Fairfax County’s planning staff recommends that the Arizona College of Nursing’s proposed expansion into Fairview Park be approved.
Staff says in a report released on Jan. 14 that it does not anticipate there to be significant impacts from the addition of a nursing school to an eight-story office building at 3130 Fairview Park Drive.
“The proposed nursing school will not significantly alter the existing office use or transportation conditions to and from the site,” the report said. “Therefore, staff is in support of this application and all issues have been resolved.”
Tysons Reporter first reported in August that the Phoenix-based Eduvision, Inc. is looking to expand its Arizona College of Nursing into Virginia by turning offices in the Fairview Park development into seven classrooms. If approved, this would be the first Virginia location for the nursing college, which currently has 10 campuses in Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Florida, and Utah.
Eduvision’s proposal requires Fairfax County to approve a college/university use on one floor of the office building in question, which occupies 6.29 acres in a mixed-use development located at the southeastern intersection of I-495 and Route 50 (Arlington Boulevard).
The proposed school would not involve new construction to the existing building or three-floor parking garage, and it would not alter the site’s open space, according to the application.
The county staff report states that allowing a college/university as a secondary use would be consistent with the county’s comprehensive plan and contribute “to the long-term vision of the Merrifield Suburban Center.”
While the college is expected to follow roughly the same operating hours as an office, Fairfax County staff estimate that a school would generate an additional 200 trips per day compared to a one-floor office.
“Staff believes that these trips can be accommodated by the surrounding transportation network,” the report said.
The Fairview Park building is approximately four miles south of the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station.
As part of the project, Eduvision has committed to providing space to accommodate the future construction of a pedestrian and bike bridge that would cross I-495 to connect Fairview Park with the Inova Fairfax Hospital campus, according to the report.
The Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan and Bicycle Master Plan both recommend having a publicly accessible, multiuse bridge across I-495, and the site at 3130 Fairview Park Drive had been identified as a possible landing location.
Eduvision has also agreed to improve curb cuts on the site for accessibility and install at least five bike racks “in close proximity to the entrances of the building and the parking garage,” the report says.
The Fairfax County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposal at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 27.
Image via Google Maps
Greater Merrifield Business Association (GMBA) President Billy Thompson is stepping down from the position after leading the nonprofit for seven years.
A lifelong Vienna resident and realtor with Samson Properties, Thompson guided the GMBA through a period of significant change, as Fairfax County seeks to transform Merrifield from a largely industrial area to a suburban center anchored by mixed-use developments like the Mosaic District and Halstead Square.
The GMBA, which provides support and resources to local businesses, says Thompson will continue serving as an active member on its board of directors.
“GMBA thanks Billy for his dedicated leadership and vision for Merrifield over the past 7 years,” the association said today (Thursday) in a newsletter. “GMBA wouldn’t be where we are today without the unique optimism and energy he brought to GMBA.”
Thompson’s successor will be Kevin Warhurst, vice president of the Merrifield Garden Center.
Acknowledging the challenges that the local business community has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, Warhurst says his goal as the business association’s incoming president is to build off the work it has already done to shape Merrifield as a community and make it an integral part of the local economy.
“As we continue to navigate our way through the pandemic, there is no doubt that our organization will face some challenges in the months ahead,” Warhurst said. “…But there are also many opportunities to strengthen our existing relationships, and build new ones as we seek to grow our association moving forward. I look forward to facing those challenges together, and creating opportunities to better serve our members and our community.”
Photo via Greater Merrifield Business Association
The Fairfax County Planning Commission officially gave its support to plans for a mixed-use development on Merrilee Drive in the Merrifield area last week, voting unanimously on Dec. 9 to recommend that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approve a rezoning application for the project.
Proposed by Elm Street Development under the name Merrilee Ventures, the project envisions replacing the existing three-story office building at 2722 Merrilee Drive with a seven-story, 85-foot-tall residential building with retail and recreational amenities.
The two-acre site is currently zoned for medium-intensity industrial uses. Elm Street submitted an application last December to have it rezoned for planned residential mixed-use development.
“This project represents the next exciting revitalization opportunity in Merrifield and continues the important process of realizing the comprehensive plan vision for this area by closing the development gap between the Dunn Loring Transit Station Area and the Mosaic District,” Providence District Planning Commissioner Phil Niezielski-Eichner said.
The commission’s vote came a week later than expected after it decided on Dec. 2 to defer a decision on Elm Street’s rezoning application due to concerns about the project’s inability to meet urban park space requirements.
The proposed development falls 0.45 acres short of the 0.63 acres of on-site publicly accessible park space that it is supposed to have under the Tysons Comprehensive Plan. To make up for that shortfall, Elm Street has committed to finding at least 0.45 acres of off-site park space or contributing $500,000 to the Fairfax County Park Authority so that it can purchase and develop future park resources in the Merrifield area.
After approving the rezoning application, the planning commission recommended to the Board of Supervisors that county staff “identify specific planning alternatives and potential new mechanisms to realize the implementation of the urban park vision set forth in the Merrifield Suburban Center Comprehensive Plan.”
McGuireWoods managing partner Greg Riegle, a representative for Elm Street, also addressed concerns about parking and stormwater management that were raised at the Dec. 2 public hearing.
While the Merrilee development will not solve existing drainage challenges by itself, it will be a clear improvement over the current site, which is almost entirely paved, Riegle said.
The Merrilee mixed-use project will have 294 parking spaces, including 264 for use by its 239 planned multi-family residential units and 30 for retail use. The developer is seeking to reduce the site’s existing parking by 18%, citing its proximity to the Merrifield-Dunn Loring Metro Station.
Riegle says Elm Street is working to ensure there is sufficient on-site parking to meet the development’s needs and prevent impacts on the surrounding community.
“I’d also note for the record that we are segregating retail parking, so [retail is] clearly divided with the residential,” Riegle said. “It’s not co-mingled to make sure it’s both convenient and there’s an adequate amount available, so hopefully, that’s responsive in the same vein of trying to move the situation collectively forward.”
A Board of Supervisors public hearing on the Merrilee project has been scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 26, 2021.
Photo courtesy Elm Street Development
The planning commission will now decide whether to support the rezoning application for the project from Elm Street Development on Dec. 9.
Though he expressed support for the project, Providence District Planning Commissioner Phil Niedzielski-Eichner moved to push the decision back by a week after he and other members of the commission raised questions about the availability of park space in the development.
Located at 2722 Merrilee Drive on a site currently occupied by an office building, Elm Street’s project will feature 20,000 total square feet of open space, including a 0.17-acre public park space along the front of the building, two corner pocket parks, and a private dog park for residents, according to a county staff report.
However, the proposal still falls 0.45 acres short of the on-site park space that Fairfax County expects for developments in the Tysons area, including the Merrifield Suburban Center where the Merrilee project is situated.
“This is an exciting next opportunity to continue developing in the Merrifield area and to help more fully realize the suburban center vision for Merrifield,” Niedzielski-Eichner said. “…I think you’ll agree that the park issues, particularly toward the end of the process, were particularly challenging to realize.”
The Tysons Comprehensive Plan requires that developments provide 1.5 acres of public park space for every 1,000 residents and one acre for every 10,000 employees. Under the urban parks standard, Merrilee would need 0.63 acres of on-site public park space.
Fairfax County Senior Planner Kelly Posusney says the failure to meet that standard was the biggest issue with Elm Street’s application when it was accepted for review in March.
County planning staff worked with Elm Street to add as much on-site park space as possible, but they ultimately reached the limit of what they could provide without adding height to the building or other undesired elements.
“Given the size of the development and the type of building, they just couldn’t do any more in terms of meeting the park need,” Fairfax County Park Authority Development Review Chief Andi Dorlester said.
The comprehensive plan does offer alternatives for projects that fall short of the urban park standard. Developers can provide at least 0.45 acres of off-site, publicly accessible parkland. If they are unable to find off-site park space, they can contribute $500,000 to the park authority for the future acquisition and development of park resources in the Merrifield Suburban Center.
According to McGuireWoods managing partner Greg Riegle, who represented Elm Street at the planning commission public hearing, the developer is now looking for properties that could be turned into park space and has committed to contributing $500,000 if the land isn’t found.
When Braddock District Planning Commissioner Mary Cortina expressed concern that the money would end up sitting unused in an escrow or proffer account, Riegle emphasized that the developer’s “strong preference” is to find park space, potentially by combining resources with other land owners as other development applications for the area come in.
“I think time is our friend,” Riegle said. “We’ve got a lot of good leadership in Merrifield and the Providence District, and we’re committed to finding a solution for all the reasons you stated.”
Photo courtesy Elm Street Development
McLean Private School Announces New Leader — “We are excited to announce that Jason Shorbe, current Head of School at BASIS International School Guangzhou, will join the BASIS Independent McLean community as Head of School for the 2021-2022 school year.” [BASIS Independent Schools]
Researchers Seek Public Input on Merrifield Self-Driving Shuttle — “Relay will be available to public riders for about a year, and George Mason University School of Business is seeking public feedback on the pilot program.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Vienna’s Jammin’ Java Awarded COVID-19 Assistance Grant — “The Live Music Society has committed to giving $2 million in grants in its first two years of operation to support the live music ecosystem around the United States.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Salesforce to Purchase Acumen Solutions in McLean — “On Dec. 1, the same day it announced that it was acquiring workplace communication service company Slack for $27.7 billion in cash and stock, cloud-services company Salesforce.com Inc. revealed that it’s also acquiring McLean-based professional services firm Acumen Solutions.” [Virginia Business]
Haycock Elementary Teacher Turns Treehouse into Classroom — “For Haycock Elementary School teacher Nellie Williams, creativity took on new heights as she and her husband decided to upgrade their backyard treehouse for her to use as a classroom.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]
Since COVID-19 arrived in Fairfax County in March, creativity and community support have become critical for the many local businesses hustling to survive in a world where crowds and social interactions carry public health risks.
The Caboose Brewing Company hopes to harness both forces – innovation and the loyalty of its regular customers – by introducing beer, soup, and coffee subscriptions in time for the holiday season.
Owner of Caboose Tavern in Vienna and Caboose Commons in Merrifield, Caboose officially announced this morning (Wednesday) that customers who buy a Souper Sunday Subscription will get two quarts of soup delivered to them for free every Sunday for the next four weeks.
A subscription purchase will include discounts on packer and growler beer glasses. The soups will also be available for sale a la carte.
However, Caboose’s centerpiece offering is the 2021 Caboose Barrel Club, a year-long subscription that will give buyers access to eight brand-new barrel-aged or barrel-fermented beers developed by the brewery.
“We’ve been wanting to do more exciting releases and really cater towards kind of our number-one fans, the people that are buying all of our new releases and the real beer nerds out there,” Caboose Head Brewer Matt Furda said. “…This subscription really caters toward those people.”
Club subscribers will receive a four pack of beer roughly every other month throughout 2021, along with perks such as virtual tastings with Furda for each new release, 10% off dine-in draft beer at Caboose Commons and Caboose Tavern, and a fee waiver for a space reservation for a party of up to 30 people.
According to Caboose’s website, the eight beers in the series will be:
- Rum barrel-aged tiramisu stout
- Bourbon barrel-aged cherry pie Maibock
- Cognac barrel-aged barleywine
- Barrel-fermented mixed berry sour
- Wine barrel-aged caraway rye strong ale
- Scotch barrel-aged wee-heavy
- Bourbon barrel-aged coconut vanilla wheatwine
- Barrel-fermented Flanders red ale
The brews are all completely new for Caboose and will be produced in limited quantities. Barrel Club subscriptions will be available for purchase throughout December for $300.
According to Furda, the idea for the Barrel Club grew out of Caboose’s other efforts to adapt its business model to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.
In addition to offering grocery deliveries and opening up its parking lots to allow for socially distanced seating, Caboose started hosting virtual happy hours and developed a community hops program where people helped grow hops that were then used in one of the brewery’s beers.
“This barrel club again is kind of a way to connect with our community, with our most dedicated fans,” Furda said.
Courtney Beazell, events and marketing manager for Caboose, says the brewery will also offer a coffee subscription that will run similarly to the Barrel Club with subscribers getting a certain amount of coffee delivered regularly.
The coffee subscriptions will roll out within the next week, according to Beazell.
“It’ll be another gift-able option for people,” she said. “…We have a lot coming up to keep people busy and keep everything running on our end.”
Photo courtesy Caboose Brewing Company
The mixed-use development that Elm Street Development has envisioned for the Dunn Loring Center remains on track for realization.
In a report released on Nov. 18, Fairfax County staff recommends that the county planning commission approve the developer’s application to rezone the two-acre site at 2722 Merrilee Drive for planned residential mixed-use zoning.
Located less than half a mile from the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station, 2722 Merrilee Drive is currently occupied by a three-story office building that was originally constructed in 1984. The site is zoned for an I-4 medium intensity industrial district.
Under the name Merrilee Ventures L.C., Elm Street Development first submitted a proposal for turning Dunn Loring Center into a mixed-use development to Fairfax County on Dec. 9. The application was accepted on Mar. 5.
The developer proposes transforming the existing office building into a seven-story, 85-foot building with 239 multifamily residential units across five floors.
The bottom two floors will consist of an above-grade parking structure with 294 parking spaces – 264 for residential use and 30 for retail use – as well as two loading spaces, a trash enclosure, and a bike storage room, according to the Fairfax County staff report.
Amenities proposed for the development include an expanded streetscape along Merrilee Drive, a retail plaza adjacent to the nearby mixed-use apartment building Halstead Square, public open and park spaces, a dog park for residents in the building’s northwest corner, and other private indoor and outdoor spaces for residents, such as a pool, grilling stations, and a fitness center.
The project will occupy 235,235 square feet total with a floor area ratio of 2.70.
“The proposed development would contribute to the revitalization and development of the Merrifield Suburban Center and Transit Station Area through the provision of high-quality design and pedestrian facilities that are appropriate to the ‘Main Street’ designation of Merrilee Drive,” county planning staff say in their report.
In addition to seeking to rezone the site, Elm Street has asked Fairfax County to approve the proposed reduction of 18% of the property’s existing parking.
“Fewer parking spaces than would be required in the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance will be necessary to accommodate future on-site parking demand because of the site’s proximity to the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro Station,” the engineering consultant Gorove Slade says in a parking reduction study prepared on May 19. “A parking reduction would not adversely affect the surrounding areas.”
Elm Street says on-street parking will be provided on Merrilee Drive and on a proposed private street that could eventually be extended to connect Merrilee with Dorr Avenue to the west.
Fairfax County staff say the planning commission should approve the parking reduction request “based on the proximity of the development to mass transit facilities.”
According to the report, Elm Street has committed to making 16.6% of the residential units in the new development workforce dwelling units. A third of those units will be priced at 80% of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area’s area median income, a third will be at the AMI, and the last third will be at 120% of the AMI.
Since the existing property has few existing trees, the developer has proposed adding about 8,962 square feet of tree canopy coverage, which Fairfax County staff says would exceed the county’s comprehensive plan requirements.
In another proffer, Elm Street has said it will contribute $12,262 to Fairfax County for each of the 27 new students that the Dunn Loring Center development is expected to add to the public school system. Children who live in the development will attend Shrevewood Elementary, Kilmer Middle, and Marshall High Schools.
The full staff report for the Merrilee proposal can be found through Fairfax County’s land development system.
A Fairfax County Planning Commission public hearing on the Merrilee application has been set for 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 2, and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing on Jan. 26, 2021 at 3:30 p.m.
Photo courtesy Elm Street Development
Inova Health System will open a new cancer screening and prevention center on its Center for Personalized Health campus in Merrifield, the nonprofit healthcare network announced on Nov. 10.
Expected to open in fall 2021, the new 24,000 square-foot cancer screening center will be an expansion of the Inova Schar Cancer Institute, which opened on Innovation Park Drive in May 2019.
The center is being supported by a $20 million donation from Paul and Linda Saville, Inova says.
Paul Saville is the president and CEO of the Reston-based home construction company NVR, Inc., whose founder and chairman, Dwight Schar, and his wife Martha donated $50 million to build the Schar Cancer Institute, according to the Washington Business Journal.
“We’ve all been impacted by cancer, and many of us know someone who has died from cancer due to a late diagnosis,” Paul Saville said. “We hope that many more people will have access to early detection and treatment and avoid serious disease.”
Inova says the new center made possible by the Savilles’ donation will be the first of its kind in Northern Virginia, which currently lacks a “comprehensive, multidisciplinary, organized cancer screening and prevention program.”
The center will provide screenings to detect breast, lung, prostate, bladder, pancreatic, colorectal, head and neck, skin, cervical, uterine, ovarian, and other cancers.
Preventative resources for patients who may be at high risk of developing cancer will include genetic testing, opportunities for clinical trials, and education on nutrition and exercise.
“The Savilles’ commitment to help us create a state-of-the-art early detection and prevention center is bringing us a giant step closer to becoming the leading cancer institute in our region,” Inova Health System President and CEO J. Stephen Jones said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently list cancer as the second most frequent cause of death in the U.S. after heart disease, but that appears to be based on data from 2018.
According to Inova, cancer surpassed cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death in America this year.
“By providing members of our community accessible, multidisciplinary screening and prevention services in a ‘one-stop-shop’ approach, we hope to cure more cancers by catching them early,” Schar Cancer Institute President John Deeken said. “And through programs such as smoking cessation, as well as dietary and exercise interventions, we hope to prevent more and more cancers in the years ahead.”
Photo via Google Maps
While the vote remains undecided nationally at time of writing, Fairfax County has swung heavily towards Biden. At the precinct level, however, the results are a little more divided.
Biden swept most of the precincts in the Tysons area, with Tysons itself going 57.71% for Biden. Merrifield had one of the largest percentage of support for Biden, with 62.23%.
The precincts didn’t unanimously favor Biden, however. In McLean and Spring Hill, Trump won by 55.49% and 50.71% respectively.
Further west, Trump won more securely in the Great Falls, Hickory and Seneca and Forestville precincts.
Biden won all three of Herndon’s precincts and all of Reston except Cameron Glen and North Point, which Trump won by 37 and 78 votes respectively.
In Pimmit, Biden had a 6 vote lead over Trump, taking the precinct 48.92% to 48.20%.
Because Fairfax County had such a high level of absentee voting for the 2020 general election, however, precinct level results might not be as revealing of voter attitudes in a particular area as in previous years.
According to unofficial results from the Fairfax County Office of Elections, the county has received 404,254 absentee ballots so far that were delivered by mail or in person. Absentee votes account for an estimated 51% of Fairfax County’s overall 77.5% voter turnout for this election, and with absentee ballots permitted up to noon on Friday as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3, more ballots may be added in the coming days.
All absentee ballots are counted in a central absentee precinct for Fairfax County regardless of where they came from or where they were dropped off. Biden won a decisive 80.67% of absentee votes in the county, while Trump received 17.86%.
“What we know is that Democrats swept to a large victory in Fairfax County, sending a message in their votes in the national election,” said Professor Frank Shafroth, director of the Center for State and Local Leadership at George Mason University. “[Expressing] trust in a time of such political upheaval…being in a state with the only medical doctor of any state serving as Governor…[and] the ability to rely on facts in the middle of this pandemic is vital to trust in governance at such a difficult time of loss [for] too many American lives.”
Staff photo by Jay Westcott
The Postal Distribution Center in Merrifield has been drawn into a national debate over the future of the United States Postal Service.
In a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, Congressman Gerald E. Connolly demanded access to mail facilities for himself and all Members of Congress to oversee operations. Connolly serves as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations
“I write to reiterate my request for immediate access to the Postal Distribution Center in Merrifield, Virginia — as well as access for my Congressional colleagues to other postal facilities,” Connolly wrote. “Oversight of Postal Service operations is more important now than ever, particularly in light of the troubling findings of the Inspector General that actions taken by Postal Service officials slowed postal operations nationwide in the midst of a global pandemic and economic collapse.”
Connolly said in the letter that he requested access after the Inspector General reported slowed operations at the agency.
“This letter follows my October 2, 2020, request for a tour of the Merrifield Postal Distribution Center in my Congressional District, as well as my October 13 letter requesting your new legal analysis of the Hatch Act, which you baselessly claim prevents Members of Congress from visiting Postal Service facilities within 45 days of an election,” Connolly wrote.
The letter continues with a rebuttle to an argument fron DeJoy that the Hatch Act would prevent Connolly from inspecting the USPS facility. According to the letter:
The Committee on Oversight and Reform is the committee of jurisdiction for the Postal Service in the House of Representatives, and the Subcommittee on Government Operations has been charged with overseeing postal operations. As Chairman of the Subcommittee, I have a responsibility to oversee postal operations–which includes having access to postal facilities, managers, and employees–and this responsibility does not cease merely because an election is approaching. I did not seek access to the Merrifield facility in my capacity as a candidate for office, but rather to discharge my official duties as a Member of Congress and a Member of the Oversight Committee.
On October 20, 2020, you sent a letter citing new Postal Service guidance that you claim was approved by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). Yet OSC–the principal enforcement agency of the Hatch Act–has made it clear that the Hatch Act does not prohibit federal employees from allowing Members of Congress to tour federal facilities for an official purpose. According to your own letter, the portions of your Hatch Act policies that you claim OSC did not object to did not include your policy of prohibiting Members of Congress from postal facilities.
A spokesperson for the USPS said that they were aware of the pending request from Connolly and planned to respond directly, though what answer they were planning to give was not clarified.
“We are aware of the Congressman’s most recent request and plan to respond again directly,” said Martha Johnson, senior public relations representative for USPS.
In an email to Tysons Reporter, Connolly said inspecting the USPS facility in Merrifield was about restoring public trust.
“The Postmaster General’s partisan and political actions have eroded trust and caused nationwide concern about the USPS,” Connolly said. “Congress has a responsibility and constitutional duty to provide oversight, and that includes seeing on the ground how operations are being affected by Mr. DeJoy’s reckless changes”
Image via Google Maps