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The Red Bird is now serving up six tiers of hot chicken in Reston.

The halal hot chicken chain has joined the roster of restaurants in South Lakes Village Center (11120 South Lakes Drive) after opening its first Northern Virginia franchise location in Vienna five months ago.

The Red Bird did not respond to a request for comment by press time. The company has previously said it also has plans to open in Arlington, Falls Church and Ashburn.

The Reston location is currently open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., while the Vienna spot (282 Cedar Lane) is open until 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday (and until 9 p.m. on Sunday).

The chicken sandwiches and tenders range from mild to extra hot and comes with a three-inch potato roll.

The chain aims to serve a range of diners, from a college student to a “big-time baller,” per its website. Its sandwich is priced at $4.99, and a single tender goes for $3.29.

Hot chicken, which was first popular in Black communities in Nashville, has seen increased prevalence in recent years.

South Lakes Village Center also features Mediterranean bistro Cafesano, Lakeside Asia Cafe, Red’s Table and a Chipotle. The Red Bird was expected to open in February, per the shopping center’s Facebook page.

South Lakes Village Center is also in the midst of a spring concert series. This Saturday (April 20), acoustic duo Duck Chuck Goose will perform from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Photo via VARedBird/Instagram

The solar power installation company Ipsun Solar at the 2023 Vienna Green Expo (courtesy Town of Vienna)

In Fairfax County, sheep mow lawns, beekeepers remove misplaced swarms and gardeners teach the community.

The Town of Vienna will feature organizations that do all that and more at its annual Green Expo at the Vienna Community Center (120 Cherry Street SE). Sponsored by the town’s Conservation and Sustainability Commission, the expo is set for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 18 — four days before Earth Day.

Local company LambMowers, which provides “professional grazing services,” is sponsoring an outdoor exhibit of ewes and lambs, per a press release. Live birds of prey will also be on the scene, courtesy of volunteer organization Secret Garden Birds and Bees.

Other exhibitors at this year’s expo include Fairfax Master Naturalists, Fairfax County’s chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, multiple garden clubs and an individual who raises chickens at home.

“More than 30 local exhibitors will be on hand with information about green landscaping ideas, composting, recycling, energy efficiency, solar power, water conservation and more,” the town said in its press release.

One expo attendee will walk away with a free home energy audit valued at $595. Home energy audits find cost-effective ways to boost energy efficiency, according to the Energy Star program from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Attendees can also talk to local experts about sustainability, with scheduled “Ask Me Anything” sessions that will cover topics such as recycling infrastructure and native plants.

For example, horticulturist Barbara Ryan will review how residents with yards can incorporate native plants and sustainable practices. Ryan owns the local landscaping company, Chain Bridge Native Landscapes.

After the Green Expo, Fairfax County residents can mark Earth Day on Saturday, April 20 at Earth Day Fairfax, a festival featuring volunteer opportunities, live music, farm animals and more. That event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sully Historic Site in Chantilly (3650 Historic Sully Way).

Fairfax County Courthouse (staff photo by James Jarvis)

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is considering using kiosks equipped with artificial intelligence to provide select legal information in a variety of languages.

The kiosks would feature a virtual assistant that could answer frequently asked questions using a closed-AI system (as distinct from open AI), according to Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, who introduced a board matter on the kiosks at the board’s March 19 meeting.

“The distinction is that we will program the answers to frequently asked questions into the system using curated templates and language,” Lusk told FFXnow. “The AI program will not be creating its own answers.”

None of the questions are finalized yet, but they could help users identify forms and address other process-related queries. The virtual assistant would also be available online, and both resources would have accessibility features.

County and court staff are reviewing the kiosks and online AI program, and the board voted on March 19 to direct staff to finalize its review and report back. The county also plans to reach out to relevant nonprofits to assist in testing the kiosks, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said at the meeting.

The kiosks and online resource would be an “extension” of the self-help resource center that the county rolled out in October, according to Lusk’s board matter. Staff at the resource center can explain court operations, provide contact information for legal services and answer some general questions.

The resource center launched to assist county residents who are representing themselves in court. The new resources could help residents who aren’t able to travel to the center, which is located in the Fairfax County Courthouse (4110 Chain Bridge Road), though no kiosk locations have been selected.

“Personally, I feel it could be beneficial to be placed in government facilities that are remote from the Fairfax County Government Center and the Fairfax County Courthouse,” Lusk said by email, citing the Gerry Highland Government Center (8350 Richmond Highway) or Franconia Governmental Center (6121 Franconia Road) as examples. “We know that people live great distances from the Government Center and Courthouse, which limits the accessibility of these services.”

The board matter passed unanimously, despite a public meeting notice issue that McKay said left some board members without the opportunity to see the kiosks. Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik also said she was concerned about making sure the kiosks were fully vetted before they’re implemented.

The topic will come to the board’s health and human services committee for additional discussion, though the board didn’t specify a date. The committee’s next meeting is currently scheduled for June 4.

Testing the kiosk with actual users and not rushing the process will be important, McKay said, adding that the county should also plan to reach out to the state about support for the program.

“What we don’t want to do is just rush in and further complicate and frustrate people where there’s a misinterpretation and they’re getting the wrong documents that they need to help their case,” McKay said.

Virginia First Lady Suzanne Youngkin presents the Spirit of Virginia award to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association (official photo by Shealah Craighead)

The nonprofit responsible for historic preservation at Mount Vernon collected a state-level honor last week.

The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association received the first of six 2024 Spirit of Virginia awards from Gov. Glenn Youngkin and First Lady Suzanne Youngkin on Friday (March 15).

“It is fitting that during Women’s History Month we celebrate the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association’s centuries-old commitment to preserving one of our Commonwealth’s most historic homes,” Suzanne Youngkin said in a press release.

The Spirit of Virginia awards recognize people and organizations nominated by the governor’s cabinet secretaries and then selected by the first lady and governor. The criteria, per the first lady’s website, requires that honorees be service-oriented, pioneering, innovative and industrious, reinvigorating, imaginative, and transformative (in other words, have “spirit”).

The MVLA, which has owned the Mount Vernon estate since 1858, is a privately-funded organization that preserves, maintains and restores George Washington’s mansion, along with the surrounding grounds.

“We are honored to be the first recipient of the 2024 Spirit of Virginia Award,” Margaret Hartman Nichols, 23rd regent of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, said in the press release. “The Association’s legacy of stewardship began with our trailblazing founder, Ann Pamela Cunningham, and has continued for the last 166 years uninterrupted. It is fitting that the home of the man who was first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen was rescued by the women who were first in preservation.”

The MVLA isn’t the first local organization to get this recognition from the governor’s mansion.

Last year, Fairfax City’s Cameron’s Coffee & Chocolates (9639 Fairfax Blvd) made the list for its work with young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. One of 2022’s awards went to Vienna’s Jill’s House (9011 Leesburg Pike), a Christian non-profit that offers one-to-two day overnight respite care to kids, teens and young adults with intellectual disabilities.

Menstrual pads and tampons (via Natracare on Unsplash)

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is marking Women’s History Month with a menstrual supply drive.

Starting today (Monday) through March 29, sites throughout the county will collect new, sealed packages of tampons, pads, liners and menstrual cups.

Those supplies will go to local shelters and nonprofits, including Bringing Resources to Aid Women’s Shelters (BRAWS), Western Fairfax Christian Ministries and Food for Others.

All Fairfax County Public Library branches are collecting donations, as are all nine magisterial district offices, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay’s office and the Sully Community Center. The PARC at Tysons (8508 Leesburg Pike) is also accepting supplies from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday).

At the board’s Feb. 20 meeting, Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik announced that all supervisors would support the drive to help community members “for whom access to menstrual supplies can pose a financial burden.”

“These essential hygiene products are costly, and the lack of access to safe and clean menstrual products can negatively impact someone’s overall physical and emotional well-being,” Palchik said at the meeting.

This is the first time that Fairfax County has conducted this drive, and it comes more than a year after Virginia stopped charging sales tax on menstrual products.

BRAWS, one of the supply drive’s beneficiaries, says one in five Virginia residents don’t have access to needed menstrual supplies.

“By hosting this drive with collection sites all over the county, we are raising awareness while helping meet these basic needs,” Palchik wrote in a statement to FFXnow.

Other Women’s History Month events in the area include classes and programs from the Fairfax County Park Authority and a panel of local female authors at the City of Fairfax Regional Library.

Photo via Natracare on Unsplash

The Fairfax County Park Authority’s Providence RECenter (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The Fairfax County Park Authority wants to know how community members are using its park facilities.

The park authority has launched an equity survey, open through Monday, April 1, as part of its ongoing work to improve access to park programs.

“The Park Authority has intentionally been applying an equity lens to our park system in order to ensure that the accessibility and variety of our program offerings align with the present-day values and interests of our community,” Park Authority Executive Director Jai Cole said. “This latest outreach effort is important to help us identify the barriers that yet need to be overcome such as economic, cultural, transportation and others so that we can continue to make the benefits of parks accessible to everyone.”

The survey asks about the use of parks, rec centers, summer camps, golf courses, nature centers and historical sites. In several cases, respondents have space to explain why they don’t use a given resource. Respondents are asked to provide some personal information, including race, ethnicity and home ZIP code.

“We’re particularly interested in understanding potential barriers that you experience which prevent you from taking full advantage of recreational opportunities,” the survey instructions read.

The survey builds on a recent equity study that found FCPA’s approach to funding some of its programs, including summer camps and rec center memberships, is not consistent with national best practices and is a barrier to their accessibility.

The current model requires fees to cover 100% of both direct program costs, such as equipment, and indirect overhead costs, such as building utilities. In contrast, the median cost recovery from fees across parks and recreation agencies nationally is 25%, and cost recovery typically does not include indirect costs, the study says.

Conducted by the consulting firm HR&A, the study points to greater racial diversity and diversity in household income in Rec-PAC, a recreational program that doesn’t have to recover 100% of its costs, compared to summer camps and other work operating with full cost recovery.

In the case of summer camps, 71% of campers come from households making at least $150,000 per year, even though just 40% of the county’s population meets that income bracket; 69% of summer camp participants are white, compared to 50% of the county’s population.

“These high fees make many programs unaffordable and therefore inaccessible to a large portion of the population, and it hampers the park authority’s ability to provide equitable services,” HR&A Managing Partner Stan Wall told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors when presenting the study’s initial findings in January.

The equity study includes two main recommendations. First, for an estimated $9.4 million, FCPA could reduce some fees across the board by factoring community benefit into its cost recovery requirement. For instance, children’s swim lessons would not require full cost recovery.

Second, FCPA could offer targeted subsidies to help lower-income households take advantage of recreation programs and resources.

In total, the study estimates it would take $17.2 million to implement a sliding fee scale for certain programs and flexible annual vouchers to cover some recreation expenses for qualified households, including costs for administrative work, outreach and software.

To fund these programs, the county could consider “a dedicated tax stream,” according to the presentation.

“The good news is that many other places have dedicated tax streams for parks and recreation, whether property tax levies or other creative funding streams, and these measures consistently have high levels of voter support,” Wall said.

The equity survey’s results will help inform the FCPA’s recommendations to its board and the Board of Supervisors, which are expected to come this fall.

South Block logo (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

South Block may be on the verge of an East Coast expansion, but for its next location, the regional juice and smoothie bowl chain is sticking relatively close to home.

Announced in a Halloween Instagram post, South Block’s 16th shop is set to open in The Field at Commonwealth (14383 Newbrook Drive) in Chantilly this summer. Construction will begin within the next couple weeks, South Block founder and CEO Amir Mostafavi told FFXnow in an email.

The shop, which serves smoothies, açai bowls, juices and toasts, will be situated alongside a Peet’s Coffee, UPS Store and Chipotle.

“We love Fairfax County,” wrote Mostafavi, who grew up in McLean. Following a 2020 opening in the Town of Vienna, South Block opened its first Fairfax County location last March in McLean’s Chesterbrook Shopping Center (6246 Old Dominion Drive).

The company also plans to start construction on a location in Fairfax’s Fair City Mall (9650 Main Street) this summer and is negotiating a lease in Springfield, Mostafavi wrote.

“Our longer term plan is to start expanding into new markets outside of the DMV, but we feel there [are] still a ton of amazing communities in the DMV that we would love to be a part of,” he wrote.

Private equity firm Savory Fund acquired a stake in South Block in a deal announced at the end of January. That deal keeps Mostafavi as the company’s CEO.

The new partnership aims to bring South Block up to 50 East Coast locations. South Block’s first storefront opened in Clarendon in 2011, and the chain’s most recent location opened last July in Amazon’s HQ2.

“More important than scale, where we add dozens more units, we want to grow the business from within and make sure that we grow the base of our cult following and the locations we currently have,” Savory Fund Managing Partner and co-founder Andrew Smith told FFXnow’s sister site ARLnow.

Following the announcement, Mostafavi told ARLnow that the entire South Block team will stay intact.

Safety and operational improvements are planned for the GW Parkway’s southern segment and Mount Vernon Trail improvements project scope (via National Park Service)

A stretch of the George Washington Memorial Parkway in southern Fairfax County is moving toward some major changes, as is the neighboring Mount Vernon Trail.

The National Park Service, which maintains the GW Parkway and much of the Mount Vernon Trail, plans to start “initial design work and planning for key aspects of the project” this year, per a Jan. 26 press release.

The announcement came after the Environmental Protection Agency released an assessment finding no significant environmental effects from the proposed changes, which will include a road diet and intersection and trail upgrades.

Once work is done, the parkway will be reduced to one southbound travel lane between Mount Vernon and Belle View Boulevard and one northbound lane between Mount Vernon and Tulane Drive. The Mount Vernon Trail, which is typically 8 or 9 feet wide right now, will be expanded to 10 or 12 feet wide in certain areas.

“The primary goal of the project is to enhance safety and reliability for users of the parkway and trail, while preserving the area’s scenic and historic character,” the NPS said. “As vital routes for both local and visiting cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers, these improvements are crucial for the continued enjoyment and safety of everyone who uses these routes.”

The affected portion of the GW Parkway covers about 8.5 miles from George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate (3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway) up to the Hunting Creek Bridge south of Alexandria City. According to the NPS, neither the south section of the Parkway nor its drainage systems has had a “comprehensive rehabilitation” since it was constructed in 1932.

Other changes will include a replacement of road surface that the NPS characterizes as “deteriorated” and improvements to drainage and stormwater management.

On the portion of the roadway with a road diet, the plan is to set up two right-hand shoulders or, at southbound intersections, right-turn lanes. Plus, the road will feature a new striped median or center turn lane.

A number of intersections will also see updates intended to make them safer, including the ones with Vernon View Drive, Waynewood Blvd and the access to Tulane Drive, Belle View Blvd and Morningside Lane. A study of crashes on GW Parkway in 2005-2015 and 2018-2019 revealed crashes were most severe at intersections with those roadways, mostly due to vehicle speeds.

Select intersections will also get crosswalks.

The NPS-administered portions of the Mount Vernon Trail will also see stormwater management improvements. Four trail bridges will be replaced, and repairs are planned for 29 more.

The planned trail widening comes nearly four years after NPS finished a study that determined the trail is “relatively narrow by modern standards.”

A full construction schedule and traffic management plan will come after initial design work and planning, but NPS documents indicate that the trail will remain usable to pedestrians and cyclists during construction. Closed sections will be serviced by alternate routes and temporary detours.

The affected section of the GW Parkway may see temporary lane closures, and access to its “recreational, natural, and cultural areas” may be restricted during construction, per the environmental assessment for the project.

A Bird e-scooter on the sidewalk in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County’s only electric scooter provider will continue operating even after filing for bankruptcy last month.

The company, Bird, will also maintain its scooters in Fairfax City, where it’s one of two companies in a pilot program.

“We expect to continue operations in Fairfax and Fairfax County as normal and we look forward to working with the city and county administration as a partner into the future,” a Bird representative wrote in an email to FFXnow.

The county and city have both been told by the company that service will go on. Bird has permission to operate 300 devices in Fairfax County, while the City of Fairfax generally permits up to 250 devices per company.

Bird and Superpedestrian’s LINK got permission to bring their products to Fairfax County in July 2021 following a November 2019 county board ordinance regulated shared mobility devices. Superpedestrian recently stopped all U.S. operations, though it had already been dropped from the county’s operator list after failing to renew its permit in January 2022.

The county doesn’t appear to have any new partners in the offing at the moment.

“Anyone may submit a Shared Mobility Device Operator Permit Application for review,” wrote Rebecca Makely, director of the county’s department of cable and consumer services, in an email to FFXnow.

Bird’s shared mobility devices saw nearly 20,000 rides between July and December 2023, according to data provided by the county, with an average ride distance of just over a mile during that period.

FairfaxCity authorized a shared mobility pilot program of its own in May 2019, but has yet to establish a permanent program. Bird and San Francisco-based Lime are currently authorized under the pilot, which the city council unanimously voted to extend through June 30, 2024 at a Jan. 9 meeting.

City staff expects to develop a proposal for a more permanent program by the time this extension ends.

“There was a lot of bumpiness during Covid, but a lot of the operations and usage have stabilized, and we feel like we can now begin to transition to a more permanent, long-term program,” Chloe Ritter, the city’s multimodal transportation planner, said at the meeting.

While the city doesn’t expect Bird’s bankruptcy filing to have immediate effects, it could inform program planning.

“We can’t predict what’s going to happen in six months or two years, but I think it’s a good reminder for us to keep our program flexible to respond to those kinds of things,” Ritter said.

In neighboring Arlington County, scooter and e-bike provider Veo recently declined to renew its permit, citing market conditions. Superpedestrian is also exiting Arlington as it shutters its U.S. business.

Bird and Bird-owned Spin still operate in Arlington, as does Lime, which announced near the end of 2023 that it had logged 500 million total rides on its devices.

Musician and activist Calvin Earl will lead a class on the music of the Civil Rights Movement for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in McLean (courtesy McLean Community Center)

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is this Monday (Jan. 15), and local events will honor the civil rights leader and provide community engagement opportunities.

The holiday marks King’s birthday (Jan. 15, 1929), and it is also a Congressionally-designated day of service.

A sampling of the many MLK Day events planned around Fairfax County includes speeches, a march and volunteer projects:

2024 Reston Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration
Saturday, Jan. 13-Monday, Jan. 15
Multiple locations
Some events are free, some are ticketed

The Reston Community Center has a full slate of events, including community service projects on Saturday morning at Cathy Hudgins Community Center at Southgate (12125 Pinecrest Road) and a musical performance on Sunday at RCC Hunter Woods — Center Stage (2310 Colts Neck Road). On Monday at 11 a.m., Rev. William J. Barber will deliver a keynote address to a sold-out audience at RCC Hunter Woods. If you don’t have tickets, you can join a waitlist at the box office at 10 a.m.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration Keynote Address
Saturday, Jan. 13
4 p.m.
The Alden Theatre (1234 Ingleside Ave.)
$30 per ticket, or $25 for seniors and $20 for McLean Community Center district residents

Former chairman of the Republican National Committee and former lieutenant governor of Maryland Michael Steele will deliver an address titled “The Black Experience & The American Dream.”

Music of the Civil Rights Movement
Sunday, Jan. 14
2-3:30 p.m.
The Alden Theatre (1234 Ingleside Ave.)
$10 per ticket, or $7 for seniors and $5 for MCC district residents

The Alden Theater at the McLean Community Center will host musician and activist Calvin Earl for a class covering “the music of the Civil Rights Movement and beyond,” per an event description. There will be a Q&A.

Martin Luther King Jr. Service and Learning Event
Monday, Jan. 15
10-11:30 a.m.
Frying Pan Farm Park Visitor Center
$8 per person, registration required

Families can engage with educational materials and a service project at the Frying Pan Farm Park Visitor Center (2709 West Ox Road, Herndon). Activities will be set up at stations and feature lessons about Martin Luther King Jr., the Civil Rights Movement and giving back to the community, per an event description.

Give Together
Monday, Jan. 15
10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Northern Virginia Community College — Ernst Community Cultural Center
Free, registration required

Volunteer Fairfax is commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at the community college’s Annandale campus (8333 Little River Turnpike) by encouraging families to support local nonprofits. Projects will include a food drive and food packing, “caring kits” for community members in need of support, no-tie fleece blankets for veterans and more. Participating kids can earn passport stamps as they complete projects.

Annual March for Unity and Freedom
Monday, Jan. 15
10 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Starts at Tinner Hill Civil Rights Monument (Tinner Hill Road & South Washington Street)
Free, registration requested

Attendees will gather at the Tinner Hill Civil Rights Monument in Falls Church City and make their way to The Falls Church (115 East Fairfax Street) in the March for Unity and Freedom.


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