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A small fumble involving a seemingly dead committee is pushing the Tysons Galleria Macy’s redevelopment plan back a few months.

According to Russell Forno, a land use planner with a law firm representing Tysons Galleria, gaining permission from Fairfax County for new signage would be a significant step for the mall in its efforts to negotiate with new tenants.

Going into the Jan. 16 Planning Commission meeting, everything seemed set for approval. Staff had recommended approval of new signs and there was no vocal opposition. But Forno requested that the approval be pushed back to March.

The mall, we’re told, had failed to get the approval of the Tysons II Design Review Committee, a group so obscure the only other Google search result is a 2015 staff report requesting a sign change. The staff report includes an attached document called the Tysons II Sign Manual, which says:

All signs shall be approved by the Tysons II Design Review Committee before any required submission to Fairfax County for permits… This review will continue to help maintain oversight to ensure signage coordination within Tysons II and prevent impair the planned unit nature of the development.

The document includes some very specific requirements. All illuminated signs must be black in daytime and white at night and all ground floor signs must have individually fabricated letters and symbols only, not enclosed signs.

The application from Tysons Galleria indicated that the committee no longer exists, but a letter from the apparently deceased committee seemed to confuse the subject.

“I’ll be honest, there was a little mix-up,” said Forno. “Reviews with this committee are forthcoming. The applicant and committee have agreed to meet within the next 30 days. [We ask you] to defer action until March.”

Planning Commissioner Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner agreed and led the Planning Commission in a vote to push the decision back to March 13 to allow the Tysons Galleria time to consult with the Tysons II Design Review Committee.

Meanwhile, the Planning Commission also approved new signage for the Tysons-based Mitre Corporation and approved Reformed Theological Seminary’s move into an office building on the southern edge of Tysons.

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In the middle of an interview with Tysons Reporter, a woman walks up to Stomping Ground owner Nicole Jones and introduces herself as “Steve’s mom.”

Jones immediately recognizes Steve by name and “Steve’s mom” said she was just running errands in nearby McLean and wanted to stop by and say hello. It’s a small moment that’s a testament to the kind of community building that the new Stomping Ground in Tysons Galleria will live or die by.

Stomping Ground isn’t just one of the restaurants in the new Taste of Urbanspace that opened in December as part of a quick turnaround to replace Isabella Eatery — as the shop closest to the entrance, it serves as a gateway into the new dining hall.

Stomping Ground is perhaps best known for their buttermilk biscuits and fried chicken, both of which are available at the Tysons Galleria location. The eatery’s wide variety of hot and iced coffees, averaging around $3 per cup, seems like their most popular item on the Tysons Galleria third floor.

Jones knows coffee. On sight, she can tell what type of milk was used in a beverage based on the consistency of the separation. For her, coffee is more than a beverage.

“Coffee culture is a comfort place,” said Jones. “We take that old school southern hospitality and bring it to the mall. We’re genuinely interested in your name, your dietary restrictions and where you work. We want regulars. We want to be the ‘Cheers‘ of breakfast.”

It’s been four years since Jones opened the first Stomping Ground in Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood. The destination proved so popular it was name-dropped in a Wall Street Journal article explaining why Amazon came to Northern Virginia.

“In Tysons, there is less of a town square, but we’re learning that [Taste of Urbanspace] can serve as that,” said Jones. “People can come and hang out.”

That’s certainly the case among the restaurant owners on the mall’s third floor. In their downtime, managers from Stomping Ground, Andy’s Pizza and others regularly converse and hang out in the lavish seating area. Jones said all of the restaurant staffers had to work together through a hectic, quick turnaround during the holiday season and emerged as friends.

While several of the customers around Taste of Urbanspace are familiar faces day after day, much of the expansive food hall remains underpopulated.

It’s too early to say if the “town square” idea will catch on. Beyond just owner Mike Isabella’s public fall from grace, the Isabella Eatery (whose shell Taste of Urbanspace inhabits) collapsed in part due to low sales.

Jones and other restaurant owners expressed hopes that expanding the dining hall’s nightlife options will help draw in the after-work crowd, which currently has few options outside of the Tysons Biergarten.

Like their neighboring Andy’s Pizza, Donburi and Sen Khao, Stomping Ground is currently working through the Virginia ABC permit process. While Andy’s Pizza and Donburi plan on bringing in new beer options to the Galleria, Jones said her focus is going to be on wine and a variety of custom cocktails.

The cocktails, currently not available in Del Ray, are one example Jones points to of how the new location allows Stomping Ground to try new things that, if they work, might make their way back into the Alexandria location. Jones said she is also currently working on the restaurant’s new proper dinner menu, saying it will have Stomping Ground’s signature fried chicken with a mix of vegetables in keeping with southern tradition.

“The nighttime is where we will grow and spread our wings,” said Jones.

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Tysons is far from the cultural wasteland it once was, but there are still challenges ahead as the area develops a creative arts scene.

If Tysons truly hopes to become “America’s Next Great City,” it must become a cultural hub as well as a technological and financial one.

Urban planners across the country use arts districts to bring reinvestment to neighborhoods, and cultural amenities can be a powerful draw to the creative class. However, there are still many obstacles in the way of local artists.

Arts in the area are served by public programs like the $500,000-a-year ARTSFAIRFAX grants, but ARTSFAIRFAX is a county-wide program and its budget is relatively modest for such a large jurisdiction.

High property values can be a major obstacle to those who would rent studio or gallery space. The Katibeh Art Center, which featured works by the Iranian artist Ebrahim Emad, recently closed.

Emad told Tysons Reporter that he’d had to close the gallery in part because of difficulty physically advertising its presence, as he was unable to hang promotional signs — and because his location in a mid-rise office building offered very little pedestrian traffic.

While the Katibeh Art Center has closed, here are some other art galleries open around the area:

  • McLean Project for the Arts (1446 Chain Bridge Rd, McLean) — The McLean Project for the Arts hosts exhibitions, classes for all ages, and special events. The upcoming exhibition, Intention/Invention, will run from January 10 until March 2, with an opening reception on January 12 and an artist talk on January 26, featuring abstract works by two contemporary artists. The Project’s classes cover a wide range of media, and include many classes meant for adults with some artistic background as well as both classes and summer camps for children.
  • MK Gallery (1952 Gallows Rd, Tysons) — This gallery, a Tysons establishment for over 15 years, primarily features artists of Korean nationality or heritage. The current exhibition, on show until January 11, is a double, featuring two exciting artists. The first, B. G. Muhn, a professor of art at Georgetown, organized the first-ever exhibition of North Korean art in the United States. The other, Suh Yongsun, is based in Seoul and uses strong color to depict themes of modern social and political life.
  • Dara Global Arts (2169 Chain Bridge Rd, Vienna) — Dara is a small gallery focused on painters from Syria and other Levantine countries. Featuring “a highly curated collection of original art that reflects the empowerment of artists and their freedom of expression,” it particularly features the work of women. Though they’ve been online-only for a long time, with plans to open a pop-up location along Route 7 sometime this month.
  • LIK Fine Art (Tysons Galleria, 2001 International Drive) — Peter Lik’s latest of seventeen luxury galleries offers large-format landscape photography.
  • Wentworth Gallery (Tysons Galleria,‎ 1807 International Drive) — This gallery brings the work of internationally-recognized artists to Tysons. A wide variety of painters are represented, from neo-impressionists to pop artists. Wentworth rotates their gallery frequently, bringing a new artist every month for a show and a reception so that patrons have a chance to meet the artist. Every month brings something “new and different.”
  • The Hermitage Gallery (6831 Tennyson Drive, McLean) — Offering both fine art framing and an exhibition gallery, the Hermitage represents a variety of local and international artists.
  • YMM Art Space (8216 Old Courthouse Rd C, Vienna) — YMM is not a gallery, but rather a space of creation and education “dedicated to stimulating the imagination and enhancing the creativity of each and every student.” They “offer classes like fashion design, comics design and origami to students as young as 8, so kids have the opportunity to develop their interests in pretty specific areas,” and there are also classes for younger children and for adults.
  • Tysons Art and Learning (8343 Greensboro Dr, Tysons) — This space offers a wide range of art courses for a variety of ages. Their courses extend to digital arts and to writing, and registration and schedules are flexible.

D. Taylor Reich is a freelance journalist who writes about urbanism and development. They are a Fulbright scholar, a 2017 graduate of Brown University and a proud alum of Arlington Public Schools.

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The Macy’s in Tysons Galleria is closing, but before it does there are discounts on all items in the store as the department store clears out its inventory.

Currently, most items throughout the store are discounted at 20 percent, though signs proclaim that some things are discounted up to 40 percent. Staff at the store said discounts could increase as the weeks progress. The exact date the store will close is currently undetermined.

As of yesterday (Monday), the store’s shelves were still well stocked, though diminished staffing meant longer lines at the store’s remaining registers. Discounts are applicable only at the Tysons Galleria Macy’s and items purchased at the store cannot be returned.

The Washington Business Journal reported that Brookfield Properties Retail could be replacing the three-story retail giant with some combination of an iPic theater, Balducci’s grocery store, Tiffany & Co. store or an Apple store.

There’s been a spate of unrelated, recent closings across Tysons, with similar sales at Pier 1 Imports and Performance Bicycle Shop.

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Admittedly, the new Donburi in Tysons Galleria is a little smaller than the Adams Morgan or Dupont Circle locations.

But, for owner James Jang, this smaller location in the Taste of Urbanspace food hall allows him a special opportunity: he can try something new.

With two established locations in D.C., Jang said he’s hesitant to change the menus too much. But soon, Jang says he plans on trying out adding udon, a type of thick Japanese noodle dish, to the Tysons location.

“We’ve just opened here,” said Jang, “so we can be a little more creative with what we try out.”

Like the nearby Andy’s Pizza, the restaurant has also filed for an ABC permit in hopes of being able to serve Japanese beer and sake.

“We’re looking to get the beer on draft if we can,” said Jang. “We might do cocktails as well.”

Jang has owned and operated Donburi for six years and jumped at the chance to join Taste of Urbanspace, a collection of new locations from regional favorites that filled the void left by the high-profile collapse of Isabella Eatery.

For Jang, the opening in Tysons is also a homecoming, though he also said moving back into the area has been a rediscovery of how much it has changed since he grew up in nearby McLean.

“I used to live here,” Jang said. “I went to McLean High School, so this is more of a hometown than D.C.”

The most popular dishes on Donburi’s menu are the karaage salad, a soy sauce marinated chicken with mixed greens, and sakedon, a salmon sashimi that Jang says is the restaurant’s signature dish.

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One month after opening, Andy’s Pizza is the go-to spot in Tysons Galleria for a slice of New York-style pizza.

But now that the holiday rush has settled, the restaurant aims to expand its ambitions and become a go-to spot for a craft beer.

“We’re going to have wine, but we’re really excited about the craft beer,” said Emily Brown, who co-opened the restaurant with her cousin Andy Brown, the co-founder of D.C.-based Eat Pizza. “Mostly it’s from the east coast and particularly local places.”

Brown said the idea of using primarily local beers is in keeping with the theme of Taste of Urbanspace, a food hall that opened in early December after the high-profile collapse of the Isabella Eatery. The core concept of Taste of Urbanspace is opening new locations for local favorites.

Andy’s Pizza offers pizza by the slice, from simple cheese pizza at $3.49 to whole pies loaded with a variety of toppings for $18.99. The restaurant also has caesar salads with croutons borrowed from the Stomping Ground eatery next door.

Brown said her cousin’s passion is for pizza, but her true love is the craft beer scene. Her focus is going to be on maintaining a regularly changing menu, bringing in the newest and highest-profile beers from throughout the area.

She compared the beer scene to the sneaker scene, where people regularly line up to check out the newest release. Brown said the same is true in the beer scene, where connoisseurs congregate outside Richmond breweries to get a sampling of the latest batch. It’s that level of expertise and hipness to the zeitgeist that Brown said she hopes to bring to the bar-side of Andy’s Pizza.

Tysons has something of a chronic nightlife problem, and Brown hopes that some of the new drinking choices at Andy’s Pizza and other spots across the Taste of Urbanspace can help turn the mall’s food court into a social scene.

“If you’re coming in for lunch and you’re into beer, we want to have the kind of menu that will have you coming back in after work,” said Brown.

When the new bar comes online is dependent on when the licenses are approved by state regulator. Andy’s Taste of Urbanspace neighbors Donburi, Sen Khao, and Stomping Grounds are all also applying for alcohol licenses.

When you do come in for that first drink, Brown suggests a crisp pilsner would pair well with the pizza.

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Morning Notes

Big Names Among Potential Galleria Tenants — “Tysons Galleria… is in advanced talks with Tiffany & Co., Apple Inc. and gourmet grocer Balducci’s, in addition to high-end movie theater chain iPic, to open in portions of the space, according to two sources with knowledge of the discussions.” [Washington Business Journal]

Possible Money Motivation in McLean Double Murder — “The newly unsealed search warrant reveals why Megan Hargan might have carried out the crime: Megan’s mother discovered someone had attempted to wire ‘large amounts’ of money from her bank account on the day before her slaying. Pamela Hargan notified her bank the transfer was fraudulent. On the day of the killings, a second transfer was initiated to send money to a title company that was handling the purchase of a home by Megan in West Virginia.” [Washington Post]

Huge Tysons Development Still Looking for Office Anchor — “The developer behind Scotts Run had courted Amazon and Apple in hopes of landing an anchor for its planned 8M SF Tysons development, but neither of those panned out. Cityline Partners now continues to search for a tenant to kick off construction on the project’s office component. Cityline is one of several developers with major Tysons office projects waiting in the wings, hoping to sign pre-leases before breaking ground.” [Bisnow]

FCPS Offering Sub Gigs for Furloughed Feds — “Fairfax County Public Schools, the largest school district in Virginia, is offering substitute teaching positions to federal employees furloughed during the government shutdown. The hiring event will take place Friday, Jan. 11, from 2 p.m.-4:30 p.m. at the FCPS Administration Center, 8115 Gatehouse Road, Falls Church.” [Patch]

Senators Press Administration on Tax Refunds — “Virginia Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-Va.) have sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asking how Virginia taxpayers will be affected by the government shutdown, which has left the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) short-staffed and potentially unprepared for the beginning of the 2019 tax-filing season.” [Fairfax Times]

McLean Foundation Sets Grant Deadline — “The McLean Community Foundation has set a deadline of Feb. 1 for non-profit organizations seeking to apply for its next round of grant funding. The foundation recently awarded nearly $67,000 in grants, including funding to McLean Little League and the Old Firehouse Teen Center, among others.” [InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

New Theater Coming to Tysons Galleria — “The soon-to-close Macy’s at Tysons Galleria will be replaced with multiple storefronts — including what appears to be an iPic movie theater — each with their own facade and materials to set them apart. That’s the word from a Fairfax County staff report published last week ahead of a planning commission hearing on an amended sign plan for the Galleria, which specifically addresses the 260,000-square-foot Macy’s. That store alone accounts for 30 percent of the upscale Galleria.” [Washington Business Journal]

Journalist’s Mosque Opposition Questioned — The leader of the community opposition to an expansion of the McLean Islamic Center’s prayer service is a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi asks: should mainstream journalists be taking activist stances against religious institutions, even in a community setting? [Washington Post]

McLean Fire Causes Extensive Damage — The manage estimate from Friday’s big house fire in McLean is $1.1 million. Three people were displaced by the fire. The cause is still under investigation, according to the Fairfax County Fire Department. [Facebook]

Positive Results for I-66 Tolls — “Since HOV lanes went into effect on I-66 one year ago, the results have been largely positive. Carpooling has increased, and motorists are traveling at higher speeds and experiencing fewer collisions thanks to less congestion.” [Greater Greater Washington, WTOP]

DXC Makes Another Acquisition — “Tysons-based DXC Technology announced Monday plans to acquire Luxoft Holding Inc. (NYSE: LXFT) in a deal worth roughly $2 billion. The New York-based Luxoft provides digital strategy consulting and engineering services for countries across North America, Europe and Asia Pacific.” [Washington Business Journal, BusinessWire]

Photo courtesy @tysonspartners

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Sen Khao isn’t just physically distant from most of the other eateries in the new Taste of Urbanspace food hall in Tysons Galleria — its Laotian menu sets it a little apart from the standard mall food fare.

The restaurant is a new location from the creators of Thip Khao in Columbia Heights and offers a scaled down version of that restaurant’s menu.

The main dishes at Sen Khao are coconut sticky rice and rice noodle soup, most for around $14.

The coconut sticky rice is served with pickled cucumber, carrot and onion, with options for sausage, chicken or tofu. The rice noodle soups are served with a choice of chicken, tofu or shrimp.

For those looking for a small helping, Sen Khao served curry puffs — crispy dough pockets stuffed with curried potato.

Sen Khao is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., except on Sundays where it closes at 6 p.m.

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If the new ice cream parlor wasn’t enough dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth in the recently opened Taste of Urbanspace, boutique cakemaker Lady M opened in Tysons Galleria last Thursday.

Lady M’s Urbanspace location is a pop-up that is scheduled to last until February 2019.

During December, the boutique’s website says the shop will offer a selection of classic and seasonal cakes:

Get ready for Mille Crêpes in Signature, Green Tea, Coconut, and Marron. With winter weather in mind, we’re also bringing Chocolate Arc-en-Ciel, Gateau Fromage, Mont Blanc (thoughtfully sized for one), and the beautiful and boozy Black Forest.

Lady M will be open from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. from Monday-Saturday, then 11 a.m.-7 p.m. on Sunday.

Six or nine-inch cakes are available from $55-95, with slices of cake available from $8.50-9.50.

Photo via Facebook

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