Morning Notes

New I-66 Ramp to West Falls Church Metro Opens — A new ramp designed to provide direct access from Interstate 66 to the West Falls Church Metro station is expected to open around midday today (Thursday). Work on the ramp, which connects two existing I-66 East/Route 7 ramps, began in May 2020 and is part of the I-66 Inside the Beltway widening project. [VDOT]

Partial Closure of Tysons Boulevard Begins — Fairfax County held a ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday (Wednesday) to mark the launch of a program to give pedestrians and bicyclists access to a half-mile of Tysons Boulevard. This is the second year that the county has experimented with a partial closure of the road near Tysons Galleria. [Dalia Palchik/Twitter]

McLean Family Starts Persian Ice Cream Delivery — The owners of Amoo’s Restaurant in McLean has spun off one of their most lauded dishes into a delivery service. Kinrose Creamery launched last week, producing ice cream that can be picked up at Amoo’s and delivery sites in Vienna, Sterling, and Manassas. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Wolf Trap Hotel Project Returns to Vienna Board — The Town of Vienna Board of Architectural Review will discuss the latest revisions to plans for a four-story, mixed-use development at 444 Maple Avenue W. when it meets tonight. After being slowed down by the pandemic and public opposition to proposed development on Maple, the developer told Tysons Reporter in June that they hope to start construction this fall. [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Behind the Architecture of Capital One Hall — “HGA worked with the client, presenting alternatives [to marble] such as Italian travertine, silvery Alabaman limestone, or Brazilian swirling granite to avoid joining the high number of noteworthy marble failures in the past sixty years. For Barry Mark, vice president of design and construction at Capital One, none of these had the distinctive beauty and character for the vision he had of the project.” [The Architect’s Newspaper]

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Drivers traveling down Maple Avenue may have noticed a chain-link fence around the Vienna Wolf Trap Hotel and the vacated Tequila Grande. The properties have long been idling, but the fence, which was erected earlier this year, suggests that demolition day could be within sight.

Business and town officials are still working on the four-story shopping and residential center at 444 Maple Avenue W. that the Vienna Town Council initially approved back in 2018 to replace the hotel and restaurant, which relocated to Oakton.

“We’re excited to get the project underway,” said Chris Bell, senior vice president of acquisition and development for New Jersey-based developer Hekemian & Co., Inc. “It’s been a long time.”

The project calls for approximately 20,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground with 151 multifamily rental units above, according to the town.

The project has stirred controversy since it was announced, as community members objected to its size and potential traffic impact in a town that has proven wary of development.

Construction documentation took about a year, and the developer submitted building permits to Fairfax County in September after being slowed down by the pandemic for about four months, Bell says.

Demolition permits are in the works, and the project is expected to have utilities capped off at the property soon. A permit allowing sewer and water services to be capped off in the Tequila Grande property line was issued on Feb. 4, according to the county’s permits and inspections database.

Bell says construction could begin in the early fall and take about 18 months.

Commercial tenants are already slated to take most of the business space available at the 444 Maple development, but it still has space for lease, according to company representatives.

Councilmember Howard Springsteen broke from the majority to vote against approving the project in 2018, citing the development’s size and traffic concerns.

Springsteen told Tysons Reporter that people welcome development — provided it’s reasonable.

The project has not yet had plans come before the town’s Board of Architectural Review, chairman Roy Baldwin said yesterday (Wednesday). The architectural board advanced the project in May 2018, saying that it met zoning parameters.

“All we were called on was whether this particular proposal met the zoning at that time,” Baldwin said, noting that didn’t mean whether they’d vote for or against the project.

The developer describes the planned mixed-use complex as a “walkable neighborhood destination” with luxury apartments, two levels of parking, a bike storage, a pet-washing station, and more.

Renderings show a central plaza by commercial spaces, trees around the property, and two courtyards — including one with a pool — surrounded by residential units.

Photo via Town of Vienna

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The wait is almost over for the opening of Viva Sol Juice Company, a new smoothie and juice bar along Maple Avenue.

Viva Sol Juice plans to have a soft opening starting tomorrow (Thursday) before its official debut on Saturday (Aug. 29) at 124 Maple Ave W. in the Vienna Shopping Center, owner Kelly Hartranft told Tysons Reporter.

Hartranft grew up in Vienna and graduated from Madison High School. She opened a cafe in Delaware in 2017 after finding dairy-free bowls helped ease symptoms from her autoimmune condition, according to Viva Sol Juice’s website. “With the opening of Viva Sol Juice Co., the evolution of Viva Bowls, a larger and more extensive menu is now available to the local community,” according to the website.

Self-described as “Vienna’s original superfood cafe,” the business focuses on offering plant-based, gluten-free food and drinks. Customers can expect to find 100% cold-pressed juice, bowls, smoothies, doughnuts,  and brunch at the new spot.

The online menu includes bowls, smoothies, all-day brunch, cold-pressed juice, an espresso bar and season menu items.

For the soft opening, Viva Sol Juice will offer “sneak peek” ordering through UberEats from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. On Friday and Saturday, people will be able to come to the new location between 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Once fully open, the regular hours will be from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekends.

Photo courtesy Kelly Hartranft

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Bye, bye Bloomin’ Onion. The Outback Steakhouse in the Town of Vienna plans to close in early August.

Elizabeth Watts, the spokesperson for the restaurant chain, told Tysons Reporter that the Vienna location’s last day of business will be Sunday, Aug. 9.

“Our lease is expiring next month, so we will be closing this location,” Watts said, adding that a new Outback Steakhouse plans to open in Gainesville this fall. The chain currently has nearby locations in Herndon and Arlington.

“Employees will have the opportunity to transfer to a nearby location,” Watts said. “Those who do not transfer will receive severance.”

The restaurant has been in business for 25 years at 315 Maple Avenue E. and has 46 employers, according to Outback Steakhouse’s website.

It is unclear what will happen to the spot once the restaurant leaves. Eric Collich with First Washington Realty, which leases the space at the shopping center where the restaurant is located, declined to comment.

“I am not at liberty to discuss current tenants or future plans but at FWR we are dedicated to cultivating exceptional shopping experiences in communities where we own property such as Vienna,” Collich wrote in an email.

People who want to order from the restaurant before it closes can get curbside take-out, delivery or dine at the restaurant, which has limited capacity and hours, according to its website.

The website lists the restaurant’s hours as 4-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. on Sundays.

Photo via Outback Steakhouse/Facebook

Hat tip to Vienna VA Foodies Facebook Group

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Wawa plans to open its first store in the Town of Vienna next Thursday (July 16).

The store at 465 Maple Avenue W. used to house a Coldwell Banker branch. Now, the building has been retrofitted — the first time ever for Wawa, according to a press release.

To commemorate the opening, a ribbon cutting will happen with social distancing outside the store on the morning of its opening. Wawa is encouraging people to watch a celebratory video and take part in an online contest for limited-edition Vienna Wawa t-shirts.

The store will open at 8 a.m. on Thursday, according to the press release.

Roughly 40 employees will work at the 6,290-square-foot store, which will offer Tesla charging stations. People who don’t want to venture outside for hoagies can get food and drinks delivered from the store via DoorDash and Uber Eats.

The press release detailed Wawa’s COVID-19 measures to reduce the risk of spreading the virus:

Wawa made several key changes to ensure it has the safest, most convenient store environment. The changes include launch of The Wawa Clean Force, a dedicated and trained sanitizing swat team working at each store every day with one job: keeping Wawa stores clean, sanitized and safe. Additional protections and policies include masks and gloves for all associates; clear plastic safety guards at check out and food-service counters; even more frequent hand washing standards; and wellness temperature checks for associates before each shift. For customers, social distancing with friendly visual markers and more hand-sanitizer stations have been added in common areas.

Wawa also plans to launch an initiative that will donate $1,000 from the Vienna store’s first week of sales to the Capital Area Food Bank and donate $1,000 each and hoagies to charities picked by Vienna’s police and fire departments and Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, the press release said.

Additionally, people will be able to make donations to support military personnel and their families until Sunday, July 19, at any Wawa store, the press release said.

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South Block is now opening the doors to its new home in the Town of Vienna.

The juice and smoothie bar left its location at Jammin Java and plans to officially open next week at 207 E. Maple Avenue.

Amir Mostafavi, the owner, shared on the public Facebook group Vienna VA Foodies yesterday that the new location is doing a soft opening this week via Uber Eats from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. The menu includes cold-pressed juice, toast and salad, smoothies and bowls.

Mostafavi said that Monday, July 6, will be the spot’s official opening date.

“We are so excited to be a part of this amazing community! I grew up in McLean… so this spot hits really close to ‘home’ for me!” Mostafavi wrote.

Photo via South Block/Facebook

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GNC will close its location in Vienna as part of the company’s plans to shutter between 800 and 1,200 stores across the country.

The vitamins and supplements retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection early last week.

The store at the Maple Avenue Shopping Center is a part of several ones closing in Virginia, including locations in Sterling, Franklin and Charlottesville, according to GNC’s website. “Please note that even closing stores may remain open for a period of time,” the website says.

In a June 23 letter to its customers, the company stated that the COVID-19 pandemic “created a situation where we are unable to accomplish our refinancing and the abrupt change in the operating environment has had a negative impact on our business.”

Here’s more from the letter:

As a result, we felt the best opportunity for us to continue to improve our capital structure and address certain operational issues was to restructure through a Chapter 11 reorganization. This gives us the opportunity to improve our balance sheet while continuing to advance our business strategy, right-size our corporate store portfolio, and strengthen our brands to protect the long-term sustainability of our company.

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The Town of Vienna can soon expect a new smoothie and juice bar along Maple Avenue.

Viva Sol Juice Company is planning to open this July, according to a Facebook post yesterday. Tysons Reporter spotted permits for the business earlier this year.

Viva Sol Juice Company is set to come to 124 Maple Ave W. in the Vienna Shopping Center.

The business’ Facebook page describes it as “Vienna’s original superfood cafe” and claims that the location will offer 100% cold-pressed juice, bowls, smoothies, doughnuts, an espresso bar and brunch.

The Facebook page says that Viva Sol Juice Company is focused on plant-based, gluten-free food and drinks.

Image via Viva Sol Juice Company/Facebook

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After years of pausing the Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) zone in attempts to revamp it, the Vienna Town Council decided last night to repeal the zoning code and “start fresh.”

The Vienna Town Council held a public hearing last night on the two options for the MAC’s future: either repealing it or extending the moratorium, which has been in place since 2018, on the zoning code to June 2022.

To Repeal or Not to Repeal?

The two choices received a mixed reaction during the public hearing. Supporters for extending the MAC generally side that the zoning code has many good aspects that they don’t want to see completely scrapped, while supporters for repealing argued that town staff and consultants the town wants to hire need a clean slate.

Mary McCullough, who recently left the town’s Planning Commission, urged the Town Council to keep suspending the MAC until the code rewrite is done. “Repeal says we harmed,” she said. “That’s the message you send with repeal.”

Vienna resident Roy Baldwin said that repealing the MAC sends the message that the work from volunteers on the zoning code “is of no value.” Resident Ray Brill Jr. disagreed, saying that people’s hard work on the MAC is not enough of a reason to keep it.

“The fact that we repeal does not mean we don’t incorporate the vision and some of the things we like,” Brill added.

Cindy Petkac with the town’s planning and zoning division told the Town Council said she thought they would be “better off starting fresh.”

“I think it would be more efficient to repeal it,” Petkac said. “It is a cumbersome, confusing process in my professional opinion.”

Consultant Challenges 

The town’s plans to hire a consulting firm to help with rewriting the code also factored into the conversation last night about what to do with the MAC.

The Vienna Town Council initially paused its plans to hire a firm for $250,000 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Baldwin, the local resident, testified that he isn’t convinced the town needs to spend money on consultants when locals with expertise “will work for free.”

Council Douglas Noble argued that bringing in a consultant is even more important now to help the town heal from the pandemic. The Town Council will consider hiring the consulting firm on June 15, Mayor Laurie DiRocco said.

Close Vote

After the public hearing and some discussion among the councilmembers about the MAC, Noble proposed a motion to repeal it.

“It’s not about the MAC,” Noble said. “It’s about how do we make Make Avenue commercially economically viable?”

To quell some concerns about ditching the good parts of the MAC, Councilmember and Mayor-elect Linda Colbert offered an amendment that would make reports, studies, surveys, comments from the Planning Commission and Board of Architectural Review and more a part of the package of information the consultants would review.

A lively discussion continued on the idea to repeal, and Noble suggested withdrawing his motion, saying that he thought the councilmembers wanted to talk more.

Ultimately, the council approved Colbert’s amendment and then voted for Noble’s motion 4-3, with Noble, DiRocco and Councilmember Nisha Patel voting “no.”

“We learned over time the MAC code had flaws,” Noble told Tysons Reporter today. “I did not believe those flaws were fixable.”

Image via Town of Vienna

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The Vienna Town Council plans to hold a public hearing on Monday about what to do about the contentious Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) zone.

The hearing will solicit feedback from community members on whether to extend a moratorium on the zoning guidelines until June 30, 2022 or rescind it altogether.

The MAC zoning code was adopted in October 2014 and then suspended four years. The moratorium on the zoning code has been in place since September 2018.

While several members of the town’s Planning Commission called the zone “dead” during their meeting earlier this month, the commissioners disagreed on what should happen.

The Vienna Town Council meeting is set to start at 8 p.m. People will be able to watch a live stream of the meeting.

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