Newsletter

Morning Notes

Wind Advisory in Effect — The National Weather Service has issued a Wind Advisory for the D.C. area, including Fairfax County, starting at noon today (Friday). In effect until 2 a.m. Saturday, the alert says to expect northwest winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour with gusts up to 55 miles per hour. Gusts could blow around unsecured objects and bring down tree limbs, potentially leading to power outages. [NWS]

McLean Community Center Gets New Executive Director — The MCC Governing Board has chosen Daniel Phoenix Singh as the center’s next executive director was to succeed George Sachs, who is retiring on May 7. Singh’s selection to the position, which has an annual salary of $150,000, was effective April 12 but not publicly announced until the board’s meeting on Wednesday (April 28). [MCC]

Help Tysons Plan for COVID-19 Recovery — The Tysons Partnership is conducting a community survey until May 14 to gauge people’s interest in transit, dining, shopping, office work, and other activities affected by the pandemic. A follow-up to a similar survey from last summer, the results are expected to be released at the end of the month and “will be significant to recovery efforts,” President and CEO Sol Glasner told Tysons Reporter. [Tysons Partnership]

Police Body Cameras Coming to Falls Church — The City of Falls Church City will use grant funds and an anticipated $650,000 surplus in the current fiscal year to establish a body camera program for its police department. City Manager Wyatt Shields told the News-Press that the cameras should arrive in the next couple months. A Use of Force Committee recommended that the city evaluate the feasibility of body cameras in February. [Falls Church News-Press]

Tysons Social Tavern Reopens With Outdoor Patio — After a year-long closure, Tysons Social Tavern is back with operating hours from 4-10 p.m., seven days a week, and a new outdoor patio. The bar took over the O’Malley’s Pub spot at the DoubleTree Hilton in Tysons two years ago. [Tysons Social Tavern]

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Morning Notes

Early Voting Underway for Vienna Town Council Election — Vienna residents can cast an early ballot in the May 4 town council election at the Fairfax County Government Center. Voters who register by April 12 can also apply for a mail absentee ballot. In-person early voting ends at 5 p.m. on May 1, and mailed ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day and arrive at the Fairfax County Office of Elections by noon on May 7. [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Church Street Pizza No Longer on Church Street — Vienna’s New York-style pizza eatery has moved out of its longtime home at 113 Church Street NE and into a new space at 115 Maple Avenue W, which also houses a Potomac River Running store. Church Street Pizza is still offering contact-free takeout, curbside pickup, and delivery. [Lombardi’s Pizza]

Vienna and Falls Church to Compete in Fitness Challenge — Vienna, Falls Church, and Fairfax are squaring off in the first-ever Mayors’ Fitness Challenge, which will begin on April 3 and conclude on May 29 with a winning locality being dubbed the “Most Fit Community of 2021.” Community members can register for free at any time and will be tasked with tracking their physical activity each day. [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Asphalt Work on Old Meadow Road Postponed Indefinitely — The left lane closure on Old Meadow Road approaching Route 123 in Tysons that had been scheduled to start at 9 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday) has now been “postponed until further notice.” The planned minor asphalt repair work stems from the ongoing realignment of Old Meadow Road with Capital One Tower Drive at Dolley Madison Boulevard. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]

Tysons Partnership Report Shows Milestones, Struggles — Released on March 31, the Tysons Partnership’s 2021 annual report highlights the economic challenges that Tysons has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in its hospitality, retail, and entertainment sectors. The past year has also seen a sharp drop in Metro ridership, while introducing new virtual and outdoor events, like drive-in movie screenings, and new businesses like the now-open Wegmans. [Sun Gazette]

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A new private school for early childhood education could open as soon as this summer in Tysons.

Owners Kate and Brian Mulcahy held a groundbreaking ceremony for the Celebree School of Tysons-Jones Branch on Wednesday (March 31). It is the first Virginia location for Celebree School, a network of early childhood education centers.

The school is located on Valo Park’s 16-acre campus at 7950 Jones Branch Drive and will serve infants through pre-kindergarten children.

“Truly, the curriculum, the program we’re going to provide to these kids…it gives me chills,” Kate Mulcahy said. “We are going to give these children the best possible start to life while giving their parents incredible piece of mind and flexibility. We are just so excited to do that.”

Celebree aims to open the school this summer, and pre-enrollment has already begun.

Celebree School announced on April 21, 2020 that it had signed a franchise agreement with the Mulcahys to open a center in Fairfax or Arlington county. The couple signed a lease with Valo Park on Nov. 10 to open the center.

Leaders of organizations representing the Tysons area, including the Tysons Partnership and Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce, were among those in attendance at the groundbreaking ceremony.

“There is no greater opportunity right now than to serve your community through education and childcare, particularly early childhood education,” Tysons Partnership communications director Drew Sunderland said. “As my fellow parents know, the pandemic’s only amplified this need for quality schools. Childcare facilities has provided lifelines to families.”

Founded in 1994 in Lutherville, Md., Celebree School began franchising in 2019 and has now expanded to over 40 locations in 12 states that are open or under development, adding franchises in New York, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

“Today is a huge milestone in so many ways,” Celebree Schools founder, president, and CEO Richard Huffman said.

He called the groundbreaking a meaningful occasion for “not only expanding the brand into Virginia and bringing high quality preschool to families in McLean, Virginia, but also sitting around watching this vision and dream come true of offering this concept and this kind of business to a family like the Mulcahys.”

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Morning Notes

Marshall High School Principal Addresses Racial Slur Allegations — In a letter sent to families yesterday (March 17), Principal Augie Frattali acknowledged reports that Marshall students spat and shouted racial slurs during a football game against Wakefield High School on March 5. The full letter, provided to Tysons Reporter by Fairfax County Public Schools, is below.

Dear Marshall Community,

As many of you are aware, there are serious allegations that have been made involving some students within our the Marshall HS Community regarding an incident at a recent football game. These have been shared widely on social media and are very hurtful to all individuals involved.

Please know that we have taken this situation very seriously and are in direct contact with Fairfax County Public School’s Region 2 office and the Office of Equity and Employee Relations.

We have done an intensive investigation into this situation and appropriate actions were taken against individuals by the Virginia High School League from both schools.  I also worked collaboratively with the Wakefield HS principal to ensure that there will be an opportunity for the students to join together to discuss their actions and develop a plan moving forward.

Thank you for all you do to support the Marshall High School.

Tysons Partnership Warns Against Delaying Metro Silver Line Phase 2 — Tysons Partnership President and CEO Sol Glasner argues in a letter to the Metro board that opening the second phase of Metro’s Silver Line is necessary for the “fulfillment of the promise not only of Tysons, but of the entire Silver Line corridor.” The nonprofit says budget constraints should not delay the project’s completion. [Tysons Partnership]

Merrifield Church to Host Free Drive-by Food Distribution Event — “Free boxes of food will be available at First Baptist Church Merrifield (FBCM) on Saturday, March 20, from 11:00 AM until all are distributed. All members and surrounding community are invited to partake of the distribution.” [Greater Merrifield Business Association]

Northern Virginia Reports Uptick in COVID-19 Cases — “The Virginia Department of Health reported 674 new cases in Northern Virginia on Thursday, the most since Feb. 13.  The region’s seven-day average of new cases, which peaked Jan. 18 at 1,628.4, had fallen as low as 318.4 on Saturday, but now stands at 407 cases per day.” [Inside NoVA]

Falls Church Healthcare Startup Raises $10 Million — “CMT Solutions, a leader in patient access services for laboratory diagnostics, announced a close on $10.0MM of Series A fundraising…CMT is using these funds to further develop our technology solution, with a new product launch, that will greatly help the healthcare community with diagnostic testing.” [CMT Solutions]

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Commercial office development will be essential to future economic recovery efforts in Tysons and Fairfax County, a new study says.

Released last Thursday (March 4) by the Tysons Partnership, an economic report and market study developed by the consulting firms HR&A Advisors, Toole Design, and Wells & Associates argues that Tysons will need at least 1.9 million square feet of new office space over the next 10 years — despite predictions that the COVID-19 pandemic could permanently alter white-collar workplaces.

“In early 2021, we remain in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, with fallout still being measured,” the economic report says. “However, office investments to date are seeing a strong performance return and will certainly play a key role in County and regional pandemic economic recovery efforts.”

According to the report, Tysons saw a 40 to 75% drop in the use of office space after COVID-19 arrived, following regional and national trends, but prior to the pandemic, vacancy rates had been declining, dipping four percentage points between 2015 and 2019.

In addition, the study projects that office-based employment in Tysons will grow by 7%, or 7,500 jobs, by 2030.

Office work is already integral to Tysons’ economy. Office workers constitute 81% of the total 107,000-person workforce, with the largest sector — the professional services industry — employing two of every five workers in the area. Tysons accounts for 17% of Fairfax County’s office-using jobs.

Tysons outpaced the rest of the county with a 9% job growth between 2015 and 2020, and that faster growth is expected to continue over the next five years, albeit at a slower rate of 5%. Professional services will still be the largest sector, but the biggest area of growth will be in healthcare, which is projected to grow by 24% through 2025.

However, the projected office-using job market growth is far short of what developers would need to fill all of the office space that is in the works for the Tysons area.

If all projects in construction and 50% of all proposed projects in Tysons are completed, that would result in 4.5 million square feet of new office space that could accommodate an estimated 18,200 workers, according to the market study.

In comparison, driven by the opening of the Metro Silver Line in 2014, Tysons added 1.9 million square feet of office space between 2015 and 2020, a 7% growth in inventory that surpassed the rate for both Fairfax County overall (4.7%) and Arlington County (4%).

Though they anticipate future job growth, the economic report and market study acknowledge that “long-term trends remain uncertain” due to the pandemic, which triggered a 5% climb in office vacancy rates and sent the leasing market plummeting from 81 deals in the first quarter of 2019 to just five in the fourth quarter of 2020 so far.

“Tysons Partnership leaders understand much work remains to be done as recovery efforts begin post COVID-19 and in identified areas where continued investment and resources are essential, including housing affordability, mobility, and implementation,” the partnership said in a news release.

Outside the office market, the report says that Tysons has cemented its role as a regional retail hub over the past decade, generating $3.5 billion in annual retail spending, which represents 17% of Fairfax County’s total retail spending.

As reported at the Tysons Partnership’s “State of Tysons” event in December, Tysons’ residential population grew 39% from 2010 to 2018, a rate four times higher than the county’s average growth. Led by mid- and high-rise developments, Tysons has expanded its housing stock by 34% to 13,800 units since 2010, and it is projected to grow by 36% to nearly 19,000 units by 2025.

“The investment on behalf of the public and private sectors in smart, sustainable urbanization is working,” Tysons Partnership president and CEO Sol Glasner said.

The full report and market study can be found on the Tysons Partnership website. The nonprofit plans to use the collected data to develop a dashboard that “will serve as the go-to information hub for a wide range of stakeholders and promote the growth of Tysons,” according to the market study.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott, slide via Tysons Partnership

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The Tysons Partnership greeted news that the federal government might allocate funding to Metro for the next decade with a cheer.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11th District) announced on Tuesday (Feb. 2) that he has reintroduced the Metro Accountability and Investment Act, which would provide funding to sustain the D.C. area transit system for 10 years.

Several other members of Congress who represent the D.C. area have also sponsored the bill, including Reps. Don Beyer (D-8th District) and Jennifer Wexton (D-10th District).

“We are hopeful that stable funding would instill a bright future for Metro and specifically ridership in Tysons,” the Tysons Partnership said yesterday.

The Metro Accountability and Investment Act would give the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) $1.73 billion between 2022 and 2031 by reauthorizing the Passenger Rail Investment Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA), which established annual federal funding for Metro until it expired in 2018, according to The Washington Post.

Under Connolly’s bill, Metro would be required to implement and maintain certain safety and oversight reforms in order to receive the annual allocations, which range between $150 million and $200 million per year.

Among other conditions, the WMATA board of directors must pass a resolution by July 1 that gives independent budgeting, hiring, and procurement authority to the Office of the Inspector General, which conducts audits, reviews, and investigations of the transit agency’s programs and operations.

“Even before the pandemic, which has only exacerbated the challenges facing transit agencies across the country, WMATA was in need of a long-term plan that restored confidence in the rail system,” members of the National Capital Area Congressional Delegation said. “The Metro Accountability and Investment Act is a balanced proposal that recognizes the federal government’s responsibility to the funding, safety, and reliability of Metro.”

Plummeting ridership levels during the COVID-19 pandemic have created a dire financial situation for WMATA, which said last year that it would have to make significant service and personnel cuts without additional assistance.

Metro will avoid the worst-case scenario for now after Congress included an estimated $610 million for the transit system in the coronavirus relief package that was signed into law on Dec. 27. However, those funds are a temporary solution, and Metro officials say major cuts could be on the table again in 2022.

WMATA General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld says the federal funding offered by the Metro Accountability and Investment Act “will be critical to the region’s recovery for years to come.”

“This bill once again demonstrates our Congressional delegation’s leadership supporting critically needed funding to maintain a safe and reliable transportation system,” Wiedefeld said. “…We welcome provisions that will increase transparency and ensure taxpayer funds are well-spent to continue to earn the public’s confidence.”

The Tysons Partnership published an article on Jan. 25 urging community members to tell legislators to support federal funding for Metro, noting that budget cuts would take a toll on the Silver Line with the potential closure of five stations — including the ones at McLean and Greensboro.

“If implemented, these transit cuts could be devastating to Tysons and the entire Silver Line corridor,” the Tysons Partnership said.

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Tysons Partnership leaders touted the success of Fairfax County’s initial investment in the nonprofit stakeholder group while making the case for a new round of funding to county leaders on Tuesday (Jan. 12).

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors nominated the Tysons Partnership, which was formed in 2011 to help implement the Tysons Comprehensive Plan, for a $1 million award from the county’s Economic Opportunity Reserve fund on Dec. 1.

The organization previously received $1 million in economic opportunity funds from the county in December 2019.

“The Tysons Partnership has been a prudent investor of those initial funds and are here today to request an additional investment to further advance a community-led vision in conjunction with the county,” Tysons Partnership Chairman Josh White said.

According to White, the partnership raised $630,000 in private funds to match Fairfax County’s contribution between the third quarter of 2019 and the second quarter of 2020, resulting in a total investment of $1.26 million.

The partnership has allocated about $1 million so far, primarily to develop materials that define Tysons as a brand. It has also organized focus groups, community surveys, and virtual events, highlighted by the State of Tysons panel on Dec. 10.

White told the Board of Supervisors during its budget committee meeting that the Tysons Partnership has deferred spending about $250,000 intended to support community events and place activation initiatives that have been put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The partnership is returning approximately $370,000 in unmatched funds to Fairfax County. That money will go back into the county’s economic opportunity reserve fund to be redistributed.

If the board approves a new $1 million investment, the funds will go toward marketing, research and data analysis, transportation and mobility projects, and community events, like holiday markets or craft fairs, Tysons Partnership President and CEO Sol Glasner says.

The organization is also collaborating with Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik on a working group focused on finding ways to make the partnership more effective and sustainable.

Glasner says the working group, which held its kick-off meeting yesterday (Wednesday), will deliver its recommendations to the county board and the Tysons Partnership board of directors by the end of this year, with the goal of implementing all of the proposals by January 2023.

The Board of Supervisors will vote on whether to approve the $1 million in economic opportunity reserve funds for the Tysons Partnership when it meets on Feb. 23.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says investing in the partnership will be critical for the future growth of the Tysons area.

“The activities that the Tysons Partnership will need to be engaged in, while they may not be ideal in this pandemic environment, they will be necessary as a part of our economic recovery when we get to that point,” McKay said. “So, I would make the case that this has never been more important than now.”

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(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) Once home to 17,000 people living amid suburban office parks, Tysons has seen its residential population soar in recent years, growing four times faster than Fairfax County overall.

From 2010 to 2018, the population of Tysons grew 39% to about 23,749 people today, and by 2045, Providence District is expected to add roughly 57,000 residents. People under 20 now comprise one area of marked growth, from 1% of the population in 2010 to 21% in 2020.

“Forty percent is a tremendous number,” HR&A Partner Stan Wall said during the Tysons Partnership’s State of Tysons panel last week. “Tysons started off at a fairly low bar compared to some of the other communities in the region, but is outpacing Fairfax County and other areas around the region.”

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik attributed much of the growth to the arrival of more young families in the area, as indicated by increases in children, teens, and 18- to 20-year-olds.

“People have not always thought of Tysons as a place where you can raise a family,” she said in a statement. “The increased investment in green space, affordable housing, and transit has made Tysons an attractive option for a demographic that previously did not consider Tysons as a place to live.”

But neither an influx of 57,000 people or the current growth rate are enough to reach Fairfax County’s goal of 100,000 residents in Tysons by 2050, according to Emily Hamilton, a research fellow and director of the Urbanity Project at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

Fairfax County set 100,000 residents as a target in its 2010 comprehensive plan, which also aims for a population of 44,000 by 2030. Tysons would have to expand at a rate of 8.5% annually — double its current annual growth rate of 4.2% — to hit those benchmarks.

If the lagging growth concerns policymakers, they should consider up-zoning areas slightly farther away from Metro stations and encourage smaller-scale developments, which move more quickly, Hamilton says.

Currently, most development is happening in the one-quarter mile radius around the area’s four Silver Line stations, she said. The lower-density and mid-rise zoning on the periphery of the stations could be amended to allow for more residential growth.

The county is also encouraging large, 10 to 20-acre developments that provide public benefits, such as parks, along with housing, she said. To Hamilton, this approach makes sense, especially if policymakers want to achieve a new grid of streets in Tysons, but it also slows down development.

Tysons relies heavily on the private sector to contribute to and provide public infrastructure as part of developments, Hamilton says, but with land values increasing, it has the capacity to meet the needs of new residents, such as schools.

With a 20% influx in residents under 20, school board members say they area already working to out ways to combat capacity issues at the schools in the Tysons area.

“We are working closely with the community and staff from the school division and Board of Supervisors to better understand and prepare for the impact increasing growth in Tysons will have on school capacity, especially at the high school level,” Dranesville District School Board Member Elaine Tholen said in an email.

Providence District School Board Representative Karl Frisch is proposing to repurpose Dunn Loring Administration Center as a new elementary school, using available bond funds to relieve capacity concerns at Shrevewood and in the Tysons periphery.

“This proposal will bring much-needed, sustainable capacity relief to Shrevewood Elementary School and the Tysons periphery,” Frisch said during a virtual meeting of the Shrevewood Elementary School PTA. “Overcrowding has been an ongoing challenge for the community, and now we have a solution.”

Staff photo by Jay Westcott, image via Tysons Partnership

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The Tysons Partnership has joined calls for federal legislators to give mass transit a financial boost as public transportation systems reel from dropping ridership levels and other impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Charged with implementing the vision in Fairfax County’s Tysons Comprehensive Plan, the Partnership said yesterday (Tuesday) that its leaders sent a letter to members and stakeholders asking them to advocate for transit relief to their Congress members.

“There will be profound economic harm caused by transit service cuts in all urban centers that depend on transit to move people in [and] out of work, home, shopping and entertainment,” Tysons Partnership President and CEO Sol Glasner said.

Local elected leaders and transportation officials have stepped up their appeals for Congress to include public transit in a coronavirus relief package since Metro unveiled a sobering budget plan that includes drastic service cuts to compensate for an anticipated deficit of nearly $500 million.

In addition to closing 19 stations, including ones at McLean and Greensboro, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s proposed Fiscal Year 2022 budget would eliminate rail service on the weekends and reduce it to every half hour on weekdays. Bus service would also drop from 60 to 41 routes.

The WMATA board of directors voted on Dec. 10 move the proposal forward and authorize a public hearing on it in January or February. The board must adopt its next operating budget in March.

“If implemented, these transit cuts could be devastating to Tysons,” Glasner said. “Economic growth and development in Tysons may slow significantly as employers, retailers, employees and residents reconsider their respective commitments to a location in which the urban vision rests on the premise of access to transit.”

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and other transportation agencies in the region have been rallying in support of federal transit funding.

The NVTA included a call for additional federal COVID-19 funding for transit in its 2021 federal legislative program, stating that WMATA is critical to the federal workforce as well as first responders, healthcare workers, and other essential employees.

“At a time when we are looking to recover from the economic impacts resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, it doesn’t make sense that our federal government would not prioritize transit systems that serve our federal capital and our national economic centers,” Glasner said.

According to the Tysons Partnership, Congress is currently negotiating a federal funding bill that allocates $15 billion to transit. The American Public Transportation Association says that public transportation around the country needs at least $32 billion in emergency funds to survive.

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The future of Tysons as a transit-oriented urban district looks bright, but local leaders worry it could be marred by declines in Metro ridership.

During the State of Tysons event that the Tysons Partnership held last Thursday (Dec. 10), local elected officials, business leaders, consultants, and journalists outlined the present conditions and future of the city, touching on both the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and Tysons’ 40-year comprehensive plan.

While 2020 will be remembered for being upended by a once-in-a-century pandemic, for Tysons, it also represents a “decade of accomplishment” since Fairfax County adopted a comprehensive plan that “envisioned and guides transformation of our suburban-edge city to an urban destination,” event emcee Sol Glasner said.

In the past, Tysons was “characterized by regional retail anchors, ringed by acres of low rise office parks, themselves encircled by acres of surface car parking, encased in ribbons of asphalt,” he said.

But participants agreed that Tysons has made strides to becoming a transit-oriented urban district with more mixed-use housing and retail development, and more young families choosing to live in the city.

“We really are making progress. Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said. “This is a 40-year plan, and we’re 10 years in. We need to stay committed to these goals and applying resources and ideas to help achieve them.”

The primary concern for the State of Tysons speakers and panelists was the future of transit.

Pre-pandemic, the four Tysons Metro stops were clocking the highest-ever Metro ridership rates, according to Palchik.

With low ridership persisting, WMATA cuts looming, and little chance of federal aid in sight, the future looks grim, City Monitor editor Sommer Mathis said.

“If the service cuts that WMATA is proposing come to pass, Tysons is going to have to be more than agile,” she said. “It’s a huge potential blow to the ability of folks who were pleased to get to Tysons easily via Metro. We’re starting to track a death spiral for public transportation in a number of cities.”

Ridership declines due to COVID-19 could become semi-permanent when prices increase to make up for lost revenue, she said, adding that it will be difficult to get federal aid if the makeup of the U.S. Senate doesn’t change.

“Transit is under siege,” Palchik said. “It’s under fire. It’s going to take support from federal partners to make sure we make it through this challenging time and save transportation.”

Fairfax County Deputy County Executive Rachel Flynn said Tysons needs to be agile, checking in on the 40-year plan every few years. She stated that it is important to celebrate successes and identify areas to improve, such as transit, walkability, and equity.

Other focus areas in the coming months will be when companies start returning to their offices after the pandemic, responding to changes to the retail sector, and rebuilding the hospitality sector — particularly for restaurants.

Matthis said that some predictions of the future of remote work are overblown, but Tysons will need to respond to an increased demand for flexible office and meeting spaces as more firms are rethinking the traditional office space.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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