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The Atrium at Worldgate office building in Herndon (via Google Maps)

A new economic development hub is officially open in the Town of Herndon.

The George Mason Enterprise Center has opened in Office Evolution, a shared office space, at 205 Van Buren Street to support small and emerging businesses in an effort to support Herndon’s economic growth.

A ribbon cutting is slated for March 16, though the center has already begun providing services, a spokesperson for the center told FFXnow.

The town is the fifth locality to partner with the George Mason University center, which offers services like business advisory sessions, educational workshops, and training on other federal and state programs.

“We are thrilled to continue the success of the Mason Enterprise Centers with this expansion by bringing Mason assets directly into the Herndon business community,” said Paula Sorrell, Mason’s associate vice president of innovation and economic development.

The center will also grow its services, including providing access to health insurance, payroll support and other business-related services. Patrons will have access to Mason classroom and research projects, as well as capstone students and interns.

“We are delighted to partner with the Mason Enterprise Center and Office Evolution in creating this space for businesses to grow and prosper,” Herndon Mayor Sheila Olem said. “We look forward to welcoming many new enterprises to the town as a result of this collaboration.”

GMU’s other enterprise centers are in Leesburg, Fairfax, Warrenton, and Springfield.

Photo via Google Maps

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The South Korean cheese company Armored Fresh at CES 2023 in Las Vegas (via Armored Fresh Inc.)

A South Korean company that makes cheese out of almond milk hopes to ramp up its U.S. presence, starting with an expansion of its American headquarters in Tysons.

Armored Fresh has committed $125,000 to expanding its offices at 1765 Greensboro Station Place with 27 new marketing and sales employees, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced today.

The expansion will enable the company to increase its footprint in the U.S. through both online sales and brick-and-mortar stores, according to the news release.

“It is gratifying to support the growth of an international company like Armored Fresh, whose success further strengthens Virginia’s standing as a prime global business destination,” Youngkin said. “The company is advancing food technology with its vegan cheese products, and we are proud that this industry innovation is happening right here in the Commonwealth.”

According to Youngkin, Virginia beat out California, Maryland, D.C. and New York to retain Armored Fresh.

Established in 2021, the company claims to be the first in the world to commercialize almond milk-based cheeses. Its cheese is sold in cubed, sliced, shredded and spreadable forms. All products are free of cholestrol, dairy, gluten and genetically modified organisms, according to its website.

The company made its U.S. debut in September, introducing its products to 100 grocery stores in New York City. An official global launch event was held on Oct. 24, and online sales are set to begin this month.

Per Youngkin’s office, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority to keep Armored Fresh’s headquarters. The Virginia Jobs Investment Program will provide consulting services and funding to support the planned new jobs.

In a statement, Armored Fresh CEO Andrew Yu noted that Fairfax County has “a rich history” in the dairy industry. The county was once home to more dairy farms than anywhere else in Virginia, a legacy kept alive at historic sites like Frying Pan Farm Park and Historic Blenheim.

“Armored Fresh is very excited to bring great-tasting, zero-dairy cheese that everyone can enjoy,” Yu said. “…Northern Virginia and Fairfax County has a rich history in dairy and is advancing in tech innovation. We’re glad to make Fairfax County our home and be part of the vibrant business and innovation community.”

State and local officials alike praised the news: Read More

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Developers are asking for public help to redevelop the Huntington Club condominium community, but officials worry the condo owners are unclear of the risk involved.

At an economic initiatives committee meeting on Dec. 13, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors got an update on phase one of the redevelopment and what’s needed financially to get it underway.

Currently, the Huntington Club is a 364-unit condo complex between N. Kings Highway and Huntington Avenue, adjacent to the Huntington Metro station. A three-phase plan to redevelop the 19.5-acre property to be denser was approved in December 2021, promising 2,000 multifamily units, 200 townhomes, and multi-use space for retail, senior living, and possibly a hotel.

The redevelopment would be a major complement to a development plan for the Metro station area, which is also in motion, developers argue.

However, the land owners don’t have enough upfront cash to start the townhomes and multifamily units envisioned for phase 1 of the project.

“The [land owners] are insufficient cash-wise to cover infrastructure costs for phase 1,” Fairfax County Debt Coordinator Joe LaHait told the supervisors at the meeting.

Because they don’t have the funds needed to cover infrastructure, if the county doesn’t step in, the redevelopment won’t be able to move forward, LaHait reiterated. Hence, developers are asking for help in the form of $45 million worth of publicly issued bonds.

The county has started down the path toward fulfilling the request, but it’s proposing to take a somewhat unique approach.

The county would establish a community development authority (CDA) to borrow the money. A CDA is a public entity governed by a board with the power to issue bonds. This mechanism was used to help get the Mosaic District built over a decade ago.

The CDA would pay back the $45 million in bonds through tax increment financing (TIF), which is the difference between taxes generated before and after redevelopment. Once the bonds are paid back, the county can keep the extra money.

Right now, the Huntington Club pays the county about $800,000 in tax revenue, per the Washington Business Journal. The redeveloped property could generate upwards of $10 million annually.

Projected TIF revenues for Huntington Club (via Fairfax County)

While the county board needs to approve the CDA’s creation and the issuing of the bonds, what’s enticing is that significant extra money and the fact that the county wouldn’t be on the hook if values don’t rise as quickly as hoped.

The condo owners are the ones who would assume the risk. Read More

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The Franconia-Springfield area is concentrated around I-95 and Old Keene Mill/Franconia Road (via FCEDA)

A decade after Springfield Mall was torn down, reemerging two years later as Springfield Town Center, Fairfax County officials are still trying to figure out how to make the reality of the development match that rebranding.

Progress on transforming downtown Springfield from a commercial hub into the more mixed-use, walkable environment envisioned by county planners has been slow, even nonexistent when it comes to housing, a recently released study found.

In fact, the area hasn’t added a single multifamily residential unit since the Springfield Crossing apartments were built in 2001, according to the Springfield-Franconia Market Study commissioned by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA).

“That’s insane,” Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk said. “Think about it for a second. Every market has had some sort of residential construction. We have had zero. So, that’s something that we have to obviously think about and figure out where we might allow more residential options…in the areas that make up the Franconia-Springfield market.”

Attributed at least in part to lower rents compared to areas like Tysons or Bethesda, the lack of housing isn’t the only challenge facing downtown Franconia-Springfield, which is concentrated around the I-95 and Old Keene Mill/Franconia Road interchange.

HR&A’s Springfield Market Study found that the area hasn’t added any multifamily housing units since 2001 (via FCEDA)

According to the study, which was conducted by the consultant HR&A, Springfield has 3.2 million square feet of retail development, 2.7 million square feet of office space, 978 multifamily units, 1,843 hotel rooms, and 0.3 million square feet of industrial space.

While the existing shopping centers, including the town center, are performing well overall, retail growth has slowed with just 22,000 square feet added since 2010, and vacancies have jumped to 6.4% during the pandemic.

Covid also drove up vacancies in the office market, where the rate climbed from 13% pre-pandemic to 19% as of early 2022, and sent hotel occupancy rates tumbling from 73.7% in 2019 to 28.4% in 2020 before bouncing back to 51% this year.

Aside from industrial construction, which has stalled since 1988, the study projects room for growth across all markets over the next 10 years, including 1,000 to 1,600 multifamily units, but mixed-use development is necessary to achieve that potential.

The new Springfield Market Study found the area could support more development (via FCEDA)

“There have been significant private investments in Springfield, most notably at Springfield Town Center and the TSA headquarters,” the report said. “However, growth has been focused on site-specific investments, not mixed-use development supportive of County goals or catalytic growth.”

Mixed-use development would require not only more housing, particularly mid-rise buildings less than eight stories tall, but also amenities and public infrastructure to draw residents, workers and the tourists that the study says are needed to offset declining business travel. Read More

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Town of Herndon government offices (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Town of Herndon is exploring the creation of a new business incubator.

The project is intended to promote e-commerce and establish the town as a tech-savvy area.

Partnerships could include George Mason University, Virginia Small Business Development Center, and Office Evolution, an office space rental agency based in Herndon. Overall, the incubator would offer education and training for entrepreneurs and small business in an effort to boost business growth and overall independence.

The project is in the early planning phases.

“The Town Council has not yet adopted a resolution authorizing the incubator project; that is anticipated to come before the council at its December meeting,” town spokesperson Anne Curtis wrote in a statement to FFXnow.

At a meeting in mid-October, the town council explored the possibility of the project.

Office Evolution would act as the incubator for the project. Mason Enterprise Center Services, a business development service affiliated with GMU, would offer programatic support, including access to its mentor team, discounts for recruiting and payroll services, and access to capstone students and interns.

The project could also include counseling and training services, along with information on marketing, sale, financing and financial management.

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Welcome to Tysons sign (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) Tysons has its new anchor organization.

Tysons Partnership — the nonprofit charged with implementing Fairfax County’s vision for Tysons — will be phased out in favor of a newly created Tysons Community Alliance (TCA) that will advocate for local residents, businesses and nonprofits, the partnership announced today (Monday).

County government officials joined representatives from Tysons businesses, residential neighborhoods and nonprofits to officially create the new organization last week, voting on Thursday (Oct. 13) to elect its first board of directors and appoint Tysons Partnership acting Executive Director Richard Bradley as the acting CEO.

“The extensive coordination and commitment from the County together with the business and residential communities allowed everyone to focus on a vision and mission that would best serve Tysons as a whole. Tysons Community Alliance blends the best of public sector interests and the flexibility of the private sector working together,” said Tysons Partnership Board Chair Josh White, who will serve as the TCA’s first board chair.

As proposed to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors this past spring, the alliance will function as a community improvement district. Like the business improvement districts that support neighborhoods like Rosslyn in Arlington County, it will manage events and projects in Tysons, such as sidewalk improvements.

The TCA has been in the works for almost two years now, as Tysons Partnership sought a new business model that would be more sustainable than the voluntary donations and county funding it had been relying on since its creation in 2011.

Supported by $1 million in Economic Opportunity Reserve funds from the county, a Tysons Vision Work Group of 31 public and private-sector representatives convened last year to develop a new organization “that would continue to support equitable growth and a thriving Tysons,” according to the partnership.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik says the group liked the idea of a community improvement district that would advance the interests of the overall community, not just businesses, a model that could be replicated elsewhere in the county if the TCA is successful.

“The Tysons Partnership served as the implementation entity in the first ten years of the new Tysons plan,” Palchik said in a statement to FFXnow. “As we look to the future of Tysons, it is important that the Tysons Community Alliance bring a new model of governance and investment to include community, businesses, county agencies, and nonprofits.”

Funded for its first eight months with $2.5 million from the county’s fiscal year 2022 carryover review, which was approved last Tuesday (Oct. 11), the TCA’s mission consists of four focus areas:

  1. Communications and branding to tell the Tysons’ story
  2. Research and business support to catalyze inclusive economic growth
  3. Placemaking/place management to activate the public realm through events and pop-up spaces
  4. Transportation and mobility to champion livability through walkability and connectivity

At its first meeting last week, the alliance approved its board of directors, officers and an executive committee. It also established bylaws and an administrative structure.

As acting CEO, Bradley has been charged with leading a search for the organization’s permanent leader. An official brand relaunch is expected in January.

“The future growth in Tysons will depend on a blending of residential and business uses and activation of public space,” Gates of McLean Condominium Unit Owners Association Board President Lisa Samuels, a TCA board member, said. “This is the wave of the future for urban centers, as more people look to live and work within their same community and participate in its success. As a local resident, I am extremely pleased with the process and the collaboration in standing up the Tysons Community Alliance.”

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GSA warehouse in Springfield (via Google Maps)

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says Springfield would be an ideal choice for a new FBI headquarters — or would be if another agency wasn’t involved in an underhanded attempt to play favorites.

While it’s not exactly shocking that the county’s top elected official thinks Fairfax would be a good choice for the new FBI headquarters, McKay has gone a few steps past that and accused Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) of putting a finger on the scales.

The Springfield site is up against two Maryland locations: one in Landover and one at Greenbelt that is owned by WMATA. Since WMATA is funded by all three jurisdictions, McKay argued that it’s unfair for Fairfax to essentially be forced to fund their competition for the lucrative FBI headquarters deal.

The feud is nearly a decade old. McKay first raised these concerns in 2013 and repeated them in a letter last month. He urged the WMATA board not to consider the Greenbelt Joint Development Approvals plan, which would authorize Metro to make negotiations about the sale of the site with government entities, WUSA9 reported.

The Springfield site is currently home to a warehouse complex owned by the General Services Administration, which is in charge of the site selection process. The warehouse would need to be torn down before the FBI headquarters could be built.

Still, McKay said the site has easy access to several major highways and a direct link to the FBI Academy at Quantico.

“The Springfield site is owned by the federal government and has all the infrastructure, either in place or pledged, to support the relocation of the FBI headquarters,” McKay said in a statement to FFXnow. “It has easy access to Interstates 95, 395, and 495, provides a direct link to Quantico on the VRE, has ample bus lines that stop onsite, and also has a Metro stop. It’s a no-brainer for the FBI and the GSA to choose Springfield for the next FBI headquarters.”

The GSA announced in late September that the new site will be determined by a three-person panel with two of its employees and one FBI representative. The panel will prioritize the site’s suitability to the FBI’s mission and transportation access, but cost, equity, and flexibility will also be considered.

Image via Google Maps

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Pangiam Chairman and CEO Kevin McAleenan with Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick (courtesy Pangiam)

(Updated at 3:55 p.m. on 9/23/2022) A consultant that provides facial recognition technology and other identity verification services to the travel and security industries has selected Tysons as the site of its new global headquarters.

Drawn by Fairfax County’s “dynamic” workforce, Pangiam will establish a base at Valo Park (7950 Jones Branch Drive) with a $3.1 million investment, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced this morning (Thursday).

The move will expand the business with 20,000 additional square feet of office space and 201 new jobs in the county over the next three years, according to press releases from the governor’s office and the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA).

“We chose Virginia as our headquarters for a variety of reasons,” Pangiam Chief Investment Officer Tom Plofchan said. “First, it’s home. Our leadership team is either from Virginia or built their careers and families here, so it was only right to build and try to contribute to the local community when we started Pangiam.”

Plofchan also cited Northern Virginia’s proximity to the federal government and “world-class” talent pool as factors in Pangiam’s decision.

“Our collaboration with Virginia’s universities has helped our team, just a handful of people with a vision less than three years ago, compete with some of the largest companies in the world for talent,” he said.

Founded by customs and security professionals in 2019 and acquired by a private equity firm in 2020, Pangiam develops tools that use data analytics, biometrics and artificial intelligence to boost security and detect potential threats, with airports as a top focus.

The company’s clients include the Department of Homeland Security, the Air Force, Delta and United airlines and Washington National Airport, per the FCEDA.

Pangiam has been occupying “temporary space” in Virginia during the buildout of its new headquarters, a spokesperson said.

“With the support of our partners at Stream Realty, the attention to detail and execution provided by our GC team at DWatts, and the flexibility and innovative design vision Collective Architecture brought to the equation, the new facility gives us space to grow and the work environment to attract top local and national talent back to the office,” Pangiam told FFXnow by email.

Secured through a collaboration between the county and state economic development teams, the selection of Tysons cements Fairfax County’s “strong position as a place of choice for tech industry leaders,” FCEDA President and CEO Victor Hoskins said in a statement.

“With safety always at the forefront of everyone’s minds, Fairfax County is pleased to have Pangiam’s headquarters in Fairfax County, the heart of America’s national security infrastructure,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “As Pangiam works to secure our ports of entry using next-generation technology, we welcome their expansion to Tysons and the hundreds of new jobs they are bringing.”

The announcement comes just a day after Youngkin shared that another tech startup, Enabled Intelligence Inc., will expand its headquarters in West Falls Church.

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The startup plans to add 117 jobs to the county (via Google Maps)

An artificial intelligence startup is expanding its headquarters in West Falls Church by investing $1.4 million and creating 117 new jobs.

Enabled Intelligence, Inc., a company that provides secure data labeling services to enable artificial intelligence operations, will add more than 10,000 square feet of space to its current offices at 6400 Arlington Blvd, just outside Seven Corners, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced today (Wednesday).

Unclassified space is also planned.

“We are excited to expand our operations here in Virginia,” Enabled Intelligence Inc. CEO Peter Kant said. “Our Fairfax County home is close to our federal customers, and we are able to draw on the highly qualified Virginia workforce of high-tech neurodiverse professionals and military veterans.”

The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority worked with the state’s economic development partnership to secure the project for Virginia.

Here’s more from what state and county leaders had to say about the expansion:

“I am pleased to once again see a major technology innovator expanding its operations in Fairfax County,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey C. McKay. “This growth in AI applications from a company that also capitalizes on the tremendous workforce diversity of our County is a perfect example of how next-generation companies headquartered here are leading the way.”

“We are honored to have Enabled Intelligence expand their presence here in Fairfax County,” said Victor Hoskins, president and CEO of Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA). “The opportunities they offer to our diverse populations is extraordinary, and their efforts shine as a bright example of the true spirit of inclusion, upon which we continue to build our thriving business community.”

“Accelerating the transition of start-ups is one of my administration’s goals, and the expansion of businesses such as Enabled Intelligence in Fairfax County is key to our economic development strategy,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “We are proud to support this homegrown Virginia business and remain committed to fostering a business climate and training a workforce that supports our corporate partners of all sizes.”

Photo via Google Maps

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Marumen will be among the restaurants participating in Fairfax City’s first-ever summer Restaurant Week (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The D.C. region’s summer restaurant celebration may be over, but in Fairfax City, the festivities are just about to get underway.

The city is expanding its Restaurant Week into a biannual occasion with its first-ever summer program on Monday (Aug. 29). Now in its fifth year, the initiative will build on “the success of the past four years while showcasing the culinary breadth of the city’s dining community,” according to a press release.

Fairfax City’s summer Restaurant Week will run from through Sept. 4. It was planned by a committee of restauranteurs and consultants, and it’s being sponsored by the Fairfax City Economic Development Authority and the Central Fairfax Chamber of Commerce.

“We are so excited to give folks one more reason to visit Fairfax City in the summer,” Fairfax Mayor David Meyer said in a statement. “…With the Summer rendition of Fairfax City Restaurant Week, we are excited to sweeten the deal and showcase our unparalleled restaurant community while visitors taste, sip, and savor dining that is uniquely Fairfax City.”

Here’s how the program will work:

During the week-long event, participating restaurants will offer three-course prix fixe menus of $20 for lunch/brunch and $35 for dinner per person with couple and family meal options available. In addition to the curated menus, specialty restaurants will offer a Two for $10 Deal providing food lovers the opportunity to further explore Fairfax City’s regionally lauded diverse culinary scene.

The roster of participating restaurants includes 20 eateries that were part of the city’s winter Restaurant Week, including:

Coyote Grille & Cantina, Marumen, The Wine House, The Auld Shebeen, Dolce Vita Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar, Capital Ale House, Patriots Pub & Grill, High Side, Bellissimo Restaurant, Anita’s New Mexico Style Mexican Food, Hamrock’s Restaurant, Earp’s Ordinary, Foundation Coffee, Ruffino’s Spaghetti House, Baku Delicious, PJ Skidoos, Cameron’s Coffee & Chocolate, Cupcakes & Beyond, Kim’s Pho Vietnamese Kitchen and Bar, and Bollywood Bistro

Newcomers include Draper’s Steak and Seafood, which opened in Old Town in May, as well as El Pollo Rico and Slice of Matchbox.

The full list of participants can be found on the Fairfax City Restaurant Week website.

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