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Morning Notes

Wolftrap Creek in Vienna is high during a rainy Saturday (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Amazon Plans Chantilly Data Center — “Amazon.com Inc.’s data center arm is working to develop a new data center facility in Chantilly, with plans to invest nearly $36 million into the project, according to Fairfax County records. The vacant property located at 3980 Virginia Mallory Drive is part of Amazon’s 46.4 acres in Avion Parkway, which the company bought for $55.9 million in 2021.” [Washington Business Journal]

Rappelling Stunt Supports Fairfax County Nonprofit — “On Thursday and Friday, about 80 people, including two local elected officials, a Washington Post reporter, and a member of the D.C. Divas women’s football team, dressed in full pads and uniform, rappelled down the side of the Crystal City Hilton to raise funds and awareness for New Hope Housing.” [The Washington Post]

County to Choose COVID-19 Memorial Site by September — “The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is positioning the county as one of the first localities in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. to build a permanent pandemic remembrance. The Fairfax County Park Authority recently submitted a memorandum to the board, summarizing project details, including design considerations, the project timeline and next steps, including the memorial’s location.” [WTOP]

County Board Sides with American Legion After Neighbor Complaints — “The Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) voted 4-1 April 27 to overturn the zoning administrator’s ruling that American Legion Post 270 in McLean improperly was operating as a banquet-and-reception hall. Surrounding residents have complained about noise, loitering, late-night events and parties lasting until the early morning” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

FCPD Traffic Campaign Yields Citations — “On Tuesday [May 3], officers from our Traffic Division wrote over 100 citations and warnings during our extra enforcement campaign in the Annandale area. This campaign runs through May 22 and is geared towards making our roads safe for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers.” [FCPD/Facebook]

Afghan Refugees Look for Jobs in Tysons — “Job seekers, like 21-year-old Mohammad Fasih Yaqoobi, had the chance to meet with more than 30 employers hiring for roles at all skill levels. In Yaqoobi’s case, the fair represented an opportunity to provide for his family, who have already lived a lifetime of unimaginable circumstances.” [NBC4]

Chapel Road Closed in Clifton Starting Today — “Chapel Road (Route 641) between Water Street and Yates Ford Road (Route 612) will be closed to through traffic, weather permitting, Monday, May 9 through Wednesday, May 11 between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. each day to replace a stormwater pipe, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.” [VDOT]

It’s Monday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 60 and low of 42. Sunrise at 6:03 am and sunset at 8:10 pm. [Weather.gov]

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(Updated at 8:30 p.m.) An infusion of funds from Amazon will help accelerate the construction of Tysons’ first entirely affordable housing project.

Officially announced at 2:30 p.m. today (Tuesday), the $55 million investment from the Amazon Housing Equity Fund will allow the nonprofit Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) to construct both of its Dominion Square West buildings instead of breaking the project up into phases.

Replacing a car dealership parking lot on Spring Hill Road, the multifamily residential buildings will collectively include more than 500 dwelling units, all of them priced for households that earn a low to moderate income, according to Fairfax County.

“We know that an investment in affordable housing is more than just a building,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said at a press conference. “It is an investment in what our residents will achieve given the firm foundation of a safe, livable, and affordable home.”

The Fairfax County Planning Commission approved the project’s first phase — a nine-story, 175-unit apartment building on the northern side of the 2-acre property — on Jan. 12. The units will be aimed at people who earn 30, 50, and 60% of the area’s median income, which was $127,866, as of 2020.

The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing will build buildings C5 and C6 in Tysons’ Dominion Square West development (via Fairfax County)

For the second building on the south side, designated C5, the conceptual development plan that the county adopted for Dominion Square West in 2017 allows two options:

  • A 260-foot-tall high-rise with 16 to 25 floors and up to 320 units
  • An 85-foot-tall building with six to eight floors and a maximum of 175 units

Both options allow for up to 15,000 square feet of retail space.

While the Amazon funds will cover construction, APAH still needs to get a final plan for the building approved by the county, Fairfax County Department of Housing and Community Development spokesperson Ben Boxer confirmed.

Officials announced today that the site will include a 30,000 square-foot community center with a gym, fitness room, senior and youth multi-purpose rooms, an art/maker space, sensory room, and more. The programs and resources will be provided by the county’s Department of Neighborhood and Community Services.

“As the planning process gets underway, NCS will solicit input from the community to consider programming and services that will meet the needs of the surrounding community,” the news release said.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors allocated $43 million in January to buy the Dominion Square West land and help APAH finance the first building in the project. The funds came from a variety of sources, including commercial developer contributions, federal COVID-19 relief money, and the county’s affordable housing fund.

The county also designated Dominion Square West a revitalization area in February to help APAH apply for Low Income Housing Tax Credits. While the nonprofit is developing the buildings, the property will be owned by the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

Launced in January 2021, Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund is intended to offset the soaring real estate prices that tend to follow the retail giant. However, the $750 million pledged in the D.C. area so far has mostly been aimed at the higher end of its 30-80% AMI target, The Washington Post reported last month.

Construction on the Dominion Square West project could potentially begin as early as the fall of 2023, the county says.

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(Updated at 5 p.m.) Fairfax City’s latest grocery store is giving a new meaning to the term five-finger discount.

Amazon Fresh opened in Point 50, previously known as the Fairfax Shopping Center, today (Thursday), boasting new technology that lets shoppers buy items without having to get them individually scanned.

All they need to do is swipe an app or a credit card when they enter and exit the store.

“The goal is to make the smoothest transition,” Amazon Fresh District Manager Jim Gillespie said.

Shoppers inundated the approximately 30,000-square-foot store at 10360 Fairfax Blvd. when it opened at 7 a.m. with a ribbon-cutting and the potential for prizes and discounts.

Fairfax resident Nile Milton grabbed a pineapple and wondered how the store would know who and what to charge.

“We’re going to see how this works out,” said Milton, an Aldi regular who also frequents Giant and Walmart.

When Milton asked how purchasing worked, a worker explained that the store’s overhead cameras detect what items customers take and link them to people when they enter the store. Weight sensors also assist.

Traditional checkout lines with clerks who scan items are also available.

The new technology is a first in the region for Amazon and involves some 1,600 cameras for the store, according to a tech worker. A public relations representative later challenged that figure, saying that the number of cameras in stores are in the hundreds.

“Anything they take off the shelf is automatically added to their virtual cart, and anything they put back on the shelf comes out of their virtual cart,” Laura Hayes, a public relations representative for Amazon, said in an email regarding customers who choose to pick the Just Walk Out technology option.

People can use the Amazon app to link their bank account. And those with the app can use their palm to swipe in and out of the store, somewhat like a touchless digital fingerprint.

It’s one of the ways the company is looking to transform the industry. The store also touts competitive prices, such as 15-cent bananas and 89-cent loaves of fresh bread, and it plans to offer two-hour delivery of groceries, a standard for the brand, within coming weeks.

Fairfax resident Tom Castro arrived at the store at 3:55 a.m. and waited with others in the rain. As part of a prize for being first, he received flowers, which he promptly gave to his wife.

Castro said he visited the store about a half dozen times before it opened, wondering what the company’s timeline was. He said the pandemic led him to become a believer in having groceries delivered.

“We’re thrilled Amazon has decided to bring this technology to Fairfax — a city that embraces innovation and technology — for the benefit of our residents, office workers, and visitors,” Mayor David Meyer said in a statement. “Amazon has been a great partner in the development of this Fresh store, and we are looking forward to welcoming them into our community.”

Other stores in the region are planned for Arlington, Lorton and Manassas. The company is hiring hundreds of workers for those stores. Hayes said the Lorton store could open this year.

Amazon has also targeted Bailey’s Crossroads for a grocery store, but staff were unable to identify whether it will be an Amazon Fresh. The company also operates Whole Foods.

The Fairfax store’s hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The company first brought Amazon Fresh to Fairfax County last summer, with a store opening in Franconia (7005 Manchester Blvd.).

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Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk talks to Fairfax County Economic Development Authority President and CEO Victor Hoskins (via Fairfax County)

A new innovation hub in the Lee District Community Center (7950 Audubon Avenue) is expected to open in May.

With the support of private partners and state and federal funds, the Workforce Innovation Skills Hub (WISH) is intended to expand job opportunities for residents living along the Richmond Highway corridor.

“With Amazon and Virginia Tech making significant investments a few miles to our north and the proximity to Fort Belvoir and their stream of contracting opportunities, the Richmond Highway Corridor is the ideal location for a workforce development program,” Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk’s office said.

Lusk hopes the workforce training program will give residents a chance to earn a middle-class income and end generational poverty.

“The ultimate goal of the WISH is to create an accessible community hub where residents can walk to and receive training in the trades and technology jobs of the future,” he said.

The hub in Groveton received $2.4 million from the county’s coffers and is in the process of securing $800,000 in supplemental state and federal funding.

County funds were primarily used to acquire and renovate the space, including bringing the center up to code.

Lusk and his office have been working with Amazon for more than year to determine how the online retail and web services company will support the project.

So far, as part of a recent land-use application to build a data center in Springfield, Amazon plans to work with Lusk’s office on contracting related to the construction and build-out of the data center.

Amazon received the county’s blessing in February to construct a roughly 242,000-square-foot data center at 7961 Loisdale Road in Springfield.

The company will also provide the office with the number of jobs available in the data center. Program constructors will then build a model to connect job training to existing jobs in the Lee District.

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