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The Fairfax County Government Center (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax County has issued a call for innovators to pitch solutions that work toward carbon neutrality and clean energy.

Pitch and Pilot,” a county-led innovation challenge, aims to find and pilot new projects that improve energy efficiency, increase renewable electricity use, and encourage the use of electric vehicles.

The winning team will have the chance to pilot their proposal in the county.

The pitch competition is sponsored by the county, George Mason University, and Smart City Works, a local nonprofit organization.

“Finding answers that increase energy efficiency and shift from a carbon-based to a carbon-neutral economy is a central goal in Fairfax County’s Strategic Plan,” event organizers wrote in last week’s announcement. “The county is courting solutions because the county’s first-ever Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) calls for carbon neutrality within the community by 2050, with a 50% cut in carbon emissions by 2030.”

An orientation is slated for Sept. 15. The contest concludes with a public pitch contest on Oct. 19. The deadline to submit a two-page concept is Oct. 3.

Smart City Works aims to empower communities to solve urban challenges and improve economic growth through technological innovation.

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A popular Peruvian chicken spot — one of many in the area — is expanding with a fourth location in DMV region.

El Pollo Rico, an eatery that serves up pollo a la brasa or traditional Peruvian chicken, is celebrating its soft opening through Sept. 4. It’s located at 10801 Fairfax Blvd.

“We chose this location because of the format of the space was ideal and we felt there was a great opportunity to serve people in the Fairfax City area — especially with delivery service to the main [George Mason University]  campus,” John Lillis, a representative for the company, said.

Lillis noted that the Fairfax location is larger than its Woodbridge location with a smaller-sized kitchen and two identical ovens. The dining room and parking lot are slightly bigger.

Regular hours will begin on Labor Day (Sept. 5), running from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. El Pollo Rico has other locations in Arlington, Wheaton and Woodbridge.

The restaurant traces its beginnings to a strip mall in the 1980s on Wilson Blvd in Arlington, where Victor and Nelida Solano hoped to open a Peruvian rotisserie chicken restaurant.

Opened in 1988, the chain’s standalone Arlington restaurant on N. Kenmore Street was featured on the late Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” travel show in 2009 and recently got a visit from tennis great Serena Williams, who’s currently competing in her final U.S. Open.

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The space center is expected to open by 2023 (courtesy Interstellar Dreams)

In the near-future, Reston will have an educational space center to call its own.

Interstellar Dreams, a project through The Pearl Project Institute for Innovation in STEM literacy, is actively scouting for a 40,000-square-foot space center in Reston. The center, which is expected to open by next year, will include training and simulations in real-world and virtual learning environments.

The Reston center will be preceded by “a smaller prototype” set to open Sept. 10 at George Mason University’s College of Science Research Hall in Fairfax, according to a press release.

“We are looking for stars to get us to the stars,” said Robin McDougal, founder and CEO of Interstellar Dreams, a nonprofit focused on nurturing future STEM professionals. “Building a Space Center is a needed tool to help inspire, educate, and train emerging and current workers–that are reflective of our whole population — to ensure we are ready to explore the universe. We plan to start here in Northern Virginia where this industry is booming.”

The company is raising $5 million to build a mission command, space station and planetary habitat. These features will have floor to ceiling LED screens and equipments. Visitors can come for an hour or a day to be in the environment, and mission commanders will lead groups in exercised and simulations.

The project will primarily be funded by donations, sponsorships and memberships.

McDougal is a former Fairfax County Public Schools advanced academic educator and describes herself as a STEM literary advocate.

The announcement was made yesterday (Monday) in the backdrop of NASA’s moon launch of Artemis I. The launch was delayed that day.

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Morning Notes

A plane at Dulles International Airport, visible from Chantilly (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Man Arrested for Fairfax Church Thefts — “On June 28, our officers responded to the Saint Mary’s of Sorrows Catholic Church in Fairfax for a man who stole a purse from a car in the parking lot. The man used stolen credit cards from the purse at several stores nearby. On July 4, the same suspect returned to the church and stole from two donation boxes. At least one stolen check was cashed from donation box.” [FCPD]

Covid Cases Close Reston Pools — “RA is currently experiencing a lifeguard shortage due an uptick in Aquatics staff testing positive for Covid-19. As a result, the Ridge Heights and Upland pools will be closed for the next five days (Friday through Tuesday).” [Reston Association/Twitter]

Silver Line Delays Not Justified, McKay Says — Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says any further delays of Metro’s Silver Line Phase 2 project “will be met with a lot of discontent.” He’s hopeful the rail extension will open this fall but wants to be certain that a $250 million budget increase approved earlier this week will be the last needed payment. [WTOP]

Vienna Lodge Seeks Funds for Repairs — “Vienna Moose Lodge, a fraternal organization that does community service work, launched a Save the Lodge fundraising campaign this week to help remain open and continue its mission…One of the major repairs needed is a new HVAC system in the banquet hall that will cost $35,000.” [Patch]

Ribbon Cut on Reston Affordable Senior Housing — “It was warm this morning but still a great turnout for the ribbon cutting for Hunters Woods Fellowship House! Much needed $26 million renovations provide modern & safer home for many older residents.” [Walter Alcorn/Twitter]

Herndon Company Expands HQ — The defense and intelligence contractor Expedition Technology has signed a lease amendment for its corporate headquarters offices “that will support its current and anticipated growth.” Lasting through June 2033, the new agreement doubles its office space from approximately 32,000 to more than 64,000 square feet and can accommodate up to 170 workers. [CityBiz]

GMU Joins Gun Violence Research Effort — “Fifteen members of a consortium of local schools will pool their resources, researchers and faculty experts in areas including maternal and child health, public policy, mental health, criminology and technology, officials said. The goal is to provide lawmakers and the public with steps they can take to drive down gun violence.” [The Washington Post]

Good Pups Visit McLean Nursing Home — “Fairfax County senior residents are getting some furry visitors at their nursing homes thanks to a group of volunteers at Pets on Wheels…The non-profit is run by volunteers that say pets can be therapeutic for senior citizens.” [ABC7]

Cool Off With Dolley Madison Library — “#Fairfax teens can beat the heat Saturday at our Dolley Madison branch. We will meet at the library before heading to McLean Central Park for a sponge war! Sponges provided. Wear clothes that can get wet (minimum shorts & shirts required).” [Fairfax County Public Library/Twitter]

Cirque du Soleil Makes Tysons Return Next Week — “Cirque du Soleil has become the gold standard of 21st century circus productions…The global brand brings ‘KURIOS: Cabinet of Curiosities’ to the Under the Big Top tent at Lerner Town Square in Tysons, Virginia from July 29 to Aug. 27.” [WTOP]

It’s Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 90 and low of 75. Sunrise at 6:03 am and sunset at 8:30 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

A hot summer day at The Boro in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

What Was Behind Tuesday’s Storms — “Hundreds of trees were toppled and hundreds of thousands of people lost power Tuesday afternoon and evening as three storm complexes roared across the Washington region. The storms were fueled by hot and humid air that surged into the region, and were powered and sustained by strong high-altitude winds along an approaching cold front.” [Capital Weather Gang]

Firefighter Charged in Fairfax County Armed Robbery — “A D.C. firefighter has been arrested and charged with robbery after police say he brandished a gun and took someone’s property in Fairfax County, Virginia. Fairfax County Police said the robbery happened in May” [WTOP]

Police Investigate Dunkin’ Donuts Burglaries — Fairfax County and Alexandria City police are investigating at least three burglaries of Dunkin’ Donuts in Springfield, Belle Haven and Potomac Yard. The incidents all occurred during the morning of July 7, but police haven’t confirmed whether they were committed by the same people. [ALXnow]

Fairfax County Top in State for Population Growth — “In the last 50 years, Fairfax County saw the largest population increase in Virginia. During that same time, Norfolk saw the largest population decline…Mark Mather at the Population Reference Bureau says the next 50 years are not going to have the same trends.” [WVTF]

Same-Day Voter Registration Coming — “Same-day voter registration is taking effect in the state in time for the congressional midterms in November, a significant shift from the way Virginia elections have worked in the past…The new law will allow voters to fill out a registration form and cast a ballot after that deadline, up to and including Election Day.” [Virginia Mercury]

Food Drive Planned in West Springfield — “@MoveInterstate will be hosting a #FillATruck food drive at their #Springfield HQ located at 5801 Rolling Road, from 07/18-07/29. All donations will be donated to Ecumenical Community Helping Others (ECHO) and will help families in the #FairfaxCounty community.” [Supervisor Penny Gross/Twitter]

Langley HS Alum Coaches GMU Volleyball — “Years later, when receiving a second opportunity to join the George Mason University women’s volleyball team, Megan Shiffett Bachmann jumped at the chance and accepted. The 2008 Langley High School graduate recently was named the new head women’s coach of the Division I Mason program.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Park Authority Names Top Volunteers — “The Fairfax County Park Authority will honor 21 individual volunteers named 2022 Outstanding Volunteers and selected by their peers from across the park system…Approximately 4,000 volunteers give of their time and talent annually and take on a multitude of tasks.” [FCPA]

Tysons IT Consultant to Help Startups — “Booz Allen Hamilton has launched a venture capital unit that aims to help young companies speed the development of technologies used by the federal government…Booz Allen Ventures LLC will invest $100 million over five years in firms developing artificial intelligence, machine learning, cybersecurity and defense technologies, the company said.” [Washington Business Journal]

It’s Thursday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 86 and low of 72. Sunrise at 5:56 am and sunset at 8:35 pm. [Weather.gov]

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A visitor walks into Capital One Hall in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

For a second year in a row, ArtsFairfax will hold its annual celebration of the local arts community on Oct. 28 at Capital One Hall, which also happens to be one of this year’s award recipients.

The Tysons performing arts venue will receive the Jinx Hazel Arts Award, the top honor from ArtsFairfax, the nonprofit Fairfax County arts agency announced last Tuesday (May 17).

The 2022 Arts Awards will also honor philanthropists Gary and Tina Mather, actor and former Reston Community Center assistant technical director Mark Brutsché, and George Mason University’s Fall for the Book festival, which will get a new Innovation Award.

“We are delighted to honor the remarkable contributions of this year’s Arts Awards honorees, who have all demonstrated a deep commitment to our community and to making Fairfax arts and culture more accessible,” ArtsFairfax President and CEO Linda Sullivan said in the news release.

According to ArtsFairfax, the awards ceremony draws approximately 300 patrons every year. The 2021 awards were among the first events hosted by Capital One Hall, which opened on Oct. 1 at 7750 Capital One Tower Road.

Proceeds from the awards support the nonprofit’s activities, which include artist residencies, grants, promotion of local arts and cultural organizations, and advocacy for the arts.

ArtsFairfax announced on Thursday (May 19) that it had received a $55,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to expand its artist residency program, which currently places professional artists in middle schools across the county to help educate students.

With the grant, the nonprofit says it will bring artists to a public elementary school, a public library, a county park, a community center, and an affordable housing development.

“By placing professional artists in communities with less access to arts, artists in residence can share their art form and spark creativity for participants of all ages,” ArtsFairfax said.

Here’s more from ArtsFairfax on this year’s Arts Awards recipients: Read More

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The tea shop plans to open in Fairfax in the next two weeks (via Yifang Fruit Tea/Facebook)

A fruit tea spot named after a family matriarch is coming this month to Fairfax.

Yifang Fruit Tea, a family-owned business, plans to open a nearly 2,000-square-foot location at Fairfax Court (11282 James Swart Circle) within the next two weeks, business representative Dave Chen tells FFXnow.

The business prides itself on serving teas made from natural ingredients and inspired by three generations of “family farming,” lead to a unique understanding of how to “get the best floors out of the fruit they harvest,” according to the shop’s website.

Its recipes were crafted by the owner’s grandmother, Yi Fang, who married a young farmer and relied on planting pineapples for a living.

Fang happened to braise golden pineapples into a homemade jam, resulting in what soon become popular drink: Yi Fang fruit tea.

The current owners have put the “early-Taiwan epitome, historic memories and warm hospitality” into its drinks, according to a company statement.

“We are not your typical bubble tea shop,” the owners write.

Options on the menu include a brown sugar pearl black tea latte, grass jelly tea, roselle lemonade, and jelly lemon green tea. The company has one other location in Georgia.

“We picked this location because of the sound demographics and the George Mason University,” Chen said.

The location will also have a Kenta Ramen machine, which automatically cooks ramen.

Photo via Yi Fang Fruit Tea/Facebook

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Morning Notes

A grassy field outside Wolf Trap National Park’s Filene Center (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Annandale Chick-fil-A Opens Today — “Chick-fil-A will open Thursday, April 7, at 7130 Little River Turnpike, Annandale…To celebrate the grand opening, the restaurant will surprise ‘100 local heroes making an impact in Annandale with free Chick-fil-A for a year.'” [Annandale Today]

Starkist HQ in Reston Now OpenRelocating from Pittsburgh, the tuna manufacturer opened its new corporate and administrative headquarters at 1875 Explorer Street in Reston Town Center on Tuesday (April 5). The office can accommodate more than 70 employees, and the company is marking its arrival with a community distribution event for the Reston-based nonprofit Feed the Children. [Starkist]

Commonwealth’s Attorney Expands Diversion for Non-Violent Crimes — “Under the program, called Taking Root, Fairfax prosecutors and defense attorneys can jointly recommend to judges that certain people accused of crimes be assigned to intensive programming instead of being prosecuted…The new program expands on existing diversion programs in Fairfax that have narrower eligibility requirements.” [DCist]

Masks No Longer Required at GMU — “In a message to the school community posted Tuesday, university president Gregory Washington announced GMU had switched to a mask-optional policy on all its campuses. He said the decision reflected low transmission and positivity rates in Fairfax County and nearby communities.” [WTOP]

Great Falls Group Has Ideas for Beltway Bridge Design — “When the construction dust settles, the orange cones are gone and work crews have relocated to snarl traffic elsewhere after completion of the 495 NEXT Project, the Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) hopes an extra-nice-looking bridge will take Georgetown Pike over the Capital Beltway.” [Sun Gazette]

Vienna Could Get Specialized License Plate — The Town of Vienna plans to introduce a town-themed license plate after the Virginia General Assembly unanimously approved a bill from Del. Mark Keam letting localities cover the fees for the first 350 prepaid orders required by state law. The law takes effect on July 1, and the town council will then move to decide on a design. [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Squirrels Trigger Car’s “Check Engine” Light in Franconia — “Craftsman Auto Care — Alexandria, an auto repair shop at the Festival at Manchester Lakes shopping center, found three baby squirrels sleeping under the hood of a customer’s vehicle…As for the check engine light, it turned out that the babies’ mother squirrel had chewed through wiring in the vehicle.” [Patch]

It’s Thursday — Rain until evening. High of 55 and low of 46. Sunrise at 6:45 am and sunset at 7:39 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

The planets Venus, Mars, and Saturn spotted over Lake Audubon in Reston (photo by Terry Baranski)

Franconia Townhouse Fire Under Investigation — Fairfax County fire investigators are still working to determine the cause of a townhouse fire that occurred in the 6500 block of Gildar Street on Saturday (April 2). The blaze didn’t cause any injuries, but four people have been displaced, and there was an estimated $93,750 in damages. [FCFRD]

Fairfax City Police Search for Missing Woman — “Fairfax City Police are still searching for information Tuesday on the disappearance of Amanda Childress, 43, who may have also been the victim of an assault…Investigators said the assault may have happened in the 10400 block of Eaton Place on March 6.” [ABC7]

GMU Dedicates Memorial to People Enslaved by Namesake — “The Enslaved People of George Mason Memorial is located on the campus’s recently renovated Wilkins Plaza, named for the late civil rights leader and George Mason University professor journalist Roger Wilkins. On Monday, several hundred people assembled in Wilkins Plaza for the monument’s dedication.” [Patch]

ACLU Lawsuit Over Mask-Optional Law Continues — A federal judge denied a motion to dismiss a challenge of Virginia’s law making masks optional in schools. The Fairfax County School Board filed a brief supporting the 12 families with immunocompromised children, while the Fairfax County Parents Association, a community group that grew out of the Open FCPS campaign, has backed the state. [WTOP]

Reston Woman Wins Cherry Blossom Race — “Sunday marked the first Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run since 2019, and with it, a local became champion for the first time since 1983, according to race officials. Susanna Sullivan of Reston, Virginia, won the elite women’s race.” [WTOP]

County Police Recognize Child Abuse Prevention Month — “Pinwheels will be displayed outside Public Safety Headquarters and at our district stations throughout April in honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month. Pinwheels are a reminder of the carefree spirit of children and symbolize the happy childhood every child should have.” [FCPD/Facebook]

It’s Also National Poetry Month — Fairfax County is celebrating National Poetry Month by having community members read poems “that showcase the diverse and compelling work of contemporary American poets” throughout April. The series kicked off with County Executive Bryan Hill reading “Crossing” by Jericho Brown. [Fairfax County Government/Twitter]

It’s Wednesday — Light rain in the morning and overnight. High of 65 and low of 51. Sunrise at 6:46 a.m. and sunset at 7:38 p.m. [Weather.gov]

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CUE bus (via City of Fairfax)

For a system that’s already free for riders to use, cash prizes might seem too good to be true.

But Fairfax City’s public bus service is offering three $50 Visa gift cards to people who fill out an online survey for its first major rebranding effort since it launched in 1980.

Known as the CUE, or City-University-Energysaver, the service primarily operates in the city but also extends outside city limits, notably to George Mason University and the Vienna/Fairfax-GMU Metro station.

“CUE’s branding has remained largely the same for 40 years and it’s time to change things up,” CUE Transit Manager Ryan Visci told FFXnow by email. “We want to present ourselves as a modern, efficient, and reliable service to encourage new riders to give us a try.”

He noted the project is expected to refresh the service’s logo and branding so the service appeals to more potential riders.

“CUE is looking for input on a new branding project!” the city said on Twitter. “Whether you ride CUE or not, your opinion can help shape the future of public transit in our community.”

Per the survey:

The goal of this project is to evaluate the existing CUE brand and identify improvements to attract new riders, solidify CUE’s identity, and standardize public information while maintaining current customers and partnerships.

The city will also meet with riders to get feedback on March 30 during peak commuting times at the Vienna Metro station and the CUE bus stop at GMU’s Fairfax campus.

Early in the pandemic, ridership was about 25% of 2019 levels, but the service is now at 90-100% of pre-Covid levels, which amounts to around 2,000-2,500 trips per day, according to the city.

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