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NEW: Urbanspace has left Tysons Galleria, creating uncertainty for food hall eateries

Twelve Twenty Coffee is one of three tenants left in the food hall after Urbanspace and Tysons Galleria parted ways (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Barely a year after relaunching its food hall, Tysons Galleria is angling for yet another reboot.

Andy’s Pizza, Empanadas De Mendoza and Twelve Twenty Coffee are the only eateries remaining on the mall’s third floor after the recent departure of Urbanspace, the New York-based market operator that oversaw the “Taste of Urbanspace” food hall.

Brookfield Properties, which owns Tysons Galleria, confirmed to FFXnow that it “did part ways” with Urbanspace after more than four years, a period disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The developer was unable to share details about what led to the breakup, but it hasn’t given up on the space.

“We have new tenants that will be announced soon,” Brookfield spokesperson Lindsay Kahn said, stating that the property owner is now handling the leasing itself instead of using a partner.

Urbanspace didn’t return a request for comment by press time.

In the meantime, however, the loss of Urbanspace has added an element of uncertainty for at least one of the remaining shops.

Emphasizing that she wasn’t speaking for either of the other vendors, Twelve Twenty Coffee owner Victoria Smith describes the future as “really in limbo right now” for a floor that has seen plenty of upheaval over the years.

“Since Twelve Twenty has been at Tysons, there’s been a lot of change,” she said. “…For us, I would say that we are definitely blessed to have a space, but it’s challenging. It’s a challenging space.”

Toward the top of the list is the stress of covering rent and other expenses, a challenge familiar to any small business, particularly in an expensive area like Tysons. But Smith also cites more specific hurdles, like the mall’s 11 a.m. opening time — less than ideal for a coffee shop — and the loss of the lunchtime office crowd that was once a core part of the mall’s customer base.

Then, there’s the arrangement with Urbanspace, which Smith says may have created “a disconnect” when it came to marketing and communications.

When discussing Twelve Twenty Coffee, Smith likes to highlight its status as a woman-owned, Black-owned business and her commitment to working with other local, women and/or minority-owned businesses, such as Toimoi Bakery and Bisnonna Bakeshop.

Press materials for the food hall’s relaunch last year, however, mostly focused on Smith’s previous role as an events director and assistant general manager for Urbanspace Tysons.

“They’re not sharing our stories, how we want to be represented or the information we’d like them to know, because it kind of seemed like it was a little bit…third party, I guess?” Smith said. “You know, when it’s like a step removed, when you’re not talking to someone, it’s not as personal or whatever.”

Taste of Urbanspace opened in December 2018 as a replacement for Isabella Eatery, a food hall that shut down after just nine months of operations following declining sales and a sexual harassment lawsuit against its namesake, celebrity chef Mike Isabella.

The initial lineup included Andy’s Pizza, Alexandria coffee shop Stomping Ground, Ice Cream Jubilee, the Laotian restaurant Sen Khao, and the Japanese restaurant Donburi. Twelve Twenty was part of a second wave of tenants that included the sandwich pop-up LaoWich and Cantonese eatery Hei Hei Tiger.

Born in D.C. and raised in Fairfax County, Smith says she had long dreamed of owning her own coffee shop. Named after the birthday she shares with her boyfriend, who she met while they were working as baristas about eight years ago, Twelve Twenty opened just three months before Covid shut everything down.

Andy’s Pizza reopened later in 2020 and Empanadas De Mendoza arrived in late 2021, but Urbanspace didn’t officially relaunch until March 22, 2022. By then, some old tenants were gone for good, while others like Twelve Twenty and Hei Hei tried to get a fresh start alongside two newcomers — London Chippy and the Ghanian pop-up Hedzole.

Just 15 months later, the food hall has dwindled to three occupants. Donburi, one of the original tenants, closed permanently in early February, according to an employee at the business’ D.C. restaurant.

Donburi owner James Jang, who also runs Ingle Korean Steakhouse in Pike 7 Plaza, didn’t comment on the decision to leave Tysons Galleria, but the Donburi team is seeking a new location “in the area.”

“The new restaurant will be a full service restaurant with a larger menu,” Jang told FFXnow.

As Tysons Galleria starts a new chapter for its third floor, Smith is hopeful that more people will discover that the mall has “a great space to sit, get work done, get food, walk around.”

“I’ve seen all the effects of everything since the pandemic,” she said. “…When we first started, we were like, ‘Okay, this is how we’re going to do this,’ and then after the pandemic, it’s definitely shifted. So, we’ve just got to shift with it, I guess.”

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