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A fundraiser prepares to rappel down the Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner Center in 2021 (courtesy Sweetheart Photography by Tammy)

For those who find the prospect of being 14 stories in the air exciting instead of terrifying, the Hyatt Regency at Tysons Corner Center has some available views without the rooms.

Dozens of rappellers will descend down the side of the hotel later this month for a charity fundraiser to support the nonprofit Helping Haitian Angels (HHA), which runs a school and orphanage in Delke, Haiti.

Now in its second year, the event is a partnership between the nonprofit and Over the Edge, an adventure company that was also behind a rappeling fundraiser at the Hilton in Arlington. That raised over $200,000 for the local nonprofit New Hope Housing in May.

“Hyatt Hotels has a long-standing history of supporting local nonprofit and global organizations,” said Jon Davenhall, the hotel’s general manager. “…Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner Center is excited to be the Presenting Sponsor and help make a lasting impact in the lives of children who are left vulnerable without the care of loving parents.”

The fundraiser has been split into two days, starting at 4 p.m. on Aug. 26 with a kick-off reception, media day, and local celebrity and sponsor participants. All of the fundraisers will then rappel down the hotel between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Aug. 27, according to a news release.

Funds raised by the event will go toward the construction of a secondary school and trade school at HHA’s Kay Anj Village campus in Haiti, HHA board member and Over the Edge event lead Carol Wallace says.

Founded in 2008 by a Christian missionary couple, HHA opened the Lekol Harvey Christian School for the children in its orphanage in October 2014 and now provides education and summer camps for up to 150 elementary school students and their parents, according to its website.

The new secondary and trade schools will serve older children as a complement to the existing school, which Wallace says “is thriving.”

“Children in the neighboring community of Dekle will also be invited to attend the secondary school once constructed,” Wallace said.

After landing 85 participants in 2021, HHA has upped the ante for this year’s Over the Edge event with a goal of 110 individuals. There are currently 44 people signed up, according to the event page.

Registration costs $50, which counts toward the minimum of $1,250 that aspiring rappellers must raise in order to participate.

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The newly renovated Tysons Corner Marriott has a new restaurant and bar called Tysons Rickhouse (courtesy Marriott International)

(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) The Marriott in Tysons has finished a $25 million renovation that included redesigns of all 400 hotel rooms, expanded meeting space and the introduction of a new restaurant, the hospitality company announced this morning (Monday).

Replacing Shutters Bar and Kitchen on the hotel’s ground floor, Tysons Rickhouse is described as a “bourbon-inspired” restaurant that serves American food sourced “from the local Virginia area” as well as over 40 kinds of bourbons and whiskeys, according to a press release.

Marriott spokesperson says Shutters was successful, but the company felt the space was in need of a refresh.

“We chose to re-brand the restaurant to be up to date on current food and beverage trends,” Sasha-lee Vos, a senior marketing manager for Marriott, said. “Now, the food is focused on local Virginia flavors and sourced locally as well. We have over 40 bourbons/whiskeys to offer guests and residents, which is unique to the area. Also, we highlight local distilleries and local craft beer on draft.

Located at 8028 Leesburg Pike, the 14-story hotel also has a new fitness center, a 1,750-square-foot meeting room and a lounge for members of the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program:

“The revitalization of our full-service hotel gives loyal Marriott guests a newly transformed option in the historic Washington, D.C. area,” said Tysons Corner Marriott General Manager AJ Atmonavage in the press release. “With our proximity to upscale shopping, numerous corporate offices and historic landmarks, these upgrades have resonated with both business and leisure travelers.”

Work on the renovation began in January 2020 after the hotel was acquired by new owners. Fairfax County records show that the Marriott was built in 1981 and was bought by MTC Hotel Owner LLC in 2018 for $60 million.

“We, along with our owners, felt that a complete renovation would better position us, which it has,” Vos said.

The project’s completion comes as the Tysons Marriott and other local hotels work to recover from the turbulence of the COVID-19 pandemic, which included mass layoffs during the spring of 2020.

Because of the pandemic, the hotel shuttered from March 20 until Sept. 1, 2020 when it typically would’ve stayed open during construction. Despite “a few supply change issues,” the renovation didn’t experience any delays, according to Vos.

Fairfax County has made some efforts to boost the hospitality industry with grants and marketing campaigns, though Visit Fairfax CEO Barry Biggar predicted last summer that it could take until 2023 for business travel in particular to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Nationally, hotel occupancy rates remain down, and room prices are up compared to this time of the year in 2019, according to the data company STR.

More details on the Marriot Tysons renovation from the press release are below: Read More

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A sky terrace is planned at the proposed Fairfax Peak site in Lorton (via Fairfax County)

The climb continues for Fairfax Peak, a long-anticipated project to bring one of the largest indoor ski facilities in the world to Fairfax County.

The county is considering partnering with Alpine-X, a Tysons-based company, to lease land at the county-owned I-95 landfill (9850 Furnace Road) in Lorton for the public-private project.

Alpine-X CEO John Emery said work on the project is ongoing, and the company plans to file an application to rezone the site this year.

“At this time, we continue to make progress on the design of the facility and are coordinating with the county on the timing for filing,” Emery told FFXnow in a statement.

In 2018, Alpine-X submitted the proposal to build a 450,000-square-foot snow sports facility with a planned 1,700-foot ski slope. The facility could include:

  • Multiple ski slopes at a 20-degree angle
  • An area for skiing and snowboarding with ramps, jumps, and rails
  • A bunny slope for beginners
  • A luxury hotel
  • A gravity-powered, mountain coaster that will slide from the summit to Occoquan Regional Park
  • A gondola to ferry riders from the park to the facility’s base

Other features could include a water park, a gravity ropes course, and recreation areas. SnowWorld, a partner of Alpine-X, has signed an agreement with the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority to possibly operate or own some of the planned facilities.

The county would lease the land to Alpine-X, allowing the company to build, own and operate its own facility.

A spokesperson for the county said negotiations with the company are ongoing.

The project is contingent on several factors, including land use entitlements, state regulatory requirements, and other considerations. In October of last year, the county’s Board of Supervisors voted to extend the negotiation period on the project until December 2023.

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Residence Inn could shift into a multi-family housing project (via Town of Herndon)

Herndon will have to wait a little longer to see whether the local Residence Inn will be redeveloped into residential units.

At a Herndon Town Council meeting on Tuesday (May 24), the council deferred a decision on the project, which converts the aging facility into a 170-unit project with at least half of the units set aside as workforce housing.

The applicant’s representative, Ken Wire, said the deferral was necessary because the applicant was not able to sufficiently gather formal feedback from neighboring residents and stakeholders. Wire said some notices about the project were not sent out in time.

The issue was caused by a planning fluke, Wire told the council.

The council has been working with the applicant to sort through a number of details, including beefed-up proffers, for the project. The plan includes 72 new bicycle spaces, a new cycle station facility, and improvements like ADA-friendly crosswalks and $10,000 for bus stop improvements.

Wire said the applicant first came to the Town of Herndon with this project in 2019 to redevelop an asset that was built 32 years ago and “doesn’t fit its purpose.”

“The good news about this sister is that it does lay out quite well for housing units,” Wire said.

Roughly half of the units will be available to residents who earn up to 80% of the median area income.

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Residence Inn could shift into a multi-family housing project (via Town of Herndon)

The proposed redevelopment of an aging Residence Inn in the Town of Herndon is barreling toward a final approval before the Herndon Town Council this month.

The property owner, identified as Elden Street Owner LLC, is repurposing the hotel at 315 Elden Street into a 170-unit project with at least half of the units set aside as workforce housing, according to application materials reviewed before the Herndon Town Council on Tuesday (May 17).

“They’ll go through and renovate every unit,” David Stromberg, the town’s zoning administrator, said.

Councilmember Sean Regan said he was pleased the applicant did not alter its plan — particularly the workforce housing component — as it moves through the approval process.

“It’s wonderful to see it stick with that original vision,” Regan said.

The plans include 184 parking spaces and 72 new bicycle spaces. Roughly 48 spaces are planned within a cycle station facility, and 24 spaces are planned on racks throughout the site. The applicant’s traffic demand management plan must be approved before occupancy begins.

Other improvements include new ADA-friendly crosswalks, the dedication of roughly 885 square feet of street frontage for future road improvement, and roughly $10,000 for bus stop improvements.

Because of the change of the property’s use, the plan now falls within a floodplain overlay in FEMA’s current flood maps. But the property was removed in the latest floodplain draft and a flood study is no longer required as a result.

Councilmember Jasbinder Singh said he was concerned about ambient noise from the neighboring Outback Steakhouse that is currently under construction.

“I wonder whether we could make sure any noise… doesn’t effect these units,” Singh said.

Stormberg said the addition of parapet walls around the building’s mechanical units “does function to keep some of the noise in.”

The town council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the project during its session on May 24, which could result in a vote.

Mayor Sheila Olem encouraged council members to bring up any proposed amendments in a speedy fashion in order to move forward with the application.

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Visit Fairfax President and CEO Barry Biggar talks outside George Washington’s Mount Vernon for a tourism event (staff photo by David Taube)

Visit Fairfax is exploring the idea of a tourism improvement district, which could mean an added fee to hotel stays and other amenities.

The tourism organization’s president and CEO, Barry Biggar, said the proposal could go to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for a vote this September. The fee would go toward marketing the region, in accordance with a General Assembly law passed last year.

Biggar says southern Fairfax County will be targeted for the district, which would act on its own authority and set fees that could vary for different business types. It would mark a first for the county and could be a model for other areas, he said.

“That money then is collected, accumulated and used purely for the purpose of marketing, promoting the area…which collects the money, but also capital development and capital improvement,” Biggar told FFXnow.

The move could generate an estimated $1 million per year from hotels and restaurants, Biggar said.

It comes amid a county effort to revitalize and rebrand the Route 1 corridor. So far, that push has brought promises of bus rapid transit and a “Potomac Banks: Explore Fairfax South” tourism campaign with a discount pass for historic sites, partnering businesses and more.

“Only the hotels here in the area would be included, so that wouldn’t be added to a Tysons hotel,” Biggar said of the possible fee. “For a hotel, they may go, ‘We’ll do a dollar a room per night.’ For a restaurant, they may go…a half a percent of the total bill. For an attraction, you know, maybe 50 cents per admission.”

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A plan has been submitted for a scaled-back version of a new hotel at Springfield Town Center (via Fairfax County)

The first pieces of the massive redevelopment of Springfield Town Center have finally come forward, more than 12 years after Fairfax County initially approved a mass of new development for the property.

Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust has filed a plan for a five-story hotel along Loisdale Road, according to an application submitted to the county on May 11.

The hotel would stand alongside a proposed residential building, bringing about the property’s “much-desired rebirth” and acting as a catalyst for the “first free-standing buildings to be built at the property in decades,” according to the application.

The town center is slated for up to 2,736 residential units and 2 million square feet of commercial development, a plan fell into place more than a decade ago, when the complex was still known as Springfield Mall.

While the mall underwent an extensive renovation in 2012, no new development proposals have gained traction since the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ preliminary approval in 2009.

“Over the years, a variety of users have tried to introduce both commercial and residential uses to the property, but the significant proffer package and details plans have hamstrung those projects,” the application says.

The developer says the proposal should be able to move forward because it covers a limited application area, fits “seamlessly” within the existing landscape at the mall, and helps establish a new internal street network that will support future development.

The hotel would take up surface parking spaces and sit next to a 460-unit residential building proposed by Hanover to the south of the property. PREIT says it plans to coordinate with Hanover as it moves forward with its application.

A big sell of the project, according to PREIT, is that the building requires minor changes to previously planned access road and uses existing curb cuts from Loisdale Avenue. The latest proposal shifts the hotel from across Village Drive to Loisdale Avenue.

The hotel will also have 140 rooms instead of the 225 proposed in the original redevelopment plan, along with some retail to serve hotel guests. Originally, up to 23,000 square feet of ground-floor retail were planned with the hotel.

PREIT says the plan will bring vitality to an area that has been “overlooked” and will create a “mixed-use center as a community and regional focal point.”

The company purchased the town center seven years ago after Vornado Realty Trust, the previous owner, completed nearly $200 million in mall renovations and established retail facing Village Drive.

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Dozens of people will rappel down the Hilton in Crystal City for charity (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Later this afternoon (Thursday), Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay will descend by rope down a 14-story hotel in Arlington County.

McKay is among over 70 volunteers and VIPs participating in a charity rappeling event at the Hilton (2399 Richmond Highway) in Crystal City to raise money for New Hope Housing, a Northern Virginia nonprofit that provides assistance for people experiencing homelessness.

The event will unfold over two days, with elected officials and other VIPs rappeling down starting at 4 p.m. today. Arlington County Board member Matt de Ferranti has also been confirmed as a participant.

Donors from the general public will rappel down the hotel from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow (Friday). Food, drinks, music, and vendor booths will be available at a “Landing Zone” for those who want to watch.

In a media advisory from his office, McKay highlighted Fairfax County’s recent efforts to prioritize affordable housing, including its recently doubled goal to build 10,000 new units in 12 years and the Dominion Square West project in Tysons that announced full construction funding on Tuesday (May 3):

Access to affordable housing is a signature issue in Fairfax County and the region, and is my personal focus. We have seen, especially over the last two years, the tremendous struggle that comes from the lack of access to affordable housing. During my time as Chairman, I have worked nonstop to direct Fairfax County’s efforts to build at least 10,000 affordable units over the next 12 years, including more than 500 just announced in the heart of Tysons, and this is only the beginning. Affordable housing leads directly to jobs and leads directly to a significant enhancement to the quality of life and community for everyone.

This is why I am glad to be at this event today to help promote this vital cause and the great work New Hope Housing and all our non-profits do to alleviate this crisis — even if it means rappelling off a building! The more attention and effort we can bring to this critical issue of inequity, the more we can build the needed coalitions between the public, private, and non-profit sectors to give everyone the dignity of a safe, secure, and affordable home.

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The Hy-way motel near Fairfax Circle could become an affordable housing development (via City of Fairfax)

Hy-way Motel — an aging 12-unit motel just off of Fairfax Circle — is slated for redevelopment.

The Lamb Center, a daytime drop-in homeless shelter, and Wesley Housing, a Springfield-based affordable housing developer, have filed plans to redevelop the motel at 9640 Fairfax Boulevard into a five-story building with 55 residential units for low-income individuals, along with ground-floor office and retail uses.

The ground-floor space would be dedicated for Lamb Center staff and the organization’s city jobs program. It will also include parking and an entry lobby.

The second floor would house a property management office, a community room and six residential units. The remaining three floors would be set aside for housing only, with units ranging from 350 to 750 square feet in size.

Case managers will be on site to provide services to residents and roughly 15% of units will be accessible for people with disabilities.

Most units will be dedicated for low-income residents at or below 30% of the area median income, or roughly $27,000 for a single person. Case managers will work with tenants to developer skills training, manage employment, and formulate goals for securing income and maintaining housing.

In an application to Fairfax City, attorney Gifford Hampshire said the project would allow the center to continue “needed services” that help homeless individuals.

“The Lamb Center — Wesley housing partnership will reduce the number of people sleeping on the streets and in the woods, reduce the number of people cycling through emergency rooms and jails, and will provide housing not currently available in the city,” the application says. “Once housed, Lamb Center case managers will assist residents with accessing community services and resources, monitoring the quality and effectiveness of those services, and ensuring coordination of care.”

Preliminarily, staff noted that the proposal is generally not recommended in areas that are designed to be commercial corridors — especially residential mixed uses.

City staff also noted that the application provides only 18 parking spaces when 77 are required. Other issues include the need for a transportation demand management plan, more details on development standards, and the tightness of a proposed curb cut to the adjoining property’s curb cut.

The application is in the preliminary phases of the city’s approval process. So far, a pre-application has been filed. The project would require a special use permit to allow residential mixed-use in the area and a special exception to slash the number of required parking spaces.

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Approaching Capital One’s headquarters in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

At many businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed worker frustrations and fueled labor conflicts, but that apparently isn’t the case at two of Tysons’ most prominent employers.

The hospitality giant Hilton and financial corporation Capital One both made the top 10 of Fortune’s 2022 list of the “100 Best Companies to Work for” in the U.S., released on April 11.

The rankings were determined by a nationwide survey that garnered responses from over 870,000 workers and data from companies that collectively have more than 6.1 million employees, according to Fortune and the workplace culture data platform Great Place to Work, which have compiled the list annually for the past 25 years.

Hilton, which moved its global headquarters to 7930 Jones Branch Drive in 2009, was named the second-best company to work for in the country — its seventh consecutive year on the list and up from its #3 ranking the previous year.

“I’m so proud of our team members and everything they’ve done to share the light and warmth of hospitality with our guests, especially over the last two years,” Chris Nassetta, Hilton’s president and CEO, said in a press release. “This recognition is a testament to what we’ve built together at Hilton.”

In its news release, the hotel company highlighted recent efforts to expand employee benefits, including parental leave, bereavement leave, adoption assistance, mental health resources, and continuing education.

The company also said it remains committed to improving the diversity of its workforce, aiming to achieve global gender parity and make 25% of its U.S. corporate leadership people of color by 2027.

After coming in at #9 in 2021, Capital One (1680 Capital One Drive) dropped a spot to #10 in the 2022 list, with 93% of employees calling it a “great place to work for.” Workers also reported that the company made them feel welcome when they joined and lets them take time off when necessary.

According to Fortune and Great Place to Work, the ability to create an environment where employees felt supported and valued — even with the uncertainty and challenges brought by the pandemic — separated the “Best Companies” from average ones, where just 52% of workers said they thought management sincerely cared about them.

“Most importantly, they took action,” Great Place to Work CEO Michael Bush said of the companies on this year’s list. “They focused less on broad policies and more on what each person needed — in real, tangible ways. This transformed mental health assistance, elder care support, childcare and isolation support resources.”

Other Fairfax County-based companies that made the list are the engineering company Modern Technology Solutions, Inc. (#39, located near Lincolnia) and Navy Federal Credit Union (#76, Vienna).

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