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The office building at 1676 International Drive in Tysons (courtesy Brandywine Realty Trust)

A Richmond-based commercial law firm that dates back to the post-World War II era is inching closer to Tysons Galleria.

Citing a need for more space to accommodate its growth, Hirschler officially moved its Tysons office into a 12,200-square-foot suite at 1676 International Drive just before Thanksgiving, the company announced late last month.

The new space is about 3,000 square feet larger than the firm’s previous office at 8270 Greensboro Drive, according to a spokesperson.

“We have been looking forward to this move since we began exploring this amazing space on International Drive,” said Justine Fitzgerald, managing partner of Hirschler’s Tysons office. “The enthusiasm across our Tysons team from finally inhabiting our new office is already palpable. As we continue to make ourselves at home in the upcoming weeks, we are excited about the impact that the upgraded amenities, technology and collaborative space will have for our clients.”

Hirschler said the move was needed to allow “additional space for sustained growth” of its Northern Virginia and D.C. area operations.

Founded as Hirschler and Fleischer in 1946, the company established its Tysons office in 2016 as part of a merger with the local firm Leach Travell. The office handles business, bankruptcy, real estate, and litigation cases and has now grown to 17 attorneys, the press release said.

The expansion comes as many companies opt to downsize their offices in response to the rise of remote work during the pandemic. In the third quarter of 2022, 80% of Northern Virginia’s leasing activity involved spaces smaller than 10,000 square feet, and vacancies in the region rose to 19.1%, according to an office market report by Avison Young.

In Tysons, demand remains high for “high-end” trophy office space, developers said at a “Future of Tysons” panel earlier this month. The area has added 360,000 of Class-A office space this year, behind only Crystal City in Northern Virginia, Bisnow reported.

An economic study released in March 2021 predicted that Tysons will need at least 1.9 million square feet of new office space over the next 10 years, but it also found that the pipeline for office construction exceeded projected job growth.

Given the uncertainties of the office market and Fairfax County prioritizing affordable housing, developers in the Tysons area and beyond have increasingly focused on converting or replacing commercial properties with residential or mixed-use projects.

The county is also exploring the possibility of allowing vacant commercial spaces to be used as emergency shelter for people experiencing homelessness.

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Closed sign (via Tim Mossholder/Unsplash)

With a high office and commercial vacancy rate and over 1,000 locals experiencing homelessness, Fairfax County is considering a zoning change that could use one problem to help solve the other.

The proposal would allow unused commercial spaces, including office and hotel space, to be used as emergency shelters for those experiencing homelessness.

The new zoning would let private entities — namely nonprofits that work with those experiencing homelessness — operate emergency shelters in vacant or underutilized commercial or industrial properties.

“Special exception use would permit repurposing of a commercial building in a commercial, Industrial, or in some Planned Districts with approval by the Board,” a staff report on the change said. “Commercial building includes buildings designed or used for office, hotel, retail, institutional, or industrial purposes.”

In a presentation to the Board of Supervisors housing committee on Nov. 22, staff said there is currently no “emergency shelter” use in the county zoning code.

In addition to creating an emergency shelter use, the zoning change would add a “permanent supportive housing” use for housing that provides assistance and supportive services, like transportation and training, to residents. Supportive housing is reserved in the zoning ordinance for those making below 60% of the area median income.

The presentation didn’t include information on incentives to get private property owners to open their space up for use used as emergency shelter, but board members still expressed enthusiasm for the idea.

“We’ve had similar conversations to this before, but I think we’re in a different situation right now,” said County Board Chair Jeff McKay, “not only with what we know about homelessness but that we also, unfortunately, have a higher number of vacancies because of Covid. I think it’s time to have a conversation about adaptive reuse.”

The proposed changes are part of a general push by the county to reevaluate how it tackles homelessness, particularly by increasing the availability of permanent and supportive housing instead of relying on temporary shelters.

The last point-in-time count, conducted on Jan. 26, found 1,191 people experiencing homelessness in the county, a decrease from 2021 but higher than the numbers reported in the most recent years preceding the pandemic. About 50% of the individuals counted were Black, even though only 10% of the county’s population falls in that demographic.

During the initial months of the pandemic, the county enlisted hotels as temporary shelter for individuals who were experiencing homelessness or otherwise lacked space needed for isolating or quarantining due to Covid.

Photo via Tim Mossholder/Unsplash

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The Fairfax County Government Center building (staff photo by David Taube)

(Updated at 1:15 p.m. on 11/30/2022) Local officials are already preparing for “one of the most challenging” budget talks in years due to inflation, the changing real estate market, and staff retention challenges.

Right before the Thanksgiving holiday, Fairfax County staff offered supervisors and the school board an early look at projected revenues, expenditures, and points of potential discussion as the county and Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) prepare to release proposed budgets early next year.

The fiscal year 2024 budget forecast that staff presented on Nov. 22 didn’t paint a particularly rosy picture, however.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay called the forecast “a real mixed bag.” County staff said that generated revenue remained “healthy,” but others weren’t so sunny.

“This is probably going to be one of the most challenging budgets in my 11 years on the [school] board,” Braddock District School Board representative Megan McLaughlin said. “It’s going to be a tough one.”

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity concurred, saying there wasn’t “a lot of good news in here.”

As is the case across the country, the local real estate market has been slowing due to increasing interest rates and rising prices. While it increased from last year, growth is expected to flatten going forward for the rest of 2022 and into 2023.

Fairfax County staff forecast a dip in revenues available for fiscal year 2024 (via Fairfax County)

Non-residential tax revenue is in even worse shape, at least partially due to the change in work-from-home habits resulting from the pandemic. It’s expected to increase by only 0.6% compared to last year when the growth was about 2.3% compared to 2022.

While hotel, retail, and apartment revenues are all expected to increase next year, office revenue is expected to decline between 5% and 6%, raising concerns among some supervisors and school board members.

Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said he has talked to companies in the county that have no intention of renewing office leases due to decreased need with more employees now teleworking.

He called it a “slow-moving crisis” that could create a “very significant hole” in terms of missing revenue.

“[This] is very troubling,” Walkinshaw said. “It’s a structural challenge now in our economy…I’m not confident we have our arms around what that challenge is going to look like over the next 5 to 10 years.”

New construction and transient occupancy (or lodging) tax revenue are also expected to grow, but at much lower rates than prior to the pandemic.

Real estate taxes are the largest source of revenue for the county, providing more than two-thirds of generated money. Last year, home values soared, while commercial tax revenue dropped, resulting in a 3-cent decrease in the real estate tax rate.

All told, revenue is predicted to rise by about $266 million, a 3.8% increase from last year, per the presented forecast.

However, revenue isn’t keeping pace with expenditures, due mostly to anticipated staff salary increases.

Between recruitment and retention challenges and inflation, an additional $159 million will be needed for salaries and benefits compared to the current budget — plus another $113.5 million for school staff. Adding in other costs, the county and FCPS are looking at a combined shortfall of about $125 million for fiscal year 2024, which begins July 1, 2023, staff said.

Since this is a baseline forecast, a number of county and school priorities were not taken into account, including infrastructure upgrades, increased investments in affordable housing, and an expansion of early childhood education programs.

As county staff and McKay both reiterated, the forecast is only an estimation subject to change.

“As the economic outlook is uncertain, staff is approaching FY 2024 revenue forecasting very conservatively,” the presentation said.

Adoption of the fiscal year 2024 budget remains six months away. Advertised budget plans for the county and schools will be released in February with final votes coming in May 2023.

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Fair Oaks Mall sign (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Two of Fairfax County’s longstanding JCPenney stores recently changed hands, a move that could set the stage for their malls to transition to more mixed-use environments.

Announced in September, The Meridian Group — the Bethesda-based developer behind The Boro in Tysons — partnered with D.C. real estate firm Martin-Diamond Properties to acquire five JCPenneys, including the anchor stores at Fair Oaks Mall and Springfield Town Center.

No changes are immediately expected at either store, but Meridian Senior Associate Stephen Garibaldi said in a press release that the company was drawn to the stores because they’re located in areas “ideal for mixed-use density.”

The firms spent $53 million to buy all five properties, which represent a total of nearly 900,000 square feet of retail space.

“We believe over the long-term these locations will continue to be a center of commercial activity but will see outperformance with the introduction of more mixed use,” Garibaldi told the Washington Business Journal. “While we have nothing in the works currently, if the time comes, we look forward to playing a part in that transformation in collaboration with the adjacent sites.”

JCPenney has sold or shuttered dozens of retail stores since filing for bankruptcy in May 2020. The Fair Oaks and Springfield locations were transferred to a bankruptcy trustee last year.

Both the shopping centers where the stores are located have been eyed for redevelopment for years, though neither project has advanced much beyond the planning and zoning stages.

Springfield Town Center got approved for up to 2,736 residential units and 2 million square feet of commercial development back in 2009, but a new hotel proposed this summer represented the first concrete effort to bring that plan to fruition. The application is currently scheduled to go in front of the Fairfax County Planning Commission on Nov. 30.

Previously known as Springfield Mall, the town center underwent a major renovation in 2012 where its JCPenney was one of just three stores left standing.

As for Fair Oaks, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors amended the comprehensive plan in November 2020 to permit approximately 3.1 million square feet of development on 133 acres at the western corner of I-66 and Route 50.

Retail should go from the main use on the site to 20-25% of the total development at full buildout, with residential, office, hotel and other uses becoming more prominent, the plan says, stating that retail typically generates “a high number of vehicular trips to and from a site” and should be reduced.

The Fair Oaks redevelopment plan was enabled by a reduction in parking requirements for the county’s regional malls, but advocates have said the area’s transportation network needs more changes to make it accessible to pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit.

Meridian confirmed to FFXnow that it has “nothing in the works currently” at either Fair Oaks or Springfield Town Center.

“Numerous stakeholders have previously advanced plans re-envisioning the overall mall developments…that would introduce significant mixed-use components to augment the existing retail,” Garibaldi said in a statement. “We are excited by the opportunity to engage with the community and other stakeholders if any of these plans move forward.”

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(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) A coworking company that advertises its flexible offices as “the future of workspace” is bringing that future to Merrifield.

Venture X has leased nearly 28,000 square feet of space on the third floor of Williams Crossing (3060 Williams Drive) and will open its first coworking location in Fairfax County on Jan. 2, 2023, the company announced last Wednesday (Aug. 10).

The site will offer private offices, shared desks, virtual office space, conference rooms, and a community and cafe area.

This will be Venture X’s fourth Virginia location, including one that opened in Arlington last year, and the second owned by Richie and Charissa Parsons, who also own a location at One Loudoun in Ashburn.

“After being open less than 10 months, our first location is almost at capacity,” Richie Parsons said in a press release. “So, we’ve been looking at options for expansion. When presented with the opportunity to open a Venture X in a highly desirable location next to Mosaic District, we knew this would be the perfect spot for our second location.”

Parsons highlighted the building’s relative proximity to the Mosaic District, I-495 and Route 50, and the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station as assets.

Founded in southwest Florida in 2012, Venture X is now a subsidiary of the United Franchise Group Coworks, which is the largest privately held coworking franchise in the world, according to the press release. It has almost 50 locations worldwide.

While initially a challenge for the industry, the pandemic has fueled a coworking revival, as employers push to reopen offices while acknowledging that many workers want the option to work remotely.

Venture X President Michael White said in a statement that the company is “thrilled” to see the Parsons bring a franchise to Merrifield, which he called “an ideal community” for the “contemporary, design-forward” concept.

“Our brand is geared towards business professionals looking for upscale surroundings,” White said. “The demand for more flexible workspace in Virginia continues to increase and this highly anticipated location is expected to enter the market around the end of this year.”

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Rebranding and upgrades could come soon to the aging office park (via Google Maps)

Rebranding could be on the horizon for Sunset Business Park in the Town of Herndon. 

The property owners of one-story buildings with fading maroon facades are exploring the possibility of rebranding and renovating some areas of the park.

Sunset Business Park is home to many locally-owned hidden gems like N’Used, Weird Brothers Coffee, and NextStop Theatre Company.

Not much has recently changed with the appearance of the center.

If a proposal is considered, the business park could see updated signage, building colors, floating awnings, landscaping, parking adjustments and “innovative” internal street detailing and streetscaping, according to Alan Hansen, DBI Architects, Inc.’s managing director of architecture. 

It is felt that the environment should reflect the energy and imaginations of the owners and tenants,” Hansen wrote in a statement to FFXnow.”There is a creative group of owners and tenants that primarily occupy the SBP. Food and beverage providers, performing arts groups and the like. It is felt that the environment should reflect the energy and imaginations of the owners and tenants.”

Design changes are in the early stages of the process, with no set proposal on the table. A meeting with town officials is anticipated later this month. More formalized discussions are expected to kick off in October and November of this year.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Looking up at Tysons Tower outside Tysons Corner Center (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Route 7 Traffic Shift Starts Today — “During the daytime hours on Aug. 11 and the overnight hours on Aug. 15, lane closures and temporary detours will be in place along Route 7 while crews continue paving operations at Carpers Farm Way and Colvin Run Road (east) and shift westbound Route 7 traffic to the new Difficult Run bridge.” [VDOT]

Pro-Nazi Social Media Posts Excluded from Reston Murder Trial — “A Virginia judge has ruled that prosecutors cannot tell the jury in an upcoming double-murder trial about the defendant’s social media posts containing praise for Adolf Hitler and support for Nazi book burnings and the neo-Nazi Atomwaffen Division, according to newly unsealed court records.” [The Washington Post]

Foust on Upcoming Retirement — “Deciding to step down in 2023 was not easy, but Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) is ready to try some new challenges…He plans to stay involved on issues he cares about – such as affordable housing, economic development and climate change — and seek part-time consulting opportunities that ‘take advantage of the expertise that I’ve developed over the years.'” [Sun Gazette]

Salt Water Levels Rising in Region — “Once algae-pocked emblems of water pollution during the early 1970s, the Potomac River and the Occoquan Reservoir — the two sources of drinking water used by Fairfax Water to serve more than 2 million customers in Northern Virginia — are now trending in the wrong direction on salt, while the other contaminants have largely been cleaned up.” [The Washington Post]

Lorton Plant Gets Tech to Reduce Emissions — “Covanta, the company that runs the facilities, announced the installation of the pollution-fighting technology in a news release earlier this week, saying it has helped cut nitrogen oxide emissions by nearly 50%…The Fairfax County facility is located at its I-95 waste management complex in Lorton, and is one of the largest waste-to-energy facilities in the nation, according to the county.” [WTOP]

Report Grades Stream From Lake Barcroft — “Holmes Run, which flows through the Annandale area, is not in great condition, according to a report released Aug. 10 by the Audubon Naturalist Society…The report gives Holmes Run a grade of ‘moderately poor’ for climate, a rating of ‘good’ for access to nature, and ‘fair’ ratings for water quality and for biodiversity and habitat.” [Annandale Today]

California Firm Buys Local Defense Office Buildings — “The properties include six buildings at five locations in Fairfax County, Fairfax City and Loudoun County. They’re 96% leased to the likes of Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT), General Dynamics Corp. (NYSE: GD), The Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) and Northrop Grumman Corp. (NYSE: NOC).” [Washington Business Journal]

Reston Turns Out for Trucks — “Thank you to all the families that came out for this year’s Totally Trucks event! For the past 22 years, Totally Trucks has delighted kids and adults alike, and this year was no different with more than 1000 people in attendance.” [Reston Association/Twitter]

Local Breweries Win Awards — “Vienna and Merrifield’s Caboose Brewing Company and Sweetwater Tavern scored several awards in the 2022 Virginia Craft Beer Cup, announced by the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild Monday. The Virginia Craft Beer Cup is the largest state competition of its kind in the U.S.” [Patch]

It’s Thursday — Possible drizzle in the morning. High of 85 and low of 73. Sunrise at 6:20 am and sunset at 8:10 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

A family hits the mini golf course at Jefferson District Park in Idylwood (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Metro Promises Relief for Train Riders Next Month — Starting Monday (Aug. 1), the addition of more rail cars will speed up service on the Orange, Blue and Silver lines to every 15 minutes on weekdays instead of the current wait times, which can reach up to 20 minutes. Metro says it anticipates expanding those service adjustments to weekends in September. [WMATA]

Man to Plead Guilty to Herndon Murder — A Virginia man told a Fairfax County judge he wants to plead guilty to the 1987 killing of 37-year-old Eige Sober-Adler in Herndon after being indicted in the case in January. Charles Helem is already serving life in prison for strangling and killing his ex-girlfriend, Patricia Bentley, in Chantilly in 2002. [WTOP]

Reston Residents Frustrated by Car Burglaries — “Some angry Reston residents are complaining that the police are doing too little to stop a persistent car burglar repeatedly targeting their community…Neighbors say the same burglar has returned to the West Market neighborhood near Reston Town Center at least four times over the course of the year” [WUSA9]

New Sidewalks in Lincolnia Near Finish — “Work is wrapping up on #Lincolnia Road Sidewalk and Spot Improvement Project! This #FairfaxCounty Transportation project consists of 1,000 LF of sidewalk to connect pedestrian facilities along North Chambliss Street and Lincolnia Road from the Lincolnia Senior Center to Linmar Court” [Supervisor Penny Gross/Twitter]

Pittsburgh Bank Coming to Reston — “First National Bank is expanding in Northern Virginia. F.N.B. Corp. (NYSE: FNB) said Wednesday it has filed applications with the Order of the Comptroller of the Currency to open new branches in Reston and Arlington. The bank currently operates seven First National Bank offices in Northern Virginia and the District and said it expects to grow that total to 11 by 2024.” [Washington Business Journal]

Maintenance Set for Planned Tysons Trail — “Fairfax County supervisors on July 19 authorized the county’s transportation director, Thomas Biesiadny, to execute a perpetual agreement with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for joint operation and maintenance of a new shared-use path in Tysons.” [Sun Gazette]

Idylwood Office Buildings Sold — “Dave Schaeffer, CEO of Cogent Communications, has acquired 7799 Leesburg Pike, a pair of 11-story office towers totaling 377,717 square feet in Tysons, Va. The sale price was $49 million, according to someone close to the deal…At the time of the sale, the buildings were 36 percent leased to seven tenants, including Tyson MRI and Imaging Center and the University of the Potomac Virginia Campus.” [Commercial Observer]

Reston Offers “Superhero” Triathlon for Kids — Coming this Sunday (July 31), the CORE Foundation will host its first-ever Reston Superhero Youth Triathlon at Ridge Heights Pool. Over 100 people have registered for the competition, which will feature running, swimming, and bicycling and have categories for para and adaptive athletes. [CORE Foundation]

Vienna Parks and Rec Registration Coming — “Get ready, get set for fall fun with Vienna Parks and Recreation! Explore the program guide and sign up for classes, camps and more adventures for the whole family! Registration for Town residents opens at 8 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 1. Registration for all others opens Monday, Aug. 8.” [Town of Vienna]

It’s Friday — Rain in the evening and overnight. High of 82 and low of 74. Sunrise at 6:09 am and sunset at 8:25 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

A rainbow at sunset over Reston Town Center (photo by Beth Allgaier)

Police Uses of Force Prompt Town Hall — Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk’s office will host a virtual town hall on July 21 to discuss recent use-of-force incidents by Fairfax County police officers. Lusk, who chairs the Board of Supervisors’ public safety committee, said he shares community concerns “about both the nature of these incidents, as well as the frequency at which they are occurring.” [Rodney Lusk/Twitter]

Possible Reston Arts Center Delayed — Reston Town Center developer Boston Properties got approval to extend the deadline for when Fairfax County has to decide whether to build a new performing arts center by six months. A proffer agreement for the next phase of the center’s development allows the county to require an arts center or a park on the site along Sunset Hills Road. [Patch]

Local Students Take in New Images of Deep Space — “On Monday, the world got a look at the first image from the most powerful telescope ever launched into space, the James Webb Space Telescope…More images were released on Tuesday, and in Fairfax County, students taking part in summer learning programs got their first look with a NASA Solar System Ambassador in Burke, Virginia.” [WTOP]

Prepare for New Running Bamboo Regulations — “The effective date for a new ordinance designed to control the spread of ‘running bamboo’ is still nearly six months away, but Fairfax County’s Department of Code Compliance is already working to get property owners prepared.” [Patch]

Vienna Delivery Company Leases Warehouse — “Vienna-based LaserShip signed a lease for a full 105K SF warehouse building in Chantilly, Virginia, the company announced Tuesday. The property it leased, the Stonecroft Industrial Center, is located at 14850 Thompson Road…The lease represents an expansion of LaserShip’s Northern Virginia footprint, where it already operates in Chantilly.” [Bisnow]

Herndon Police Remind Drivers to Stop — “THIRTY citations were issued over the past two weeks for drivers failing to come to a complete stop. Stop. At red lights. At stop signs. Not only is this the law, but it keeps our town safer!” [Herndon Police/Twitter]

Mini Golf Enlivens Capital One’s Tysons Campus — “Eleven stories up, on a rooftop at the corporate campus of one of America’s biggest banks, grown adults are playing miniature golf…They’re at Perch Putt, an 18-hole mini-golf course complete with bright green Astroturf and undulating greens. It’s one of the more playful, if unexpected, amenities of the corporate landscape.” [Fast Company]

Vienna Community Group Auctions Custom Yard Signs — “Rustic Love and Vienna Arts Society, two nonprofits based in Vienna, have teamed up for an auction that launched Sunday. The auction features 20 heart signs built by Rustic Love volunteers and painted by Vienna Arts Society artists.” [Patch]

It’s Wednesday — Humid and partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 86 and low of 74. Sunrise at 5:56 am and sunset at 8:36 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Blue Origins’ new Reston offices on Edmund Halley Drive (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 1:15 p.m.) Jeff Bezos’ commercial space flight company has found its landing spot in Reston.

Blue Origin, owned by the Amazon founder, is docking at 2001 Edmund Halley Drive, a company spokesperson confirmed to FFXnow.

“Blue Origin has grown to more than 6000 employees and continues to hire top talent,” the spokesperson wrote in a statement. “In addition to the growth we are experiencing at each of our current sites, Blue has opened new offices in Denver, Phoenix, and Reston, Virginia. These sites will allow us to recruit additional talent in these regions.”

FFXnow first reported back in March that Blue Origin was set to open an office and facility in Reston during the first half of this year. While it appears that goal was missed, the space flight company is on its way to a 33,000-square-foot space just off the Dulles Access Road and Reston Parkway.

Blue Origin’s new digs will be about two miles from the Wiehle-Reston Metro station and adjacent to the Reston Town Center Metro station, which will open (hopefully) this fall.

According to Blue Origin’s website, the Reston office will host a “Center of Excellence” to support the company’s “Advanced Development Program, New Glenn launch system, new space infrastructure product development, and the company’s Enterprise Technology team.”

While it’s unclear how many employees will be working out of the new location, there appear to be currently 23 jobs open. Those range from “Avionics Thermal Analyst” to “Propulsion Engineer.”

Each job listing includes the same phrasing about making history:

This position will directly impact the history of space exploration and will require your commitment and detailed attention towards safe and repeatable space flight. Join us in lowering the cost of access to space and enabling Blue Origin’s vision of millions of people living and working in space to benefit Earth.

Back in March, Blue Origin held a jobs open house at a Reston hotel.

Blue Origin has two other area offices in D.C. and in Arlington. The small Rosslyn location will remain open, serving a different aspect of the company from the Reston site, according to the Washington Business Journal.

The company made news recently by saying it’s looking to increase the number of people it flies to space in 2022. To do this, Blue Origin will need to build more rockets.

Just last month, Blue Origin sent six more people to space for its fifth space tourism flight.

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