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Better A Life has officially launched a food distribution site in Reston (courtesy Better A Life)

A Loudoun County nonprofit organization is expanding into Reston with a new food distribution site at Cathy Hudgins Community Center.

Better A Life plans to give out food every Wednesday at noon at the community center, followed by the launch of cooking classes in March. The organization also plans to start a homework club, which includes a free hot dinner for children each week and the mentors that assist them.

For Better A Life president and founder Elizabeth Ford, the expansion into Reston is personal. She grew up in Reston as a “child of hunger,” Ford said.

Her mother, who was a single mom, lost the townhouse where they lived in Southgate Square. After moving several times, Ford says she was permanently kicked out of her home when her mother moved overseas with her new husband. She then lived in a Red Rood Inn in Manassas and eventually became homeless.

“I used to sit at the 7-11 outside of Shadow Wood apartments and bum quarters for my food each day,” Ford said. “There were no resources for kids like me to get free food that any of us kids knew of. They finally opened The Pit over behind the police station…and I lived with my friend in Bowman Towne for most of my days as a young teen. This would give us a place to hang out safely.”

Ford went on to get a bachelor’s degree in information technology. Now in a position to help others, she says she wanted to bring more resources to the community.

Based in Purcellville, Better a Life provides food and educational assistance for kids and families with the goal of breaking the cycle of poverty.

“My programs are selected from experience,” Ford said. “I needed all the above, so my nonprofit BetterALife runs off the three programs (Growth4ALife, Cook4ALife, InspireALife) to help the children learn they can make it; there is hope, and they are loved and never forgotten.”

In addition to supporting 12 schools in Loudoun and Fairfax counties with weekend lunches, shoes, socks, blankets and other necessities, the nonprofit made its Reston introduction with a meals and toy distribution event on Dec. 16. The Reston expansion will officially launch on March 1.

The organization is seeking volunteers, particularly high school juniors and seniors. Applicants can email for more information.

ShowPlace Icon Theatre at The Boro in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The 96th Academy Awards are just under a month away, which means there’s still time to catch up on this year’s nominees.

To help out, ShowPlace Icon Theatre in Tysons will host upcoming, “special” screenings of “Barbie” and “The Holdovers,” two of the films seeking to upset “Oppenheimer” on its steady march toward winning the Oscar for Best Picture.

Greta Gerwig’s record-breaking comedy will screen on Thursday, Feb. 29, while Alexander Payne’s Christmas-set throwback to the 1970s will screen on March 7, just days before the Oscars ceremony on March 10. Both screenings will start at 7 p.m.

With both movies available to watch at home, either on physical discs or online, The Boro theater is banking on a discount to attract audiences. With a $15 ticket, patrons can get a small popcorn and their choice of a soda, beer or wine.

Per its website, the theater typically charges $18.75 for evening showings, and drinks range from $6.50 for a beer bottle or can to $15 for some of the wines.

Tickets for the special screenings can be purchased through Eventbrite.

Located at 1667 Silver Hill Drive, ShowPlace Icon originally opened in February 2020 — just before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Fairfax County. After a one-month attempt at reopening, it officially reintroduced itself to the community in April 2021.

Tysons is also home to an AMC at Tysons Corner Center and CMX CinéBistro in Tysons Galleria.

Southbound Richmond Highway facing Brevard Court in Woodlawn (via Google Maps)

Fairfax County police have made an arrest in one of two fatal pedestrian crashes that occured on Richmond Highway this past weekend.

Kelechi Uzodinma, 61, of Woodbridge was arrested on Sunday (Feb. 18) after allegedly hitting a pedestrian in the Richmond Highway and Brevard Court intersection in Mount Vernon’s Woodlawn neighborhood around 10:40 p.m., the Fairfax County Police Department reported today.

According to police, Uzodinma was driving south on Richmond Highway (Route 1) in a 2015 Lexus GS 350 when he hit Alexandria resident Heliodoro Luna-Perez, who was crossing the roadway near Brevard Court “outside of a crosswalk.”

There are no crosswalks at that intersection, where Brevard Court leads into the Pinewood South condominiums. Google Maps indicates that the closest striped crosswalks are about 0.3 miles to the south at Frye Road and a half-mile to the north at Russell Road.

Luna-Perez was hit while in a southbound lane, the FCPD says. He was transported to a hospital, where he died early Monday (Feb. 19) morning at 51 years old.

According to the police, Uzodinma fled the scene before officers arrived. He was found less than an hour later “almost 2 miles away from the scene,” the police department said.

Uzodinma has been charged with a felony hit and run and is currently in custody at the Adult Detention Center on a $2,500 bond.

“Detectives continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the crash,” the FCPD said. “Alcohol was deemed to not be a factor for Uzodinma in this crash and speed is still under investigation.”

According to Fairfax County General District Court records, Uzodinma is scheduled for an arraignment on Friday (Feb. 23) and a preliminary hearing on May 29.

Records indicate that he got cited for an infraction on Jan. 13 for driving 55 mph in a 35-mph zone. He was released on a summons in that case, where he will get an adjudicatory hearing on Feb. 27.

Luna-Perez was the second pedestrian to die in a traffic crash in Fairfax County this year after another man was killed on Thursday, Feb. 15 while crossing Richmond Highway before the Belfield Road intersection in Belle Haven.

Police haven’t publicly identified the victim in that crash yet, citing a need to inform his family.

There have been three fatal crashes on Richmond Highway this month, including one on Feb. 14 where a 19-year-old driver died after rear-ending a dump truck.

According to the FCPD, the county hadn’t had any fatal pedestrian crashes at this point in 2023.

Image via Google Maps

Written by Mina Lucks, Synergy Design & Construction

The soul of a home is found in the spaces where we cook, gather, and recharge, such as the kitchen and the bathroom. In this article, we delve into the art and science of maximizing functionality and style in kitchen renovations, and we’ll look at the latest innovations in bathroom design and remodeling.   

Maximizing Functionality and Style in Kitchen Renovations     

While the functionality of a kitchen is key, the style is equally important, as visually appealing kitchens contribute to the overall ambiance and your experience of the home. But how can you successfully achieve both?  

Take, for instance, a recent kitchen remodel, where space was maximized without compromising on a polished aesthetic. Innovative storage solutions are woven into the design, enhancing everyday usability and transforming the kitchen into a space that effortlessly caters to the demands of modern living.  

Check out the full kitchen remodel here.

Here’s another project where design boundaries were pushed. This space was maximized by adding cabinets to the right-hand side of the kitchen and taking them all the way to the ceiling. An added island separates the kitchen from the family room and provides additional seating without cramping the space.

See the full kitchen remodel here.

In balancing practicality with style, it’s all about thoughtfully using every inch of the space you have.  

Innovations in Bathroom Design and Remodeling  

We are witnessing an evolution in bathroom design with trends that go beyond the basics to create spaces that are luxurious and rejuvenating.  

Picture a spa-like sanctuary within your home. This bathroom was transformed into a haven of relaxation — from a natural marble countertop, a collection of floor tile with radiant heating, and a relocated window for natural light, this space is truly a spa-like retreat.   

Check out this bathroom (plus a whole home remodel) here!

An additional bathroom trend is the incorporation of patterns as a distinctive touch, adding personality and flair.   

This bathroom remodel showcases how the integration of these elements can elevate the bathroom experience.

Get the full glimpse of this bathroom renovation here.

Feeling Inspired?  

If your kitchen or bathroom just isn’t cutting it anymore, it may be time to transform these spaces for you, too!   

Contact Synergy Design & Construction today at 706-766-6333 or fill out the form and let us be your partner in crafting a home that energizes your everyday experience.


Ever since he got into the restaurant business, Usman Saleem wanted to open a place in Fairfax City.

After mostly working in Tysons and D.C., the restauranteur finally achieved that dream earlier this year, when The Commons Fooderie officially opened at 3955 Chain Bridge Road, Suite 107, in Old Town Fairfax on Jan. 22.

Set to celebrate its opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. on Thursday (Feb. 22), the fast-casual restaurant and coffee bar brings Saleem back to his college days, which he spent studying just down the road at George Mason University.

“The area felt like home, and so, we wanted to bring our concept to the City of Fairfax because we felt like it was a venue that was kind of missing, a place where the community can meet, [with] good food at reasonable prices in a fast-casual format,” Saleem told FFXnow.

Natives of Springfield, Saleem and his wife and fellow restauranteur, Hanna, have spent more than a decade now serving up coffee and bistro-style food around the D.C. area, often in office buildings and cafeterias. Their established eateries include Bistro 1775 in Tysons and Carvings and Uptowner Cafe in D.C.

The Commons Fooderie represents a culmination of those ventures, combining their top-selling items into one menu. In addition to drinks provided by Grace Street Coffee, the restaurant offers omelets and other breakfast items, sandwiches, burgers, quesadillas, wraps, salads, rice bowls and more.

Saleem says the team is “extremely obsessed” with using fresh ingredients, including for the coffee, which is roasted within 24 hours whenever they order a batch.

“We don’t make anything in advance,” he said. “So, when you order your food, it’s made fresh to order, and I think that really resonates when people eat the food, because the response that we’ve gotten is, ‘Oh my god, the food tastes so fresh,’ and we’re like, that’s because it was literally made after you ordered it.”

During its first month of business, the restaurant has also gotten a positive community response for its “pretty and cozy” environment, according to Saleem.

Designed by Hanna Saleem, the approximately 3,000-square-foot space can accommodate 85 patrons at a time and features a variety of seating areas that Saleem hopes to complement with an outdoor patio in the spring. At that time, they might also consider introducing live music, something that patrons have suggested.

“We created a space not only for people in the community, but also for people who are working in the area and also the George Mason students who are studying in the area,” Usman Saleem said, noting that the restaurant does accept “Mason Money,” the university’s prepaid debit system for students.

The Commons Fooderie is currently open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., though the Saleems intend to extend the hours to midnight once they become more established in the community.

The concept appears to be successful enough so far that the couple is rebranding other locations, including cafes in the office buildings at 1750 and 1600 Tysons Blvd, as The Commons Fooderie. Another office-based location at 12011 Sunset Hills Road in Reston will also have that name when it opens.

Saleem says they hope to open the Reston restaurant “this month,” but the date remains to be decided. The menu will be slightly smaller than the one in Fairfax City due to a lack of fryers.

“That one serves more of the corporate environment,” Saleem said. “It’s right outside of Reston Town Center. So, there’s a lot of office buildings, a little less residential, so I think that’s different in that manner, where Fairfax City has a good mix of commercial, residential and students.”

Ferndale Avenue at the Herndon Parkway intersection (via Google Maps)

Upgrades to Ferndale Avenue and improvements to police infrastructure are among the new projects proposed in Herndon’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for fiscal year 2025-2030.

The CIP is a part of the annual operating budget and includes funding for transportation, sewer and other public facility projects.

At a work session on Feb. 12, the Town of Herndon Planning Commission recommended the proposed draft to the town manager. It includes 36 projects, the bulk of which cover multimodal transportation and enhancements.

In a report, staff noted that the focus of the plan is to “address current facilities and infrastructure from a health, safety, sustainability, and maintenance perspective.”

The town plans to improve vehicular and pedestrian safety along Ferndale Avenue between Herndon Parkway and Park Avenue, adding sidewalks, curb ramps, and crosswalks that meet current ADA standards.

“Preliminary studies indicate vehicular sight distances are inadequate due to vehicular parking and the curvature of the road,” the proposed CIP says. “Studies also indicated the potential need for additional pedestrian crosswalks across Ferndale Avenue. Initial concept plans include the use of curb bump outs as a feature to shorten crosswalks, define parking areas, and narrow the vehicular travel lanes to current standards.”

The total cost of $545,000 is currently budgeted for fiscal year 2030, which would start on July 1, 2029.

Other added projects include a replacement of an aging, rear motorized security gate and overall improvements for the Herndon Police Department’s station to address building accessibility, physical safety and security, and renovations.

The final new project would bring the town in compliance with new Environmental Protection Agency regulations for lead and copper in drinking water by identifying service lines that don’t meet requirements. Expected to start at the beginning of the new fiscal year on July 1, the project would implement new testing requirements, including the first-ever ones for schools and childcare facilities, and replace service lines as needed.

The planning commission will hold a public hearing on the CIP on Monday, Feb. 26, and the town manager will release the proposed operating budget and CIP by May 1.

This year, town staff categorized capital projects by their readiness: imminent for ones with an established scope and funding, priority for ones that have a scope but aren’t fully funded, and future priorities for unfunded projects that haven’t been defined in detail.

The plan calls for $205.3 million in total capital costs.

Staff noted that minor adjustments may be necessary when the town manager finalizes the proposed operating budget.

Image via Google Maps

The Pakistani clothing store Khaadi will open at Tysons Corner Center on Feb. 24 (courtesy Khaadi)

A Pakistani fashion company will soon leave its first footprint in the U.S. with the unveiling of a new Tysons store.

Khaadi is set to launch a 5,500-square-foot “Experience Store” at Tysons Corner Center this Saturday, Feb. 24, a company spokesperson confirmed to FFXnow. The retail outlet will be located on the mall’s second floor near Barnes & Noble.

This will be Khaadi’s first physical location in the U.S., but it has already expanded outside of its home in Pakistan to the United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates, totaling 50 stores worldwide.

“Khaadi sees the US market as the next crucial step in its global expansion journey,” Khaadi spokesperson Tinath Saeed Fahd said. “The United States, with its vast retail landscape, presents abundant opportunities for brands offering unique and diverse products and Khaadi is prepared to embrace these opportunities.”

Tysons Corner Center was chosen as the site for Khaadi’s U.S. introduction because of its status as “Virginia’s premier shopping destination,” Saeed Fahd added.

“[It] highlights Khaadi’s ambition to expand its international presence and build connections with a wider audience that extend beyond shopping,” she said.

Here’s more from the company on its background:

Founded in 1998 by Shamoon Sultan, Khaadi is a leading retail brand which has experienced unprecedented growth from a single store selling hand-woven fabric to 50 stores spanning the globe from Pakistan to UAE, UK and now US.

Khaadi’s commitment to innovation and pushing the boundaries of fashion, means it’s always looking for ways to evolve designs. The brand’s designs are known for their vibrant colors, intricate craftsmanship and connection to Pakistani and Eastern culture and heritage. Khaadi’s aesthetic is a mix of traditional and modern elements, which help create a unique and contemporary feel, catering to a wider audience globally.

With the Muslim community as a primary audience, Khaadi sells both fabrics and ready-to-wear clothes, including kurtas, shawls, pants, shirts, skirts, jumpsuits, and other formal and casual items.

The Tysons store was “carefully” designed to celebrate “creativity, style and individuality,” according to Saeed Fahd.

“The modern, minimal space hosts a curated collection of everyday versatile ready-to-wear assortments along with accessories for an effortless style solution,” she said. “The store also offers gift wrap options for those who want to find the perfect presents for loved ones.”

After making its introduction in Tysons, Khaadi plans to continue expanding in the U.S. with stores anticipated in Texas and New Jersey in the next two years.

Khaadi will continue a fashion-focused year for Tysons Corner Center, which welcomed Rothy’s last month and is set to add Primark and Mango.

The mall has also lured the restaurants Maggiano’s Little Italy and the Cheesecake Factory away from their longtime homes in Tysons Galleria. The chains are expected to move this summer and in the fourth quarter of 2024, respectively.

Fairfax County Government Center (staff photo by James Jarvis)

As anticipated, Fairfax County is looking at a tight budget for the coming year that will once again lean primarily on residential property owners to offset a declining commercial tax base.

County Executive Bryan Hill has proposed a 4-cent increase in the real estate tax rate, even as he presented an advertised fiscal year 2025 budget to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors yesterday (Tuesday) that largely limits spending to obligations like public schools and employee compensation.

If adopted, this would be the county’s first real estate tax rate increase in six years, Hill said in a message to the board. Last year, Hill proposed a flat tax rate that the board ultimately reduced by 1.5 cents to $1.095 per $100 of assessed value, though property owners still saw their bills go up by $412, on average, due to rising home values.

The proposed tax rate of $1.135 per $100 for FY 2025, which starts on July 1, would raise the average tax bill by just over $524 and generate $129.28 million in revenue, according to the county.

“We are seeing some residential growth, but our commercial values have declined, resulting in an overall real estate growth of just over 2.7%,” Hill said. “Paired with significant expenditure pressures — particularly for employee pay and benefits, transportation requirements, and continued inflationary impacts — balancing this proposed budget has required difficult decisions.”

Home values up, commercial values down

Real estate tax revenue provides about 66% of the county’s general funds, which supports most county operations, from public safety agencies to libraries and parks. For FY 2025, more than three-quarters of that revenue (76.7%) will come from residential owners, who are facing an average assessment increase of 2.86% for 2024.

Though the number of home sales in the county last year declined, prices have continued to climb “due to low inventory,” Hill said. The average value of the county’s over 357,000 taxable residential properties for 2024 is $744,526, up from $723,825 in 2023.

By contrast, non-residential property values have dropped for the first time in three years by 1.24%, a dip mostly driven by a struggling office market. About 21.6 million square feet, or 17.2%, of the county’s 119.5 million square feet of office space is vacant — an uptick from last year’s rate of 16.7%, which was already a 10-year high.

With another 1 million square feet of office space under construction, mostly in Metro’s Silver Line corridor, the pressure to revitalize or replace under-utilized office buildings will likely only intensify going forward.

“That space is going to be snapped up quickly, which is going to create situations around our county that will be then vacant,” Hill said when asked by Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk about possible remedies. “We have to figure out ways to fill those spaces, whether it is converting or doing something different on that plot of land. We have done a pretty good job in certain areas of revitalizing…but we need to do more.”

Schools and compensation dominate spending

With some growth projected from other sources, including an 8.8% increase in personal property taxes and a proposed 10-cent-per-pack increase in taxes on cigarettes, the county anticipates getting $363.22 million more in revenue than it did this budget year.

However, Hill says he proposed spending only on “adjustments which I feel are essential to maintain the quality workforce and dependable services upon which our residents rely.” Read More


Morning Notes

A mural in Fairfax Circle depicts the Old Town Square splash pad (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

TSA Gives First-Ever Tour of Springfield Warehouse — “In a non-descript building right off I-95 in Springfield, Virginia, there are thousands of artifacts from the Transportation Security Administration. Old X-ray machines, explosive detectors, TSA call kiosks, counterterrorism pamphlets and guides are all stored, in a warehouse containing the wall-to-wall physical history of the agency.” [NBC4]

Tysons Developer’s Real Estate Plans Unclear — “Lerner Enterprises hasn’t announced any acquisitions, sales, renovations or new office leases since 2022. The 72-year-old firm also hasn’t provided updates on the millions of square feet of planned development it has in its pipeline, including the fate of two demolished shopping malls where communities have been waiting years to see activity.” [Bisnow]

Reston Resident Details CIA Career in New Book — “Over the course of her 27-year CIA career, Jonna Mendez, pulled off dazzling capers…Now 78 and living in Reston, Mendez’s career as a master of disguise is revealed with jarring transparency in her new memoir, In True Face: A Woman’s Life in the CIA, Unmasked, available March 5.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Navy Veteran Celebrates 100th B-Day at Local Hooters — “For the 10th year in a row, U.S. Navy veteran Glenn Ward celebrated his birthday at the Hooters in Fairfax City. But this year was a little different, because on Friday, the Arlington resident turned 100. Friends and family members from California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Nevada showed up…for a party that included balloons, cake and chicken wings.” [Patch]

Bailey’s Crossroads Office Set for Demolition Has History — “A soon-to-be-demolished office building in Bailey’s Crossroads once housed a company that played an important played a role in the Cold War. The two-story cinderblock building at 5623 Leesburg Pike…is being torn down to facilitate a second drive-through lane and an expanded parking lot for the McDonald’s next door.” [Annandale Today]

New Amenities Coming to Woodlawn Ballpark — “Following several years of grassroots fundraising and advocating with Fairfax County, the Woodlawn Little League will soon witness the groundbreaking of a comfort station and concessions building at McNaughton Fields Park.” The 784-square-foot facility will feature “a concession stand, restrooms and storage.” [On the MoVe]

Tysons-Based Capital One to Buy Credit-Card Rival — “Capital One’s $35.3 billion deal to buy Discover is a long way from being completed. But consumer advocates and some lawmakers are already raising questions about how the proposed merger could affect credit-card users — many of whom are already under pressure from high interest rates and record debts.” [NBC News]

Tysons Show Featured in Netflix Comedy Special — “That’s how Taylor Tomlinson opens her new Netflix standup special ‘Have It All,’ which premiered this past week on Feb. 13 and currently ranks in the Top 10 TV Shows on Netflix. It was filmed at Capital One Hall…on Nov. 18, 2023, just weeks after announcing her new late-night talk show ‘After Midnight.'” [WTOP]

It’s Wednesday — Expect sunny skies and a high of 49 degrees, accompanied by a light, variable wind that will increase to around 6 mph from the southeast in the morning. The night will remain mostly clear with temperatures dropping to about 32 degrees, and a gentle southeast breeze blowing at 3 to 5 mph. []


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