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Morning Notes

Metro Extends Service Hours This Weekend — Starting Sunday (July 18), Metro will provide rail service until midnight for the first time since operating hours were reduced at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The transit agency approved a package of fare reductions and service improvements in June aimed at attracting riders as more offices are set to reopen in the fall. [The Washington Post]

Freedom Hill Park to Recognize Historic Carter Family — As part of an interpretive history project, the Fairfax County Park Authority is inviting the public to a traditional land ceremony and sign dedication at Freedom Hill Park in Vienna on July 31. The new signs will tell the story of the multiracial Carter family, whose accomplishments include establishing the First Baptist Church of Vienna and possibly spying for the Union during the Civil War. [FCPA]

Fairfax County School Board Elects New Chair — The school board unanimously approved Sully District representative Stella Pekarsky as its new chair for the 2021-2022 school year. Board members thanked Mason District representative Ricardy Anderson for her time as chair amid the pandemic and noted she will get some much-deserved time with her family. [FCPS]

Food Trucks Stop by Providence Community Center — “Come by the Providence Community Center tomorrow [July 16] from 11am to 1:30pm for some freshly made empanadas by @empanadasdemza! This will make for a great snack over the weekend so make sure you grab some extra to share with your friends and families!” [Supervisor Dalia Palchik/Twitter]

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The former Lord & Taylor in Tysons Corner Center is now a mass vaccination site that can administer vaccines to upwards of 3,000 people a day.

In place of clothing racks are now hundreds of black chairs, all spaced to allow for social distancing, but vestiges of the department store — like the glass cases for jewelry — remain. The state-funded clinic, the first of its kind in Fairfax County, started delivering COVID-19 vaccinations today (Tuesday).

“This is the economic engine of Fairfax County, indeed the Commonwealth, and it is necessary people in Fairfax County get vaccinated,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Jeffrey McKay said during a press conference yesterday (Monday). “This is an act of charity, and we in Fairfax County are charitable people.”

As of Sunday (April 18), Fairfax County has expanded vaccine eligibility to anyone 16 and older, and more than a quarter of Virginia’s population has been fully vaccinated.

“However you’re able to get an appointment, please get vaccinated,” Gov. Ralph Northam said during the press conference.

After dropping steeply earlier this year, new case rates are plateauing, and the positivity rate is down to 6.1%, he said. As a result, small tweaks in the guidelines will be coming in a few weeks, such as changes to capacity limits for performing arts and sports.

Virginia State Vaccination Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula said that the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice will make a decision on Friday (April 23) about whether to move forward with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration continue to collect data.

To fill the hole left by the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Virginia has received an additional 15,000 doses of the Moderna and Pfizer shots this week for a total of 220,000 first doses, he said.

“It sounds like the production capability for Moderna and Pfizer is kind of maxed out,” Avula said. “We do not expect a significant increase in Moderna and Pfizer moving forward.”

Todd Putt, the senior manager of marketing for Tysons Corner Center, said Lord & Taylor left last year, and a logistics team converted the space into a clinic in a few weeks.

“We’re thankful to have the clinic here and to contribute in this way,” Putt said.

Retail outlets had been offering abundant space for a while, but the state and county needed more vaccine supply before it could open any clinics, according to Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik.

“This is a great local, state, and federal partnership to work more quickly to meet vaccine demand,” she said.

Officials said interpreters will be on-site to help and for those who speak languages not represented, as machines will offer translation services in more than 100 languages.

Residents can sign up for an appointment through the state website. They can also use VaccineFinder to find local pharmacies and other sites that are providing vaccine doses.

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The Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce bid adieu to its outgoing board members while welcoming a new group during a virtual induction ceremony on Thursday (Jan. 14).

The board welcomed seven new members to its 24-member group. Those new members include: Cherylyn Harley LeBon (DBL Lawyers), Dane Scott (Seasons 52), Erik Olafsson (Reese Yeatman Insurance), Michael Bradicich (General Systems Corporation), Raea Jean Leinster (Yuck Old Paint), Sid Ghatak (GSA) and William Dyess (The Dyess Group).

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik joined the meeting to welcome the new members.

“You, as the Tysons Chamber, I think are a very important voice and presence making investments in Tysons, but also helping to transform it to make it the place we want it to be: this vibrant, cutting edge urban place that can set a model for the rest of the country,” Connolly said to the board members.

Board chairman Andrew Clark echoed Connolly’s sentiment of progress by commending the board’s efforts and accomplishments in 2020. Clark particularly emphasized the chamber’s ability to host 40 virtual seminars, its fourth annual Tysons 2050 event and its first-ever Tysons Restaurant Week.

“We want to make sure that we continue to build, not just places, but this vibrant community where people enjoy to live, to work, to play and to hopefully retire as well,” Palchik said.

The Tysons chamber has a number of items on its 2021 agenda. Among those include a federal contracting event on Jan. 25 billed as a “Bid or No Bid” webinar, a venture funding event for small businesses during the first quarter of the year, and Tysons’ first car show, which the chamber is partnering with Tysons Corner Center to host.

“One thing we’re going to continue to do is build out our business verticals because we’re focused on value propositions for our members,” Clark said.

The chamber is also planning two restaurant weeks this year, its annual Tysons 2050 event in November, a summer soiree on Aug. 18, and partnering with The Tower Club to co-host a chef series.

“I believe post-pandemic, we’re going to be looking at a really exciting place that’s connected directly to our Metro system and the airport, but that is a place where people can identify and live and see as a neighborhood themselves,” Connolly said. “I’m really proud of what we’re planning to do and what we are doing in Tysons. We’ve got to stay with it; we’ve got to pay attention to it.” Read More

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Although Dalia Palchik has spent nearly all her life in Providence District, her first term representing the district on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors still threw her some curveballs.

Though she had some prior experience with the county government as Providence’s representative on the Fairfax County School Board, Palchik tells Tysons Reporter that she still had to get acclimated to the many departments, initiatives, and organizations, all while in the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic.

“My next goal is to have us get away from acronyms,” Palchik joked.

More seriously, the supervisor says the pandemic has uncovered problems in Fairfax County that she believes can be tackled if the county commits to building trust in the community and working with established and respected local groups and organizations.

She says this year has revealed the vulnerability of communities that have less access to housing, good schools, and walking trails. Those populations also bear the brunt of economic depressions and climate change.

While it is important that the county has hard data showing these inequities, it needs to work “so much faster and harder to help not make those gaps even larger,” Palchik said.

Palchik also saw significant gaps in Fairfax County’s ability to communicate with people who speak Spanish. Upon becoming supervisor, she learned that the county had no Spanish-speaking person overseeing all communications with Spanish speakers.

“I was shocked, honestly,” she said.

For a few months, Palchik filled that role until it was taken over by a Spanish-speaking staff member who joined the county communications team this fall, she says.

As supervisor, Palchik also noticed a disconnect between the county’s operations and the needs of hyper-local communities, noting that many residents are more likely to think of Rhode Island when they hear the word “Providence.”

“They know that they live in Oakton, Falls Church, Tysons, Merrifield or Dunn Loring,” she said. “I think the big challenge is continuing to do things that support our whole county, while honing in at the community development level.” Read More

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The future of Tysons as a transit-oriented urban district looks bright, but local leaders worry it could be marred by declines in Metro ridership.

During the State of Tysons event that the Tysons Partnership held last Thursday (Dec. 10), local elected officials, business leaders, consultants, and journalists outlined the present conditions and future of the city, touching on both the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and Tysons’ 40-year comprehensive plan.

While 2020 will be remembered for being upended by a once-in-a-century pandemic, for Tysons, it also represents a “decade of accomplishment” since Fairfax County adopted a comprehensive plan that “envisioned and guides transformation of our suburban-edge city to an urban destination,” event emcee Sol Glasner said.

In the past, Tysons was “characterized by regional retail anchors, ringed by acres of low rise office parks, themselves encircled by acres of surface car parking, encased in ribbons of asphalt,” he said.

But participants agreed that Tysons has made strides to becoming a transit-oriented urban district with more mixed-use housing and retail development, and more young families choosing to live in the city.

“We really are making progress. Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said. “This is a 40-year plan, and we’re 10 years in. We need to stay committed to these goals and applying resources and ideas to help achieve them.”

The primary concern for the State of Tysons speakers and panelists was the future of transit.

Pre-pandemic, the four Tysons Metro stops were clocking the highest-ever Metro ridership rates, according to Palchik.

With low ridership persisting, WMATA cuts looming, and little chance of federal aid in sight, the future looks grim, City Monitor editor Sommer Mathis said.

“If the service cuts that WMATA is proposing come to pass, Tysons is going to have to be more than agile,” she said. “It’s a huge potential blow to the ability of folks who were pleased to get to Tysons easily via Metro. We’re starting to track a death spiral for public transportation in a number of cities.”

Ridership declines due to COVID-19 could become semi-permanent when prices increase to make up for lost revenue, she said, adding that it will be difficult to get federal aid if the makeup of the U.S. Senate doesn’t change.

“Transit is under siege,” Palchik said. “It’s under fire. It’s going to take support from federal partners to make sure we make it through this challenging time and save transportation.”

Fairfax County Deputy County Executive Rachel Flynn said Tysons needs to be agile, checking in on the 40-year plan every few years. She stated that it is important to celebrate successes and identify areas to improve, such as transit, walkability, and equity.

Other focus areas in the coming months will be when companies start returning to their offices after the pandemic, responding to changes to the retail sector, and rebuilding the hospitality sector — particularly for restaurants.

Matthis said that some predictions of the future of remote work are overblown, but Tysons will need to respond to an increased demand for flexible office and meeting spaces as more firms are rethinking the traditional office space.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Monday Morning Notes

Falls Church Middle Eastern Restaurant Officers Discount for Guests Who Voted — “Sheesh Grill [in] Falls Church (8190 Strawberry Lane Ste 4) will offer diners who present their ‘I Voted’ sticker a discount off their meal from Oct. 26-Nov. 3.” [Sheesh]

Locals Help Science Teacher Clear Daniels Run Elementary Courtyard — “On #VolunteerFest weekend, students from Fairfax and Lake Braddock high schools help a science teacher clean up a courtyard at her school, Daniels Run Elementary.” [Twitter]

Tysons Chamber of Commerce Urges Greater Business Collaboration — “The chamber now is focusing on “business verticals” that encourage companies in complementary industries to purchase services from each other, said Andrew Clark, the chamber’s new board chairman.” [Inside Nova]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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The announcement of more delays for the Silver Line have led to concerns from Supervisors Dalia Palchik and John Foust that Metro isn’t giving the communities around the Tysons area a fair shake.

Metro was one of several topics the supervisors spoke to the McLean Citizens Association about earlier this week.

“They are currently talking about reducing Metrorail service across the system to 80%,” Foust said. “Except that they’re saying they don’t have the funds to commence service on Phase II of the Silver Line.”

While Foust said the second phase of the Silver Line expansion isn’t quite ready for opening, it will be soon, and Foust said it deserved to be treated like any other wing of the Silver Line. Foust was particularly vexed by arguments from WMATA that Metro lines that had been operational before the shutdowns will be prioritized for service.

“If they get 80%, we should get 80%,” Foust said. “We’ve invested $6 billion into the Silver Line… I’m advocating for opening Phase 2 of the Silver Line as soon as possible.”

Palchik said these issues have been exacerbated by lack of communication between WMATA and Fairfax County.

“We found out, maybe hours before the public, that the Orange and Silver lines were being shut down,” Palchik said. “The lack of communication between our boards and the WMATA boards is frustrating beyond compare. [We] need to ensure we’re not seen as the wicked stepchild of the metro system.”

Staff photo by Michelle Goldchain

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As the Tysons plan reaches its 10-year anniversary, Supervisors John Foust and Dalia Palchik spoke candidly to the McLean Citizens Association last night (Wednesday) about some of the challenges facing the Tysons plan today.

While many of the issues were Tysons-specific, they are also challenges the entire region faces as Northern Virginia becomes more urbanized:

  • Walkability
  • Schools
  • Affordable Housing

For some of these, the recent pandemic has both brought the issues into focus and helped present new opportunities.

“One of my favorite topics is walkability,” Palchik said. “[We’re] looking now at how we make Tysons more walkable.”

Palchik pointed to a recent success in temporarily closing a section of Tysons Blvd to allow for more cycling and walking. Palchik pointed to it as a step in the right direction, but said it also took a lot of work to make it happen.

“It took a month to get Fairfax and the Department of Transportation to agree on a location,” Palchik said. “I hope to see more flexibility to create a sense of place.”

Palchik pointed to the planned pedestrian and bike bridge going over the beltway as another upcoming walkability success. Tysons is also slated for more investments to connect the blooming city’s street grid.

“Sometimes, new streets can feel in conflict with existing conditions, but [we’re] trying to make it more walkable,” Palchik said. “Change can be hard, but we’re looking at the upsides and really listening.”

Palchik and Foust both repeatedly praised the foundation of the Tysons plan, but said there are things that need tweaking.

“One issue that continues to bother me is the fact that we don’t have a plan for delivering school facilities in Tysons yet,” Foust said. “We have gotten a proffer of land for an elementary school. That’s an issue that’s going to head up, going forward.”

Palchik said the county needs to be more flexible on how schools are built, for example, building smaller schools with less grade levels than traditional elementary, middle, and high school models.

“We’ve been working on proffers, because the county can’t buy land,” Palchik said. “We’re looking at being more flexible, knowing this area is urbanizing. Can we get five acres? Can portions of development be dedicated to classrooms?”

Foust said another issue that’s really been prevalent during the pandemic is the lack of affordable housing in the area.

“Our challenge is delivering housing for 80% below and 60% below [Area Median Income],” Foust said. “We’re working on that challenge to increase the amount of housing that is truly affordable.”

COVID-19, Foust said, has hopefully helped to highlight the role essential workers play.

“COVID, if nothing else, has opened up our eyes to who is truly our essential workers, and they’re not the people making the income that can put you in a luxury apartment in Tysons,” Foust said. “They’re the kind of people working in the department stores and grocery stores, the service providers, and they deserve to live in the community where they work.”

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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In 2010, a plan was approved to help turn Tysons into a fully fledged city. Now, the McLean Citizens Association is planing to talk to County leadership and learn about how those plans have progressed.

The MCA is hosting a conversation tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7:30 p.m. with Fairfax County Supervisors John Foust and Dalia Palchik on how Tysons has changed over the last ten years since the new Comprehensive Plan was adopted.

“The session, moderated by MCA President Rob Jackson, will be in person at the McLean Community Center and live-streamed on our Facebook Page,” the MCA said in a press release. “Prior reservations are required for admission to the in-person session, and all county COVID-19 guidelines, including the wearing of masks at all times, and social distancing will be enforced.”

Each supervisor is scheduled to share their thoughts on how Tysons has changed, followed by a question and answer session and some closing remarks.

Attendance of the in-person event is for MCA members only, though anyone can view the Facebook livestream. No more than 50 people will be allowed in-person, including speakers and support personnel. Registration for the in-person portion can be made online.

Questions should be sent in advance of the session to [email protected]

Image via Fairfax County Board of Supervisors

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Fairfax County is in the process of overhauling the outdated sections of its zoning ordinance, and Supervisor Dalia Palchik will be on hand tonight to address any questions locals might have about some of the upcoming zoning changes.

The Zoom meeting is scheduled tonight (Wednesday) at 7 p.m. and is open to all residents of the Providence District.

“Join the Providence District Council in attending this virtual community outreach meeting hosted by District Supervisor Dalia Palchik to learn from Planning and Development staff, ask questions and provide feedback on the zMOD Consolidated Draft,” the Providence District Council said in an email.

A 711 page draft document contains all of the planned changes. Many are modernizations that bring Fairfax’s zoning language in line with state and federal regulations to reduce confusion, such as renaming “home childcare facility” to “home daycare facility” and adding new classifications of residential uses, like accessory living units.

Questions can be submitted in advance via email to [email protected]

Image via Fairfax County

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