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The first phase of development will kick off with building one (via Fairfax County)

Plans are officially in for the massive redevelopment of Fairfax’s judicial complex — a 48-acre swath of land that is slated for redevelopment.

The complex is currently home to Fairfax County’s circuit, general, district and juvenile courts, along with the Historic Fairfax County Courthouse, jail and volunteer organizations.

Over the next 20 years, the county plans to add nearly one million square of development to the complex — bringing the total square footage of development to 2.3 million square feet.

Five new buildings are proposed:

  • Building 1 (180,000 square feet): offices for courts, storage for circuit court, police and fire
  • Building 2 (180,000 square feet): offices for the county, court supportive services, childcare; early childhood education training center, retail and food service
  • Building 3 (190,000 square feet): offices for the county or private use; retail and food service
  • Building 4 (150,000 square feet): diversion and community re-entry; short term and long-term supportive housing
  • Building 5: 300 affordable housing units and child care

The historic courthouse will also get a new entrance facing West Street.

County officials have envisioned the redevelopment for years in what’s contemplated to be a 20-year plan. Some pieces of the undertaking are currently in progress.

So far, the development team plans to begin constructing the first building to “unlock” the development potential of the remainder of the property. The building will be home to programs currently in the Historic Courthouse, the existing police annex and evidence storage, and the Burkholder building.

Once the programs move into the new building, the Burkholder and police buildings will be demolished to construct affordable housing. That move is intended to “provide some flexibility during the capital renewal of the historic courthouse,” according to the plan.

But the application emphasizes that the development plan could change.

“The applicant reserves the right to construct the new buildings in any order, dependent upon the approved funding from the Board of Supervisors,” it states. “Any and all transportation and/or site improvements required for the use and occupancy of a given building will be constructed at such time as that building is developed.”

To make way for the new features of the project,  the Legato School will be relocated, and a building for police annex and evidence storage and another school administration an annex uses will be removed. Parking Garage A will also be demolished.

The master planning process for the project kicked off in 2018 following the demolition of the Massey building. The process concluded last year following a public engagement period and with the goal of more effectively delivering county services to the community.

Five open spaces are planned as part of the project: courthouse grounds, a courthouse plaza, a central green, a gateway promenade and fields near the courthouse.

The gateway promenade — the most prominent of the open spaces proposed — is inspired by the National Mall and will create 20-foot-wide paths, along with possible seating areas and temporary installations.

The apartment units would target households earning around 60% or below of the area median income, according to the application.

The current central road loop around the demolished Massey building will be replaced with a grid of streets that connects to neighboring Fairfax City’s Old Town and creates an urban-block pattern.

The proposal has not been formally accepted for review by the county.

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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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Morning Notes

Light peeks through the trees on a path in Franconia (staff photo by Brandi Bottalico)

Fairfax County Jury Sides with Johnny Depp — After a weeks-long trial, actor Johnny Depp was awarded more than $10 million in his defamation lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard, a verdict that has already taken a toll on domestic violence survivors. Heard was also awarded $2 million for a countersuit over comments by Depp’s lawyer. [Associated Press/WTOP]

Calm Returns to Fairfax County Courthouse After High-Profile Trial — “Two hours after the verdict in the Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard defamation trial was announced, the grounds outside the Fairfax County Courthouse had the aura of a field where a circus had just packed up its tent and moved on.” [Patch]

Woodson HS Apologizes for Teacher’s Use of Slur — “An official at W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax has apologized for a substitute teacher uttering a racial slur during an in-class reading of John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ last month…A student notified [assistant principal Amanda] Burke that a classmate had recorded a video of the substitute saying the racial slur and shared it on social media.” [Patch]

Firefighters and Police Rescue Red-Tailed Hawk — “#FCFRD & @FairfaxCountyPD Animal Protection, rescued a Red-Tailed Hawk during special ops training. Crews worked together to disentangled it with special equipment. He appears healthy but will get a check-up. Retrieve kite strings & fishing line! Birds can’t see them.” [FCFRD/Twitter]

Popular Lincolnia Pet Store to Downsize — “Chico’s Natural Pet Market invites the community to a fun event Sunday, June 5, featuring an animal communicator and an auction…Owner Danielle Areco will update customers on the store’s pending move to a new location and will describe the store’s new focus on healthy pet food.” [Annandale Today]

Tysons Real Estate Company Plans Move — “Real estate giant CBRE Group Inc. (NYSE: CBRE) will move its Tysons office, which houses its Northern Virginia operation, a stone’s throw up the road in early 2023, having already inked a new lease. CBRE will occupy a little over 24,000 square feet, or the whole 11th floor, of Boro Tower, a 20-story office building located at 8350 Broad St.” [Washington Business Journal]

General Assembly Passes State Budget — “The Virginia General Assembly passed a two-year state budget Wednesday that both cuts taxes and increases spending, a rare combination that drew extensive bipartisan support in both the Democratic-controlled Senate and Republican-controlled House of Delegates.” [The Washington Post]

Former Vienna Town Manager Dies — “John Schoeberlein, who served as Vienna’s steady-as-you-go town manager for 26 years before retiring in May 2011, died May 30 at age 74…Schoeberlein was a respected leader and well-liked by town residents and staff, said Bill Murray, a retired master police officer with the Vienna Police Department.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Local Farmers Markets Accept Food Benefits — “Four Fairfax County Farmers Markets offer a [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance] Matching Program where you can double your SNAP Benefits…You can use your EBT card in the McCutcheon/Mount Vernon, Annandale, Reston and Lorton Farmers Markets.” [Fairfax County Park Authority]

Park Authority Supports Annandale Vandal — “A bit of mischief was celebrated at Hidden Oaks Nature Center as a clever vandal slipped into the Annandale Community Park playground area and switched a couple of letters on the fencing spelling ‘I [heart] Mom.’ This sweet sign is a salute to all the moms who take their kids to our parks!” [FCPA/Facebook]

It’s Thursday — Rain starting in the afternoon. High of 82 and low of 73. Sunrise at 5:46 am and sunset at 8:31 pm. [Weather.gov]

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The Fairfax County Courthouse (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

One of the most prominent court trials in recent Fairfax County history is drawing to a close.

Drawing celebrities, media, and an eclectic assortment of fans, actor Johnny Depp’s defamation lawsuit against fellow actor and ex-wife Amber Heard has unfolded in sobering, sometimes bizarre detail at the Fairfax County Courthouse since April 11.

The trial culminates more than three years of legal proceedings after Depp filed a complaint in March 2019 seeking $50 million from Heard over a Washington Post op-ed where she discussed her experience with sexual violence.

Depp’s lawyers filed the lawsuit in Fairfax County, because the Post’s computer servers are located here, and Virginia’s anti-SLAPP laws — which seek to prevent people from using the courts to intimidate or silence critics — are weaker than those in California, according to Inside NoVA.

Televised live by Court TV, the case has become a filter for issues related to celebrity and fan culture, while also raising fears that domestic violence victims will be further discouraged from speaking up or seeking help, given the mockery directed at Heard in particular everywhere from TikTok to Saturday Night Live.

With closing arguments expected tomorrow (Friday), have you been following developments in the trial closely, or are you eager for an end to the hubbub?

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Fairfax County Courthouse (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax County residents getting a divorce or pursuing a personal injury lawsuit can now get documents filed electronically instead of trekking over to the county courthouse.

The Fairfax County Circuit Court launched a new e-filing system on Monday (May 2), a notable step for a court that requires a paid subscription for access to case information and an in-person visit to obtain documents except in a select few cases.

To develop the service, which is currently available for existing divorce, personal injury, and contract cases, the court has partnered with the Texas-based company File & Serve Express (FSX), which says it manages more than 80 million documents and works in 1,300 courts across 20 states and D.C.

“The Pandemic has changed the practice of law, with more remote-work and ‘virtual practice’ in the legal industry,” Circuit Court Deputy Clerk Gerarda Culipher said in a news release. “Offering eFiling to our customers improves their access to justice, saves them costs and trips to the courthouse, thus making our court system easier to navigate in a digital age.”

The service isn’t free, as FSX charges a “modest” subscription fee as well as a search fee for subscribers who want to look at non-sealed documents for cases where they’re not a party.

According to the release, the court has been piloting the e-filing system with “several” law firms, and the feedback so far has indicated that it’s easy to use, Circuit Court Clerk John Frey said.

Chief Judge Penney Azcarate issued an order on April 26 permitting the clerk’s office to implement e-filing. The order indicates that electronic filing will ultimately be available for documents in all civil and criminal cases.

The court, which handles over 30,000 criminal and civil cases a year, is introducing e-filing in phases to ensure the system can handle the volume and complexity of cases, Frey said. The divorce, contract, and personal injury cases in this first phase make up “the bulk of litigation,” according to the court.

The court says other civil cases will be added this summer, but it’ll be “a while” before the service expands to criminal cases, Chief Deputy Clerk Suzanne Lubkeman told FFXnow.

“We are looking forward to offering this service to everyone, as Phase 1 successfully launches, and we move on to expanding to all types of cases,” Frey said.

While the e-filing service is primarily relevant to lawyers, FSX has public access accounts that provide “real-time access to publicly-available court documents” across the country, according to the registration form.

The Circuit Court Clerk’s Office did not immediately return a request for comment seeking to clarify whether that will allow access to electronically filed documents in Fairfax County cases.

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Morning Notes

Blossoms are out at Lewinsville Park in McLean (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

West Potomac Soccer Coaches Fired After Hazing — “In a message to West Potomac High School soccer families, Principal Tanganyika Millard said that after an April 21 practice, a ‘parent reported a student was injured after being singled out to run through a ‘gauntlet/tunnel.” Head coach Ahmad Sasso and two other coaches were fired after the incident.” [WTOP]

Dead Firefighter Escorted to Funeral Home — “#FCFRD members gathered to salute Captain Kimberly Schoppa during her dignified transfer. Units from her last assignment, Fire Station 27, West Springfield, carried her to the funeral home. Thank you to Fairfax County Police Department for the escort.” [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department/Facebook]

FCPS Alum Goes to Space — NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, a graduate of Robinson Secondary School, is part of a four-person crew that was scheduled to blast off to the International Space Station this morning (Wednesday) for SpaceX’s next mission. Lindgren was one of 18 astronauts selected by NASA in 2020 for its Artemis Team, an initiative to get humans back to the moon. [Florida Today]

Alpacas Make Fairfax County Courthouse Appearance — “By the time the alpacas arrive outside the Fairfax County Courthouse, it’s not really that surprising…The scene outside the Depp-Heard trial, entering its third week on Monday, has transformed the Fairfax County court complex from a place where Northern Virginia residents contest parking tickets to the stage for one of the biggest celebrity court cases in recent memory.” [The Washington Post]

TJ Tops National School Rankings — “Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County was ranked No. 1 in the nation, according to a new national ranking by U.S. News and World Report. This year’s list of best high schools evaluated more than 17,800 schools nationwide, including 322 in Virginia.” [Patch]

Vienna Students Write Cards for Ukrainian Refugees — “Students at Freedom Hill Elementary School in Vienna wrote stacks of cards to Ukrainian refugees for their principal to deliver on his spring break trip to Germany. Principal Nicholas Zapadka…decided to travel to Cologne in early April to help Ukrainian refugees who had arrived at a Red Cross refugee camp in Germany.” [Patch]

Mantua Home with Squatter Sold — “The home went off the market on April 15 for $805,000. It was built in 1964 and was last sold in 1997 for $319,000. The owner’s name was withheld by request on the Fairfax County auditor’s site. The new buyer’s name also was not listed.” [WUSA9]

It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 55 and low of 41. Sunrise at 6:17 am and sunset at 7:59 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Office buildings on Arlington Boulevard near Seven Corners (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated at 9 a.m.) County Board Chair Tests Positive for Covid — Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay announced last night (Monday) that he has tested positive for COVID-19. He reported experiencing “minor symptoms which are uncomfortable but manageable” and is currently working from home and quarantining. [Jeff McKay/Twitter]

Johnny Depp Fans Wait at Courthouse — “Fans who stood outside the main entrance of the Fairfax County Courthouse with the hopes of glimpsing actor Johnny Depp as he appeared for the first day of his defamation trial were disappointed. The ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ star skipped the crowds and entered the courthouse through another door.” [Patch]

Sen. Mark Warner Visits for Affordable Housing Talk — “Every community needs access to affordable housing. Glad to deliver funding to Fairfax County today to create up to 250 affordable housing units and talk to local leaders about how we can further support their initiatives at a federal level.” [Mark Warner/Twitter]

Trees Cut Down for Mount Vernon Bicycle Trail Project — “Construction to improve and link the Mount Vernon Bike Trail along the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway is in its early stages and to clear the way, a significant number of trees have been cut down along the road. According to the project team, there is no plan to replant additional trees when the project is completed, a county spokesperson said.” [The Connection]

Tysons Real Estate Leaders Explore Nats Sale — The Lerner family, which is behind the Tysons II development master plan, has hired an investment bank to explore potential investment partners for the Washington Nationals, The Washington Post reported. Mark Lerner, the baseball club’s managing principal owner, called the move “exploratory” with “no set timetable or expectation of a specific outcome.” [Patch]

County Unemployment Rate Declines — “Inflation may be eating away at their earnings, but a larger share of Fairfax County residents had jobs in February than a month before, according to new federal data…The county’s unemployment rate for the shortest month of the year stood at 2.5 percent, down from 2.9 percent a month before.” [Sun Gazette]

Local LGBTQ+ Advocates Worried About New Law — “Under a new law, Virginia school districts must notify parents whenever instructional materials include sexually explicit content and must provide parents alternative, non-explicit materials if requested…FCPS Pride said the bill ‘creates an adversarial relationship between teachers and parents or guardians.'” [The Washington Post]

Public Safety Workers Honored in Reston — “Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce officials on March 31 honored police, fire-and-rescue and Sheriff’s Office employees for their outstanding acts of public protection. More than 600 people attended the 44th annual Fairfax County Valor Awards, held at the Hyatt Regency Reston.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Herndon Plans Town-Wide Clean-Up — “The annual spring clean-up, an opportunity for residents to place large or bulky items curbside for pickup, takes place April 27-29. Pickup is on your trash day only.” [Town of Herndon]

It’s Tuesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 72 and low of 53. Sunrise at 6:37 am and sunset at 7:44 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

A Metro rider uses an updated fare gate at the Vienna Metro station (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Reminder: Old Metro Cards Stop Working Today — “SmarTrip cards purchased before 2012 are no longer compatible with new, faster, modern faregates already installed in many stations. In an announcement more than 10 months ago, Metro advised customers that the old cards would need to be replaced as stations are equipped with new faregates.” [WMATA]

County Circuit Court Ends Mask Requirement — Fairfax County Circuit Court Chief Judge Penny Azcarate announced yesterday (Monday) that masks will be optional to enter the Courthouse effective immediately in accordance with the county’s new policy. Rules in courtrooms “are at the discretion of the presiding judge.” [Circuit Court]

Masks Now Optional on School Buses — Fairfax County Public Schools confirmed that its shift to a mask-optional policy starting today (Tuesday) includes school buses and vans. FCPS will also stop contact tracing for individual COVID-19 cases, but a livestreaming option is still available to students who have to isolate. [FCPS]

No Injuries Reported in Wolf Trap House Fire — Firefighters responded to a house fire in the 1500 block of Snughill Court around 8:45 p.m. on Saturday (Feb. 26). Investigators determined that the fire was started by improperly discarded ashes from a fire pit. It displaced five people and caused approximately $187,500 in damages. [FCFRD]

Fear of Reston Golf Course Development Persists — “A recent proposal to establish a pilot program to remove invasive plant species around Reston National Golf Course is seen by some as a first step to garner support for redeveloping the land.” [Patch]

Historic McLean Estate to Be Conserved — “An 8-acre Civil War-era McLean property known as Elmwood recently became the 129th conservation easement for the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (NVCT)…Elmwood most recently was the home of the late television journalist Roger Mudd, whose family lived in the house for nearly half a century.” [Sun Gazette]

Reston Blogger Digs into History of Maryland Pizza Hut — Addison Del Mastro, who writes a Substack newsletter about urbanism and land use, noticed some unusual architectural features on a Pizza Hut in Landover. His investigation found that it started life in the 1970s as a franchise in a now-defunct chain called English’s Chick’n Steak House. [The Washington Post]

It’s Tuesday — Today will be mostly cloudy, then gradually become sunny, with a high near 58 and a low around 40. Sunrise will be at 6:39 a.m. and sunset at 6:01 p.m. [weather.gov]

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