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Downtown Herndon is slated for redevelopment into a mixed-use community (staff photo by Fatimah Waseem)

Building permits are still under review for the stalled redevelopment of downtown Herndon.

At a work session on Feb. 6, town manager Bill Ashton II said the town was still engaged in discussions with Comstock on the site plan process. At the time, Comstock had several items it was working on after town feedback.

A spokesperson for the Town of Herndon told FFXnow there were no further updates to report. Comstock, the Reston-based developer of the project, paused the development in April 2022, citing increased construction costs.

Under an agreement between the town and the developer last updated in late 2020, construction must begin by April 2024.

The cost of the $101 million project increased by $25 million due to issues related to materials, labor, and workforce restrictions caused by the pandemic. It’s unclear what the current estimate is.

Ashton reported in mid-November that Comstock had submitted a revised site plan to the town. Related permits are now in review.

In the works since 2017, Comstock’s plan for downtown Herndon would transform nearly 5 acres at the northeast corner of Center Street and Elden Street into a mixed-use development. The site is currently occupied by the Arts Herndon building.

The proposal calls for 273 apartments, approximately 17,000 square feet of retail space and a 16,265-square-foot arts center. The area would be served by a new, 726-space parking garage.

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Leslie Holt’s work “Perfect Night” will be on display at Tephra’s satellite gallery in Reston through June (courtesy Tephra ICA)

The Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art is launching an art exhibition featuring D.C.-based artists this week in its satellite gallery.

Restorative Gestures” will bring new work by artists Leslie Holt and Rose Jaffe to the Signature apartments in Reston Town Center from Friday, Feb. 16 through June 23.

According to Tephra ICA, Holt is an artist and educator with teaching experience at the college level for more than 15 years. She is also co-director of Red Dirt Studio, a warehouse studio for independent creative professionals in Mt. Rainier, Maryland.

Her previous work includes “Neuro Blooms,” a project that attempts to use mixed-media art to shed light on mental health conditions. The project has visited organizations and schools in Maryland, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.

A visual artist, Jaffe’s preferred media include mural painting, printmaking and digital illustration. She previously taught middle and high school art — a career path she dropped after pursuing art full-time.

She has painted more than 30 murals nationally and internationally, including 20 in the District. Her work often explores themes related to “political activism, natural healing, and spiritual grounding” to push for social change, Tephra ICA said in a press release.

Here’s more from Tephra on the work:

Holt’s Brain Stains, draped in the language of clinical technology, use emotionally resonant color palettes, PET scan imagery, and hand stitched text, to create expansive views of mental health conditions. A number of Holt’s works in the exhibition also draw from her personal involvement as a caregiver to her ailing parents at the end of their lives.

In a series of recent monoprints, Rose Jaffe explores her own journey of healing and thriving with stylized figures that fill the page with comfort and ease. The sensuous curves of the bodies along with growing plants and her vibrant use of color–including deep purples, bright greens, and radiant oranges–give these works a sense of jubilance and peace.

Together, the work from the two artists forms a restorative gesture that challenges common narratives of illness and recovery. This exhibition aims to inspire viewers to cultivate compassion for their own interior lives and the varied experiences of others.

The satellite gallery is open from Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s located inside the Signature apartments at 11850 Freedom Drive, where Tephra will host an opening reception and artist talk for “Restorative Gestures” on Thursday, Feb. 22 at 6 p.m.

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The gaming convention GAMEmason is set to return to George Mason University’s Fairfax campus (photo by Evan Cantwell/Creative Services)

(Updated at 2:35 p.m. on 2/14/2024) A two-day gaming convention will take over George Mason University’s Fairfax campus this month.

Organized by GMU’s student involvement office, game design program and GMU Esports, GAMEmason 2014 will take place on Friday, Feb. 23 and Saturday, Feb. 24 from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the Center for the Arts (4373 Mason Pond Drive).

The event will feature guest speakers from Bethesda Game Studios, Monument Sports Entertainment, and faculty and staff. Other attractions include free arcade games, tabletop and console gaming, augmented reality and virtual reality demonstrations, an artist alley featuring the work of artists and students, and gaming industry vendors.

Here’s more from GMU, breaking down the program:

On Friday, February 23, the day-long events will lead up to keynote speaker, voice actress and Guinness World Records holder for “Most Prolific Video Game Voice Actor (female)” Jennifer Hale. The morning begins with educational sessions including “Game without Pain and Work without Strain” featuring co-founder of One Health Point (1HP) Dr. Caitlin McGee, followed by voice actor Wes Johnson in “The Many Worlds of Voice Acting.” Next, Mason Associate Professor in Computer Game Design Greg Grimsby leads a discussion entitled “Developing Board Games” and after, Vice President of Esports at Monumental Sports & Entertainment Andrew McNeill leads “Journey through Esports, Hosting Large Events and the Esports Professional Scene.” The evening begins with “Getting a Job in the Game Industry,” led by Associate Producer at Bethesda Game Studios Nathan Hahn.

On Saturday, February 24, varsity level collegiate Esports teams from across the region will compete in tournaments. Games featured in the tournament will include Rocket League, League of Legends, Overwatch 2, Valorant, and Super Smash Brothers crew battles. GAMEmason attendees will be able to watch the teams as they compete live on the Center for the Arts stage. In addition to George Mason University, participating schools include James Madison University, Ohio University, Old Dominion University, Radford University, Saint Louis University, Shenandoah University, Syracuse University, [Northern Virginia Community College], Virginia Tech, Virginia Wesleyan University, Wake Forest University, and William and Mary University.

(Correction: GMU included a “University of Northern Virginia” among the schools participating in the esports tournament. Once based in Annandale, that university has been defunct since 2013. A GMU spokesperson confirmed Northern Virginia Community College was the intended reference.) 

The convention is $20 for Friday passes and $15 for Saturday. Attendees must be at least 16 years old, and those aged 16 or 17 must be accompanied by an adult. The event is free for GMU students, faculty and staff.

The event kicked off in 2009.

“Unique events such as these connect Mason students and the public with professionals in the field, and offer innovative opportunities for students to learn, grow, and create community during their time at Mason,” a university spokesperson told FFXnow.

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Cryptid Grove is the game designed in the extension of Escape Room Herndon (via Omer Aru)

Escape Room Herndon is officially expanding this week with a new room near its current location in Herndon Centre.

The latest game — Cryptid Grove — will open Thursday, Feb. 15 in the company’s new Raven’s Nest Escape Room at 388 Elden Street.

Able to accommodate up to 10 players, the game is designed for customers between the ages of 10 and 75 and described as having “moderate” level of difficulty, according to the company.

“Cryptid Grove offers an intriguing experience inspired by the lore of mysterious creatures like Bigfoot and Mothman, designed to engage adventurers of all ages,” Herndon Escape Room owner Omer Aru said. “Raven’s Nest is our expanded new location in a few doors down in the same shopping center.”

Escape Room Herndon opened its doors in 2016. It decided to expand with Raven’s Nest in reponse to burgeoning demand from the community. The space will also feature a 215-square-foot party room, set to open in March, and a second game expected in late 2024.

Reservations for “Cryptid Grove” are now available online.

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Look Dine-in Cinemas at Reston Town Center (file photo)

A popular tradition for local cinema-loving seniors is returning to Reston Town Center this month.

In conjunction with Reston Association, Look Dine-in Cinemas will host “Senior Movie Day” for the first time since it opened at 11940 Market Street late last fall. The event offers free screenings of popular films for adults aged 55 and older on the fourth Wednesday of each month.

The event’s revival will kick off on Feb. 28 with a showing of “Downton Abbey: A New Era.”

In a statement, RA Director of Recreation Laura Kowalski said the association is excited to bring back the event in partnership with Look Cinemas and Reston Town Center.

“Not only has Senior Movie Day been one of RA’s most long-standing events, it’s also one of the most anticipated and popular all year,” Kowalski said.

No registration is required, and the event is free. Doors open at 9:15 a.m. for refreshments and socialization, followed by the beginning of the movie at 10 a.m.

The next scheduled screening will be “Top Gun: Maverick” on March 27.

Senior Movie Days were put on hold after Bow Tie Cinemas, the space’s previous occupant, closed in May 2022. Started in 1994, the program had attracted more than 100,000 patrons over the years, RA previously told FFXnow.

Look Cinemas opened up its dine-in movie theater on Nov. 1. The 11-screen venue is the company’s first and, so far, only location in Virginia.

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TikTok appears to be coming soon to offices on Sunrise Valley Drive in Herndon (via Google Maps)

Social media giant TikTok appears to be eyeing space in Herndon.

Fairfax County’s land use database shows that the video-sharing service has applied for a permit at 13641 Sunrise Valley Drive near the Innovation Center Metro station.

The application was accepted by the county on Feb. 8 to allow commercial additions and alterations for a new tenant layout, but it’s unclear how much square footage the company will lease or what function the space will serve.

TikTok didn’t return multiple requests for comment from FFXnow. The applicant address listed on county permits is for the company’s California office at 5800 Bristol Parkway in Culver City, according to documents reviewed by FFXnow.

The company originated in 2016 when ByteDance, a Chinese technology company, launched the video-sharing platform Douyin. After success in China and Thailand, the company expanded in 2018 under the brand TikTok, which has since become one of the world’s most dominant social media apps.

In recent years, TikTok has come under scrutiny in the U.S. for its Chinese ties, which have raised national security issues, and its possible effects on children and teens. The company’s CEO and other social media leaders testified before Congress on Jan. 31, as federal lawmakers consider privacy, safety and content regulations.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has prohibited TikTok on state government devices, and he advocated for a ban on the platform for kids under 18.

This is not the first time that permits by TikTok have surfaced in the county’s database. Last year, a permit application for an interior tenant fit-out at 1900 Reston Metro Plaza was submitted in August but then quickly voided.

At the time, the company didn’t respond to comment requests from FFXnow. A representative for Comstock, the developer that owns the property, told FFXnow there was “no deal in progress at Reston Station” for TikTok.

TikTok established its global headquarters in Singapore and Culver City in 2020. Its owner, ByteDance, also has offices in the Seattle area, New York City, Chicago and D.C., among other U.S. cities.

Image via Google Maps

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Town of Herndon police (courtesy Herndon Police Department)

Updated at 6:55 p.m. — All lanes on Elden and Monroe streets have reopened after this morning’s crash, Herndon police said shortly after 11 a.m.

Earlier: Local police are investigating a crash at Elden and Monroe Street in Herndon involving a school bus and delivery truck this morning (Monday).

No injuries were reported in the crash, and there were no children on the bus, according to a Herndon Police Department spokesperson.

However, traffic is currently being blocked from turning onto Monroe Street from Elden Street, the police department tweeted shortly before 9:15 a.m.

Commuters are encouraged to find an alternate route.

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Pradip Dhakal, who has served on the council for three terms, is running for Herndon mayor (via Pradip Dhakal)

Another town council member has thrown his name in the mix in the race for Herndon mayor.

Councilmember Pradip Dhakal, who has served on the council for three consecutive terms, is running for the position. His colleague, Councilmember Keven LeBlanc, announced his intention to run earlier this week.

“Herndon deserves a leader who can collaborate with everyone, foster open discussions for new ideas, and introduce initiatives to propel our town forward,” Dhakal said. “I am committed to working tirelessly to make Herndon an even better place for all our residents.”

Dhakal says he has the “majority support from the current town council,” adding that he hopes to champion diversity if elected.

“It’s crucial for Herndon to have leadership that mirrors the diverse background and demography of our community, ensuring inclusivity and representation for all,” Dhakal said. “If elected, I will be the first-ever mayor of color from the town of Herndon and I believe that will be historic milestone for the town.”

His top priorities are increasing affordability and workforce housing, implementing traffic calming initaitives, and increasing overall safety and security in the town.

In his campaign announcement, LeBlanc included a statement of support from current mayor Sheila Olem, state Sen. Jennifer Boysko, Del. Irene Shin and former mayor Lisa Merkel. He said he would be the first person openly from the LGBTQ community to serve as Herndon’s mayor, if elected.

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A townhome community is proposed at Coppermine Road in McNair (via Fairfax County)

Another bundle of houses is on the path to development in McNair near Herndon.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of a plan on Wednesday (Feb. 7) to build 48 stacked townhouses at the northwest intersection of Coppermine and Centreville Road — potentially revitalizing a swath of land near Dulles International Airport that has sat mostly vacant for around 20 years.

Dranesville District Commissioner John Ulfelder said the proposal creates a positive use for the site, whose only occupant right now is a PNC Bank. The drive-thru bank won’t be affected by the redevelopment, according to the application.

“I think we’ve come to a point with the proposed housing and residential use that [it] is a good use for this site,” Ulfelder said, noting that multiple proposals for the site have fallen through. At one point, Wawa was contemplating the site for a location as well.

The development plan includes an 8-foot-wide asphalt trail connection from a bus shelter on Centreville Road to the existing Merrybrook Valley Stream trail, a dedication of 21 feet of right-of-way along Centreville Road for streetscaping efforts, and designation of 40% of the site as open space.

“We have spent a lot of time trying to think about how to develop and what should and could go on this site, which does some have constraints with respect to the power line, some existing [Resource Protection Area] and the fact that it is at the intersection of two large streets,” said Sara Mariska, a land use attorney for Oden Feldman Pittleman who represented the developer Dulles Center LLC.

The applicant also plans to dedicate 12% of the units as Workforce Dwelling Units for households earning between 70 and 100% of the area median income — a range that Mariska noted was lower than what the county requires.

Dulles Center LLC had previously planned a mixed-use development on the site. The proposal was approved by the county back in 2003 but ultimately didn’t move forward due to market conditions.

The latest plan for townhouses was put on pause last fall after Beacon Hill Missionary Baptist Church — which neighbors the site — raised concerns about storage and the availability of two trailers on the developer’s property. The site’s previous owner gifted the trailers to the church, which currently uses them for a food bank and administrative purposes.

Connell Lee, a representative for the church, told the planning commission that the church is comfortable with the project moving forward after the developer agreed to several proffers committing it to finding a long-term solution for the trailers.

The developer suggested several options, including replacement of the trailers, monetary compensation, or finding another location. An arrangement would likely be finalized before a site plan is processed.

The development plan now goes to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which is scheduled to hold a public hearing on March 19.

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Entering the Town of Herndon (staff photo by Fatimah Waseem)

The Town of Herndon is officially opening up its coffers to support community cultural festivals.

A Community Cultural Festival Donation Program launched this week, allowing local organizations to request funds for free, public cultural events, the Town of Herndon announced Monday (Feb. 5).

The goal of the program is to “support a variety of events…that celebrate and share the cultures represented in the community, are open and welcoming to all, and bridge parts of the community…to build understanding,” the town says.

The town council approved a policy to create the program on Oct. 23, shortly after agreeing to contribute $2,015 for a Pakistan Heritage Day event. Council members said the town needed clear guidelines and protocols for future funding requests.

Under the newly created program, nonprofit and not-for-profit organizations must meet several criteria to receive funds. The organization must be in good legal standing and funding requests should not exceed 50% of the total event budget or $10,000, whichever number is lower.

In addition, the program is intended for new events, so the requested event can’t have been held in the town within the last five years.

The organization also can’t receive a prior donation within a fiscal year. More information on how to apply is also available on the town’s website.

This fiscal year, the Town of Herndon has allocated $70,000 for the program — an amount that will vary on a yearly basis based on the council’s direction, town spokesperson Anne Curtis says.

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