Fairfax County recently accepted a rezoning application from Meridian that involves about 9.37 acres of land in the west quadrant of Westpark Drive and Greensboro Drive, the developer’s legal representative Elizabeth D. Baker told Tysons Reporter.
The application concerns two buildings in a larger conceptual development plan that calls for four buildings — Buildings I, J, K and L — that will be developed with residential, continuing care, health club, and retail and service uses, she said in an email.
“This development will be an extension of The Boro, which is a successful transit-oriented mixed-use development across Westpark Drive,” said Baker, who is the Senior Land Use Planner for Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh.
Meridian is proposing the following specifications for Building I, which would be adjacent to Westpark Drive:
- Maximum of 200,000 square feet — up to 175,000 square feet for residential use and up to 25,000 for retail
- Maximum of 130 dwelling units, likely condominiums
- Approximately seven stories with a maximum height of 90 feet
- Underground and above-ground parking structures
“In addition to interior residential amenities, Building I includes an elevated outdoor terrace that looks out onto a central park,” Baker said.
Building K would be located west of Building I with frontages on Greensboro Drive. It has the following proposed specifications:
- Up to 430 residential units
- Up to 20,000 square feet of neighborhood-serving retail use
- Approximately seven stories with a maximum height of 90 feet
- Underground and above-ground parking structures
“Two interior courtyards providing amenities for the buildings’ residents are located atop the parking garage podium,” Baker said.
In addition to a central park, Meridian envisions creating a linear park along Westpark Drive. It would be a combined pedestrian and bicycle circuit designed to accommodate leisure bikers and walkers, according to Baker.
“Known as the Community Circuit, this park will include marked pavement, wayfinding signage, bike and pedestrian amenities, and focal elements such as public art, benches, and specialty landscaping,” she said.
The Meridian Group acquired the National Automobile Dealers Association headquarters building at 8400 Westpark Drive and an adjacent site in 2018, the Washington Business Journal reported. The developer paid $33.7 million to the NADA, which relocated to 8484 Westpark Drive that October.
A separate development is in the works at nearby Westpark Plaza.
The lot at 8401 Westpark Drive will be converted into an interim public “reading park” with new vehicle storage after the Fairfax County Planning Commission granted developer Dittmar’s request to amend its plans on Dec. 9. The amenities will occupy the site until Dittmar kicks off its idling plans for two residential buildings, a new hotel, and retail.
Image via Google Maps
Fairfax County Creates Tool to Get Off Vaccine Waitlist — People who registered for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment through the Fairfax County Health Department but ended up getting doses from another provider can now go online to take themselves off the waitlist. The county says canceling unnecessary registrations will speed up the queue and provide a more accurate picture of who’s waiting for an appointment. [Fairfax County Health Department]
Tysons Tech Company to Go Public With Merger — “Tysons analytics firm Qomplx Inc. is gearing up to go public through a merger with a blank-check company tied to the CEO of mattress juggernaut Casper Sleep Inc. (NYSE: CSPR). The local company, which provides an artificial intelligence-enabled risk management platform, among other products, has agreed to combine with Tailwind Acquisition Corp. in a deal that values Qomplx at $1.4 billion at $10 per share, the companies said Monday…The deal is expected to close in mid-2021.” [Washington Business Journal]
Garden Club of Fairfax Schedules 2021 Home and Garden Tour — “After last year’s cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Garden Club of Fairfax will hold its 2021 Home and Garden Tour in McLean. The tour is planned between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 20. Due to the pandemic, the tour will emphasize outdoor gardens to allow for social distancing. Masks will be required, and interiors of homes will not be available due to COVID-19 restrictions.” [Patch]
McLean High School Wins Press Freedom Award — “Two Fairfax County public schools — Chantilly High School and McLean High School — are among 14 schools nationwide selected as recipients of the 2021 First Amendment Press Freedom Award. This is the seventh consecutive award for Chantilly High, and the fourth award for McLean High. The award recognizes private and public high schools that actively support, teach, and protect First Amendment rights and responsibilities of students and teachers, with an emphasis on student-run media where students make all final decisions of content.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is aiming to formally update its Workforce Dwelling Unit (WDU) policy to provide more affordable rents for local workers as rents continue to increase across the region.
Under the proposed policy, developers in Tysons would have two options for meeting their workforce dwelling unit requirements:
- Make 13% of the units WDUs, with a breakdown of 2% at 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI), 3% at 70% AMI, and 8% at 80% AMI
- Or make 10% of the units WDUs at 60% AMI
Adopted in 2010, Fairfax County’s current Tysons WDU policy gives developers a 20% density bonus if they commit to making 20% of their rental units affordable at various income levels for at least 50 years.
Fairfax County Housing and Development Director Tom Fleetwood says expectations for WDU commitments in Tysons are higher than in the rest of the county “because of the density available in the Tysons Urban Center.”
The Board of Supervisors initiated a review of the county’s workforce dwelling unit policy last July after a task force convened in March 2019 found that the policy was, in effect, allowing market-rate units to be considered WDUs by including units at 100 and 120% of the AMI, which is currently $126,000 for a family of four in the D.C. area.
The task force recommended amending the policy so that it can more effectively serve its purpose, which is to provide more affordable housing in the county’s urban and mixed-use centers, like Tysons.
“We conducted a housing strategic plan process over the last two or three years, which identified, sort of these lower incomes as being in the greatest need,” Fleetwood said. “While at the same time, the higher income tiers that were served under the original version of the WDU program really were closer to the prevailing market rents here in Fairfax County.”
About 1,600 WDUs have been introduced in Fairfax County under the current policy, according to Fleetwood.
Based on a county staff report released in Janaury, the proposed amendment lowers the household income levels included in the rental WDU program from a maximum of 120% AMI to 80%. It also now includes households at 70% and 60% of AMI in the program.
It also updates the policy to allow developers outside of Tysons to get a 12% density bonus by offering 8% of their rental units as WDUs, a drop from the current 12% threshold. 4% of the units should be at 80% AMI, 2% at 70% AMI, and 2% at 60% AMI.
The Fairfax County Planning Commission unanimously recommended that the proposed policy changes be approved when it met on Feb. 3.
The amended policy that the Board of Supervisors is voting on today also includes revisions to update data, rework outdated terminology, and remove references to programs that no longer exist.
The Boro has joined with the American Red Cross to host a blood drive on Mar. 4, the third that the Tysons development has held over the past year.
The drive will take place from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. in the E and F conference rooms at Boro Station (1775 Greensboro Station Place) in McLean. The use of the conference center will “allow for proper social distancing,” according to a press release announcing the upcoming event.
“This will be an essential part of the life-saving network connecting donors to those in need of blood, platelets and plasma,” the press release said. “…Blood donations to support patients in hospitals are needed more than ever as surgical procedures and treatments that were temporarily paused due to the pandemic resume.”
In addition to potentially helping save another person’s life, donors will get the benefit of a free COVID-19 antibodies test, as the American Red Cross continues to test all blood, platelet, and plasma donations.
The Red Cross is providing the antibody testing service for a limited time. Donors will be able to see the results of their test within seven to 10 days by logging into the Red Cross blood donor app and online portal.
The Fairfax County Health Department says that antibody blood tests, or serology tests, can detect proteins that would indicate a past infection by the novel coronavirus, but they should not be used to diagnose COVID-19.
“Medical science has yet to determine what level of antibodies confirm immunity or how long immunity might last,” the FCHD says. “Until there is more definitive information, we should assume, even with positive antibodies, that a person may still be susceptible to the coronavirus.”
This will be the third blood drive that The Boro has hosted with the Red Cross. The previous two drives took place in July and October, and brought in enough donations to save 67 lives, according to The Boro.
According to American Red Cross Blood Services, volunteer donors to the Red Cross contribute about 40% of the blood and blood components supply for the U.S., which needs approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells, 7,000 units of platelets, and 10,000 plasma units every day.
Photo courtesy Hilde Kahn
Pavement Could Be Icy After Overnight Refreeze — “If you are heading out this morning, watch for the potential of black ice. Temperatures are currently below freezing so sidewalks can be slippery especially if left untreated. Remember that bridges, ramps, & overpasses freeze first.” [Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management/Twitter]
Winter Weather Delays COVID-19 Vaccine Shipments — “The Virginia Department of Health anticipates the delay impacts this week’s shipment of approximately 106,800 doses to Virginia. The delay is attributed to distribution channels that are shut down in the Midwest and elsewhere.” [Patch]
Residential Trash Pickups Suspended — “Due to inclement weather, RESIDENTIAL TRASH COLLECTION HAS BEEN SUSPENDED TODAY.” [Fairfax County Public Works/Twitter]
Fairfax County Schools Are All-Virtual Today — All Fairfax County Public Schools students are learning virtually today as inclement weather continues. Activities on school grounds, including extracurricular activities and adult and community education classes, have been canceled for the day, and access to school facilities is limited. [FCPS]
Fairfax County Awarded Federal Funds for Homeless Assistance Programs — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded Fairfax County $9.5 million to support 20 ongoing projects, a 3% increase from the previous year. The funding will go to permanent supportive housing and rapid rehousing projects, while helping providers pay for leasing and rent costs as well as services. [Fairfax County Department of Housing and Community Development]
Falls Church City School Renaming Process Begins — “The first organizing meetings, held through Zoom, one for the renaming of the high school and one for the renaming of the elementary school, were held last week as the two advisory committees to the F.C. School Board, each made up of about 20 citizen volunteers (out of a whopping total of 77 applicants), convened.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Tysons Tech Company Acquires Maryland Cybersecurity Firm — Applied Insight announced on Wednesday (Feb. 17) that it has acquired the Maryland-based company Bridges Inc., allowing it to complement its services with artificial intelligence and “deliver end-to-end cloud infrastructure and data analytics in a way that is unique to the industry.” [Applied Insight]
(Updated at 3:20 on 2/18/2021) A parking lot outside of Tysons Corner Center has been converted into a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site, adding to the 30-plus sites that have already been established around Fairfax County over the past 11 months.
The startup Sameday Health opened the new site at 1981 Chain Bridge Rd. on Friday (Feb. 20). The 20,000 square-foot, 550-space lot has the capacity to accommodate over 1,000 people per day, according to Sameday Testing managing partner Patrick Emad.
This is Sameday’s first Fairfax County testing site and its 11th in the D.C. area since launching one in Georgetown in November. The company also has sites in Alexandria, Arlington, and Sterling.
Emad says Sameday decided to open a site in Tysons because of its proximity to several major roads, including the Capital Beltway, Route 7, and the Dulles Toll Road. The amount of traffic that passes through the area also made it an ideal spot for a drive-thru site, rather than a walk-in facility.
“We figured if we increase the access to testing, more people will get tested, especially because it’s free with insurance, and it will allow us to help stop the spread,” Emad said.
Based in Los Angeles, Calif., Sameday Health offers both RT-PCR tests, which detect the novel coronavirus’ genetic material, and antigen tests, which detect proteins. The tests are conducted using nasal swabs.
The standard RT-PCR test carries no out-of-pocket costs for people with insurance and has a turnaround time of under 72 hours, though that can be reduced to less than 24 hours for a rush fee of $75. People without insurance can pay $125 for a rapid antigen test that produces results in 30 minutes or $175 for the 24-hour RT-PCR test.
Emad helped build Sameday Health with CEO Felix Huettenbach after witnessing the initial days of the COVID-19 pandemic as a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician in Montgomery County. Huttenbach had been working for a startup that used PCR testing to detect cancers, and they realized the same technology could be applied to COVID-19 testing.
While some initial kinks needed to be worked out, Emad says the custom-built portal that Sameday uses allows for efficiency, since every step of the process, from the appointment scheduling to the delivery of results, is conducted through the same computer system.
Appointments can be booked online and generally take about 10 minutes, though the wait time can vary depending on demand.
“Majority of the time, it’s a seamless process,” Emad said. “Our medical staff and professionals are very well-trained to make it nice and easy and comforting, and they’re happy to answer questions and do it with a smile under their mask.”
Sameday Testing worked with Macerich, which owns and operates the Tysons Corner mall, to set up the Tysons testing site. Emad says both companies hope to turn it into a mass vaccination site in the future.
The Fairfax County Health Department recommends that anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms or has been exposed to someone who tested positive for the disease get tested.
“Testing remains a critically important part of the pandemic response,” Fairfax County Director of Epidemiology and Population Health Dr. Benjamin Schwartz said. “While anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 should separate themselves from others (self-isolate) as soon as they recognize those symptoms so they don’t spread illness if it’s COVID-19, a positive test result reinforces the need for isolation and sets in motion the Health Department’s containment response.”
In addition to enabling individuals to determine whether they are infected, COVID-19 tests allow investigators to trace the disease’s spread and potential outbreaks. Samples of positive specimens are also sent to Virginia’s state laboratory for genetic sequencing that can be used to detect possible variants.
Correction: References to Sameday Testing have been changed to reflect that the company has rebranded and is now called Sameday Health.
Photo courtesy Sameday Health
Dr. Dana Lipsky has witnessed “pandemic fatigue” firsthand.
Lipsky has plenty of experience helping people navigate anxiety, depression, and other conditions as the owner and clinical director of Metropolitan Psychological Services PLLC (MPS), a mental health care practice that she started in Arlington in 2014.
However, she says there has been a noticeable uptick in clients struggling with anxiety in particular since COVID-19 upended daily life in Northern Virginia last March.
“Since the pandemic, it’s been more focused on what’s the world like: My everyday life has been disrupted. How do I make those adjustments and live in a world of uncertainty?” Lipsky said. “So, we’ve been working a lot with just kind of accepting the reality and learning how to adapt given the situation that we’re in.”
MPS had contemplated expanding to serve more people for a while, but the search for a second location got underway in earnest in early 2020, as the pandemic triggered fears of a widespread mental health crisis.
According to Lipsky, MPS settled on The Boro in Tysons for its proximity to major roads like I-66 and I-495 and to the Spring Hill Metro station. The neighborhood also stood out for its mix of residential and commercial properties, allowing the company to offer its services to businesses and workers as well as residents.
MPS officially announced the opening of its Tysons practice at 8401 Greensboro Dr. last week and has been providing services there since August, though the physical office has not been utilized yet, with the pandemic limiting nearly all clients to virtual sessions.
When the office does open, it will be staffed with four or five clinicians with different areas of expertise, from children and teen specialists to adult and couples’ therapists, Lipsky says.
“Our Arlington location primarily services teens and up, with the bulk of the population that we see probably ages 25 through 40,” Lipsky said. “…We really opened the Tysons Corner office with reaching out to more folks in mind, so this office is designed to really focus on treating the whole lifespan.”
Once the pandemic is under control, Lipsky also hopes to take advantage of the Tysons office’s central location to turn it into a base for educational and outreach efforts to aimed at combatting the stigma around getting therapy and other mental health care services.
MPS clinicians use various treatment and counseling methods to address issues ranging from anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder to relationship difficulties and life transitions, but the overall goal is not to “fix” people. Rather, Lipsky says therapy is about giving people tools to better handle the challenges they encounter.
“Life doesn’t need to be so difficult, and learning ways to mitigate that distress is really important,” Lipsky said. “That helps you achieve a better form of wellness for yourself by increasing that positivity and hopefully finding more fulfillment in your life.”
Photo via Google Maps
Two former competitive swimmers, who are now partners in business and marriage, are opening a year-round, warm-water swimming school in Tysons.
Called SafeSplash, the school is located inside the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner (7920 Jones Branch Drive) and will be open four days a week, co-owner Jennifer Lilintahl says.
SafeSplash is a national swim school franchise with more than 100 locations. It is also the official swim school provider of USA Swimming, the governing body for competitive swimming that chooses the U.S. Olympic swimming team.
This is Jennifer and Michael Lilintahl’s fourth SafeSplash in the D.C. area, their second inside a hotel, and their first in Virginia. The couple chose the McLean area because there are relatively few conveniently located options for swim schools, Jennifer says.
The Lilintahls have also tapped into an underutilized resource for swimming schools: hotel swimming pools. Now, their idea is paving the way for other franchisees.
After the Washington Sports Club that housed one of their two Bethesda schools closed for good last summer, the couple moved it to a Hilton Hotel in D.C.’s Friendship Heights area. They now serve as a resource for SafeSplash franchisees interested in working with hotels.
Building a dedicated swimming facility is expensive, and available bodies of water are hard to come by, Jennifer says. Meanwhile, many hotels boast rarely used pools.
“It has worked out well during COVID-19. Hospitality is having such challenges, so this is an extra stream of revenue for them and a body of water for us,” she said. “It’s a win-win.”
The Lilintahls opened their first location in 2017 on Rockville Pike in North Bethesda and soon after, expanded to a Washington Sports Club in downtown Bethesda. They opened a franchise in D.C.’s Columbia Heights area in 2019.
“It’s been a long journey,” Jennifer, who swam competitively through high school, said.
She credits her husband with proposing the idea to run their own swimming schools. Michael Lilintahl went to college on a full-ride athletic scholarship for swimming and represented his home country, Venezuela, in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. She says he wanted to help others unlock opportunities in life through the sport.
“It was always a passion of his to combine his love for swimming with a business,” she said. “Swimming took him so far in life.”
The Tysons SafeSplash will first open its doors on Saturday, Feb. 20, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Ahead of opening day and for a limited time afterward, the Lilintahls are offering discounts: 20% off for eight consecutive weeks of lessons or 50% off one class.
To keep clients safe during the pandemic, the couple is only offering private and semi-private lessons, which are capped at three children (typically siblings or kids in the same “pod”). Every instructor wears a silicone, water-proof mask, and many are doubling up with surgical masks, she said.
The school will be open Mondays and Wednesdays from 4 to 6 p.m. and on weekends from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Photos courtesy of Jennifer Lilintahl
A new pedestrian bridge and shared-use trail linking Tysons Corner Center to the McLean Metro station is on track to start construction this summer, the Virginia Department of Transportation says.
The project will introduce a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists over the Capital Beltway, along with a 4,662-foot-long, 10-foot-wide path between I-495 and Route 123 along the west side of Old Meadow Road.
“I think this is going to be a good thing for Tysons,” VDOT Senior Project Manager Abraham Lerner said. “It will continue to go along with the goals of the Board of Supervisors and Fairfax County staff to implement multimodal measures and to try to reduce the dependence on the private automobile.”
This pedestrian and bicycle improvement at the I-495/123 interchange has been in the works for years as part of a commitment that VDOT and Fairfax County made when the Beltway was widened to accommodate toll lanes.
The I-495 Express Lanes project, which was completed in November 2012, called for the addition of pedestrian and bicycle connections throughout the Beltway corridor from Braddock Road in Annandale to Lewinsville Road in McLean.
However, a crossing at the 123 interchange could not be built at the time because of “a number of physical and geometric reasons,” Lerner says. So, Fairfax County and the state committed to constructing one in the future.
About five years ago, VDOT and the county proposed building a trail along Route 123, but the idea drew public criticism given the safety risks of having crosswalks across multiple Beltway ramps, according to Chris Wells, who manages the Fairfax County Department of Transportation’s Active Transportation Program.
Transportation officials then looked at options for building an overhead bridge across I-495 near 123, rather than immediately at the interchange. Old Meadow Road emerged as the most feasible site.
“Because of the design of the Beltway itself and the express lanes, there was only this one location that we found where we could put a bridge pier in the middle of the Beltway,” Wells said. “Otherwise, we were going to have to span the entire Beltway with a larger bridge structure, which would’ve been much more expensive.”
VDOT held a public hearing on the project in June 2018, and the design was approved in November of that year. But Lerner says the right-of-way acquisition process took over nine months to complete, since the project needed land from six different properties.
The Dolley Madison Apartments and Encore Condominiums were affected the most, with residents citing concerns about the loss of trees, the potential impact on security and privacy, and the safety of a path with no separation between cyclists and pedestrians.
“Because of all the concerns, the issues that were raised during the public hearing process, we needed to work with [residents] to make sure we did the right-of-way acquisition in a very thorough manner,” Lerner said.
The public comment process also led VDOT to incorporate lighting in its design for the planned bridge over I-495.
While VDOT has not identified a contractor yet, construction is expected to cost $8.5 million. The project’s total $13.4 million cost has been fully financed with funds from federal, state, and local sources.
Because the path is off-road, Lerner says the only significant traffic impacts will come when crews work on the bridge over the Beltway. Construction is expected to take a year, concluding in the summer of 2022.
Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said in a statement that she is “delighted” that work on the shared-use path and pedestrian bridge will start this summer.
“This bridge will encourage walking and biking, save time, and reduce automobile traffic and carbon emissions,” Palchik said. “Residents won’t have to jump in their cars to drive and park at the mall, and I’m pleased that VDOT will be installing a lighted bridge. We are grateful to the Old Meadow Road neighborhood who worked with the engineering teams to transition the property and make this bridge happen.”
Image via VDOT
Several local chambers of commerce have come out in favor of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s much-debated 495 NEXT project, which will extend the I-495 Express Lanes approximately three miles from the Dulles Toll Road interchange to the American Legion Bridge.
The Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce announced its endorsement of the project yesterday (Monday). It was joined by the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce, as well as chambers representing Reston, Springfield, Mount Vernon, the City of Alexandria, Arlington County, and Prince William County.
The organizations, which represent businesses that collectively employ about 600,000 people across Northern Virginia, say expanding the 495 Express Lanes will help reduce one of the region’s biggest chokepoints and generally improve local travel conditions, particularly in the Tysons area and in between Virginia and Maryland.
“The I-495 expansion will bring a much-needed economic boost to the area and provide long-term economic benefits,” Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Julie Coons said. “It will also add new transit choices that will help attract more businesses and help existing businesses flourish.”
According to the NOVA Chamber of Commerce, the 495 NEXT project is expected to create an estimated 6,300 new jobs and generate $880 million in economic activity during its development and construction.
VDOT is currently waiting for the Federal Highway Administration to issue a decision on the project based on an environmental assessment that was released last February. If the assessment is approved, the state agency expects to issue a contract, finalize the design, and start construction later this year.
The 495 NEXT project is being developed in parallel with a Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation study of transit options for the I-495 and American Legion Bridge corridor. State officials have proposed expanding bus service between Northern Virginia, particularly Tysons, and Maryland, though a final report is not expected to come out until March.
“The expanded transit service will help Tysons reach its long-term goals to reduce congestion and increase accessibility for Tyson’s residents, businesses, employees, and consumers, improving our quality of life and economic outlook,” Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce President and Chairman Andrew Clark said.
VDOT says that the 495 NEXT project will enable 2,500 more people per hour to move through the corridor starting in 2025.
However, it would be able to move even more people if Maryland finishes its plans to introduce toll lanes on the American Legion Bridge, leading some to question why the timelines for the two projects are not aligned. The environmental assessment for Maryland’s managed toll lanes study is not scheduled to be completed until this fall.
Community members and public officials have also raised concerns about the project’s potential impact on surrounding neighborhoods and the environment, especially when it comes to water quality.
The chambers of commerce that have backed 495 NEXT say it is necessary to “set the stage” for improvements to the American Legion Bridge, which currently sees over 230,000 trips per day.
“For years, neighborhoods in McLean have been inundated by cut-through regional commuters seeking to avoid the endemic Beltway backups approaching the American Legion Bridge,” Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce President Paul Kohlenberger said. “495 NEXT will alleviate this cut-through traffic, increase travel time reliability, and offer additional travel choices to the residents, customers and workers of the Greater McLean area.”
Photo via Google Maps