Newsletter

(Updated at 7 p.m.) Tysons shoppers will soon be able to dress like Justin Bieber — provided they have a spare $1,000 to spend on a pair of sneakers.

The luxury fashion house Balenciaga will open a boutique store at Tysons Galleria tomorrow (Thursday), its first in Virginia and the D.C. area, a spokesperson confirmed to Tysons Reporter.

Located on the mall’s second floor by Saks Fifth Avenue, the store is 133 square meters in size (or 1,431 square feet) and will sell the brand’s ready-to-wear clothing as well as bags, shoes, eyewear, and accessories.

A news release highlights the store’s “intentionally eroded concrete façade” and “deconstructed” architecture that Balenciaga says makes for a more environmentally friendly design.

“The resulting structures inherently require fewer virgin materials,” the press release says. “In keeping with Balenciaga’s policies, new stores and renovations aim to reach the highest standards in sustainable practices.”

Balenciaga was founded by Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga, who opened the house’s first official store in Paris, France, in 1937. His work was distinguished by its clean lines and full silhouettes, serving as an inspiration for Paul Thomas Anderson’s film “Phantom Thread.”

The company now operates over 100 stores globally, including 30 in the U.S.

Balenciaga joins the New Zealand-based clothing store Rodd & Gunn, which now appears to be open next to Kate Spade, and the restaurant Empanadas De Mendoza as the most recent additions to Tysons Galleria.

The mall is also expecting to add the furniture store CB2, a CinéBistro movie theater, Crate & Barrel, a Yard House sports bar, and more. Many of the newcomers will fill out the former Macy’s space, which has been redeveloped and divided into smaller units.

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A rendering of the planned office tower at 1725 Tysons Boulevard (courtesy Lerner Enterprises)

More office space is coming to the Tysons Galleria area.

A new 21-story, 490,000 square-foot office building will be constructed at 1725 Tysons Boulevard, Lerner Enterprises, the developer behind the 11-acre mixed-use district known as Tysons II, announced today (Thursday).

The tower will fill a currently vacant lot across the street from the mall and adjacent to 1775 Tysons, the office building whose tenants include WeWork, QOMPLX, Inc., and Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse.

“As we continue growing Tysons II and Tysons III, we are thrilled to introduce 1725 Tysons Boulevard,” Lerner principal Mark D. Lerner said in a statement. “…This market defining project will be innovative and a truly unique workplace, offering unrivaled convenience, access and connectivity to the vast array of walkable amenities including Metro.”

Here is more on the project from the press release:

The innovative project by the Washington, D.C. office of international Gensler (Gensler.com) is designed to achieve LEED® Platinum; the industry’s highest designation for air quality, energy efficiency and sustainability. The building will feature space for a fine dining restaurant, a reflecting pool at the motorcourt, lobby level outdoor terrace, state-of-the-art tenant only conference center, fitness center, rooftop skydeck, as well as social, business and gaming lounges. The 1725 fitness center will include a yoga studio and wellness room. Just steps away from the main entrance of the property will be an outdoor garden amphitheater that will provide entertainment space and feature local performances and concerts; the first of its kind in Tysons, Virginia.

With 360⁰ views, 1725 Tysons Boulevard is the newest world-class, sustainably designed trophy office tower in The Corporate Office Centre at Tysons II.

Also in the works at Tysons II are a 21-story, 483,000 square-foot office tower at 8000 Galleria Drive and The Residences at Tysons II, a pair of 31-story, high-rise condominium towers, according to the development’s website.

Tysons II has been planned and approved for a total of approximately 6.8 million square feet of mixed-use development in Fairfax County’s Tysons Comprehensive Plan.

Lerner also intends to build out the area to the immediate south of Tysons Galleria as Tysons III, adding 2 million square feet of development right by the Tysons Metro station.

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A popular empanadas food truck has launched a dining space in Tysons Galleria.

Empanadas De Mendoza owners Gabi and Tyler Steelman opened up the new brick-and-mortar venue on the third floor of the mall on Thursday (Dec. 16). The restaurant offers meat and vegetarian options for the handheld pastries with light, flaky crusts.

The move brings the couple full circle to when they started selling their empanadas out of a food truck to Tysons offices over five years ago, eventually expanding their operations throughout Northern Virginia.

The made-to-order empanadas (from the Spanish word empanar, meaning “to bread”) feature a variety of fillings: traditional and spicy beef, honey barbecue pork, pineapple chicken, spinach ricotta, and three cheese. Churros and sides are available, along with pastry desserts known as alfajores, featuring coconut shavings.

Gabi Steelman said Saturday (Dec. 18) that they’ve had customers trickling in, many of them regulars who follow the business’ social media channels, and an electronic menu said January dates are coming soon.

Gabi Steelman started the business in 2013 at a local farmers market in Fairfax out of a desire to share her culture and how much empanadas mean family, friends, and fun in her hometown of Mendoza, Argentina.

She soon married Tyler Steelman, and the couple quit their full-time jobs to pursue Empanadas De Mendoza.

In 2020, the couple got a storefront with a production kitchen in Lorton, where they also host parties, and a second food truck.

The new store’s special hours for the rest of this month are today (Dec. 23) and next Tuesday through Thursday (Dec. 28-30) from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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Morning Notes

Health Department Adapts to Omicron Surge — With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise, the Fairfax County Health Department is changing its contact-tracing process to focus staff and resources on “higher-risk scenarios,” such as congregate settings, schools and childcare facilities, and outbreaks. Other individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will be notified by text message. [FCHD]

Robb Family Comments on McLean House Fire — Children of former Virginia governor Chuck Robb and his wife, Lynda Johnson Robb, confirmed that their parents had no life-threatening injuries after a fire destroyed the McLean mansion where they have lived for nearly 50 years. The Robb family thanked the firefighters and medical professionals who responded to the incident. [Office of the Governor]

Rare Owl Spotted in Oakton — “Animal Protection Police officers in Fairfax County, Virginia, helped a rare owl get out of a tough spot last month. The Fairfax County Police Department posted about the rescue on its Facebook page Tuesday. APP officers were called to the Oakton area Nov. 17 for a report of an owl that had flown into a home under construction.” [WTOP]

Tysons Corner and Galleria Close Early Tomorrow — “Between Christmas Eve for late shoppers and post-Christmas shopping, the two malls in Tysons have adjusted hours on upcoming days. Santa photos will continue at malls through Christmas Eve. Malls and surrounding stores are generally closed on Christmas Day, Dec. 25.” [Patch]

McLean Holiday Lights Contest Voting Underway — McLean residents can now vote online for their favorite neighborhood holiday decorations as part of the Light Up McLean contest. The McLean Community Center will announce winners in three categories — best overall, most creative, and best holiday theme — on Jan. 3. [Old Firehouse Center/Twitter]

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Santa Warren won’t arrive at Tysons Galleria for another 11 days, but he’s already making waves.

With his scheduled appearances on Dec. 18 and 19, Warren will be the first Black man to serve as Santa Claus for Neiman Marcus at Tysons Galleria’s winter holiday festivities, which kicked off on Nov. 26 with a visit from another Santa who assisted with curbside deliveries.

After years of white Saint Nicks dating back to its 1988 opening, the department store made a conscious effort to diversify its roster for this holiday season, citing its ongoing work to become “more inclusive and representative of our global community” in a recent media alert.

“We want to continue to connect with our customers and find ways to ensure our store represents our community,” Neiman Marcus Tysons Vice President and General Manager Kathy Leigh said by email. “This year our team brainstormed ideas [that] led us to hire the wonderful Santa who we are delighted to have join us at Neiman Marcus Tysons Galleria.”

To find the right candidate for the role, Neiman Marcus turned to Santas Just Like Me, a North Carolina-based company founded in 2013 to increase the representation of people of color in the Santa industry.

An event photographer, minister, and self-professed Christmas fanatic, Santas Just Like Me founder Stafford Braxton says his goal is to make the company all-inclusive, but the easiest way to market its work turned out to be emphasizing Black Santa “so that people would know what I am.”

Since recruiting Warren as the original Black Santa, Braxton has added five other men, and he remains on the lookout for Hispanic, Asian, and other kinds of individuals who would be interested in putting on the red suit. Even white Santas would be welcome.

The only criteria? A naturally white beard.

“I want to be able to provide all the different cultures a Santa that looks like them,” Braxton told Tysons Reporter. “That’s my heart’s desire.”

When Neiman Marcus reached out last month about a gig at its Tysons Galleria store, Santas Just Like Me quickly accepted the offer, excited by the prospect of breaking new ground as the venue’s first Black Santa. Read More

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Meerkats have taken over Tysons Galleria.

The 4-foot-tall, vividly colored replicas of the desert-dwelling critters started to emerge at the mall in mid-October before doubling their presence from 30 to 60 statues on Nov. 1.

The statues belong to a traveling art exhibit from the Italian collective Cracking Art, whose artists create work out of “recyclable” plastic to explore the relationship between the natural and artificial worlds, according to its website.

Tysons Galleria announced the exhibit’s arrival on Oct. 14, saying it hoped the “Meerkat Meetup” display would inspire “a sense of togetherness” and spark “conversation about caring for each other as well as the environment.”

“We wanted to bring this traveling art exhibit to Tysons Galleria as part of our continued effort to evolve our center as a premier spot for not only shopping but also lifestyle and entertainment,” the shopping center said in a statement. “We felt this was the perfect exhibit to present to our patrons because of what it represents — the meerkats standing tall in unison symbolize community and collaboration.”

Launched in 1993, Cracking Art describes itself as a movement of individual artists who share “a strong social and environmental commitment.”

With a dolphin as its first work, the collective uses animal sculptures to convey different meanings. Turtles, for example, represent perseverance and the connection between land and water, while snails’ regenerative abilities make them appropriate symbols of rebirth.

For “Meerkat Meetup,” the group was inspired by the animal’s reliance on teamwork and communication to survive in the deserts and grasslands of southern Africa that are their native habitat.

“The installation intent is to represent the importance of collaboration for dealing with and overcoming the events in our everyday life,” Cracking Art said. “In addition, by using vibrant and bright colours, we want to highlight the relevance of living with an open and positive approach.”

The meerkats will remain on display at Tysons Galleria from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. until the exhibit leaves for its next stop on Monday (Nov. 29).

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A rendering shows what a transformed Tysons Galleria would look like with a new service center and electric vehicle business on the ground floor (via Fairfax County)

Luxury electric vehicle manufacturer Lucid Motors passed a crucial step yesterday (Wednesday) toward getting its first service and delivery center in the D.C. area.

The company is seeking to open a venue in the basement of the former Macy’s at Tysons Galleria, converting the store doors and indoor space to allow vehicles to drive inside for servicing.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission voted on Wednesday (Oct. 20) to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the special exception proposal, which would give Lucid Motors five service bays and two vehicle display areas. Delivery service would also occur there.

Outside, 10 electric vehicle charging stations would be available for customers and the public in a nearby parking area, bringing the mall up to 22 stations.

“Like Tesla and other companies, this will be a big step forward in helping to further improve the environment and offer customers and area residents an alternative choice to the internal combustion engine,” said Bernie Suchicital, a land use planner with the law firm Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh.

The firm is representing the applicant Tysons Galleria Anchor Acquisition LLC, which is connected to Brookfield Properties, the real estate company that took over the mall in 2018.

“The architecture will be contemporary in style, in keeping with the rest of the building, and will include a glass storefront at the corner of the building as it wraps toward International Drive,” an Oct. 7 staff report said.

A Board of Supervisors public hearing on the application has been scheduled for Nov. 9.

Lucid Motors plans to operate seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. with no on-site vehicle sales, according to the county. The company’s least-expensive vehicle starts at around $70,000 when a tax credit is applied, according to TechCrunch.

County staff recommend that the location also be restricted from offering rentals.

Walsh Colucci senior land use planner Elizabeth Baker noted in an Aug. 13 letter that the location will allow customers to configure and experience a new Lucid vehicle virtually as well as in person.

The company would also have 40 parking spots at the mall to store new and serviced vehicles.

The planned service center is part of the Tysons Galleria’s ongoing redevelopment of its former Macy’s store. Next to the proposed location, Bowlero opened earlier this month on the ground floor.

Lucid Motors is also working to open a studio this year at nearby Tysons Corner Center, which has asked Fairfax County to allow vehicle sales for up to eight businesses in its parking garages.

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George Mason University student Adel Batterjee and his friends had one of Bowlero’s first games yesterday (Monday) following the opening of the new Tysons Galleria venue, which combines an arcade with a restaurant and bowling alley.

Bowlero has taken over the basement of the mall’s former Macy’s. The racks of clothing that Batterjee remembers from the old space have been replaced by almost wall-to-wall bowling lanes. Next to a sweeping 26-lane section is a classic Mustang and bar, and another 10-lane section stretches by 70-plus arcade games.

A grand opening for the Tysons Bowlero, which joins existing locations in Annandale, Centreville, and Arlington, is slated for Nov. 6. People can register online for the event, which runs from noon to 3 p.m and will feature free bowling and arcade play

“People are excited,” said Siarra Foster, Bowlero’s Northern Virginia district area manager. “It’s a fun addition of things to do in this area.”

The 39,000-square feet space, which began construction this spring, includes arcade games ranging from “Mario Kart Arcade GP,” complete with race car seats and steering wheels, to classic pinball machines, one of which features “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Other modern twists to the classic bowling alley concept include arcade games with virtual reality headsets and electronic menus on lanes to assist customers.

Food items include a kids’ menu, grilled items such as burgers, salads, milkshakes and other desserts, hand-stretched pizza, party-sized options, and more.

It’s not just for kids, though, given the selection of beers, and screens throughout the location can play NFL games as well as slideshows. Company logos can also be featured on screens for when groups rent a section of lanes or the entire facility.

A prize area features quirky items, too, such as a Bob Ross version of Monopoly.

Even with the soft opening, the business is already inviting stores to participate in a friendly competition for bragging rights in a Tysons Galleria bowling league.

The location opened Friday (Oct. 15) for families and friends and is currently open to the public, Foster said.

Its hours are 2 p.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, noon to midnight on Saturday, and noon to 11 p.m. on Sunday.

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Urban Plates has closed at Tysons Galleria (courtesy Urban Plates)

Urban Plates at Tysons Galleria is no more.

An anonymous tipster alerted Tysons Reporter to the healthy-eating restaurant’s closure yesterday (Tuesday), and a company spokesperson confirmed in an emailed statement that it is indeed permanent:

Urban Plates has made the very difficult decision to close our Tyson’s Galleria location so we may focus energy on growing and supporting our West Coast restaurants. We know this is sad news…for us, for our locals who dined with us, and of course our team members. We trust that our fans understand we would only choose to close a location if it was the right decision for the greater Urban Plates family long term. Decisions like these allow us to continue to make the quality, craveable, affordable food our guests count on us to deliver.

When asked by Tysons Reporter, the spokesperson added that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was a factor in Urban Plates’ decision to focus on its West Coast restaurants.

Primarily based in California, Urban Plates opened next to Saks Fifth Avenue at Tysons Galleria on July 16, 2018, making that its first East Coast franchise. Since then, the company added restaurants in Columbia and Bethesda, Maryland, both of which have now also been shuttered.

With a menu of sandwiches, soups, salads, and meat-based dishes, the restaurant emphasizes its use of healthy, sustainable ingredients, a reputation that made it the lunch of choice for three former presidents on Inauguration Day earlier this year.

Bigger changes are in store for Tysons Galleria, as work continues on a redevelopment of the mall’s former Macy’s space, which is being subdivided to accommodate a movie theater, a bowling alley, and other new retailers.

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Among a crowd of pizza crafters applying fixtures with eyedroppers or a brush, chef Andy Brown did what he did best: make the same kind of pizza he’d make if he were any given Friday at the shop.

That’s how Andy’s Pizza, a small regional chain with a location in Tysons Galleria, took home the first-place prize in the traditional pizza category of the International Pizza Challenge last month.

“The whole point of the traditional category is: what do you do really great at 7 p.m. on a Friday?” said Emily Brown, Andy’s cousin and co-owner of Andy’s Pizza. “Maybe it was a risky move, but we just did what we put out on Friday. No paint brushes, no eye-droppers.”

Originally introduced in 2007, the International Pizza Challenge is the largest pizza-making competition in the U.S. It unfolded this year from Aug. 17-19 as part of the 37th annual International Pizza Expo.

Part of the rules for the traditional category is to use no more than two toppings, but as Emily explained, traditional doesn’t necessarily mean simple. There’s a specific process behind the scenes that goes into making the pizza.

“We do a 72-hour minimum cold fermented crust,” Emily said. “For our sauce, we have a beautiful red sauce with a pinch of salt, and we use the best cheese money can buy — mozzarella from Grande Cheese. Our crust is blistered, and we use a special technique to keep it chewy and soft while being crisp on the bottom.”

Emily suspects it was the blistered crust that helped Andy’s Pizza stand out from the competition.

“A lot of people do that ferment, and a lot of people use that cheese, so it’s really the blister,” Emily said.

Meanwhile, the pizzeria just started serving its first vegan pies. Emily says they were previously unimpressed with the quality of artificial cheeses, but they found the right one with Vertage in Ivy City in D.C.

Emily also helped spearhead the pizzeria’s beer menu, which has started to see a gradual comeback after lunch and happy-hour crowds took a hit with office workers staying home during the pandemic.

“Tonight, people came out from D.C. and were like ‘how did you get this beer?'” Emily said. “Our bread and butter was office, and they were gone and started to trickle back…You still don’t get that automatic 50-person-on-a-Tuesday Capital One happy hour yet, so you have to work really hard not to let that program slip. If you do something hard enough, people will notice.”

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