River-Sea Chocolate Factory is moving its chocolate production facility to Reston, though its retail store and hot chocolate cafe will remain in Chantilly at 4520 Daly Drive, Suite 100.
While the company isn’t ready to share the exact address yet, co-founder Krissee D’Aguiar tells FFXnow they are in the process of working with architects and engineering experts to plan the build-out for the Reston location, which is expected to start operations next year.
“This strategic expansion will allow us to continue providing the finest bean-to-bar chocolate products to the D.C. area and enhance our production capabilities,” the company said in a statement. “We want to assure our customers that our retail shop and hot chocolate cafe will remain in Chantilly, ensuring that you can still enjoy our nourishing bean-to-bar chocolate and experiences in the same familiar location.”
The company plans to celebrate its fifth anniversary with a party on Nov. 4 from noon to 5 p.m. at the Chantilly factory.
The $8 entrance ticket for the event includes a s’mores kit, hot chocolate, and samples of chocolate from around the world. The event will also include live music by Herndon percussionist All Around Acoustics from 1-4 p.m. and cacao bag races that start at 2 p.m.
River-Sea founders Krissee and Mariano D’Aguiar started making chocolate in 2017 after visiting family in northern Brazil, where they saw the potential of using food to act as a “connecting bridge” between their life in D.C. and Brazil, according to the company’s website.
A local taqueria will expand its services next month with the introduction of a new empanadas shop.
Señor Ramon Taqueria hopes to launch Ramona Empanadas by Nov. 15, founder Damian Dajcz says. The carry-out shop will start at Señor Ramon’s flagship Leesburg restaurant before rolling out to its other locations in Sterling, Reston, Great Falls and Chantilly.
The shop will also be available at the company’s main kitchen in Sterling (506 Shaw Road, Suite 324), which is expanding with a butcher shop and “a small Latin grocery store” as well, Dajcz told FFXnow.
“Customers can order empanadas in advance online or come to one of the five locations where they will find a large Ramona Empanadas digital ordering kiosk,” the restaurant said in an announcement of the launch.
According to Señor Ramon’s website, the empanadas are freshly made and then flash-frozen for pickups, deliveries and wholesale orders. Online orders are already being accepted through the website.
The stuffed pastries will come in a variety of flavors, including regular or spicy beef and chicken, beer-braised brisket, caprese, ham and cheese, spinach, sweet corn, onion and cheese, pulled pork carnitas, pepperoni and cheese, and bacon, egg and cheese.
Dajcz and his team opened the first Señor Ramon Taqueria in Leesburg in 2016 with the goal of bringing authentic Mexican street food to Northern Virginia, according to the website.
A native of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dajcz considered studying medicine and hotel management in college before taking cooking classes and getting the opportunity learn from renowned chef Gato Dumas, who founded Latin America’s largest culinary school, according to a 2019 profile by Loudouner magazine.
After working in one of Dumas’s restaurants, Dajcz moved to the U.S. to finish his culinary studies at Ohio University and Le Cordon Bleu’s Scottsdale, Arizona, campus.
Señor Ramon expanded into Fairfax County for the first time in 2018 with its Chantilly location (4500 Daly Drive). Reston followed suit a year later with an opening in the Home Depot shopping center at 11790 Baron Cameron Avenue, Unit A, and the Great Falls restaurant (9900 Georgetown Pike) got a grand opening in June 2021.
In addition to Señor Ramon and now Ramona Empanadas, Dajcz’s company is behind Bites Grilled Cheese & Cheesesteaks and Daybreak Kitchen and Biscuit Company, which can both be found at 22455 Davis Drive in Sterling.
According to the announcement, the Ramona Empanadas team is already “in talks to expand” to other locations in the D.C. area.
An homage to Ellanor C. Lawrence Park could take root in place of a partially developed business center in the Westfields area of Chantilly.
Developer Pulte Homes is seeking to transform the Park East Corporate Center (14150 Parkeast Circle) into a new residential neighborhood with green spaces “that follow a theme designed to be consistent” with the 650-acre park south of the property, according to a rezoning application submitted to Fairfax County.
While totaling a comparatively small 5.5 acres, the proposed common green and linear and pocket parks will reflect Lawrence’s identity as “an avid gardener” who appreciated “the beauty of nature,” an Oct. 12 statement of justification for the application says.
“The amenity system within Park East commemorates her passion by creating a network of different intimate gardens where not only residents, but also the community at large, can experience passive spaces to retreat from everyday life,” the development plan says. “It also provides active recreation opportunities through several fitness stations.”
With a common green as a “focal point,” the six planned park areas will be linked by sidewalks and trails. Proposed amenities include gardens for bird-watching, butterflies and vegetables, a wildflower meadow; a trail around the site’s perimeter; and “historical elements that introduce visitors to the significance” of Ellanor C. Lawrence Park.
Replacing two office buildings and a warehouse, the housing development will consist of multi-family residential buildings, 124 stacked townhomes and 86 single-family attached townhomes.
At a proposed maximum height of five stories or 56 feet, the multi-family buildings will be mid-rises with 32 units each, giving the development a total of 338 units of housing. About 40 units will be affordable or workforce dwelling units in accordance with the county’s policies.
The proposal continues a shift toward housing in the Westfields area, which was zoned to be primarily industrial in 1985.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a plan amendment in 2019 that added options for retail and residential uses in the 1,156 acres around Route 28 (Sully Road) and Westfields Blvd known as Land Unit J. A plan to build more townhomes in the area near Westfield High School got approved last summer, despite skepticism from some planning commissioners.
Redeveloping the Park East Corporate Center into a residential community would address the county’s need for housing that serves different demographics, according to Walsh Colucci land use lawyer Lynne Strobel, who’s representing Pulte.
“The multi-family residential buildings are attractive to mature Fairfax County residents who are downsizing but wish to remain in the area,” Strobel wrote in the statement of justification. “…The multi-family stacked townhomes are ideal for singles and young couples, while young families will be most interested in the traditional townhomes.”
Not everything in Westfields is going to turn into housing, though. The owner of the Westfields Corporate Park on Stonecroft Blvd wants to add more office space, per an application filed earlier this month.
The county hasn’t formally accepted Pulte’s rezoning proposal for review yet.
After the 2019 plan amendment, Land Unit J could be developed with up to 4,250 residential units and an additional 200,000 square feet of retail.
More office space could be coming soon to an existing secure campus in Chantilly’s Westfields International Center.
COPT Stonecroft is seeking Fairfax County’s permission to expand the amount of office space at the park center, which is located at 4850 Stonecroft Blvd. Sought for an unnamed “Federal user that desires to expand its footprint on the Property,” the additional development requires upzoning to allow more office uses.
In a Sept. 28 application, the applicant’s representative said the recent addition of high-quality residential townhomes and apartments have made Westfields an “even more desirable corporate location.”
“The expansion represents a significant and desired investment in office use within the Dulles Suburban Center and will allow the Westfields Corporate Park to continue to succeed in its original goal of providing a prestigious and desired corporate office atmosphere,” McGuireWoods land use lawyer Scott Adams wrote in the application on the developer’s behalf.
Two additional buildings — which were originally the subject of a 2016 application — are proposed. The buildings would stand at 120 feet and contain a little over 1 million square feet of space. A new seven-level parking garage with 2,765 spaces is also proposed on the western portion of the property.
In 2016, COPT Stonecroft, a division of COPT Defense Properties, sought a height increase for three new office buildings to accommodate an unidentified, high-security tenant, but only one of the three buildings has been constructed.
The proposal is in the initial stages of the county’s approval process and has not yet been formally accepted for review.
Image via Google Maps
Over vocal protests from members of the public, the Fairfax County Planning Commission recommended approval of a plan to build a data center in Chantilly.
Following a five-hour public hearing that started on Sept. 20 and ended well past midnight on Sept. 21, the recommendation passed with six votes in favor, including from Evelyn S. Spain, who represents the Sully District where the data center would be built.
Peter Murphy (Springfield), Mary Cortina (Braddock) and John Ulfelder (Dranesville) abstained. Candice Bennett (at-large) and John Carter (Hunter Mill) did not attend the meeting, and Timothy Sargeant (at-large) recused himself.
Pending approval from the Board of Supervisors, the plan would likely lead to a data center up to 110 feet tall on a 12.1-acre plot of land on the south side of Route 50, built by an affiliate of D.C.-based Penzance.
The developer could opt to build a 150,000-square foot warehouse on the site instead, but attorney Evan Pritchard, representing the developer, said a data center was the more likely outcome.
This recommendation comes after months of discord over the project and amidst a broader debate over data centers in the county. Ultimately, county staff concluded that a data center or warehouse was an acceptable use for the land in question.
“Overall, considering the Comprehensive Plan, industrial designation, the adjacent uses, which are industrial, commercial and open space, and the significant setbacks and buffering around the property, as well as other items discussed in the staff report, staff consider this an appropriate area for a data center or a warehouse and either use compatible with the surrounding area,” said Emma Estes with the zoning and evaluation division of the county’s Department of Planning and Development.
Residents of Chantilly’s Pleasant Valley neighborhood raised concerns about topics including noise, potential diesel spills and the character of the area.
“It is just beyond my comprehension that anyone would consider this enormous building within character and harmonious with the surrounding area, yet that is exactly what the county is trying to convince us of,” Cynthia Shang said on behalf of the community organization Save Pleasant Valley.
The data center would house an estimated 27 diesel-powered backup generators that use about 135,000 gallons of diesel fuel, according to a county staff report, sparking concerns about the potential for an accidental spill.
Pritchard said the diesel-fueling areas were designed and graded to drain away from stormwater areas and the resource protection area, and fuel would collect at an oil-water separator in the event of a spill.
“Needless to say, this is a very regulated area,” Pritchard said. “We’ll be subject to the federal [Environmental Protection Agency] regulations, the Virginia [Department of Environmental Quality] regulations as well as the county’s own regulations on fuel tank storage.”
As the committee voted, some members of the public still in attendance shouted their opposition. Commission Chairman Phil A. Niedzielski-Eichner (Providence) voted in favor of recommending approval, but acknowledged the discontent with the developer.
“I’m a strong proponent of engaging people, not being afraid of people,” he said. “That dynamic here does not cloud for me the fact that I believe the criteria that’s important to me relative to the neighborhood has been addressed.”
Spain said it was “very painful” and “a very difficult situation” as she moved for the commission to recommend approval.
Some commissioners asked if the vote could be deferred, but according to county staff, state law requires a planning commission recommendation within 100 days of a rezoning case’s referral. Without a vote, the plan would’ve progressed to the Board of Supervisors with an automatic approval recommendation.
The proposal will now get a public hearing before Board of Supervisors at 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 24.
Multiple traffic lights in the area of Willard Road and Lee Highway in Chantilly are down, police said.
The Fairfax County Police Department is on the scene of what appears to be a widespread power outage.
Police encourage residents to use caution and follower officers’ directions.
The cause of the outage is known at this time.
Officers are on scene of a widespread power outage affecting multiple traffic lights in the area of Willard Rd and Lee Hwy in Chantilly. Please use caution & follow officer direction. #FCPD pic.twitter.com/d7KgIzlF1m
— Fairfax County Police (@FairfaxCountyPD) September 8, 2023
For local bookworms who missed out on last month’s National Book Festival in D.C., you’re in luck.
Fairfax County Public Library will launch a book festival of its own on Sept. 30 with an exclusive focus on writers based in Northern Virginia.
That mission separates the Local Author Book Festival from not just the Library of Congress literary extravaganza, but also George Mason University’s annual Fall for the Book, which will mark its 25th year in October with top-billed guests like “High Fidelity” author Nick Hornby and Man Booker Prize winner Marlon James.
“You would be surprised at the number of writers who live in Northern Virginia!” FCPL Program and Educational Services Director Renee Edwards said. “Every year, we get requests from writers who want the library to host author events where they can meet the public and talk about their books. To bring special attention to our writers and give them the opportunity to meet community members and talk about their books, we are hosting our first Local Author Book Festival.”
Kicking off the festival at 9:30 am with a V.I.P. meet-and-greet at Chantilly Regional Library (4000 Stringfellow Road) will be bestselling suspense novelist David Baldacci. The Fairfax Library Foundation, which is sponsoring the festival, describes him as a “Fairfax County favorite son.”
The meet-and-greet will be limited to 50 people, who must purchase a $75 ticket to attend. However, as the festival’s headline speaker, Baldacci will also discuss his novels and answer questions in a free presentation from 11 a.m. to noon, followed by a book sale and signing.
Meet-and-greet participants will get a reserved seat for the general presentation.
A lifelong Virginia resident, Baldacci is a mainstay of the local literary scene, appearing in past events at various county library branches and launching a book at Bards Alley in Vienna last year. The Fairfax Library Foundation honored him and his wife in 2012 for starting the Wish You Well Foundation, a Reston-based charity that supports literacy programs.
“David Baldacci is a local author who is a fan of public libraries. In the past, he has presented at several of our branches and people are always excited to hear him speak!” Edwards said. “We think he is the perfect author to kick off the Local Author Book Festival.”
Overall, there will be 40 authors at the inaugural Local Author Book Festival. FCPL invited authors based on a list of people who had signed up to present at the library, according to Edwards, who says “there was a lot of interest.”
Other confirmed participants include “Instant Pot Asian Pressure Cooker Meals” author Patricia Tanumihardja, “Chronicles of a Royal Pet: Princess and an Ooze” author Ian Rogers, “Havana Hardball: Spring Training, Jackie Robinson, and The Cuban League” author César Brioso, and Jennifer Garman, author of “Flourish: 7 Ways Gratitude can Transform Your Life.”
In addition to allowing community members to meet local authors and buy their books, the outdoor festival will feature snacks, a bookmaking area for kids, a caricature artist, a Silly Shotz photo booth, a raffle for $25 Visa gift cards, and more.
While this festival last just one day, concluding at 3 p.m., FCPL hosts author events year-round. This fall, the library is planning to bring back its Indie Author Day program, which is dedicated to recognizing self-published authors.
Edwards says the library hopes to invite 24 authors to participate in virtual panels from Nov. 1-4.
“Authors and books are our business!” Edwards said. “We love bringing special attention to the people who are right next door — in our county — that may go unnoticed. It is important to us to make sure we are always connecting readers to books.”
As the new school year approaches, young readers can celebrate summer reading this Sunday (August 13).
The Fairfax Library Foundation will bring a second edition of its Children’s Summer Reading Festival to the Chantilly Regional Library (4000 Stringfellow Road) from noon to 3 p.m.
Admission is free, and children and families can enjoy face painting, a bounce house, food trucks, a mini zoo and other attractions. The event doesn’t require tickets, but attendees who reserve a spot via Eventbrite can get a festival tote bag while supplies last.
In early June, Lorton Library (9520 Richmond Highway) hosted more than 1,200 attendees at the inaugural edition of the festival, according to an FLP press release. At the event, more than 240 children registered for Fairfax County Public Library’s summer reading program.
This Sunday’s date is a rescheduling — Chantilly Regional Library was originally slated to host the festival in late June. Families can also attend an outdoor screening of Frozen at the library Saturday night (Aug. 12).
Also open to adults, FCPL’s summer reading program runs through Aug. 18, and it’s still possible to register. Participating readers have already exceeded the 50,000-book goal for the community by more than 30,000 books.
Participants in the summer reading program can earn virtual badges for completing reading goals. After readers meet their goals, they can get a coupon sheet with offers from businesses and the Fairfax County Park Authority.
Two longtime family-owned restaurants in the Chantilly Park Shopping Center have closed their doors for good.
Mexican restaurant Picante has serviced the area for the last 29 years, according to a statement released by owner Guillermo Manoatl on Instagram last Monday, July 31. The statement was also posted in the former storefront’s windows.
Dear Picante Loyal Customers,
Picante has closed its doors permanently as of today! We would like to thank you for letting us serve you for the past 29 years! It has been an honor to have been able to share my grandmother’s recipes with all of you!
Unlike Picante, Bravo Peruvian Chicken has yet to publicly confirm its closure or remove its signage from the shopping center, but it has been marked permanently closed on Google, and its phone number has been disconnected.
“We are a group of Peruvians who came to the United States to conquer the ‘American Dream’ while maintaining our roots and love for our culture!” Bravo Peruvian Chicken’s website reads. “Bravo Chicken is a proud example of it.”
A family entertainment center in Chantilly is officially under new ownership.
Creepy Greens Entertainment, LLC has taken over Mini Monster Golf and is now fully operational.
An application submitted to Fairfax County seeks permission for a special permit so the new owner can provide laser tag, arcade expansion, and a kitchen and cafe area that is currently unused.
“The previous owners of the store were granted this special permit and the new owner, Creepy Greens Entertainment Inc., hopes to retain it,” the application says. “No additions, expansions, or use case changes are planned.”
A company representative told FFXnow that the application before the county was necessary in order to “reflect the new ownership.”
The special permit plan aims to maintain the existing character of the area, according to the application.
The facility is open in the fall and winter Monday through Thursday from 2-9 p.m., Fridays from 2-10 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 10 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 8 p.m.
In the spring and summer, the hours will be Monday through Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m., according to the permit application.