Newsletter
Now-closed Container Store at 8508 Leesburg Pike (photo by Michelle Goldchain)

After this weekend, the former Container Store in Tysons will no longer be known as just “the former Container Store.”

The county-owned, 19,260-square-foot site with 95 parking spaces at 8508 Leesburg Pike is being transformed into a community hub and venue for local events through a collaborative effort between Fairfax County, Tysons Partnership, and Celebrate Fairfax Inc.

Tomorrow (Friday), Celebrate Fairfax and participating vendors will host another Tysons Block Party from 4 to 8 p.m., during which a new name will be announced for the venue. The name was chosen based on an online poll that Celebrate Fairfax conducted across its social media accounts.

“Activating this site is part of a multifaceted community building process in Tysons that recognizes the importance of placemaking,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said. “Having spaces like the one at 8508 Leesburg Pike in Tysons allows us to build social infrastructure, in addition to the built infrastructure that continues to grow.”

Singer Caz Gardiner is scheduled to perform at the event with a collections of vendors such as Settle Down Easy Brewing Co., Zainy’s Flyin’ Grill and Hangry Panda present.

In addition to a new name, the site will get a facelift in the near future with a mural by artist Rodrigo Pradel. Before work begins on the mural, however, Tysons Partnership is soliciting the community for input on the design with an online survey.

“The upcoming events in this space, including the Tysons Block Party and the mural live painting event, are just two of many opportunities for the Tysons community to share experiences, and make new connections, right here in Tysons,” Palchik said.

“This site can be a leader in facilitating in-person experiences, and a model for placemaking around our county,” she added.

After the Container Store relocated to 8459 Leesburg Pike in 2018, the county acquired the site in 2019 for $16.6 million with an eye toward utilizing it to support community innovation and entrepreneurship.

The county received a variety of proposals for the use of the site prior to the pandemic, including a suggestion from development officials to use it for community events.

However, during the pandemic, the building was adapted for emergency use. Over the past year, it has been used as a storage site for personal protective equipment, and it was designated as a hypothermia shelter from Dec. 1 through April 1.

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Bloomie’s is officially opening for business.

Bloomingdale’s smaller, more curated retail concept will welcome its first customers at noon today (Thursday) to kick off a three-day grand opening event in Merrifield’s Mosaic District. The 22,000 square-foot store is the first Bloomie’s to open in the country.

“We’re excited to introduce ‘Bloomie’s,’ our all-new store concept that brings the energy of Bloomingdale’s to a smaller style and service destination,” said Susan Cannaday, the general manager for Bloomingdale’s Tysons Corner location and the new Bloomie’s store.

Cannaday says Bloomie’s is “designed to create a sense of discovery,” with a curated, rotating assortment of merchandise that includes contemporary and luxury brands for clothing, cosmetics, shoes, handbags, jewelry, and other beauty items and accessories.

According to a press release, women’s apparel brands include Ganni, Staud, Maje, Rag & Bone, Cult Gaia, Jonathan Simkhai STANDARD, LoveShackFancy, Moussy, Mother, FRAME, RE/DONE, and AQUA. Meanwhile, the men’s apparel, shoes, and accessories sections include brands like Vince, Helmut Lang, Salomon, Barbour, and McQ.

To mark the store’s launch, Bloomingdale’s is also reintroducing a “Bloomie’s” brand. The first collection includes 35 special pieces from varsity jackets to combat boots to a special edition Zippo lighter. It will be available at Bloomie’s, Bloomingdale’s 59th Street flagship, and online.

“We were strategic in selecting the right categories and brands that reflect the local lifestyle, and offer services that meet our customers’ needs,” Cannaday said. “Whether you’re exploring the latest fashion and beauty trends, grabbing a bite at Colada Shop or working with a stylist, all of this can be done at Bloomie’s.”

Bloomie’s also features a new location for the D.C.-based Colada Shop, a restaurant that specializes in cocktails, coffee, and Cuban-inspired food.

Services offered at the store include a returns drop box, curbside pickup, and an option to pick up online purchases in-person. A customization desk provides personalization, monogramming, and alteration services.

“Bloomie’s is designed to be a more convenient and casual concept that fits into our customer’s everyday lifestyle,” Bloomingdale’s CEO Tony Spring said in the press release. “With our staff of stylists, omni services, lively restaurant, and elevated assortment, Bloomie’s can be their favorite neighborhood store.”

While today is the official opening, Bloomingdale’s started introducing its Bloomie’s concept to the Mosaic District neighborhood earlier this month with a pop-up at the Sunday FRESHFARM markets. Cannaday says they were “thrilled with the engagement we’ve seen from the local community.”

EDENS, the Mosaic District developer and property owner, says it is excited about the partnership with Bloomingdale’s to launch “a bold new concept.”

“Consumer preferences continue to evolve, but retail’s role in bringing people together remains fundamentally unchanged,” EDENS CEO Jodie McLean said in the press release. “Bloomie’s is designed to engage people and will serve more as a hub for experiences, with a focus on fashion.”

Bloomingdale’s existing presence in the Tysons area made the Mosaic District an appropriate place to introduce the Bloomie’s concept, according to Cannaday.

“We have two powerful existing Bloomingdale’s stores in the area with our Chevy Chase and Tysons Corner locations, so Bloomie’s enters a market where customers know our brand,” she said. “We chose this location within Mosaic District…because it provides an approachable and convenient location for the local communities.”

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A rendering of the interior of the upcoming Bloomie’s store in the Mosaic District (courtesy Bloomingdale’s)

Bloomingdale’s is set to open its first-ever Bloomie’s in Merrifield.

Bloomie’s — a smaller, curated fashion and beauty store concept — will open to the public tomorrow (Thursday) at 10 a.m. in the Mosaic District.

According to a media alert, the store will host a three-day block party to kick off its grand opening, which will continue through Saturday. The festivities will begin at noon and run through 6 p.m. each day.

The party will be open to the public and will feature life-size outdoor games, beauty demonstrations, complimentary customization services with a Bloomie’s purchase, and various family-friendly activities, including sketch artists and a balloon artist.

In addition, the adjoining Colada Shop will serve happy hour food and drink specials from 3 to 6 p.m. during the party. Visitors can also get a ticket for a complimentary gift at the new clothing store.

The grand opening events will be hosted in cooperation with SafeSpot Children’s Advocacy Center of Fairfax County, Inova Health Foundation, McLean Project for the Arts, and When We All Vote.

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Renovations for the first phase of improvements at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts have been completed.

The renovations include the introduction of permanent, roofed wooden pavilions that replace temporary tents that covered the park’s Ovations restaurant, Encore Circle Lounge, and associates and terrace decks. The old temporary vinyl tents had to be erected each spring and taken down in fall.

Each of the new structures were constructed out of Douglas fir and designed to match the Filene Center, a 7,000-seat outdoor amphitheater.

The finished renovations were revealed Thursday (July 29) during a ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, the nonprofit that partners with the National Park Service to provide concerts and other programming at the park.

“This day has been five years in the making,” Wolf Trap Foundation President and CEO Arvind Manocha said. “Five years ago, we convened a group of leadership of the foundation and our partners at the National Park Service to consider this park’s needs and reflect carefully on how to bring Wolf Trap into the next half century as a national beacon for the performing arts.”

Each of the renovated pavilions retained the open-air concepts that distinguish Wolf Trap, and they are intended to enhance the park experience for the performance season and encourage a greater year-round use of the park than what was possible with the tents.

Additional announced enhancements include a replacement of the Filene Center’s over 20-year-old audio systems and the renovation of the backstage artist areas.

Funded with money that the foundation raised from private donors, the renovation project coincides with Wolf Trap’s 50th anniversary, which it celebrated on July 1.

“These projects were funded by members of our board, led by a group of visionary donors who stepped forward to ensure that we could move quickly and decisively,” Manocha said.

The renovations fall in conjunction with upgrades being performed by the National Park Service. Those upgrades include security upgrades, the installation of new fencing, and electrical infrastructure improvements.

The park service is also looking at some more substantial updates, such as a new pedestrian tunnel, as part of a proposed amendment to Wolf Trap’s master plan. The NPS detailed its plans in a virtual meeting on May 25 and closed a public comment period for a required environmental assessment on June 25.

Wolf Trap National Park Acting Superintendent Ken Bigley says finished and planned upgrades illustrate the National Park Service and Wolf Trap Foundation’s shared commitment to ensuring that visitors “have a memorable, amazing experience” at the park.

“We are in this business for the long term,” Bigley said. “We wanted to build advocacy for a love of the performing arts, for a love of the importance of live music and dance, a love of public lands.”

Dan D’Aniello, who chairs the Wolf Trap Foundation board of directors, closed out the ribbon-cutting event by challenging everyone in attendance to continue to “embrace what needs to be done to ensure that this asset remains viable and dear to not only us, but all people.”

“We are deeply, deeply proud of our friendship and partnership with the National Park Service, both from cultural perspective in artistic programming and from a financial perspective in our role as philanthropic partner,” D’Aniello said. “We are and we will continue making good on our promises to advance the potential of Wolf Trap.”

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The redevelopment of the former Macy’s box store at Tysons Galleria is almost ready for the public, paving the way for the addition of a movie theater, a bowling alley, and other retailers.

Brookfield Properties, which owns the mall, is in the process of breaking up the 260,000 square-foot space that housed the former 30-year old department store into smaller spaces for approximately 10 retailers.

“What the inspiration here was, we wanted people to feel comfortable spending time and sitting, not just shopping,” John Cournoyer, executive vice president of construction, design and development for Brookfield Properties, said on Wednesday (July 28). “So, we wanted…people being able to dwell, do other things, meet people, extend the day.”

Work continues on the exterior façade of a Crate and Barrel that will occupy one of the retail locations, but it is expected that construction will be completed by the end of the year. The spaces are fully leased and will open in a rolling capacity over the next six months.

“Each retailer will have its own timing and ability to open and move quickly throughout the project,” said Chris Pine, executive vice president of anchors, big box leasing and development for Brookfield.

Brookfield had considered opening the whole space at the same time but decided a more gradual approach would work better.

“You could in one strategy wait until everybody is done and turn the switch on and everybody opens up,” Pine said. “But we like the idea of just rolling through it and then, month after month, there’s a new retailer, something new happening, adding to the overall excitement and enthusiasm for the project.”

As part of the redevelopment, Arhaus opened a new showroom for its artisan furniture and home decor today (Friday). The store was previously located on the other side of Route 123 at Tysons Corner Center, according to a press release.

Other new tenants include the interior design store RH, a CMX CinéBistro theater that will occupy the top of the three-level space, and a Bowlero on the bottom floor.

The expected completion date for the overall project is the end of March or early April 2022 as tenants build out their individual spaces after the stores are enclosed.

In addition to the retail space, there is a central area between retailers designed for people “to rest and relax” with a bevy of amenities, such as plug-ins “for people that want to charge their phone or work on their laptop,” according to Mark DeCapri, senior vice president of planning and design for Brookfield.

DeCapri added that the design plans are meant to provide “something unique” with varied lighting, different types of spaces, and unique elements like a moss feature on the center area’s ceiling. At the end of the wing, glass allows natural light in at the future Crate and Barrel site.

In the works since Macy’s closed in January 2019, the project will also give the mall a new outdoor plaza with seating and landscaping, including a live green wall. The streetscape is intended to blend in with the existing mall and enhance customer convenience.

“I think when you go out to the original mall, the spaces are of vast scale and they feel very good. They’re sun-lit, and it’s a different feeling than you get here,” DeCapri said.

“So, this wing was looked at as another place for people to really come if they wanted a more intimate space to sit. You can sit out in the mall and it’s a fine experience, but if you’re trying to move a little way more to a living room setting, this is really a unique instance of having that available to the public.”

In terms of sustainability, Brookfield recycled 7,860 tons of material — 88% of the materials used in the construction of the redevelopment.

“One of the things that we evaluated very early on was saving this building. It would have been easier to tear it down, but we decided that we didn’t want to have all those materials end up in a landfill,” DeCapri said. “…Both those things were very important to us.”

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via Fairfax County

The Countywide Strategic Plan meant to establish a community-driven vision for Fairfax County for the next 10 to 20 years is edging closer to an expected adoption by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

The county hosted a community update and feedback session on Wednesday (July 21) to gather feedback about potential indicators for success among nine priority areas listed in the proposed 56-page strategic plan.

It was part of the fourth phase of engagement initiated by the county. Two rounds were held in 2019 before the process was paused in 2020 to evaluate COVID-19 impacts. Two additional phases were added for 2021, with the third survey phase wrapping up in April.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to take action in October, according to countywide strategic plan coordinator Aimee Brobst, who led the meeting.

While there are no outreach plans to solicit direct public comments on the final text before it is presented to the board, Brobst said community engagement will continue after the plan is adopted. At that point, the county’s approach will “likely shift” to a more targeted focus on each priority area in addition to seeking feedback on the plan as a whole.

“We definitely want to use the feedback that we’re collecting here for the purpose of informing the strategic plan,” Brobst said. “But as we look forward, beyond even when the plan is adopted by the Board of Supervisors, we want to make sure that this isn’t something that stops once the plan is adopted, and we are being very thoughtful and very intentional about hearing from as many people as possible as we move forward.”

The nine priority areas of the plan include:

A poll to gauge attendees’ preferred focus areas within those categories found particular interest in access to cultural and recreational opportunities; economic stability and mobility for all people; financial sustainability and trustworthiness; and access and utilization of services.

Other top indicators were air, water and land quality; housing affordability and quality; career-based training and early childhood education; accessibility, affordability and equity for mobility and transportation; and reliability and security of critical infrastructure.

County staff noted that the plan is meant to be flexible with the ability to adapt over time, serving as a template to help the board determine its priorities and understand what community members think is important.

Acknowledging the rather sparse attendance at the meeting, Brobst said that the shift to virtual meetings over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the county to rethink and expand the tools it uses to engage the public.

“In addition to everything we’re doing that we think makes sense — using every channel that we have available to us as the county — we are very open to adapting,” Brobst said. “…One of the things we definitely wanted to do as part of this process is not necessarily do things just the same way as they’ve always been done in terms of doing only in-person meetings or doing just surveys or long-form surveys.”

A form for general questions or feedback for the plan is available at the bottom of the strategic plan page on the county’s website.

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Solar panels (via Minoru Karamatsu/Flickr)

Fairfax County is continuing its efforts to transition to renewable energy with the installation of solar panels on county government and public school buildings, but it will now do so with a different vendor.

The county ended its contract with the company Sigora Solar yesterday (July 1), about 18 months ahead of schedule.

Sigora Solar is one of three vendors awarded contracts to install, manage, and maintain solar energy infrastructure for county government and school buildings in December 2019, when Fairfax County announced what it said was the largest solar power purchase agreement initiative by a Virginia locality to date.

The original contracts with Sigora, Sun Tribe Solar, and Ipsun Power were set to run through Dec. 31, 2022.

However, the county amended its contract with Sigora on June 10 to state that it would be “terminated for convenience” effective July 1. Sigora was designated as the primary contractor for roof-mounted solar panel projects.

Moving forward, the county will now work with Sun Tribe Solar, the secondary contractor for roof-mounted panels and the primary contractor for carport or canopy-mounted panels.

“Under the terms of the agreement, the county leases space on its buildings for the companies to install solar panels that those vendors will own, and the county buys the energy generated by the panels at a fixed price,” Brian Worthy, a public information officer with Fairfax County’s Office of Public Affairs, said.

“However, these companies have the right to decide whether or not to install panels at any buildings identified by the county,” Worthy said. “During the past year and a half, the county selected 30 buildings for solar panels, and we are eager to move forward with these projects.”

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has approved leasing necessary roof space at two batches of county-owned properties so far. The first round of eight sites came on Oct. 20, 2020, and another 22 sites were added on March 9.

The sites approved for solar panel installations in the Tysons area are:

  • McLean Government Center and Police Station (1437 Balls Hill Road, McLean)
  • Wolf Trap Fire Station #42 (1315 Beulah Road, Vienna)
  • McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Avenue, McLean)
  • Thomas Jefferson Library (7415 Arlington Blvd., Falls Church)
  • Providence Community Center (3001 Vaden Drive, Fairfax)
  • Merrifield Center and Kerrifield Center Garage (8221 Willow Oaks Corporate Drive, Fairfax)

Under the solar power purchase agreements, the installed solar panels will be owned, operated and maintained by the contracted vendors, rather than the county. The county will simply purchase electricity produced by these panels over time.

When the contracts were announced in 2019, the county estimated that the initiative could potentially yield over $60 million in electricity cost avoidance over the terms of the contracts. Additionally, it was projected that approximately 1.73 million megawatt hours of renewable energy could be generated at the county’s facilities.

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A long-standing chapter of the Aylor family’s history concluded this week with the groundbreaking of a new housing development in Falls Church.

With members of the family present, the homebuilding company Madison Homes broke ground yesterday (Monday) at 2530 Remington Street on a new private housing community, The Enclave at Aylors Overlook. The site will be developed into 16 new single-family homes over the next year and a half.

“We were delighted to be given the opportunity to purchase the property,” Madison Homes President Russell Rosenberger Jr. said. “Certainly, the ability to honor the Aylor family legacy, we knew that was important to Marvin and his family. Therefore it became important to us also, as we were planning the development of the property.”

Madison Homes purchased the property from the Aylor family, which had owned the five acres since 1957, when Lewis and Virginia Aylor bought it. The couple had moved to the property in 1951, and three generations of the family ultimately lived on it.

“For me, it is kind of sad to be here. I’ve realized life is all about change. For me, it’s my whole life here,” Marvin Aylor, the son of Lewis and Virginia and executor of Lewis’s estate, said. “For my parents — my father — to come down here to live, for me to grow up here and my son to grow up here, it’s a lot to lose, but it did well for us. It put us where we are today.”

Marvin shared that it was his father’s desire for family homes to eventually be built on the site. After deliberating over possible companies to sell the property to, the family chose Madison Homes because of the company’s history and work.

Founded in 1992 in McLean, Madison Homes focuses on in-fill development in the D.C. area. Its existing developments include Chesterbrook Manor in McLean, The Reserve at Tysons Corner apartments, and The Palladium at McLean, according to the company’s website.

“We wanted somebody that had some clout and had a good product,” Marvin said. “We were picky too in the sense that we could be. From what I saw of their work, I wanted my dad’s name to stand for something, and to be here and mean something. That’s part of why we chose [Madison Homes].”

The property is currently in the land development process, which should finish in October.

Rosenberger expects construction on the first houses to begin in September, with models being completed in early 2022. He anticipates the entire development will be completed within 12 to 18 months.

The homes will carry a price tag starting in the $1.7 million range, with sales beginning off site this fall, according to a Madison Homes spokesperson.

“The family quite truthfully did a lot of the hard work on the property,” Rosenberger said. “The family took it through the engineering process with the county. They did a great job. They had the right consultants, engineers and advisors involved in the process. So, we really didn’t have to make any significant changes as we got involved in the property.”

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A new private school for early childhood education could open as soon as this summer in Tysons.

Owners Kate and Brian Mulcahy held a groundbreaking ceremony for the Celebree School of Tysons-Jones Branch on Wednesday (March 31). It is the first Virginia location for Celebree School, a network of early childhood education centers.

The school is located on Valo Park’s 16-acre campus at 7950 Jones Branch Drive and will serve infants through pre-kindergarten children.

“Truly, the curriculum, the program we’re going to provide to these kids…it gives me chills,” Kate Mulcahy said. “We are going to give these children the best possible start to life while giving their parents incredible piece of mind and flexibility. We are just so excited to do that.”

Celebree aims to open the school this summer, and pre-enrollment has already begun.

Celebree School announced on April 21, 2020 that it had signed a franchise agreement with the Mulcahys to open a center in Fairfax or Arlington county. The couple signed a lease with Valo Park on Nov. 10 to open the center.

Leaders of organizations representing the Tysons area, including the Tysons Partnership and Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce, were among those in attendance at the groundbreaking ceremony.

“There is no greater opportunity right now than to serve your community through education and childcare, particularly early childhood education,” Tysons Partnership communications director Drew Sunderland said. “As my fellow parents know, the pandemic’s only amplified this need for quality schools. Childcare facilities has provided lifelines to families.”

Founded in 1994 in Lutherville, Md., Celebree School began franchising in 2019 and has now expanded to over 40 locations in 12 states that are open or under development, adding franchises in New York, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

“Today is a huge milestone in so many ways,” Celebree Schools founder, president, and CEO Richard Huffman said.

He called the groundbreaking a meaningful occasion for “not only expanding the brand into Virginia and bringing high quality preschool to families in McLean, Virginia, but also sitting around watching this vision and dream come true of offering this concept and this kind of business to a family like the Mulcahys.”

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Fairfax Connector will make a few service changes this summer.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved several proposed service changes during its meeting yesterday (Tuesday). The changes will be implemented starting July 10.

Service on Routes 462 and 467 will be enhanced “to improve connectivity between the Dunn Loring and Tysons Corner Metrorail Stations, as well as provide access to employment centers and activity centers along Maple Avenue,” according to the proposal made to the Board of Supervisors.

Route 462 will operate with 30-minute frequency while providing weekday peak-period service between the Dunn Loring and Tysons Corner Metrorail stations.

The realignment of Route 467 comes in response to the opening of a new Cedar Lane Bridge in Vienna.

The route will add Sunday service and provide weekday, midday and evening service as well as weekend service between the Dunn Loring and Tysons Corner Metrorail stations. The new realigned route will service Maple Avenue, and Old Courthouse Road to Gallows Road. It will operate with 40-minute frequency.

Route 422 will be discontinued due to low ridership, and because it duplicates service on other routes, including Routes 462 and 467. It currently operates as a circulator between Boone Boulevard and the Tysons Corner Metrorail station.

The proposal to the board says that eliminating Route 422 would offset the service adjustments to Routes 462 and 467.

Fairfax Connector will also assume operations of five Metrobus routes — Routes 703, 715, 803, 834, and 835 — that link communities to the McLean, East Falls Church, West Falls Church, and Pentagon Metrorail stations.

Route 703 replaces the existing Metrobus Route 3T, which is not currently operating and had been scheduled to be eliminated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority this year. The new route will provide weekday and Saturday service, linking Pimmit Hills and Tysons to the McLean and West Falls Church Metrorail stations.

Route 803 replaces existing Metrobus Route 3A, which is operating with reduced levels of service. The route will provide weekday and Saturday service to connect Lake Barcroft, Annandale and North Springfield to the East Falls Church Metrorail station.

Both 703 and 803 will operate with 30-minute frequency during weekday peak periods, 40- to 60-minute frequency during weekday off-peak periods and 45-minute frequency on weekends.

Routes 715, 834, and 835 will all provide peak-period service to replace existing Metrobus routes that are not operating currently. They will operate with a frequency of 30 minutes.

Route 715 replaces Route 15K, which links McLean, Salona Village and Chesterbrook Gardens to the East Falls Church Metrorail station.

Route 834 replaces Route 29C, which connects Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale, and Lincolnia to the Pentagon Metrorail station.

Route 835 replaces Route 29W, which links the Northern Virginia Community College and Willow Woods communities in Annandale to the Pentagon Metrorail Station.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation announced plans to pursue the service changes in December. The changes carry an estimated capital cost of up to $650,000 to purchase 12 buses from Metro and an additional $400,000 to convert them to the Fairfax Connector fleet, according to county staff.

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