A new little “village” neighborhood could soon be built on three-vacant parcels on Courthouse Road Southwest behind a Maple Avenue strip mall.
At a meeting tomorrow (Wednesday), the Town of Vienna Planning Commission is scheduled to review an application to build six two-family buildings with a total of 12 residential units and a clubhouse on what is today a vacant three-parcel lot.
As part of the application, developer JDA Custom Homes is requesting to use up to 60% of the lot, an increase over the 25% currently allowed.
The development at 117 and 121 Courthouse Road SW would be located behind a small shopping center that includes Lotus Garden and Pure Barre.
“The proposed development is a cottage-housing style development where a small group of generally smaller homes are centered around a common area,” the staff report said. “The architectural style of the two-family dwellings will be similar to the architecture often seen with cottage housing developments, which includes a relatively short building height, a compact footprint, and a maximum of one and a half stories.”
Each unit in the new development would also include a two-car garage on the basement level accessible on a loop around the residences. Parallel visitor parking would be located along that same service drive.
JDA Custom Homes first pitched the idea of building cottage housing on Courthouse Road in December, but at that time, the Vienna Town Council took issue with the developer bringing forward a new proposal just weeks after it had approved dividing the lot into three plots for single-family homes.
Now, JDA is seeking to get the site rezoned again for multi-family, low-density development.
The staff report notes that the subject parcels have been designated for “low-density residential” and “mixed-use” zoning in Vienna’s Future Land Use Plan. It says the proposed change would not constitute spot zoning, because it would help separate the commercial activity on Maple from the nearby single-family houses.
“The Comprehensive Plan includes language that supports the proposed development as a transition from commercial development to single-family detached residential,” the report says. “It also specifically supports village housing (also known as cottage court housing) as a desired type of housing.”
A smaller form of housing that falls in between single-family houses and apartments, cottage housing is among the changes being contemplated as part of the town’s Code Create Vienna zoning code overhaul, which is expected to be completed this winter.
Fairfax County will kick off another design phase for its redevelopment of the Patrick Henry Library (101 Maple Avenue East) in Vienna this fall, about one year after voters approved bond funding for the project.
The 2020 library bond included $23 million to replace the existing 13,800 square-foot facility with a 21,000 square-foot library as well as a parking garage that will be jointly funded by the county and the Town of Vienna.
“The County is currently finalizing the design contract with the selected design team, RRMM Architects,” Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services spokesperson Sharon North said. “Design will initiate this Fall 2021.”
Originally opened in 1971, the Patrick Henry Library was last renovated in 1995 and is now one of the busiest community locations in the county’s public library system, according to North.
According to the FY 2021-2025 capital improvements program (CIP), the current building has an antiquated layout that does not reflect modern library design or use. The planned expansion will add 7,000 square feet with more public seating and a larger children’s section.
North says the new facility will also have “upgraded building systems for operations and energy efficiency” with the goal of achieving LEED Gold certification.
“Statistics for this location indicate the door count is 4.6% of the system’s FY 2016 total and its circulation is higher than all but one other community [library] and greater than Sherwood Regional,” the CIP said. “Program attendance is consistently among the highest for a community location and customers at this location are diverse and represent a cross-section of County population. Usage patterns indicate that of the locations in this cluster, this branch is a preferred destination of many patrons.”
Initial designs for the redeveloped library were presented to the Town of Vienna in 2019.
After some uncertainty, Vienna also came to an agreement with Fairfax County last year on the construction of a 213-space parking garage that will serve the new library and the general town. North said the parking garage is included in the design of the project.
Given the current timetable, it could be late 2024 or early 2025 before the new Patrick Henry library is finished.
“Once the design contract is awarded, its typically a 1-2 year design & permitting process, and 2 year construction process,” North said. “Final design would be late Fall 2022/Early Spring 2023, based on current project schedule and then construction would commence after that.”
The Town of Vienna had a bit of a rough week, according to the Vienna Police Department’s most recent crime report.
The weekly round-up of investigated incidents and arrests featured a few cases of police breaking up fights, assaults, and destruction of property.
At Bear Branch Tavern (133 Maple Avenue) on Aug. 6, around 2:30 a.m., police responded to a report of a fight in the bar.
“A citizen advised them that a man was intoxicated inside the restaurant and attempted to punch a woman,” the report said. “The citizen broke up the altercation and assisted the man out of the establishment. Upon the officers’ interaction with the man, they detected signs of impairment.”
A 29-year-old local man was arrested and transported to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center, where he was charged with Drunk in Public.
Two days later, police broke up a fight at a local party in an apartment:
Officers observed a driver in a pickup truck trying to back out of a parking space while he was being assaulted by a man. The man had smashed the window of the truck with a piece of lumber and began to assault the driver. Another man was in the parking lot holding a gun. Officers were able to quickly take control of the incident. They determined the gun the man was holding was a BB gun, and he was the owner of the vehicle.
The driver was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Two others at the party, an infant who was sick and a woman in need of medical assistance, were also evacuated. A 37-year-old Annandale resident was arrested and charged with assault and destruction of property.
Last Thursday (Aug. 12), there was an alleged assault inside the restaurant Zoe’s Kitchen (418 Maple Avenue East) when someone who had allegedly caused issues there in the past returned and started to scream at an employee.
“An employee reported that a man, who has caused issues in the restaurant in the past, entered the restaurant and began screaming at one of the employees,” the report said. “The man then attempted to assault the employee. Another employee came to assist his co-worker and forced the man out of the restaurant…Officers advised the man that he would be arrested if he returned to the property.”
The last curious incident was a charge of vandalism for a man trying to break into his parents’ house.
According to the report:
A resident reported that she observed her adult son running outside of her apartment toward the rear of the home. A short time later she heard a window being smashed in her son’s bedroom and immediately called a relative and police for assistance.
While officers were investigating the damaged property, additional officers were requested to assist rescue personnel near the park at Branch Road and Locust Street with a man suffering from a laceration to the chest. It was determined that the man was the resident’s son. The man was transported by rescue personnel to an area hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
The man was ultimately charged with destruction of property.
Photo via Marissa Daeger/Unsplash
As the summer winds down, three new small, local brands will get to move into Tysons Corner Center rent-free, among other benefits.
The mall launched a DreamStart competition in May aimed at offering three local businesses — be that food vendor, maker, product, or just an idea — a shot at getting three months of free rent, promotional resources, visual merchandising, marketing support, and a grand opening event.
20 qualified applicants entered the competition. Nine were invited back, and the mall announced on Aug. 11 that it had selected three winners.
The first-place winner was Bisnonna Bakeshop, a traditional Italian bakery based in Annandale. The bakery’s website notes that it specializes in hand-rolled cannoli.
“Everything at Bisnonna Bakeshop is from-scratch and made-to-order, because everything we bake is made by hand, not machines,” the website says. “We do it just like our grandmas did: with our hands covered in flour and a rolling pin at our side, one batch at a time.”
According to a press release from Tysons Corner Center, Bisonna translates to great grandmother in Italian, and the name is an ode to the restaurant owners’ family matriarchs, who passed down recipes from generation to generation. The bakery will open in the former Gordon Biersch patio space.
“The bakeshop also takes inspiration with flavors that are connected with past travels and/or experiences,” the press release says. “For example, Bisnonna created a Dubrovnik cannoli inspired by their trip to Croatia, a Thai Coffee cannoli was inspired by their honeymoon to Thailand. Black Sesame was created after an ice cream flavor they enjoyed at SnoCream in Annandale. The bakeshop also has a zaatar biscotti in the works after travels to Palestine.”
Established last November by Alicia Abbington, Garcon Melanine will be launching in the former Candy Heaven spot on the mall’s first floor near Wasabi Sushi.
According to Tysons Corner Center, Abbington’s fashion brand developed out of her frustrations with the limited clothing options she saw for boys like her son JJ.
“Every piece, every look is inspired by JJ’s cool, hip, and chill style at a reasonable price,” the press release says. “Alicia felt her collection fills the void that’s missing in boy’s sportswear fashion providing elevated options…She felt the only options for boy clothes always involved a fire truck and she was seeking more individuality and personality in boys’ fashion that didn’t break the bank.”
Garcon Melanine’s grand opening is scheduled for Aug. 28. Bisnonna Bakeshop and The Popcorn Bag DC are expected to open in early to mid-September.
Photo via Popcorn Bag DC/Instagram
After facing some disappointment in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics this year, McLean resident and Olympic rower Claire Collins has her sights set on the Paris games in 2024.
Collins, a Princeton University graduate, rowed on the Women’s 4 team. Team USA didn’t medal in the event, but Collins said, overall, the Olympic experience was still “awesome.”
What was it like being at the Olympics? It’s such a unique and rare experience, so I’m really curious what day-to-day life between big events was like.
While it wasn’t a normal Olympics because of all the COVID protocols, the atmosphere and energy was still awesome. It was fun to dress up in Team USA outfits and walk around the [Olympic] Village and head to meals. Because we couldn’t see any other sports or really mingle that much, the dining hall was probably the most fun place. We were still allowed to eat there, so you got to see tons of athletes from all over. We were also still able to trade pins with people from other countries and sports, so that was a fun way to meet other athletes.
Unfortunately, we were not allowed to see other sports or go outside of the rowing venue or the village, so we had fun at the Team USA building and around the village.
Overall, how do you feel about the results of the race?
I am a little disappointed because I still believe our boat is faster than at least the first two races we had. Our final was definitely a better race, but still I don’t think it was quite our best. However, you are never going to get a perfect race. Considering the crazy year of COVID we had, the fact we didn’t get to race at all before we raced at the Olympics (which meant many people in our boat hadn’t raced in years), and that our boat was put together 6 weeks before the Games, I am very proud of what we did there. We learned from and improved each race and came out with a good finish.
When you’re in McLean, do you train on the Potomac? What’s that like?
I actually have barely rowed in the D.C. area. I went to boarding school and then to Princeton, so when I was home for the pandemic last summer, it was the first time I actually spent time on the Potomac. I rowed out of Potomac Boat Club and they were very welcoming. It was neat to actually row where I live finally after rowing all over the US and the world.
What’s next for you now that you’re back from Tokyo?
I am enjoying some vacation. When we are training in the years leading up to the Olympics we don’t even really get holidays off, so I am really excited for some real vacation and traveling coming up. Long term, I am looking forward to training to make the Paris 2024 games in 3 years, so I will be back to rowing and the team later this fall. But I will be doing some work and helping advance my career hopefully along the way.
You graduated from Princeton with a degree in economics. Is rowing your main career or do you work in something different?
Since I graduated in 2019, rowing has been my main “career.” However, I have done some work for 2 different startups and I am looking forward to focusing a little more on my career path in the next few years. I am interested in pursuing work in finance or the business and investing side of healthcare.
What kind of impact did the delay from the pandemic have? What was it like dealing with the pandemic protocols in Tokyo?
It had a big impact.
First off, while we train intensely all the time, the year leading up to the Olympics is especially intense, and it is totally unusual that we go through that process twice.
Secondly, I would not usually spend 6 months at home during a year (I usually get a week or two), so that was very unique and created its own challenges but also bonuses too, getting to spend time with family.
Lastly, while our focus and effort was always there, our training was disrupted quite a bit. We rowed in singles from March of 2020 through to February of 2021, meaning we did not even get to practice or train in the boats that we would be racing until a couple months before the Games.
Half of our team got COVID in spring of 2020 and one teammate tested positive in the fall of 2020. Each of these events sent people into bubbles and prevented us from seeing each other or operating normally. Luckily, we got our vaccines in the spring of 2021, and while that was amazing, that even paused some of our training briefly while people recovered from some of the side effects.
Emotionally, it was distracting, but I am proud of how our team handled it and kept things in perspective. There was little complaining and we all understood how lucky we were to be safe and healthy and still doing what we enjoy.
But for our success at the Games, at least in our sport, it was evident that the countries that handled the pandemic relatively well had greater success as a team. Obviously success is measured in different ways, so in our pursuit, I think there were a lot of successes, even just getting there and being able to compete.
I felt very safe in Tokyo. We had a long processing segment to get from the plane to the Village, but once there we tested every day and had a health screening app we filled out daily. We wore masks everywhere. There were tons of sanitizing stations. There were plexiglass barriers in the dining hall and you had to wear plastic gloves to get your food.
The Japanese did an amazing job, not just with COVID but with organization and still making the games special and exciting. All the volunteers were so welcoming and excited to see us. It was really special.
An update to the Falls Church Gateway project is headed to the Falls Church City Council with an uncertain approval from the Planning Commission, following a long discussion over whether the city should be more ambitious with its affordable housing goals.
The update primarily involved a proposal to expand the senior housing facility planned for the development by an additional 35,000 gross square feet, bringing the maximum square footage up from 225,000 to 260,000 square feet.
Staff also recommended approval of additional affordable housing at the mixed-use development in exchange for the added density — a relatively common trade in residential development.
The discussion of the project during the planning commission’s eight-hour meeting on Wednesday (Aug. 4) was convoluted to the point where even commission members were unsure what they were voting on by the end.
Ultimately, the commission gave its support to the staff recommendation that the city accept the developer’s concession of making 4% of housing in the multifamily section affordable to a range of incomes, including lower income households.
“The market is much less likely to accommodate the provision of homes in these ranges,” the staff report said. “Since there is a need for housing across the spectrum of affordability, the concession of 6% of ADUs affordable to households at 60% AMI would be acceptable as well.”
In a confusing back and forth over changes and amendments, the commission ended with recommending “additional ADUs provided at the AMI levels recommended by staff.”
Commission members flirted with the idea of adding more ambitious language into the recommendation and requiring higher levels of affordable housing in keeping with earlier plans, but also discussed the careful balance involved in credibility as an advisory group.
“The more we put in recommendations they ignore, the less they take anything seriously,” chair Brent Krasner said. “I think we have to be careful about putting a wishlist of things that aren’t going to happen…At his point it’s unlikely the council will make any changes…Otherwise it’s just about getting our principals out there as a protest.”
The recommendation, Krasner admitted, was vague, but it could open the door for further discussion at the city council meeting on Monday (Aug. 9).
An upcoming dedication ceremony for new signs at Freedom Hill Park (8531 Old Courthouse Road) outside of Tysons represents more than just recognition of the struggles of local families during the Civil War era.
For the Fairfax County Park Authority, it’s the beginning of a shift in how local history is presented.
The Freedom Hill Park dedication is the first part of the Untold Stories project, which aims to shift historical presentation from a focus on big events and local celebrities to the more personal stories of Fairfax County’s past residents.
“It’s a relatively new initiative,” said Judy Pedersen, public information officer for the Park Authority. “We’ve been doing interpretations of properties and history for many years, but this is linked to the One Fairfax initiative. We’re looking for the more personal stories about families and their contributions.”
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted One Fairfax in November 2017, committing the county government to considering issues of equity in its policies and decision-making.
Originally dedicated in November 2012, Freedom Hill Park derived its name from the sizable community of free Black people that resided in the area during the 19th century, according to the park authority’s website.
Some of the stories told in the new signs at the site include that of Lucy Carter, a free woman of color who may have worked as a Union spy, and stories of intermarriages between the local Black community and the native Tauxenent and Pamunkey tribes.
Pedersen describes these as the stories that “wouldn’t necessarily make a history book” but help paint a better picture of what life was like in Fairfax County’s past.
Pedersen says the Freedom Hill Park signs are the county’s first time putting the project into practice, but there are a few other irons in the fire, and she hopes more residents come forward and share stories from their families’ past.
Scheduled for noon tomorrow (Saturday), the dedication will include a land recognition ceremony performed by Rose Powhatan, director of the Powhatan Museum of Indigenous Arts and Culture.
“It’s a custom dating back centuries to recognize that indigenous peoples were the original stewards of these lands,” Pedersen said. “It’s an acknowledgement of the roots of the origins of the land.”
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has approved a bus rapid transit (BRT) route through the heart of Tysons, despite some concerns that it might not be as “express” as hoped.
Fairfax County started studying options for BRT through Tysons three years ago as part of a regional push to establish a bus line between Tysons and the Mark Center in Alexandria.
After reviewing several alternative routes, the board voted on Tuesday (July 27) to approve county staff’s recommendation for a route that will run from the Spring Hill Metro station up to International Drive and from there down to Route 7 past Tysons Galleria and Tysons Corner Center.
“The outreach on this plan was very well done, very thoughtful, and working with our transit associations,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said. “I think this has had robust input from our community…This is going to be best for businesses in Tysons and for our pedestrians and cyclists.”
One concern raised at the board meeting by Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity is that the route won’t have pull-off spots that will allow for both express buses that run directly between major points without interruption and local buses that would make more frequent stops within Tysons.
“I think we’re really short changing ourselves not doing the local stops, where they pull off, so we can run express [buses] on it,” Herrity said. “I think long term, we’re going to be sorry for that.”
Herrity abstained from the final vote, saying he supported the project overall but had concerns about its structure.
Chairman Jeff McKay said the existing configuration represented a compromise between the need for better transit and respecting the right-of-way limitations in Tysons.
“Right of way is at a premium,” McKay said. “The impact to our businesses and impacts to our residents on the right-of-way needs of these projects is significant and significantly challenging.”
With the route approved, the Tysons BRT route will be incorporated into the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission’s broader Envision Route 7 study, which is currently in its fourth and final phase.
Months after Virginia started lifting its mask restrictions, the once-ubiquitous face masks that were a defining symbol of the COVID-19 pandemic have started becoming more scarce. But with the delta variant starting to cause a COVID-19 resurgence, some are saying masks in public should make a comeback, even for people who have been fully vaccinated.
The delta variant now accounts for 83% of new COVID-19 cases reported in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated earlier this week. The delta variant is more contagious than other strands of COVID-19 and could potentially have more severe symptoms.
In official channels, mask requirements have continued to ease up. The Commonwealth is set to let a statewide mandate on indoor mask wearing in schools expire on Sunday (July 25), though the state guidance remains that teachers, students and staff should still wear their masks indoors.
While the virus now appears to be almost exclusively spreading among unvaccinated people, some fully vaccinated people have continued wearing masks for a variety of reasons, from a desire to fend off other illnesses or to protect young children and other people unable to get a vaccine to concern about being judged.
Have you stayed in the habit of wearing a face mask, or does it depend on the setting?
A plan to overhaul McLean Central Park has won over the support of the McLean Community Center (MCC), but the organization recommends Fairfax County make a few changes to help alleviate safety concerns raised by some locals.
The MCC is a county-run and taxpayer-financed program that offers activities, classes, shows and more for McLean adults and children.
In a letter to the Fairfax County Park Authority, the 11-member MCC Governing Board highlighted three parts of the plan that will help improve programming at the park: an amphitheater, an accessible drop off point, and public art.
In its letter, the MCC says it currently utilizes the park for several activities, including a Sunday Summer Concert Series that brings music and performances to the park gazebo, but the gazebo is too small to fit the kind of programming that it wants to provide.
“While the MCC regularly provides programming at the current park gazebo, this facility is small and does not provide scalable space for current and future programming,” the MCC said. “The MCC Board supports the development of a sustainable amphitheater space furnished with technical equipment, public seating, and accessible and environmentally sustainable restroom facilities.”
The MCC says there are an average of 150-275 participants in the free Sunday Concert Sessions, though sometimes that has been as high at 450 people. The board requests that the amphitheater be designed with that capacity in mind.
The existing gazebo also has no technical infrastructure and inadequate electricity, the MCC says, which causes the organization to incur a $2,000 cost in labor per-event. The MCC also has a modular sound system valued at $87,000 that needs replacing every five to seven years.
The MCC says the overhaul proposed by the county would help the park better serve as a community gathering place.
“The lack of accessible outdoor performance and cultural space in the McLean area limits the nature of cultural exchange and dialogue,” the MCC said. “The countywide Strategic Plan prioritizes cultural and recreational opportunities. The improvements to the [McLean Central Park], including the Amphitheater, support these goals and the ability to bring all generations together.
The McLean Citizens Association (MCA) had shared earlier concerns that turning the park into an attraction could create problems for nearby residential neighborhoods. The MCA also expressed skepticism that there is a need for a large ampitheater.
In a June letter to the park authority, MCA President Rob Jackson cited possible pedestrian safety issues, suggesting the county should study traffic impact and mitigation alternatives and have a professional conduct a parking study.
In its letter, the MCC Board recommends “expedited” construction of a pedestrian bridge across Dolly Madison Boulevard “to provide safe and sustainable pedestrian access and reduce traffic and congestion.”
“A bridge would serve as a physical connector and embody the vision of the McLean Central Business District expressed by the version of the McLean Community Business Center Plan approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on June 22, 2021,” the MCC said.
The public comment period for the McLean Central Park plan has been extended to July 30.