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Inova received the county’s blessing to expand its Springfield hospital (Photo via INOVA).

Construction on a new hospital next to Inova’s existing Franconia-Springfield HealthPlex is expected to begin late next year after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the rezoning plan at a meeting yesterday (Tuesday).

The board voted unanimously to bring 985,000 square feet of medical space to the 21-acre campus on the intersection of Beulah Street and the Franconia-Springfield Parkway. Two representatives recused themselves from the vote due to their tie’s with Inova.

Tim Sampson, Inova’s land use attorney and representative, said that the project represents an “opportunity to fill a space in the geographic area without those facilities today.”

The first phase of the project will include a hospital with a maximum of 144 beds spread across two patient towers and an outpatient center. The current HealthPlex will be incorporated through a new road network and walkway connections.

Eventually, the emergency room will be expanded and relocated into the hospital. The former ER space will be filled with other medical uses.

Phase two may include a third patient tower with up to 72 beds and a second outpatient center. The plan also includes nearly 1,500 parking spaces and a helipad, although Inova officials only expect a few landings.

Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk said he was particularly impressed by the project’s aesthetics and Class A office space.

“The finishes and the design features of the campus are slated to be extraordinarily attractive,” Lusk said, adding that the project will likely bring 1,200 net new jobs to the district.

Inova’s expansion includes planned road improvements along Franconia-Springfield Parkway, Jasper Lane, Walker Lane, Beulah Street and a new internal roadways.

The county’s planning commission unanimously voted to approve the project earlier this year.

I think it is something that Inova and the county will be proud of for generations to come,” Sampson said.

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Huntington Metro station (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

Shuttles, increased capacity, and an extension of the Blue Line are among the changes Metro will make to help riders when the Yellow Line shuts down this weekend, a closure that will last eight months.

Starting this Saturday (Sept. 10), the Yellow Line bridge and tunnels will close until May 2023 for long-overdue repair work. Construction will also be done to connect the new Potomac Yard station to the main rail system so that station can open this fall.

Both projects will result in a months-long shutdown of the Yellow Line, which runs through Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax County. Parts of the Blue Line will also be closed through Oct. 22.

While this will undoubtedly inconvenience many local riders, Metro hopes to mitigate the impact of the construction and shutdown, which will happen in two phases.

During the first phase, which begins Saturday (Sept. 10) and lasts through Oct. 22, all six Blue and Yellow Line stations south of Reagan National Airport will be closed, as the Potomac Yard construction is completed. Those stations include Braddock Road, King Street, Van Dorn Street, Franconia-Springfield, Eisenhower Avenue, and Huntington.

Metro will offer seven free shuttles will be offered during this time. Options include local, express, and limited-stop shuttles that cross the Potomac River.

The local shuttles will stop at all Metro stations and be available during all Metrorail operating hours.

  • Blue Line Local: Between Franconia, Van Dorn Street, King Street, Braddock Road, and National Airport stations every 10-20 minutes
  • Yellow Line Local: Between Huntington, Eisenhower Avenue, King Street, Braddock Road, and Crystal City stations every 10-15 minutes.

Express shuttles, which will stop at the Pentagon and at the end of each line, will be available from 4:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays, and from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends.

  • Blue Line Express: Franconia-Pentagon Express service between Franconia and Pentagon stations every six minutes.
  • Yellow Line Express: Huntington-Pentagon Express service between Huntington and Pentagon stations every six minutes.

Limited shuttles, which will take riders into D.C., will be available during weekday rush hours only.

  • VA-DC Shuttle 1: Between Crystal City, Pentagon City, Smithsonian, and L’Enfant Plaza stations every 12 minutes
  • VA-DC Shuttle 2: Between Pentagon, Smithsonian, and Archives stations every 12 minutes.
  • VA-DC Shuttle 3 (former 11Y route): Between Mt. Vernon, Alexandria, and Potomac Park stations every 20 minutes. Peak direction service only.

Metro will increase capacity on the other lines by shortening wait times and increasing the length of railcars. Read More

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A new donation center opens tomorrow in Franconia (Photo via GreenDrop).

A new mobile donation center offers local residents another option to donate gently used items in Franconia’s Festival at Manchester Lakes Shopping Center. 

GreenDrop, a private organization, has partnered with the American Red Cross, Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation and the National Federation of the Blind for the donation center. Residents can donate gently used items to the center, which is located at 7015 Manchester Boulevard in the parking lot of the shopping center by Boardwalk Fries. 

The center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for drop-offs, including lightly-used clothing, shoes, blankets, kitchenware and household goods. An attendant will be on site to receive the items and asks donors to indicate which nonprofit organization they would like to donate to. Donors receive a tax deductible receipt. 

“We are thrilled to bring our sustainable services to the Festival at Manchester Lakes donation center and provide an easy, earth-friendly way for Fairfax County residents to support three deserving nonprofits,” said Jason Krieger, Director of GreenDrop operations. “We look forward to being an integral part of the Franconia community.”

GreenDrop is a  for-profit paid solicitor that accepts donation on behalf of other organizations. It aims to support nonprofit organizations through free-standing locations throughout the mid-Atlantic region. The company pays its nonprofit partners for the items individuals donate. 

A groundbreaking to celebrate the opening of the center is set for tomorrow (Friday) at 10 a.m. 

Photo via GreenDrop 

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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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A woman gets dropped off at the Franconia-Springfield Metro station kiss-and-ride (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Metro is waiving fares on a local bus line and parking fees at several stations starting next month because of upcoming construction.

On Sept. 10, all Blue and Yellow stations south of the DCA Metro station will close for two major projects to complete the new Potomac Yard Station and repair the Yellow Line bridge and tunnel. The closure is expected to last six weeks, until Oct. 22.

The Metro Board of Directors voted late last week to waive all fees for the duration of construction at the three stations with parking lots — Van Dorn Street, Huntington, and Franconia-Springfield. This is to allow riders to use the free shuttle service that’s being offered.

At the Franconia station, parking fees, including those for non-riders, will be waived until early summer 2023, when the Yellow Line bridge rehabilitation is expected to finish. This is to “encourage use of the Metrobus or Virginia Railway Express, transit alternatives available at Franconia-Springfield.”

The board also did away with fares on the bus rapid transit Metroway-Potomac Yard Line through Oct. 22.

All of this came at the urging of Fairfax County staff, notes the Metro report.

While the waiving of the $4.95 parking fee and bus fare will save riders money, it will cost Metro nearly $611,000 in lost revenue, per the report.

Expected to open to riders in late fall, the Potomac Yard Metro station in Alexandria will serve both the Blue and Yellow lines. In September, new tracks will be constructed to connect the station to the main tracks along with performance and safety testing.

The Yellow Line Tunnel and Bridge rehab project will shut down the line for longer. That work is expected to take eight months, so the Yellow Line won’t operate again in Virginia until at least May 2023.

In June, Metro announced several alternative methods to get commuters where they need to go. That includes free shuttle service and increased Blue Line service for the first six weeks.

Then, on Oct. 22, all the Blue Line stations will reopen, and service will extend to Huntington until May 2023.

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Inova is proposing to expand its hospital campus in Franconia (via Inova)

Inova Health System’s proposal to build a new hospital in Franconia is moving forward with the blessing of the Fairfax County Planning Commission.

At a meeting last Wednesday (July 27), the commission voted unanimously in favor of Inova’s plan to build a medical campus northwest of the intersection of Franconia-Springfield Parkway and Beulah Street. The existing HealthPlex at 6355 Walker Lane would remain on the site.

If approved, the campus would be built out in two phases, with the first phase including a 144-bed, roughly 407,000-square-foot hospital, a utility plant, a 134,100-square-foot outpatient center, and the existing HealthPlex.

But a request that Inova consider moving its overhead facilities in a reservation area to allow a future interchange drew contention from the applicant during a July 20 public hearing.

The applicant’s representative Timothy Sampson said it was unfair for state and local transportation officials to ask Inova to relocate its utilities to make way for a future interchange that the Virginia Department of Transportation has planned in the area — a project that is contemplated in the long-term.

“My point is that it’s not fair at all to say that what Inova is doing is costing the public right,” Sampson said. “What Inova is doing is saving the public by giving the right-of-way. “

Fairfax County Department of Transportation staff member Marc Dreyfuss said that if Inova does not commit to relocating the proposed facilities, the public would bear the burden of removing utilities in the area.

“It would be on the public to relocate them in the future,” said Dreyfuss.

Dreyfuss told the planning commission last week that Inova has agreed to locate its utilities within 21 feet of the right-of-way line for the interchange project.

“This will allow the utilities to be placed in a location that will be under the future shared-use path and landscape buffer, but not under the roadway, which would be acceptable for VDOT in the future,” he said. “So, we believe that this resolves the challenge that we worked through last week, and we no longer have any transportation issue with the application.”

The second phase of the project would expand the hospital by 72 beds and the outpatient center by 82,600 square feet. Inova is formally seeking the county’s permission to rezone the property from industrial uses to a planned development community.

The planning commission approved a comprehensive plan amendment to allow for the expansion on June 8.

The main hospital would include an emergency department, an imaging department, below-grade parking, and a helipad to serve the emergency department.

The emergency center would not include a level one or level two trauma center, which means that the proposed helipad won’t see many emergency trips.

“The proposed helicopter operations at the application property would have extremely limited impact on the surrounding area,” Sampson said.

Overall, 2,202 parking spaces will service the campus.

The nonprofit health care provider spent more than $40 million in 2020 to acquire property in a residential area near the Inova HealthPlex, turning the site into a 21-acre campus in lieu of the Liberty View mixed-use development that had previously been approved.

There is still other development in store for the Franconia-Springfield Metro area, including a new townhouse complex on Beulah Street and a new Franconia Government Center. To the north, the existing government center could be replaced by affordable housing.

“The expansion is expected to meet the needs of a growing population, which is expected to grow by more than 50,000 people by 2030,” Sampson said.

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Construction on the new, nearly $80 million Franconia Government Center will begin later than expected.

Back in February, construction was anticipated to begin in “early summer,” but it’s now been pushed back a few months to the fall, Department of Public Works and Environmental Services spokesperson Sharon North told FFXnow.

The project is expected to cost about $79.5 million, though that could change with construction bidding currently underway. If commenced this fall, construction will be completed in early 2025 — slightly behind the initial 2024 date.

Located between Beulah Street, Silver Lake Boulevard, and Interparcel Road in Franconia, the 90,000-square-foot building will house a number of county services and departments with the goal of centralizing the services and providing better facilities.

The building will include the Franconia police station, the public library, an active adult center, a childcare center, the Franconia Museum, and the office of now-called Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, who will run for re-election.

“​​County services in the Kingstowne area of Alexandria are scattered and facilities are small and outdated,” the county’s project page says.

Site of the new Franconia Government Center (via Fairfax County)

The Kingstowne Regional Library’s footprint will double in the new building, getting more seating, group study rooms, a brighter children’s area, and a teen zone with a gaming station.

The Active Adult Center will also nearly double in size to 7,200 square feet of space.

Both are currently in leased space that the county says “has significant challenges including space constraints, limited parking and disruption to operations due to maintenance.”

The Franconia police station, Franconia Museum, and the district supervisor’s office are all currently housed at 6121 Franconia Road, about a mile and a half from where the new building will be.

According to the county, the old building “needs to be replaced” since it is “undersized” and “outdated.” Parking is also insufficient, and the county-owned fuel station is “located within the secure perimeter thereby disallowing access to it by county vehicles other than those used by the police.”

When the county departments eventually move out in a few years to the new one, the old building might be redeveloped and turned into affordable housing.

That part of Franconia is undergoing a lot of changes.

Next to the new building will be a new townhouse development that is being planned. Just down the street, Inova is massively expanding its campus while the nearby Franconia-Springfield Metro might get new bus bays and a layover facility. This is part of the $180 million Frontier Drive extension project.

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Traffic fills the Richmond Highway (via Fairfax County)

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) has awarded nearly $341 million to seven major transportation projects in Fairfax County.

Approved on Thursday (July 14), the NVTA gave out about $630 million to 20 projects across the region with its latest six-year program. More than half the money went to projects in Fairfax County.

“The NVTA takes a multimodal approach to providing transportation solutions and options that keep Northern Virginia and beyond moving, recognizing there is no one-size-fits-all solution to tackling traffic congestion in the Washington, D.C. region,” NVTA chair and Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall said in a statement. “The 20 projects the NVTA has just adopted are no exception.”

NVTA committed to funding six county projects and one project from the Town of Herndon:

“We regularly talk about our goal in Fairfax County to ‘move people’ no matter how they choose or need to travel. I could not be more pleased with this investment in our community,” Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay wrote in a statement. “Fairfax County is the economic engine of the Commonwealth, and our infrastructure is at the core of this tremendous progress.”

The Fairfax County Parkway funding will widen 2.5 miles of the road between Nomes Court and Route 123 (Ox Road) in Fairfax Station as part of a larger project. No timeline is being given yet for when construction might start or be completed, according to the project page.

Fairfax Connector will acquire eight electric buses to initially serve four routes between Tysons and Franconia, potentially starting by the end of this year.

The combined $140 million for the two Richmond Highway projects will widen a three-mile stretch of the corridor from four to six lanes, among other improvements, and support The One, a dedicated bus service.

According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, construction on the widening could begin “as early as 2025” and take three to four years to complete.

The bus rapid transit service expected to serve up to 15,000 passengers a day with nine stations by the time it’s completed in 2030. All in all, both projects are expected to cost a billion dollars in total. Read More

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Morning Notes

Sunlight shines through trees in Reston (photo by Terry Baranski)

D.C. Area Sees Rise in Teacher Resignations –“Resignations spiked enormously at the end of the 2021-2022 academic year in D.C. Public Schools and in several Northern Virginia districts, including Fairfax County…Educators say the reasons for resigning vary. But some cite the difficulty teachers faced readjusting students, many of whom had grown accustomed to pandemic-era remote education, to in-classroom learning this past year.” [The Washington Post]

Police Chief Addresses Gun-Pointing Incident — The Fairfax County Police Department released body camera footage on Friday (July 15) of officers pointing their guns at a person who was filming them outside a West Falls Church IHOP. Chief Kevin Davis said he understands “the anxiety that folks in the community have after seeing this video go viral” but defended the officers’ actions. [WTOP]

Fairfax County Among Wealthiest Counties in U.S. — “A five-year survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau looked at median household income to determine the wealthiest counties in the country…With a median household income of $127,866, Fairfax County arrives on the list at number five.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Staffing Challenges Affect County Trash Pickups — “Fairfax County residents have been experiencing trash pickup delays for several months, but Dave Lyons, director of the Fairfax Workers Coalition, said he wants them to know that’s not only because of the pandemic or the strained labor market.” [Fairfax County Times]

Vienna Resident Says No to Leaf Blowers — “Vienna could be more pleasant, family friendly and healthier if the town banned the use of cosmetic lawn chemicals and noisy gas-powered leaf blowers, resident Avril Garland told the Town Council July 11. Both of those policies already have been implemented in Montgomery County, Md., said Garland” [Sun Gazette]

Vienna Considers Removing Church Spire — “Church steeples add interest and variety to Vienna’s skyline, but the one at the former Faith Baptist Church likely will be coming down. The Vienna Town Council at its Aug. 29 meeting will consider a proposal to remove the spire at the former church.” [Sun Gazette]

Reston Woman Made Disguises for CIA — “A 27-year veteran of the U.S. intelligence community, [Jonna] Mendez unmasks the secrets of how she helped transform the CIA in her new memoir, titled ‘In True Face,’ available early next year. Mendez, now 77, developed shockingly realistic methods for instantly changing appearances, carrying concealed cameras, and protecting operatives in the field.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

School Board Selects New Chair — “The Fairfax County School Board has elected Rachna Sizemore Heizer (Member-at-Large) as chair and Tamara Derenak Kaufax (Franconia District Representative) as vice chair for a one-year term. The chair and vice chair assumed office at the July 14 School Board meeting” [FCPS]

Huntington Affordable Housing Apartments Now Leasing — “The Arden — a 126-unit affordable housing community developed, owned, and operated by Wesley Housing — is nearing completion and leasing activities have just begun! Apartment homes at The Arden will be available for applicants earning between 40 and 80 percent of the Area Median Income.” [Housing and Community Development]

See Fairfax County Police Officers Rescue Man From Smoke — “Our officers do amazing work every day. Watch as two officers from our Franconia District Station save a man trapped in a smoked-filled apartment.” [FCPD/Twitter]

It’s Monday — Rain in the evening. High of 85 and low of 74. Sunrise at 5:59 am and sunset at 8:33 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Fairfax County Public Schools has fired longtime Edison High School basketball coach Dianne Lewis, leading to community backlash.

FCPS confirmed to FFXnow that Lewis was relieved from her duties as the varsity girls’ basketball coach at the Alexandria area high school.

“Edison HS is taking a new direction with our basketball coaching this coming school year,” an FCPS spokesperson said. “This decision was not made lightly, and was done so in the best interest of the school community. Edison HS leadership is committed to ensuring that the basketball program will remain strong and will continue to support our amazing student athletes in the coming school year.”

However, some in the community are making their disagreement with the decision clear. Late last week, a Change.org petition was set up asking FCPS to “overturn the firing” and reinstate Lewis. The petition claims the school gave no reason for Lewis’s firing.

“This heartbreaking blindsided firing of Coach Lewis came with no explanation to her, the players, parents or the community and we refuse to accept this reckless decision,” it reads.

As of this morning (Wednesday), the petition has gotten 2,243 signatures.

“Upon advice of counsel, I cannot comment at this time. I do appreciate your interest in this story,” Lewis told FFXnow.

The details of what exactly led to Lewis’s firing are scant.

She had been Edison’s varsity girls’ basketball coach for more than 20 years, guiding the team to hundreds of wins, a number of conference titles, regional championships, and several state championship appearances. This past season, the team went to states for the first time in several seasons.

A number of Lewis’s former players went on to play for major collegiate programs as well.

Lewis also worked with USA Basketball as an assistant coach, mostly helping to coach under-17 teams.

She had a positive impact on the lives of countless young players and students, according to many who left comments on the petition. Read More

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