Newsletter

Morning Notes

Snow Exacerbates Regional Grocery Supply Issues — “Icy roads and the after-effects of last week’s snowy weather have stripped the shelves at local grocery stores in recent days, compounding supply chain crises that have been in the news for months, says one potato supplier.” [DCist]

County Gives Covid Relief to Businesses — “The Fairfax County Department of Economic Initiatives announced today that it has awarded more than $16,000,000 in PIVOT grant funds to 1,016 Fairfax County businesses adversely affected by the pandemic. Businesses in the most hard-hit sectors of the Fairfax County economy, including hotel, food service, retail and personal services, and arts and culture industries, were targeted.” [Fairfax County DEI]

FCPS Adopts Updated Covid Quarantine Guidelines — Fairfax County Public Schools has adopted most of the new federal guidelines for COVID-19 isolations and quarantines, allowing staff who test positive to return to work after five days if symptoms are gone or improving. Students must still isolate for 10 days, since school cafeterias don’t have room for social distancing. [Patch]

Christmas Tree Collection Extended — “Christmas tree collection has been extended through January 21, 2022, for recycling. Lights, decorations, and stands must be removed to ensure collection. After January 21, please schedule a brush Special Pickup to have the Christmas tree removed.” [DPWES]

Vienna Starts New Water Main Project Today — “Glen Ave. will be closed to through traffic from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. between Albrecht Circle and Wade Hampton Dr. to allow for installation of a new water main. Detours during those hours will last for 3 weeks or until the project is complete.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Fairfax Connector Plans Regular Service — “In anticipation of more winter weather and snowy conditions overnight, Fairfax Connector will operate regular service on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022. Fairfax Connector officials want to remind passengers to check their route-specific information before heading out because detours on individual routes will be in effect in anticipation of poor road conditions.” [FCDOT]

Metrobus to Follow Moderate Snow Plan Today — “In a moderate snow service plan, service on some routes is suspended and detours will be in effect on certain routes to avoid areas prone to hazardous conditions such as hilly terrain and narrow streets. Approximately 119 out of 183 routes will operate. Bus supervisors will assess roads overnight to ensure they are safe for bus operations.” [WMATA]

Tysons Mass Vaccine Site Closed — “The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is closing five of its Community Vaccination Centers (CVCs) on Friday, January 7, 2022, due to expected inclement weather with some areas of the state expected to see several inches of snow.” [VDH]

County Tweaks COVID-19 Protocols — “Due to the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases in the Fairfax Health District, the Health Department will no longer provide individuals with clearance letters to return to work or school following COVID-19 infection or exposure. The agency will also stop providing written communications that exclude people from work or school due to illness or exposure.” [FCHD]

Tysons Area Ramen Offerings Highlighted — Northern Virginia Magazine recommends Jinya Ramen Bar, which has locations in the Mosaic District and Reston, and Hokkaido Ramen Santouka at The Boro for those craving a unique ramen bowl. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Get Advice from Tysons Business Leader — “Aspiring entrepreneurs can get start-up tips from Pallabi Saboo, CEO of Tysons-based Harmonia Holdings Group during the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority’s next Entrepreneurship 101 virtual workshop on Tuesday, January 11.” [FCEDA]

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Morning Notes

Tysons Leads D.C. Suburbs’ Growth — “Tysons…is growing in almost every area, from population to office space to hotel rooms. While the area’s development boom started before the pandemic, the ability to work from home and the desire for more space have only helped areas such as Tysons.” [Axios]

Vienna Church Sponsors Charity Effort for Afghan Refugees — “Vienna Presbyterian is seeking volunteers to sign up and donate items for Welcome Backpacks for Afghan refugees as well as unaccompanied minors at the border. The church is working with Church World Service, one of the largest faith-based organizations assisting with refugee resettlement.” [Patch]

Tysons Defies Office Space Trends — “In the late innings of the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for office space in Tysons appears to be bucking some trends, according to local developers and brokers. In a market environment characterized by lease renewals, Tysons saw the only new lease in Northern Virginia over 50,000 square feet during the second quarter of 2021, according to CBRE’s second quarter research.” [Commercial Observer]

School Board Renames McLean HS Dressing Rooms — “The theater dressing rooms at McLean High School were renamed after Janie Strauss, a School Board member for the Dranesville District from 1993 to 2019, an avid former educator, and director of the nationally acclaimed Critics Awards Program for High School Theater, known as the Cappies. Her three children graduated from McLean where they were active in the arts and athletics.” [FCPS]

Local Arts Groups Receive Funding — “Twelve Fairfax County arts organizations will share just over $100,000 in funding through ArtFairfax’s ‘Arts Ignite Recovery’ (AIR) initiative. The organization established the AIR grant program to support arts groups as they emerge from the pandemic and restart their programming.” [Sun Gazette]

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Fairfax County leaders would love to get a repeat of the Mosaic District, but future success with similar public-private partnerships is far from guaranteed.

The mixed-use project intended to kickstart Merrifield’s revitalization has been Fairfax County’s first and only use of tax increment financing, known as TIF, a process that governments across the country have used to help develop areas.

“It’s often called the self-funding tool,” Keenan Rice, president of the Maryland-based public financing consulting firm MuniCap, told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ economic initiatives committee on Tuesday (Oct. 26). “It creates the money that you’re investing to make the project happen.”

One of several tools available to the county for supporting development, a TIF can allow a developer to improve a property but freeze a tax rate for a certain period of time, keeping taxes the same as before the improvements are made.

The base tax rate is still paid, and the remaining money goes to pay off the financing, such as bonds that a government could issue.

A diagram shows how tax increment financing can work (via Fairfax County)

It gives a developer money to launch a project, while the tax rate is fully restored later. A government authority can also require a project to have certain public elements.

“TIFs are risky…because they depend on new development,” Rice said. “Development’s always risky, and TIF projects are probably riskier because that’s why you’re using a TIF for those projects: There’s some unusual challenge to that project.”

To help reduce those risks, the county developed 16 financial principles in 2008 to guide decision-making, ranging from whether a project would have a “catalytic effect on…revitalization” to avoidance of a negative impact on the county’s bond rating.

Board Chairman Jeff McKay mentioned those principles could be updated and requested that county staff re-evaluate them on a 10-year, recurring basis.

Annual reports show the Mosaic District’s TIF generated over $5 million each year from 2017 to 2020, surpassing $5.5 million in some years.

The Board of Supervisors has heralded the Mosaic District as a model to replicate, but they also want to avoid pitfalls and being misled by previous results.

When a TIF fails to deliver

To see what happens when TIFs go wrong, look at Williamsburg in York County, Rice said.

The county approved the project in 2007 to help its Marquis development project, which was envisioned as a hub with a new library, office space, hotels, restaurants, retail, and entertainment, according to a county memo.

But shortly after the bonds were issued, the developer behind the project went bankrupt, Rice said.

The result was a 1980s-style “big box shopping center” featuring a Best Buy, Kohl’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and a JCPenney that closed in 2015 and has remained vacant, though the space has a new owner, York County noted.

Projections of a payoff within a decade and multimillion-dollar annual tax payments thereafter has turned to uncertainty over whether the privately held bonds will ever be paid off, York County administrator Neil Morgan said in a memo.

“I don’t think we can afford to fail,” Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said.

Officials noted that Fairfax County has other options to help guide development. Rice said TIFs provide upfront capital or financing, but “not every project needs that.”

The Board of Supervisors adopted another tool in September 2020 called an Economic Incentive Program, which provides a potential 10-year tax abatement for properties in certain designated areas.

There are also special assessments and taxes. Mosaic District has both mechanisms in place but hasn’t had to use them, according to the county.

“To the District’s credit, the TIF revenues have exceeded the debt service needs every year, so we have not had to [go] down…option two, special assessment, or option three, special tax,” said Joe LaHait, debt coordinator with the county’s Department of Management and Budget. “We stand with the good fortune of the development in that district.”

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A satellite in orbit (via NASA/Unsplash)

A telecommunications company dedicated to filling gaps in NASA’s data-relaying satellite network will create dozens of new jobs in Fairfax County with newly announced plans to expand its headquarters in Tysons.

A subsidiary of the Australian aerospace and defense contractor Electro Optic Systems, SpaceLink currently employs 10 people in Virginia at the headquarters it established at 8260 Greensboro Drive in March. It also has offices in Silicon Valley, California.

With the expansion, the company will create 41 new jobs and gain more capacity to develop and deploy a satellite communications system intended to “provide secure and continuous communications between spacecraft on orbit and the ground,” according to a press release from Gov. Ralph Northam’s office.

Fairfax County’s proximity to D.C. and the region’s abundance of government agencies and contractors made it “a natural choice” for SpaceLink’s headquarters, CEO David Bettinger says.

“As an innovative space company, we also have the opportunity to draw from the rich pool of talented technology and business professionals who are drawn to the region for its opportunities and dynamic environment,” Bettinger said in a statement. “Northern Virginia is an important hub for the aerospace and defense industry, which makes it a great fit for SpaceLink’s corporate headquarters.”

According to Northam’s office, SpaceLink’s relay network will be developed in Fairfax County and is designed to fill in the gaps of the U.S. Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System.

Here are more reactions from the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, which collaborated with the Commonwealth to secure the project:

“We are proud to see SpaceLink growing here and we welcome the opportunity to work with the company further,” said Victor Hoskins, president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. “Fairfax County and Northern Virginia have developed a robust aerospace and satellite cluster and SpaceLink is the perfect company to take advantage of our many assets in that industry sector and the workforce supporting it.”

“Fairfax County leads the Commonwealth in innovation and our businesses reflect that,” said Fairfax County BOS Chairman Jeffrey C. McKay. “The Board of Supervisors has invested significantly over the decades to build Fairfax County into a community that attracts great companies and a great workforce, and that work continues to pay off. We are looking forward to welcoming SpaceLink.”

The FCEDA worked with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership to secure the project for Virginia and will support SpaceLink’s job creation through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP). State-funded VJIP provides consultative services and funding to companies creating new jobs in order to support employee recruitment and training activities. As a business incentive supporting economic development, VJIP reduces the human resource costs of new and expanding companies and demonstrates Virginia’s commitment to enhancing job opportunities for residents.

“SpaceLink’s expansion in Fairfax County will strengthen the Commonwealth’s position as a leader in the aerospace industry,” Gov. Northam said. “Small businesses are critical to fueling economic growth, and we are proud to support this Virginia-founded company as its innovations make a name for itself in space exploration and defense.”

Photo via NASA/Unsplash

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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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