The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) is reviewing a study of Envision Route 7’s impact on Falls Church. The study doesn’t make recommendations but provides analysis on how BRT might impact bus and car traffic in Falls Church.
According to the NVTC agenda:
The Commission will be asked to accept the findings of the Envision Route 7 Phase 4-1 Mobility Study, a key element of the fourth phase of planning for a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system designed to connect the Mark Center in Alexandria to Tysons via Bailey’s Crossroads, Seven Corners and Falls Church along the Route 7 corridor.
The study included a variety of scenarios for how the BRT route could run through Falls Church, from a “no-build” option to full transit lanes, along with various “hybrids” inbetween.
Unsurprisingly, the scenarios with the higher number of dedicated bus lanes having the largest travel time decrease for buses, though travel times would also increase for cars and other vehicles.
The study also included feedback from public engagement, which determined 60% of respondents agreed improving bus speed and reliability was a high priority, though there was also concern about how the changes might impact bicyclist safety.
The full report is available online.
NVTC is working with Falls Church throughout this fall to develop a preferred scenario, with the project going to various boards and commissions in Falls Church, Fairfax, Alexandria and Arlington this winter.
Image via NVTC/Twitter
The development now under construction on Falls Church City’s former high school site has landed its first retail tenants.
Hoffman & Associates, the developer behind the nearly 10-acre West Falls neighborhood, announced yesterday (Thursday) that the restaurants SEOULSPICE, BurgerFi and Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls will all open in fall 2024, along with the Spanish immersion preschool Tierra Encantada.
“West Falls will serve as a dynamic destination and vibrant community in the heart of West Falls Church,” Hoffman & Associates President Shawn Seaman said in a press release. “Each of these new businesses will bring something unique to the neighborhood, and we look forward to sharing more additions to this community in the near future.”
Tierra Encantada will occupy 10,000 square feet of space at 7131 Magnolia Street in the development’s retail corridor, which will be in the median of a new street called West Falls Station Blvd bisecting the neighborhood.
This will be the second of 15 locations that the early childhood education provider has planned for Northern Virginia. The first school opened in Alexandria last year, and a third one has been proposed near Ballston in Arlington.
“This early education and preschool program focuses on promoting early cognitive development and respect for diversity with a fully Spanish curriculum, a play-based learning model, and daily scratch-made meals from organic ingredients,” Hoffman & Associates said.
Here’s more on the three restaurants from the press release:
SEOULSPICE, a quick service restaurant known for its Korean comfort food, plans to open a new, over 2,000-square-foot location at 150 West Falls Station Boulevard. This will be SEOULSPICE’s eighth location in the DMV, expanding further into the Northern Virginia market and reinforcing the company’s commitment to serving delicious and nutritious gluten-free Korean cuisine.
BurgerFi, a popular fast-casual burger concept, will open a new over 2,000-square-foot location at 170 West Falls Station Blvd. With over 125 restaurants domestically and internationally, BurgerFi is a chef-founded concept offering a casual dining atmosphere with award-winning American cuisine. BurgerFi uses 100% natural American Angus beef with no steroids, antibiotics, growth hormones, chemicals or additives and offers a diverse menu including their award-winning vegetarian VegeFi® Burger, Wagyu Beef, Cage-Free “Fi’ed” Chicken Tenders and Sandwiches, Fresh-Cut Fries and Beer-Battered Onion Rings, Frozen Custard Desserts, beer, wine, and more.
Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls will open at 235 West Falls Station Blvd with 1,375 square feet – its largest location yet. Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls is the largest lobster roll brand in the U.S., bringing the luxury of lobster to all at an affordable price point and casual environment. Mason’s uses simple recipes and the highest-quality lobster sustainably sourced directly from Maine.
Planned for 1.2 million square feet of construction, West Falls is the biggest development project in Falls Church’s history.
In addition to 142,100 square feet of retail, it will include about 647 apartment and condominium units, 217 units of senior housing, a 146-room hotel, 326,100 square feet of office space, about 14,000 square feet of civic space, and an 18,000-square-foot community gathering space called The Commons.
The project broke ground in May 2022, and the first buildings are on track to be finished in fall 2024, though the senior living facility may be delayed after developer Trammel Crow dropped out of that part of project.
Hoffman & Associates told the Falls Church City Council in June that the first phase is expected to be substantially complete in January 2025. That includes the hotel, a multifamily condominium building, a medical office building, two parking garages, and an apartment building with a still-unidentified grocery store.
West Falls constitutes the city’s portion of a massive effort to revitalize the 40-acre West Falls Church Transit Station Area. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recently approved plans to overhaul both the Metro station property in Idylwood and Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center campus.
“This larger development is intended to add an active and pedestrian-friendly area to the vibrant neighborhood that fosters community, sustainability and innovation,” Hoffman & Associates said.
(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) The long-fought activism of one local resident has culminated in the Fairfax County Police Department changing its approach to publicly identifying where crimes occur.
Arlington-based blogger Dave Statter announced on Wednesday, July 12 that Police Chief Kevin Davis has committed to having FCPD public information officers and social media channels use community names, rather than postal addresses, in public safety announcements, clearing up decades of confusion.
A crash in the Fort Belvoir area, for instance, will no longer be described as happening in Alexandria, when the city’s limits are almost 10 miles away.
(1) NEW: My battle of 40 years is over. 2 weeks ago @ChiefKDavis committed to having @FairfaxCountyPD stop using phrases like "Alexandria/Falls Church section of Fairfax County". Instead, they'll use community names within the county. As you can see it has already begun. (more) pic.twitter.com/wCy4tTeTHP
— Dave Statter (@STATter911) July 12, 2023
Known for his coverage of fire, EMS and police issues on Twitter and his blog, Statter argues that relying on postal addresses when informing the public of crime and safety incidents leads news outlets to share “imprecise” reports that associate murders or robberies in the wrong jurisdiction.
He says this issue is most relevant in Falls Church and Alexandria, two independent cities that share often unclear boundaries with Fairfax County.
The frequent conflation of the two cities with Fairfax County stems from the U.S. Postal Service providing a large swath of Fairfax County residents with Falls Church and Alexandria addresses, Statter claims. These addresses are provided to news outlets by PIOs when pinpointing the location of a crime, giving “people the impression that more crime was occurring in Alexandria [and Falls Church] than what was actually occurring,” Statter told FFXnow.
“The postal service created these artificial boundaries that don’t align with the real political boundaries that are on the map,” Statter said. “And you will often find a national story that says something that occurred in a town somewhere, but it really didn’t occur in that town — it was outside that town in a different jurisdiction. So it’s a problem that people have ignored for many years. I’m trying not to let them ignore it.”
The “general confusion” around city and county limits has also left many residents scratching their heads over where they really live and generated constant citizen inquiries to local governing bodies, Falls Church Communication Director Susan Finarelli says.
“People try to pay taxes to the city of Falls Church when, in fact, they live in Fairfax County,” Finarelli said. “…It is something that City of Falls Church government employees deal with all the time. I even copy and paste a statement of, ‘Oh, thank you so much for your email. Your address is actually in the Fairfax County part of Falls Church. Here’s how you can contact Fairfax County for that service.'”
To remedy this issue, which he says is not only endemic to Northern Virginia but the entire country, Statter has spent 41 long years advocating for PIOs and news outlets to instead use community and neighborhood names, such as Bailey’s Crossroads or Mount Vernon. Read More
The City of Falls Church has officially decided to reinvest in a 10-block commercial area that encompasses the largest Vietnamese shopping center on the East Coast.
On Monday, June 26, Falls Church City Council unanimously voted to approve the East End Small Area Plan, which proposes reinvestment into a series of commercial properties — including the historic Eden Center (6751-6799 Wilson Blvd) — between Wilson Blvd, East Broad Street and Hillwood Avenue.
The council’s vote comes after the planning commission endorsed the plan on June 7.
With the East End as the last of eight planning areas deemed “underutilized” and in need of reinvestment under the city’s Comprehensive Plan, the council’s vote serves as the long-awaited culmination of two years of dedicated community outreach and organizing.
After the plan was publicly launched in the fall of 2021, local Vietnamese organizers formed Viet Place Collective and worked extensively with the city to craft a plan that adequately represented the thriving Vietnamese community set to be the largest group affected by reinvestment initiatives.
The grassroots organization was lauded by council members for building an unprecedented model of community engagement in local public policymaking that the city hopes to continue.
VPC’s activism continued at Monday’s meeting, where they urged the council to rename the district currently known as the “East End” or Planning Opportunity 5 to “Little Saigon East” in future city planning.
Eden Senior Vice President and General Counsel Alan Frank objected that the name Little Saigon would take away from Eden’s unique, globally recognized branding and cause the shopping center to lose its name recognition in a country full of “Little Saigons.”
“You say that calling the area Little Saigon is not the same as renaming Eden Center, but we’re talking about the same piece of land, so I think that’s not really right,” Frank said. “If we’re going to market something, we need to market it under one name. We need to attract tenants there under one name, and it’s got to be Eden Center located in the city of Falls Church.”
In response, VPC Core Organizer Hoài Nam Nguyễn clarified that the Eden name would not be under threat of replacement.
The shopping center would keep its trademarked name but belong to a new jurisdiction titled Little Saigon that Fairfax County could promote and create signage for without crossing the line between public and private interests, Nguyễn says.
“We want to make sure that people understand that we’re advocating for a name of an area, so this is a greater neighborhood name, and the shopping centers in the area…have autonomy over their name,” Nguyễn said. “So, no one is believing that the Eden Center name will go away — it’s the opposite. We are believing that [the] Eden Center name will be promoted in conjunction with a Little Saigon name and vice versa. Little Saigon and Eden Center can be together and can work together.”
Nguyễn also acknowledged that the East End area is home to other cultures beyond the Vietnamese community but reaffirmed that the name Little Saigon is not meant to be “exclusive.”
“We feel like Little Saigon is a name that acknowledges the Vietnamese people…and Vietnamese businesses in the area but isn’t exclusive to only the Vietnamese,” Nguyễn said. “There’s plenty of other examples where you have a Little Saigon in other parts of the country where not all the businesses in there are Vietnamese either…So, our intent with the name is not to alienate other minorities or other cultures. It’s to pay tribute to and recognize Vietnamese culture, which is the most predominant one in the area.”
The senior living component of Falls Church City’s mixed-use West Falls development has hit a snag, even as construction continues on other pieces of the future gateway to the city.
WF Developer, the development team led by Hoffman & Associates, informed city leaders in April that Trammel Crow had withdrawn from its contract to build the project’s 217-unit senior housing facility, according to a staff report.
Negotiations are underway with a new developer, but a 13-month extension is needed on the June 13 deadline to transfer the site’s ground lease, Hoffman Senior Vice President of Development Mary Beth Avedesian told the Falls Church City Council on June 12.
The council approved an extension that pushed the closing deadline back to July 15, 2024 and the deadline for substantial completion of construction from May 13, 2029 to July 15, 2031.
“Frankly, when you’re past 2025, it’s almost like fake dates,” Vice Mayor Letty Hardi said, expressing hope that the senior living building will be finished “well before” the new deadline. “…I would hate this to start running into the phase 2 commitments.”
In exchange for the extension, WF Developer agreed to several new commitments, according to Deputy City Manager Cindy Mester, including:
- Cover up to $5,000 of the city’s legal fees
- Install a temporary flashing pedestrian signal at Mustang Alley and Haycock Road three weeks before the new school year begins on Aug. 21
- Identify the new preferred senior living developer to the council by Sept. 30
- Begin construction on the senior living facility within 60 months of closing a deal, which would be July 15, 2029 at the latest
- Add and maintain a “decorative treatment” on the blank, concrete wall of a parking garage on Haycock that’s currently under construction
The temporary pedestrian signal is expected to be replaced by a permanent one by the end of this calendar year, according to city staff.
Approved on Oct. 24, the site plan for the senior living facility envisioned a 15-story, 267,700-square-foot building with 140 independent living units, 55 assisted living units, 22 memory care studio units and 7,700 square feet of ground-floor retail uses.
Located on the nearly 10-acre former George Mason High School site, the West Falls development will also deliver approximately 647 apartment and condominium units, a 146-room hotel, 326,100 square feet of office space, about 14,000 square feet of civic space, and 142,100 square feet of retail, including a potential 40,000-square-foot grocer that has yet to be identified.
The project broke ground in May 2022 and will transform the area around the West Falls Church Metro station in conjunction with a planned redevelopment of the station’s parking lot and an expansion of Virginia Tech’s neighboring Northern Virginia Center campus.
The first phase — which includes two parking garages, a medical office building by Trammel Crow, the hotel, a multifamily condo building, and an apartment building with the grocery store — is on track to be substantially complete in January 2025, according to Avedesian.
The first structure expected is a parking garage to serve the medical office building. Avedesian said the garage should be finished this summer.
“I think they’re expecting to be done towards the end of this year,” she said of the office building. “They’re negotiating directly with tenants, and I understand they have a deed on some very good tenants, medical tenants that will take a good portion of that building.”
The senior living facility was originally included in the first phase of the development but is now being considered “phase 1B,” Avedesian said. Phase 2 will bring additional retail and office space, as well as a second condo building.
City Manager Wyatt Shields said phase 2 could start in 2029, but Hoffman’s agreement with the city allows it to pay for up to three one-year extensions, meaning construction could begin as late as 2032.
(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) A plan to redevelop 10 blocks of Falls Church, including the historic Eden Center, took a major step forward last week, even as existing community members fear getting pushed out.
The City of Falls Church Planning Commission voted Wednesday (June 7) to recommend that the Falls Church City Council adopt the latest draft of the East End Small Area Plan as a “guiding document” for future reinvestment in the area.
The last of eight Planning Opportunity Areas (POAs) that the city identified as in need of revitalization, the East End is dominated by commercial properties between Wilson Blvd, East Broad Street and Hillwood Avenue, just past the edge of Fairfax County’s limits. Most notable of the businesses to be affected is the Eden Center.
The largest Vietnamese shopping center on the East Coast with over 120 stores, Eden frequently attracts masses of visitors from across Northern Virginia — especially Fairfax County, where a large percentage of shop owners and regulars reside — and even across the country.
With many Vietnamese Americans and refugees depending upon Eden as a crucial source of community and connection to their roots, Eden has served as a meaningful cultural touchstone since its founding in 1984, the center’s website says.
“For my parents, who struggled to find home and belong in this country due to language barriers and cultural differences, Eden Center acted as an oasis where they could go to remember a home that they had to leave,” Khoi Duong, a self-described concerned community member, said during the commission meeting last Wednesday.
Local Vietnamese community members formed Viet Place Collective in early 2022 as a direct response to the reveal of the East End Small Area Plan in November 2021. In its current draft, the plan envisions the area as a mixed-use environment with housing, more concentrated retail on Wilson and Roosevelt Blvds, and more walkable streets, among other proposals.
According to its website, VPC “aims to uplift and uphold the legacy of Vietnamese culture community and identity in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area for the next generation.” A large majority of its members hail from Fairfax County.
Currently, the group is committed to preserving Eden against the threat of displacement and gentrification that its members believe the plan poses, serving as a key liaison between the largely Vietnamese-speaking shop owners, Eden’s corporate stakeholders and the local government.
Seeing a lack of Vietnamese representation in early discussions of the plan, the group aims to bridge language barriers and facilitate community outreach to represent the needs of the community that will be most affected by the plan — a collaboration that both organizers and city staff suggested could be replicated elsewhere in the region. Read More
A local Navy reserve officer has been sentenced to prison for having unregistered gun silencers that he bought after participating in the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection.
Hatchet Speed, a 41-year-old Falls Church resident who once worked for a defense contractor in Vienna, was handed a three-year prison sentence by U.S. District Judge Michael S. Nachmanoff, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia announced Thursday (April 13).
According to prosecutors, Speed bought three silencers from a Georgia company in March 2021 while “panic buying” at least a dozen guns in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters seeking to stop Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election.
From February to May 2021, Speed purchased at least twelve firearms and spent more than $40,000 at stores that sold firearms, firearm accessories, and ammunition. According to court documents, the defendant began stockpiling weapons after participating in the incursion at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, a time when he anticipated civil war and spoke of the need for political violence.
In March 2021, during the midst of his firearm purchases, Speed purchased three silencers from a company in Georgia. While the silencers were marketed as “solvent traps” ostensibly to be used in cleaning the barrel of a firearm, they were actually designed to serve as silencers. The silencers were not registered to Speed in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record, as required by law. By circumventing the registration requirements for silencers, Speed was able to take possession of the silencers within a week of purchasing them.
Speed told an undercover FBI agent in early 2022 that he believed the “solvent traps,” or silencers, “would come in handy” for fulfilling his vision of targeting and killing “the opposition,” meaning Jewish people, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
A federal grand jury in Alexandria indicted Speed on three counts of possessing unregistered silencers — one for each of the devices — on Sept. 14, 2022 and he was convicted on Jan. 20. He faced a maximum potential sentence of 30 years in prison.
Last month, a federal judge in D.C. convicted Speed for felony obstruction and four misdemeanor crimes related to the Capitol insurrection. Spotted in security footage wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat, Speed spent just over 40 minutes wandering the Capitol building halls before exiting through a window, an FBI agent said in a statement of facts.
Speed is scheduled to be sentenced in that case on May 8, according to the Washington Post.
According to the FBI agent’s statement, Speed is a petty first-class officer in the U.S. Naval Reserves assigned to the Naval Warfare Space Field Activity at the National Reconnaissance Office in Chantilly.
He previously worked a software developer for a defense contractor in Vienna before resigning “as he delved deeper into fringe ideologies,” the Post reported.
Speed isn’t the only Fairfax County resident to face criminal charges related to the Capitol attack. Springfield resident Joseph Brody was charged in September after allegedly assaulting a police officer with a barricade.
A new candidate has entered the race for the State Senate seat in the 37th District.
Organizer Erika Yalowitz announced today that she’s challenging to be the Democratic nominee in the newly-redrawn district, which includes Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church.
“Our new Senate District deserves a voice that is aligned with our community’s priorities, and our party’s values.” Yalowitz said in a press release. “I understand those values, because I’ve been living them for the 12+ years that I’ve called Tysons home. That means supporting working families, prioritizing pedestrian safety, protecting our community from gun violence, and committing to science based solutions for protecting our neighbors from future public health crises.”
As a community organizer, she successfully advocated for Blake Lane Park to be transferred to the Fairfax County Park Authority instead of being replaced by a new school. She also noted that she’s a union member, a mom, a Latina, a “non-profit leader,” and a court officer for Arlington Circuit Court.
Yalowitz previously ran to represent Providence District on the Board of Supervisors in 2019. She finished in third place in the Democratic primary, with about 14% of the vote. She did capture the majority of the votes in several precincts, though.
In a follow-up email with FFXnow, Yalowitz said Petersen has a “history of representing center-right positions,” and she’s a “progressive” who better represents the “demographics and values of the district.”
Petersen is running for his fifth term, having served in the senate since 2008. With redistricting, only about 44% of his former constituents will move with him to the 37th District.
Because of that, Yalowitz told FFXnow that it’s an open seat and Petersen is not a “full incumbent.”
Currently, no Republican has announced their candidacy for the senate seat. The general election is set for Nov. 7, 2023.
Elsewhere, redistricting has added significant intrigue to a number of 2023 state senate races. Several incumbents were paired in the same district, including in District 35 and District 38, which could lead to primary battles.
Seven restaurants in Fairfax County are part of this year’s Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants list.
The restaurants that earned a coveted spot include:
- A&J Restaurant in Annandale
- Aracosia in McLean
- Elephant Jumps in Falls Church
- Honest Grill in Centreville
- L’Auberge Chez Francois in Great Falls
- Mama Chang in Fairfax
- Marib in Springfield
The highly anticipated list was published by the regional magazine for the first time since 2020. That year, nine local restaurants made the list, including several that reappeared this year: A&J, Elephant Jumps, Mama Chang, and Marib.
A&J Restaurant at 4316 Markham Street is no stranger to these types of accolades. The two-decade-old Annandale dim sum eatery was on the 2020 and 2019 lists as well, and last summer, it won a RAMMY for its brunch.
“We are excited to be included in the 100 Best again. Since we opened in the mid-90s, the Best Bargains issue featured us every year. 2019 marked the first time we were included in the 100 Best,” a restaurant spokesperson told FFXnow via email. “There are many outstanding restaurants in Fairfax County. It is great to see The Washingtonian highlight some hidden gems in the suburbs.”
Korean barbeque restaurant Honest Grill opened in 2021 in the Centreville Square Shopping Center and immediately got the attention of the magazine’s critics.
Restaurant manager Kevin Yoo told FFXnow that Honest Grill’s inclusion is “a testament to the hard work and dedication of the staff, and a reflection of the restaurant’s popularity among Washington DC foodies.”
Yoo also noted that the county has a “thriving food scene” that’s attracting a “growing local community of culinary innovators,” as evidenced by the restaurants that made this year’s list.
Aracosia, which opened about three years ago in McLean, serves Afghan cuisine and is owned by a Kabul native. Elephant Jumps on Arlington Blvd near Merrifield is regarded as one of the best Thai restaurants in the region.
The famed French establishment L’Auberge Chez Francois has been in Great Falls for close to 50 years. Springfield’s Marib is perhaps the centerpiece of a booming Yemeni food scene in Northern Virginia, while Mama Chang is one of several very popular area restaurants by former Chinese embassy chef Peter Chang.
Elsewhere, Arlington County placed four restaurants on the 2023 list. Plus, the magazine included a number of restaurants in Alexandria and Falls Church City included as well.
A new gourmet popcorn shop is coming next year to Seven Corners Shopping Center.
Coming from the team behind Jake’s Ice Cream in Falls Church, Jake’s Gourmet Popcorn is slated to open next year at 6201 Seven Corners Center next to Michael’s.
Owner Robin Rinearson, a Fairfax County resident and retired optometrist, opened the Falls Church ice cream shop in August 2021.
Although ice cream is not on the new location’s menu, the team will continue its commitment to to hire people with disabilities, Rinearson told FFXnow. The effort is a partnership with the Arlington Program for Employment Preparedness, which offers internships that are pathways to paid employment.
“I have such a long wait list for employment at the ice cream parlor that I decided to expand the business,” Rinearson wrote in a statement. “I went to graduate school in Chicago where there is a popcorn shop every half dozen blocks. There are none in this area now. It’s time to start. I like a challenge.”
The ice cream parlor is named after Rinearson’s 29-year-old nephew, who has cerebral palsy and has worked for the company for several years. WUSA 9 covered the business, which has gained regional and nationwide attention for its business model.
Jake’s will sell flavors like kettle corn, caramel corn, cheddar cheese, buffalo wing and ranch, barbecue, maple bacon, lemon pound cake, birthday cake, Oreo and strawberry.
Patrons for events will also be able to make special requests for flavors, and seasonal flavors will be available.
Rinearson’s niece and husband — who are both architects — are designing the new shop. It’s expected to open in late winter or early spring 2023.
Photo courtesy Jake’s Ice Cream/Facebook