On Tuesday, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors green-lighted a rezoning that will open parts of the Valo Park office complex up to the public.
Tamares, Valo Park’s owner, wants to add retailers and restaurants, renovate an existing rooftop terrace and open the complex’s current amenities, including a conference center, auditorium and fitness center, to the public. Tamares is considering attracting a rooftop craft brewery atop a parking garage.
“It is anticipated that these proposed changes will help to sustain the current Class A office use and energize this part of Tysons after business hours,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said.
A separate comprehensive sign plan for the project was approved by the Planning Commission in May. Some McLean residents raised concerns about light pollution from the signs.
Last summer, the Board of Supervisors approved the massive, mixed-use development called The Mile, which will transform 38 acres into 10 buildings with residential, retail, office, hotel and storage space, along with six parks spanning more than 10 acres.
Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said that people can now walk to Valo Park thanks to the new Jones Branch Connector, which includes sidewalks and bike lanes.
“But for the sign issue… this is a really good application that is exactly moving Tysons in the direction that we all want to see it go — developing this kind of mixed-use, reuse,” Foust said. “This is a really important piece in the Tysons puzzle.”
Fairfax County staffers support new plans to revamp the Valo Park office complex in Tysons, opening it up to the public and adding retail and restaurants.
The newspaper giant Gannett and cloud computing company Appian are currently headquartered at the roughly 785,000 square-foot office park, which has a fitness center, conference facilities and a 300-seat auditorium.
London-based Tamares acquired 7950 Jones Branch Drive for $270 million four years ago. Now, Tamares wants to add shops, restaurants, a bocce court and a 5,000-square-foot craft beverage production establishment or restaurant on the roof on an existing parking garage.
“The conference center, auditorium and fitness center are existing uses within the building; however, these uses are currently accessory to the office building in that only the onsite office users may use them,” according to the staff report published today. “The applicant is converting the spaces into publicly accessible uses.”
Tamares says that the proposed changes would help it better fit in with nearby urbanization. The office park is located in the North Central neighborhood of Tysons, which is home to the Park Crest and Highgate residential buildings and the upcoming mixed-use development called The Mile.
Here’s what the county staffers said in their report:
The proposed conversion of existing office and accessory uses to secondary uses will activate the site and facilitate a vibrant, mixed-use development that the Comprehensive Plan envisions for the Tysons Urban Center. The development offers high-quality amenities that will turn the existing office park into a community asset.
Minimal site disturbance is required to implement the development, as most of the proposed modifications are located within the existing building. The applicant has proffered: contributions to the Tysons Road Fund; bicycle parking; and green building technology and strategies as part of the construction of the proposed commercial use on top of the existing parking garage.
In staff’s opinion, the development plan is in conformance with the Comprehensive Plan and meets the general and design standards for a Planned District.
The Fairfax County Planning Commission is set to hold a public hearing on the project this spring.
A group headquartered in Falls Church aims to get women “from the classroom to the board room” by offering developmental resources and networking opportunities.
With more than 1,000 members, the Women in Technology group (200 Little Falls Street) operates around the D.C. area and works with a large variety of age groups — including young girls and women at the height of their careers, according to its website.
“Our scope is to really network and support the advancement of women and girls in this specific area to enter STEM fields,” recently elected Board Member Cristine Gollayan said. “It’s for girls and women at any stage of their life.”
Gollayan’s own story with the group began around 2013 when she said she attended an event and eventually worked her way up the group’s leadership ladder.
Since then, she also served on the job fair committee board and was eventually elected into the WIT’s Board of Directors in 2018.
Gollayan currently works in Herndon as a senior manager for Sony’s Global Information Security team and said events hosted by WIT take place throughout the area, including Tysons — a central location for many of the organization’s volunteers.
WIT has several representatives, who happen to be women of color, on both its board of directors and the executive committee. But, the group doesn’t offer specific programs targeting women of color or transgender women.
Gollayan also said anyone who identifies as a woman is more than welcome to join.
“Anything we promote, we try to ensure that diversity and inclusion is an important piece,” she said.
Two of Gollayan’s favorite events include the leadership awards ceremony and STEM for Her Gala, which Gollayan also said she helps to plan, because the women at both of the events are “so poised and ready to rock and rule the world,” she said.
Other events run by the group include two seasonal job fairs a year, the Leadership Foundry and Girls in Technology. A full list of offerings can be found online.
For example, the Leadership Foundry is a nine-month-long program that teaches women to run board meetings and take on positions of power within their own companies. So far, 20 alumnae from the program have ended up on boards within a corporation, according to Gollayan.
Meanwhile, Girls in Technology is a subgroup within WIT that targets young girls considering careers in STEM.
The CyberPatriot Girls is a program through Girls in Technology that takes 6th-12th-grade girls and challenges them to participate in a “fast-paced and high-pressure” simulation that resembles a mock cyber-attack, according to Gollayan. It is hosted in partnership with the Air Force and the University of Maryland. In the activity, girls form teams and are expected to “protect national infrastructure” while learning technical skills, she said.
For people interested in the group, the next upcoming event, WIT.Connect, is coming up.
On Feb. 20 from 6 to 8:30 p.m., people will gather at Valo Park (7950 Jones Branch Drive) to network and learn about upcoming technological trends in healthcare. Attendees will have the chance to hear from speakers and WIT members.
Registration is $45 for WIT members or $55 for non-members.
Photo courtesy Cristine Gollayan
The roughly 785,000 square-foot office park is currently home to the headquarters of the newspaper giant Gannett and cloud computing company Appian. The building currently has a fitness center, conference facilities, a 300-seat auditorium and lots of open space.
London-based Tamares acquired 7950 Jones Branch Drive for $270 million four years ago.
The private investment group is now looking to redesign roughly 19,000 square feet of the ground floor space and some areas of the garage to accommodate new retail and restaurants, according to the applications submitted to Fairfax County.
The developers are considering repurposing two corner areas of the building into restaurants — one would take 7,000 square feet of front corner space and the second would occupy 12,000 square feet of rear corner space. Meanwhile, 5,000 square feet of the garage’s rooftop would get converted into a craft beverage production establishment or restaurant.
The plans also include an outdoor gaming area with a bocce court, horseshoes, cornhole and a fire pit. The public would be able to use a 20,000-square-foot health club, along with a possible rock climbing facility.
“A 9/11 memorial is currently under construction on the property for further activation of open space,” according to the application.
The office park is located in the North Central neighborhood of Tysons, which has a luxurious four-building residential project at Park Crest, office space at Tysons Overlook and the residential Highgate. A massive mixed-use development called The Mile was approved earlier this year for the area.
“The underlying objectives for the proposed applications is to better incorporate Valo Park into the surrounding neighborhood fabric and better align the site with the goals of the Tysons Plan,” according to the application.
More from Tamares about how the changes fit the comprehensive plan for Tysons:
The proposed applications would render the site more compatible with the Comprehensive Plan’s goals for the North Central District to redevelop as a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood with local-serving retail. The proposed restaurants and site modifications would create a more outward facing development that is more accessible to the surrounding community.
A public hearing for the Planning Commission has not been announced yet.
Photo via Valo Park
A local organization is hosting a charity tailgate to help people who are experiencing homelessness and struggling youths.
The Tysons Partnership event will have live music from the Decades Band, beer and wine tents, a pop-up playground, arcade games, raffles and a speech from Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, according to the event page.
The event aims to raise funds for Second Story, a non-profit founded in Vienna that works to improve the lives of struggling young adults and people experiencing homelessness.
Tickets are on sale for $30 and include two complimentary drinks. The event will be held outside regardless of the weather.
Drew Sunderland, a spokesperson for Tysons Partnership, said that the organization tries to work with local nonprofits in the regional Tysons area or surrounding communities.
“Second Story was identified as a great partner that was in need,” Sunderland said, adding that their work has a real impact on the Tysons community.
The tailgate is part of the Tysons Partnership’s larger Season of Giving, which raised money for similar organizations, like Food for Others. This year’s other events included a 5k and a happy hour event. In years past, the event has attracted over 1,000 attendees, according to the website.
Second Story supports a variety of people including homeless teens, survivors of domestic abuse and young mothers in northern Virginia, according to their website. The organization matches at-risk youth with counseling, shelter, food or other forms of assistance based on their needs, free of charge.
Teens between the ages of 13 to 17 and young mothers can text TEENHELP to 855-11 if they would like assistance from the program.
The party will last from 5-8 p.m. in Valo park next Wednesday (Sept. 25).
Photo via Valo Park
Since May 1, 2019 there have been 39 confirmed cases of Cyclosporiasis in Virginia, according to the Virginia Health Department.
According to a press release:
- Capital One Building at 1600 Capital One Drive
- Valo Park Building at 7950 Jones Branch Drive
Valo Park is home to the corporate headquarters of newspaper giant Gannett.
The source of the outbreak has not been found, but health officials warned that the illness could be contracted by consuming food contaminated with feces or stool that contains the parasite.
Symptoms can begin one week after exposure to the parasite, and typically include explosive diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, aching muscles, and a low-grade fever. Symptoms can last days or a month for some, but others can be a carrier of the parasite and experience no symptoms.
Different takes on the role of prosecutors in the justice system took center stage in a rare fight for the Democratic endorsement for the commonwealth’s attorney position in Fairfax last week.
While the candidates in the Board of Supervisors chair race that followed were in agreement on most issues, Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Katherine Stott — standing in for incumbent Raymond Morrogh who was out with bronchitis — and challenger Steve Descano sniped back and forth constantly last Friday (May 24) at Valo Park (7950 Jones Park Drive).
Descano’s campaign is part of a broader push across Virginia from left-leaning candidates arguing prosecutors should take an active role in things like functionally decriminalizing marijuana and eliminating cash bonds.
“That’s the main driver of this campaign,” Descano said. “Cash bonds turn this into a two-tier system of justice. Cash bail doesn’t do anything but punish people for being poor. What happens when we hold people in jail because they can’t pay means they could lose their jobs or lose their house. It drives up their recidivism rate. We’re paying $225 a day to build more crime down the road. I will instruct my prosecutors, if there’s no risk of safety or flight, get rid of cash bonds.”
But Stott said Descano’s ambitions are driven by naivety.
“[Descano] shows his inexperience with the Virginia state system,” Stott said. “There are legislative code systems that define how cash bail is used and a judicial element. In the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, we do not ask for a cash bond. Defendant appears before a magistrate, which sets bond. If they are held overnight, they see a judge the next day. We don’t ask for cash bail.”
The two also clashed over capital punishment and marijuana enforcement — mainly over whether the commonwealth’s attorney’s office should decide an overarching policy or tackle the cases individually. Descano said he would never pursue the death penalty, while Stott said the cases have to be reviewed on an individual basis.
For small amounts of marijuana possession where there is no intention to distribute, Descano said he would move the court to dismiss the cases. Stott said Morrogh supports decriminalization of marijuana but argued it’s not up to the commonwealth’s attorney to decide that.
“Descano’s response is another example of how he crosses out of his lane,” Stott said. “[He says] that he’s a member of the executive branch and doesn’t want to enforce the law from the legislative branch. When you become a commonwealth’s attorney, you take an oath to uphold the laws of the Commonwealth, and that’s a serious oath.”
Supervisor Jeff McKay and candidate Timothy Chapman doubled down on a bitter feud at a debate for the Democratic nomination for the Board of Supervisors Chair in Tysons this morning.
The debate at Valo Park (7950 Jones Park Drive) touched on a variety of countywide issues, with Chapman repeatedly slinging attacks at McKay over school spending and Metro expansion.
When the issue of a recent ethics complaint against McKay came up, sparks flew between the candidates, while the other two candidates, School Board member Ryan McElveen and Georgetown law professor Alicia Plerhoples, tried to stay above the fray.
The complaint alleges that McKay purchased a home at a discount from a developer who brought business before the Board of Supervisors — a violation of state ethics law. The question of the ethics violation was raised by moderator Julie Carey, who asked Chapman why his campaign didn’t come forward as the source of the allegation.
“We wanted to confirm allegations were accurate and correct,” Chapman said. “They are… Anybody who understands real estate knows these allegations here are very troubling.”
But McKay fired back that the allegations were false and started as a smear campaign.
“There is zero credibility. The allegations are completely false,” McKay said. “To try to smear me, because you’re not winning a campaign is a Trump maneuver.”
Plerhoples and McElveen centered most of their responses on affordable housing and school overcrowding issues but did reluctantly weigh into the debate when prompted by Carey.
“Whether the ethics complaint has merit or not, public officials have a duty to investigate for public trust,” Plerhoples said. “It doesn’t get suspended because it’s an election year.”
McElveen said the issue is emblematic of a larger problem.
“The supervisor districts have devolved into fiefdoms,” said McElveen. “I would address that at the county level.”
For most of the debate, the four candidates widely agreed that the lack of affordable housing and overcrowding of the schools were two of the biggest problems facing the county. McElveen specifically called out the Fairfax County School Board’s decision not to immediately tackle the McLean High School boundary question.
The proposal had been backed by School Board member Jane Strauss (Dranesville) but faced pushback from other members of the board, like School Board member Dalia Palchik (Providence), who said the change needed to wait for further planning.
“We have overcrowding at Marshall and McLean High School,” said McElveen. “Frankly, the School Board has been very political on not taking on that challenge. I say we need to act now.”
The primary will be held on June 11.
The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.
We’ve scoured the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!
Monday (March 4)
- McLean CBC Study Task Force — 7-9 p.m. at Fairfax County McLean Government Center (1437 Balls Hill Rd) — Tonight the task force developing policy recommendations for downtown McLean’s future will continue looking at where the rural transitions to urban in McLean. Staff is also scheduled to present potential land use scenarios.
Tuesday (March 5)
- McLean Citizens Association Meeting with Superintendent Scott Brabrand — 7 p.m. at Mclean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Ave) — At an MCA-hosted meeting, the Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent is scheduled to discuss priorities and challenges facing the schools, particularly regarding the overcrowding at McLean High School. Residents will be able to ask Brabrand questions.
Thursday (March 7)
- 2019 Philadelphia Flower Show — 6:45 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Ave) — The McLean Community Center will be hosting an all-day trip to Philadelphia to see 10 acres of landscapes and gardens. The trip is $138, or $133 for McLean residents, and includes transportation, tickets to the show, a morning snack and driver’s tip.
- 2019 Shape of the Region Conference — 8-11:45 a.m. at Valo Park (7950 Jones Branch Dr) — The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia will host a conference looking at the economic inequality in the region and how closing that divide can help businesses. Registration is $65.
- Adventures in History: Ancient Egypt — 4:30-5:30 at Dolley Madison Library (1244 Oak Ridge) — Library staff will host a class for kids ages 6-12 on ancient Egyptian history, featuring games, stories and skill-building exercises. The event will include a costume contest.
Sunday (March 10)
- Jazz Brunch at Blackfinn — 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at Blackfinn Ameripub Merrifield (2750 Gallows Road) — The bar and eatery near the Mosaic District is hosting a relaxing Sunday brunch featuring live music from the Blue Dot Jazz Troupe. Seating is first come, first served with free admission.
- 2019 Trombone Summit — 2 p.m. at Jammin’ Java (227 Maple Ave E) — University of North Texas’ “U Tubes” and the Capitol Bones will host a trombone festival at Jammin Java.
Photo via Facebook
When Brian Truitt, USA TODAY’s film critic, is putting together interviews for the pop-culture podcast The Mothership, there’s one reaction he says he gets more frequently than others:
“You’re located where?”
The Mothership is one of several podcasts run through USA TODAY at their headquarters Valo Park, a sprawling state-of-the-art complex tucked away in Tysons’ northeast corner.
It’s no secret that media companies, including USA TODAY owner Gannett, are struggling to find a way to stay afloat. The company recently resisted a hostile takeover. But Shannon Green, senior podcasts producer for USA TODAY and co-host of I Tell My Husband the News, said podcasts have been at the forefront of the company finding new ways to tell stories.
The Mothership is hosted by Truitt, technology reporter Brett Molina and TV critic Kelly Lawler, and has been running weekly for four years. While Tysons has not traditionally been considered one of the country’s entertainment hubs, Molina said there are some distinct advantages to working outside of Washington D.C.
“One of the cool things about having this outlet in the suburbs is that we can live here,” Molina said. “People tend to think we work in New York or Los Angeles.”
“Being out here means we have to catch whoever is in the area,” said Truitt.
New episodes of The Mothership air every Friday. This week’s episode is a discussion of romantic comedies. Molina noted that the group narrowly avoided making a “Tribute to Liam Neeson” episode, quickly scrapped after the actor made some troubling confessions.
Green said she was approached to run the podcasting at USA TODAY shortly after Serial brought podcasting into the mainstream in 2014 and the company leadership began to see podcasting’s potential. Green said investigative stories are unique suited for podcasts, using voices to convey ideas and emotions that can’t be conveyed in text.
Not all of the podcasts garner enough downloads to have advertising, but Green said enough do to bring in revenue and help fund more experiments with the medium.
One investigative podcast, The City, profiled the rise of a massive illegal dump in Chicago, including an augmented reality component that helped demonstrate the story of how the empty lot evolved over time. Green said the augmented reality technology helps bring a new visual level to a traditionally auditory form of storytelling.
Green also said bringing in new talent from nearby schools has been part of bridging the generational gap. Kate Gardner, a student at the Madeira School in McLean, interns at USA TODAY but also uses the equipment to help put together an audiodrama: The Ark of Light.
Green said working with Gardner that she’s learned a whole new side of audio production involving Foley sound effects and other methods.
Green said podcasting, audio dramas, and other types of audio-entertainment have become such a hit, primarily due to the intimate connection they offer listeners to the story.
“Spoken storytelling is extremely intimate and emotional,” said Green.