Tysons, VA

The county is seeking to gauge the public’s support for pickleball, a new and rapidly expanding paddleball sport that combines elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis.

The Fairfax County Park Authority has launched an online survey to gauge support for new pickleball activities. The survey is open through Jan. 24. County officials say they’ve received multiple requests to expand the number of pickleball facilities in its parks, recreation centers, and community centers.

The game was invented in 1965 by two dads in Washington who wanted to entertain their kids and use an old badminton court.

A feasibility study is underway on how to address the desire for the sport, identify sites for possible improvements or new facilities, and develop criteria and design guidance used for selecting and constructing pickleball amenities.

Local pickleball players advocating for Fairfax County to develop more facilities devoted to the sport officially formed the Vienna Pickleball Club in June.

Now boasting 179 members, the group successfully convinced the Town of Vienna to turn the Glyndon Park tennis courts into hybrid tennis/pickleball courts when they underwent renovations earlier this year.

However, Fairfax County currently does not have any facilities specifically for pickleball. The closest dedicated facility is Pickleballerz, which opened in October in the Loudoun County portion of Chantilly.

The county’s feasibility study will be completed by the spring of 2021. Currently, the county has 15 parks with either a tennis or basketball court lined for pickleball. Within those parks, there are 28 courts available to play the game.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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The Fairfax County Park Authority is exploring the possibility of revising its master plan for Clemyjontri Park in McLean to allow for a proposed arts center from the McLean Project for the Arts.

Park Authority staff kicked off the process last week with a virtual public meeting on Dec. 17, when MPA Executive Director Lori Carbonneau presented conceptual renderings for the proposed arts center and detailed how it would align with Clemyjontri’s core mission of providing a playground for children of all abilities.

“We have a vision of a natural marriage of art and the outdoors that this center can create,” Carbonneau said. “It’s going to celebrate our natural heritage, and it’s going to offer a way to extend the vision [property donor Adele] Lebowitz had of creating a place where all can play.”

The overall plans for the arts center have not changed since the public’s first glimpse of the project in February. If approved, it would house three galleries, studio classrooms, staff offices, and an outdoor event space, potentially with gardens and public artwork.

However, what was initially envisioned as a campus with multiple pavilions has now been consolidated into a single building, a change that Carbonneau says came out of talks with prospective architectural and engineering firms that toured the park on Mar. 12.

In addition to lowering maintenance costs, having just one building would make security and cleaning easier, and MPA would only have to invest in one central heating, air conditioning, and ventilation system, a concern that emerged as the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of proper indoor ventilation.

Carbonneau and Park Authority staff emphasized that the project is still in its infancy, meaning that it’s too early to give concrete answers to many questions, including the potential cost to its impact on parking and traffic.

When asked about potential plans to address existing issues with crossing Georgetown Pike, Ryan Stewart, the chief of long-range planning for the Park Authority, said the agency will consult with the Virginia and Fairfax County transportation departments throughout the master planning process.

MPA would schedule arts center programming around peak park usage, with exhibition openings and other special events generally taking place between 7 and 10 p.m., according to Carbonneau, though the organization has not studied park usage beyond publicly available data.

“During COVID, any analysis would be unsatisfying because of the very different traffic patterns that we’re all experiencing right now,” Carbonneau said. Read More

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Westpark Plaza is about to get a little greener – and a whole lot more literary.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission voted on Dec. 9 to approve developer Dittmar’s request to amend its plans to allow for an interim public “reading park” and new vehicle storage.

The park and vehicle storage will occupy the 2.91-acre site at 8401 Westpark Drive north of Leesburg Pike until Dittmar starts construction on its massive, currently idling redevelopment plans, which call for two residential buildings, a new hotel, and retail.

At 16,500 square feet in size, the interim park will be a “multi-generational public park space designed around the idea of an outdoor reading room,” with food trucks, a Little Free Library, phone charging stations, sidewalk chalk art, and other amenities, Dittmar says in its amended development plans.

Walsh Colucci senior land use planner Elizabeth Baker told the planning commission last week that Dittmar developed the idea of a book-themed pop-up park in discussions with the Tysons Partnership, since its original proffers for the Westpark Plaza development included support for a planned future community library.

“We believe it’s going to be a fun addition to the Tysons park program,” Baker said.

The proposed new vehicle storage will contain approximately 480 total spaces, including 80 that could be utilized for commercial off-street parking, which was already permitted as an interim use for the site.

Previously occupied by a Best Western Hotel that was demolished in 2016, the 5.3-acre property is currently an asphalt parking lot that was used as a construction staging area while The Boro was under development.

Baker says the vehicle storage is expected to be on the site for up to five years, after which work on the Westpark redevelopment is supposed to commence.

“The applicant remains committed to the development as previously approved,” Providence District Commissioner Phil Niedzielski-Eichner said.

Image via Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh

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The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.

We’ve searched the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean, and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!

Tuesday (Dec. 15)

  • Kanopy Film Discussion Group (Online) — 7-8 p.m. — For its December meeting, Falls Church City’s Kanopy Film Discussion Group will talk about the movie Driveways, which stars Hong Chau and the late actor Brian Dennehy. Email Pete Sullivan at [email protected] to request a link to the Zoom meeting.

Wednesday (Dec. 16)

  • MCA Virtual Public Safety Forum (Online) — 7-8 p.m. — The McLean Citizens Association will host a discussion on criminal justice issues with Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano. To view the event on Zoom, register here. It will also be streamed live on the MCA Facebook page.
  • Vaccinate Virginia Town Hall (Online) — 7 p.m. — The Virginia Department of Health will host a statewide town hall with community and medical leaders to answer questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. Check the VDH website for the panel speakers and a full listing of the TV news stations that will broadcast and livestream the event.

Thursday (Dec. 17)

  • Middle School Book Club (Online) — 4 p.m. — The Mary Riley Styles Public Library in Falls Church is inviting kids in grades 6-8 to discuss March Book 1, the first part of the late Rep. John Lewis’s graphic novel series about the Civil Rights Movement. Email [email protected] to reserve a copy of the book that will be available for curbside pick-up at the library (120 N. Virginia Ave.).
  • Holiday Pop-Up Market (Dec. 17-20) — 5-8 p.m. at Vienna Shopping Center (136 Maple Ave.) — Local artisans will sell jewelry, art, and other handmade gifts at a pop-up market organized by the Town of Vienna and Vienna Shopping Center. Shoppers can reserve a time online or walk in, and admission is free. Hours vary depending on the day.
  • Clemyjontri Park Public Meeting (Online) — 7 p.m. — The Fairfax County Park Authority will share updates on its master plan revision for McLean’s Clemyjontri Park. Potential changes include the development of a new arts center for the McLean Project for the Arts. Participate online or via telephone by calling 855-925-2801 and entering the access code: 8950.

Friday (Dec. 18)

  • Mayor’s Walk — 9:30 a.m. at Vienna Town Hall — Chat and stroll through town with Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert, who holds this event once a month.
  • Networking Effectively (Even Online) (Online) — 10:30-11:30 a.m. — The Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce will host a free webinar on how small and mid-sized businesses can strengthen connections, improve engagement, and leverage their networks. Register online to receive event details.
  • Virtual Holiday Bingo Fun (Online) — 1:30-2:30 p.m. — Town of Vienna Program Coordinator Kathy Blevins will lead an hour of bingo through Zoom. Winners will receive prizes from local businesses, according to the event page. Email [email protected] by Thursday (Dec. 17) to register.

Saturday (Dec. 19)

  • Free Food Distribution — 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Merrifield (8122 Ransell Rd.) — The First Baptist Church of Merrifield will host a drive-by food distribution event. Each car or household can take one produce and one non-perishables box. Organizers request that everyone wear a mask and respect social distancing requirements.
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The Fairfax County Planning Commission unanimously agreed to defer its vote on the mixed-use development planned for Merrilee Drive after holding a public hearing on Wednesday (Dec. 2).

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

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Monday Morning Notes

Routine Maintenance Closes Parts of Clemyjontri Park — “While some sections are closed, others will remain open and the work will rotate throughout the playground from Sat., Nov. 21 through approximately Fri., Dec. 4, 2020.” [Fairfax County Park Authority/Twitter]

Tysons Sheraton Liquidation Sale Shows Impact of Pandemic — “[Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association Eric] Terry estimated 20 Virginia hotels closed on a temporary basis during the pandemic, and although most have since reopened, the outlook is bleak. More hotels may follow the Sheraton’s path.” [DCist]

Social Distancing Santa Offers Sense of Normalcy — “The Wells were among a stready stream of families entering Santa’s Headquarters at Tysons Corner Center Friday night with a reservation in hand for their annual picture with Santa Claus.” [ABC7-WJLA]

Pandemic Pushes Key Retailers out of Founders Row Project — “Business casualties from the coronavirus pandemic hit home for the City of Falls Church, with major retailers in hybrid theater-restaurant Studio Movie Grill and City Works restaurant both backing out of their commitment to the Founders Row Development due to financial troubles.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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(Updated at 8:05 p.m.) The tennis courts at Glyndon Park, a wooded expanse separated from bustling Maple Avenue by a bend in the road, have a new look.

The cracks and other signs of age are gone, erased by the Town of Vienna’s resurfacing efforts, but perhaps the boldest change is the grid of yellow lines that reconfigures Glyndon Park’s two tennis courts into four pickleball courts.

Joined by members of the Vienna Pickleball Club and representatives from the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), the Town of Vienna hosted an opening ceremony for the new Glyndon tennis and pickleball courts on Oct. 27.

COVID-19 social distancing rules limited attendance at the ceremony to 24 players, but their enthusiasm for the new courts and the sport of pickleball was evident not just in the speeches and ribbon-cutting, but also the games that followed.

“In normal times, these four courts may support a community of 30, 40 people coming out to play pickleball together with enjoyment, satisfaction in exercise, the challenge of growing their skills, friendly competition, and a welcoming social community,” Vienna Pickleball Club founder Sally Unger said.

Unger first encountered pickleball, which loosely resembles tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, when looking for sports that she could play while traveling, something she regularly did in pre-COVID times to visit her children in Los Angeles and Chicago.

With rules that would be familiar to anyone who has played tennis and games that can be played in 20 minutes, pickleball has been gaining popularity nationwide since emerging in Washington state in 1965 as an improvised form of badminton.

However, because it is still relatively niche, facilities dedicated to pickleball are difficult to find.

When they learned that the Town of Vienna was planning to update the tennis courts at Glyndon Park, Unger and other local pickleball players saw an opportunity to advocate for their sport to be better incorporated into the renovated facility.

“We have a lot of residents in town who love to play pickleball,” Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert said. “…We want our citizens to be happy with our parks and keep them up in good shape. So, it was a need that they helped us identify.” Read More

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NOVA Parks is planning to host a dedication of a new greenhouse entrance to Vienna’s Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in a small ceremony next week.

The new greenhouse will be dedicated as the Volgenau Conservator, named after the Volgenau Foundation that has funded the programs at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens.

According to NOVA Parks:

This beautiful greenhouse is the first main feature people will see as they enter the gardens from the Visitor Center. Overlooking the two lakes at the renowned public garden, the Conservatory was funded by a generous gift from the Volgenau Foundation. Meadowlark has grown into the premier garden of Northern Virginia. Its annual Winter Walk of Lights that normally sees over 70,000 visitors, opens early this year on November 11. With staggered online tickets, this show is expected to be more popular than ever this year as a safe outdoor attraction for the whole family.

The ceremony to dedicate the new greenhouse is scheduled for next Tuesday, Oct. 20, though in an effort to keep groups small the dedication will not be open to the public.

Photo via Meadowlark Botanical Gardens/Facebook

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The Dead Run stream restoration completed in-part last year is continuing with improvements planned for the stretch of waterway between Georgetown Pike and Churchill Road in McLean.

Last year’s project revitalized the dream in McLean Central Park, combatting erosion and re-greening portions of the stream to be better suited to local wildlife.

The Department of Public Works and Environmental Services Stormwater Planning Division has scheduled a virtual meeting to discuss the project on Wednesday, Oct. 7, at 6:30 p.m.

The Fairfax County government website said the upcoming expansion of that restoration will tackle the part of the stream north of the earlier improvements and include re-greening along one of the main tributaries.

“The project is a continuation of the stream restoration that was completed through McLean Central Park,” the Stormwater Planning Division said on its website. “It will begin at Churchill Road and extend to Georgetown Pike. The tributary behind the Saint Luke Serbian Orthodox Church is included in this scope of work.”

Stormwater Planning Division said part of the project’s goals is added protection to nearby properties at risk from the negative effects of erosion.

“Property will be protected by providing a stable stream bed, banks and alignment, which will reduce the rate of stream bank erosion and channel migration; trees at risk of falling will be removed or protected where possible; native vegetation will be installed to hold soil in place and provide habitat,” the Stormwater Planning Division said. “Health and safety will be protected via improved water quality, protection of public utilities, such as sanitary sewer lines, within the floodplain and stabilization of stream banks.”

The project design is expected to be completed by July 2021.

Image via Fairfax County

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Monday Morning Notes

Tysons-based Credit Union Raises $585,000 for Military Veterans — “The PenFed Foundation joined over 75 community and business leaders to raise over $585,000 to support veterans and the military community at the 17th annual Military Heroes Golf Classic on Monday, September 21st.” [PenFed]

How Substantial Park Requirements May Challenge Walkability Goals in Tysons — “Parks can create what urban theorist Jane Jacobs called “border vacuums.” Border vacuums are long stretches of monotonous space separating potential destinations.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Behind the Scenes of Library Book Selection — “Have you ever imagined what goes into the library’s decision to buy a book? Collection Services is the department at Fairfax County Public Library that selects and orders library materials.” [Fairfax County]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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