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Morning Notes

Health Department Tweaks Approach to Quarantined Students — Starting today (Thursday), students who have been exposed to COVID-19 can complete wellness checks and get guidance from the Fairfax County Health Department online instead of having to wait for a phone call. The change is part of an ongoing effort to speed up the contact-tracing and quarantining processes so students can return to school buildings. [FCHD]

Local Arts Groups See Bright Spots Amid Upheaval — “Fairfax County’s art scene is under-funded, under-capacity and still weathering the pandemic, but several upcoming projects will bring it closer to its potential, the president of ArtsFairfax said. The county’s prospects are changing more quickly than at any other point in her 12 years with the organization, Linda Sullivan told the Greater Tysons Citizens Coalition during a Sept. 9 roundtable.” [Sun Gazette]

Vienna Schedules Meeting on Economic Strategy — The Town of Vienna will hold a public meeting from 6-7:30 p.m. on Sept. 30 for residents to discuss a draft economic development report that looks at how the town could more effectively attract and support businesses. The town hired a consultant in January to conduct a market study and propose an economic development strategy that were released in June. [Patch]

Italian Bakery Sets Tysons Corner Grand Opening — “Handcrafted Italian pastry is coming to Tysons Corner Center! Celebrate the Grand Opening of DreamStart Winner Bisnonna Bakeshop on Saturday, 09/18 with family-friendly activities starting at 10am” [Tysons Corner Center/Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Falls Church City Requires Masks and Distancing — “Masks and social distancing are now required for all visitors and employees — regardless of vaccination status — in City of Falls Church facilities, including City Hall, the Community Center, and the Mary Riley Styles Public Library when it reopens. This safety precaution mirrors the rules in other Northern Virginia jurisdictions.” [City of Falls Church]

D.C. Restaurant Week Returns — The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington’s annual D.C. Restaurant Week kicked off yesterday (Monday) and will last through Sunday (Aug. 15), with many participants again offering to-go options. Tysons venues include Agora Tysons, The Capital Grille, La Sandia, and more. [Viva Tysons]

Vienna Outback Steakhouse Eyed for Another Drive-Thru Bank — “Chase Bank is seeking a conditional use permit for a bank with a drive-thru ATM at 315 Maple Avenue East. The existing one-story building at Maple Avenue East and Glyndon Street SE would be demolished and replaced with a new bank and drive-thru ATM. The project requires review from the town’s Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals.” [Patch]

Capital One Exec Appointed to Fairfax County EDA — Joe Vidulich, federal government relations director of Capital One, joined the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority Board yesterday (Monday) after the Board of Supervisors approved the addition. The Virginia General Assembly passed a law earlier this year allowing the board to expand from seven to nine seats. [Fairfax County]

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Morning Notes

Fairfax County Flies Flags at Half Mast for Pentagon Officer — Fairfax County flags will fly at half-mast today (Wednesday) after a Pentagon police officer was killed in a shooting incident that prompted a lockdown around the Department of Defense’s headquarters. Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement that there was no threat to the county and no county resources were deployed. [Jeff McKay/Twitter]

Walking Fundraiser Supports Local Black-Owned Businesses — The Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce is holding a virtual walk-or-run fundraiser called One Step Forward this August, which is National Black Business Month. Participants can pick their own distance to travel and will receive a T-shirt, finishing medal, and more along with possible prizes. [NVBCC]

Tysons Finds Silver Lining in Pandemic Disruption — Social distancing and the increase in remote work prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic has given Tysons an opportunity to rethink the use of public spaces and how to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists, local economic development leaders say. The real estate market, ongoing development, and the return of the area’s retail industry could position it to lead Fairfax County’s recovery. [Virginia Business]

Vienna Little League Teams Shine at State Tournament — “With two teams winning championships and another reaching the semifinals, Vienna Little League all-star baseball squads enjoyed a successful summer in state-tournament action. The two state-title teams were the Vienna American 8-10 age all-stars and the new Vienna Intermediate all-stars, a first-season team of 13-year-olds playing on a bigger diamond.” [Sun Gazette]

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A person holds a phone with the Instagram app opened (via Solen Feyissa/Unsplash)

The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority gave nearly $29,000 to 10 social media influencers over the past year to highlight its jobs portal and virtual career fairs.

The campaign primarily involved Instagram users posting about events with hashtags and links to drive traffic. Economic development officials said the effort was intended to develop its brand as well as the region’s job market and engage target audiences, specifically with millennials in mind.

“We felt like we needed to do some experimentation,” FCEDA President and CEO Victor Hoskins said.

The campaign drew 536 clicks to the authority’s Work in Northern Virginia jobs board and generated 276 views in online registration page traffic for technology and entry-level career fairs.

While Instagram advertising can average around $1.25 per click, the FCEDA said influencer marketing helps reach a highly targeted audience through sources that users trust. The campaign required the influencers to note that their social media posts were sponsored content.

The social media influencer contracts cost a total of $28,800 with individual agreements ranging from $800 to $7,000 and mainly required users to make Instagram posts and stories, according to agreements obtained by Tysons Reporter. One agreement included an Instagram video, and some included blog post requirements.

The authority says third-party consultant New York City-based Development Counsellors International and each influencer negotiated rates.

“[What we’re] really ultimately trying to do is build awareness of northern Virginia as this location that has thousands and thousands of jobs, and it’s a great place to live,” said Alan Fogg, the authority’s vice president of communications.

Economic development officials say the campaign delivered $205,000 in earned media value, reached more than 332,000 Instagram users, and generated nearly 25,000 likes, comments, and shares.

The FCEDA is not unique in using social media personalities to reach potential audiences. Other governmental bodies have turned to social media influencers for tourism marketing as well as running COVID-19 messaging.

Fairfax County funds the economic development authority with around $9 million each year currently, and social media advertising is just one way economic development leaders are trying to market the region to help improve the jobs pipeline.

“The message we deliver to all the recruiters and chief human resources officers from all the companies here in Fairfax County is: You sell your organization, your company, and why [to] come work there, and we’re going to help complement you with selling the region,” Mike Batt, the director of the authority’s talent initiative program, said.

The FCEDA used Development Counsellors International to identify and vet the influencers, set goals for the number of posts, and ensure posting requirements were met, Fogg said in a statement. FCEDA staff selected the influencers presented to them.

Batt said Development Counsellors International received a competitively awarded contract from the EDA. The consultant also developed the jobs hub, which the authority recently lauded.

The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority spearheaded the jobs posting site, but it’s connected to nine other economic development groups and localities in Northern Virginia.

“Economic development is not the business it was five years ago,” Hoskins said. “It really takes a lot of innovation.”

Photo via Solen Feyissa/Unsplash

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The existing office building at 1953 Gallows Road (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 3 p.m. on 6/29/2021) A developer is looking to transform a site with an eight-story, 88-foot-tall concrete office building into a three-building residential development called Flats at Tysons Corner.

The existing building at 1953 Gallows Road in Tysons would be replaced with a multifamily residential building with 225 to 260 units. The new structure would be 50 to 75 feet high and include a courtyard in its center, according to a development plan filed Tuesday (June 22) with Fairfax County.

Other proposed changes include converting parking lots into space for two 60-foot high multifamily buildings — one with 36 units and the other for 50 units, including 14 workforce dwelling units total — and also creating two publicly accessible parks with amenities such as lawn furniture, ping pong tables, and more.

The existing office building, built in 1983, would remain during the first phase of the project, which would focus on the parking lot area, and then be demolished in the second phase, per the development plan from Pulte Homes.

Approximately 2,628 square feet of space in the property’s northeastern corner will be set aside during the project’s first phase to accommodate a planned extension of Boone Boulevard in accordance with the county’s Tysons Comprehensive Plan, according to a statement of justification submitted by the law firm DLA Piper, which is representing Pulte.

The development will also contain a new service road that will be constructed as a future public street to connect Gallows Road to Boone Boulevard, with the potential to eventually be extended to Leesburg Pike.

In the statement of justification, DLA Piper says the proposed redevelopment will help “rejuvenate” the site by introducing residential uses to an area dominated by commercial and office buildings:

The redevelopment of this site as proposed presents a timely opportunity to rejuvenate the under-utilized, asphalt-covered site and transform it in the vision contemplated by the Comprehensive Plan for Tysons Urban Center with additional meaningful open space, the introduction of residential units to the quadrant, enhanced environmental features, critical multimodal transportation infrastructure, and a stepdown transition in density from the core of Tysons near Route 7 to the outer edges across Gallows Road. If this opportunity is missed because adjacent sites are not ready to redevelop, the Property will likely remain a sea of parking…for another 15-20 years, rather than serving as a catalyst and setting the stage for an exciting transformation of this quadrant.

PulteGroup, which is based in Atlanta, did not immediately return Tysons Reporter’s questions about the project, including its timeline. It’s the third largest homebuilder nationwide.

The Meridian Group, which owns the existing office building, says it has a contract with Pulte to sell part of the surface parking lot for the proposed development, but there are no immediate plans to get rid of the building.

“The developer plans are just designed to give them flexibility for the distant future,” a Meridian spokesperson told Tysons Reporter. “Perhaps in 20 years, they might want to demolish the building. But they have no plans to do so. The building will remain untouched and is not part of the rezoning.”

It isn’t yet clear when the project could go before the county planning commission. Upcoming meetings through July 28 didn’t list the application on board agendas, and the county’s online Land Development System showed no hearing information.

Nearby at Fairfax Square, the mall is seeking to upgrade signs. If PulteGroup’s proposal moves forward, the more than 5-acre residential complex would wrap around that shopping and dining center.

Photo via Google Maps

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The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority will soon add two new seats to its seven-member commission, which has remained the same size since it was created in 1964.

Virginia legislators and the governor approved a measure earlier this year allowing the change, which takes effect July 1 and will help meet diversity needs, officials say.

Charged with helping the county attract, retain, and support businesses, the FCEDA commission consists of local business and community leaders appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

FCEDA Chair Cathy Lange says the expanded board will help the authority bring different viewpoints to the table after the county has changed and grown over the past 57 years.

“We need a richness of perspectives to help the FCEDA understand why companies start here, grow here and stay here,” Lange said by email. “This diversity of needs also is directly tied to our understanding and support of talent attraction and retention. The companies want and need a broad and diverse talent pool, and we have to connect the talent to the companies.”

According to Lange, the EDA board hopes to further diversify representation of emerging and growing business sectors, such as financial services, cyber, cloud, and data analytics, as well as entrepreneurs and small business leaders “building the next base” of companies.

“At the same time, we can identify leaders who are reflective of the growing diversity in our county and its business community,” Lange wrote.

In its legislative agenda for the General Assembly’s 2021 session, Fairfax County noted the authority was created by state law in 1964, allowing the county to appoint seven board members.

“That number has not changed in the 50 years since the FCEDA was created, though Fairfax County has changed substantially during that time,” Fairfax County officials said in the report, which was adopted on Dec. 1.

In the legislative agenda, officials noted that the county’s increasing diversity extends to its economy:

The County has experienced tremendous growth, as has the local economy — the number and size of companies has increased, and businesses have expanded into new and diverse industry sectors. Increasing the size of the FCEDA board could further diversify participation from the County’s business community, while maintaining focus on the County’s traditional business base (including government contracting and IT services).

Among its services, the authority helps businesses find office space in the county, assists with special tax-exempt bonds for companies and nonprofits, and aids international firms seeking office space in Fairfax County.

While headquartered in Tysons, the authority has offices around the country and the world, including in Germany, India, Israel, South Korea, and the U.K. as well as Los Angeles.

Lange said in the email that Fairfax County is an amazing success story, and expanding the commission will help to ensure that continues.

“Understanding what different companies need to succeed here helps us to inform county leaders on what policies and programs need to be implemented to continue our success,” Lange wrote. “This also will help us understand how to market the county to businesses that want opportunities to grow and success, and how to market the region to talent.”

FCEDA vice president of communications Alan Fogg said by email that he expects there will be movement around appointments starting next month.

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After being adapted for emergency uses during the COVID-19 pandemic, the former Container Store in Vienna could undergo another transformation.

The vacant storefront at 8505 Leesburg Pike near the Greensboro Metro station could be used by the Tysons Partnership and Celebrate Fairfax, Fairfax County Department of Economic Initiatives Director Rebecca Moudry told Tysons Reporter.

The building is 19,260 square feet in size and has approximately 95 parking spaces. The Container Store previously used the space before relocating to 8459 Leesburg Pike in 2018.

The county acquired the space in 2019 for $16.6 million with the hopes of using it to support innovation and entrepreneurship and create a vibrant destination for residents and visitors. Those goals remain and could be realized by this fall, Moudry says.

When the county requested proposals for the space before the pandemic, development officials suggested the property could host temporary or “pop-up” community-oriented events, arts and cultural special events, innovation hubs or exchanges, or civic and cultural programming that complements and supports primary uses of the property.

Over the past year, it has been used for storage, including for personal protective equipment, and it was designated as a hypothermia shelter from Dec. 1 to April 1.

“As we plan for reopening and economic recovery, placemaking, local businesses and community engagement will play vital roles in this work,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said in a statement. “The county owned building at 8508 Leesburg Pike is uniquely situated to serve the growing residential and business community in this area of Tysons, and we are currently reviewing proposals to provide such opportunities.”

A representative for Tysons Partnership, the nonprofit group charged with implementing the county’s vision for Tysons, had no update on the plans as of mid-June, and Celebrate Fairfax did not immediately respond to a message.

“I hope to be able to see this site activated in the coming months, both with its indoors and outdoors spaces,” Palchik said in her statement.

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The Fairfax County Planning Commission gave the green light yesterday (Wednesday) to a once-more revised version of a plan to revitalize downtown McLean.

“This amended plan is an important and hopefully major change for the future revitalization of the aging and somewhat dated downtown McLean business and shopping area,” Dranesville District Commissioner John Ulfelder said.

Their unanimous vote came after commissioners made some last-minute changes to the plan in response to nearly two dozen people who aired their criticisms, both general and targeted, during a public hearing last month.

The changes incorporate some of that feedback, specifically on parking and building heights. One change responds to commissioners, who had some concerns regarding a mechanism to review the plan’s progress in 10 years or when 1,660 residential units have been built — whichever comes first.

Commissioners struck a section recommending changes to parking as well as a proposal to close the intersection of Center Street and Old Dominion Drive, which will remain open until a rezoning application is filed and reviewed.

They also clarified a section on building heights surrounding Franklin Sherman Elementary School and McLean Baptist Church such that the buildings abutting them cannot be more than 40 feet tall.

Finally, they recommend only triggering the review once 1,660 residential units have been developed, rather than after 10 years, which Ulfelder described as “an arbitrary time limit.” The revised McLean Community Business Center plan goes into greater detail about what the review could look like and the opportunities for community input ahead of any decision about adding more residences.

Will it be enough to attract developers?

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating,” Ulfelder said.

The commission unanimously supported a follow-on motion directing the county to run a pilot project aimed at making McLean more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly with streets designed to slow down traffic.

“The pilot could include techniques like narrower vehicle lanes, the addition of on-street parking, time-of-day parking, and interim changes to road configurations,” Ulfelder said.

He suggested that the pilot’s scope encompass the area along Old Dominion Drive from Beverley Road to Corner Lane and along Chain Bridge Road from Old Chain Bridge Road to the Tennyson Drive and Ingleside intersections.

His recommendations include some ideas that were struck from the CBC plan’s parking management section.

Ultimately, Ulfelder said the current comprehensive plan has “proved to be too inflexible and unwieldy for landowners and potential developers,” while the proposed plan takes a “new approach that supports change and development while maintaining aspects of the CBC that the residents of McLean love and value.”

He thanked county staff for their work on weekends and after business hours to talk with residents, attend meetings, and continuously revise the plan.

“I think people don’t understand the commitment and sacrifice staff makes on these efforts,” he said.

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As the spread of COVID-19 abates, Fairfax County is exploring a variety of ways to help local businesses recover from the pandemic’s economic impacts.

In addition to creating a new grant program that will provide financial relief to small businesses and nonprofits, the Board of Supervisors voted today (Tuesday) to license and pursue a trademark for a new “Made in Fairfax” logo that businesses could use to indicate that their products were made in the county.

The board’s vote gives the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Development authority to execute licensing agreements that would let local businesses include the logo in their marketing. The county will also apply for a trademark registration from the Commonwealth of Virginia, which would enable the county to protect its brand.

Officials say the logo will be a useful promotional tool not just for the businesses that use it, but also for the county as it seeks to build a vibrant local economy.

“This is an innovative approach,” Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk said. “This is how we differentiate ourselves. This is how we make Fairfax County a leader in new areas as well.”

The Made in Fairfax program launched in June 2018, growing out of a Small-Scale Production Initiative that the county started to identify ways to better support and bring visibility to local manufacturers and entrepreneurs.

Initially, the program focused on revising Fairfax County’s comprehensive plan and zoning code to make them friendlier to what the county calls “maker” businesses — manufacturers that work on a small scale to produce anything from food and beer to clothing and furniture.

Drafted during the early stages of the Zoning Ordinance Modernization Project but as a separate effort, the new zoning rules permit production businesses in most commercial zones within the county, instead of restricting them to industrial areas, according to Doug Loescher, the program manager for Fairfax County’s Community Revitalization Office.

“We recognized that we probably had small-scale production businesses in Fairfax County, but they were not very visible,” he said. “…Our hope was that, by being in commercial shopping centers and retail areas, they can be more visible, and we can support them better.”

The county also created a Made in Fairfax network and directory that now consist of more than 125 businesses. About half of them provide food products, but there are also woodworking shops, candle makers, and even a blacksmith.

While Loescher says his office hopes to also work with larger Fairfax County-based businesses, Made in Fairfax primarily concentrates on small businesses that are more isolated and lack their own marketing resources. Most participants are working solo or have fewer than 10 employees.

The county developed the new logo with the help of a committee of maker businesses as part of a larger branding effort to promote the Made in Fairfax Network.

For the most part, the only criterion for businesses to be eligible to license the logo will be that they need to have a production facility located in Fairfax County. The county also reviews makers that register for the network to ensure “there’s no problems with what they’re producing, that it’s not illegal or improper in some way,” Loescher says.

Though the Made in Fairfax program was established prior to the pandemic, Loescher says the past year has illustrated why it’s necessary for the county.

“There’s a recognition by people about how important it is to actively support small, independent, local business enterprise, and this is just another way of doing it,” Loescher said. “It’s a fairly small program, but I think symbolically, we hope it communicates to the business sector and to the community that we value these businesses and that we want to support them.”

Photo courtesy Fairfax County

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Morning Notes

Primary Voter Turnout Expected to Follow Pre-Pandemic Trends — “While tens of thousands of Virginians already voted early ahead of the primary election on Tuesday, the turnout for people casting ballots in person is expected to look more like it did before the coronavirus pandemic. ‘I suspect that the bulk of the voters will be voting tomorrow as they traditionally have,’ said Fairfax County General Registrar Scott Konopasek. [WTOP]

Capital One Hall Announces More Performers — After revealing its first confirmed performer last week, Capital One Hall announced today that the rock band Kansas and comedians John Crist and Taylor Tomlinson will join country singer Clint Black in the Tysons performing arts venue’s inaugural season lineup. Tickets for all of the shows announced so far will go on sale at 10 a.m. on Friday (June 11). [Capital One Hall/Twitter]

Texas Jack’s Ranch Eyes September Opening — Texas Jack’s Ranch plans to open at the Lumen apartments near the Greensboro Metro station this September, about a year after previously anticipated. The Italian restaurant is owned by the same team behind Texas Jack’s Barbecue in Arlington, and the team of international chefs will be led by ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ finalist Declan Horgan. [Patch]

County Board to Vote on Demolishing McLean House — Today’s Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting will have several spot blight abatement public hearings, including one for a house at 1045 Bellview Road in McLean that’s currently owned by the Embassy of Qatar but has been abandoned for the past five to six years. The building caught fire last Halloween, and there are plans to replace it with a new house. [Patch]

Regional Coalition Recommends Economic Development Strategy — A coalition of D.C. area government, business, nonprofit, and education leaders called Connected DMV released a report on how the region can work together to encourage economic growth. The report included data illustrating drastic differences in economic mobility between the east and west sides of I-95, with Fairfax County ranking high and the District on the low end. [The Washington Post]

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