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Good Wednesday evening, Fairfax County. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar.

🕗 News recap

The following articles were published earlier today — Nov 29, 2023.

📅 Upcoming events

Here is what’s going on Thursday throughout the county, from our event calendar.

☀️ Thursday’s forecast

Expect a mostly sunny day with temperatures reaching around 52°F and a light southwest wind shifting south at 5 to 9 mph in the morning. For Thursday night, the skies will become partly cloudy as the temperature lowers to around 36°F, accompanied by a south wind at 6 to 10 mph. See more from Weather.gov.

🌅 Tonight’s sunset

Thanks for reading! Feel free to discuss the day’s happenings in the comments.

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Fairfax Connector has unveiled three holiday bus wraps, including one featuring cookies (courtesy Fairfax County Department of Transportation)

Fairfax Connector will pull into the Fairfax County Government Center soon for its first-ever Winterfest.

Space is quickly disappearing for the public bus system’s holiday event, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9 in parking lot B of the government center (12000 Government Center Parkway).

Featuring three holiday-themed buses, free food and other treats, Winterfest is free to attend, but a general admission ticket is required for entry. As of this afternoon (Wednesday), more than half of the 500 available slots had been taken, according to the sign-up page.

Separate tickets for a planned Santa Bus, where visitors can meet jolly St. Nick, sold out within hours of going online, a Fairfax County Department of Transportation spokesperson says. In response to the demand, a second bus where attendees can get a free cookie from Mrs. Claus has been added.

Access to the “Cookies with Mrs. Claus” bus is included with general admission.

Winterfest will also feature free hot chocolate and kettle corn, games, music, a “Letters to Santa” station, and Duck donuts and Grill Cheese food trucks. Fairfax Connector will hand out coupons for free rides and other “goodies” throughout the event, according to a news release.

Following in the tracks of Metro, which has decorated a train and buses to resemble gingerbread houses, Fairfax Connector’s holiday buses hit the road earlier this week. They’re wrapped in plaid Christmas tree, Santa gnome and cookie designs.

“These buses are sure to bring a smile to your face,” the news release said. “If you spot one, safely take a picture and share with us on Facebook or Twitter. Use the hashtag #HolidayBus or #FairfaxConnector.”

People who share a photo of the buses on social media will be entered into a drawing for a $50 SmarTrip card, which can be used for Connector buses as well as Metro, Fairfax CUE buses and other local transit systems. The winner will be announced the week of Jan. 1, 2024.

During Winterfest, the tree-decorated bus will serve as the Santa bus, while Mrs. Claus will be in the cookie bus. The gnome bus will host a Stuff-a-Bus donation drive.

“To support our community, Fairfax County Department of Transportation, Fairfax Connector & Transdev are collecting new, unwrapped toys and coats for children ages 5 to 10 years old,” FCDOT said in its news release. “…The toys and coats collected will be delivered to children at three Fairfax County public schools the week of December 11, 2023.”

In a separate charitable effort, today (Thursday) marks the last day of Fairfax County’s virtual Stuff the Bus campaign, which encourages community members to make monetary donations to local nonprofits that provide food assistance.

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Sculptor Kendall Buster is bringing the exhibitions “Seed” and “Solstice” to the Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art in Reston (courtesy Tephra ICA)

A solo exhibition by sculptor and microbiologist Kendall Buster will descend on Reston’s Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art on Dec. 9.

The exhibit, SEED, is presented in conjunction with Buster’s SOLSTICE, which will be on view at The Kreeger Museum in D.C. An opening reception and artist talk will be held at Tephra ICA (12001 Market Street, Suite 103) on Saturday, Dec. 9 from 6-8 p.m.

The exhibits will be on display through Feb. 25.

Both exhibits were curated by Tephra ICA Executive Director Jaynelle Hazard and belong to a series of three shows organized to mark the 50th anniversary of Tephra, a nonprofit previously known as the Greater Reston Arts Center.

In a press release, Tephra says the exhibits are fitting anniversary tributes because they emphasize “the significance of place while examining themes of life, future, and innovation.”

“We’re so pleased for this first-time partnership with The Kreeger Museum, through their guest artist program The Collaborative, to uplift and celebrate the work of D.C. art star Kendall Buster,” Hazard said in a statement. “Tephra ICA deeply values partnership and collaboration to help thoughtfully contextualize an artist’s work in the canon and it’s wonderful to work with institution that shares these values.”

Here’s more from Tephra on Buster’s work:

Trained as a microbiologist, Kendall Buster’s work suggests ideas of budding, merging, and hybridization, using abstract forms and high-tech materials to create objects that expand what we know of natural and made environments. Her practice examines the microscopic and the monumental, from works that allude to intimate, botanical illustrations to architectural drawings to life-size biomorphic vessels. With the gallery often assuming the role of a laboratory, Buster’s work interrogates the edges of free expression and posits new ways of thinking about what can and cannot be expressed.

SEED features a large-scale sculpture called “Radial Spin.” The exhibit — which was last on display in 1997 in Berlin, Germany — has accessible spaces and envelopes the viewer, intending to challenge viewers’ sense of perception.

SOLSTICE features “Model City (Constraint),” which uses “geometric abstraction” and modernist architecture to suggest an “unpopulated cityscape that seems filled with talking shadows.”

Buster received a bachelor’s degree from the Corcoran College of Art and Design in D.C. and a master’s in sculpture from Yale University. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including at American University’s Katzen Museum and the Kemper Museum in Kansas City.

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German Christmasmarket

Join us for a festive and joyful event hosted by the German military at 11150 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, Virginia, USA! Experience the magic of a traditional German Christmas market, right here in the heart of Reston. Immerse yourself in

(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) A coffee shop inspired by Saudi Arabia’s cafe culture is now bringing that hip energy to both Tysons malls.

Shotted has gained a loyal following, especially within the D.C. area’s Muslim community, since opening a kiosk at Tysons Corner Center in 2020. Three years later, Shotted has expanded for the first time with a new branch in Tysons Galleria.

In its soft-opening phase since Nov. 16, the new shop can be found in the mall’s third-floor food hall, replacing Twelve Twenty Coffee. Seeking to rebuild after the departure of former operator Urbanspace, the hall is still home to Andy’s Pizza and Empanadas De Mendoza.

“We’re very happy to be here and happy to be part of this community,” Shotted founder and CEO Bandar Alhenaki said. “We want people to come in and enjoy their time shopping at the Galleria and also enjoy quality coffee and quality dessert with their family and friends.”

While it seems unusual for a business to open two locations within walking distance of each other, Shotted’s Tysons Galleria shop diverges in several ways from its predecessor.

To start with, it’s envisioned as more of a dine-in experience to take advantage of the food hall’s more extensive seating, while the heavily trafficked Tysons Corner Center location is designed for quick service, Alhenaki says.

The Galleria shop also opens earlier — at 7:30 a.m. instead of 10 a.m. — so it can serve morning commuters, including workers at nearby office buildings. Accordingly, it has an expanded menu with sandwiches, hot croissants and other breakfast food as well as additional desserts, such as date pudding and soft-serve ice cream.

“We’re excited to serve them…during their morning coffee and also be a business hub for them to bring in clients and take to meetings in the Galleria in this amazing space,” Alhenkai said.

Shotted currently closes at 10 p.m. at Tysons Galleria, but its goal is to eventually extend that to 11 p.m., which would be the same weekday closing time as the Tysons Corner Center location.

Rich Dinning, Tysons Galleria’s senior general manager, calls Shotted “a great addition” to the mall for “bringing a new warm community feel” as well as “a wide variety of premium drinks and desserts.”

“Our customers can enjoy their favorite cup of coffee with a friend or while they shop our iconic collection of tenants,” Dinning said in a statement.

The addition of a second location is just the start of Alhenaki’s plans to expand Shotted, first to other parts of the D.C. area, and then, nationwide. Though no specific sites have been identified yet, he says the business is “aiming for the Arlington area, D.C., and such.”

“We are working on that expansion strategy to make it happen in 2024,” he said.

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Regular meditation is terrific for your brain health

This biweekly column is sponsored by The Mather in Tysons, Virginia, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better.

For many, the holiday season includes traditions, expectations, commitments — and rising levels of stress. If you are among those who feel their stress levels rising at this time of year, try an easy solution: mindful meditation.

Myriad studies have shown that a regular meditation practice can reduce stress and physically change the brain so that you have greater capacity to continually manage stress. Learning to avoid stress saves a lot of wear and tear on your body as well as your brain.

Mindful meditation refocuses the attention, calming the mind and lowering blood pressure and heart rate. A morning meditation session of even a few minutes can help you manage stress throughout your day.

As you learn to focus, you’re training your attention and your ability to tune out the information overload and jumbled thoughts we live with constantly — and better attention means a sharper memory. Additionally, studies show that meditation can actually grow, or increase the volume of, areas of the brain responsible for:

  • complex cognitive processes including planning, goal setting, decision making, attention, and short-term memory
  • positive mood
  • improving awareness of body, gut feeling, and empathy
  • long-term memory

Types of Meditation 

Meditation is simple and takes as little as a few minutes a day. But remember — if you want to enjoy the benefits above, you’ll need to meditate regularly, and ideally that means every day.

Here are a few types of meditation to consider:

Mindfulness sitting meditation is the most common form of meditation. Sit comfortably with your back, neck, and head straight but not stiff. Concentrate on your breathing and the sensations it creates. When your mind wanders or you become distracted, gently return your focus to your breath. Try this for just five minutes at first, gradually increasing the time.

Visualization meditation involves mental visualization of an image, which is usually meaningful or religious. While you meditate (as above), you try to mentally visualize your chosen image in as much detail as possible. As you do so, you may also reflect on the meaning of your image.

Walking meditation is similar to sitting meditation. Slowly and comfortably walk, focusing your attention on each step, the movement of your body, and the feel of each foot on the ground. When your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the movement of walking.

Loving-kindness meditation focuses on practicing compassion. As you practice cultivating feelings of loving kindness, gradually move your focus from feeling this toward yourself, then to loved ones, and then to people who are less close to you.

Look for a local meditation class, or purchase audio recordings of guided meditations. Once you’ve mastered the basics of your chosen type of meditation, it will become a matter of practicing — and enjoying the benefits that come with it.

The Mather, projected to open in Tysons, VA, in early 2024 for those 62 and better, is a forward-thinking Life Plan Community that defies expectations of what senior living is supposed to be.

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A French bulldog named Queen was reportedly stolen from a home in Newington (courtesy FCPD)

Fairfax County police are looking for a man who allegedly stole a Newington resident’s dog.

Officers were called to the 7500 block of Tralee Woods Court at 7:50 a.m. on Monday (Nov. 27) in response to a reported burglary, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

“The victim was alerted by a family friend that her dogs were running loose in the neighborhood. The family friend was able to retrieve two of the three dogs,” police said.

However, the third dog — a French bulldog named Queen — was not found.

According to the FCPD, detectives believe the suspect went into the home and tried to abscond with all three dogs, but he only managed to get away with Queen.

“Surveillance footage showed the suspect carrying Queen to a four-door Nissan, possibly an Altima or Sentra, and leaving the area,” the FCPD said, describing the man’s clothing as a “white t-shirt, gray shorts, and blue Crocs.”

The department is asking anyone with information about the incident to contact its West Springfield District Station at 703-644-7377. Anonymous tips are also accepted through Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS or online.

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The Hunters Branch office buildings, formerly home to ICF International, in Oakton (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 4:50 p.m.) After initially holding off, Fairfax County is now ready to consider allowing a redevelopment of the former ICF International headquarters in Oakton.

At Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik’s request, the Board of Supervisors authorized county staff on Nov. 21 to craft a comprehensive plan amendment that would open the door for residential or mixed-use development at the Hunters Branch office buildings (9300 and 9302 Route 29).

Constructed in 1987 and 1989, the 12-story, 200,000-square-foot buildings housed ICF for over three decades until the consulting firm relocated to Reston Station, a downsizing finalized in November 2022.

“Since ICF has moved out to Reston, this tower has been sitting there, and it’s surrounded by a very, I think, underappreciated area that needs environmental support,” Palchik said at last week’s board meeting. “…I know that the owners and developers are very committed to ensuring both the ecological support as well as the community amenity for this area.”

Property owners BCSP Hunters Branch Fee and BCSP Hunters Branch Lessee (BCSP) nominated the 13.9-acre site for potential land use changes last year as part of the county’s Site-Specific Plan Amendment process.

(Correction: This story initially suggested that the Hunters Branch owners are affiliates of the firm Beacon Capital Partners based on their corporate addresses. FFXnow has been told that they aren’t affiliates, and Beacon hasn’t had an ownership stake in the property since 2021.)

With the nomination, the property owners suggested two options for redeveloping Hunters Branch:

  1. “Adaptive reuse” of the office buildings as senior living facilities and/or multi-family dwelling units, and a replacement of an existing 706-space parking garage with multi-family housing
  2. An exclusively multi-family residential development

The proposal called for mid-rise buildings with five to seven stories and between 913 and 1,124 units. A second, 1,462-space parking garage would be retained in both scenarios.

However, the Board of Supervisors adopted the ICF nomination on April 11 in the third tier of its plan amendment work program, deferring a review to “allow for further development” of the scope, according to Palchik’s board matter.

With last week’s vote, the nomination was elevated to the work program’s highest-priority tier.

In a change from BCSP’s original proposal, the plan amendment could allow non-residential uses, such as ground-floor retail, as well as multi-family and townhouse buildings. Palchik said the site’s location within the Vienna Transit Station Area suggests “there may be advantages to consider a mix of uses.”

With demand for older office space declining post-pandemic, the property owners noted in their nomination that redeveloping the Hunters Branch offices would boost the county’s senior and multi-family housing stock. A “meaningful portion” of the new residences would be designated as affordable dwelling units.

“The area surrounding the Vienna/Fairfax-GMU Metrorail Station is emerging as a residential hub, and the community’s need for an increased and varied supply of housing in this location is growing,” Hunton Andrews Kurth counsel Jill Parks wrote as BCSP’s legal agent. “As such, it is critical that a mix of housing options be made available to the neighborhood’s current and prospective residents.”

When asked about the changes to the development proposal, Parks told FFXnow the developer doesn’t have any comment “at this time.”

Known as Land Bay A in the 56.9-acre Hunters Branch neighborhood, the former ICF office isn’t the only property in the Vienna Metro station area getting a new look. The board approved a plan on Sept. 12 to allow housing and additional retail at the nearby Pan Am Shopping Center, and discussions are underway for a redevelopment of AT&T’s Oakton campus.

Just south of the Metro station, the MetroWest development is also slated to get more residential buildings and a town center, though Fairfax County’s land use database indicates that site plans for both projects are still under review.

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Fairfax County police car lights (file photo)

Gunshots were reportedly fired near Snakden Branch Trail in the Glade area of Reston shortly after midnight.

Police responded to the 2300 block of Middle Creek Lane around 12:22 a.m. after several callers reported hearing the sound of multiple gunshots in the area, according to scanner traffic on Open MHz.

A dispatcher told responding officers that at least one caller confirmed they saw a person firing the gun. An area resident said they saw “a muzzle flash about a hundred feet behind his house,” an officer reported at 12:28 a.m.

A spokesperson for the Fairfax County Police Department said evidence was recovered from the scene, but no injured persons were located.

“Detectives from our criminal investigation division are assuming the investigation,” FCPD wrote in a statement.

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The Fairfax County Adult Detention Center (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A Tysons man who got arrested for allegedly possessing illegal guns is now also facing child pornography charges.

The Fairfax County Police Department announced yesterday (Tuesday) that its detectives have obtained warrants charging 31-year-old Craig Strasbourger with three counts of possessing child sexual abuse material, one count of soliciting a minor, and one count of possessing animal sexual abuse material.

Police say they started investigating Strasbourger after getting a tip in September from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children about “sexual communication with an underage individual from Kentucky.”

The communications came from an internet provider address that was traced to Strasbourger’s home on Robin Way Court, according to the FCPD.

Strasbourger was first arrested on Nov. 16 after police found four rifles that had been “unlawfully modified” while searching his residence. He was charged with four counts of unlawful possession of the firearms, which were described as “illegal machine guns” in the FCPD’s initial news release.

During the search, detectives also found “various computer devices” that were evaluated, leading to the new porn charges, according to police.

After the gun charges, Strasbourger was released on a $4,000 secured bond, but he was arrested again on Monday (Nov. 27) and is now in custody at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center. A preliminary court hearing on all charges has been scheduled for Feb. 20, 2024.

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