Newsletter

On the heels of its Scotts Run opening, Archer Hotel is now taking aim at another site in the Tysons area.

This time, instead of building a new building from scratch, hotel management company LodgeWorks Partners plans to renovate and convert the existing Hyatt House property in Merrifield into an Archer Hotel, adding an eighth location to its proprietary, boutique brand.

While Archer Hotels comprise the bulk of its portfolio, LodgeWorks also owns and operates hotels from larger, national companies, including four Hyatt Houses, which were designed for extended stays.

Located at 8296 Glass Alley, the seven-story, 148-room Merrifield Hyatt House has been at the Mosaic District since the mixed-use development opened on the old Multiplex Cinemas site by Route 29 in 2012.

With the renovation, the site will become Archer Hotel Falls Church. It is LodgeWorks’ first conversion, according to President Mike Daood.

“We developed this hotel back in 2012 as an upscale, independent lifestyle hotel — and it’s incredibly exciting to return to those roots,” Daood told Tysons Reporter by email. “…It’s an irreplaceable asset in one of the area’s most innovative retail and entertainment districts and a tremendous fit for Archer.”

According to Archer Hotel’s website, the conversion process will begin on Dec. 15 with remodeling work starting in January 2022. The hotel will remain open during its renovation.

“With thoughtful planning, we’ll work to ensure that our guests are comfortable with minimal disruption during the transition,” Archer Hotel says.

Like Archer Hotel Tysons, which opened near the McLean Metro station on Tuesday (Sept. 14), the Merrifield location will offer four different room designs. Amenities will include an AKB hotel bar with food and beverages, daily turndown treats for guests, and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Daood says Archer’s two D.C.-area hotels “will tout Virginia-centric design and stories,” but every site in the brand is unique.

“Each will be special in its own right,” he said.

Archer Hotel’s expansion comes amid continued struggles for the hospitality industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association projected in August that the industry will finish 2021 with a $59 billion decline in revenue from business travel compared to 2019, exceeding the nearly $49 billion lost in 2020.

According to the analysis, which was conducted by Kalibri Labs, the D.C. region’s market will collect $2.7 billion less from business travel this year than it did in 2019 — an 86.5% dip. The only market expected to see a bigger difference is New York City, which has an anticipated revenue gap of $4 billion.

Local hotel managers and workers started to see some signs of life early this summer, but occupancy rates were still around 50%, noticeably down from pre-pandemic times. A study commissioned by Tysons Partnership predicted the area’s hotels might not recover until 2025, and that was before the Delta variant clouded the future once again.

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I-66 near the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station (staff photo by David Taube)

Virginia State Police are still investigating the three-vehicle crash that closed I-66 East in the Merrifield area for hours on Thursday (Sept. 9).

The crash killed three people who have now been identified as 28-year-old Lacquora Smith from Alfred, Maine, and her 4-year-old and 6-year-old daughters, state police reported in an update this morning (Monday).

According to police, Smith was driving a 2012 Honda Crosstour east on I-66 when the vehicle lost control near the 64-mile marker at I-495, striking a 2015 Toyota RAV SUV and veering off into a guardrail along the right side of the interstate.

After hitting the guardrail, the Honda swerved back into the eastbound lanes of I-66, struck the Toyota a second time, and continued toward the left side of the interstate.

“The Honda continued off the left side of the interstate and struck the guardrail, after which it spun back into the eastbound lanes of I-66,” the VSP said. “An eastbound tractor-trailer swerved to the right to avoid the spinning Honda, but the two vehicles collided.”

Police responded to the scene around 3:06 a.m.

There were five people in Smith’s Honda at the time of the crash. The two surviving passengers — a 7-year-old girl and a 2-year-old juvenile — were transported to Fairfax Inova Hospital to receive treatment for non-life-threatening injuries.

VSP spokesperson Corinne Geller confirmed that three of the juveniles in the car were Smith’s children, while the fourth was a family member. It was not immediately clear whether the two surviving children have been released from Inova Hospital as of this afternoon.

As previously reported, the adult male driver of the tractor-trailer involved in the crash was not injured, and the Toyota driver, also an adult man, was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

A GoFundMe organized by Catherine Donnell, who identifies herself as Smith’s aunt, has been set up to help the family cover funeral costs and other expenses. The woman says Smith was driving home to New Hampshire after visiting her in Tennessee when the crash occurred.

The fundraiser has drawn more than $16,700 as of 3:15 p.m.

Eastbound I-66 is being detoured onto Nutley Street after a multi-vehicle crash near I-495 in Merrifield (via VDOT 511)

(Updated at 1:05 p.m.) Three people died in a multi-vehicle crash that closed off eastbound I-66 in Merrifield throughout this morning (Thursday).

All lanes on I-66 have now reopened, the Virginia Department of Transportation reported at 12:16 p.m.

According to the Virginia State Police, a tractor-trailer and two passenger vehicles collided on I-66 just before the I-495 interchange around 3:06 a.m. Police have confirmed three fatalities: an adult female driver and two children.

Police have determined that a Honda SUV traveling east on I-66 lost control near the 64-mile marker at the Capital Beltway, the VSP said in a report:

The Honda struck a Toyota SUV and then continued off the right side of the interstate. When the Honda struck the guardrail, it then re-entered the eastbound lanes of I-66 and struck the Toyota SUV a second time. The Honda continued off the left side of the interstate and struck the guardrail, after which it spun back into the eastbound lanes of I-66. An eastbound tractor-trailer swerved to the right to avoid the spinning Honda, but the two vehicles collided.

The three people who died at the scene were all in the Honda SUV.

“State police is still in the process of confirming their identities and notifying next of kin,” the VSP said.

Two other juveniles are getting treatment at Fairfax Inova Hospital for non-life threatening injuries. The adult male driver of the Toyota SUV was also transported to a nearby hospital for treatment of injuries that police say were not life-threatening.

The tractor-trailer driver, identified as an adult man, was not injured in the crash.

The crash investigation closed all eastbound I-66 lanes at 64.7 mile marker near the Capital Beltway, resulting in traffic backups that, at one point, stretched back to Fairfax County Parkway at Fair Lakes.

Drivers were detoured onto Nutley Street in Vienna, as VDOT warned motorists to expect delays. The investigation into the crash is still ongoing.

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(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) Over 8,000 people in Fairfax County still don’t have electricity this evening (Wednesday) as crews work to restore power and clear downed trees, the aftermath of last night’s thunderstorm.

Commuters were experiencing delays as part of Leesburg Pike that’s requiring detours. Emergency responders shut down the roadway between George C. Marshall and Dominion drives in Falls Church due to downed trees and power lines there.

Police told Tysons Reporter around 4:30 p.m. that the road remains closed in both directions and that power crews are attempting to clear the roadway and restore power, which could be completed in 10-12 hours.

“Follow detour signs in the area and please drive with caution,” Fairfax County Police Department said on Twitter.

The Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library was closed due to the ongoing power outage resulting from fallen trees and downed power lines on Route 7, which remains closed for about a quarter-mile from the I-495 interchange.

A Fairfax County Public Library spokesperson confirmed the Tysons-Pimmit closure to Tysons Reporter and added that the Kingstowne and Sherwood Regional branches were also shut down at 11 a.m. due to a lack of power.

Metrobus warned of possible delays as it rerouted buses going in both directions on Route 28A due to the scene.

Metro’s Orange Line has also been experiencing numerous delays late last night and into this morning.

While power was restored to the West Falls Church station around 9:45 p.m. yesterday after a storm-related outage, service was suspended again an hour later between Vienna and East Falls Church in response to “an unauthorized person” on the train tracks at West Falls Church.

Lingering power issues outside Dunn Loring then contributed to delays as far as New Carrollton in Maryland; starting around 5 a.m., Metrorail reported that normal service on the Orange Line had resumed about an hour later, but by 7 a.m., a disabled train at Dunn Loring triggered more delays, this time in Vienna.

Metrorail said at 7:45 a.m. to expect delays in both directions on the Orange Line due to the “train malfunction” at Dunn Loring.

While electricity has been restored for many of the 50,000-plus Fairfax County residents who lost power last night, thousands of Dominion Energy customers are still without power, primarily in the Merrifield and Falls Church area.

Many businesses in the Pimmit and Falls Church areas put up signs indicating that they are closed due to the power outages, including the Whole Foods, Capital One Bank, Orangetheory Fitness, and My Eye Doctor in Idylwood Plaza.

At Tysons Station plaza, store after store posted closed signs. The sign for Java Loco Coffee said it expected to be closed for the day. Trader Joe’s used two freezer trucks in the rear of the plaza to store meats and food beginning last night when the store’s power went out, an employee said. Also in the rear of the plaza, Tyson’s Barber regained power around 11 a.m., a worker said Wednesday with a sigh of relief.

Behind Tysons Station plaza, a detached Seven-11 was closed, but a Sunoco gas station had its pumps working as well as electricity. Across from Tysons Station, an Exxon had no pumps working, and an employee operated the store in the dark for cash-paying customers and regulars.

According to the utility company’s outage map, Dominion expects power to be restored between 7 p.m. today and midnight, mirroring similar restoration estimates for nearby areas.

Meanwhile, a heat advisory will be in effect today from noon until 8 p.m., and an excessive heat watch, where dangerously hot conditions are possible, will be in effect for tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon and evening.

The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department is reminding people to use air conditioning, avoid direct sunlight, choose appropriate clothing, hydrate, and follow other safety tips.

The Falls Church Community Center has been turned into a cooling center until 8 p.m., the City of Falls Church announced this morning. Face coverings and social distancing are required for all, and visitors must sign a COVID-19 waiver.

The city also shared information about how to handle fallen trees and suggested reporting downed power lines to the police department at 703-241-5053.

“Community members should play it safe in the aftermath of last night’s storm that left many without power today as well as downed trees and branches,” the city said in its news release.

Falls Church City residents may see a delay in trash and recycling collections today. Bins that are not collected by 4 p.m. can be reported to the city’s Solid Waste Hotline 703-248-5160, option 1.

Severe thunderstorms and flash floods are possible during afternoon and evening hours from today through Saturday.

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From left to right: The Italian Place General Manager Teresa Nacario, CEO and owner Adriana Penachio-Sifakis, and team members Davina Small and Andrea Ponce-Chavez in front of a wall of Naples at the new Mosaic District location (courtesy The Italian Place)

An Italian restaurant based in Alexandria is expanding with a second location at the Mosaic District in Merrifield, but patrons will have to wait a little longer than anticipated to try a sub or slice of pizza.

The Italian Place had planned to welcome customers to its new spot at 2985 District Avenue (Suite 190) this Saturday (July 24), but the grand opening will be delayed to August because more time is needed to prepare, owner and CEO Adriana Penachio-Sifakis says.

The restaurant confirmed the delay on Tuesday (July 20) on Facebook.

“We wished we had more hours in the day to prepare for our opening, and with thousands of RSVP’s for our upcoming grand opening ceremony, we will be postponing our opening by another week or so!” Penachio-Sifakis told Tysons Reporter by email.

She added that they hope to announce an exact opening date within the next week.

Penachio-Sifakis opened The Italian Place at 621 Wythe Street in Old Town Alexandria in September 2016, inspired by the traditions and values imparted by her grandparents, who were the children of immigrants from a small province outside Naples, according to the restaurant’s website.

A photo of Naples adorns one wall of the new Mosaic District site, which also features an espresso bar.

“We are humbled by the love and appreciation our customers have for our food!” Penachio-Sifakis said. “They come back and they tell their friends about us and that really keeps us going!”

Encouraged by the restaurant’s warm reception in Alexandria, Penachio-Sifakis started exploring the idea of franchising in early 2020. She says her team “really fell in love” with the Mosaic District when they visited after the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, citing the development’s “outdoor walkability” and the quality of the brands there.

“[Mosaic District property owner EDENS] is led by a woman which impressed me and certainly persuaded me to expand my operation to a professionally and well-run community that has so many exciting plans for their residents and their visitors,” she said. “They have been enjoyable to work with and we look forward to a long-term relationship with them and have also viewed some of their other successful properties.”

The Italian Place’s menu features pizza, a variety of Italian subs, paninis, salads, and pasta. There are also breakfast options and soup specials, along with a new “secret” menu that includes a tuna melt sub, an Italian grinder, and a Mosaic classic sub with salami, provolone cheese, hot pepper spread, and other toppings.

The Italian Place will expand the Italian dining options at the Mosaic District, which currently has Alta Strada, Matchbox Pizza, Oath Pizza, and Dolcezza Gelato.

The Mexican restaurant Urbano, another import from Alexandria, opened there in December. The development will also get the first Virginia location of the D.C.-based Carribean eatery Colada Shop in conjunction with a small Bloomingdale’s store called Bloomie’s that is expected to open in August.

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More Capital Bikeshare stations are in the works for the Tysons area, specifically in Merrifield and Vienna.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation has proposed adding 10 new stations in the following locations, including what would be the bike-sharing service’s first stand at the Vienna Metro station:

  • Caboose Commons
  • Circle Woods Drive and Lee Highway
  • Gatehouse Road and Telestar Court
  • Hartland Road and Harte Place
  • Inova Fairfax Medical Campus
  • Javier Road and Arlington Boulevard
  • Kingsbridge Drive and Beech Grove Drive
  • Mission Square Drive
  • Prosperity Flats
  • Vienna Metro South Entrance

The expansion would bring the Tysons area up to 29 Bikeshare stations, including 15 in Tysons and one at the West Falls Church Metro stop. Fairfax County also has 16 stations in Reston, which is getting its own expansion starting in July.

Fairfax County is eager to expand Bikeshare in Merrifield, because the three existing stations that were installed there in 2019 have proven successful, generating some of the most trips per site in the county prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to FCDOT spokesperson Robin Geiger.

Vienna has been considered a candidate for Bikeshare since at least 2018, when the county worked with the town, the City of Fairfax, and George Mason University on a feasibility study.

“Plans to expand to the Vienna Metrorail station are underway to provide connectivity to the surrounding community,” Geiger said by email. “The Vienna area stations will also help provide access to the City of Fairfax, who is working to bring CaBi to their part of the region as well.”

While it is not included in Fairfax County’s expansion, Town of Vienna spokesperson Karen Thayer says the Virginia Department of Transportation has granted the town’s request for funding to add Bikeshare stations at multiple locations, including the Town Green and community center.

The total project cost will be $272,400, which covers engineering and design, equipment, and installation.

“We are currently waiting for VDOT to complete its internal process and respond with an agreement,” Thayer said.

For the county project, Geiger says transportation officials looked at a variety of factors when selecting the proposed locations, including the density of development and the potential to generate a lot of trips. The need for bicycling infrastructure is also considered “in an effort to improve transportation equity,” she says.

“On a more granular level, we like to place stations in areas that are already paved — on-street parking lanes are often easy for [installation] and future servicing, and has only a small impact on available car parking,” Geiger wrote, adding that docks typically take up no more than one or two parking spots.

The Merrifield expansion will be primarily funded with a $497,100 I-66 Commuter Choice grant, though that won’t cover the full cost of the project, which Geiger says is currently estimated to be around $600,000.

While Bikeshare usage in the Tysons area consistently rose prior to the pandemic, COVID-19 sank both ridership and membership numbers systemwide as people limited travel and many started working from home.

“At its worst, early in the pandemic membership was around 20% of ridership when compared to past years,” Geiger said by email. “Most of the lost trips were by annual members who were commuting by bicycle.”

Fairfax County saw a 50% decrease in Bikeshare riders in 2020 overall compared to 2019.

Geiger says ridership levels started to pick back up last summer, primarily from non-members, meaning people who were utilizing the service for a single trip or day instead of getting an ongoing subscription.

“Usage patterns systemwide changed as well, with fewer trips to Metro stations, but more to recreational locations, and grocery stores,” she said.

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Lidl will officially open its new store at Merrifield Plaza this coming Wednesday (June 30), the grocery retailer announced today (Friday).

Located at 2901 Gallows Road, the store will operate from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. It took over a 30,000 square-foot space that had been occupied by Office Depot until that company’s lease ran out at the end of 2020.

“I welcome Lidl to the Merrifield area and look forward to the grand opening,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said in a statement. “I am confident that this new Lidl store will serve the local community and join the diverse businesses representing our vibrant community here in the Providence District of Fairfax County.”

According to a press release, the grand opening celebration will kick off with a ribbon-cutting ceremony from 7 to 7:30 a.m.

The first 100 customers will receive a gift card that could range in value from $5 to $100 each. There will also be a raffle for a $500 Lidl gift card and “special giveaways,” the press release says.

As part of a partnership with Capital Area Food Bank, Lidl says that, for the first five days of operations, it will donate 50 cents to the food bank for every customer who signs up for a myLidl membership and sets the new Merrifield store as their home store.

The Merrifield Plaza store is Lidl’s first in the Tysons area. Currently, the closest locations are on Lee Highway near Fairfax City and Pinecrest Plaza in Annandale.

A Lidl spokesperson confirmed to Tysons Reporter in March that the chain is planning to move into the building on Chain Bridge Road in McLean that Safeway vacated on April 30.

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Daniel Bechara knows better than most that sometimes to save a look, you need to make some cuts. It’s why Bechara decided to pull his hair salon, Salon Daniel, out of McLean after 30 years to move to a more visible location in Merrifield (2750 Gallows Rd.).

Bechara says the new location brings the salon into a more publicly accessible place than their previous locale.

“It feels great,” Bechara said. “It’s a new generation, a younger generation, and it’s a better location. I was [in McLean] for exactly thirty years, but it was hidden up on the second level and it was hard to see. I was only getting new clients because of our reputation, but not from somebody walking by and seeing us. It was time to move.”

The new location is two blocks south of the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station, almost halfway between the station and the Mosaic District. Bechara says the new location also benefits from being on the ground floor of a residential building.

“We’re right next to the Metro and in the Avalon Community,” Bechara said. “We’re in a retail and residential area with 830 residents right above us, and we haven’t even tapped into that yet because we want to make sure we have the capacity.”

The new salon location has been open for around three weeks. Bechara says all of his old team and many familiar clients have carried over into the new location. After years of stagnation in the other location, Bechara said he’s had over 25 new walk-in clients since opening.

“It’s new business every day,” said Bechara.

After 40 years working in hair salons, Bechara says the change in venue also gave him the opportunity to try something new with his salon.

“The other one was 30 years old. It was a different design,” Bechara said. “This one is more of a Miami-style salon. It’s a different vibe, a different look, more open concept with a bar. People can hang out at the bar and have a drink.”

Bechara says the new salon has the same price range as the McLean location, which varies by haircut type and by stylist. One new addition, however, is complimentary valet parking.

“It’s like pulling into the Ritz Carlton,” Bechara joked.

One of the things Bechara says he’ll miss from the McLean location is the camaraderie with other salons in the area, many of them owned by stylists who got their start with him. Bechara says he felt like a “godfather” to many of the nearby salons.

As the Merrifield neighborhood grows, Bechara said he looks forward — over time — to seeing a new community of hair salons take off in the area.

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(Updated at 6 p.m.) Fairfax County’s first venture into self-driving public transportation has encountered impatient drivers and other difficulties, but the autonomous shuttle in Merrifield could still serve as a roadmap for expansion and future projects.

Operating between the Mosaic District and Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station since October, the high-tech Relay service navigates through bustling areas and amongst shoppers, giving free rides and demonstrating the possibilities offered by autonomous vehicles.

Eta Nahapetian, a manager with the Fairfax County Department of Economic Initiatives, remembers watching “Star Trek” as a kid, along with flying cars in the animated TV show “The Jetsons.”

“Here we are, trying to make some of those childhood cartoons a reality,” she said on June 10 during a webinar about autonomous technology, “Creating an Autonomous Vehicle Ecosystem in Virginia.”

Sarah Husain, a transportation planner with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, said the technology has elicited high interest from the community for how it helps people with disabilities.

During the presentation, Husain also described some of the challenges that have emerged during the pilot project, which is a joint effort between the county and Dominion Energy.

She said drivers can get impatient and illegally pass it, so officials with the project worked on adding signage and enlisted the Fairfax County Police Department to help with the issue.

In response to complaints about vehicles passing the autonomous shuttle, the McLean District Station has assigned officers to conduct extra patrol and enforcement to address drivers “speeding or passing Relay,” the FCPD said.

“We’d like to ask for our community’s patience when driving behind the shuttle,” police said. “Relay should only be passed, with care, when a full lane is available.”

According to the county, “Do not pass” signage was installed alongside Eskridge Road and Merrilee Drive in March 2021. Stickers with the same message were also placed on the shuttle.

“We sought out these challenges with the pilot,” Husain said, noting several solutions that came forth, such as installing monitoring devices that detect if the shuttle needs more time to pass through an intersection.

The technology remains limited in some ways. For instance, if an idled vehicle, such as a parked car, is in the way, a shuttle attendant has to take over in manual mode to advance the shuttle.

The shuttle runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday from the Dunn Loring station to the Barnes & Noble in the Mosaic District. It’s designed to fill the “first/last mile” need in public transportation, connecting travelers to their ultimate destinations.

Fairfax County is seeking additional funding to continue Relay’s length of service and expand the routes that it serves. The pilot project is slated to end in August.

Dominion Energy, which supplied the shuttle, says an expansion of the pilot is among many options that it is considering for future uses of automated vehicle technology.

“Dominion Energy is considering other opportunities that may include an expansion of the current project,” Dominion Innovation Strategist Julie Manzari said. “The purpose of the pilot is to learn and gather information that will help us adjust or pivot to other concepts.”

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The man who died after a vehicle crash in Merrifield early Monday morning (March 29) was a 49-year-old Centreville resident named Dashdavaa Zambalgarav, the Fairfax County Police Department reported yesterday afternoon.

Police say the crash occurred just before 4 a.m. at the intersection of Arlington Boulevard and Javier Road, and it involved a single vehicle with Zambalgarav as the driver and lone occupant.

Crash reconstruction unit detectives have preliminarily determined that Zambalgarav was traveling west on Route 50 in a 2008 Lexus RX “when he drifted into the center median and crashed into a traffic pole at Javier Road,” according to the police report.

Zambalgarav was transported to a hospital, where he died from his injuries.

“Detectives continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding this crash, but preliminary, do not believe speed or alcohol were factors,” the FCPD said.

Since the investigation is ongoing, police are still seeking additional information about the crash:

Anyone with information about this crash is asked to contact our Crash Reconstruction Unit at 703-280-0543. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone – 1-866-411-TIPS (866-411-8477), by text – Type “FCCS” plus tip to 847411, and by web – Click HERE. Download our Mobile tip411 App “Fairfax Co Crime Solvers”. Anonymous tipsters are eligible for cash rewards of $100 to $1,000 dollars if their information leads to an arrest.

Image via Google Maps

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