks to his parents’ avid listening to the radio station 97.1 WASH FM, which partners with Tysons Corner Center on the event. Host Toby Knapp served as emcee for this year’s ceremony.

Now 25 years old, Ramos has carried on the tradition with Romero, braving Capital Beltway traffic annually to get to the mall from their home in Rockville, Maryland.

“Just seeing everybody here together, getting ready for the holiday season, seeing the joy in everybody, the music, all that stuff,” Ramos said when asked what makes the Tysons tree lighting special.

Though she quips that she comes “to support him,” Romero says she has enjoyed turning the tree lighting into a routine since Ramos introduced her to it. She especially likes the pop-up market, which included booths for Northern Virginia Orthodontics, Sheepskin Gifts and Alpaca Too, and other local businesses.

“It’s a good way to know what’s in the area and get to meet new shop and business owners…support small businesses, meanwhile celebrating the holidays,” she said. “It’s great. It’s fun.”

On the other end of the spectrum is Luda, a Fairfax resident who declined to give her last name.

Accompanied by her partner and their two children, she was attending the Tysons Corner tree lighting for the first time. She says they have been going out more as a family than they were at this time last year.

“I like to see [the] decoration and light,” Luda said. “I’m very much enjoying bringing my baby to events, free events like this, and to get together with people, to share the holidays, I love it.”

In addition to the tree lighting, Tysons Corner Center has been hosting photos with Santa since Nov. 12, and he will be around through Dec. 24. Reservations are recommended but not required.

The mall’s upcoming holiday events are similarly Santa-centric:

  • Breakfast with Santa — Dec. 4, 9-10 a.m., at the food court — Reservations are not required for this first-come, first-served complimentary catered breakfast with kid entertainment and other family-friendly activities.
  • Pet Nights with Santa — Dec. 6, 13, and 20, 6-8 p.m., at the Fashion Court on Level 1 — Santa poses with visitors’ pets in this returning event. Reservations encouraged.
  • Storytime with Santa — Dec. 11, 9-10 a.m., at the Fashion Court — Santa reads classic holiday stories for children. Reservations are not required.
  • Sensory Santa — Dec. 12, 9:30-10:30 a.m., at the Fashion Court — In a partnership with Cherry Hill photography and the nonprofit Autism Speaks, Tysons Corner Center will open exclusively to families who have children with special needs. Reservations are not required.
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Morning Notes

Last week’s lunar eclipse from Park Crest area of Tysons (photo by Luke Schwenke)

Man Dies in Forklift Accident in Merrifield — “Officers are on scene of a workplace accident at Home Depot, 2815 Merrilee Dr, Fairfax. Preliminarily, a man was fatally injured by a forklift he was operating & pronounced dead on scene.” [FCPD/Twitter]

Reduced Metro Service Sticks Around — “The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority said Monday that rail service will continue at reduced levels through December 31. In a news release, WMATA said there is a delay getting parts for 6000-series rail cars because of global supply chain challenges. The 7000-series rail cars are still offline due to safety issues.” [Patch]

County Adjusts COVID-19 Hospitalization Numbers — “During a recent review process, the Health Department identified approximately 200 reported COVID-19 cases, primarily from 2020, that were incorrectly marked as ‘hospitalized.’ While these patients were seen at emergency departments for COVID-19 illness, they were not admitted to the hospital.” [FCHD]

Fire Department to Engage Frontline Personnel With Upcoming Strategic Plan — “The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department is preparing for the future by bolstering recruitment, building community partnerships and enhancing service in Tysons, Fire Chief John Butler told the McLean Citizens Association (MCA) in an online discussion Nov. 17 with Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

The Boro Is Centerpiece of Transforming Tysons — “Change has indeed come to the north side of Leesburg Pike along Westpark and Greensboro drives in Tysons since the arrival of the Silver Line in 2014. Once dominated by office structures and the landmark West Park Hotel — which has been demolished and serves as a parking area while awaiting redevelopment — the area is quickly becoming a strong example of transit-oriented development.” [Viva Tysons]

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