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Louise Archer Elementary School (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated on 7/11/2022) Fairfax County Public Schools has officially committed $36 million to renovating Louise Archer Elementary School in Vienna.

The Fairfax County School Board awarded a contract to Henley Construction Company, Inc. during its June 16 meeting. The contractor beat out two other bidders for the project, which will roughly double the size of the school building.

The contract set a construction start date of Aug. 1, with Henley beginning its initial setup and erecting fencing by Aug. 15, according to the FCPS facilities staff.

“FCPS has already installed temporary classroom cottages behind the school,” FCPS told FFXnow by email. “The main work is expected to start with the new 2-story classroom addition in early September 2022.”

Originally erected at 324 Nutley Street in 1939, Louise Archer last underwent a renovation in 1991 and serves 510 students, as of the 2021-2022 school year, which concluded on June 10.

According to the current Capital Improvement Program (CIP), FCPS added the school to its renovation queue in 2009, but enrollment has declined over the past decade. There were 824 students during the 2012-2013 school year, pushing the facility’s program capacity utilization to 114% — well above the current utilization rate of 77%.

The school currently has a design capacity of 784 students, thanks to two temporary trailers and a 10-classroom modular introduced in 2005.

A rendering of the planned Louise Archer Elementary School renovation from Nutley Street (via Town of Vienna)

The planned renovation will eliminate the temporary classrooms, reducing the school’s design capacity to 700 students, but it will expand the 51,235-square-foot building to 103,224 square feet with a second-story addition. New amenities will include additional classrooms, offices, an updated library, and a larger parking lot.

The expanded parking lot will replace the existing modular with a new kiss-and-ride lot, separating parent drop-offs of students from the school bus area and staff parking. It will have 105 parking spots and two loading spaces, according to a Town of Vienna staff report.

Expressing optimism that the new drop-off area will alleviate overflow traffic on Nutley Street, the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals granted FCPS a conditional use permit for the project on April 20.

Construction is being funded by the 2021 school bond approved by voters last November. FCPS’ CIP status page estimates work will be completed in late 2024 to early 2025.

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Patrick Henry Library in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

An initial concept for the upcoming Patrick Henry Library renovation is here, and the Vienna Town Council has some reservations.

At a Town Council conference session on Monday (June 13), Fairfax County public works staff unveiled a conceptual site plan for a one-story library and a four-level parking garage to replace the existing facility and parking lot at 101 Maple Avenue East.

The county hopes to expand the community library from 13,817 square feet to about 18,000 square feet — smaller than the previously expected 21,000 square feet — to accommodate its programming plans, including a larger children’s section and upgraded technology.

The project will also add a public parking garage to the 1.4-acre site. The current concept provides 216 spaces, including seven accessible spots and five with electric vehicle charging stations — more than the 209 spaces required by the county’s agreement with the Town of Vienna.

Fairfax County’s initial concept site plan for the new Patrick Henry Library and parking garage (via Town of Vienna)

With an access road planned from Maple Avenue and a driveway to the garage from Center Street, the two structures will essentially take up every available inch of space.

“The site is quite constrained in size for the uses proposed,” Vienna Planning and Zoning Director David Levy said. “Parking garages in particular have minimum dimensions related to turning radii and efficient layouts. As a result, there’s not really many options for the concept design.”

The limited space will make it difficult to meet Vienna’s tree canopy requirements, which may have to be waived, Levy told the council.

The concept provides open space in the form of a plaza at the corner of Maple and Center. A rooftop terrace to provide outdoor reading and classroom space has been considered, but it would be “cost-prohibitive” to include initially, according to county staff.

Though staff said the setback from Maple Avenue will be slightly increased, council members urged the design team led by the firm RRMM Architects to find ways to use less space and reduce the height of the garage. Read More

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Justice High School’s football field (via FCPS/Facebook)

More than half of Fairfax County’s public high schools have no permanent restrooms for their outdoor athletic facilities, leaving players and spectators to endure the stench and claustrophobia of port-a-potties.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors hopes to rectify the situation, unanimously approving a board matter to consider funding for new bathrooms at 15 schools in the coming fiscal year 2023, which starts July 1.

“We owe it to these schools to get them up to this standard for purposes of equity and public health and bottom-line fairness, so I hope we can support this and get this done as quickly as possible,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay, who introduced the measure yesterday (Tuesday).

Fairfax County Public Schools has 28 high schools and 559 athletic fields that are used by the general community as well as students.

However, FCPS didn’t provide permanent stadium bathrooms when many schools were built, and the following schools have yet to get upgrades, despite growing concerns that port-a-potties are inadequate for facilities that can seat as many as 15,000 people:

  • Annandale
  • Chantilly
  • Edison
  • Hayfield
  • Justice
  • Lake Braddock
  • Lewis
  • Marshall
  • McLean
  • Mount Vernon
  • Robinson
  • South Lakes
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • West Potomac
  • Woodson

“The School Board and the Board of Supervisors have been partnering for some time to identify a path forward to address the need and provide stadium bathrooms,” an FCPS spokesperson said by email.

Directing county staff to include the projects as a consideration item when revising the adopted FY 2023 budget this fall, McKay called the lack of permanent bathrooms an equity concern in terms of geography, income, and gender, noting that the schools where this is an issue are spread across the county.

“Permanent bathroom facilities at stadiums should be standard, not a matter of where you live,” the board matter said.

He credited Megan McLaughlin and Karen Corbett-Sanders, who respectively represent Braddock and Mount Vernon districts on the school board, with advocating for facility improvements.

Expressing support for “the anti-Port-a-John board matter,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said outdoor bathrooms were one of the most anticipated benefits of recent renovations at Herndon High School.

According to Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, West Potomac High School has been in need of permanent stadium restrooms since he was the PTA president “a couple of decades ago.”

“It frankly got down to economics, how you find the dollars to make this work,” Storck said.

The county estimates that approximately $15 million will be needed for all 15 projects. Exactly where that money will come from remains a question mark, but the Board of Supervisors suggested the costs will be shared between the county government and FCPS.

The board told staff to work with FCPS to determine how the costs will be split using data from a Synthetic Turf Task Force report published in 2013.

McLaughlin said in an emailed statement that she was “thrilled” to see the Board of Supervisors unanimously approve McKay’s board matter.

“This ongoing facility issue has been an important concern for many years among our principals, student activities directors, coaches, athletic boosters, student athletes, families, and County recreation leagues,” she said. “The lack of permanent bathroom facilities impacts students everyday with respect to PE classes, sports practices, and band practices. It also impacts spectators and County residents who use and/or visit our fields.”

McLaughlin said she and Corbett-Sanders, who were part of a working group convened by McKay on the topic, plan to submit a similar request for funding to the school board.

Photo via FCPS/Facebook

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Rendering shows the new four-story Patrick Henry permanent supportive housing facility in Seven Corners (via Fairfax County)

Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday (May 10) to allow time for a homeless shelter replacement proposal to come to fruition, extending a review period to Aug. 10.

The capital project will transform the 9,500-square-foot Patrick Henry Family Shelter in Seven Corners to a new 24,000-square-foot permanent supportive housing facility with 16 units and a multipurpose room.

The extension of the 2232 review, which is required for proposed public facility projects, will give the county more time to acquire land rights needed for construction, according to Department of Public Works and Environmental Services spokesperson Sharon North.

“This complex land acquisition is necessary to receive all zoning and permitting approvals for the project,” North said. “As a result, the project schedule has been extended beyond what was originally anticipated.”

The building at 3080 Patrick Henry Drive is part of the Hollybrooke II Condominium complex, which was originally built as apartments in 1952. The county bought the building in 1985 and converted its 10 units into emergency housing shelter.

The units were expanded into the current shelter in 1996 and 2006.

Per a March application on the new project:

The existing structure is in poor condition, not code compliant, has multiple accessibility barriers and does not meet the program change to permanent supportive housing units. There is a critical lack of permanent supportive housing to serve the County’s homeless population. Studies show that no other method is proven more effective than supportive housing for ending chronic homelessness.

The new facility will be four stories and have five 2-bedroom units, eight 3-bedroom units, and three 4-bedroom units to continue serving large families experiencing homelessness.

While the Board of Supervisors owns the existing building, which will be demolished, the surrounding land and parking areas are controlled by the Hollybrooke II Condominium Association.

“For that reason, the [board] must obtain land rights in order to commence construction of the project,” North said. “With final approvals and purchase, the separation and ownership will transfer to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.”

The project is currently being reviewed by the county’s land development and planning staff. North says approvals from both departments are expected to come late this year.

Voters approved $48 million in bond money for the project and three other shelters in 2016. Those include the Embry Rucker Shelter in Reston, a joint fire station and Eleanor Kennedy Shelter relocation project in Penn Daw, and the Bailey’s Crossroads facility that opened in 2019.

The county has been working to increase its permanent housing assistance, making 1,645 beds available this year — a 12% increase from last year, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ annual Point-in-Time count released May 4.

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A rendering of the proposed Parkview development and promenade at the gateway of the Herndon-Monroe Metro Station (via Town of Herndon)

When Metro riders get off the future Herndon-Monroe Metro Station, town planners want the first impression of the town to be a unique experience.

That’s part of the reason why town officials are working on the Herndon Metrorail Promenade, a 500-foot-long and nearly 70-foot-wide gateway plaza that will connect the Metro station to Herndon Parkway.

It’s designed to be the first introduction to the town, offering a “gateway experience…unlike all other major entrances to the town,” staff said in planning documents.

Up to $200,000 is up for consideration for the project as part of the town’s Capital Improvement Plan, a long-range planning tool that will be discussed by the Herndon Town Council tonight (Tuesday).

While it’s too early to know what the promenade will look like, town planners hope the “quality, form, scale and aesthetic design of the whole and its components will create a lasting impression” of the town on pedestrians.

A walkway along the center of the future promenade will serve Metro riders once the station opens. Another public walkway that’s currently under construction will run from Metro’s pavilion to the sidewalk of Herndon Parkway and two land bays.

Strategically, the gateway is intended to boost the success of the Herndon Transit-Oriented Core. It will feature a mix of plaza spaces and planted areas with sculptural elements and seating to welcome visitors into town.

It’s not yet clear how the promenade will match up with the proposed Parkview development, which will open up directly to the plaza at 593 Herndon Parkway from the Metro station door. Lerner Enterprises’ mixed-use project went to the town’s planning commission for a discussion last night (Monday).

It will be a while before the town’s vision for the promenade comes to fruition. Currently, the project has no timeline, as only design and engineering funding the project has been allocated.

Town spokesperson Anne Curtis tells FFXnow that the land for the future promenade is currently owned by three different entities.

“The town owns the center portion, where the existing walkway is located; private property owners own the land adjacent to the walkway.  These owners will be providing improvements when redevelopment occurs,” Curtis wrote in a statement.

Design and engineering will also be necessary to make sure that the current walkway is redesigned to become a “seamless” part of the promenade, Curtis said.

Developer contributions for the project are expected, along with other funding sources.

While much remains unknown about the promenade design itself, the opening date of the Metro station also remains a mystery. There currently isn’t even an estimated timeline for opening the Silver Line’s long-anticipated second phase, even as crews complete final testing and pre-revenue service activities.

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The proposed routes for new sewer pipelines in Tysons West (via DPWES)

Tysons is going to need a bigger sewer system.

With the population expected to continue growing over the next few decades, Fairfax County is starting to prepare now for the anticipated influx of residents — and the additional wastewater they will inevitably produce.

Over the past two years, the county’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services has been planning upgrades to the sewer pipelines and pump station that serve the Tysons West neighborhood along Route 7 between Westpark Drive and the Dulles Toll Road.

One of several projects in the works to boost northern Fairfax County’s wastewater capacity, the Tysons Wastewater System Enhancements will replace and relocate an existing pump station, while adding more than 7 miles of new sewer pipeline.

“This project will decrease the risk of wastewater overflows and back-ups during periods of high wastewater flows by diverting flow from existing infrastructure,” DPWES said on the project page.

The department will host a virtual public meeting to discuss its proposal at 7 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday).

According to DPWES spokesperson Sharon North, the Tysons area doesn’t currently have any issues with wastewater overflows or backups, but with the Tysons Comprehensive Plan targeting 100,000 residents by 2050, the current facilities aren’t sufficient to handle that future growth.

DPWES conducted a study that determined wastewater from the northern part of the county should be rerouted to the Noman Cole Pollution Control Plant in Lorton. Read More

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One of the most heavily used trails in Fairfax County will undergo construction starting this summer to address recurring flooding issues.

The Fairfax County Park Authority is planning to upgrade a portion of the trail at Lake Accotink Park in Springfield. The $3 million project will add a 325-foot-long, elevated, concrete pedestrian crossing over the park’s dam outfall, along with approximately 300 feet of asphalt trail improvements.

“The contractor, Franco’s Liberty Bridge Inc, will be mobilizing on site with active construction activities beginning this summer,” the FCPA said in an announcement on Wednesday (May 4).

Parts of the Lake Accotink Loop Trail will be closed during construction. The FCPA says signs will be posted on the site and advises nearby residents to expect occasional construction traffic entering and exiting the park.

The Fairfax County Park Authority is planning improvements on the trail by the Lake Accotink dam in Springfield (via FCPA)

Despite the short-term inconveniences, the project will likely come as welcome news to visitors like Milo Nekvasil, who says he sometimes takes off his shoes and socks to walk through flooded areas on the trail during light rains. Heavy rains make it impassable for him.

Tree limbs, logs and other debris can clog along the path, causing backups where water would normally flow under the path.

Nekvasil’s experiences aren’t unique. Flooding is frequent and can be sudden, stranding trail users or leading them to wade through waters, according to the community group Friends of Lake Accotink Park.

“Excessive damage due to major storm events has required a total reconstruction of the trail twice in the last five years,” the Park Authority said. “This project will resolve these issues, enhancing safety and accessibility for park users.”

The project is scheduled to be completed in early 2023.

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The groundbreaking of Reston Association’s Lake Thoreau pool renovations project has been delayed (via RA)

Two Reston pool projects are facing some delays.

The Ridge Heights Pool will open two weeks later than anticipated.

In a statement released Friday (April 29), Reston Association said the delay was prompted by “continuing supply chain delays and manufacturing shortages that have slowed repairs to the facility.”

Repairs include re-plastering of the previous pool surface layers, tile line and in-pool tile replacement, and coping stone replacement on the main and wading pools.

The pool will now open on May 28 instead of May 14. Lake Audubon Pool will open on May 14, along with the heated pool at North Shore.

RA noted that the scheduled opening is “pending supply and contractor availability and weather conditions.”

Raw materials like aggregate and binders are in high demand and short supply, according to Chris Schumaker, RA’s capital projects director. RA has been waiting several months for coping stones.

“RA is doing everything within its control to complete the Ridge Heights pool for a May 28 opening,” RA’s spokesperson Mike Leone told FFXnow.

RA has also delayed the groundbreaking of Lake Thoreau pool’s renovation to May. The $3.5 million project had an anticipated groundbreaking of October or November.

“Unfortunately, we do not have a more specific date. We are focused on a 2023 Memorial Day Weekend opening but it will be tight,” Leone said.

The opening timeframe could be pushed back if permitting delays continue. RA is currently working through the remaining county permits required for the project to proceed.

Key design elements of the renovation include ADA access with a ramp into the pool, a redesign of the overlook deck, pool reconstruction, expansion of the parking lot, and repositioning of the spa away from the bathhouses as well as modifying and expansion of said bathhouses.

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Construction on nearly 100,000 square feet of space at Crossfield Elementary School in Herndon is expected to begin next year.

Hunter Mill District School Board Representative Melanie Meren said earlier this month that the project will kickstart next year and is expected to wrap up in 2025.

Preliminary plans include a library, a main office, a media center, an updated kitchen, new classrooms and more communal spaces.

The total project is expected to cost $32.5 million, with construction costs coming out to around $25 million, a spokesperson for FCPS told FFXnow.

Meren said she was most excited about the addition of an outdoor learning space in an interior courtyard of the building.

She hopes to work with the Fairfax County Park Authority to find ways to connect education with the surrounding park.

“Crossfield is unique because it is nestled inside a Fairfax County park,” Meren said.

The school first opened in 1988 and is named after A. Scott Crossfield, an aeronautical pioneer who lived nearby the school.

The project was partly funded by the 2019 School Bond referendum.

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Tennis player Lea Blinder practiced with a Slinger ball feeder machine yesterday (Wednesday) at Chalet Woods Park in Centreville, happy to hear that the courts there are slated for repairs.

The Arlington resident, who plays tennis at Chalet Woods a few times a week, was working on her swing before her lesson that afternoon. The three courts are surrounded by towering trees in a cul-de-sac by homes.

“It’s beautiful,” she said, noting that families also enjoy the park.

Expected to undergo repairs and get new color coating for its tennis courts and a basketball court, Chalet Woods is one of five parks across Fairfax County in line for court maintenance and renovations projects this year.

George Washington Park court demolition begins

One of the biggest scheduled overhauls will be at George Washington Park in Mount Vernon (8426 Old Mt. Vernon Road), where the Fairfax County Park Authority has proposed converting the four existing tennis courts into six dedicated pickleball courts and two shared-use courts with lines for both sports.

The county announced on Wednesday (April 27) that a vendor will begin preparing the GW Park courts this week for demolition. The courts are expected to be closed for four months for resurfacing process, depending on the weather.

“Once new asphalt is laid, the courts will sit undisturbed for a period of two to four weeks to allow the color coating to adhere properly,” the park authority said in its news release. “New fencing and nets will be installed once the color coatings have set and the courts are ready to open again.”

People can comment on the proposal through May 27 to 65533@PublicInput.com. The plan is expected to be finalized in early June.

Maintenance needs pave way for pickleball additions

As illustrated by the GW project and a similar renovation planned at Lewinsville Park in McLean, the park authority is using the schedule for repairing and resurfacing many tennis courts as an occasion to make upgrades and add new facilities, especially for pickleball.

“We’ll be nearly doubling the amount of pickleball courts that we have in the next two years,” FCPA Project Manager Adam Wynn said at a March 23 board meeting.

Building on a pickleball study from December, the county plans to create 37 to 42 additional pickleball courts, most of which could take place in coming months, the park authority reported at that meeting.

According to spokesperson Judy Pederson, the FCPA will undertake court maintenance and renovation projects this year and next at Chalet Woods, George Washington, Lewinsville, McLean Central Park, and Dowden Terrace Park near Bailey’s Crossroads.

“As always, [work is] weather dependent and contractor availability will determine how far we get,” she said in an email.

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