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This coming spring, Tysons residents and visitors will be able to scale a rock wall, host a Zoom meeting, and grab their morning coffee all in one place.

The Manassas-based Vertical Rock Climbing and Fitness plans to open a second gym in the Best Buy-anchored shopping center at 8461 Leesburg Pike, near The Boro and the Spring Hill Metro station, as the Washington Business Journal reported in August.

The new, 12,000 square-foot facility will contain not only rock walls for bouldering, a form of rock climbing that doesn’t use ropes, but also a ground-floor coffee shop and coworking space that will be open to both gym members and the general public.

“Coffee and climbing go together,” Vertical Rock co-owner and CEO Ian Colton told Tysons Reporter. “A lot of climbers like coffee, and we personally have a huge affliction for coffee. We want to make sure we come up with a premium coffee shop, and it’s reflected in the layout and design we’re bringing to the table.”

Called Basecamp Coffee Roasters, the coffee shop will essentially operate like a separate business that just happens to share the same building.

While options like online ordering will be available for those looking to grab a cup of coffee on the go, Colton envisions a Central Perk-like hangout spot that encourages people to linger, catching up with friends or on work — possibly after breaking a sweat at the gym upstairs.

“We want to make this atmosphere as friendly, inviting, and engaging as we possibly can,” he said. “…With the new normal of not necessarily working in an office and a lot of remote school, where the new norm is to be able to kind of social distance but also be there and present, this facility can give you all of that.”

The inclusion of a coffee shop is one way that Vertical Rock is adapting its concept to the more urban environment that drew the company to Tysons after launching in Manassas in 2012.

Where the Manassas center features 55-foot-tall rock walls with ropes for climbing, the smaller Tysons facility will focus exclusively on bouldering, with walls ranging from 14 to 16 feet in height and 14 inches of floor padding for protection.

The shift reflects the more limited amount of space available in an increasingly dense area like Tysons. Vertical Rock spent about five years looking for a location in the Fairfax County area before finding the Leesburg Pike space, according to Colton.

Bouldering also gives users more flexibility since, unlike rope-based rock climbing, it can be done solo, requires minimal equipment, and allows participants to move at their own pace, Colton says.

The Tysons facility will accommodate different ages and levels of experience, from beginners to athletes training for the Olympics, which featured sport climbing as an official event for the first time this year.

“All you need really is a chalk bag and a pair of climbing shoes, and you can get in and you can climb,” Colton said, noting that those items and other climbing gear will be available for rental or purchase.

Vertical Rock Tysons started pre-sales for its gym passes in November. It will offer one-day, monthly, annual, and flex passes.

Colton anticipates starting occupancy in mid-April, though the COVID-19 pandemic has had “a huge impact” on getting the facility in place. A sign posted to the site door still suggests that it will open this December.

Aware that people may still be wary of exercising indoors, Colton says Vertical Rock is designing the site to be spacious and making equipment and operational investments to create the safest possible environment.

“I think the biggest thing we’re really trying to bring to the table is a community-focused facility, and that being something that caters to local Fairfax County,” Colton said. “We want to continue the engagement for healthy and new ways of staying physically fit and connecting you to the outdoors, and that’s really been our mantra since we opened up.”

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Santa Warren won’t arrive at Tysons Galleria for another 11 days, but he’s already making waves.

With his scheduled appearances on Dec. 18 and 19, Warren will be the first Black man to serve as Santa Claus for Neiman Marcus at Tysons Galleria’s winter holiday festivities, which kicked off on Nov. 26 with a visit from another Santa who assisted with curbside deliveries.

After years of white Saint Nicks dating back to its 1988 opening, the department store made a conscious effort to diversify its roster for this holiday season, citing its ongoing work to become “more inclusive and representative of our global community” in a recent media alert.

“We want to continue to connect with our customers and find ways to ensure our store represents our community,” Neiman Marcus Tysons Vice President and General Manager Kathy Leigh said by email. “This year our team brainstormed ideas [that] led us to hire the wonderful Santa who we are delighted to have join us at Neiman Marcus Tysons Galleria.”

To find the right candidate for the role, Neiman Marcus turned to Santas Just Like Me, a North Carolina-based company founded in 2013 to increase the representation of people of color in the Santa industry.

An event photographer, minister, and self-professed Christmas fanatic, Santas Just Like Me founder Stafford Braxton says his goal is to make the company all-inclusive, but the easiest way to market its work turned out to be emphasizing Black Santa “so that people would know what I am.”

Since recruiting Warren as the original Black Santa, Braxton has added five other men, and he remains on the lookout for Hispanic, Asian, and other kinds of individuals who would be interested in putting on the red suit. Even white Santas would be welcome.

The only criteria? A naturally white beard.

“I want to be able to provide all the different cultures a Santa that looks like them,” Braxton told Tysons Reporter. “That’s my heart’s desire.”

When Neiman Marcus reached out last month about a gig at its Tysons Galleria store, Santas Just Like Me quickly accepted the offer, excited by the prospect of breaking new ground as the venue’s first Black Santa. Read More

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Venus spotted behind clouds over The Boro (photo by ERTRIPP9/Twitter)

County Board to Vote on New Electoral District Map — “The Board of Supervisors’ last full meeting of 2021 will include an agenda of district-specific and countywide proposals. The major items up for consideration are redistricting of the Board of Supervisors and School Board districts as well as expansion of tax relief for seniors and people with disabilities.” [Patch]

Wet Snow Possible Tomorrow — A cold front headed for the D.C. region could bring the first measurable snowfall of the season. Forecasts suggest up to an inch of accumulation is likely, with a ceiling of 3 inches, and the precipitation isn’t expected to stick around long, though the timing could cause some trouble in coinciding with the morning commute. [Capital Weather Gang]

Falls Church Shuts Down New Taco Restaurant — The popular Arlington-based food truck La Tingeria has occupied its new brick-and-mortar site at 626 S. Washington Street in Falls Church for less than a month, but the city plans to revoke its certificate of occupancy, citing complaints about customers parking in nearby residential neighborhoods. [ARLnow]

Santa Hitches Ride in Mosaic District Autonomous Shuttle — “Santa Claus gave Rudolph and the other reindeer a night off as he rode to his Target appearance in the latest driverless technology, RELAY. Santa waved happily to the crowds in Mosaic as his sleigh, aka the autonomous shuttle,  wound its way down District Avenue.” [Department of Economic Initiatives]

Kansas Gives Preview of Capital One Hall Show — “Carry on all you wayward classic rock listeners! Kansas is ready to rock the brand new Capital One Hall in Tysons, Virginia, on Dec. 19…The band will perform the full “Point of Know Return” album, as well as other huge hits.” [WTOP]

Photo by ERTRIPP9/Twitter

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An illustration of a coronavirus (via CDC/Unsplash)

Like the rest of the country, Fairfax County continues to see increasing levels of COVID-19 transmission.

The county is now averaging about three times as many new cases per day as it was less than a month ago, with a seven-day average of 189.4 cases today (Monday), according to Virginia Department of Health data.

In comparison, the county was averaging 58.7 cases a day for the preceding week on Nov. 10. That day was the first time the weekly average dipped below 60 cases since the delta variant started becoming prevalent in late July.

Including the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, the Fairfax Health District reported an additional 131 COVID-19 infections today, bringing its total for the pandemic to 97,999 cases, 4,201 hospitalizations, and 1,227 deaths.

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over past 180 days as of Dec. 6, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)
All Fairfax County COVID-19 cases as of Dec. 6, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

Locally, the ongoing coronavirus surge comes without any apparent assistance from the omicron variant, which has been detected in 17 states so far, including Maryland. Virginia is monitoring the relatively new variant but has not identified any cases involving it yet.

While initial reports suggest the omicron variant may not produce severe illness like the delta variant, concerns that it might be more transmissible and less susceptible to the immunity granted by vaccines prompted the Fairfax County Health Department to strengthen its recommendation that all adults get a booster shot six months after their primary vaccinations on Thursday (Dec. 2).

“Taking measures to reduce the spread of infection, including getting a COVID-19 vaccine, is the best way to slow the emergence of new variants,” Fairfax County Health Director Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu said in the blog post.

So far, more than 238,000 Fairfax Health District residents have gotten a booster or third dose, including 63.5% of adults between the ages of 75 and 84, according to the FCHD vaccine data dashboard.

908,544 residents — or 76.8% of the population — have received at least one vaccine dose, including 86.8% of adults, 89.4% of adolescents aged 12-17, and 36.2% of children aged 5-11.

Representing 68% of the population, 804,239 residents are fully vaccinated, including 78.8% of people 18 and older.

Providers in the Fairfax Health District have administered over 1.9 million vaccine doses. If the current weekly average of about 7,440 doses per day holds, the district could potentially reach 2 million doses around the one-year anniversary of when the county received its first shipment last December.

Photo via CDC/Unsplash

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A unique documentary is coming to McLean with a message about the danger and injustice that Black people face in America — in the past and present.

The McLean Community Center is making the virtual reality experience “Traveling While Black” available to visitors for free in its lobby from Dec. 15 through Feb. 12.

“As we near Martin Luther King Day and Black History Month events, we hope our patrons will take the time to come learn with us and become change agents in creating the world that Dr. King envisioned in his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” MCC executive director Daniel Singh said in a news release.

Providing 360 degrees of footage, the movie, which debuted in 2019 at the Sundance Film Festival, draws on a half-century of civil rights struggles for justice, framed through a conversation at D.C. mainstay Ben’s Chili Bowl.

“‘Traveling while Black’ is a term people use to illustrate that in America when you are Black and you are going from point A to point B, you are always at risk,” director Roger Ross Williams said in a statement. In 2010, he became the first Black director to win an Oscar, awarded for his short subject documentary, “Music by Prudence.”

“Traveling While Black” features Samaria Rice, who lost her 12-year-old son, Tamir, when police killed him in Cleveland in 2014 while he was playing in a park with a toy gun. The Justice Department said on Dec. 29, 2020 that there was insufficient evidence to file charges against officers.

The movie also includes civil rights leader Courtland Cox. Among his efforts to bring racial equality, he worked to create a political party in Lowndes County, Alabama, and helped people there register to vote in the 1960s. The county eventually elected its first Black sheriff in 1970.

People can sign up online for hour-long appointments at the McLean Community Center from noon to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays through Saturdays and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

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The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.

We’ve searched the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean, and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!

Monday, Dec. 6

  • Santa on the Antique Fire Engine — 5:30-6 p.m. daily throughout December — Jolly Old St. Nicholas spreads the holiday cheer, distributing candy canes, on daily runs with the McLean Volunteer Fire Department.

Tuesday, Dec. 7

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas: Live On Stage — 7:30 p.m. at Capital One Hall (7750 Capital One Tower Road) — A new touring production featuring actors who sing music and dance comes to Capital One’s new performance venue. Tickets start at $39.50.

Wednesday, Dec. 8

  • Holiday Tea & Sweets — 12:30-2 p.m. at St. Mark Catholic Church (9970 Vale Road) — Kick off the holiday season with treats and people ages 55 and up. Cost is $10.
  • Virtual Health & Care Job Fair (Online) — 1-4 p.m. — Inova, Sunrise Senior Living, and more than 30 other employers from the health and caregiving industries will participate in this free job fair hosted by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority and Work in Northern Virginia. Register online in advance.

Thursday, Dec. 9

  • Secret Things — 7:30 p.m. at 1st Stage Theatre (1524 Spring Hill Road) — A journalist investigates mysterious tips in her hometown involving Mexican-Americans and Judaism. Tickets are $50 with steep discounts available. The show runs through Sunday (Dec. 12).

Friday, Dec. 10

  • Mayor and Town Council Holiday Reception — 4-6 p.m. at Vienna Town Hall (127 Center Street S) — Enjoy refreshments while engaging with Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert and the town council in an informal, festive setting.
  • Disney in December — 7 p.m. at George C. Marshall High School (7731 Leesburg Pike) — The school’s student choir performs songs from Disney movie classics.  Shows also take place on Saturday at 1:30 and 7 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 11

  • Story Time with Santa — 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Boro Park (8350 Broad St.) — Holiday stories, photos, hot cocoa, and more fill this free event, along with a Toys for Tots donation drive. The nonprofit Turning the Book will have a pop-up book store on the site from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • Holiday Market — 12-5 p.m. at The PARC (8508 Leesburg Pike) — Take care of your holiday shopping list at this pop-up market of local artisans and small businesses from Celebrate Fairfax. The event is free, but food, drinks, and the merchandise aren’t. The market is indoors, so masks are required.

Sunday, Dec. 12

  • Psychic Connections in Criminal Investigations — 1-2 p.m. at Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library (7584 Leesburg Pike) — Meet Noreen Renier, a psychic investigator who has been featured on shows from “Larry King Live” to Court TV’s “Psychic Investigators.” A book signing follows her talk. Masks are required for the free event.
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Developers broke ground last week on a project to construct new townhomes on part of Graham Park Plaza.

The project will bring 177 townhomes to the West Falls Church shopping plaza at 7271 Arlington Boulevard. The developer committed to having 22 of those in Fairfax County’s affordable dwelling unit program.

It’ll also redevelop the area with public greenspace, improved sidewalks, and bicycle facilities.

Bethesda-based developer EYA, which is also involved in several other projects in the Falls Church area, has sold 40 townhomes so far, and the next phase of sales will occur early next year, a spokesperson said.

“This project supports one of our key strategic objectives, to provide attainably priced homeownership options in a well-designed, walkable neighborhood,” Evan Goldman, an executive with EYA, said in a news release.

The three-story townhomes with an option for a fourth-story loft start in the mid-$600,000s.

Goldman participated in a groundbreaking ceremony last Wednesday (Dec. 1) with Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay, Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross, and others, including representatives of property management firm Federal Realty, which has retained part of the plaza.

Federal Realty previously owned the entire plaza but sold 8 acres on the western side for $20.25 million in March to make way for the townhouse project. Several buildings on the eastern half of the plaza, including a Giant grocery store, were slated to remain for retail.

McKay said revitalization projects take a lot of creativity.

“It’s not just another development,” he said. “It’s revitalization and transformation of a part of the county where we need to continue that momentum.”

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Morning Notes

Real Estate Taxes Due Today — Fairfax County property owners must pay the second installment of their real estate taxes by the end of today (Monday). Taxes can be paid through the Department of Tax Administration’s online portal. [Fairfax County Government/Twitter]

Vienna Man Arrested in Fatal Hit and Run — Carlos Alexander Torres Jr., 24, of Vienna was arrested in Montgomery County on Friday (Dec. 3) after police detectives determined that he was allegedly the driver in a Sept. 1 hit-and-run crash in Reston that killed the other driver. Police believe alcohol may have been a factor in the crash. [FCPD]

Asian Restaurant in Vienna ClosesRed Galanga at 144 Church Street NW closed its doors for the last time on Dec. 1, citing challenges with filling positions during the pandemic. Sister restaurant Sweet Ginger (120 Branch Road SE) will honor outstanding gift certificates from Red Galanga, which says an Italian restaurant will take its place on Church Street. [Patch]

Former WFT Quarterback Sells McLean House — “Alex Smith, quarterback for the Washington Football Team until earlier this year, has sold his 6,300-square-foot mansion in McLean for $5,800,000. He first listed the property for $6,750,000 in June, a few months after he was released from the team.” [Washingtonian]

Leaf Vacuum Careens into Vienna Garage — “Town of Vienna employees were working in the 400 block of Center Street, N., on Nov. 30 at 2:59 p.m. and had parked a leaf-vacuum trailer on the roadway with a wheel stop in place to secure it. Due to the steep incline, the trailer went over the wheel stop, proceeded down a hill and struck the garage of a residence, Vienna police said.” [Sun Gazette]

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The weekend is almost here. Before you rush out to buy an evergreen or head to bed for some much-needed sleep, let’s revisit news from the Tysons area that you might’ve missed.

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

  1. Closure of Starbucks at Capital One is permanent
  2. West Falls Church kitchen fire pushes four people out of their home
  3. With site plans in review, MetroWest developers promise retail is coming to Vienna Metro area
  4. Indie coffeehouse 29th Parallel brews up expansion with new Vienna shop
  5. Traffic Alert: Georgetown Pike closed in McLean after vehicle crash

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

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

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A rapid COVID-19 at-home testing kit (via Jernej Furman/Flickr)

Fairfax County Public Library offered at-home COVID-19 test kits to the community for the first time this morning (Friday). An hour later, they were all gone.

The county announced on Monday (Nov. 29) that it would join a pilot program that the Virginia Department of Health launched last month to distribute free COVID-19 tests through participating public libraries.

FCPL received 2,300 BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Card Home Test that were made available at its 13 open community branches and eight regional libraries when they opened at 10 a.m. today.

All of the kits were distributed within the first hour, according to FCPL spokesperson Erin Julius, who says demand was high at all branches.

“The high demand for these test kits this morning indicates a continued need for accessible COVID-19 testing kits in Fairfax County, and FCPL is pleased to help distribute them,” FCPL Director Jessica Hudson said. “Libraries are trusted community hubs and we are glad to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community by making testing kits more accessible. We will continue to distribute tests as more are made available to us.”

Julius said the state is sending more test kits that will arrive next week, but she advises residents to call their local branch to ensure their availability before visiting. The library system also asks that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms request a kit using its contactless curbside pickup service.

VDH says the number of test kits distributed to participating localities depends on the size of each library system and feedback about how much interest they expect in the program, along with the general availability of supplies.

“The uptake varies,” VDH spokesperson Cheryl Rodriguez said. “However, some library systems are reporting that distribution has been brisk.”

According to VDH data, COVID-19 testing has been trending upwards in the Fairfax Health District since early November, with a spike seen in the days leading up to Thanksgiving (Nov. 25).

Fairfax County joined the state’s library test kits pilot slightly later than the other participating localities, but the move comes amid rising COVID-19 cases and renewed anxiety over the new omicron variant, which was confirmed in the U.S. for the first time on Wednesday (Dec. 1).

The Fairfax County Health Department said there has been increased demand for testing throughout Virginia recently, and offering free test kits at libraries gives people an alternative when retail supplies have been low.

Rapid COVID-19 tests have been in short supply since this summer after declining testing rates led manufacturers to decrease production. As infections surged again due to the delta variant, the federal government committed over $560 million to help boost the country’s supply.

“During the late summer months and early fall, many states across the country experienced limited access to rapid testing kits, due in part to slower production,” Rodriguez said. “However, production is increasing and more rapid tests should become available.”

Photo via Jernej Furman/Flickr

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