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A snow-covered mitten holds a paper heart (via Eli Pluma on Unsplash)

Winter is coming, and with temperatures projected to top out in the 30s and low 40s next week, staying warm will soon become even more of a challenge for many Fairfax County residents.

To help those in need get through the season, Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik’s office will launch a winter clothes drive today (Monday), collecting coats, gloves and hats of all sizes for donation to local shelters.

New and gently used items are being accepted until Jan. 19 at the Providence District Office (3001 Vaden Drive), which is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. A flyer says additional drop-off locations will be shared, but as of press time, the office was still waiting to confirm the other sites, including one at Tysons Corner Center.

“Holding donation drives is an opportunity for people to get involved and give back to the community,” Palchik said in an emailed statement. “What some may deem as a small donation is a big help to those in need. The collected winter gear will be donated not only to our unsheltered community members but also those who may not be able to afford them.”

For the drive, Palchik’s office has teamed up with the Providence Community Center, local homeowners’ associations, and the Tysons Community Alliance, which was formed in October to replace the Tysons Partnership as a nonprofit organization that advocates for the area and guides its evolution.

Recipients of the winter clothing donations will include The Lamb Center, a shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness located on the border of Oakton and Fairfax, and Tysons-based Second Story, which focuses on helping kids, teens and families.

While this drive will support Providence District residents, including Tysons, Oakton, Merrifield and the area around Fairfax, the North County Government Center will host a final drop-off date for Reston’s annual Winter Coat Closet on Jan. 14.

Photo via Eli Pluma/Unsplash

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The intersection of Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) and Tysons Blvd outside Tysons Corner Center (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Talks are underway to design a street-level crossing across Route 123 at Tysons Blvd, a daunting challenge that would — at least in theory — improve access to Tysons Corner Center for pedestrians, bicyclists and others.

Fairfax County, the Virginia Department of Transportation and Macerich, the mall owner and developer, are currently hashing out an agreement for the crossing as an alternative to the existing pedestrian bridge that links the mall’s plaza to the Tysons Metro station on the other side of Route 123, also known as Chain Bridge Road.

“We’re not there yet, but we are diligently working to find the best and safest street-level crossing there as well, because just that bridge is not the best way to have a crossing,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said when sharing the news at last month’s World Day of Remembrance ceremony honoring pedestrians killed in vehicle crashes.

Exactly what a safe Chain Bridge Road crossing might look like remains to be decided.

According to Palchik, the discussions began in the wake of 74-year-old Annandale resident Filadelfo Ramos Marquez’s death in a crash on Dec. 30, 2021.

At the time, police noted that Ramos Marquez wasn’t using a crosswalk when he got hit by the driver of a 2010 Toyota Camry going south on Chain Bridge. However, the closest crosswalk to the mall is two-tenths of a mile to the south at International Drive. Reaching it means crossing a bus entrance for the Metro and multiple gas station driveways on a narrow, sometimes uneven sidewalk.

The Metro walkway isn’t particularly convenient either except for those actually planning to take a train, and it’s not open 24 hours a day like it was supposed to be, Palchik told FFXnow.

“We’re still figuring that out,” she said when asked what a safe crossing would look like. “I think VDOT has one idea of what it would be, we have one idea, Macerich has another idea.”

Palchik says the crossing should include a pedestrian refuge in the middle of Route 123 so people at least have a place to stop, and lights will “definitely” be needed. Right now, the Tysons Blvd intersection only has traffic lights to direct vehicles with no signs or signals to indicate pedestrians might be present.

A VDOT spokesperson confirmed the department “is planning pedestrian enhancements due to the volume of pedestrian traffic and proximity to transit,” but no design details are available yet since the project “is still in early stages.”

VDOT also said Macerich is planning to modify a part of an intersection at the mall. When asked about its plans, a spokesperson for the real estate developer directed comments instead to Palchik’s office and the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, which didn’t respond to an inquiry by press time.

The developer’s proposal to replace the now-vacant Lord & Taylor store with a mixed-use tower was revised again last month to include “a grand portal” through the tower that will better connect Tysons Corner Center’s elevated plaza to the street below.

The mall’s next phase of development will also include a 10-foot-wide trail from the Metro bus bays to International Drive, according to the updated application filed with Fairfax County on Nov. 21.

The proposed staircase and additional streetscaping were added in anticipation of a future street-level crossing at Tysons Blvd, the Washington Business Journal reported.

Acknowledging that congestion can be a concern on Chain Bridge, both going north to the Capital Beltway and south toward Vienna, Palchik says a safe, more accessible crossing is still necessary, as walkability remains a challenge in Tysons.

“We do want to continue to build that as an urban city and core, and that means people walking [and] rolling across not just internal streets, but Route 123 and Route 7,” Palchik said.

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Traveling Players Ensemble, a student theater company based in Tysons, performs “Commedia Christmas Carol” (photo by Alex Mountfield)

Rep. Gerry Connolly will put his experience dealing with Scrooges on Capitol Hill to the test tomorrow when he takes the stage for a youth production of “Commedia Christmas Carol.”

The congressman and Providence District Supervisior Dalia Palchik will join student actors with the Traveling Players Ensemble for their take on the Charles Dickens holiday classic at 8 p.m., the Tysons-based theatrical company announced earlier this week.

Held at the Traveling Players Studio (DL01, 1961 Chain Bridge Road) in Tysons Corner Center, it will be the penultimate performance of the production, which launched on Dec. 2 and concludes at 3 p.m. on Sunday (Dec. 11).

Aimed at audiences 8 and older, the show puts a comedic twist on “A Christmas Carol.” It runs 75 minutes with no intermission and features a cast of kids from across the D.C. area.

“I love that it’s a ghost story, swirling out of control, careening through Scrooge’s painful past, and foreseeing his isolated future,” Traveling Players Producing Artistic Director Jeanne Harrison said in a press release. “And then he does the thing that is so brave: he changes. He lets people laugh at his newfound zest for life. And he is so much happier. He is renewed.”

Harrison founded the nonprofit theater company as a summer camp with 18 students in 2002. She is also the director for “Christmas Carol.”

Now in its 20th year with students in grades 2-12, the Traveling Players says Connolly and Palchik will make cameos in tomorrow’s show to acknowledge the key roles they played in the group’s journey.

Congressman Connolly is a lifelong supporter of arts and education.  It was through his support that Traveling Players found their first long-time home in Fairfax County at The Madeira School, back in 2007 when he was still the Chairman of the Fairfax County Supervisors.  A thespian in his own right, this will not be the Congressman’s first time taking the stage in a local production, but it will be his first cameo appearance with Traveling Players.

In 2020, Supervisor Palchick celebrated with Traveling Players by cutting the ribbon when they moved into their new home, their Studio in Tysons Corner Center, inside her district.  Also an ardent supporter of the arts and education, Supervisor Palchick’s priorities overlap with those of Traveling Players: to expand artistic opportunities to every child in her district and the wider Fairfax County community.

There will also be an introduction by Jesse Benites, the general manager of Macerich, which owns and operates Tysons Corner Center. The mall has housed the Traveling Players Studio since February 2020 and hosted outdoor performances on its Plaza this summer.

Tickets to “Commedia Christmas Carol” cost $15 and can be purchased online.

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(Updated at 10:40 a.m. on 12/5/2022) Even with one month left, 2022 is the deadliest year for Fairfax County pedestrians in more than a decade.

Through October, vehicle crashes have killed 22 people on streets and highways in the county — the most since at least 2010, the earliest year in Virginia’s Traffic Records Electronic Data System (TREDS). The previous high came in 2018 and 2019, when there were 17 fatalities each.

The state data doesn’t appear to include the teen who died last Wednesday (Nov. 16) after being hit while crossing Columbia Pike in Bailey’s Crossroads.

The teen was among the almost two dozen people represented at Oakton High School on Sunday (Nov. 20) by electronic candles and empty chairs covered by shroud-like white sheets. A Fairfax Families for Safe Streets (Fairfax FSS) volunteer read their names in a hushed cafeteria for the community group’s World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims ceremony.

“We have experienced many more tragedies than we are able to name individually today,” Fairfax FSS volunteer and board member Chris French said, noting that the list didn’t include 18 non-pedestrians killed on county roads or people who survived crashes but still suffered physically, financially and emotionally.

Started by European nonprofits in 1995, World Day of Remembrance is commemorated on the third Sunday of every November as an occasion to mourn those lost and a call to take action to prevent future losses. FFS also had events in Alexandria and Arlington.

Fairfax FSS urged local and state officials to make safety improvements throughout the area, especially in corridors known to be dangerous to pedestrians like Columbia Pike and Blake Lane — where two Oakton High School students were killed and a third was seriously injured in June.

  • Installing automated speed enforcement at all schools
  • Deploying proven safety measures around schools and activity centers, such as rapid flashing beacons, HAWK or pedestrian hybrid beacons, and lighting at unsignalized crossings
  • Implementing a dedicated safe routes infrastructure plan for all Fairfax County schools
  • Implementing speed management solutions on all high injury and multilane arterials, for example, speed feedback signs, road diets
  • Improvements to pedestrian signals and timing for pedestrians to cross high traffic streets safely
  • Installing crosswalks and accessible ramps to all approaches at signalized crossings

Speed cameras likely coming

Fairfax County is moving to make that first demand at least a reality. Spurred in part by the fatal Oakton crash, the Board of Supervisors is expected to approve a speed camera pilot program after a public hearing on Dec. 6. Read More

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Providence Community Center (file photo)

The Providence Community Center is set to be renamed after former Fairfax County Board Supervisor and House Delegate James M. Scott.

At last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Providence Supervisor Dalia Palchik introduced a board matter initiating the process of renaming the Providence Community Center in Oakton after Scott.

Scott was a longtime county supervisor before being elected to the House of Delegates by a single vote in 1991. He’s known locally as a supporter of human rights, affordable housing, and school-based daycare centers. Scott also founded the nonprofit Celebrate Fairfax, according to Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross.

In addition, he’s the namesake for two county awards: one that recognizes achievement in building design and planning and the other for “community spirit.”

As a state delegate, he pushed for letting people register to vote by mail, at DMVs, welfare offices, and employment centers. He also got a bill passed that required gubernatorial candidates to appear and personally endorse the content of their political ads as a means to reduce negative campaign advertising.

He was also an “early proponent of making the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a holiday,” per Palchik’s board matter. Scott died in 2017.

During the discussion, a number of supervisors chimed in about Scott’s impact and legacy in the county.

“I think about Jim a lot, I really do. He was definitely ahead of his time in a lot of ways…Above all, he cared about community,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said. “To put his name on a community center is such a wonderful thing.”

Chairman Jeff McKay noted that when he first met Scott, he was introduced to him as “Mr. Community.” Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity also applauded the renaming.

“He was from a different time — a better time, I would say, in terms of the Board of Supervisors,” Herrity said. “He was really about community and getting things done for the citizens of Fairfax County… I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate than naming the community center after him.”

While the approval of Palchik’s board matter starts the process of renaming the community center, it remains unclear officially when it will actually happen.

“We will be working with the Dept. of Neighborhood and Community Services on developing a timeline,” a spokesperson for Palchik’s office wrote FFXnow in an email.

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Fairfax County is looking to redevelop its courthouse complex (via Fairfax County Government)

Fairfax County is considering updating its comprehensive plan to incorporate new housing and other public facilities in the Judicial Complex, a nearly 48-acre portion land surrounded by the City of Fairfax that is slated for redevelopment.

Home to the county’s circuit, general district and juvenile courts as well as the Historic Fairfax County Courthouse, the county jail, and volunteer organizations, the complex underwent a master planning process that concluded in January 2021, kicking off implementation of a 20-year plan.

At a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting on Oct. 11, Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik directed staff to pursue a comprehensive plan amendment that allows more housing on the site.

“Since the current Compressive Plan permits only existing public uses, a plan amendment would be required to accommodate the new uses proposed in the County Judicial Complex Master Plan. Future planning and zoning processes will continue to include comprehensive stakeholder engagement,” Palchik wrote in the board matter.

The master planning process first kicked off in 2018, creating a long-term roadmap and vision for the site, which Palchik noted has potential for infill development.

Several redevelopment projects are already underway at the complex.

A 170,000-square-foot building with one level of underground parking is under construction. The building will include space for 11 programs, including commonwealth’s attorney offices and police and fire evidence storage. The design will be finalized in early 2025, followed by the completion of construction in 2027.

Entitlement of the Judicial Complex is also underway. An amendment to the county’s comprehensive plan is necessary to allow for residential and other uses that are not explicitly related to public safety.

Demolition of two wings and a sally port built behind the Historic Courthouse building is scheduled to begin in the spring. Hazmat and asbestos abatement will also begin around that time, with estimated completion by spring 2024.

So far, roughly $3 million in funding has been allocated to design building one in the complex. The next phase will involve the wings set to be demolished.

Future phases call for workforce housing at the Burkholder Administrative Center site, a new diversion and community re-entry center, the removal of the staff parking garage, hinges to the public parking garage, and other public facilities.

The project is expected to cost around $223 million — a rough estimate that is being used for future Economic Development Authority financing. Total cost estimates for each phase are still being developed, according to county budgetary documents.

The complex was home to the Massey Building, a 13-story structure that was built in 1969 and served as the main seat for the county’s government.

A population boom through the 1980s pushed the county to move to its current government center campus, turning the Massey Building into a base for the police and fire and rescue departments.

After those departments moved to the Public Safety Headquarters on the government center campus in 2017, the building was demolished in spring 2020.

“Demolition of the Massey building provided the County with an opportunity to replan the Judicial Complex,” the county’s webpage for the redevelopment plan says. “The last comprehensive master plan for the site was developed in 2002 as part of the Courthouse Expansion and Renovation project. The goal of the master plan was to consider existing development needs, while keeping in mind and planning for future uses.”

So far, areas that are the focus of redevelopment include the former Massey building site, the Historic Courthouse and surface parking lots.

Palchik noted that the plan amendment will be reviewed concurrently with zoning applications once they are submitted.

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Electric vehicle chargers in Oakton (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) Fairfax County is looking to charge up a new electric vehicle charging station program and pilot it in Reston.

At last week’s Transportation Committee meeting, the Board of Supervisors discussed a new “Charge Up Fairfax” program, where the county would provide support to homeowners’ associations (HOAs) and multi-family communities to install electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in common areas.

“Electric vehicles are coming and a large segment of the population won’t be able to participate simply because of the issue of at-home charging,” Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination Director Kambiz Agazi said Friday (Sept. 30).

The county hopes that, by 2030, 15% of all light-duty vehicle registrations in the county will be EVs, per the Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) adopted last year. By 2050, the aim is to be at 42%. As of May 2022, though, under 1% of light-duty vehicle registrations are electric.

Under the proposed pilot program, the county would work with HOAs, large multi-family apartment buildings, and condo associations to install EV charging stations in publicly available locations, such as parking garages and designated parking spots owned by an HOA.

The county has proposed starting the pilot with Reston Association (RA), the largest HOA in the county and possibly the country(Correction: This article initially said Reston Association has been chosen for the pilot. RA says conversations are underway, but no final decision has been made.)

Agazi said the pilot program is funded, but a timeline wasn’t established at the meeting.

There are more than 1,500 home, apartment and condo associations in the county, according to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.

“We are kind of at the forefront on this one and there not a lot of communities in the region, or even around the country, that are trying to tackle this,” Alcorn said. “We are really talking about roughly half of our population that live in communities like I do that don’t have a [private] garage or a private space that they could put a charger. So, this is a big deal.”

“Charge Up Fairfax” would assist HOAs in identifying locations for charging stations, provide technical support to set them up, and offer financial assistance. The grants would be structured to reimburse communities for a third of eligible expenses up to $5,000.

So-called “disadvantaged” communities would be able to apply for two grants, meaning they would have eligible expenses reimbursed for up to $10,000.

A big component will be a feasibility study, which the county will conduct for the HOAs. The study will consider power sources, the parking situation, community input, and other factors to determine where the best locations would be for charging stations. Read More

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A historical marker for the McLean Volunteer Fire Department was installed outside the Old Firehouse Center in 2020 (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated at 5:35 p.m.) Fairfax County will install six new historical markers over the next year honoring Black and African-American history. The markers will highlight local civil rights activists, enslaved peoples, educators, and a famed four-star general.

At last week’s Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting, it was revealed that a Board-appointed committee had chosen the winners of the inaugural “Historical Marker Contest.”

The student-led contest, which was launched a year ago, was designed “to focus on narratives and oral histories of our African American communities, whose history, culture, and accomplishments in the County are underrepresented in our history books, lessons, and markers.”

Local students submitted 53 proposals for potential markers that held relevance to Black/African American history in the county. From there, 14 finalists were considered, and six were chosen.

The winning proposals will become physical historical markers sometime in the next year, per Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik, who presented the joint board matter at the meeting on Sept. 13.

The six markers are:

  • Louise Archer — The principal at a one-room schoolhouse in Vienna during the early part of the 20th century. She also established one of the county’s earliest 4-H Clubs for African Americans
  • Lillian Blackwell — A civil rights activist who successfully sued Virginia to ban segregation in public accommodations, including schools and movie theaters
  • Annie Harper — A Gum Springs resident who successfully challenged Virginia’s poll tax
  • Gunnell’s Chapel — A small wooden post-Civil War Methodist church in Langley
  • Gen. Colin Powell — A four-star general who was also the first African American to be appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as Secretary of State. He was a McLean resident.
  • The West Springfield 16 — A group of 16 enslaved persons who lived and worked on the property where West Springfield High School now sits

Next, staff and the History Commission wil work to “refine the language of the marker,” have the marker made, and plan the eventual installations.

As Palchik noted at the meeting, the process to get each marker made and installed can be a “lengthy one” but the plan is to have them all in place within a year.

The board matter also authorized the preparation of a proclamation honoring the students, county and Fairfax County Public Schools staff, and the voting committee for their ideas and work to make these markers a reality.

Their work “has allowed us to engage deeply and authentically with the contributions of our Black/African American community in Fairfax County,” the board matter says.

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Developer SCG plans to build 453 units of affordable housing at 1750 Old Meadow Road (via Fairfax County)

The proposed replacement of a Tysons East office building with affordable housing will be supported by over $33 million in local and federal public funds.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors authorized the county’s Redevelopment and Housing Authority (FCRHA) to provide $33.6 million in financing for the Somos project at 1750 Old Meadow Road by a 9-1 vote yesterday (Tuesday).

Developer SCG Development filed an application with the county last year to demolish the site’s existing office building and replace it with an 8-story multifamily residential building featuring 5,000 square feet of retail, office or community uses.

While the application seeks up to 460 units, the site and building design configuration put the final number of units at 453, according to Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik’s office.

The units will be spread across two attached buildings: a 5-story, 228-unit “rear” building over an existing three-level parking garage and an 8-story, approximately 225-unit building in the front. Rents will range from 40% of the area’s median income to 70%, with 60% as the average.

The complex will be just a half-mile from the McLean Metro station, furthering the county’s efforts to increase affordable housing, especially near transit, Palchik said before the board’s vote.

“It’s an important and welcome addition in helping us make Tysons more affordable, helping us attract young employees and the workforce that we want to be able to live and work in Tysons and in Fairfax County,” Palchik said.

According to the board agenda, the newly authorized funds include a $12.6 million loan to SCG from the county’s Housing Blueprint. FCRHA will also spend $20.7 million to acquire the roughly 3.5 acres of land under the planned building.

The building will be leased to SCG for a 99-year term, requiring all units to remain affordable during that time.

The price tag ruffled Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, who argued that the money could be used for housing in a less expensive area of the county.

“We should be making our money go a lot further,” he said. “We’re not solving a need to put something on top of mass transit just to put it on top of mass transit, and that $33 million could be put to a lot better use on other projects or other programs.”

About $13 million will be local tax dollars, according to Fairfax County Housing and Community Development Director Tom Fleetwood. There is also $19 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act and $1.2 million contributed by developers to the Tysons Housing Trust Fund.

Acknowledging that the project is on the expensive side, other supervisors contended that the extra cost is necessary to bring an affordable housing option to Tysons, which has been touted as the county’s “economic engine” even as high housing costs push out retail workers and others in lower-paying jobs.

According to RentCafe, the average monthly rent for an apartment in Tysons is $2,617, as of July, surpassing everywhere else in the D.C. region, including Fairfax and Arlington, except for Bethesda.

Chairman Jeff McKay said affordable housing in a place like Tysons with jobs and transit is “a true investment in Fairfax County’s economic success.”

The county is also providing some public funds for the all-affordable Dominion Square West high-rises proposed for Spring Hill Road to the west.

“There’s an environmental cost. There’s an infrastructure cost to continuing to make bad decisions,” McKay said. “…For too long, this county has decided there’s only certain areas in this county where affordable housing can go. Those days are over here.”

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The Nottoway Nights summer concert series will return to Vienna in July, along with a new Global Dance & Music program in West Falls Church (courtesy Office of Supervisor Dalia Palchik)

The Fairfax County Park Authority’s annual Summer Entertainment Series is back, and this time, West Falls Church has been invited to the party.

The inaugural Global Music & Dance program will launch at 7:30 p.m. next Wednesday (July 6) in the parking lot of the Graham Road Community Building (3036 Graham Road), Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik announced on Tuesday (June 28).

“This new program will highlight local international arts groups, with a focus on dancing,” Palchik said in a board matter, directing county staff to start advertising the scheduled concerts.

The festivities will kick off with swing dancing from the Silver Tones Swing Band before showcasing a different style of music, from polka to klezmers and mariachi dancing, every Wednesday in July and August.

Global Music & Dance joins the long-running Nottoway Nights concerts in Vienna to form the newly named Providence Presents series:

Nottoway Nights — Thursday evenings, 7:30-8:30 p.m, Nottoway Park (9601 Courthouse Road)

  • July 7: Voices of Classic Soul (R&B, Motown)
  • July 14: Project Locrea (world music)
  • July 21: King Soul (Southern soul)
  • July 28: Seth Kibel & The Kleztet (jazz, swing)
  • Aug. 4: The Seldom Scene (bluegrass)
  • Aug. 11: Cathy Ponton King (roots, blues)
  • Aug. 18: Yellow Dubmarine (Beatles tribute band)
  • Aug. 25: Billy Coulter (roots rock, pop)

Global Music & Dance — Wednesday evenings, 7:30-8:30 p.m., Graham Road Community Building (3036 Graham Road)

  • July 6: Silver Tones Swing Band (swing dance)
  • July 13: Fraternidad Folklorica Cultural Morenada Bolivia (Bolivian dance)
  • July 20: Violin Dreams (klezmer music)
  • July 27: Mariachi Los Amigos (mariachi dance)
  • Aug. 3: The Continentals (polka music)
  • Aug. 10: El Tayrona (Colombian dance)
  • Aug. 17: Centro Cultural Peru (Peruvian dance)
  • Aug. 24: Caiso Steel Drum Band (Caribbean music)

The park authority partners with the district supervisors’ offices, the Fairfax County Park Foundation, and sponsors every summer to provide free entertainment across Fairfax County.

Underway since June 3, this year’s programming has been broken up into 11 series at 18 different venues and includes 180 live performances, along with drive-in movies at the Trinity Centre in Centreville. A full roster of events can be found on the park authority’s website.

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