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Graham Center in West Falls Church (via Google Maps)

Graham Center’s days may be numbered.

The 61-year-old retail strip in West Falls Church has been targeted by the not-for-profit health system VHC Health for a future emergency department and urgent care center, according to a special exception application recently submitted to Fairfax County.

“This innovative hybrid model of a Freestanding Emergency Department combined with an Urgent Care Center (the ‘FSED-UCC’) will offer convenient and timely access for emergency patients, many of the Applicant’s scheduled outpatients, and the general public,” Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh attorney Kathryn Taylor wrote in a statement of justification for VHC Health.

Built in 1953, Graham Center was anchored for decades by Harvest Moon, a Chinese restaurant and banquet hall that became popular for wedding receptions after it opened in the mid-1980s. However, the restaurant closed permanently during the pandemic, leaving behind a mix of small shops, including eateries, a nail salon, a shoe repair outlet and a Vietnamese supermarket.

County property records show that VHC Health bought the 105,698-square-foot site at 7234 Arlington Blvd for $2.4 million in July 2023. The future of the still-operating tenants remains to be determined, but VHC Health’s application says the one-story retail building will be demolished.

VHC Health Vice President of Real Estate Acquisition and Development Adrian Stanton said in a statement to FFXnow that the organization has “maintained open and continuous communication with the tenants about plans for the site” since it purchased the property.

VHC Health chose the Graham Center location because we saw a need in the surrounding community for an important and currently unavailable care option — emergency department services co-located with urgent care services. VHC Health prides itself on offering convenient healthcare options in the communities where our patients live and work…Given the current condition of the property, the plan includes redevelopment as part of the County review and approval process. While we wait for approval from the County, we are still working to determine what other healthcare services and business development opportunities will be offered that will benefit the community most.

According to the Feb. 16 application, which was first reported by Annandale Today, the retail strip will be replaced by an approximately 24,250-square-foot, 40-foot-tall medical facility. About 14,000 square feet will be devoted to the emergency department and urgent care center, while the rest will house primary care, specialty and diagnostic imaging services.

The proposal continues VHC Health’s recent push to expand beyond its main hospital in Arlington with more community-oriented sites around Northern Virginia.

“The primary purpose of the proposed facility will be to decompress high emergency department utilization on the nearby Virginia Hospital Center campus and provide the surrounding community with an important and currently unavailable care option,” the application says. “In addition, the medical services of the FSED-UCC will be provided at a fraction of the cost for services typically furnished at conventional emergency departments or hospitals.”

A special exception is needed to allow the facility in a commercial district that limits office uses to 25% of the lot. The facility is categorized as an “office” under the county’s zoning ordinance because it won’t support overnight stays or regular ambulance usage, according to Taylor.

As part of the redevelopment, VHC Health has offered to eliminate access points to the property except for a northeastern entrance along Graham Road and a southwestern entrance along Arlington Blvd, which will be upgraded with crosswalks and ADA-compliant curb ramps. Read More

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The community has kept VHC Health’s primary care office in West Springfield busy since it opened last June.

Officially welcomed by Fairfax County leaders with a ribbon-cutting and open house on Jan. 31, the practice at 5803 Rolling Road, Suite 110, started with one physician but added a second in October to meet the demand for services, according to Darryl Ernst, the senior vice president of VHC Health Physicians.

He says the nonprofit health system anticipates adding two more physicians into 2025, bringing the office up to VHC’s typical primary care staffing levels. With each physician usually seeing up to 2,500 patients annually, the West Springfield practice could ultimately care for as many as 10,000 to 12,000 patients.

“The office itself has gotten busy fairly quickly,” Ernst told FFXnow. “That’s been very encouraging for us because I think it reinforces why we’ve been asked to come and provide care in that community.”

Located in a brick office building south of the Kings Park neighborhood, VHC Health’s West Springfield facility provides primary care services to people 18 and older, including physical exams, wellness visits and other preventative care, lab testing and chronic disease management. Same-day urgent appointments and telehealth visits are available.

The practice may expand in the future to also offer cardiology services, but a definite decision on that hasn’t been made yet, Ernst says.

Decisions about what services to offer where are driven by community need and possible gaps in a given neighborhood’s health care network, according to Ernest, who says a lot of patients who get cardiology services at VHC Health’s hospital in Arlington live or work in the West Springfield area.

“We want to be in communities that don’t have many providers in a certain specialty,” he said. “So, we believe cardiology is the need in that community, and so, that’s one of the reasons we would do it, in essence, because there’s not the kind of access that we think it should exist for cardiology services.”

The West Springfield practice was among several new VHC Health facilities to pop up in Fairfax County over the past couple of years. Rebranding from Virginia Hospital Center, the nonprofit now also has facilities in Annandale, Tysons, McLean, Vienna and Kingstowne.

A digestive health center that focuses exclusively on gastrointestinal issues also opened this past Tuesday (Feb. 13) at 3025 Hamaker Court in Merrifield.

Ernst says VHC Health has been “very intentional” with its expansion into Fairfax County, which was in the works before the COVID-19 pandemic but got temporarily slowed down as medical providers pivoted to virtual services.

In addition to seeking to give its existing patients a more convenient option, the nonprofit has gotten a “tremendous amount” of outreach from elected officials and business leaders requesting facilities in different parts of the county, including West Springfield, according to Ernst.

Though VHC’s offices have been concentrated in the eastern part of the county so far, it’s developing plans to expand to the western side. Ernst says they’re not at a stage yet where he can disclose specific details, but the focus will likely be around Fairfax City and its surrounding areas.

“We think [our facilities are] special, and we just really want them to be a resource for the community and for the residents,” Ernst said.

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The postpartum retreat Sanu operates in The Watermark Hotel in Tysons (courtesy Sanu)

(Updated at 6 p.m. on 2/9/2024) A former staffer for state Sen. Barbara Favola has ushered a new postpartum care center into the world.

Sanu Postnatal Retreat launched on Jan. 31 at The Watermark Hotel (1825 Capital One Drive South) in Tysons, offering stays ranging from three to seven or more nights to new parents in the post-hospital period of recovery from a pregnancy.

Founder and CEO Julia Kim, who previously worked as a chief of staff for Favola and former delegate Mark Keam, spent two years working with medical advisors to develop Sanu, which was inspired by Korean sanhujoriwon centers that provide postpartum care to mothers and infants.

“Sanu is driven by a mission to normalize a culture of postpartum care by providing foundational, focused support so families can thrive during this critical period and beyond,” Kim said. “Our signature postnatal retreat is anchored by the belief that a strong foundation for parenthood begins with judgment-free, mother-centered care, because a supported mother has whole-family benefits.”

A mother of two, Kim pivoted from a 15-plus-year career in politics and policymaking after experiencing a “difficult postpartum journey,” according to a press release.

To develop Sanu, she worked with physician and postpartum wellness consultant Dr. Kristal Lau, mindfulness expert Lisa Abramson and nursing educator Dr. Esther Park.

Modeled after the traditional Korean concept of “sam-chil-il,” a 21-day resting period following a pregnancy, the retreat’s 24-hour, customized services include a nursery, feeding assistance, mental health services, parenting classes, IV therapy and postnatal massages.

According to the press release, The Watermark Hotel was chosen as Sanu’s first location for “its elevated residential-style suites” that, in some cases, have kitchenettes.

All suites feature extraordinary beds dressed in luxury linens for a well-deserved rest experience, fine bassinet linens, and luxury personal care, as well as high-tech nightlights and baby monitors. In addition, rooms are stocked with clean, high-performance diapers and wipes from Coterie and other premium baby care products. The floor also houses a tranquil parents-only lounge and a separate 24-hour nursery staffed with medically accredited caregivers.

During their stay, guests can get chef-prepared breakfasts and dinners from Wren, the Japanese restaurant in the hotel lobby, and lunches from the meal delivery service MightyMeals.

Sanu is currently open for reservations, which can be booked through its website and start at $975.

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Inova Health Systems continued an expansion of its urgent care network this week with the reopening of a facility in McLean.

Inova-GoHealth Urgent Care McLean opened to patients at 1340 Old Chain Bridge Road, Suite 101, this past Monday (Jan. 22) after closing last year for renovations. Formerly known as McLean Immediate Care Urgent Care, the center is the 16th one that Inova has added in Northern Virginia since it partnered with the on-demand health care company GoHealth in 2022.

“Inova-GoHealth’s rapid growth is a sign of our commitment to expanding access to affordable, on-demand care for people throughout Northern Virginia,” Inova-GoHealth regional president Harold Brown said. “Having convenient access to connected healthcare is vital for improving the quality of life for everyone in our community.”

Like other locations, the 2,600-square-foot urgent care center in McLean provides medical services to treat “common health concerns for adults and children six months and older, including COVID-19, flu, fever, asthma, allergies, minor cuts, burns, pink eye, urinary tract infections, fractures, sprains, strains and more,” according to a press release.

It’s open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Inova and GoHealth, which operates the facilities, are also preparing to launch a new urgent care center in the Herndon area. The 2,909-square-foot facility is on track to open in late February next to Taco Bamba in the Village Center at Dulles (2415 Centreville Road, Suite B6).

That will bring the two providers up to 17 urgent care centers in Northern Virginia. Seven of the centers were recently relaunched under the new branding, but there are also entirely new locations, including ones that opened in Fairfax City and Lorton last fall.

“With Inova-GoHealth centers across Fairfax County, patients can access convenient, high-quality care closer to where they live, work and play,” Inova-GoHealth Urgent Care Medical Director Dr. Meredith Porter said. “We are excited to expand access to on-demand healthcare for the community and seamlessly connect patients to Inova’s robust network.”

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A pediatric sick clinic is now open at the Inova Cares Clinic for Children near Seven Corners (courtesy Inova)

Inova patients in the Falls Church area can now get medical attention for their sick kids without having to visit an emergency room or make an appointment.

The nonprofit health system launched a pediatric sick clinic this morning (Thursday) out of the Inova Cares Clinic for Children (6400 Arlington Blvd, Suite 50) near Seven Corners. Described as the first service of its kind in Northern Virginia, the sick clinic serves children with common but less severe symptoms of illness, such as fever or coughing.

The clinic offers similar services to an urgent care center, but since it’s in a primary care facility, the setting is more familiar to prospective patients, who are often uninsured or have Medicaid, Inova Senior Vice President of Community Health and Health Equity Karen Berube says.

“A lot of our patients might not have the resources to go to an urgent care kind of setting, and so, this would be an opportunity for them to get the…level of care they need versus having to sit in an a crowded emergency room,” Berube said.

With the staffing and capacity to assist 50 people a day, the pediatric sick clinic was designed to alleviate some of the pressure on Inova’s hospitals, whose emergency departments have been strained this winter by an especially intense wave of respiratory illnesses.

Last night, emergency room wait times ranged from no wait in Reston to nearly an hour at Inova’s Mount Vernon and Leesburg hospitals. Inova revived its face mask requirements on Jan. 4 for emergency departments, emergency care centers and urgent care centers.

Masks will likely be required at the sick clinic as well, Berube says.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Virginia is seeing high respiratory illness activity. Based on emergency department data from the week that ended Jan. 6, flu and RSV visits have declined in Fairfax County, while COVID-19 visits are rising, though hospital admission levels remain low.

Demand remains high at Inova, with hospitals reaching capacity “on several days” this season, according to Berube. She says this winter has been comparable to the previous year, when a moderate Covid surge combined with increased flu and RSV cases to create what the CDC has called a “tripledemic.”

“It was so crowded and we couldn’t even see our own kids in the clinic because we were so full with visits,” Berube recalled.

After that experience, Inova came up with the idea of a pediatric sick clinic that could siphon off some of the patients who were visiting the emergency room but didn’t actually need that level of care.

The health care system found support for the proposal from a donor who contributed the funding. The exact amount isn’t being publicized at the donor’s request.

According to Berube, the clinic features two doctors, two medical assistants, a resource nurse and front-desk staff. Only walk-in visitors are accepted, and initially, patients are limited to children who get primary care services from any of seven Inova Cares clinics.

Inova intends to eventually expand the sick clinic to any uninsured individuals, but officials want to get a better understanding of the patient volume first.

“We need to see how big the volume is for this before we can expand it,” Berube said. “So, if we fill it up right away, we won’t expand it necessarily in the near future because we would be full already. So, we just want to be able to understand volumes first and the need.”

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A private room at Reston Hospital Center’s NICU facility (courtesy RHC)

Reston Hospital Center has officially expanded its intensive care unit for its youngest patients.

Earlier this month, the hospital at 1850 Town Center Parkway celebrated the expansion of its Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) — which serves seriously ill babies.

The expansion boosts the space’s capacity from 16 to 29 beds with seven private and three semi-private rooms. The expansion also includes new equipment, furniture, a family waiting area and nurses’ station.

As part of the project, the hospital installed a live-streaming, encrypted video system that allows families to see their child.

“This NICU expansion is a meaningful step in Reston Hospital’s overall growth plan and in our continued commitment to meet the evolving healthcare needs of the Northern Virginia region,” John Deardorff, the hospital’s chief executive officer, said.

Reston Hospital, which works with Children’s National Hospital in D.C. to provide services, has been enhancing its facilities for pregnant patients and new parents in recent years. The hospital unveiled renovated labor and delivery rooms last year, and this past fall, it launched a mental health program for perinatal and postpartum women.

“Our team takes a family-centered care approach to really get to know the families and their challenges, preferences and wishes,” Reston Hospital Director of Women’s and Children’s Services Nancy Duryee said.

The new NICU space also includes a wall of hope, which highlights the stories of babies and families.

“The NICU can be a very stressful, scary time for parents and we want them to see other families who have been here and have made it ot the other side,” Dawn Brittingham, the NICU manager, said. “Even though it is in the NICU, they can feel hopeful.”

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A new Inova-GoHealth Urgent Care Center has opened at Pickett Shopping Center in Fairfax (courtesy Inova Health System)

A Fairfax pet store that came under investigation for mistreating animals has been replaced by a facility for treating sprained ankles and other medical needs of human patients.

Inova Health System has opened an urgent care center at 9404-A Main Street in Fairfax City’s Pickett Shopping Center, the recently rebranded nonprofit health care provider announced yesterday (Monday).

Located next to Chuck E. Cheese, the facility occupies a suite last filled in 2019 by Petland, which shuttered after investigators found 14 dead rabbits in a freezer. This is Inova’s 11th urgent care center operated by GoHealth, an on-demand health care company that it teamed up with last year.

The center provides medical care for non-life-threatning conditions to patients 6 months and older.

“Having quick and easy access to high-quality care is essential for our community’s health,” Inova-GoHealth Urgent Care Medical Director Meredith Porter said. “We are committed to expanding our urgent care network and are excited to open our Pickett center, bringing high-quality care to where our patients live, work and play.”

Here’s more on the Pickett center from Inova:

The new center offers patients aged six months and older a wide array of services for non-life-threatening conditions, including flu, fever, earaches, insect bites, sprains, simple fractures, eye injuries and cuts requiring stitches. The center also provides X-ray services, labs and COVID-19 testing…

Patients can walk into any Inova-GoHealth center for care or save time by pre-registering online before going to their neighborhood center. The new Pickett center is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Inova-GoHealth centers are open 365 days a year, including holidays.

Inova-GoHealth centers deliver quality on-demand care by Inova providers at convenient locations throughout Northern Virginia. When a patient requires further care, Inova-GoHealth is a direct connection to Inova’s robust network of care, which regularly earns national recognition for excellence in quality and safety, research and innovation.

Since partnering with GoHealth, Inova has been rapidly rebranding its existing urgent care centers, including locations in Reston, Tysons, Vienna, West Springfield and Centreville. The health care organization also opened a new center on Sept. 18 in Lorton Marketplace.

More centers are expected to open later this year in Seven Corners, Fair Oaks and Herndon, Inova says. The Herndon location will be in the Village Center at Dulles (2445 Centreville Road), per Fairfax County permits.

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Doctor holding a stethoscope (via Online Marketing/Unsplash)

Halfway through Virginia’s review of whether millions of Medicaid enrollees are still eligible for coverage after the pandemic, nearly 160,000 Virginians have lost coverage — roughly 15% of the over 1 million members whose cases have been reviewed so far.

For the past three years, anyone who was enrolled in Medicaid was allowed to keep their coverage regardless of whether or not they still met eligibility requirements like income level. Now that the COVID-19 federal public health emergency is over, the Department of Medical Assistance Services is carrying out a redetermination — or “unwinding” — process to decide which members no longer qualify.

DMAS Director Cheryl Roberts and Deputy of Administration Sarah Hatton told the House Appropriations Committee this week that there are three main reasons why enrollees are losing coverage: They have gotten access to insurance or higher income through a new job, they have transitioned to coverage through the federal marketplace or they have encountered procedural problems like not responding or submitting renewal packets to the state on time.

DMAS’ eligibility redetermination tracker indicates that 32% of people who have lost coverage in Virginia as of October lost it for procedural reasons rather than ineligibility.

Even though DMAS and the Department of Social Services have been planning for Medicaid redetermination since 2020, Roberts admitted Monday the process has been a learning curve, especially when coupled with the state’s Medicaid expansion in 2019.

“Most members had never went through a redetermination, and also because we had turnover at the localities, most workers had never done a redetermination,” Roberts said.

Hatton told the Mercury DMAS is working to reduce the amount of procedural terminations by coordinating with the health plans that call, text, email and send letters to enrollees two months before their renewal is due. Health plans also try to touch base with enrollees during a 90-day grace period following their coverage termination.

DMAS Public Relations Coordinator Mary Olivia Rentner told the Mercury enrollees can fill out the renewal packet on their CommonHelp account online.

Additionally, Hatton said enrollees can call Cover VA to complete their renewal over the phone and check its status. Enrollees can also check their status by calling their local Department of Social Services. The department launched outreach campaigns a year before redetermination started to remind members to update their address and contact information, she noted.

“Across the country that’s one of the biggest concerns, is that we don’t know where folks are anymore,” Hatton said.

Hatton admitted there have been cases of mail delays where enrollees didn’t receive their renewal packets on time to submit them before their coverage ended. She also said she has heard of instances in which enrollees found out they no longer had coverage at a doctor’s appointment.

“For those individuals that are encountering that, call Cover VA,” Hatton said. “We can put them back, and we can even do coverage retroactive three months.”

The retroactive coverage — permitted in Virginia through a federal waiver — only applies to those who are still eligible for Medicaid.

There is also an escalation route to get quick assistance to people who need critical care like chemotherapy but weren’t aware their coverage ended, Hatton said.

Hatton said enrollees looking to check their redetermination date can call Cover VA or their provider. Enrollees are currently unable to check the date on their CommonHelp account online, as Hatton said the system is undergoing upgrades to make it more user friendly.

“It is the best practice for enrollees to call Cover VA to check their redetermination date,” Rentner said. “The state partnered with Medicaid providers to give them access to the redetermination date should a member ask for that information.”

Roberts emphasized that any member who has questions or needs assistance should call Cover VA.

Cover VA’s website is https://coverva.dmas.virginia.gov/ and phone number is 1-855-242-8282 (TTY: 1-888-221-1590) and language assistance services are available free of charge.

Photo via Online Marketing/Unsplash. This article was reported and written by the Virginia Mercury, and has been reprinted with permission.

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A sign for Inova Fairfax Hospital sports the health care system’s new logo (courtesy Inova)

Inova this week unveiled a rebranding initiative with a new logo, look and tone that will “redefine the health system’s identity.”

“The launch of the new brand aims to capture the health system’s dedication to innovative, compassionate, patient-centered and world-class healthcare while fostering a culture of inclusivity and collaboration,” Inova said in a news release.

The nonprofit healthcare provider, which began in the 1950s as a community hospital serving Fairfax County, launched the new brand at its flagship Inova Fairfax Medical Campus (3300 Gallows Road) near Merrifield on Monday (Oct. 2).

“The brand refresh is a signal to the community of what they can expect from Inova,” said Tracey Schroeder, Inova’s chief communications and external affairs officer. “The quality of care, exceptional health outcomes and caring patient experience are what our patients value and depend on. With this rebrand, we’re modernizing how Inova looks to better represent the care that defines us.”

The release notes that, in August, Inova was named the top hospital in Virginia and the D.C. metropolitan area by U.S. News & World Report.

“All five Inova hospitals have received A Grades from the Leapfrog Group, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have recognized Inova with five stars for safety and quality – the only health system in the region to achieve this rating,” the release said.

Inova’s new logo “tells a clear story about how the health system, pronounced ‘in-OH-va,’ is always by your side,” according to the release.

Inova says the logo, which depicts two figures coming together, represents the fact that every step of the healthcare journey is taken together: whether it’s a provider comforting a patient, a doctor collaborating with a nurse or family member supporting a loved one.

“The logo evokes a warm, compassionate and welcoming environment where patients feel supported and valued,” the release said.

Inova preserved its recognizable blue in the new brand to build on strong brand equity, but updated the full color palette to include new colors that signal its new direction as a modern health system that continues to innovate and evolve.

“Our new brand is a mark of Inova’s progress in creating a unified clinical network, dedicated to delivering the highest quality of care to patients and families in Northern Virginia and beyond, and undeniably positions Inova to be among the leading health systems in the nation,” Inova President and CEO J. Stephen Jones said.

The new branding will be implemented at Inova locations on a rolling basis, with an advertising campaign planned in phases over the coming months. Inova will show up creatively in broadcast, streaming audio, digital and other multimedia channels.

The campaign will highlight specialty services and expert clinicians, emphasizing “their connection and dedication” to patients.

The rebrand announcement comes as Inova expands its health care facilities and services in the area, as laid out in its Eastern Region Development Plan. The organization recently added a behavioral health unit at its Mount Vernon hospital, and it got Fairfax County’s approval for a new Springfield hospital last year.

This article was written by FFXNow’s news partner InsideNoVa.com and republished with permission and some edits. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.

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Kaiser Permanente’s Springfield Medical Center (via Google Maps)

More than 75,000 workers at health care giant Kaiser Permanente are set to strike on Wednesday.

The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions’ contract with the health system expired on Saturday night without reaching a new agreement with management. Union workers are bargaining for pay raises and increased protections against strain. Employees say they and patients are feeling the effects of short-staffing.

Kaiser Permanente has more than a dozen medical centers across the Washington, D.C., area with Fairfax County sites in Tysons, Reston, Fair Oaks, Burke and Springfield. The strike will take place over three days at hundreds of Kaiser Permanente facilities across Virginia, D.C, California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, according to the unions.

“Kaiser continues to bargain in bad faith over these issues and, so far, there is no light at the end of the tunnel,” the unions said in a statement on Saturday.

Kaiser Permanente said that in Virginia and the District of Columbia, the strike covers less than 400 optometrists and pharmacists and does not include nurses or physicians. In the case of a strike, the health care provider expects facilities to remain open and operate with minimal disruption.

“We are continuing to bargain with the Coalition to reach a new agreement that protects and improves all the great advantages of working at Kaiser Permanente,” the health care provider said in a statement on Monday. “Our goal is to reach a fair and equitable agreement that strengthens our position as a best place to work and ensures that the high-quality care our members expect from us remains affordable and easy to access.”

If no contract agreement is reached by midnight, workers with union OPEIU Local 2 intend to picket Kaiser’s Springfield Medical Center at 6551 Loisdale Court tomorrow morning, DCist reported.

This article was written by FFXnow’s news partner InsideNoVa.com and republished with permission. It was lightly edited to focus on Fairfax County. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.

Photo via Google Maps

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