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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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The nonprofit Reston Strong set up tents outside the Hunter Mill District office to call for action on homelessness (via Reston Strong)

Fairfax County is looking for more ways to bring more people into supportive and permanent housing beyond what some consider the band-aid approach to tackling homelessness — temporary shelters.

At a meeting yesterday (Tuesday), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously moved a board matter directing staff to complete a comprehensive evaluation of ways to boost supportive housing, the evaluation of current options, and protocol for emergency shelter in commercial and industrial districts.

The matter was jointly collaborated on by Chairman Jeff McKay and supervisors John Foust, Walter Alcorn, Rodney Lusk, and Dalia Palchik. Foust led the motion.

Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross cautioned the board to consider that policy changes can only go so far in implementing goals.

“We really need to make sure we recognize that policies can only be so good as the people who are actually trying to implement them too,” Gross said. 

Foust acknowledged that the county’s work relies heavily on support for external partners and nonprofit organizations. He also noted that the policy directive encourages county staff to examine resources overall.

“So much of what we do in that arena is through the nonprofits and we need to look at that specifically,” Foust said.

There are currently 1,191 people experiencing homelessness in Fairfax County, per a Point in Time count calculated by the county. 282 adults are experiencing chronic homelessness, and 50% of those counted identified as Black or African American, even though that demographic makes up just 10% of the county’s general population.

The board matter specifically delves into the county’s Quarantine, Protection, Isolation/Decompression (QPID) hotels program, which was created to provide emergency shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program was run in addition to the county’s hypothermia program, which operates every winter.

This year, the end of both programs raised red flags about the chronic issues of lack of emergency shelter and permanent housing. QPID ended in March.

While supportive options are available in the county, many find themselves unsheltered until a shelter bed or housing becomes available, the board matter said:

Given the shortage of shelter beds and housing, individuals may be unsheltered and unhoused between hypothermia prevention seasons. These individuals can wind up sleeping in cars, at bus shelters, in tents in the woods, and in other outdoor places. They often sleep near the County’s homeless shelters so they can access services such as meals, bathrooms and showering, laundry, and outreach/case worker assistance.

The nonprofit group Reston Strong brought awareness about lack of housing for people experiencing homelessness and the need for emergency shelters through a tents campaign called Neighbors in Tents.

The county has been working on the issue for years. In April, Alcorn directed the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness to review the county’s current operational performance in its effort to prevent and end homelessness.

The latest board matter directs staff to do the following:

Evaluate the successes and challenges experienced with QPID, including costs, operations, and results, and including how QPID compares with the success of the County’s established use of hotel rooms as temporary shelter for qualifying unhoused families.

Identify site-specific options for the development of more permanent supportive housing, with a focus on creative solutions for the long-term housing and service needs of the homeless population.

Review current zoning requirements and allowances for emergency shelter in commercial and
industrial districts where vacant and underutilized properties might be used by private entities to provide sheltering and transitional services to the homeless population and include this issue as a possible addition to the Zoning Ordinance work program for the Board’s consideration.

Provide an analysis of other available options that are not currently being used to address
homelessness in the County, including costs and benefits of each, and provide recommendations for the Board’s consideration. This analysis should include a review of successful efforts that have been implemented in other jurisdictions.

Ensure that the county’s partners in addressing homelessness have an opportunity to provide input to staff regarding matters addressed herein, including the operational review requested in the April 12 board matter.

Staff will present findings and recommendations at the board’s housing committee meeting on Nov. 22.

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The Mosaic District’s roller skating rink from summer 2021 (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The outdoor roller skating rink that popped up on Strawberry Lane in the Mosaic District last summer could become a seasonal fixture — with a possible ice skating rink also in the works.

EDENS, the owner and developer of the Merrifield mixed-use community, has partnered with operator Rink Management Services Corporation to revive the Mosaic Skateland rink annually, starting this summer, according to a special permit application recently submitted to Fairfax County.

“The goal of this event is to create a fun activity that brings the community outside and active after a couple years of Covid-19 quarantine,” Rink Management Services said in a statement.

If the permit is approved, the roller skating rink will operate seven days a week from June 24 through Sept. 25, with about a week required to both set the facility up and take it down. It will allow one-hour sessions with up to 50 skaters each.

Instead of blocking off Strawberry Lane, the Mosaic District’s main thoroughfare, the rink will be located on Mosaic Town Center Drive at the District Avenue corner, adjacent to Barnes & Noble.

Like in 2021, this year’s Skateland will open during LGBTQ Pride Month. In an email, EDENS suggests following the launch day with a Pride celebration on June 25, including a donation to FCPS Pride, an advocacy group for LGBTQ+ school employees.

After this year, the roller rink will shift to more of a spring event, running approximately 90 days each year from the beginning of April through the end of June, Rink Management Services suggests.

The company has also proposed introducing an ice skating rink at the Mosaic District during the winter.

The ice rink would run for approximately 120 days from early November to late February, and it could support holiday events as well as the annual Polar Plunge fundraiser for the Special Olympics, according to the application materials.

Because the rink will stick around longer than it did last year, a temporary event special permit is required from the county, which carries a $16,375 fee, according to Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik.

At Palchik’s request, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors agreed on March 22 to grant EDENS a 75% reduction in zoning fees in accordance with an emergency measure adopted on July 27 that waived or reduced regulations and fees to assist the hospitality industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the ordinance only mentions indoor recreational facilities as eligible, Palchik made the case that the Mosaic skating rink proposal is “essentially the same” as the hospitality uses explicitly mentioned in the measure.

“The proposed skating rink is intended to add significant outdoor activities to an existing, established shopping and lifestyle center,” she said, adding that EDENS intends to use the proceeds from the rink to support a local nonprofit.

EDENS declined to provide further details about the skating rink plans.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said the amount of the permit fee “raised my eyebrows,” suggesting the board could examine whether to make changes.

“That seems excessive for something like this,” McKay said.

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