This weekend will be Voilà Pastry & Café’s last in business — at least for the immediate future.
“We would like to thank you for the love, support, and your continued loyalty to Voilà Pastry & Café,” the business said in social media messages. “We have created a sense of family with many of you, and watched your children grow (our Voila babies as we like to call them). We would also like to thank you for allowing us to be part of your special occasions. It has been an absolute pleasure being able to serve you for the last 10 years.”
Owned by pastry Chef Mekdeswork “Mimi” Altaye, Voilà opened at 5908 N. Kings Highway near the Huntington Metro station a decade ago and has since grown into a neighborhood favorite for its pastries and coffee.
In response to the closing announcement, commenters on Facebook and Instagram lamented the news while praising the bakery’s sweets, including some fond recollections of its wedding cakes.
“Chef Mimi and team, we are so sad to see you go, but look forward to seeing and supporting what’s next for you,” one Instagram commenter said. “Your delectable sweets, treats, coffee and teas are too good to go away.”
The customers and neighborhood have been great, Altaye told FFXnow, but landlord A.J. Dwoskin has become “impossible to deal with.” She said she struggled to get in touch with the company, creating an “untenable” situation where she couldn’t get anything done.
A.J. Dwoskin didn’t return a request for comment by press time. Tom Regnell, chief operating officer for the real estate company, previously told FFXnow that it was “disappointed” to see Voilà leave, but “we were unable to come to terms on a new agreement.”
Fortunately for supporters, the experience hasn’t diminished Altaye’s passion for baking. She’s currently looking for a new potential location, but this time, Voilà hopes to buy a property instead of leasing, according to a spokesperson.
Though she lives in Stafford, Altaye hopes to keep the bakery in Northern Virginia, ideally Fairfax County, Arlington or Alexandria.
“It all depends on where we could find a property that is suitable,” the spokesperson said by email. “…We learned that location is not as important if you provide consistently good product people would come to you. Hopefully by then the economy will also be doing better & labor force will not be an issue (we hope). This is a hobby that turn[ed] into business and we are very passionate about it.”
Photo courtesy Voilà Pastry & Cafe/Instagram
Detectives have determined that Brenda Ochoa Guerrero, 33, of Alexandria died at a house in the 2500 block of Fairhaven Avenue in Huntington, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.
She was then driven to the hospital at 8033 Holland Road, where a community member found her unconscious in the passenger seat of a vehicle with a gunshot wound, police said.
“Detectives from our Major Crimes Bureau responded to the scene and immediately began investigating,” the FCPD said. “Detectives located surveillance footage of two men who drove the car to the hospital parking lot and two individuals who were in the SUV that picked them up.”
According to police, an anonymous tip helped detectives identify 43-year-old David Littlefield and 36-year-old Eric Thompson, both from Alexandria, as the men who drove Ochoa Guerrero to the hospital and left her.
Police say they were picked up in a different car by 35-year-old Alexandria resident Eric Rubio and 29-year-old Maryland resident Yuris Pineda Gallegos.
Officers arrested Rubio, Thompson and Littlefield on May 14, according to Fairfax County court records. Gallegos turned herself in at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center yesterday (Wednesday), according to the police.
All four of them have been charged with concealment of a dead body, a Class 6 felony in Virginia.
Rubio and Littlefield remain in custody without bond. However, Pineda Gallegos was released by a magistrate on personal recognizance, and a judge granted Thompson a supervised release on May 18, according to a Fairfax County General District Court clerk.
According to the court, Thompson was assigned a probation officer with whom he has to check in periodically.
A preliminary hearing in the case has been scheduled for July 17, per court records.
The circumstances around Ochoa Guerrero’s death are still under investigation, the FCPD said.
After years of groundwork, the Huntington Club is pausing its plan to terminate itself and delaying major redevelopment plans that would have tied into the nearby Metro station.
On Friday (April 21), the Huntington Club condo association announced it will no longer move to disband this year and has paused construction of a large mixed-use development near the Huntington Metro station.
The condo association acknowledged to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in December that it was cash-strapped and needed the county to step in by issuing $45 million worth of bonds to push redevelopment forward.
The county was set to establish a community development authority (CDA) to borrow the needed money. Then, the CDA would pay back the $45 million in bonds through tax increment financing (TIF).
However, there were risks involved, particularly for the condo association and unit owners. The current financial environment convinced the Huntington Club to delay the project for the foreseeable future.
“We have all reached the conclusion that despite everyone’s best efforts, we’re not able to move forward with our redevelopment at this time,” Huntington Club Board of Directors president Lloyd Tucker said in a press release. “For us to terminate our condominium by December 15, as our termination agreement calls for, many pieces would need to be in place that simply cannot happen in today’s financial environment.”
Currently, the community comprises 364 garden and townhome condos on a 19-acre site next to the Metro station. It was set to be transformed into a denser development with 200 stacked townhomes and 1,300 multifamily units. It would also include senior living, office space, a hotel and ground-floor retail.
Explaining its decision, the club cited the pandemic’s impact on commercial real estate, rising interest rates, and recent bank failures that have combined “to essentially freeze the credit markets.”
“It’s an industry-wide issue at this time,” a spokesperson for the condo association told FFXnow.
In response, a scheduled public hearing on May 9 about the Huntington Central CDA has been canceled and “won’t be rescheduled until the project starts up again,” per the spokesperson.
However, the agreements, rezoning efforts, and plan amendments negotiated with the county for the redevelopment won’t expire, allowing efforts to ramp up again when the financial climate becomes less murky, the condo association said.
Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, vice chair of the board’s economic initiatives committee, told FFXnow he still expects the redevelopment to happen at some point.
“Redevelopment of the Huntington Metro station remains a high priority for me, the County and our community as it furthers our goals for transit-oriented development,” Storck said. “We have invested substantial time and due diligence to move this project forward, including planning for special Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to fund public infrastructure for Phase 1 of the project. We look forward to the resubmission of this project as economic conditions improve.” Read More
(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) In two weeks, a new grocery store will finally open in Penn Daw’s South Alex development.
Aldi is opening its newest location at 6218 N. Kings Hwy on Thursday, March 2, the company announced today. It will be Aldi’s eighth Fairfax County store.
The store opens at 9 a.m., and the first 100 customers will receive a gift bag “with a sampling of ALDI Fan Favorites products and a gift card as part of the ALDI Golden Ticket gift card giveaway program,” a press release says.
The “golden ticket” program enters shoppers into a raffle to win $500 in Aldi gift cards.
Jeff Baehr, Aldi’s Frederick regional vice president, told FFXnow in an email the Alexandria store fits what they are looking for in new locations.
“The new Alexandria store will feature open ceilings, natural lighting, environmentally friendly building materials and additional refrigeration for even more fresh produce, meat and grab-and-go options. Additionally, at the new store, ALDI will offer grocery pickup and delivery.
When it comes to choosing new store locations, we carefully consider several factors. Above all else, we look for convenient locations for our customers that can support a high traffic volume daily. We look forward to serving the Alexandria community with this new store, ensuring the design and experience match the quality of our products.”
The grocery store moves into the South Alex development just off of Richmond Highway and about a mile from the Huntington Metro. The development also includes 41 townhouses, 400 apartments, and other ground-floor retail.
The project has been on the drawing board and delayed for a number of years.
Fairfax County first rezoned the 10-acre parcel of land where the mixed-used development now sits in 2012. The Board of Supervisors approved the project in 2014, and the existing, five-decade-old Penn Daw Shopping Center was demolished in 2016.
Two years later, a massive fire caused nearly $50 million in damages and set the project back significantly. South Alex finally opened to residents last summer, and Aldi anticipated that it could start selling by the end of the year.
That didn’t quite happen, but in early March, it’s looking like a grocery store at the new Penn Daw mixed-use development will finally be ready to open.
Once it opens, the store will operate daily from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Aldi has over 1,000 stores in the U.S. and several in Fairfax County, including locations in Kingstowne and Mount Vernon.
The development is also advertising leasing opportunities for other businesses, but none have been confirmed as of yet.
Voilà Pastry & Café near the Huntington Metro is planning to close this summer.
The well-liked neighborhood, French-inspired bakery in Huntington Station Shopping Center on N. Kings Highway is shuttering in July, a cafe employee confirmed to FFXnow.
“We decided to not renew our lease after July due to an ongoing unworkable issue with the landlord,” a restaurant spokesperson told FFXnow via email.
The leasing company and landlord A.J. Dwoskin corroborated this as well.
“We are disappointed [Voilà] is leaving,” Chief Operating Officer Tom Regnell told FFXnow. “But we were unable to come to terms on a new agreement.”
There’s already a “for lease” sign hanging above the bakery’s door.
When asked whether Voilà might move elsewhere in Fairfax County, the spokesperson said the team has “not found a suitable location yet, but will notify our customers via social media about our future plans.”
“To this day, they are her greatest inspiration. Her grandmother went to a French school in the early 1900’s; she cooked, baked, crocheted, knitted, and more, and always presented the finished product with the word ‘C’est Voila,'” it reads.
Mekdes began her career in financial management before having children and rediscovering her passion for baking. She attended L’Academie de Cuisine in Maryland prior to opening this shop.
Of the 202 reviews on Yelp, nearly 70% give the small, local bakery five stars.
“Nestled in the center of a run of the mill strip mall, this little slice of heaven is a must visit,” one reviewer said last year. “Seriously, if you blink you will miss this place, which is a shame because its a true hidden gem.”
“A magical place that transforms you from Alexandria Virginia to Paris with just one bite,” reads another from 2021.
The area around the Huntington Metro station is in the midst of a major redevelopment. A much-discussed comprehensive plan was approved late last year. The Arden — a 126-unit affordable housing development — opened earlier this year, and a mixed-use apartment building adjacent to the station called the Aventon will start leasing this year as well.
Developers are asking for public help to redevelop the Huntington Club condominium community, but officials worry the condo owners are unclear of the risk involved.
Currently, the Huntington Club is a 364-unit condo complex between N. Kings Highway and Huntington Avenue, adjacent to the Huntington Metro station. A three-phase plan to redevelop the 19.5-acre property to be denser was approved in December 2021, promising 2,000 multifamily units, 200 townhomes, and multi-use space for retail, senior living, and possibly a hotel.
However, the land owners don’t have enough upfront cash to start the townhomes and multifamily units envisioned for phase 1 of the project.
“The [land owners] are insufficient cash-wise to cover infrastructure costs for phase 1,” Fairfax County Debt Coordinator Joe LaHait told the supervisors at the meeting.
Because they don’t have the funds needed to cover infrastructure, if the county doesn’t step in, the redevelopment won’t be able to move forward, LaHait reiterated. Hence, developers are asking for help in the form of $45 million worth of publicly issued bonds.
The county has started down the path toward fulfilling the request, but it’s proposing to take a somewhat unique approach.
The county would establish a community development authority (CDA) to borrow the money. A CDA is a public entity governed by a board with the power to issue bonds. This mechanism was used to help get the Mosaic District built over a decade ago.
The CDA would pay back the $45 million in bonds through tax increment financing (TIF), which is the difference between taxes generated before and after redevelopment. Once the bonds are paid back, the county can keep the extra money.
Right now, the Huntington Club pays the county about $800,000 in tax revenue, per the Washington Business Journal. The redeveloped property could generate upwards of $10 million annually.
While the county board needs to approve the CDA’s creation and the issuing of the bonds, what’s enticing is that significant extra money and the fact that the county wouldn’t be on the hook if values don’t rise as quickly as hoped.
The condo owners are the ones who would assume the risk. Read More
Fairfax County is adding seven Capital Bikeshare electric bicycle stations in the Franconia District, splitting them between the Franconia/Springfield Metro station and the Huntington transit station area.
Last week, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) held a public meeting where it laid out its plan for the expansion of the Capital Bikeshare program in the Franconia District.
The goal is to add seven stations in the Franconia District and one at the Huntington Metro south entrance that would technically be in the Mount Vernon District. The stations are scheduled to be installed starting next year and into 2024.
“When you need to get from Point A to Point B with more than two feet but less than four wheels, borrowing a bicycle in might be your answer,” the Fairfax County Department of Transportation said on its website.
All the stations would have e-bikes, as opposed to classic bicycles, due to demand. While currently only 6% of its Capital Bikeshare fleet are e-bikes, they make up 15% of total trips, according to FCDOT. E-bikes can also be locked to any public bicycle rack.
The proposed locations of the stations include four near the Franconia-Springfield Metro station and three in and around the Jefferson Manor neighborhood.
The suggested station locations are:
- Fairhaven Avenue & Monticello Road
- N Kings Highway & Fort Drive
- Poag Street & S Kings Highway
- Franconia/Springfield Metrorail North
- Seatrend Way & Andrew Matthew Terrace
- Charles Arrington Drive & Manchester Lakes Drive
- Metro Park Drive & Walker Lane
These exact locations are not set in stone, however.
“All locations are subject to input from the community and our elected officials and could change as a result,” FCDOT spokesperson Robin Geiger told FFXnow.
Each station is slated to cost about $55,000. That includes the station itself, installation, and six e-bikes. The county plans to acquire its own e-bikes to ensure “future e-bike service after contractor-provided e-bikes begin phasing out in August 2023,” according to staff.
E-bikes are significantly more expensive than classic bikes, but rider fees and grants will cover operating costs.
Fairfax Country currently has more than 50 Capital Bikeshare stations but is working on doubling that. Beyond the seven coming to the Franconia District, 21 additional locations are being added in the Providence District as well.
Over the past year, Reston has also gotten an additional 19 stations.
Residents can weigh in with input and comments about the Capital Bikeshare plan and proposed locations in the Franconia District through Dec. 16.
Fairfax County might soon expand its Capital Bikeshare network beyond the Silver Line corridor.
The county’s transportation department has proposed adding 28 new stations, including seven in the Franconia District and 21 additional locations in the Providence District.
This will be the rental bicycle-sharing system’s first foray into the Franconia District, where the Fairfax County Department of Transportation plans to install four stations near the Franconia-Springfield Metro station and three near the Huntington Metro station.
FCDOT will discuss its proposal in a virtual meeting at 7 p.m. tomorrow.
Expansion Plans for Capital Bikeshare in Fairfax County!
Virtual Public Meeting, Thursday, December 1, 7 p.m.
Virtual Public Meeting, Monday, December 5, 6 p.m.
Details: https://t.co/1XaTLXPp6P pic.twitter.com/8K9Wmzw3dn
— Fairfax Connector (@ffxconnector) November 28, 2022
The county hopes to fund the Franconia station sites with a Commuter Choice grant that it’s requesting from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, while the Huntington sites will be covered by federal money secured by Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner.
“The opportunity to install stations near the Huntington Metrorail Station is due to the County working with our Congressional delegation to secure federal support to expand Capital Bikeshare to underserved populations in the County,” FCDOT said in a news release. “…Residents who qualify for certain state or federal assistance programs may be eligible for CaBi’s Capital Bikeshare for All equity program, which offers unlimited 60-minute rides with an annual membership of just $5.”
The department will also hold a virtual meeting this coming Monday (Dec. 5) to share an update on its plans to expand Bikeshare in the Tysons area, including to the Vienna area and West Falls Church.
There are currently 30 Bikeshare stations in Tysons and Merrifield after the recent addition of a location at Hartland Road and Harte Place.
According to FCDOT’s Bikeshare webpage, proposed new locations in Providence include:
- Circle Woods Drive and Lee Highway
- Gatehouse Road and Telestar Court
- Hilltop Road & Willowmere Drive
- Kingsbridge Drive and Draper Drive
- Mission Square Drive
- Mosaic District garage
- Prosperity Flats
- Providence Community Center
- Vienna Metro South Entrance
“Since Fairfax County launched Capital Bikeshare in Tysons in 2016, recently completed residential and commercial developments have provided new opportunities to better serve residents and visitors by moving some existing Capital Bikeshare stations to be closer to those types of properties,” FCDOT said.
The Providence District expansion is being funded by a combination of county money and outside grants.
In addition to answering questions at the meetings, county staff will accept comments on the proposed expansions by email (email@example.com), phone (703-877-5600) and mail (FCDOT, Capital Bikeshare Program, 4050 Legato Road, Suite 400, Fairfax, VA 22033) until 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 16.
The county also has Bikeshare stations in Reston, where a new one was installed at North Shore and Wainwright drives this fall. Two additional stations are expected at the now-open Reston Town Center Metro station.
The Huntington Metro area is one step closer to redevelopment with last week’s approval of a comprehensive plan, albeit with a few “modifications.”
The Fairfax County Planning Commission quickly and unanimously approved the comprehensive plan amendment for the Huntington Transit Station Area (TSA) on Nov. 16, following a lengthy public hearing in October and a site visit by the commissioners on Nov. 10.
The plan calls for a mixed-use development on the site including 382,00 square feet of office, retail, and community-use space, a civic plaza, more urban park space, a network of bike and pedestrian paths, a possible hotel, and 15,000 residential units with a minimum of 15% of those being affordable.
It was put together by county staff with input from commissioners, the Mount Vernon Site-Specific Plan Amendment (SSPA) Task Force, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), and the public.
However, “minor differences” did crop up, particularly at the public hearing, which focused on building heights and preserving wooded areas.
“At the public hearing, there were several substantive concerns raised about the proposed building heights, environmental issues, and placemaking, as well as a few clarification questions,” the approved motion said.
After nearby residents worried about a loss of privacy for their smaller homes, the plan is lowering the maximum building height from 200 feet to 85 feet in the area between the middle parking garage and the homes on Biscayne Drive. This provides a more “appropriate transition,” the motion says.
Another tweak addressed concerns that a southern path connecting to the Metro might negatively affect wooded areas. While the plan now notes that “the design of this connection would minimize disturbance,” the actual design will be more specifically determined when the development goes through the rezoning process.
The stormwater measures were also revised to be “substantially more extensive” than the minimum requirements, per the motion.
The other modifications address flexibility around who might be responsible for maintenance at the proposed civic plaza, the importance of public places, and the potential for increased light pollution. They also clarify that 15% of the residential units built should be affordable, in line with countywide rates.
Notably, the plan continues to preserve a tract of trees near the intersection of Huntington Avenue and Biscayne Drive. WMATA proposed selling the land to a developer to build more townhomes, but homeowners wanted to keep the trees as a buffer from the developed station and help with stormwater runoff.
Next, the comprehensive plan amendment for the Huntington TSA will head to the Board of Supervisors for a vote currently scheduled for Dec. 6.
The six Metro stations south of Reagan National Airport are reopening this weekend with Blue Line service replacing the Yellow Line service.
Braddock Rd, King St-Old Town, Eisenhower Ave, Huntington, Van Dorn St, and Franconia-Springfield stations will all reopen on Sunday (Nov. 6) after being closed for nearly two months. The stations were initially scheduled to reopen two weeks ago, on Oct. 23.
When service restarts this weekend, the two Yellow Line-only stations will see some changes to their normal operations.
With rehab and construction still ongoing on the Yellow Line bridge and tunnel, all trains coming and going from Huntington and Eisenhower will run with Blue Line service and be routed through Rosslyn. Trains will run every 15 minutes along the whole line, per Metro.
This is scheduled to continue until at least May 2023, when it’s expected the rehabilitation will be completed.
Most shuttle service at those stations will also stop starting Sunday, but Metro will continue to provide limited-stop shuttles that cross the Potomac during weekday rush hours. In addition, parking will no longer be free at the Van Dorn Street, Huntington, and Franconia stations.
The end of the station closures continue a week of good news for Metro.
On Halloween, the transit service announced that the long-awaited Silver Line Phase II is finally set to start service on Nov. 15. Then, Metro said that train service will increase over the next two months with the long-sidelined 7000-series trains getting back on the tracks.