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Just off Broad Street in Falls Church, hordes of the verminous Skaven and humans of The Empire fight tooth and nail over a damned city.

On other nights, newcomers can be found learning Magic: The Gathering tricks from wizened masters. Since the 1980s, local adventurers have rallied to go on quests in Dungeons and Dragons and more obscure tabletop games.

After this weekend, the battles and revelry inside The Compleat Strategist (103 East Broad Street) will go silent for good, as the tabletop gaming store shuts down to make way for a Whole Foods-anchored mixed-use development.

The store is closing for good on Saturday (Jan. 23), with all goods now going for 80% off. Much of the inventory is already depleted, but there are still treasures buried among the codexes and outdated rulebooks for those who know what to look for.

The Compleat Strategist manager Adam Fukumitsu says the store has gotten many well wishes since the closure was announced late last month. A lot of patrons have asked how has business been, expecting the store must have been seeing difficulties, but Fukumitsu said that isn’t the case.

“Business has been rocking for two years,” Fukumitsu said. “It was a ghost town last March, but it started coming back by May.”

According to Fukumitsu, after a month or two of quarantine, tabletop gaming saw a surge as locals looked for new activities to keep them sane through lockdown. Board games saw a boost in popularity, and online gaming sites like Roll20 boosted the sale of physical books for players.

“On top of that, D&D came back like a rocket starting in 2015,” Fukumitsu said. “Now, everybody has a D&D group.”

The store opened as Strategy and Fantasy World in 1977 and was bought by the New York-based, family-owned The Compleat Strategist in the 1980s. Fukumitsu has worked at the store since 2013, becoming a manager in 2015.

He says the store being pushed out by redevelopment wasn’t exactly a surprise.

“It was a train we’ve seen coming for a decade now,” Fukumitsu said. “We first heard of it in 2011, but there’ve been weird delays over the years…In 2019 we heard it was going forward and there was a lot of weird push and pull.”

Fukumitsu said at one point the property was eyed for development by Todd Hitt before the real estate scion was arrested and found guilty of being involved in a real estate Ponzi scheme.

In addition to hosting the sale, The Compleat Strategist is commemorating its impending closure with tabletop battles. As more retail moves to digital storefronts, Fukumitsu says the sense of community that gamers can find at brick-and-mortar stores will be difficult to replace.

“The community has been figuring out where they go now,” Fukumitsu said.

Now, he says local gaming groups have plans to go around to peoples’ homes, and one player has talked about getting access to a company-owned warehouse to play.

“We’re getting hit at both ends by Amazon,” Fukumitsu joked. “They’re both eating our lunch in sales and now kicking us off the property…but less online is that play space. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.”

Marc Forbes started visiting the store as a gaming enthusiast before he became an employee in 2016.

“My entire social life was tied up in this place,” Forbes said. “We’re going to try to keep that going after it closes, but it’s going to be harder… I’m really going to miss this place.”

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Morning Notes

Metro Leader to Step Down — “After more than six years leading the D.C. region’s transit agency…Metro General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul Wiedefeld is retiring. Wiedefeld, 66, will leave his position in six months, Metro Board Chairman Paul C. Smedberg announced in an unexpected statement Tuesday afternoon.” [DCist]

Fairfax County Records First Pedestrian Death of 2022 — Police are investigating a crash that occurred just before midnight on Jan. 8 on Lee Highway at Forum Drive in Fairfax. Joel Gonzalez, 22, of Fairfax was hit by a sedan driving east on Lee Highway and later died from his injuries in a hospital. [FCPD]

Falls Church Supports Voting Rights Bill on MLK Day — “U.S. Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Don Beyer joined Edwin Henderson II, founder of the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation, on Monday to celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. with nearly 100 other people at the Tinner Hill Civil Rights Monument in Falls Church.” [Patch]

Website to Order Free At-Home Covid Tests Launches — A federal website where people can order up to four rapid COVID-19 test kits per household is now up and running. The tests will be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service and are expected to take seven to 12 days to ship. [NBC News]

Providence District Supervisor Has New Daughter — “Jeffrey and I were thrilled to welcome our new daughter Sivan Esther Friedman into the world on Monday, January 17, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Our little peanut is a little early, (perfect balance, her mother is always late) and weighs in at 4 lbs. 14 oz., but everyone is healthy, and we couldn’t be more over the moon.” [Dalia Palchik]

Local Hybrid Plane Startup Gets Funding Boost — “Lockheed Martin Ventures has invested in Electra.aero Inc., a Falls Church-based hybrid-electric aircraft designer and builder that specializes in a growing air taxi market…The funding will support Electra’s plans to start flight testing its hybrid-electric ultra-short takeoff and landing aircraft (eSTOL) this year, according to a press release.” [Washington Business Journal]

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A COVID-19 testing company with a location in Falls Church is the subject of numerous complaints from across the U.S. about its practices.

Attorneys general offices from Minnesota to Washington state have gotten complaints about testing sites run by the Center for COVID Control, according to USA Today. Reported issues have included results being delayed or not sent at all, and participants receiving identical QR codes for results from a lab at one testing center in Houston.

Center for COVID Control only has one testing site in Northern Virginia, located at 821 W Broad Street in Falls Church. A representative from the company said it’s in a parking lot for a dermatology business.

The Fairfax County Health Department, Virginia Department of Health, and state attorney general’s office said they’ve received no complaints about the business, which says it provides free testing at over 275 locations.

The company’s Twitter also says it provides rapid tests for $100.

However, local residents have expressed concerns on Nextdoor, and the company has received complaints from the Better Business Bureau stating that the centers asked to see individuals’ driver licenses and didn’t send results. One person questioned the timestamps on the results.

“Was the testing actually done? Is the result accurate?” the person wrote.

The need for testing comes as Fairfax County averages three times more coronavirus cases this January than it did during last winter’s peak.

The company didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Neither the county nor the state health department sanctions testing sites, but VDH has a map of locations that provide testing, and users can filter by free testing sites.

Virginia also plans to add nine community testing centers across the state, including one in Fairfax County, that will provide free PCR tests.

VDH spokesperson Cheryle Rodriguez said that individuals should immediately report any suspected COVID-19 health care fraud through an online form or by calling 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).

The Office of the Attorney General said if people believe they have a complaint against a business, they should reach out to its Consumer Protection Section.

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Falls Church Distillers’ storefront with outdoor seating (via Google Maps)

(Updated Dec. 29) A local distillery that started in Falls Church plans to move to a new location next year.

Falls Church Distillers closed Christmas Eve (Friday) and shared photos of its transition, taking apart the restaurant-bar, as it prepares to move to a shared space at the Manassas-based Tucked Away Brewing Co.

“We leave Falls Church having realized so many personal, business and community memorable achievements that our time here will always be remembered with a personal deep well of fondness,” the company said in a message also posted on its website.

Michael Paluzzi, who started the family-owned and family-operated business, said in an email today (Wednesday) that they’ll always remember the music they had there, creating hand sanitizer with their operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the fellowship with so many guests.

As part of the transition, Falls Church Distillers shipped a large U.S. flag that it displayed outdoors to the widow of a friend who previously placed it there. He was an active duty lieutenant colonel in the Air Force at the time, Paluzzi noted.

The distillery broke ground at its location at 442 S. Washington St. over five years ago, eventually making a range of whisky, brandy, rum, vodka and gin.

Despite the transition, customers can still get the company’s spirits at restaurants in the D.C. region as well as liquor stores.

The business expects to open at its new location this spring.

Photo via Google Maps

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Outdoor gathering spaces are all the rage at Birch & Broad, the shopping center formerly known as Falls Plaza.

Property owner Federal Realty Investment Trust cut a ribbon last Friday (Dec. 17) to mark the completion of its nine-month-long effort to renovate the 144,000 square-foot strip mall at 1200 W. Broad Street in Falls Church.

In addition to getting a new name, Birch & Broad overhauled its building facades, replaced the existing signage, and reconfigured some parking to add spaces designed for curbside pickup, though not all of the designated spots had been marked as of Friday.

The centerpiece of the refurbished shopping center is a patio in front of Present Nails salon and Tasty Dumpling that features a gas-lit fireplace and picnic table-style seating.

“We’re really, really happy with the way it turned out,” Federal Realty Vice President of Development Jay Brinson said. “We think the investment that we made in public spaces and gathering spaces is exactly where retail’s going.”

Construction on the renovation began in April. Supply-chain issues held up the delivery of some materials, requiring substitutions, but otherwise, contractor LF Jenning was able to generally adhere to the project’s expected timeline and budget, according to Brinson.

While plans in the works prior to the pandemic, Federal Realty hopes the emphasis on outdoor seating areas, redesigned parking, and other changes will make its half-century-old shopping center more attractive during and after COVID-19 to both tenants and community members.

The real estate company announced last month that it had landed three new tenants. All of them are on track to open by early next summer, led by Crumbl Cookies in March, according to Federal Realty Vice President of Asset Management Deirdre Johnson.

Interior construction work for a fourth upcoming tenant, Taco Rock, could be heard during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Johnson estimates that the fast-casual restaurant and bar is about 60 days away from opening.

Once those spaces are filled, the shopping center will be fully occupied except for one 5,000 square-foot basement space that Federal Realty anticipates being turned into a children’s gym, Johnson says, though no deal is in place yet.

Other changes at Birch & Broad focused on sustainability, including the full adoption of LED lighting, the use of native plants for landscaping, and a handful of electric vehicle charging stations.

The Volta charging stations came courtesy of that company’s partnership with Giant Food, whose anchor store at the shopping center underwent a remodel concurrently with the overall renovation.

“They’ve been rolling that out nationally in cooperation with Federal Realty and several other property owners,” Brinson said of the EV charging stations. “…We’re going to be looking to do more and more of those in the near-future.”

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Morning Notes

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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Power is out for 224 people in the Falls Church area (via Dominion Energy)

(Updated at 9:35 a.m.) More than 200 people in the Falls Church area are currently without power.

According to Dominion Energy’s outage map, the power loss has affected 224 customers on the east side of Route 7. The utility company attributes the outage to a vehicle accident.

A crew has been dispatched, but the estimated time of restoration is not until 1-6 p.m.

The City of Falls Church says the power outage has affected some of its facilities. The Mary Riley Styles Public Library has been closed for the day, and City Hall is offering only limited services since it’s on partial power.

The Falls Church Community Center, however, has full power and remains open.

According to the City of Falls Church, Dominion Energy arrived on the scene around 3:30 a.m. after a vehicle hit a utility pole near 300 North Washington Street.

“The vehicle was towed and there were no reports of injuries,” Falls Church spokesperson Susan Finarelli said.

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Morning Notes

Tysons Area Hit With Spree of Gas Station Burglaries — One or more individuals forced entry and took merchandise from three different gas stations in the Tysons area between 1:30 and 2:30 a.m. last Thursday (Nov. 18), according to the Fairfax County Police Department’s latest weekly recap. A fourth station — a Shell at 2084 Chain Bridge Road — experienced a break-in, but nothing was taken. [FCPD]

Vienna Town Council Approves Election Changes — “It was a pill they didn’t want to swallow, but Vienna Town Council members approved a resolution Nov. 15 asking the General Assembly next year to alter the town’s election schedule so all Council members’ seats will be up for two-year terms starting in November 2023.” [Sun Gazette]

Man Arrested in Falls Church Sexual Assault — “City of Falls Church Police said that Alexander McKnight, 31, was arrested in Maryland on Thursday night. McKnight has been charged with rape and malicious wounding, among other charges, police said. He has no fixed address, a news release stated.” [Patch]

Wolf Trap National Park Releases Environmental Assessment on Improvements — “To better meet the needs of current and future visitors, we’ve proposed several changes to the park’s general management plan — the plan that guides park management decisions. You’re invited to submit your feedback from Nov. 18 through Dec. 30.” [National Park Service]

Tysons Library Book Sale Seeks Volunteers — “Volunteers are being sought to assist with the Tysons Library Friends quarterly book and media sale, to be held Dec. 3-5 at Tysons Pimmit Regional Library. Donations of books and media for the sale also are being solicited, with proceeds benefiting the library and related activities.” [Inside NoVA]

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Morning Notes

I-495 South Lane Closures Tonight — “Weather permitting, the three left lanes of the southbound I-495 (Capital Beltway Outer Loop) general purpose lanes will be closed over the Dulles Toll Road (Route 267) for bridge work…The three left lanes of the southbound I-495 general purpose lanes are scheduled to be closed between 11 p.m. Friday and 7 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 20.” [VDOT]

Falls Church Civil Rights Icon Gets Historical Marker — “An unveiling ceremony will convene this Saturday, Nov. 20, at 1 p.m. for a state historical marker that highlights the career of Dr. Edwin Bancroft Henderson, known as the ‘Father of Black Basketball’…The dedication will be held at the marker’s location alongside Henderson’s former residence at 307 South Maple Ave, Falls Church.” [Virginia Department of Historic Resources]

Fatal Drug Overdoses to Surpass Last Year — “Preliminary numbers show the number of overdose deaths in Fairfax County in 2021 are on pace to exceed 2020 numbers, according to data from the Office of the Medical Examiner. Data provided to Patch shows there were 56 overdose deaths reported to the county in the first two quarters of 2021. Of these, 52 (93 percent) were related to fentanyl.” [Patch]

D.C. Area Gets $19.3 Billion from Federal Infrastructure Bill — “So far, no jurisdiction has highlighted which major road projects they’d like to tackle, but bets could be on the replacement of the American Legion Bridge, the Maryland toll lane project if it gets approved, and improvements to I-81 in western Virginia.” [DCist]

Virginia Tribes Get Say in Development Projects — “Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Thursday signed an order requiring state agencies to consult with Virginia Indian tribes before making decisions that impact land, waterways and other natural sites important to Indigenous peoples.” [The Washington Post]

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A seven-story building with apartments and businesses in the heart of Falls Church at Broad of Washington streets got the go-ahead from the city’s planning commission last night (Wednesday) after another round of tweaks.

The Broad and Washington project will replace existing buildings at a corner of the intersection with 334 residential units on five floors above ground-floor retail.

The development, which includes affordable housing, will feature a Whole Foods as the anchor for its retail/restaurant space and an 100-seat theater for live performances. It’s expected to be complete in 2024.

The project also involves replacing an existing public parking lot with a three-level parking garage with 684 spots, of which 64 will be public spaces.

Arlington-based developer Insight Property Group got the Falls Church City Council’s unanimous approval of its conceptual development plan back in January, half a decade after it first proposed the project in August 2015.

Falls Church City Planning Commission voted unanimously at yesterday’s public hearing to approve the developer’s site plan, which was originally submitted in June 11 before undergoing revisions and getting shared again on Sept. 15.

The commission’s discussion centered primarily on concerns about the proposed public parking spaces, which prompted the addition of a requirement that the developer provide an electronic display system to show the number of public spaces available and what floor they’re on.

Commissioner Tim Stevens, who pushed for the change, said he expects many drivers will be disappointed by the project’s public parking layout.

Susan Bell, a planning consultant, wrote in a Sept. 30 memo to city staff that the public parking meets the same number of spaces but is “not comparable to the existing surface lot in terms of ease of access to retail in the vicinity of the project.”

“While some of this is a function of moving the spaces into a garage, their distribution within the garage also makes them less convenient for patrons of nearby businesses,” Bell wrote, noting there will be 11 spots on the first level of the garage, 43 on the second level, and 10 on the third level.

Stevens also cited correspondence from the city’s zoning administrator, John Boyle, that said the “proposed plan scatters the public spaces throughout the parking garage and will be met by very strong public opposition.”

“I think he’s right, but at least I think we can assuage that a little bit by indicating to people before they have to make the effort to drive down the ramp that yes, there are spaces available, or no, there aren’t,” Stevens said.

The project also includes 76 spaces open to the public to share with retail, 210 spaces for Whole Foods, and 334 for residents of the development, according to the developer’s latest calculations.

Insight needs to submit a third version of its site plan that incorporates the planning commission’s feedback. That plan will be reviewed by city staff, with Planning Director Paul Stoddard getting final approval of the project.

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