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In less than two years, the flooding that plagues Old Courthouse Road at Besley Road during every rain storm should be relegated to the past.

Construction has been underway since February to realign the intersection on the border of Tysons and Wolf Trap, giving it a literal boost with a bridge and other design and safety improvements.

In addition to replacing a “substandard” culvert with a bridge over Wolftrap Creek, the project will elevate and reconstruct about 1,000 feet of Old Courthouse Road and shift the Besley Road alignment east, according to a Fairfax County Department of Transportation presentation.

It will also add pedestrian improvements, including a crosswalk and refuge island east of Besley Road and walkways on both sides of Old Courthouse Road. The south side will get an 8-foot-wide shared-use path, while on the north side, a 5-foot-wide, concrete sidewalk will transition to an 8-foot shared-use path that connects to Spring Lake Trail, FCDOT spokesperson Freddy Serrano says.

Designed to accommodate a 25-year flood event, the project has been in the works for almost a decade now. FCDOT submitted preliminary plans back in 2016 and held its final community meeting on the design in February 2018.

The project is being funded by county bonds approved by voters in 2014. Its estimated cost of $15.5 million includes $11.4 million for construction.

Fort Myer Construction Corporation, the county’s contractor, is working in the Virginia Department of Transportation’s right-of-way from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays, according to Serrano.

Outside the right-of-way, construction hours are between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m.

“There are a variety of phases to the project and impacts to traffic will vary depending on the phase of construction,” Serrano said. “There are short segments of road closure where traffic will alternate through the construction zone during some of the construction activities.”

Besley Road will be closed during the fourth phase of construction, which will focus on a 150-foot stretch of the road and is expected in the spring of 2025. FCDOT has proposed detouring traffic onto Arabian Avenue.

Construction of the overall project is scheduled to finish in December 2025.

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Fairfax County Public Schools is seeking to build a four-level Dunn Loring Elementary School at Idylwood and Gallows Road (via Fairfax County)

Planning is well underway for a new elementary school in Dunn Loring, but some McLean residents argue that Fairfax County Public Schools still hasn’t explained why the project should be prioritized over other needs.

As part of a resolution on the proposed county and FCPS budgets, the McLean Citizens Association’s board of directors urged the Fairfax County School Board last Wednesday (April 3) to “refrain from constructing” the school if officials can’t “provide adequate data” justifying it.

“What they are expecting to do is spend $80 million-ish, and they do not have any data to support the construction of that,” Louise Epstein, who chairs MCA’s budget and taxation committee, said.

Partially funded by bond money once intended for a new school in Oakton, the proposed four-story, 125,905-square-foot building will repurpose the Dunn Loring Administrative Center at 2334 Gallows Road. In addition to relieving crowding at schools in the Dunn Loring, Tysons and Falls Church areas, the project will add new playground facilities to the 10-acre site and move the vehicle access points from Gallows Road to Idylwood Road, according to a rezoning application under review by the county.

While crowding was an issue at Shrevewood Elementary School for years, the school in Idylwood is now operating at 95% capacity, and FCPS projects that will drop to 86% in the 2028-2029 school year, according to its latest capital improvement program (CIP), which was approved by the school board on Feb. 8.

Stenwood Elementary School, which is in Dunn Loring, is utilizing 97% of its capacity right now and is projected to reach 98% in 2028-2029.

In its resolution, MCA acknowledged that FCPS will face “upward pressures” on enrollment from new residential development, including in Merrifield and Tysons, but it says the CIP and its own “independent analysis” based on data provided by FCPS don’t show any near-term impacts on elementary schools in Dunn Loring.

“The School Board’s inclusion of Dunn Loring project in the FY 2025 Advertised Budget is not supported by FCPS 5-year enrollment projections,” MCA’s resolution says, “since no elementary school near Dunn Loring has an existing or projected ‘capacity deficit,’ and elementary schools in that vicinity are projected to have an aggregate ‘capacity surplus’ of 789 seats in 2028-29.”

Per the CIP, FCPS is forecasting capacity deficits at 20 elementary schools by the 2028-2029 school year, including at Spring Hill, Franklin Sherman and Kent Gardens. Boundary changes in McLean will take effect starting this fall. Read More

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Westbound Leesburg Pike at South Jefferson Street in Bailey’s Crossroads (via Google Maps)

A 23-year-old man from Arlington has been charged with manslaughter in connection to a Feb. 16 crash in Bailey’s Crossroads that resulted in the death of a 93-year-old woman.

The Fairfax County Police Department announced on Thursday (April 4) that its detectives believe Isai Jimenez Paz was speeding when he allegedly crashed into a Toyota Corolla at the Leesburg Pike and South Jefferson Street intersection.

“[He] was driving a Toyota GR86 at a high speed westbound on Leesburg Pike,” the FCPD said in an updated news release. “The driver of a Toyota Corolla attempted a left turn onto a service road near South Jefferson Street from the eastbound lane of Leesburg Pike. Jimenez Paz struck the Corolla.”

The occupants of both vehicles, including the drivers and one passenger in each, were all transported to nearby hospitals for treatment. Falls Church resident Gladys Bilbao, the Corolla passenger, died from her injuries on Feb. 21.

Jimenez Paz, his passenger and the Corolla driver have since been discharged from the hospital, according to police.

Detectives arrested Jimenez Paz and charged him with involuntary manslaughter on April 3, the FCPD said. Released from custody on a secured bond, he’s scheduled for an arraignment this Wednesday (April 10) and a preliminary hearing on July 15, according to Fairfax County General District Court records.

There have been two fatal crashes on Leesburg Pike this year, both of them in the Bailey’s Crossroads area. Police also announced last week that the driver in a crash that killed a motorcyclist at Glen Carlyn Drive on March 10 has been charged with failing to yield on left turn.

Image via Google Maps

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Vienna Town Manager Mercury Payton with the Baltimore Orioles mascot before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch on April 1, 2024 (courtesy Mercury Payton)

When Vienna Town Manager Mercury Payton stepped on the infield grass at Camden Yards earlier this week to throw a ceremonial first pitch, he thought about his family.

He thought about his wife and 17-year-old daughter, who had accompanied him to the Baltimore Orioles’ game on Monday (April 1) against the Kansas City Royals. He also imagined the reactions of his late father and grandfather, who took him to games as a kid and helped turn him into a lifelong O’s fan.

“If they were here, they would have been excited to see me throw out the first pitch because they both loved the Orioles and our family loved the Orioles, so that would have been fun for them to see that experience,” Payton told FFXnow.

Payton didn’t expect to be called upon to throw out the first pitch of the game.

A season ticket holder, a status whose perks include access to a members-only clubhouse, he and his family were taking advantage of the complimentary drinks and snacks when two Orioles employees approached them and made the offer — apparently without awareness of his position as a government official.

So, instead of heading to their seats, Payton and his wife found themselves waiting behind home plate to get the credentials that would allow them to go onto the baseball field. Around that time, Payton’s wife questioned if they were being subjected to an April Fool’s Day joke.

“I didn’t think about that until she mentioned that,” he admitted. “I’m like, ‘Oh, this is April 1st’ …But no, they were not joking, and it was a fun experience.”

As for the pitch itself, the ball was caught by the Oriole Bird mascot set up behind home plate, instead of bouncing on the way, according to Payton, who considers that a success.

Though the experience went by “pretty quick,” it marked a new highlight in Payton’s long-standing relationship with the Orioles.

Growing up as a baseball fan in Prince William County, they were the closest thing he had to a hometown MLB team. At 10, he watched as the Orioles won the 1983 World Series, and his loyalties were cemented, unchallenged by the arrival of the Washington Nationals to D.C. in 2005.

The reigning American League East champions rewarded Payton for that unwavering support on Monday night with not only the chance to throw out the first pitch, but also a win on a walk-off home run by shortstop Jordan Westburg.

Still, Payton says what really made the night special was sharing it with his family.

“It’s just one of those things where you have memories with your family,” he said. “I know that my 17-year-old daughter, who was there, and my wife will probably remember that for a long time, and it’s just things that you do with your family are most important…It was good that they were there, that we could experience that together.”

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The McLean Central Park basketball court is slated for renovation (courtesy Fairfax County Park Authority)

The outdoor basketball court at McLean Central Park is getting a new and hopefully improved look.

Contractor ATC began mobilizing this week for a renovation of the facility, a process expected to take about six weeks, depending on the weather, the Fairfax County Park Authority announced yesterday (Thursday).

The project will include a replacement of the court’s two basketball hoops, a new stone dust and asphalt overlay, fresh color coating and line painting, the addition of a 10-foot-tall, vinyl-coated fence on the northern end and the installation of a memorial bench.

The park at 1468 Dolley Madison Blvd will remain open, but construction could affect access to some areas, according to the park authority.

“The work may impact access to some areas of the park, including the parking lot behind the Dolley Madison Library,” the FCPA said. “Visitors are reminded to please follow all signs and placards around the site to safely navigate around construction activities during the project.”

The park authority approved a $20,000 Mastenbrook grant to fund the renovation in December. Supplementing nearly $45,177 in community donations, the grant was requested by friends and neighbors of Thomas Mulquin, a McLean resident and youth basketball coach who died from pancreatic cancer in May 2023.

The project’s total budget is just under $65,177, according to the FCPA.

McLean Central Park’s basketball court will be renovated concurrently with upgrades to the playground, tot lot and walkways that got underway in early March. That project, which will also add an amphitheater, is on track to finish by the end of this year, a park authority spokesperson says.

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A view of the Aug. 21, 2017, total solar eclipse from Madras, Oregon (via NASA/Gopalswamy)

In just three days, the moon will cross right in front of the sun, creating a total solar eclipse that will be visible from more than a dozen states.

Virginia isn’t one of those states, but in Fairfax County, an estimated 87.4% of the sun will still be blocked when the eclipse peaks around 3:20 p.m. — a bigger percentage than the 2017 event, according to the Fairfax County Park Authority.

The prospect of a total solar eclipse that scientists say could be even more exciting than the last one has sparked tourism booms in rural towns and states in the path of totality, which is home to about 31 million people. At least one projection suggests that as many as 3.7 million people will travel to see the total eclipse.

Splurging on a rare celestial event comes with risks, though, as forecasts currently indicate that storms may obscure the eclipse in the central U.S.

County residents who decide to stay local will have plenty of viewing options, including events at county parks, Reston Station and the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly. Students at Daniels Run Elementary School will take an “Eclipse Walk.”

We’re curious about how you’re preparing for the solar eclipse on Monday (April 8). Have you snagged a pair of the glasses needed to safely watch a partial eclipse, or are you opting for a pinhole projector? Is anyone traveling into the path of totality?

Photo via NASA/Gopalswamy

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Hilton, which has corporate headquarters in Tysons, has topped Fortune’s 2024 100 Best Companies to Work for rankings (courtesy Hilton)

Hilton continues to rake in five-star reviews from employees.

The Tysons-based hotel giant has been named the best company to work for in the U.S. by Fortune Magazine, which released its 27th annual round-up of the top 100 companies today.

The announcement marks a return to the top for Hilton, which has been ranked no. 1 twice before but slipped to second place last year and in 2022. That was still enough for Fortune to recognize Hilton as the World’s Best Workplace for 2023, giving the distinction to a hospitality company for the first time ever.

“Our team members have always been at the heart of our hospitality, and these collective recognitions are the result of the passion they bring to our guests and to one another each and every day,” Hilton President and CEO Chris Nassetta said. “We are so proud of the incredible culture we’ve built together and look forward to building on this tremendous foundation in the years to come.”

Based on surveys conducted by the data and research platform Great Place to Work, this year’s 100 Best Companies to Work for were united by an embrace of hybrid and remote work, with only two requring employees to work on-site four or more days a week, Fortune CEO Alan Murray said.

According to Great Place to Work, earning employee trust is more critical than ever for a quality workplace, as many industries assess the potential and risks of generative artificial intelligence, technology that CEO Michael Bush says “will radically transform how we work.”

Rated as a great place to work by 95% of responding employees, compared to 57% for a typical U.S. company, Hilton was distinguished by an emphasis on diversity and career growth, along with worker benefits such as discounted stays at its hotels, according to Fortune.

An example of employee comments describes a supportive environment for all workers:

The company goes above and beyond to recognize and celebrate team members and I have never experienced anything like it at any other workplace. I can confidently share my ideas and they are taken seriously even as an hourly employee. I have learned so much about sales, revenue, front office, food and beverage and operations in my 4 years here and I worked in 4 other hotels that never provided nearly as much learning experience as I’ve received here. My boss is the most encouraging, supportive and understanding boss that I have ever worked for. I love it!

In a press release, Hilton said it has worked to create a “strong global culture” and invested in “programs and benefits that support inclusion, wellness, growth and purpose.”

“Hilton’s culture of people serving people engages and inspires team members to create great stays for our guests, which drives guest satisfaction, strengthens Hilton’s business and creates continued economic opportunity for communities around the world,” the company said.

Headquartered at Park Place II (7930 Jones Branch Drive) since 2009, Hilton employs about 460,000 people, including 4,300 people in the D.C. area. The company has over 7,500 properties and is currently angling to build a new, dual-branded hotel in Tysons’ Scotts Run neighborhood.

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Fort Belvoir Fire and Emergency Services and Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department respond to a fuel spill at Davison Army Airfield at Fort Belvoir on April 3, 2024 (courtesy of Fort Belvoir Fire Emergency Services)

Clean-up efforts are underway at Fort Belvoir after a truck overturned near its airfield yesterday (Wednesday), spilling thousands of gallons of jet fuel and temporarily closing part of Richmond Highway.

Fort Belvoir Fire and Emergency Services and the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department were dispatched to the Davison Army Airfield (6954 Britten Drive) around 6:30 p.m. in response to an overturned government fuel truck.

“Approximately 3,000 gallons of JP8, commonly used in aviation equipment, spilled onto the roadway, causing the temporary closure of Richmond Highway,” Fort Belvoir said this morning (Thursday) in a news release.

According to the Army base, first responders and the Fort Belvoir Environmental Division were able to quickly contain the initial spill and start clean-up efforts “to minimize the impact to the surrounding environment.”

Crews remained at the scene into the early hours of this morning, Fort Belvoir Fire and Emergency Services said. No injuries were reported, but the fuel truck driver was taken to a hospital “for further evaluation.”

Fire officials say lingering odors from the spilled fuel don’t pose any threat to people’s health.

The partial closure of Richmond Highway was lifted around 11 p.m., according to a Fort Belvoir spokesperson.

The base says it’s continuing to assess the spill’s environmental impacts and will provide updates on the clean-up and mitigation operations as needed through its social media channels.

“Our top priority is the safety and well-being of our community and the preservation of the environment,” Fort Belvoir said. “Therefore, we are working closely with several environmental agencies to monitor and mitigate the impact of the spill.”

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A “mobility maze” has been painted in the parking lot behind The PARC at Tysons for the Tysons Community Alliance’s upcoming Placemaking Fest (maze and photo courtesy of Tech Painting Co)

The Tysons Community Alliance (TCA) hopes to put the “play” in “play-cemaking” with a mini festival on Saturday (April 6) that will feature food, art and opinions about what might make the urban center tick.

Hosted by Celebrate Fairfax at The PARC at Tysons (8508 Leesburg Pike) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the TCA Placemaking Fest is envisioned as both an example of how to distinguish Tysons and an occasion for community members to share their thoughts on future activities that could cement that identity.

The TCA will present proposed concepts at interactive stations, where attendees can give feedback while nursing an ice cream scoop from Tysons Creamery or bopping to music spun by DJ Cabezon.

“There’s going to be music, there’s going to be an interactive art piece. There’s going to be food for people and games,” TCA project manager Colleen Hawkinson, who organized the event, said. “We really want families and friends and everyone to come and really enjoy it and experience the activation and what placemaking can be.”

Feedback gathered at the event will inform a placemaking framework being developed by the TCA, a nonprofit community improvement organization tasked with promoting Tysons and guiding its evolution as Fairfax County’s aspiring downtown.

When it was created in October 2022, the TCA identified “placemaking” as a focus of its mission, along with communications, transportation and support for businesses. Acknowledging that the concept can seem intangible, Hawkinson says it can refer to anything that encourages people to interact and spend time in a particular space.

Examples range from physical design elements, such as a mural or splash pad, to events like farmers’ markets and the block parties held at The PARC, which was converted from a defunct Container Store into an event space in 2021.

“It’s about building up these places that then help support and create the sense of community,” Hawkinson said.

To showcase the concept, the TCA Placemaking Fest will have the aforementioned live music by DJ Cabezon, a “collaborative art experience” with local artist Michael Pacheco, photo booths, and food trucks from Tysons Creamery, Colonial Kettle Corn, El Chef Latino and Fine Dining to Go.

There will also be a “mobility maze” where kids can ride scooters through a mini street network with lanes, signs, sidewalks and even railroad crossings. Essentially a traffic garden with a different name, the maze was provided by Tech Painting Company and the transportation engineering firm Gorove Slade.

Admission to the event is free, though attendees are encouraged to register in advance.

The TCA anticipates finalizing its placemaking framework in May, allowing it to start implementing the recommendations as soon as this summer, according to Hawkinson.

“The TCA will certainly move forward on some things,” she said. “Some things might need assistance from the county…and there are areas where our private sector friends and partners may come in and help out, and that kind of gets around the essence of placemaking…all these different entities working toward a common goal.”

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Somos at McLean Metro’s first phase will add 231 units of workforce housing at 1750 Old Meadow Road in Tysons (courtesy SCG Development)

An office building in Tysons is being demolished to make way for workforce housing near the McLean Metro station.

SCG Development announced today (Wednesday) that it has closed on the financing needed to build the first phase of the project, which is being called Somos at McLean Metro. Construction can begin immediately on the mid-rise, 231-unit rental apartment building at 1750 Old Meadow Road.

“Somos at McLean Metro Phase A will bring high quality affordable housing options to families and individuals in a very high barrier to entry market that is walkable to the McLean Metro and all the surrounding amenities that Tysons has to offer,” SCG Development President Steve Wilson said in a press release. “We are thrilled to move this project to the construction phase after many years of effort. I am very thankful that our team and partners who have shared this vision for our community and worked hard to make it happen.”

Built in 1984, the existing, six-story office building was vacant, and its demolition is now underway, a process expected to take about six weeks, according to SCG. A three-story parking garage on the site will remain as the base of one of the new residential buildings.

Approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in October 2022, the Somos project will deliver a total of 456 workforce dwelling units (WDUs) across two buildings. All of the WDUs will be aimed at households earning 30-60% of the area median income (AMI), which was $145,164 for the county, as of 2022.

The developer received funding help from Virginia, Fairfax County and Amazon for the project’s first phase, per the press release:

Virginia Housing, Virginia’s state housing finance agency, has committed over $54.5 million in financing, as well as 4% Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). These tax credits make it possible for the residential units to be available at rents affordable to residents earning 60% or less the area median income (AMI).

“Our investment towards Somos at McLean provides much needed increased affordable inventory in the Northern Virginia area,” said Tammy Neale, CEO of Virginia Housing. “We look forward to seeing the impact this property will have on residents and the community of McLean.”

Amazon is also supporting this new affordable housing community with a $28.97 million low-rate loan to Phase A from the Amazon Housing Equity Fund, a more than $2 billion commitment to create or preserve more than 20,000 affordable homes for low- to moderate-income families in the Arlington, Virginia-Washington D.C. region, Washington state’s Puget Sound region, and the Nashville, Tennessee region. SCG Development is also receiving substantial support from Fairfax County, reflecting the significance of this large-scale, transit-oriented development opportunity, and a contribution of tax credit equity from Stratford Capital Group.

Amazon also contributed a $55 million grant to accelerate construction of an all-affordable housing project near the Spring Hill Metro station in Tysons. The nonprofit Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) broke ground on the 516-unit Exchange at Spring Hill Station in December.

Through affiliates, SCG is leasing the Somos site from the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority (FCRHA), which has a ground lease that will ensure the housing is designated as affordable for at least 99 years.

“We are committed to creating groundbreaking solutions for Fairfax County’s affordable housing needs. Innovative partnership has enabled us to leverage private equity to convert an unused office building site into hundreds of affordable homes,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said, adding that she’s looking forward to a formal groundbreaking.

While it doesn’t have any commercial space, the Somos development plan included a “play and pedestrian court area,” a 6-foot-wide recreational trail and a 21,008-square-foot publicly accessible park along Old Meadow Road. The project will have a total of 1.21 acres of park space.

Construction on the first phase is expected to be 25 months, according to SCG.

“Phase B is looking towards a fall closing and will provide another 225 units,” the developer said.

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