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Vienna Police SUV (via Vienna Police Department/Facebook)

In a sequence of events that could’ve been ripped out of a pulpy crime thriller, a man in Vienna was reportedly taken for a ride and robbed at gunpoint — potentially by a trio spotted patronizing a local gun shop earlier that day.

Around 2:40 p.m. on April 9, the man was picked up by three men in a vehicle, one of them an acquaintance, at the Giant shopping center (359 Maple Avenue), according to the Vienna Police Department’s recap for the week of April 8-14.

“While they were driving around, the three men displayed handguns and announced a robbery, taking the citizen’s belongings,” police said. “The men allowed the citizen to exit the vehicle on Cabin Road where he ran to the nearest residence for assistance.”

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Rep. Gerry Connolly talks about the Silver Line in Tysons at a House subcommittee hearing on Metro (via Oversight Committee/YouTube)

(Updated at 10:10 a.m.) Tysons got a shoutout yesterday (Wednesday) from Rep. Gerry Connolly (D) at the Congressional hearing on Metro.

Connolly called the hearing before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Reform, which he chairs, in December to address the safety issues that have sidelined more than half of the transit system’s trains for nearly three months now after a derailment in Arlington.

The two-hour hearing primarily featured Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Agency leaders addressing questions about the prolonged effort to fix the 7000-series trains, ridership declines, and a looming budget shortfall with federal relief funds running out.

However, it also saw Connolly defend the investments made to bring Metro into Tysons and Reston. The first phase of the Silver Line opened in 2014, after Connolly assumed office in Congress, but the groundwork for the $2.9 billion project was laid while he served on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Asked whether the D.C. area has the density to support Metro, witness David Ditch, a policy analyst for the conservative Heritage Foundation, suggested local governments should privatize rail or shift resources to buses, which he argued are “more economical” since they “share road infrastructure.”

“When you’re in a hole, stop digging,” Ditch said. “Past spending on transit infrastructure is not a justification for ignoring high costs and limited benefits or adding even more high-cost infrastructure on top of what we already have.”

Connolly countered that federal and local officials “experimented with” a variety of options for the Silver Line, including the inclusion of a bus rapid transit system as part of the project. Fairfax County launched an express bus service in the Dulles corridor in 1999.

However, he said the buses saw a third or less of the ridership of the existing Metro trains, indicating that rail would be the better investment.

He pointed to Tysons as an illustration of how transit can spur economic development, drawing more residents and businesses that will sustain the system long term, at least if Fairfax County’s comprehensive plan pans out.

“When we built the Silver Line through Tysons, we had 17,000 people live in Tysons, a physical area bigger than downtown Boston,” Connolly said. “Because of the advent of rail, there’ll be 100,000 additional residents in Tysons. The density, in some cases, is dependent on the investment in rail, and I believe Tysons is a great example of a potential success story.”

Unmentioned during the hearing was that plans for bus rapid transit in Tysons are in the works, though the proposed system will be tied to Route 7, rather than the Silver Line.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is also scheduled to approve plans to enhance bus service in Reston and Herndon later this month, as Metro prepares to open the Silver Line’s second phase this spring after years of delays.

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A map of the Route 7 segment between Chain Bridge Route and I-495 that the Virginia Department of Transportation is studying for improvements (via VDOT)

For all its transit-friendly aspirations, Tysons remains decidedly car-oriented. Take the seven-lane gauntlet that is Route 7 (Leesburg Pike), where evening rush-hour backups can extend for blocks and crosswalks feel like dares.

With uprooting one of the region’s major thoroughfares presumably out of the question, state and local transportation staff hope to at least improve the situation with an ongoing study of Route 7 between Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) and I-495.

In partnership with Fairfax County, the Virginia Department of Transportation is now seeking input on ways to minimize crashes, relieve congestion, and improve pedestrian and bus facilities in the corridor.

The online survey is open through Feb. 16, as officials finalize a plan to address safety and traffic issues.

State officials suspect congestion is a primary factor in numerous crashes. From 2015 to 2019, this stretch of road saw five crashes resulting in severe injuries, 90 other injuries, and 141 more incidents involving property damage.

Possible solutions include removing service roads and adding a shared-use path for pedestrians and cyclists, upgrading crosswalks and curbs, and widening a median for future bus rapid transit or BRT lanes.

The study is part of a new Project Pipeline launched last year by the Commonwealth Transportation Board that seeks to streamline high-priority projects. With the program, officials will prioritize limited funding for a handful of projects in the state, including Route 7.

The improvements recommended by the study will tie into plans to widen Route 7 to accommodate express bus lanes, according to Allan Fye, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission’s director of programs and policy.

[These] efforts support the ultimate goal to provide high-quality, high-capacity BRT service along the Route 7 corridor,” he said in an email.

Plans to bring dedicated bus lanes to Tysons have been in the works for years.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a BRT route last July that’s being incorporated into NVTC’s larger effort to develop a bus service from the Spring Hill Metro station to Alexandria’s Mark Center.

The Envision Route 7 planning process began in 2013 and moved into its fourth phase in October with a mobility study looking at the proposed route from Tysons to Seven Corners. The study is expected to be complete by June 2023.

“NVTC has and continues to work closely with [the Fairfax County Department of Transportation] and VDOT,” Fye said. “Our close coordination allows us to leverage each other’s work to advance the overall BRT project while providing strategic opportunities to advance key segments that may allow service to begin in phases.”

After collecting public input from the Project Pipeline survey, VDOT will examine how to fund the upgrades from March to July this year.

Photo via VDOT

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The national chain Kura Sushi is bringing a sushi bar to Tysons, its first Virginia location.

The publicly traded company, whose closest site right now is in D.C., plans to open at 8461 Leesburg Pike by the end of this year, spokesperson Lauren Murakami confirmed.

Kura Sushi will replace the closed Roti Mediterranean Grill restaurant at the plaza, which is anchored by Best Buy and also has Chick-fil-A and Chipotle. The center will also soon house Vertical Rock, a bouldering gym expected to open this spring.

“We’ve been wanting to expand more on the east coast, as the majority of our restaurants are primarily on the west coast, specifically in Southern California,” Murakami wrote in an email. “Tysons Corner is reputable for its premier entertainment and shopping centers, and we offer a unique technology-driven dining experience that we feel will cater to this lively community.”

Kura Sushi’s D.C. restaurant features $3.15 sushi plates served on a conveyor belt that rolls food to customers’ tables, a setup that will be familiar to patrons of Wasabi in Tysons Corner Center.

Menu items generally range from spicy tuna and shrimp avocado rolls to softshell crab tempura, ramen and udon soups, and Japanese-style soy milk doughnuts and other desserts.

The company is an offshoot of a Japan-based brand of the same name that has over 480 restaurants. The American subsidiary, Kura Sushi USA, has dozens of locations, mostly in California and Texas.

A quarterly earnings report on Jan. 6 reaffirmed the company’s plan to open eight to 10 new restaurants this fiscal year, which started Sept. 1, 2021.

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Morning Notes

Idylwood Shooting Was a Suicide — Fairfax County police confirmed community reports that they responded to a shooting in the 7600 block of Virginia Lane near the W&OD Trail over the weekend. A spokesperson told Tysons Reporter that an individual died by suicide in a backyard, explaining that the department generally doesn’t publicly report suicides. [FCPD]

Funding for New 911 Model Approved — A budget review approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday (Jan. 25) included Covid relief funds for 26 positions to support the first phase of a permanent program where police work with behavioral health specialists when responding to 911 calls. The county began piloting the co-responder model last year. [Jeff McKay]

“City View” Tysons Site Sold to Developer — An affiliate of D.C. developer Four Points LLC bought the former Association for Manufacturing Technology building site at 7901 Westpark Drive for about $10 million in late December. AMT was poised to build a 10-story office tower on the lot east of Tysons Galleria, but the site’s future under Four Points, which generally works on primarily residential mixed-use projects, is unclear. [Washington Business Journal]

McLean Gift Shop to CloseThe Artisans will close in February after 32 years of selling handmade clothing, home decor, and other items, starting in 1990 at Marketplace of McLean before moving to its current location in the Langley Shopping Center. The owners plan to retire and are selling everything for 20% off. [Patch]

County Retains AAA Bond Rating — “On Wednesday, Jan. 19, Fairfax County completed a successful bond sale, generating $300 million to fund various project areas, after once again affirming its AAA bond rating with all three major rating agencies.” [Fairfax County Government]

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The Mobil gas station on Route 123 by Tysons Corner Center is getting a touch-up for the 21st century.

With a special exception application submitted to the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning on Jan. 10, Petroleum Marketing Group has proposed eliminating the station’s car wash and repair bays and replacing them with a convenience store.

While the store won’t be as extensive as a Wawa or Sheetz, it will offer coffee, doughnuts, and a variety of prepared food for customers looking to grab a snack while filling up their gas tank, development director Armand Keurian told Tysons Reporter.

“We just want a use that’s more conducive in today’s environment with a gas station, and as you can see, convenience stores and gas stations go together today,” Keurian said.

The conversion is part of a larger effort to upgrade the property at 1955 Chain Bridge Road that has been underway since PMG took control of the lease last year. So far, the company has rebranded the former Gulf gas station and installed a new canopy and fuel pumps.

Adjacent to a Sunoco, the Mobil station has eight fuel pumps and a 2,585 square-foot service building originally built in 1969. There are three vehicle service bays, a small snack shop, and a car wash that is no longer operational.

The convenience store will expand the snack shop to the entire one-story building, taking over the space currently occupied by the car wash and vehicle bays, which Keurian says “are really not being used to their full extent.”

According to PMG’s statement of justification to the county, the convenience store will employ eight workers total. It will have merchandise and display areas, a wall of refrigerated drinks, a restroom, and an employee workroom.

Space on the site’s southeast corner will be reserved for a possible future electric vehicle charging station.

PMG estimates that the redevelopment will increase travel to the site from 700 to 800 trips per day. While the majority of visitors are expected to be drivers, the company says it will make some safety improvements, including realigning and widening the existing sidewalk on Route 123 to 6 feet.

A side road parallel to Route 123 that connects the Mobil and Sunoco gas stations will also be closed off to “reduce vehicle conflicts,” the application says.

“The county’s asking for some pedestrian upgrades for their wants and needs,” Keurian said. “…They’re concerned about the walkability and safety. We’re all about safety too, so we’re amenable to their desires.”

In the statement of justification, PMG acknowledges that the gas station and convenience store will be an interim use until the site is fully redeveloped in accordance with the Tysons Comprehensive Plan, which currently designates it as retail mixed-use.

“This proposal is a unique opportunity to allow a long-standing business to adapt to changing market conditions in order to continue serving the surrounding community,” land-use attorney David Gill, who is representing PMG, wrote in the statement. “The proposal will provide a convenience store use that will serve the needs of motorists, while improving the traffic operations, safety, and ADA compliant pedestrian experience along this portion of Chain Bridge Road.”

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The end has arrived for J.R.’s Stockyards Inn, where Tysons’ penchant for steakhouses began more than four decades ago.

According to Fairfax County land records, J.R.’s Custom Catering sold the two-story restaurant-turned-banquet hall at 8130 Watson Street for $15.5 million on Dec. 28. The 1.18-acre property hit the market last March.

Buyer AM Tysons LLC is registered at the same address as the corporate headquarters of Macerich, the real estate firm that owns Tysons Corner Center.

The Washington Business Journal reported on Friday (Jan. 21) that Stockyards Inn closed earlier this year, and J.R.’s anticipates that the building will be torn down to make way for new development.

The county’s property record says the sale price “reflects anticipated redevelopment.”

A Macerich spokesperson told Tysons Reporter that they “are unable to comment” at this time, and efforts to contact J.R.’s Custom Catering were not returned by press time.

One of the area’s first restaurants outside of the mall, J.R.’s Stockyards Inn opened in 1978 as Tysons’ original steakhouse, according to its website, which says the venue became famous for its beef and hosted many political, sports, and entertainment figures over the years.

The restaurant closed in 2011, as the venue turned into a banquet hall for private events and catering operations.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a rezoning in October 2020 that would enable the property to be replaced with a 26-story mixed-use residential tower, but it’s unclear whether Macerich intends to revise that proposal at all.

The real estate company is currently seeking county approval for additional development at Tysons Corner Center, which is located just across the street from J.R.’s Stockyards Inn on the other side of International Drive.

J.R.’s Custom Catering also shut down its Pavilions at Turkey Run in July 2020, as the National Park Service plans to take the former Claude Moore Colonial Farm in a new, still-undetermined direction.

However, the catering business continues to operate out of its facility in Herndon and the Fairfax Hunt Club in Reston. Its recent events have included participating in a Taste of Virginia reception for Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s inauguration on Jan. 15.

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Reston Hospital Center is recruiting staff for a new emergency room in Tysons (courtesy Reston Hospital Center)

The emergency room that Reston Hospital Center is building in Tysons isn’t expected to open for another three months, but efforts to staff the new facility are already underway.

HCA Healthcare Inc., the Nashville-based company that owns Reston Hospital, currently has 26 positions listed in its job database for the Tysons ER, a standalone facility that will be located at 8240 Leesburg Pike between Tysons Corner Center and the Route 123 interchange.

The project has encountered some construction challenges due to pandemic-related supply shortages, but it is currently on target for an April launch, according to HCA Healthcare spokesperson Suzanne Kelly.

With almost a quarter of U.S. hospitals reporting staffing shortages earlier this month amid surging Covid cases, HCA told Tysons Reporter’s sister site Reston Now that its most critical vacancies are the job openings for the Tysons emergency room, particularly when it comes to nurses and imaging professionals.

“Like healthcare organizations nationwide, Reston Hospital Center is working to address a tight labor market, which coincides with nursing workforce shortages compounded by the pandemic,” Kelly said in a statement. “As part of the HCA Virginia Health System, our facilities are working to retain our existing colleagues, attract new nurses, and encouraging and supporting those considering a career in nursing through education programs.”

Set to operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the 14,000 square-foot Tysons emergency department will have 11 private treatment rooms, including a trauma room and 10 exam rooms, and provide the same services as at a hospital-based emergency room.

In addition to registered nurses, the facility is seeking a clinical coordinator, radiologic and ultrasound technologists, a director of emergency services, and maintenance workers.

To address immediate staffing needs, HCA is offering a $20,000 sign-on bonus to registered nurses with at least one year of experience, including for positions in the Tysons ER, according to its job postings.

The healthcare system said in a statement that it’s also recruiting nurses from other states and even internationally to work in Virginia, adjusting pay, and implementing “incentive and recognition programs,” among other “aggressive recruitment efforts”:

To support immediate staffing shortages, we’re offering sign on bonuses and employee referral bonuses.  Additionally, we are also recruiting nurses from other states and even other countries to come to Virginia to support our nurses and help ensure we are providing top quality care to our patients during this unprecedented time. We are attracting new nurses to work at our facilities through aggressive recruitment efforts including sign-on bonuses and referral bonuses in strategic areas and specialties. We also continue to partner with bricks-and-mortar colleges and universities, and online programs, to attract more people to choose careers in healthcare. This will build a future pipeline to fill long-term healthcare staffing needs.

As reported by Reston Now this morning, HCA is now requiring employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine after the Supreme Court allowed a federal mandate issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to take effect last Thursday (Jan. 13).

While most D.C. area hospitals were already requiring their staff to get vaccinated, HCA put its requirement on hold in November after a federal judge blocked the CMS mandate.

Reston Hospital says it will comply with the mandate so it can keep serving Medicare and Medicaid patients.

“Any HCA Healthcare colleague who works in, or has work-related reasons to visit, these facilities or care settings is required to have their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by January 27 and be fully vaccinated by February 28, unless they receive a medical or religious exemption,” Kelly said by email.

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Sisters Thai, which has a location in the Mosaic District, will open a new restaurant at Capital One Center later this year (via Google Maps)

Sisters Thai is coming to Capital One Center.

Distinguished by interiors designed to evoke cozy living rooms, the restaurant chain has leased 5,029 square feet of space at 7730 Capital One Tower Road, the Washington Business Journal reported Thursday (Jan. 13).

Capital One Center confirmed in a press release that this will be Sisters Thai’s fifth location and its largest yet, joining venues in the Mosaic District, Alexandria, Fairfax City, and Potomac, Maryland.

“Having been a fan of Sisters Thai for the last decade, it is great to see their growth to become one of the region’s top destinations for Thai food,” Capital One Center Managing Director Jonathan Griffith said. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome them to the exciting new Capital One Center development in Tysons.”

Located under Capital One Hall’s box office, the new restaurant will offer Thai street food, curry bowls, and drinks from a central bar. It will also house an extension of Magnolia Boutique Dessert Bar & Coffee, the cafe that the Sisters Thai team runs on Maple Avenue in Vienna.

It is expected to open in late 2022.

“We are so excited to be a part of the growing development at Capital One Center, and host our flagship restaurant adjacent to Capital One Hall,” Sisters Thai owner Tammie Disayawathana said in a statement. “There is so much energy at Capital One Center and we’re proud to bring our family-run business to complement this mini-city.”

Capital One’s headquarters campus near the McLean Metro station has seen some significant changes over the past two years, starting with the arrival of Wegmans in November 2020.

Between August and October of last year, the mixed-use development added The Perch skypark, a major performing arts venue in Capital One Hall, and The Watermark Hotel.

However, retail options are limited right now to Wegmans, The Perch’s Starr Hill Biergarten, a restaurant and bar called Wren in the hotel’s lobby, and the nail salon Nothing in Between Studio.

Capital One’s headquarters building previously had the City Works Eatery and Pour House and a Starbucks, but they have both closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Capital One Center expects to see more leasing activity this year, stating that several signings will be announced in the near-future.

Anticipated tenants include the not-yet-named occupants of the food trucks recently installed in The Perch. The trucks and a mini-golf course called Perch Putt remain on track to open this spring, Capital One Center Manager of Marketing and Community Affairs Meghan Trossen says.

Construction is also underway on a mixed-use building across the street from Capital One Hall that, when completed this year, will be able to accommodate anywhere from 1,500 to over 20,000 square feet of retail, according to Capital One Center.

Photo via Google Maps

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Shake Shack will be the occupant of a new drive-thru fast-food restaurant proposed for Pike 7 Plaza (8350 Leesburg Pike) in Tysons.

The tenant’s name was revealed at a public hearing held on Wednesday (Jan. 12) by the Fairfax County Planning Commission, which recommended approving a special exception request for the project.

Pike 7 Plaza’s existing restaurant offerings include Honeygrow, MOD Pizza, Panera, and more.

Property owner Federal Realty Investment Trust plans to construct a 3,600 square-foot building in the shopping center’s parking lot off of Route 7. It will be a sit-down restaurant with outdoor seating and a pick-up window, though drive-thru customers will need to order by phone beforehand.

“You’re not going to see folks…sitting in the drive-thru, perusing the menu, trying to figure out what they want, paying and ordering. That’s all going to happen ahead of time,” said McGuireWoods land use planner Michael Van Atta, who represented Federal Realty at the hearing.

The freestanding restaurant is expected to operate from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. with an estimated 10 to 15 employees per shift, county planner Mary Ann Tsai said. The drive-thru lane will accommodate 11 to 12 vehicles, but Van Atta suggested the lines will be much smaller because of the pre-order requirement.

The restaurant is part of Federal Realty’s efforts to adapt to dining trends accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which included the introduction of a contactless pick-up program at all of its D.C.-area shopping centers in May 2020.

“This new drive-through restaurant is needed in response to structural shifts in the retail economy that are really increasing the reliance on pickup options as a part of retail operations…particularly in the last couple of years,” Van Atta said.

Shake Shack has seen a sharp increase in coronavirus cases among staff during the current nationwide surge, affecting its hours, Chief Financial Officer Katie Fogertey told investors on Tuesday (Jan. 11), adding that she expected those trends to continue.

Known for its burgers and milkshakes, Shake Shack began as a hot dog stand in New York City and now boasts 275 locations around the world, including a spot on the Plaza at Tysons Corner Center.

The company is new to drive-thrus, debuting its first in Minnesota on Dec. 6, but it intends to expand that side of its business, with a goal of opening 10 drive-thru restaurants by the end of 2022.

“We opened our first-ever drive-thru locations in Maple Grove, Minnesota and Lee’s Summit, Missouri,” Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti said for the company’s fourth-quarter update. “Early results for these two Shacks are encouraging, and we look forward to continuing to expand our drive-thru footprint in the years to come.”

Shake Shack didn’t immediately return FFXnow’s request for comment.

Shake Shack is also adding traditional, sit-down restaurants, including at the Mosaic District. Fairfax County issued a construction permit and other approvals for the site this past fall.

To make room for the new building, Federal Realty plans to relocate electric vehicle charging stations across from Panera to another part of the parking lot. Landscaping and a ramp from Route 7 compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act would be added between the restaurant and the thoroughfare.

With the planning commission’s support, the project will now go before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for a public hearing and final approval on Feb. 22.

Photo via Bryce Edwards/Flickr

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