Tysons Corner, VA

A moratorium on new development applications for Maple Avenue that was scheduled to expire in June has been pushed to November.

The Vienna Town Council voted on Monday (May 13) to extend the temporary suspension of the Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) zone to November 15.

The moratorium first went into effect last September to allow the town staff time to redesign the town’s guidelines.

Since then, the Planning Commission, the Board of Architectural Review and the Town Council have held individual and joint work sessions on draft design guidelines.

Additionally, the Town of Vienna also commissioned a Maple Avenue Corridor Multimodal Transportation and Land Use Study, which is expected to be received this summer and could be incorporated into the design guidelines.

Final design guidelines and amendments are anticipated to be done by September.

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Vienna Planning Commissioners may have found a solution last night (May 8) to parking and retail space concerns plaguing the proposed Sunrise Senior Living Facility.

Concerns raised about the proposed 83-unit facility at yesterday’s public hearing were similar to ones brought up at the last public hearing: parking, ground floor retail space and location.

Several residents and planning commissioners said they are worried that the 60 parking spaces might not accommodate all of the visitors, employees, shoppers and roughly 100 residents, adding to already problematic traffic congestion around Church Street.

Jerry Liang, the senior vice president of development for Sunrise, said that the removal of a compact parking space resolved an issue brought up at the last public hearing about easy access for ambulances. He also said that some of the facility’s employees will probably use public transit and carpools, freeing up more parking spaces.

In addition to the parking, residents said the ground floor retail at the senior living facility won’t appeal to shoppers. “Would you do your Christmas shopping at the hospital gift shop?” resident Christopher Hogan asked.

Toward the end of the meeting, Planning Commissioner Mary McCullough questioned whether the development was required to have the retail space, which then led to a possible solution: eliminate some or all of the retail space, which would free up the retailers’ 29 parking spaces.

The possible solution to the parking and retail space woes, however, does not address one other concern.

While residents said they support the idea of having a senior living facility come to the town, some took issue with the location at E. Maple Avenue and Center Street — the heart of downtown Vienna.

“I don’t want our centerpiece of town to be assisted living,” a man who said he runs a local business next to the proposed site told the Planning Commission.

Resident Nancy Logan urged the planning commissioners to consider other options for the space. “The location is something very important,” she said. “I’d love to see a hotel or something that could help Vienna.”

Vienna resident Chuck Anderson said during public comment that he doesn’t think a senior living facility will add synergy to the local bars and businesses.

Some residents said they wished the project could get moved to a different location, but the Planning Commission doesn’t have that authority.

“I really like Sunrise,” resident Shelley Ebert said during public comment. “I wish they would move to the west and come to my neighborhood.”

Ultimately, the Planning Commission decided to return to the development at their next meeting.

Rendering via Town of Vienna

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Bear Branch Tavern is eyeing a space that once belonged to a bank along Maple Avenue in the heart of downtown Vienna.

The restaurant wants to move into a roughly 6,700-square-foot ground floor space in an office building known as the Vienna Professional Center (133 Maple Avenue E.). The building was built in 1983 and has eight units, including the basement, according to a Town of Vienna staff report.

Bear Branch Tavern plans to occupy units 100 and 100A, which have been vacant since Cardinal Bank left about two years ago.

The restaurant would have 249 seats for indoor and outdoor areas in both the front and rear areas of the building, transforming the former bank teller drive-thru canopy into a rear patio, according to the staff report.

“Staff believes that a restaurant of this size with outdoor seating will help encourage a more vibrant Central Business District,” the staff report says.

In addition to offering food and drinks, the tavern also hopes to entertain patrons with live music. The plans show a location for acoustic performers on the back deck near the proposed fire pit.

The Planning Commission is scheduled to provide a recommendation on conditional use permits for outdoor dining and live entertainment at tonight’s meeting.

The meeting will also continue the public hearing on the Sunrise Senior Living Facility proposal — residents’ concerns about parking, safety and retail space dominated the last public hearing on April 24.

The meeting starts at 8 p.m. in the Town Hall Council Chambers (127 Center Street S.).

First image via Google Maps, second via Vienna Planning Commission

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Vienna residents elected three candidates concerned about the scale of new developments planned for Maple Avenue to the Town Council.

Yesterday’s election saw six candidates — two incumbents face off against four challengers — vie for three council seats.

According to a press release, the unofficial results of the election are:

  • Nisha Patel: 1,523
  • Howard Springsteen: 1,475
  • Steve Potter: 1,470
  • Julie Hays: 985
  • Tara Bloch: 775
  • Time Strike: 415

Incumbent Howard Springsteen has been a leading voice in opposition to new larger Maple Avenue developments, saying that the town’s commercial zones need managed growth with low-density residential zoning and modest, appropriate developments.

Local small business owner Nisha Patel has expressed concerns about the impact of high-density mixed-use developments on traffic and schools. Steve Potter is a founding member of the Vienna Citizens for Responsible Development, a group that has pushed for developments that preserve the “small-town character” on Maple Avenue.

Patel, Potter and Springsteen were all endorsed by the Vienna Citizens for Responsible Development.

Incumbent Tara Bloch, who had the second to the lowest number of votes, did not win reelection. Bloch touted the increased number of sidewalks and bike routes, as well as new commercial redevelopments, and she ran a campaign focused on pushing for a pedestrian-friendly business corridor.

Julie Hays, who ran a campaign focused on pedestrian and bicycle safety and protecting residential neighborhoods, and Tim Strike, who expressed opposition to the medium-high density developments and supported more public parking, also lost.

Vienna residents cast a total of 2,411 ballots, according to the press release.

Photos [1, 2, 3] in collage via Facebook

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Vienna is no longer a Starbucks-less town.

The drive-thru Starbucks at 367 Maple Avenue E. opened around 7 p.m. on Friday (May 3), but officially opened for the full day on Saturday (May 4), an employee at the store said.

The two other Starbucks on Maple Avenue closed on last Sunday (April 28), leaving Vienna without a Starbucks for four days.

On weekdays and Saturdays, the store opens at 5 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. On Sundays, the store closes at 8:30 p.m.

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Vienna may be going through changes, but in some ways, life in The Italian Gourmet Deli (505 Maple Avenue W.) isn’t that different from when it opened in 1974.

Jeremy and Margaret Schottler are the owners of The Italian Gourmet. Jeremy bought it in 1995, having grown up in Vienna and worked in the deli throughout high school and college. He married Margaret in 2005, and shortly after, she began working at the business.

“The area has changed a lot since then,” Margaret said. “It’s a lot busier. We make frozen entrees, and once they were not big sellers, but now people really want them.”

Margaret said the shift is representative of a larger change in the town. When The Italian Gourmet started, Margaret said it was known as the place to get specialty Italian food at a time when Vienna — and Northern Virginia as a whole — were still very much viewed as part of the South.

“Everyone would spend their Sundays making marinara sauce and they’d come here for supplies,” she said.

While the quick-bites have become increasingly popular, the specialty side of the gourmet remains active from hand-rolled balls of mozzarella to basil from a nearby hydroponic farmer. Margaret said the deli even uses the same recipe and tomato base for their marinara as they always have.

One of the biggest changes over the last few years was the Schottlers opening Molly’s Yogurt, a frozen yogurt and gelato spot just a few doors down in the same shopping center. The location had been a framing store underneath overflow spaces owned by the Schottlers.

The framing store closed in the middle of the recession in 2010, but with frozen yogurt on the rise, Margaret said the family saw potential. Molly’s Yogurt — named after their daughter — opened that year and is basically an extension of the deli, sometimes using the same tools or kitchen.

In both locations, Margaret said they know most of their customers by name and enjoy answering questions people have about the deli and gelato.

“If people are making an effort to go out to shop, they want an experience,” said Margaret. “That’s what we will always provide — what chains aren’t able to.”

If you stop by the deli, Margaret recommends the Roman Sandwich, a collection of traditional cold cut meats loaded with lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and more onto a 7-inch sub roll. Or if you swing by the frozen yogurt-gelato spot, Margaret said there’s plenty of options, but nothing beats classic chocolate.

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The widely anticipated — and occasionally reviled — drive-thru Starbucks at 367 Maple Avenue E. is set to open tomorrow.

“The plan is to open tomorrow morning at 5 a.m.,” an employee at the store said, “but that depends on how much of the work gets done. It could be later in the day, but we’re definitely opening tomorrow.”

The employee said the staff at the Starbucks is eager to open.

“It’s going to bring more convenience to Vienna,” the employee said. “We’re really excited to open, especially for the patio.”

Locals seemed keenly interested in the opening as well, with one local stopping her car in the middle of Maple Avenue to ask when the Starbucks would be open and find out where the nearest open one is (8381 Leesburg Pike in Tysons).

The two other Starbucks on Maple Avenue closed on Sunday, leaving the town without a Starbucks for four days. The original plan was to open today (Thursday).

At nearby Caffe Amouri (107 Church St NE), staff said the closures have led to a noticeable surge in customers looking for another coffee outlet.

One cashier at the overcrowded coffee shop looked at the line trailing out of the door. “I kind of can’t wait for [Starbucks] to open again,” the employee said.

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Vienna residents had mixed reactions to the proposed redevelopment of 380 Maple Avenue at last night’s public hearing.

While some people said the mixed-use, four-floor building, which would include ground floor retail and 39 multi-family residential condominium units, could revitalize the downtown area, others argued that traffic, safety and scale issues warrant the Vienna Town Council delaying or rejecting the proposal.

Dennis Rice, the owner of J.D.A. Custom Homes, told the Town Council that the proposed project has gone from being called “the gold standard for what the MAC should look like” last fall to receiving a mix of feedback that has elicited many changes.

“We’ve had seven more work sessions and public hearings,” Rice said. “It’s been a very long and arduous process. We made more than 75 changes.”

Some of those changes included removing the fifth floor and green wall in the back, adding more trees to provide extra screening for the nearby neighbors, reducing the number of residential units and changing the color scheme from brighter to softer colors. “We were referred to as the Lego building,” he said.

Testimony during the more than three-hour-long public hearing on the proposed rezoning ranged from residents who said the redevelopment will help Vienna’s ghost town appearance to arguments that the plan’s flaws outweigh the need to replace the site’s unattractive three-story office building that was built in 1970.

“I think this is a good change,” Tammy Moore, a resident, said. “It’s something different.” Moore said, adding that the units may attract both younger people and also older residents looking to downsize.

The proposal’s retail space received some support from residents who said the spots are an opportunity to attract local businesses instead of big box chains dotting Maple Avenue’s strip malls.

“To pass up a chance like this would seem to me to be a serious mistake by the town,” Nat White, a resident, told the council.

Some residents, like Anna Benson, took issue with the project’s scale.

“This project is a great idea, but it’s too big,” Benson said, adding that she asked a fifth grader to build the Town of Vienna as the developer envisions it with Legos.

“He said to me, ‘It’s going to be too big. We can’t fit everybody,'” she said. “My question to you is, ‘Are we smarter than a fifth grader?'”

Resident John Pott said the closeness of the development to people’s homes and nearly three dozen windows lead will invade current residents’ privacy. “It’s right in our face — a massive, balconied structure,” he said.

While a Transportation Impact Analysis found that the development will cause minimal traffic in the area and that the intersection does not need a traffic signal, several residents said the development will add to already bad traffic congestion in the area. Opponents also said that the placement of the loading dock access from Wade Hampton Drive could lead to safety issues for pedestrians and drivers.

“This is not only a public safety issue, it makes no logical sense,” Steve Potter, a resident, said, urging for relocation of the loading dock. “Loading docks do not belong on public streets or next to public sidewalks or access ways for handicap people. It’s an accident waiting to happen.”

Residents in support of the project said minor tweaks could address the issues raised and shouldn’t stop the Town Council from approving the rezoning proposal.

“[The developers] are really trying and I think this is one of projects where we have to support the developers and the good-heartedness of it and their wanting to make the town a better town,” Friderike Butler, a resident, said. “380 looks really beautiful and I know there are still kinks that need to get worked out – security hazards, safety hazards are uncertainly of concern and need to be addressed, but they don’t sound like would they be reason enough to vote this project down.”

The Vienna Town Council decided to leave the public hearing open until May 13 and directed the staff and applicant to provide responses to questions brought up and also possible solutions to the council.

“I just think in the interest of open government and to try to be as fair as possible by leaving the public hearing open, it shows we’ve gone the extra half mile,” Councilmember Howard Springsteen said.

Photo via Town of Vienna Planning and Zoning

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Free Bike Rides on Earth Day — In celebration of Earth Day today (April 22), Capital Bikeshare wants to encourage more carbon-free transportation by offering a free 24 Hour Pass, which gives cyclists a full day of unlimited 30-minute rides. [Capital Bikeshare]

Restaurant Site Faces Redevelopment — “D.C.-based Northfield Investment and Development has acquired the former Marco Polo restaurant site in Vienna with plans to develop 44 condominium townhouses and 8,200 square feet of retail. The former Marco Polo restaurant at 245 Maple Ave. had already closed when it was heavily damaged by fire in October and later demolished.” [Washingtom Business Journal]

Virginia Tops Distracted Driving List — “April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and this year, a new study ranked Virginia as the worst state for texting and driving… In 2019, Zendrive found that Virginia drivers use their phone an average of 9 percent of the time, which is a 3 percent increase from last year.” [Inside NoVa]

Pop-Up Fitness Class at Caboose Commons — People can lift, tone and drink brews at a free pop-up class by Falls Church Pure Barre at Caboose Commons tonight at 4 p.m. Happy hour will take place from 3:30-6 p.m. [Caboose Brewing]

Vienna Students Win National Merit Scholarships — “The National Merit Scholarship Corporation announced the first 1,000 corporate-sponsored scholarships Wednesday, April 17… Chloe E. Martin of Paul VI Catholic High School received a scholarship from the PwC Charitable Foundation. Martin plans to study business in college. The other winner, Richard H. Wang of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, got a scholarship from Northrop Grumman. Wang will likely study engineering.” [Vienna Patch]

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It’s been a long time coming, but Vienna’s two existing Starbucks are closing down as the chain readies to open a drive-thru location a few blocks away at 367 Maple Ave E.

On Sunday, April 28, both of the Starbucks along Maple Avenue will be permanently closing.

“We would like to thank you for being a part of our store community,” Store Manager Jesus Torres said in a sign posted on the store’s front door. “You are the heart of who we are at Starbucks. It has been a great pleasure to connect with you every day. We are very thankful to have played a role in your daily routine and that you have shared these moments of your life with us.”

The new Starbucks location is planned to open Thursday, May 2.

If you absolutely, positively, cannot go four days without Starbucks, the closest nearby locations are one at 2930 Chain Bridge Road in Oakton and one at 8381 Leesburg Pike in Tysons.

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