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Game table for The Dragons Concord (via The Dragons Concord/Facebook)

Shrouded within the mists of Fairfax Centre, a new world is being born.

Tables with exciting new technology are being set into place. Permits are being sought within the labyrinth of Fairfax County’s bureaucracy. A games store unlike any other in the region is being forged.

There are already a couple of tabletop game stores around the area — though fewer of late — but The Dragon’s Concord at 11215 Lee Highway is something of a bold new experiment in gaming. The store is in the Fair Oaks area, just outside the Fairfax City boundaries.

Rather than focusing on merchandise, Michael Gruver and his wife Amanda aim to create a game store where the storytelling and play space are the central selling points. While the store will have books, miniatures, dice and more, the real draw is its various Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), Warhammer or other tabletop campaigns.

Michael says the store came out of common complaints he heard while working at The Guild in Fair Oaks Mall.

“One of the common things we kept hearing was: it’s great they come in and can get the books, but there wasn’t really anywhere to play,” Michael said. “You end up with that forever GM problem.”

The “forever GM” — Game Master, or sometimes “DM” for dungeon master in D&D — is a player who’s always expected to run campaigns and never gets to play in them. The Dragon’s Concord is designed around fixing that issue.

“We took a look at that and realized: that’s been a problem for the entire history of gaming,” Michael said. “You have online resources and some stores have a little register to [look for a group] and maybe someone will call you six or seven months down the line, but nobody had put a business or a gaming center together — at least not in this area — to host games.”

Michael hopes construction will start by the end of the month — depending on how quickly Fairfax County can process the store’s permits. The initial permits have been paid already.

“We’re expecting three weeks to a month for building, with doors opening sometime mid-to-late March,” Michael said.

Many game shops host campaigns, but The Dragon’s Concord aims to be a place where anyone can visit and find a campaign.

“The hope is that we can have an on-staff GM during all normal business hours for multiple systems, things like D&D or Pathfinder,” Michael said.

Players will be able to pre-schedule sessions in private rooms at the store, either bringing their own GM or book one on staff. The GM system is designed to be friendly to new players, while also providing a new experience for veterans of the field.

“We’ve built a two-session new player startup orientation sort of game,” Michael said. “For D&D, we use Dragons of Storrmwreck Isle so players can get accustomed to mechanics. If they have a custom campaign, if they have Curse of Strahd or Princes of the Apocalypse or something, they go ahead and just put that in the schedule.” Read More

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The northbound left turn lane from West Ox Road to Ox Hill Road in Fair Oaks (via Google Maps)

A 79-year-old driver who crashed into a motorcyclist in Fair Oaks last month, resulting in the biker’s death, is now facing criminal charges.

Detectives have determined that Fairfax resident Mazher Rajput did not yield to a 2018 Yamaha MT07 motorcycle when attempting to turn left from West Ox Road onto Ox Hill Road on Oct. 25, the Fairfax County Police Department said in a news release yesterday.

The allegation deviates slightly from the FCPD’s original characterization of the crash:

Preliminarily, detectives from our Crash Reconstruction Unit determined the operator of the motorcycle, Andrew Dearing, was traveling south on West Ox Road in the left lane. The driver of the Jeep was in the northbound turn lane on West Ox Road waiting to turn left onto Ox Hill Road. The motorcycle proceeded straight through the intersection from the southbound left lane and struck the Jeep. The Jeep continued through the intersection, struck a pedestrian signal and collided with a 2013 Lexus GS350. The Jeep spun around and struck the Lexus a second time before coming to a rest.

Dearing, died at a hospital after being thrown from his bike. He was the 14th non-pedestrian killed in a traffic crash on Fairfax County roads this year, a number that has climbed in the past month to 18.

After further investigation, police now have charged Rajput with failing to yield when turning left and failure to abide by a traffic light.

Magistrate summons have been served to Rajput, who is scheduled to appear in court in January, the FCPD says.

Photo via Google Maps

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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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Southbound West Ox Road at Legato Road outside Fairfax Towne Center (via Google Maps)

A 63-year-old woman from Fairfax died yesterday (Sunday) after a driver hit her while she was crossing West Ox Road near Fairfax Towne Center, police reported.

Ligia Jeannette Herrera Betbeder was crossing from east to west on West Ox north of Legato Road when the driver of a 2015 Honda Civic traveling south struck her at 5:54 a.m., according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

Betbeder was pronounced deceased at the scene, where the driver remained as rescue personnel responded.

An investigation by the FCPD’s Crash Reconstruction Unit is underway. The police noted that Betbeder was outside of a crosswalk when she was hit, but there is no crosswalk on the north side of the West Ox and Legato intersection. The crosswalks that do exist on the south and east side of the intersection have no lines, Google Maps shows.

“Preliminarily, speed and alcohol do not appear to be factors in the crash,” police said. “The investigation remains active, and details of the investigation will be presented to the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for review.”

As noted by The Washington Post, Sunday’s crash in the Fair Oaks area was just the latest in a recent spate of crashes that injured or killed pedestrians in the D.C. area.

Based on FCPD reports, Betbeder is the 16th pedestrian to die on Fairfax County roads this year. After seeing no such deaths in all of September, the county has recorded three pedestrian fatalities in the past week, including Betbeder.

Thursday (Oct. 6) saw two crashes involving pedestrians on Richmond Highway — one in Fort Belvoir that killed 53-year-old Melodie Kiem and another on Fordson Road where the pedestrian survived. On Oct. 2, a week before Betbeder’s death, 74-year-old Dalchoon Park of Annandale died after a hit-and-run crash in the 4200 block of Annandale Road.

In neighboring Arlington County, a woman in her 80s died at a local trauma center after she was hit by an SUV while crossing a neighborhood street and went into cardiac arrest, according to FFXnow’s sister site, ARLnow.

By this time in 2021, there had been 11 pedestrian fatalities on county roads, per the FCPD. This year’s tally of 16 deaths doesn’t include two men killed this summer on the Dulles Toll Road and Airport Access Highway, which are overseen by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police.

Photo via Google Maps

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A Fairfax County police cruiser outside Tysons Corner Center (staff photo by James Cullum)

The Fairfax County Police Department is seeking the public’s help identifying suspects in three recent jewelry store robberies, two of which are believed to have been committed by the same people.

The first robbery occurred at the Prince Jewelers in Tysons Corner Center at 2:45 p.m. on Sept. 8, police said in a release last night (Wednesday).

The FCPD says its detectives believe preliminarily that the same men were also behind a Sept. 18 robbery at Fair Oaks Mall, where two men entered Henzley Jewelers at 1:06 p.m. and stole “a number of high-end watches.” The store’s display case was also destroyed, according to police.

“In each case, they used hammers to destroy the display cases and fled the scene in stolen vehicles,” the department said. “The stolen vehicles were found in nearby parking lots. Detectives continue to investigate, including an extensive review of surveillance footage.”

Police are also investigating a robbery of Sonia’s Jewelers & Boutique Inc. (6681 Backlick Road) in Springfield.

According to the FCPD, two men entered the store at 11:50 a.m. on Tuesday (Sept. 20):

The first man was let into the store under the guise of shopping for jewelry. Once inside he presented a handgun and instructed employees to let the second man inside. The two men used hammers to destroy the display cases and fled the scene in a black Lexus SUV with stolen license plates. The stolen vehicle in this case has not been recovered.

No injuries have been reported in any of the incidents. Detectives are still working to determine if all three cases are connected, police say.

Police describe all of the potential suspects as Black men who are about 6 feet in height. Those allegedly involved in the Tysons and Fair Oaks robberies wore gloves and masks.

The FCPD says anyone with information about these incidents or others that may be related can contact its detectives at 703-246-7800, option 3. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone (1-866-411-TIPS) and online.

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Inova Fair Oaks Hospital (via Google Maps)

Updated at 9:45 a.m. on 8/16/2022 — Hektor Fernando Alvarez’s employment at Virginia Hospital Center was terminated on Friday (Aug. 12), the hospital says.

Earlier: A man from Falls Church has been arrested after allegedly sexually assaulting a patient under his care when he worked at Inova Fair Oaks Hospital (3600 Joseph Siewick Drive), the Fairfax County Police Department announced today (Friday).

The victim — a patient who was receiving long-term care at the hospital — told a hospital technician on July 7 that his previous caretaker had “fondled the victim’s genitalia on two separate occasions,” police said.

Detectives from FCPD’s Major Crimes Bureau began an investigation on July 8. They identified the caretaker as 21-year-old Falls Church resident Hektor Fernando Alvarez, who was working for a company called Metropolitan Healthcare Services (MHS) that Inova had contracted “to provide sitter services for patients,” according to police.

The FCPD says Alvarez is no longer employed by MHS, but he was working as a medical technician at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington. There have been no incidents reported at that hospital, according to the department.

Alvarez was arrested after a month-long investigation on Aug. 9 and has been charged with aggravated sexual battery with a victim through mental incapacity or helplessness.

“He was held on no bond but later released on a secured bond,” the police department said, which means the money was primarily covered by a bond company.

Prosecutors had argued for Alvarez to be denied a bond, but the judge rejected their recommendation, FFXnow was told.

Online case information indicates that Alvarez was arraigned at the Fairfax County General District Court on Wednesday (Aug. 10) and had a bond hearing yesterday (Thursday). A court employee told FFXnow that the bond was served this morning.

Inova Health System says it has been working with the victim’s family and MHS to respond to the assault allegation.

“Inova has been in contact with the patient, their family, and the contracted staffing agency in regard to this troubling alleged incident,” a spokesperson for the nonprofit said in a statement. “Safety is central to everything we do at Inova, and we expect all who work or provide services in our care sites to meet that high standard.”

The FCPD says anyone with additional information about the case can contact its detectives at 703-246-7800, option 3. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone (1-866-411-TIPS), and online.

“Anonymous tipsters are eligible for cash rewards of $100 to $1,000 dollars,” the FCPD said. “Please leave contact information if you wish for a detective to follow up with you.”

A preliminary hearing for Alvarez has been set for 2 p.m. on Sept. 28.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

People walk by Caffi Field, a football field in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Driver in Fatal Franconia Crash Charged With Manslaughter — Sara Flores, 20, of Lorton was charged with involuntary vehicular manslaughter yesterday morning (Thursday) for a May 12 crash in Franconia where she allegedly drove into a telephone pole, killing a passenger. Police had already obtained a warrant charging Flores with driving under the influence. [FCPD]

Developer Pleads Guilty in Teen’s Death — “The owner of a Virginia construction company that specializes in luxury homes pleaded guilty Wednesday to involuntary manslaughter in the death of a 16-year-old boy who was killed while working for his company in 2019. Thomas Digges, of Digges Development Corporation, operated the Fairfax County job site where a trench gave way and buried Spencer Lunde, of McLean, on July 23, 2019.” [NBC4]

Two Displaced by Fair Oaks Townhouse Fire — A fire at a three-story townhouse in the 12000 block of Dorforth Drive on Wednesday (Aug. 10) was caused by improperly discarded smoking materials, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department says. The fire displaced two residents and resulted in approximately $175,000 in damages. [FCFRD]

One Rescued From Annandale House Fire — “8/11/22 at 1:08 a.m., in 3800 block of Gallows Road. One occupant trapped on 2nd floor was rescued by #FCFRD crews via ladder. Fire contained to basement. No injuries. NO smoke alarms found in home! Cause: improperly discarded smoking material. Damages $16K.” [FCFRD/Twitter]

County Names New Planning and Development Director — Fairfax County has appointed Tracy Strunk as director of its Department of Planning and Development, where she succeeds Barbara Byron, who retired earlier this year. Strunk’s career for the county goes back to 1998 and includes work as a planner and a member of the team that helped develop the Tysons Comprehensive Plan. [Fairfax County Government]

Fairfax County Public Schools Creates Program to Help Hire Teachers — “[Catherine] Coulter is entering her first year teaching in Virginia’s largest school system as a teaching resident, a newly-created position aimed at placing qualified teachers in classrooms while they take the final steps toward receiving a specific certification.” [WTOP]

Expansions and Renovations in Progress at FCPS — “Most students and teachers have taken the summer off, but Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has been busy with its usual tall order of school renovations and additions. Improvements now are in progress at these schools in the Sun Gazette’s readership area” [Sun Gazette]

Falls Church Development Nears Movie Theater Lease — “Developers of the new Founder’s Row mixed use development…announced through a new filing with the City that it is ‘in the final stages of securing a lease with Paragon Theaters,’ noting that ‘Paragon will operate a seven-screen movie theater, including an IMAX-similar screen with a total capacity of approximately 600 seats.'” [Falls Church News-Press]

Fairfax Shopping Center Gets New Mural — “If you’ve been by the Giant at Scout on the Circle recently you might have noticed some color appearing on the walls! The Abstract Expressionist painting on the corner of the building is by Steven Johnson. Johnson is a Indiana biased artist, who recently made his art available in the public domain.” [City of Fairfax/Facebook]

It’s Friday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 81 and low of 68. Sunrise at 6:21 am and sunset at 8:09 pm. [Weather.gov]

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The family-run dessert shop Messy Treatz opened at Fair Oaks Mall over the weekend (via Brittany Lacy)

A dessert shop that promises to serve up messy, gooey and sticky treats has officially opened in Fair Oaks Mall.

Messy Treatz opened over the weekend, bringing an assortment of “Messy jars,” “Messy cupcakes” and drinks to the space formerly occupied by Godiva Chocolatier at 11847U Fair Oaks Mall.

But unlike the huge conglomerate that called the space home a few months ago, Messy Treatz is a woman-owned, family-run business run by Brittany Lacy and her two daughters.

“We are hoping to bring the ooey, gooey, sticky, chewy experience to the area. We make all our cupcakes from scratch and with a lot of love. With unique flavors and some of the moistest cupcakes around,” Lacy told FFXnow by email.

The venture started off as a fun way for lacy to spend time with her young daughters by cultivating a love of baking and eating desserts.

Messy Treats was founded in 2017 and opened at the mall on Saturday, July 9.

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Morning Notes

Bella Mack of Vienna spins and jumps on roller blades at Wakefield Skate Park in Annandale (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Underground Utilities Proposed for Route 1 — Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck has joined many residents, businesses, and state Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36) as an advocate for moving power lines along Richmond Highway underground, though that isn’t in the current designs for widening the road. Advocates say undergrounding would limit storm damage and bring economic benefits. [On the MoVe]

Metro Plans for Budget Shortfall — “Metrorail has only recovered 42% of its ridership and Metrobus has recovered about 60%. This time, Metro officials are not banking on the cavalry — in the form of a federal bailout or additional local dollars — to arrive. Later this summer, board members and new Metro General Manager Randy Clarke will begin to calculate how to plug a $356 million operating budget gap.” [DCist]

Police Investigate Gunshot in Fair Oaks — “Fairfax County Police are investigating a shooting that occurred early Tuesday morning in the Fair Oaks area, according to the weekly crime report. Police responded around 3:18 a.m., for the report of a man firing a handgun into the air in the 12000 block of Thompson Road.” [Patch]

Bailey’s Crossroads Library Volunteer Honored — “Fairfax County officials gathered Saturday to honor Carmen Fernandez, a longtime pillar of the Culmore community. A conference room at the Woodrow Wilson Library in Falls Church now bears plaques in Fernandez’s honor.” [Fairfax County Public Library]

McLean Theater Group Retakes the Stage — “McLean Community Players is back after a three-year hiatus and will hit the Alden Theatre’s stage July 22 to 24 with ‘The Show Must Go On! A Musical Revue.’ The effort features an array of songs from past productions and shows the company hopes to perform in the future.” [Sun Gazette]

Local Hummingbird Photographers Get Focus — “I have been promised hummingbirds. I am, after all, at Green Spring Gardens, in the Alexandria area of Fairfax County, prime hummingbird territory…Jane [Gamble] takes me somewhere we’re guaranteed to find hummingbirds: inside the house, where 46 hummingbird photos hang on the walls.” [The Washington Post]

It’s Tuesday — Rain in the evening. High of 87 and low of 70. Sunrise at 5:55 am and sunset at 8:36 pm. [Weather.gov]

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A shared-use path is in the works for the south side of Post Forest Road in Fair Oaks (via Google Maps)

A spoke in the I-66 parallel trail for cyclists and pedestrians is one step closer to rolling forward.

Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors agreed yesterday (Tuesday) to support the Virginia Department of Transportation project in Fair Oaks, which will provide a key portion of the new 11-mile trail that’s part of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project.

The $9.2 million trail segment will remove existing, on-street bicycle lanes and create a new 10-foot-wide, shared-use path along the southern side of Post Forest Drive and eastern side of Random Hills Road.

“This is a relatively small project but…a really important project in the context of the Multimodal Transit Center that’s under construction,” Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said yesterday (Tuesday).

There will be a buffer between traffic on the road and the new shared-use path, which will connect to the Monument Drive Commuter Parking Garage and Transit Center. A sidewalk on the northern side of Post Forest Drive will remain.

Other upgrades include new crosswalks, ramp upgrades and pedestrian crosswalk signals at the intersection of West Ox Road and Post Forest Drive, among other changes.

The segment will be part of the I-66 Trail spanning Centreville to Dunn Loring. The trail will connect to the Washington and Old Dominion Trail via Gallows Road as well as the Fairfax County Parkway Trail.

Construction for the Fair Oaks segment could begin in 2025 and end in 2026.

Photo via Google Maps

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