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Visit Fairfax President and CEO Barry Biggar talks outside George Washington’s Mount Vernon for a tourism event (staff photo by David Taube)

Visit Fairfax is exploring the idea of a tourism improvement district, which could mean an added fee to hotel stays and other amenities.

The tourism organization’s president and CEO, Barry Biggar, said the proposal could go to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for a vote this September. The fee would go toward marketing the region, in accordance with a General Assembly law passed last year.

Biggar says southern Fairfax County will be targeted for the district, which would act on its own authority and set fees that could vary for different business types. It would mark a first for the county and could be a model for other areas, he said.

“That money then is collected, accumulated and used purely for the purpose of marketing, promoting the area…which collects the money, but also capital development and capital improvement,” Biggar told FFXnow.

The move could generate an estimated $1 million per year from hotels and restaurants, Biggar said.

It comes amid a county effort to revitalize and rebrand the Route 1 corridor. So far, that push has brought promises of bus rapid transit and a “Potomac Banks: Explore Fairfax South” tourism campaign with a discount pass for historic sites, partnering businesses and more.

“Only the hotels here in the area would be included, so that wouldn’t be added to a Tysons hotel,” Biggar said of the possible fee. “For a hotel, they may go, ‘We’ll do a dollar a room per night.’ For a restaurant, they may go…a half a percent of the total bill. For an attraction, you know, maybe 50 cents per admission.”

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A sign outside Tysons Corner Center (via Google Maps)

Fairfax County is examining its signage rules to possibly allow bigger and brighter electronic signs.

Staff discussed the matter yesterday (Tuesday) during a Board of Supervisors’ land use policy committee meeting.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust questioned the goal of the review, which has been underway since March 2019, according to a staff report.

Staff told him the county’s existing ordinance is old and shopping centers want to be competitive. Casey Judge, with the county’s Zoning Administration Division, suggested that easing an application process could help businesses too.

The county has proposed simplifying and consolidating three application processes into one for nonresidential areas.

“We have an awful lot of sign pollution already,” Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said. “I’m really concerned about some of this.”

She noted that even signs within buildings, such as lighted “open” signage, can distract drivers and other road users.

Businesses are also already allowed to install electronic signs in residential areas, according to the county.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, the committee’s vice chair, said his office has received complaints about existing electronic signs in residential neighborhoods.

Alcorn said he’s not as concerned if a sign is in the middle of a commercial district, but he wants to find out more about how to manage issues near or adjacent to neighborhoods.

The committee’s chair, Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith, directed staff to return with further recommendations for the board to consider.

A draft of changes could be developed this summer or fall. Public hearings are tentatively expected this winter or in early 2023 on any modifications to the county’s rules.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Jean R. Packard Center at Occoquan Regional Park in Lorton (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

FCPS Condemns Recent Mass Shootings — “Fairfax County Public Schools remains steadfast in our commitment to speak up and speak out against such acts of hatred and domestic terrorism. This past weekend, the Buffalo, New York, and Laguna Woods, California communities experienced unthinkable acts of violence. We grieve with the families who lost loved ones and are suffering.” [FCPS]

Metro Veers Into Another Safety Issue — “Metrorail repeatedly powered the electric third rail while workers were still on the roadway in recent weeks, bypassing safety procedures and putting people at risk of injury and death, according to a new report issued by the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission.” [DCist]

County Bus Workers Win Statewide Competition — “Fairfax Connector Operators and Maintenance Professionals excelled at the Virginia State Bus Roadeo last month…The Fairfax Connector/ Transdev Maintenance Team placed first in the maintenance team category and will represent the Commonwealth of Virginia in the International Bus Roadeo next year.” [Fairfax Connector]

Local Vietnamese Community Recognized — A Virginia Historical Marker recognizing the significance of Vietnamese immigrants in Northern Virginia will be dedicated at Eden Center in Falls Church on next Tuesday (May 24). The community was nominated by Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School students last year as part of a statewide Asian American and Pacific Islander History Month contest. [City of Falls Church]

Descano Left Out of Virginia Violent Crime Task Force — “Commonwealth’s attorneys Buta Biberaj, of Loudoun County; Amy Ashworth, of Prince William County; and Steve Descano, of Fairfax County, told WTOP they were unaware a task force was being assembled until Youngkin’s news release Monday. All three prosecutors are progressive Democrats.” [WTOP]

Food Trucks Pop Up at Courthouse — “NEW! Starting TOMORROW, 5/18 food trucks will be visiting the Courthouse Grounds THIS week, from 11:30am-2:30pm to offer lunch options.” [Fairfax County Circuit Court/Twitter]

Lake Anne Parking Lot to Close Next Week — “The Lake Anne Park parking lot will be closed off next week due to required warranty work, starting on May 23 through the 25th (weather dependent). A contractor will be seal coating and restriping the entire lot. Any vehicles left overnight will be towed.” [Reston Association/Twitter]

Sale of Tysons Broadcasting Company Approved — Tegna stockholders voted yesterday to approve a sale of the Tysons-headquartered company to investment firm Standard General. Expected to close in the second half of this year, the $5.4 billion deal will turn the broadcaster, which owns 64 TV stations in 51 markets across the country, into a private company. [Deadline]

“Wheel of Fortune” Coming to Tysons — “‘Wheel of Fortune Live!,’ a new live stage show, is kicking off a tour in September that includes a stop at Capital One Hall…Guests can audition to go on stage and will have the chance to spin a replica of the iconic wheel and solve puzzles to win prizes, including $10,000 and trips to Paris and Hawaii. Audience members will also have the chance to be randomly selected to win cash and prizes.” [Inside NoVA]

It’s Wednesday — Rain overnight. High of 72 and low of 52. Sunrise at 5:55 am and sunset at 8:19 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

A Virginia Department of Transportation truck at the intersection of Route 1 and Popkins Lane in Groveton, where traffic signals were flashing (staff photo by Brandi Bottalico)

Metro Leaders Step Down — Metro General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld and Chief Operating Officer Joe Leader resigned, effective immediately, last night (Monday) after the transit agency pulled 72 operators for failing to recertify. Wiedefeld had been set to leave on June 30 but says he wanted to “provide a more timely transition to Interim General Manager Andy Off.” [WMATA]

Mosby Woods Residents Split Over Possible Street Renamings — “The increasingly diverse neighborhood named after Confederate army battalion commander John S. Mosby…is another battleground, with the [Fairfax] City Council set to decide in June whether nine streets in Mosby Woods should be called something else.” [The Washington Post]

Pipe Replacement to Disrupt Wolf Trap Area Traffic — “Lawyers Road (Route 673) just south of Carhill Road will have one lane of alternating traffic in each direction via flagging Tuesday, May 17 through Wednesday, May 18, between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. each day to replace a stormwater pipe…Through traffic will be detoured via Garrett Street, Trott Avenue, Vale Road, Hunter Mill Road and back to Lawyers” [VDOT]

Police Share Details on I-95 Crash — “The woman who died in last week’s fatal three-vehicle crash on Interstate 95 in Springfield, Virginia, was identified Monday by Virginia State Police….Speed and driver distraction are being investigated as contributing factors in the crash.” [WTOP]

Herndon IT Company Bought for $4.2B — “Herndon information technology contractor ManTech International Corp. (NASDAQ: MANT) said Monday morning it has agreed to be acquired by D.C. private equity powerhouse The Carlyle Group Inc. (NASDAQ: CG) in an all-cash transaction valued at $4.2 billion.” [Washington Business Journal]

Decision Nears on Lake Accotink Dredging — Fairfax County will make a final decision “in just weeks” on how to address sediment build-up in Springfield’s Lake Accotink. The options currently on the table would transport the sediment to a nearby industrial park or pipe it to Wakefield Park, where it would then be taken to a quarry via I-495, raising environmental and traffic concerns. [ABC7]

Reston Association’s Pool Season Underway — “Our Pools season has officially started! Check out these scenes from opening weekend at North Shore and Lake Audubon! Thanks to all who came out! We’re ready to have an amazing summer at the Pools!” [RA/Twitter]

Bear Sightings Might Become More Common — “Due to warmer weather, bears are beginning to move throughout the county. Be safe by securing your trash cans and bird feeders, reducing the likelihood of on of our hairy friends popping up in your community.” [Pat Herrity/Twitter]

It’s Tuesday — Clear throughout the day. High of 73 and low of 58. Sunrise at 5:56 am and sunset at 8:18 pm. [Weather.gov]

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The florist is planning to move to Reston (Image via Google Maps)

A Herndon flower shop is replanting its roots in Reston.

Herndon Florist, a business that has been serving Northern Virginia for more than 60 years, is moving from its spot at 716 Lynn Street to 1675 Reston Parkway, according to county permits.

The business offers flower arrangements and floral gifts for all occasions. All bouquets are personally created and delivered. Online options are also available.

A business representative declined to comment on the move, noting that the business was in the thick of moving logistics.

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The St. James performance club in Reston (via The St James)

A new 25,000-square-foot fitness facility is officially opening its doors in Reston Town Center next week.

The St. James — which currently operates the region’s largest athletic facility — will open a new performance club on Saturday, April 30. The facility includes two turf areas, a sauna, cycling studio and more than 70 group fitness programs.

The center will be located at 11985 Market Street.

Opening day festivities kick off at 9:30 a.m. with free tours of the space and fitness classes. Giveaways and raffles are also planned, including a chance to win one year of membership and free personal training.

The facility is also offering Reston members 25% off of a summer camp operated through the facility’s Springfield Complex. Free transportation is also included from Reston to Springfield.

The main facility in Springfield has an Olympic-sized swimming pool, field house and 50 group classes per week. It also includes sports leagues and numerous camps.

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A lab worker is seen at Bode Technology’s facility (via Fairfax County Economic Development Authority)

Bode Technology, which assists Fairfax County and Virginia with forensic services, will spend $2 million to hire more staff to meet its growing needs.

Announced today (Monday) by Gov. Glenn Youngkin and the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, the investment will help the company hire “additional senior and entry-level laboratory technicians, information technology and engineering professionals and other business support roles,” the news releases said.

“For more than 25 years, Bode Technology has called Virginia our home, and today’s announcement is a testament to that bond,” Bode Technology CEO Mike Cariola said. “To help fight crime, we need to hire the most talented scientists in the world, and the universities in Virginia and surrounding areas have been essential to our success.”

Located at 10430 Furnace Road, the company will get support from the Commonwealth through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program, where state funding helps businesses recoup costs of adding jobs.

“Bode Technology is eligible to receive up to $850 per job, for a total of up to $60,350 for 71 net new jobs, from the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP),” Virginia Economic Development Partnership spokesperson Suzanne Clark told FFXnow in an email. “VJIP is a performance-based incentive. Once a designated funding amount is approved, companies do not receive reimbursement until they have created the minimum net new, full-time jobs to qualify for funding and the new hires have been on the company’s payroll for at least 90 days.”

The company currently has 250 employees.

The governor’s news release noted that the state’s economic development authority worked with the Fairfax County EDA through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program, which provides consultative services and funding to companies creating new jobs to support employee recruitment and training activities.

Bode Technology uses DNA to help law enforcement agencies track criminals, and it also reduces backlogs by processing sexual assault kits, among other services. According to the company, it helped identify victims of the 2001 World Trade Center attacks and the remains of U.S. soldiers dating back to World War II.

“Demand for our services has increased, and today we are recruiting talented scientists from across the country to join us here in Fairfax County so that we can continue our mission,” Cariola’s statement said.

Photo via FCEDA

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Residence Inn could shift into a multi-family housing project (via handout/Town of Herndon)

With two proposals to transform hotels into housing, local officials are exploring more creative ways to reach affordable housing goals.

In Herndon, a Residence Inn is slated to convert into a 17-unit affordable housing project spread across 11 buildings. Owners say the buildings are too difficult to maintain and industry demands haven’t kept with hotel brand standards.

“The physical layout of the various buildings on the property, the interior unit configuration, and the good condition of the underlying building structures, presents a unique opportunity with the Town of Herndon to repurpose the current building as multifamily units,” a March 2 application to the town says.

A similar tale is unfolding in Tysons, but without a major affordable housing component. Property owner JBG Smith wants to turn the 22-story Sheraton Tysons hotel into a 544-unit multifamily residential tower with ground-floor retail.

The building first opened in 1985. A legal representative for JBG Smith says the units will be small in size and “offer more affordable housing opportunity,” according to a rezoning application submitted to Fairfax County in February.

These transformative uses are consistent with what building official Jay Riat says is a “steady” increase in major hotels being built or renovated in the past few years.

Even so, county officials do not expect a negative impact on transit occupancy tax revenues — which are generated from hotel uses, according to the county’s Department of Tax Administration.

What is happening otherwise may be somewhat counterintuitive: transient occupancy tax revenues are projected to rise by 15% in fiscal year 2023, which starts July 1, compared to the last fiscal year.

“To the extent that any hotels convert to multifamily units, the county may see a net tax revenue increase, as real estate revenues increase after redevelopment,” the tax department said in a statement.

The department notes that hotels are still going up in the county, including the Watermark Hotel in Tysons, which has 300 suites.

Recovery still anticipated for hotel industry

County officials with Land Development Services say existing hotels are doing well, as the Fairfax County market is not yet saturated.

A spokesperson for Visit Fairfax, the county’s official tourism resource, says repurposing a hotel into residential units seems to be a “logical” reuse, but officials still expect traditional hotels to thrive in major business areas. Read More

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The spa is temporarily located next to the ice skating rink (Photo via Mia Nguyen)

The Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chão isn’t expected to open until late 2022, but it’s already making a big splash in Reston Town Center.

As the business expands, a spa and salon that has called RTC home for 21 years is relocating to another spot within the town center. The steakhouse is expected to take over space formerly taken up by Big Bowl, but it needs more space.

Et Jolie, a lifestyle AVEDA salon and spa, is temporarily located at 1826 Discovery Street, right by the ice skating rink.

The salon plans to move to a permanent location at 11990 Market Street sometime this year, according to owner Nguyen Mia. The space was formerly occupied by Subway.

The spa offers hair, skin, waxing and nail treatments, according to its website.

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Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department determined a fire in Centreville March 10 was caused by mechanical failure of an air compressor motor (courtesy of FCFRD)

The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department determined that a two-alarm fire in Centreville earlier this month was caused by a mechanical failure in the motor of an air compressor.

Firefighters from Fairfax and Prince William counties were dispatched to the 14600 block of Lee Highway around 2:34 p.m. on March 10 for a building fire, according to a news release.

Upon arrival, they saw smoke showing from the commercial business building’s roof from the front and fire coming out of the second floor window in the back.

The fire was confined to one unit, the department said. Four occupants were in the unit at the time of the fire, but no injuries were reported. The unit didn’t have smoke alarms or a fire sprinkler system. An employee saw the flames and called 911.

Investigators determined that the fire caused approximately $200,000 in damages.

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