The sun will shine into the night this Saturday (March 25), as the McLean Community Center hosts its first-ever Fiesta del Sol.
The inaugural celebration of Latin American and Caribbean cultures will kick off with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4:45 p.m. before the doors at 1234 Ingleside Avenue open 15 minutes later.
According to a media advisory, anticipated ribbon-cutting attendees include county officials, MCC staff, and representatives of Latin American and Caribbean embassies, businesses and nonprofits in the area.
MCC partnered with Stafford-based VIP Impressions Event Planning to organize the festival, which will have live music, food, drinks, and local business and artisan vendors until 9 p.m.
“We are looking forward to a super fun evening with a Latin beat,” MCC Special Events Manager Catherine Nesbitt said in a press release. “We will celebrate the cultural wonders of Latin American and Caribbean traditions through live music, dancing, great food and art.”
Admission to the festival is free, but tickets will be sold on-site for food and beverages, including alcohol for those 21 and older. Prices will range from $5 to $15 per item.
The tapas menu comes from Pikoteo, a Latin American eatery that recently opened in the former TAV Mediterranean Bistro spot at 6811 Elm Street.
Proceeds from the festival will go to The Institute for Building Agency, a nonprofit that provides civics education and training to people of color. The woman-led organization was chosen as the beneficiary in honor of Women’s History Month, according to MCC.
Here’s more from the community center on the evening’s scheduled performers:
Following a ribbon cutting and official opening of the event at 4:45 p.m., the festival kicks off with Salsa Guy Richmond, who will offer a demonstration of basic bachata, salsa and merengue dance steps. He will present a demonstration 20 minutes before each band performance. D.C.-based DJ Leo will work his magic to keep the party going. Laura Sosa and the Pa’Gozar Latin band will perform bachata, a form of Dominican music, at 5:30 p.m. Originally from Peru, lead singer, Laura Sosa, has created a band that emulates the rich and varied music of South America and the Caribbean. These talented musicians and excellent vocalists are sure to get patrons on the dance floor.
At 6:30 p.m., Izis, La Enfermera de la Salsa performs. Originally from Puerto Rico, Izis is now a nurse in the United States Army, where she has served for 15 years. The band recently released a new Christmas album, “My Favorite Things,” that features a salsa beat. Pablo Antonio and La Firma rounds out the evening with a performance at 8 p.m. Originally from El Salvador, Pablo Antonio began performing at age 10 in Arlington. His band generates a celebration of merengue that has won fans nationally and internationally.
The residential building coming to 6707 Old Dominion Drive will be modest — at least compared to the high-rises going up in Tysons to the south — but it has already altered the future of downtown McLean.
Contractor Trinity Group Construction anticipates beginning work next week on the nine-story, 44-unit project, which will replace the parking lot behind a three-story office building whose current tenants include Chipotle and Fresh Baguette.
“It’s great to finally be here,” property owner Winthrop Investment Group head Hans Schmidt said after a ceremonial groundbreaking yesterday (Wednesday). “…Folks conceptualized this project back in 2016, and here we are in March of 2023, and we’re finally moving dirt. We’re really excited about it. We think it’s going to be a great project.”
The 94,000-square-foot building will stack five stories of condominiums — including five units of workforce housing — on top of a parking garage with four above-ground levels and one-and-a-half underground levels, according to a Trinity spokeperson.
Per a development plan approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in 2018, amenities will include a 3,850-square-foot roof terrace for residents and a combined 6,100 square feet of public open space from a corner park and a plaza park.
The garage will serve the new residents as well as tenants and visitors at the adjacent office building, which will remain in place, Schmidt confirmed.
Both the developer and local officials admit that shepherding this particular project into being was difficult, from a fraught battle to amend the county’s comprehensive plan to more recent supply chain issues and related cost increases.
“We’ve been working for the past eight months with [Winthrop], finally got it to where it was affordable,” Trinity CEO Mil Wallen said.
One of the biggest challenges was the need to establish a temporary parking plan for office tenants during construction, according to Schmidt, who said the development “would’ve been dead” if no parking sites were found.
Fortunately for Winthrop, three local churches — St. John’s Episcopal Church (6715 Georgetown Pike), St. Luke Serbian Orthodox Church (6801 Georgetown Pike) and St. John the Beloved Roman Catholic Church (6420 Linway Terrace) — have agreed to let commuters use their parking lots, providing a total of 140 spaces.
During construction, which is expected to take about 18 months, drivers will have access to valet service as well as a shuttle that will travel to and from the off-site parking areas. Some on-site spots will also remain available.
Wallen says the shuttle and valet service will “start as soon as necessary,” which may not be the instant construction begins next week.
“We’ll have fencing up that will guide traffic all over the place,” he said. “It’ll be a little congested, but I think it’ll be okay.”
Potential parking and traffic issues were part of why the project initially struggled to win over some community members, who argued it was incompatible with the surrounding, mostly lower-lying buildings.
That debate helped inform the county’s roughly four-year-long overhaul of its plan for downtown McLean.
“I think we learned some good lessons along the way, and hopefully, the next project that comes forward will move much smoother,” said Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, who represents McLean.
The residential building “will be a fantastic example” of what a revitalized downtown could look like, Foust says, telling FFXnow that the planned parking garage “is the way to go” compared to the “ugly” surface lots currently prevalent for commercial properties.
“This project will contribute to helping us achieve our vision for downtown McLean, which is more vibrancy, more pedestrian, ground-level activity, more people actually living in downtown McLean,” Foust said. “On top of that, it’s going to be a beautiful addition to the visual of downtown McLean.”
(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) A group of McLean residents opposed to the extension of the I-495 toll lanes past their neighborhoods have turned to the courts in a bid to halt the project, now in its second year of construction.
The Northern Virginia (NOVA) Citizens Association filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court in Alexandria on Thursday (March 16) alleging that major revisions to the project design violated federal law, resulting in “significant on-going environmental harms” to residents.
The Virginia Department of Transportation, Secretary of Transportation W. Sheppard Miller, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), private toll lanes operator Transurban, and Transurban subsidiary Capital Beltway Express LLC are named as defendants.
“As a result of Defendants’ actions, NOVA and its members are experiencing significant adverse environmental impacts caused by the Project,” the complaint says, arguing that the road construction and loss of trees will contribute to noise, light, air pollution, water quality, erosion and health issues.
In the works since 2018, the I-495 Northern Extension project (495 NEXT) is adding 2.5 miles of express lanes from the Dulles Toll Road in Tysons past the George Washington Memorial Parkway in McLean, reconfiguring many of the bridges and interchanges within that span.
The GW Parkway interchange has been a particular point of concern for the NOVA Citizens Association, whose members fear that their neighborhood along Live Oak Drive will be destroyed to accommodate planned ramps and stormwater management ponds.
According to the complaint, VDOT unveiled significant changes to the project design in September 2021 and June 2022 — months after the FHWA approved its environmental assessment, an evaluation of the project’s potential impact required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The changes — including a consolidation of stormwater facilities, a narrowing of Live Oak Drive to 22 feet wide, and the relocation of an I-495 Express Lanes exit ramp to the GW Parkway — were substantial enough that additional environmental review should’ve been conducted, the association contends.
“The major changes to the stormwater control plan, the expansion of impermeable surfaces, and the greatly expanded deforestation will result in a significant increase in the release of stormwater which is contaminated with pollutants onto the properties of members of the association,” the complaint says.
The complaint also raises concerns about the safety of narrowing Live Oak Drive, especially for kids traveling to Cooper Middle School and the nearby Langley Swim & Tennis Club, and a reported plan to place a 5G cell tower on one resident’s property.
In a Feb. 24 declaration supporting the complaint, Live Oak Drive residents Pritesh and Marisha Patel wrote that the noise and pollution from the 495 NEXT construction has caused “irreparable harm” to their family, particularly their 11-year-old son, who has asthma. Read More
The McLean Community Center’s efforts to attract the attention of a younger generation appear to be paying off.
Earlier this week, the organization announced a robust slate of candidates for its upcoming governing board election that includes five adults and 10 teens — more than tripling the number of kids who competed in last year’s elections.
Voters will once again choose three adult board members and two teens, one representing students in the McLean High School boundary area and the other representing the Langley High School area.
Open to all residents of MCC’s tax district, absentee voting began today (Wednesday) and will continue through 5 p.m. on May 17. The official election will be held at the annual McLean Day festival from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 20, at Lewinsville Park (1659 Chain Bridge Road).
Absentee ballots can be requested online, by phone (703-744-9348) or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. They can be dropped off in-person at the McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Avenue) or sent by mail.
The candidates certified for this year’s election are:
- Gloria Marrero Chambers
- Matt Colsia
- Katie Gorka
- Kathleen Cooney Porter
- Lincom (aka Amirthalingam Thillaichidambaram)
Teens — Langley High School
- Sophia Bruno
- Cabot Fisher
- Charlotte Loving
- Duy Nguyen
- Ethan Pwu
- Sonya Thott
Teens — McLean High School
- Eleanor Ague
- Rafik Hanna
- Katy Perez-Nesmith
- Philip Rotondo
The slate features a couple of familiar names. Current Langley representative Charlotte Loving is seeking another term, and former Trump administration official Katherine Gorka is making another bid for a seat after falling short last year.
Personal statements submitted by each candidate can be found on MCC’s website.
The 11-member governing board oversees the community center’s budget, programs and facilities. Adults serve three-year terms, while the youth members serve for one year.
Spring Hill Road in McLean has no townhouses now, and at least some area residents are unconvinced that there should be any in the future.
During a workshop on Thursday (March 9), the Fairfax County Planning Commission preliminarily advanced a request for more density at the northwest corner of Spring Hill Road and the Dulles Airport Access Road, but said the concept plan must be revised before it’s fully considered.
The decision came after homeowners spoke in opposition to the Spring Hill Assemblage development proposed for the 4.97-acre site.
“There are a number of issues, and they need to be thoughtfully viewed,” Dranesville District Commissioner John Ulfelder said, pointing to compatibility with the surrounding neighborhoods, site access and open space utilization as factors that need to be reviewed.
As part of the county’s Site-Specific Plan Amendment (SSPA) process, property owner Spring Hill Road Investments LLC is asking the county to allow three to four dwelling units per acre at 1336, 1340, 1344 and 1348 Spring Hill Road. The parcels are currently zoned for just one unit per acre, with a future density of two to three units envisioned by the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan.
There’s “a disconnect” what the comprehensive plan allows and “the reality of how that redevelopment can occur,” according to Matt Roberts, a principal at Hirschler Law who’s representing the developer.
Past attempts to develop the site under the existing plan guidance haven’t worked out, because they “always come in more dense,” he told the planning commission.
“What we see with the SSPA process is an opportunity to address that issue. We can also do it in a way that respects the existing neighborhood and align ourselves with county housing and planning goals,” he said, noting that the proposed concept consolidates the lots and vehicular access points while offering “ample opportunities for on-site open space.”
However, McLean residents challenged the claim that increased density is necessary to make development “economically viable,” as stated in the statement of justification for the SSPA nomination.
Many of the benefits touted by the developer — including open space, trail connections and the new site entrance — could be achieved without altering the comprehensive plan, argued representatives of the McLean Hunt Estates Civic Association and the Lewinsville Coalition, which has homeowners on Lewinsville Road to the north of the property.
“The applicant mentions on-site amenities and recreational areas without defining what they might be,” Irwin Auerback with the Lewinsville Coalition said. “It is hard to imagine how there can be much usable open space on 4.97 acres at the requested density.”
The coalition believes “the amendment is unjustified and would be detrimental to the neighborhood” and fears that “making such a change would open the way for similar actions on other properties in the future,” he concluded.
The Spring Hill Assemblage concept plan calls for 19 townhouses — five more than the maximum currently recommended, county staff confirmed. Read More
(Updated at 2:50 p.m. on 3/16/2023) Virginia’s extension of the I-495 Express Lanes past the George Washington Memorial Parkway in McLean remains on track for a 2025 opening, even as its counterpart across the Potomac River faces another setback in its efforts to widen the Capital Beltway.
Private toll lanes operator Transurban pulled out of Maryland’s project to add toll lanes on its side of the Beltway and replace the American Legion Bridge on Friday (March 10), citing “significant delays to environmental approvals, changing political landscape and environmental lawsuits that remain unresolved.”
While that project is now in limbo, the Virginia Department of Transportation says Transurban’s departure won’t affect its I-495 Northern Extension (495 NEXT) plan, which is entering a second year of construction this month.
“Virginia’s 495 NEXT project to extend the Express Lanes on the Beltway is independent of the Maryland project,” VDOT told FFXnow. “…While VDOT will continue to coordinate with Maryland as they determine how to best deliver the Maryland project, we do not anticipate changes to the 495 NEXT project.”
The Virginia project has long been plagued by fears that Maryland won’t follow through on the so-called Beltway Accord that then-governors Ralph Northam and Larry Hogan announced in 2019 to replace the American Legion Bridge, which opened in 1962 and last expanded in 1992.
(Correction: This story previously said the bridge hadn’t been updated since it originally opened, but it was widened to 10 lanes in 1992. Hat tip to boywaja)
Where Virginia officials have embraced them as a means of addressing traffic congestion, express lanes have faced fierce opposition in Maryland from residents, environmental groups and local leaders, particularly in Montgomery County from as far back as 2005.
Despite that tangled history, which has included court battles, delays and a downsizing, VDOT expressed confidence in a statement to FFXnow that Maryland will ultimately move forward with its Beltway toll lanes, noting that the project has gotten federal approval.
Our colleagues in Maryland have told us that they remain committed to congestion relief in the corridor and have expressed their intention to deliver their project in accordance with the federally approved Record of Decision, which is a managed lanes project. Virginia will continue to coordinate with Maryland as they determine their next steps to alleviate one of the region’s worst traffic bottlenecks.
The department maintains that, even on its own, 495 NEXT will reduce congestion and provide new travel options. In addition to adding 2.5 miles of toll lanes to the region’s roughly 90-mile network, the project includes a shared-use trail and could usher in bus service between Tysons and Maryland.
An environmental assessment from 2020 found that 495 NEXT will move 2,500 more people per hour in both directions and reduce travel times by up to 24 minutes for northbound drivers, according to VDOT.
“By increasing the person-carrying capacity of I-495, drivers will have less incentive to use neighborhood cut-through routes, reducing traffic on local roads,” VDOT said. “The 495 NEXT project will also improve safety throughout the corridor, and replace aging bridges and other existing infrastructure.”
McLean residents and Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, who represents the area, have argued that failing to extend the toll lanes into Maryland will result in traffic getting bottlenecked at the American Legion Bridge, forcing their neighborhoods to bear the project’s costs for minimal benefits.
Construction on 495 NEXT is expected to continue into 2026, with the express lanes opening to traffic by late 2025.
Several Fairfax County restaurants are joining in Spring Wine Fling — a nearly two-week stretch of wine and dinner specials on offer around the region.
The special is set to run from Monday, March 20 through Friday, March 31.
Across Maryland, D.C. and Northern Virginia, restaurants will offer a $55 dinner with an appetizer, entree and two one pairings. Each restaurant has their own selection of wine pairings with certain entrees.
In Fairfax County, participating locations include:
- Alta Strada Mosaic (2911 District Avenue)
- Circa at The Boro (1675 Silver Hill Drive)
- Hamrock’s Restaurant (3950 Chain Bridge Road)
- Matchbox McLean (1340 Chain Bridge Road) and Matchbox Reston (1900 Reston Metro Plaza)
The event is being organized by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), the trade organization that also puts on the region’s biannual Restaurant Week.
A full list of participating locations can be found on the Spring Wine Fling website.
Photo via Alta Strada Mosaic/Facebook
One person got trapped and needed to be extracted from a vehicle in a crash on the Capital Beltway (I-495) in McLean this morning (Tuesday).
The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department reported at 9:05 a.m. that it had units on the scene of the multi-vehicle crash on northbound I-495 at the George Washington Memorial Parkway interchange.
“Occupant being evaluated by EMS. Only one lane open on I495 NB. Expect delays,” the department tweeted.
As of 9:25 a.m., traffic backups extend nearly 7 miles, almost to the I-66 interchange in Dunn Loring, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation’s traffic cameras.
Units on the scene of a multi-vehicle crash on I-495 NB at George Washington Memorial Parkway. One occupant was trapped and extricated by #FCFRD crews. Occupant being evaluated by EMS. Only one lane open on I495 NB. Expect delays. #traffic pic.twitter.com/H6uVm4cXyK
— Fairfax County Fire/Rescue (@ffxfirerescue) March 14, 2023
With the first day of spring drawing ever closer, the McLean Tree Foundation is gearing up for another season of sprucing up the area’s tree canopy.
For a $100 fee, the local nonprofit is offering to help McLean homeowners plant growing native trees in their yards as part of its Neighborhood Tree Program, which is now in its ninth year.
“Native trees increase biodiversity, enhance ecosystems, provide shelter for wildlife, improve our health and the environment, increase property values, and reduce heating and cooling costs for homeowners,” MTF Chairman Carol Wolter said in a news release. “In short, trees contribute to our well-being!”
Launched in 2014, the Neighborhood Tree Program is the only tree-planting initiative in Fairfax County that’s specifically aimed at homeowners, according to the foundation.
In addition to selecting and delivering a 6 to 12-foot-tall tree, volunteers help with the actual planting, give residents information about how to take care of the tree, and check in after a few months to see how it’s doing.
Plantings occur in the spring and fall, but applications are accepted throughout the year, MTF board member Steve Lagerfeld says. Since it began, the program has added 70 trees in McLean.
The McLean Trees Foundation originated in 1964 as a McLean Citizens Association program whose goal was to plant 300 dogwood, oak and maple trees, according to the foundation’s website.
Using proceeds from a community-wide newspaper recycling campaign to fund tree plantings, the program evolved into a permanent MCA committee in 1980 and incorporated as a standalone organization in 2004.
After the recycling campaign ended in 2014, the foundation says it’s now entirely supported by grants and donations. On top of the Neighborhood Tree Program, MTF has tree sponsorships where donors of $500 or more can get one planted at a public park.
Several parks in the county will get a funding boost for renovation work through a matching fund grant approved by the Fairfax County Park Authority earlier this month.
The grant program, Mastenbook Volunteer Matching Fund Grant, will power community-led restoration projects at three parks and the batting facility at Chantilly Park.
So far, the FCPA has allocated roughly $31,000 for the projects, which are expected to cost nearly $72,000.
The largest grant allocated $20,000 to the expansion of the Chantilly Park batting facility, which will replace the two existing cages with three hitting stations, while keeping four “soft-toss stations for additional practice space,” according to the park authority’s news release.
A chemical treatment plan to restore the habitat in the Churchill Road and Lewinsville parks in McLean will be funded by roughly $4,000 from the FCPA.
The project will follow work by the McLean Trees Foundation, which planted and maintained 28 native trees in the area and managed the removal of invasive plant species.
“Progress on these efforts has been slowed by the persistent regrowth of invasive species,” the park authority says. “MTF has proposed to launch a more sustainable chemical treatment plan to be implemented by an FCPA-managed contractor to accelerate the habitat restoration.”
Additionally, roughly $7,340 was allocated to restore a family garden next to the recently restored Miller’s House at Colvin Run Mill.
The funds were requested by Friends of Colvin Run Mill to clean the area, repair the stone border, remove invasive plants, plant, much and install interactive markers in the area. The organization will contribute $7,338 to complete funds for the project.
The Mastenbook grant program was established to bridge the gap between bond funding and community desires for new neighborhood facilities. Since it started in 1999, the program has awarded roughly $2 million in grants.