One of Tysons’ oldest remaining restaurants could be demolished to make way for a new residential development.
An application submitted to the Fairfax County Department of Planning and zoning this summer proposes replacing J.R.’s Stockyards Inn, a two-story restaurant that’s occupied 8130 Watson Street for the last 40 years, with a new large-scale residential development. According to the application:
“After many years of successful community restaurant services, it is time to advance the transformation of this part of Tysons by pursuing a new vision for the Subject Property for future generations.”
The residential mixed-use building proposed for the site, designed by KGD Architecture, would consist of adjoining 11-story and 23-story towers. According to the application, the new building would be part of an ongoing effort to revitalize the older retail-commercial area near the Tysons Corner Center mall and set a precedent for future redevelopment in the area.
According to the architect’s website, the project would include 291 luxury apartments, 5,300 square feet of ground floor non-residential uses, and a 200-seat children’s theater. The proposal says the new building will also have three levels of below-grade parking and one level of podium parking.
J.R.’s Stockyards Inn, one of the first restaurants in Tysons to open outside of Tysons Corner Center mall, closed its daily restaurant operations in 2011 to focus on banquet and catering operations.
The proposal is currently under review by Fairfax County government staff and no hearing for the project has been scheduled so far.
If you didn’t know it was there, it would be easy to miss the 1st Stage Theater.
The entrance is at the end of a long walkway over a garage and a new salsa/bachatta nightclub at 1524 Spring Hill Rd. But despite the humble appearance, for the last ten years has held the distinction of being Tysons’ only professional theater and one of the few arts venues in an area that can sometimes seem like a cultural vacuum.
Like the rest of Tysons, 1st Stage Theater has been finding an identity and working through growing pains.
The theater’s director, Alex Levy, took over the company four years ago. From the moment he walked in, Levy said he was in love with the location. Levy said the black box theater offers a large enough stage to produce shows of a grand scale, but is also close enough to its audience for a level of intimacy. But for the region, Tysons is still the frontier when it comes to arts and culture.
“It’s great being part of the [Washington D.C.] theater community, but it’s a challenge being at the edge of that,” said Levy.
Levy, who had previously worked in theater in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, said that before he moved here, there were people who tried to warn him away.
“People tried to warn me that it was a suburban community,” said Levy. “There’s this idea that art can only exist in the urban centers. But I think this shows that that’s not the case. I don’t think there’s anything we can’t do here.”
According to Levy, the theater has been growing in attendance by 15 percent year after year, but that’s starting to have its own challenges as well.
“We’re in a position where we’re starting to feel the limitations of our capacity here,” said Levy. “We have conversations all the time about what the next home might look like. We’re not leaving Tysons, and while we want to expand, we want to maintain that intimacy. But here, there’s a lot of things behind the stage we need to expand. “
Some of those constraints have become most palpable with the theater’s most recent production. Last week, “A Civil War Christmas”, directed by Deidra LaWan Starnes, opened at the theater. With a cast of 12 actors playing 48 characters, the play is ambitious for a black-box theater without any wings and a dining-room sized green room.
“We need better rehearsal rooms, we need more bathrooms, and we would love to be in a more high visibility area,” said Levy.
The theater has made some expansions, like a new rehearsal space they moved into next door to the black-box theater that allows the company to rehearse the next play while one is still being performed. There’s also costuming and storage space, but these are short term fixes for what Levy recognizes is a longer term challenge of the theater’s location.
But Levy said the script, written by Pulitzer Prize winner Paula Vogel, about disparate people coming together in a time of strife, was a message he thought was very relevant. Despite the challenges the scope of the play presented, Levy said he felt it was important for the theater to attempt.
“One thing that we always ask is ‘What does it mean to do this show at this time and this place?'” said Levy.
Next year, the 1st Stage Theater’s season is scheduled to continue in the spring with “The Brothers Size,” a play by life on the bayou by Tarell Alvin McCraney, the writer of “Moonlight.” Later that year, the company is scheduled to perform “columbinus,” a play about the Columbine High School shooting.
A “Civil War Christmas” also faced another challenge the week before its opening. Markus Williams, the musical director for production, died on Monday the week before opening night. The cause of his death is still being determined.
“Markus came to the theater as a musician,” said Levy. “This was his second time directing music for a play. He was always excited, and since it was all new there were no rules for him. He would play around with choral parts and he has a very staid personality that allowed for some exciting improvisation.”
There’s a photograph of Williams with a plaque honoring him in the lobby.
Whether you’re actively looking for work or just idly browsing what’s around the area, there’s a bevy of new job postings around the area from corporate directors to start-up interns.
Alarm.com, a technology company in Tysons that provides home protection systems, is looking for new talent. The jobs listed range from positions requiring several years in their respective fields to relatively entry level internships. The company is looking to hire the following:
- Talent acquisition specialist
- Manager of revenue operations
- Business analyst
- Business development associate
- Technical account associate
- Field technical account representative
- International technical support associate
- Test analyst
- Data analyst and video logistics specialist
- UX/UI designer
- Sales operations specialist
- Program manager international
- Product manager
- Product management – hardware and integration
- Product management associate
- Product management intern
- Management development program intern
Other recent job postings around the area include:
- Director of Associate Engagement and Culture at Capital One — the director would focus on improving associate engagement, culture, and organizational effectiveness. The position requires a bachelor’s degree of military experience, with 10 years of experience in process or project management, at least two years leading employee engagement projects, and five years managing direct reports.
- Engagement Editor for Military Times — the engagement editor would help editorial teams maximize the impact of their content on digital platforms. The engagement editor would be deeply involved in story creation and the decision making of the editorial teams. In addition to a bachelor’s degree and two years experience working in social media, the media organization is looking for a candidate who can “speak” in military terms.
- Sales manager at Eddie V’s — responsible for building business for the Eddie V’s, a seafood and stead restaurant, through direct and indirect sales. The manager would also work with partners to oversee events. The positions pays $55,000 to $65,000 a year and requires at least one year managing in a restaurant, hotel, retail or general business, with two years in restaurant management preferred.
- Part-time customer service specialist for Gallop A.I. — the specialist would be responsible for working with business travelers and customers for Gallop A.I., a Tysons startup that uses artificial intelligence to manage business trips. The pay is $15-$20 per hour.
- Fashion Advisor for Chanel — the advisor would provide fashion advice to clients, helping to drive retention, revenue, and brand loyalty.
Photo via Alarm.com
Christmas is just a couple weeks away, so it’s time to stop procrastinating and go out and grab a tree.
In Vienna, the Lions Club is selling a variety of trees outside the Walgreens (225 Maple Ave W) in Vienna.
Prices range from $55 for Fraser firs under 9 feet tall or “giant” firs for $100. Other Christmas accessories like wreaths, pine roping, coloring books and cans of Virginia peanuts are also on sale.
Trees can be purchased between 2-8 p.m. during week days, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. on Saturdays, or 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on Sundays.
Those in Vienna could also shop at the Optimist Club of Greater Vienna’s Christmas Tree Sale at 359 Maple Ave E, outside of the Giant grocery store. All profits go towards supporting students in local schools.
Sale hours for the Optimist Club’s sale are 2-8 p.m. during weekdays, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. on Saturdays, or 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sundays.
Two churches in McLean are also hosting Christmas tree sales.
The Saint John Academy’s Christmas Tree Sale is located in the parking lot in front of the St. John the Beloved Catholic Church at 6422 Linway Terrace. In addition to trees, the sale will include wreaths and garlands.
The Trinity United Methodist Church at 1205 Dolley Madison Blvd is also selling Christmas trees in the church lot.
Tysons East has been in the spotlight a lot lately.
Apple is eyeing Scotts Run, a development in Tysons East, as a potential new office location. Greater Greater Washington just profiled the neighborhood, calling it a “glitzy, suburban” area that may someday be a haven for “creative class” professionals.
The earliest photography in 1937 shows the area as plots of farmland. The first development at the site was Pimmit Hills, built in the 1950s as a home for veterans of World War II and the Korean War. The photography from 1953 shows the neighborhood still in development, and by 1960 it had taken the general shape it still exists in today.
From there, the story of Tysons East’s development moves north. In the 16 years between 1960 and the photography from 1976, the area north of the Pimmit Hills exploded with new development. The construction of the Capital Beltway in 1964 and the construction of the Tysons Corner Center mall in 1969 helped spur new development in the area.
The aerial photography from 1990 shows continued growth in the area. In 1985, the Dulles Toll Road was extended from the Beltway to I-66, completely surrounding Pimmit Hills and the Tysons East development with major highways.
The largest change between 1990 and 2017 is the redevelopment of the smaller office buildings into major corporate campuses. Photography from 2017 shows areas of the Capital One complex, like the Capital One Tower, still under construction. Professor Stephen Fuller, Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University, said the complex is likely to be an anchor for new development in Tysons East.
Photo (7) via Google Earth
Unless there’s ice on the ground, if you drive past Ken Lawrence Park (8008 Jones Branch Drive) just north of Tysons Galleria on a weekday around lunchtime, expect to see a soccer game in progress
Even with near-freezing temperatures and gusty winds Wednesday, the only changes on the field were bulkier cold weather gear — for some — and the normal net goal replaced with two cones. A few players wore shorts.
Nearly every weekday for two decades, the unofficial group has gathered in one place or another around Tysons to play during work breaks.
“It’s good soccer here,” said Daniel Duran, carefully watching for the ball to make its way across the field to him as he spoke. “It’s very high level. Everybody here has been playing soccer for years. It’s a passion.”
For most of the group’s 20 years, the playing field was in Spring Hill, but Duran said when the Ken Lawrence Park opened four years ago the group moved there.
Players come to the game from throughout the region. Some are there during a mid-day break, leaving after a while to head back to their 9-5 job. Others like Duran, who works as an Uber driver in the Bethesda area, come to the games before starting work.
Duran said there are roughly 60 players in the group, but only 22 people can play at any given time. Show up after the 22 mark and you’re out of luck and have to play on another field.
Carlos Terejos has been playing with the group for seven years. He said that winter weather typically results in a reduction in active players, but the games still go on.
“In winter time, most people take off,” said Terejos. “But it keeps me in shape.”
Compared to issues like traffic or a lack of affordable housing, it can seem like a small or pedantic difference, but Drew Sunderland, Director of Communications at the Tysons Partnership, said the effort to rebrand the rapidly urbanizing area between McLean and Vienna as “Tysons” — to “drop the Corner,” so to speak — is part of working towards building a cohesive identity.
“Rebranding Tysons is a core element of our charter,” said Sunderland. “Historically, Tysons Corner is synonymous with the [Tysons Corner Center] mall. It’s a vital anchor, but in terms of the greater community, the mall is a component but it’s not limited to the mall… it’s surrounded by millions of square feet of new development. It’s vital to understand that Tysons is more diverse than just a suburban mall.”
— Tysons, Virginia (@TysonsVA) October 28, 2018
Virginia Case, Chair of the Board for the Tysons Chamber of Commerce, said the change from Tysons Corner to Tysons is part of the area shedding its image as a small suburban community.
“[We tend] to think of it in the way you think of one named people being celebrities,” said Case. “Cher. Madonna. Kesha. It works well for us to be Tysons.”
For advocates of the change, there’s been progress. In 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau, with some urging from the Tysons Partnership and Rep. Gerry Connolly (D), changed the designation of Tysons Corner to Tysons. Sunderland said the census, labeling Tysons a place identifiable as a settled concentration of population but not incorporated under state laws, is the most official recognition in existence.
The change has had a ripple effect, altering the names on federal mapping agencies and, by extension, its designation on mapping services that use that data like Google Maps. New developments, like The Boro, almost exclusively refer to the area as Tysons.
While many prominent voices in the Tysons area, like the Tysons Chamber of Commerce, are all on board with “Tysons,” at least one local group said they still believe there’s value in the “Tysons Corner” name. Though the group would only speak off the record, a representative said Tysons Corner still has brand recognition.
There’s also the issue of Tysons sharing the name with other established brands. When looking up information on Tysons the news is often saturated with scandals involving Tysons chicken or former boxer Mike Tysons’ ongoing efforts to start a marijuana farm.
“People are always going to mistake your brand,” said Case. “Even my grandmother, whenever she was taking a plane, would take ‘a bluejet.’ We really do look at this place being a landmark.”
“Tysons Corner sounds sleepy,” said Case, “not like a prominent urban center.”
Case and Sunderland both noted that the name change can sometimes be an uphill battle. Case said most often the confusion comes from people who were from the area when it was still called Tysons Corner and are returning. But when they actually see how the area has changed, Case said most people she talks to understand that the area has outgrown the old name.
“You’re always going to have pushback when you embark,” said Sunderland. “People won’t necessarily understand the purpose behind the change. But if you look out the window, Tysons is a city. There are major high rises. There’s incredible density. We’re a city.”
Photo (top) via Fairfax County Fire and Rescue/Twitter
(Updated at 8 a.m.) To the casual viewer, Pimmit Hills is a sleepy subdivision just southeast of Tysons quickly being overshadowed by its neighbor. But Pimmit Hills is a neighborhood with a surprising depth of history and one that played a central role in much of the region’s development.
In her new book, “Participation, Community and Public Policy in a Virginia Suburb“, Patricia Donahue, a policy fellow at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government, follows the neighborhood across sixty years of history.
On Nov. 10, the book was awarded the Ross Netherton Prize, a $1000 prize awarded for a work covering local history.
Donahue said the book started almost ten years ago when she was researching public policy impacts on small neighborhoods.
“I looked for a community in Northern Virginia that I thought was typical of a middle-income community in the post-war era,” said Donahue. “I thought it would be a simple case study, but it just kept unfolding into one fascinating story after another. It really told the story of suburbia in one community.”
Pimmit Hills was built as a subdivision in the 1950s for veterans of World War II and the Korean War. Though today it is dwarfed by nearby development, when it was first built it was the largest subdivision in Fairfax County by far; four or five times larger than any of the others.
When it was first built, the neighborhood was surrounded by farms and fields, but today it’s completely surrounded by highways and development. Donahue compared it to real estate holdouts in major cities.
Donahue said it was fascinating to follow the same community, and often same families, through the turbulent latter half of the 20th century through today.
“So much happened there,” said Donahue. “They dealt with desegregation, [growing] infrastructure, the baby boom… they were part of Fairfax transforming from a rural community into an urban one.”
Donahue said she stumbled on various extreme viewpoints from people who were essentially neighbors. The topic of segregation was one that had bitterly divided the community.
“There were people who supported massive resistance to desegregation, with residents who were very comfortable using language we find tough,” said Donahue. “But at the same time, in the same community, there were three ministers who made a public statement six months after the Montgomery bus boycott saying they totally rejected segregation and they wouldn’t let their churches support it. In one community, it’s a whole range of views. People risking their careers and people who were like ‘there’s no way we’re going to let this happen.'”
Beyond just segregation, Donahue said there were some horrific crimes throughout the neighborhood’s history as well. During the 1960s, Pimmit Hills was a pseudo-headquarters for The Pagans, a notorious motorcycle gang. In 1970, members of The Pagans kidnapped rival gang members, tortured them in Arlington, then murdered them in the forest near Pimmit Hills.
Pimmit Hills also played a surprising role in regional and national history. Donahue said Charles Lewis, one of the early presidents of the Pimmit Hills Citizens Association, was a researcher on the first American exploration of Antarctica. Frances Lanahan, a journalist and daughter of novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, once wrote a profile of the neighborhood.
But one of the most notable moments for Pimmit Hills was in the early 1950s when Fairfax County signed up to be one of the first large-scale tests for Jonas Salk’s new polio vaccine. After gossip columnist Walter Winchell alleged that the polio vaccine would end up killing children, Donahue said many other communities yielded to concerns and pulled out of the tests. But given the high mortality rate of polio in Fairfax, Donahue said the county was the only community to stay in the program.
“Imagine the courage of those families who agreed when no one else would to have their children immunized,” said Donahue. “Second graders in Pimmit Hills were among the first in the nation to get the vaccine.”
Whether the neighborhood can survive with new development pressures all around it remains in question. Donahue says she believes the neighborhood will continue to adapt and continue to survive.
“Like a lot of communities, they struggled with ‘hey, do we want development on our doorstep?'” said Donahue. “That’s still a struggle. Will they survive? I think they’re part of the change. If you drive through Pimmit Hills, every fourth or fifth house is a rebuild. They are changing it. I think they are not going to be bystanders in this change. They are going to be active agents in shaping that change.”
The book, which is intended for an academic audience, is currently listed at $89.98 on Amazon.
Maple Avenue can be famously slow to change, and it’s left Vienna with rampant vacancies in the middle of a region seeing a surge of new development.
But aerial photography shows this hasn’t always been the case. Throughout the last 65 years, Maple Avenue has undergone a radical transformation.
Critics of a new four-story Maple Avenue development said too much was changing in Vienna too quickly, but at least from the air, the only 20-year period where there’s been very little change along Maple Avenue was between 1997 and 2017.
The Maple Avenue of 1953 looked quite different than the Maple Avenue of 1976. Maple Avenue transformed from a handful of small properties surrounded by farmland into islands of commercial property surrounded by residential streets.
Between 1976 and 1997, the gaps between those islands of commercial property had become filled in with smaller stores.
But the 1997 Maple Avenue is virtually identical to the 2017 Maple Avenue.
One of the most high-profile developments in downtown Vienna’s recent history was the establishment of the Town Green and redevelopment along Church Street, which runs parallel to Maple Street. The changes made there were cited by Vienna Town Council members during hearings for the controversial development — which was ultimately approved — as examples of ways development can still fit with a small town feeling.
Tysons is working towards being a more bike friendly community, but as anyone who’s pedaled through the area could tell you, it’s not quite there yet.
The Fairfax County Bicycle Map ranks streets throughout the county on a “most comfortable” to “use caution” scale. Nearly all of Tysons is colored in the yellow “less comfortable” indicator.
Some of the major thoroughfares, like Westpark Drive, International Drive, and Leesburg Pike are all listed as “use caution,” though many of those streets are categorized as having bikeable sidewalks.
But on the periphery of Tysons proper, Nicole Wynands, Bicycle Program Manager for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, said there are several neighborhoods and trails that are perfect for biking.
“The Pimmit Hills area of Tysons is the most bikeable neighborhood with calm residential streets and good internal connectivity,” said Wynands. “The Jones Branch Connector will open shortly to pedestrians and cyclists, connecting Pimmit Hills and the McLean Metro with downtown Tysons via a shared-use path.”
Whether that bike-ability lasts as the northern edge of the neighborhood faces redevelopment remains to be seen.
Wynands had additional Tysons area cycling suggestions.
“Another great residential cycling area is Tysons Green, west of Route 7, with a good connection to the W&OD Trail and a beautiful stream/valley trail (Foxstone Park & Waverly Park),” said Wynands, via email. “The Vesper Trail is in the final stages of construction and will connect Tysons Green to downtown Tysons.”
Some caution is still urged at the eastern end of Old Courthouse Road in Tysons Green. Earlier this week a man died crossing the street.
For those willing to brave bicycling through downtown Tysons, Wynands said there are a few corridors cyclists can ride on more comfortably.
- Greensboro Drive — The street parallel to Leesburg Pike that runs along The Boro development.
- Park Run — A street that runs from the Tysons Galleria Shopping Center to the Freddie Mac headquarters.
- Westbranch Drive — A street east of Tysons Galleria along the planned The Mile development, right past the Tysons Republik Coffee.