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(Updated at 12:10 p.m. on 6/16/2022) Pupatella Neapolitan Pizza and a juice bar from Pressed are fully open for business at the Mosaic District in Merrifield.

After roughly 10 months of construction and other preparations, Pupatella announced on Monday (June 13) that its newest location is now operating seven days a week, from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday and until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Located at the back of the shopping center at 2980 District Avenue, Suite 140, the 3,220-square-foot restaurant eased its way into the neighborhood with more limited hours in the week leading up to the official launch.

Pupatella Chief Operating Officer and partner Michael Berger says the soft opening gave the restaurant’s staff time to settle into the space and pace of operations, ensuring that the new site will be able to meet the business’ food and service standards.

The pizzeria has seats indoors for 90 people, including an area for private events and gatherings, along with outdoor patio seating for 60 people.

“Different than some of our other stand-alone pizzerias, we are extremely excited to be at Mosaic where we are a part of a thriving regional town center which is a shopping and dining destination for so many in the area,” Berger said. “We anticipate welcoming many of our current fans from other DMV neighborhoods on their visits to Mosaic and making new fans along the way.”

The Mosaic District location is Pupatella’s second in Fairfax County, following an opening in Reston in 2020. Started as a food truck in 2007, the Arlington-based business now has six brick-and-mortar stores overall, with expansions to Springfield, Leesburg, and northeast D.C. on the way.

A deal for a potential Chantilly site is in the works, a spokesperson told FFXnow last week.

The Mosaic District also recently welcomed Pressed, a California company that sells plant-based juices, smoothies and snacks. The store opened on May 25 in the former Puree Juice Bar space at 2905 District Avenue, Suite 140, the company confirmed.

Pressed donated 100% of the proceeds from the opening day to the local nonprofit Martha’s Table, it said in an Instagram announcement.

Pressed announces the opening of its Mosaic District store (via Pressed Juicery/Instagram)

The Merrifield location is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. It offers same-day pickups and delivers within an 8-mile radius, according to the Pressed website.

Pupatella and Pressed join Shake Shack as the latest food offerings at the Mosaic District, which will add the Middle Eastern restaurant Tawle and the fast-casual Indian restaurant RASA in the coming months.

The mixed-use development is also preparing for its first-ever Pride Celebration, which will take place on June 25 in conjunction with the re-launch of the Mosaic Skateland roller rink.

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The Mosaic Skateland rink from summer 2021 (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Lace up the skates and practice popping those wheelies, because the Mosaic District’s popular outdoor roller skating rink is returning later this month.

Mosaic Skateland is set to open on June 25 on Merrifield Center Town Drive, between the Barnes & Noble and Mexican restaurant Urbano and across from Bloomie’s. It will run through the entire summer, until September 25.

The “80’s retro style roller rink” will be open seven days a week and at least 11 hours a day. On Friday and Saturday nights, the rink will be open for more than 12 hours, from 11 a.m. to 11:15 p.m. Purchasing tickets in advance is recommended, and attendees can bring their own skates, though pairs will be available for rent.

Opening night will also be accompanied by a “Pride Celebration” with musical performances.

Additionally, all roller rink ticket sales during the Pride Celebration will be donated to the advocacy group FCPS Pride to help “ensure that all students, including trans and gender-expansive students are welcome, safe and respected in schools,” according to the event page.

A spokesperson from EDENS, the owner and developer of the Mosaic District, told FFXnow by email that it sees the partnership with FCPS Pride as “a terrific way” to support LGBT youth and “educate our community.”

“The Gay-Straight Alliance student groups have moved more to a Gender and Sexuality Alliance as being more inclusive of the whole community of LGBTQI+ and allies,” the spokesperson wrote. “Skateland brings the community together as one to celebrate Pride month representing the importance of total inclusion.”

EDENS is partnering with operator Rink Management Services Corporation (RMS), which claims it is the largest operator of ice skating facilities in the country.

RMS applied for a special permit to construct the rink on an annual basis back in April, as FFXnow reported. The zoning hearing isn’t scheduled until July, but it appears the rink will be allowed to operate earlier than that.

The Board of Supervisors agreed in March to grant RMS a 75% reduction in zoning fees as part of last summer’s emergency measure that lowered or waived some fees to help the hospitality industry during the pandemic. RMS paid a $4,093.75 fee paid back in March, rather than the $16,375 fee that the permit typically would’ve carried.

EDENS is asking that the permit be approved “for future years as well,” turning the roller skating rink — as well as an ice skating rink in the winter months — into a permanent fixture at the Mosaic District.

If approved, the roller rink will run for about three months each year, starting in the spring as opposed to summer, according to an April statement from RMS. The operator also hopes to run an ice rink during the winter, starting in early November and closing in late February.

The Mosaic District has seen plenty of activity in recent weeks, with the opening of Shake Shack and last week’s launch of its summer movie series “Films in the Park,” which has screenings every Thursday through the end of August.

Still to come this summer is the Middle Eastern restaurant Tawle, which will move into the former Jinya space as the ramen bar relocates to a bigger suite.

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Morning Notes

The “Ascent” sculpture at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Rabies Confirmed in Biting Coyote — The Fairfax County Health Department confirmed yesterday (Monday) that a coyote that bit four people and two dogs over the weekend in the Lake Accotink area was infected with rabies. Anyone who touched or was bitten or scratched by the animal should call the county health department’s rabies program at 703-246-2433, TTY 711. [FCHD]

Confederate Soldier’s Tombstone Defaced — The letters ‘CS,’ ‘NVA,’ and a Star of David were spraypainted on the tombstone of Armistead T. Thompson in the Thompson Family Cemetery by the Pan Am Shopping Center in Merrifield. Fairfax County police received a report last Tuesday (May 31) and said the property management is working to remove it, though as of Sunday (June 5), the graffiti was still there. [Patch]

Homicide Investigation in Reston Continues — “Detectives and officers are canvassing in the area of Springs Apartments & Hunters Woods Plaza in Reston after Rene Alberto Pineda Sanchez was found deceased on May 31. Call detectives at 703-246-7800, option 2 w/any info.” [FCPD/Twitter]

Inova Opens Northern Virginia’s First LGBTQ-Focused Clinic — “Inova’s Pride Clinic will be open to anyone who needs services. It will begin small as a primary care practice for patients of all ages and then grow to include specialties…The Inova Pride Clinic ribbon-cutting will be Wednesday, June 8 at 10 a.m. in Falls Church at 500 North Washington St., Suite 200.” [WTOP]

Tysons Emergency Is Now Open — “HCA Virginia held a grand opening ceremony on Friday, June 3, 2022 for its new freestanding emergency room in Northern Virginia…The state-of-the-art ER will be staffed with board-certified emergency medicine physicians and nurses, 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, just like an emergency room that is housed within the walls of a hospital.” [HCA Virginia]

County Puts Food Inspection Reports Online — “The public can now access retail food establishment inspection reports more quickly and easily, as part of an update to the county’s new online PLUS platform…Environmental health staff inspect restaurants and other retail food service establishments to make sure employees follow safe food handling practices, covering sanitation, food storage and preparation, and have adequate kitchen facilities.” [FCHD]

Wolf Trap Nonprofit Awarded by Governor — A provider of short-term, overnight care for children with intellectual disabilities, Jill’s House was honored on May 26 with the second ‘Spirit of Virginia Award’ given by Gov. Glenn Youngkin and First Lady Suzanne Youngkin since they took office in January. The organization has served more than 1,000 families since it opened in 2010. [Sun Gazette]

Annandale Park Gets Clean-up — “A big thank you to community volunteers who came out to Backlick Park this past weekend and held a spring clean-up. This successful venture was a wonderful way to mark World Environment Day and the National Great Outdoors Month.” [FCPA/Twitter]

Chantilly Neighborhood Watch on the Lookout for Thievery — “Rob, 53, was already a neighborhood watcher in his Brookfield community…before the ransacking incident two years ago but he said it made him increasingly aware neighborhood watch is a needed position to mitigate this from happening to one of his neighbors.” [Fairfax County Times]

It’s Tuesday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 74 and low of 62. Sunrise at 5:45 am and sunset at 8:34 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Fairfax County officials celebrate the Merrifield Center’s renaming after former Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova, pictured on the left (courtesy Taylor Holland/Office of Jeffrey C. McKay)

Fairfax County’s Merrifield Center has a new, slightly more descriptive name.

The Sharon Bulova Center for Community Health was officially christened at a dedication ceremony yesterday (Thursday), taking its name from the former Board of Supervisors chairman who helped develop the Diversion First initiative aimed at shifting people with mental health and substance use challenges to treatment instead of incarceration.

“Sharon is more than a mentor, she is a friend, and her legacy to Fairfax County is unmatched,” said current Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay, Bulova’s successor. “It is entirely fitting that this center, which is at the heart of our Diversion First initiative, is named in her honor.”

Located at 8221 Willow Oaks Corporate Drive, the facility opened in March 2015 to serve as a central hub for the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, which provides emergency services and other supports for people who have mental illnesses, substance use disorders, and developmental disabilities.

As the board chairman from 2010 to 2020, Bulova oversaw Diversion First’s launch in 2016 as an effort to rethink the county’s approach to mental health after a police officer shot and killed Springfield resident John Geer in 2013 and sheriff’s deputies restrained and stunned Natasha McKenna, resulting in her death in 2015.

“It was their tragic deaths that sparked change,” Bulova said, acknowledging that it was a “pretty tense” time in the county. “Both incidents shown a stark light on the county’s need for reforms and policies regarding transparency, oversight, use of force, and criminal incident response, including and especially in cases involving persons suffering from mental illnesses.”

Focused on people involved in the criminal justice system for non-violent offenses, the initiative started primarily as a partnership between the CSB, police, and sheriff’s office. It has since expanded to include housing assistance and specialty veteran, mental health, and drug court dockets to address the specific needs of those populations.

Per a news release from McKay’s office:

Diversion First is designed to prevent repeat encounters with the criminal justice system, improve public safety, promote a healthier community and is a more cost effective and efficient use of public funding.

Since its founding in 2016, there have been more than 12,000 law enforcement transports to the now-Bulova Center where the Diversion First program is located. Over 8,600 people were under an emergency custody order and 3,540 additional transports were because an officer recognized that an individual in the community needed behavioral health services. Over 2,600 have been diverted from potential arrest. Of those transported to the MCRC by law enforcement, on average 80% do not have a repeat visit to the MCRC related to criminal justice involvement within a year. Over 80% of those diverted from potential arrest in 2019 were not incarcerated during the following year.

“Diversion First is a revolutionary concept that was and remains ahead of its time,” McKay said. “This remarkable facility and its community impact on a daily basis are a testament to the type of change that forward-thinking, innovative local government involvement can make.”

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Inova’s new cancer screening and prevention center in Merrifield is the first facility of its kind in the D.C. area, the nonprofit health care system says.

Inova marked the official opening of the Saville Cancer Screening and Prevention Center with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday (May 4).

First announced in late 2020, the center occupies 24,000 square feet of space in the Inova Schar Cancer Institute at 8081 Innovation Park Drive, according to a news release. Inova says the facility is rare for enabling patients to get prevention, screening, and treatment services in the same place.

“While most people know that early detection saves lives, not everyone knows where to start or has access to quality care,” Dr. Rebecca Kaltman, executive director of the Inova Saville Cancer Screening and Prevention Center, said. “This new state of the art facility provides greater access to routine cancer screening as well as a comprehensive approach to minimizing cancer risk through techniques including biometric assessments, genetic testing and novel, minimally invasive tools to improve early detection.”

The center was built with a $20 million donation from Paul and Linda Saville. Paul Saville is the president and CEO of the Reston-based construction company NVR Inc.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the U.S., as of 2020, below cardiovascular diseases and right above COVID-19.

With health concerns and capacity limitations keeping many people away from hospitals and doctors’ offices, the pandemic led to nearly 22 million cancer screenings getting canceled or skipped between June 2020 and March 2021, the American Cancer Society reported in September.

More recently, health care workers across the country say the severity of cancer cases coming in has increased, particularly among people of color.

“We hope that by providing our neighbors with accessible, multidisciplinary screening and prevention services and a ‘one-stop-shop’ approach, we will help our community get back on track with their health and cure more cancers through early detection and intervention,” Inova Schar Cancer Institute President Dr. John Deeken said.

Appointments at the Saville center can be scheduled online or by calling 571-472-4724. A referral isn’t necessary to receive services, according to the press release.

The center will host a free cancer screening and prevention fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 11. Expected to become an annual occurrence, the event will feature free cancer screenings and information sessions with medical staff as well as food trucks, entertainment, kids’ activities, healthy cooking demonstrations, and more.

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Pan Am Shopping Center (file photo)

(Updated at 3:30 p.m.) A new chicken spot is opening soon for Merrifield’s Pan Am Shopping Center.

Chicka Loca plans to open at the shopping center in mid-May at 3089 Nutley Street.

Owner Pedram Kanzi says his restaurant will offer 25 percent off all menu items for the first two weeks of opening.

“I’m thrilled to share a piece of my culture with the Fairfax community,” Kanzi said. “It feels surreal to be opening my very first restaurant — a dream that has been years in the making.”

A precise opening date hasn’t been set yet.

With a ramen and Korean barbecue restaurant also slated to open in the coming months, Pan Am Shopping Center continues to add new tenants, even as Federal Realty Investment Trust eyes it for redevelopment, though that could take several years to come to fruition.

“Federal Realty Investment Trust has taken the first steps toward seeking approval for a mix of uses at Pan Am,” said Deirdre Johnson, senior vice resident of asset management. “It should be noted that this project could take several years to bring to fruition. Our relationships with our merchants are extremely important to us, including Michael’s and Micro Center, and we plan to incorporate them into the property for many years to come.”

She says the company plans to work with all stakeholders to create “something that is successful, vibrant and something that can positively define the community.”

The proposal submitted to Fairfax County in March would transform the strip mall into a mixed-use development with three residential buildings, townhouse, and a public plaza.

In addition to the Micro Center and Michaels block, structures slated for demolition include the now-vacant, standalone McDonald’s building, and the Wells Fargo bank in the center’s northwest corner, which will be replaced by a 5,000-square-foot retail building.

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Shack Shack is now open at the Mosaic District, but with limited hours (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County’s second Shake Shack is now open and serving customers.

Known for its burgers and milkshakes, the chain quietly opened the doors of its new Mosaic District restaurant on April 18, store manager Tasha told FFXnow.

However, the site is currently operating only from 5 to 9 p.m., according to the Mosaic District website.

“Just some store issues,” Tasha said when asked about the limited hours. “We’ve got to get some things figured out still.”

The restaurant doesn’t yet have a clear timeline for when hours will expand, she added.

Shake Shack is located in the 4,000-square-foot space at 2911 District Avenue that previously belonged to the fast-casual Indian joint Choolah. It has several tables and chairs on a 668-square-foot outdoor patio.

Originating as a hot dog cart in New York City, Shake Shack now has over 200 locations nationwide, but the Merrifield site represents its first expansion in Fairfax County since opening at Tysons Corner Center in 2014.

“It’s been good so far since we opened,” Tasha said. “We wanted to be part of a good community. We wanted to be part of a family-oriented community, and that’s what we did.”

While no other plans in the county have been officially confirmed, the company will reportedly be the tenant for an upcoming drive-thru facility at Pike 7 Plaza in Tysons.

Elsewhere in the Mosaic District, Sunglass Hut has opened next to the MacMillan Whisky Room, and a Pressed juice shop is expected to arrive this month. Work is underway on a new, bigger space for Jinya Ramen Bar, which will relocate to make way for the Middle Eastern restaurant Tawle this summer.

For those who miss Choolah, the Indian eatery RASA will open its first location in the county adjacent to Mosaic’s Target. The restaurant applied for beer/wine and mixed beverage licenses on April 21, according to Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority records.

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The autonomous Relay shuttle travels between the Mosaic District and the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The autonomous Relay shuttle in Merrifield has had lower-than-expected ridership, and it’s not entirely because of COVID-19 limitations.

Since its launch in October 2020 through February 2022, the vehicle has been out of service half the time, mostly due to technical glitches.

“Primary reasons for partial or no service days are due to hardware and software maintenance issues (57%), systems testing (24%), and inclement weather conditions (19%). Relay cannot operate in moderate to heavy precipitation,” Fairfax County staff said in a budget question-and-answer response released April 14.

The shuttle operates from the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station to the Barnes & Noble from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

According to county staff, project engineers have enhanced vehicle and software systems, such as tweaking traffic signals to give the vehicle more time to travel through busy intersections, including Route 29.

Workers also have trimmed vegetation outgrowth along the travel route that can impede the vehicle’s sensor system, slowing it down or requiring a safety operator to manually drive.

“We expect the technology to continue to evolve and that further engineering and functionality improvements will be applied to Relay,” county staff wrote.

The technical issues have been coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, where Metro ridership at the station there was 10% of its pre-pandemic levels when the shuttle launched.

The county has also addressed problems with drivers trying to pass it illegally. It increased police patrols and added signage to urge motorists to be patient. The shuttle operates at 10 mph maximum.

The shuttle can transport up to 12 people, but because of the pandemic, the county has limited that to two passengers per trip, along with a safety operator. Masks are required, and the vehicle is cleaned extensively between trips.

Multiple researchers have been examining the shuttle’s effectiveness and impact on riders. Joining an effort that also includes Virginia Transportation Research Council and Virginia Tech, the George Mason University School of Business conducted an online “pre-deployment” survey that found:

  • 63% of respondents saw Relay as innovative
  • 52% thought shuttles like Relay are extremely or somewhat likely to replace current modes of transport
  • 49% felt it was environmentally friendly
  • 33% indicated that they would use it 1-2 times per month

“Public feedback has been positive, in general, with no major concerns expressed,” county staff wrote. “The public likes the smaller size of the vehicle, compared to standard-sized buses. They also like the accessibility features, which are designed to easily accommodate persons with disabilities as well as senior communities.”

According to county staff, GMU is currently working on an on-board survey and will conduct another online questionnaire at the end of the pilot, which has funding to last through December.

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Starbucks at 3046 Gatehouse Plaza in Merrifield (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

A Starbucks in Merrifield has unionized.

About a month after filing a petition for an election, workers at the cafe at 3046 Gate House Plaza voted 30-2 in support of forming a union on Friday (April 22), becoming the coffee company’s first store in Fairfax County to take that step.

“My first reaction was just happiness,” employee and organizer Claudia Sol said. “We’re all very proud of each other for what we were able to accomplish…It’s pretty amazing to see all the work that our store did to be able to unionize, and we’re looking forward to what’s to come.”

Some local elected officials, including Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik and Del. Marcus Simon (D-53), stopped by the store both before and after the vote to show their support for its unionizing efforts.

“Everyone deserves a good union job with fair pay, quality health care, and rights at work,” SEIU Virginia 512 President David Broder said. “The Merrifield Starbucks workers’ overwhelming vote to unionize is an historic moment and yet another sign that working people in Fairfax County are organizing for an economy that works for all of us.”

The landslide victory came just nine days after union proponents suffered a defeat in Springfield, where Starbucks workers voted 10-8 against unionizing on April 13.

While she doesn’t have any direct knowledge of what happened in Springfield, Sol says she heard that the district manager was “really aggressive” when talking to workers one-on-one in the lead-up to their election.

Organizers told NPR that Starbucks cut their hours and warned benefits and promotions would be at risk if they unionized, though the company has denied engaging in union-busting activities. Workers United, the union that employees hoped to join, filed charges against Starbucks last week, alleging retaliation, coercive threats, and other issues to the National Labor Relations Board. Read More

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The new restaurant Rateba Grill and Ramen is coming to the Pan Am Shopping Center (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Historically, Korea and Japan have had an uneasy relationship, to put it mildly, but that doesn’t mean their food can’t coexist.

Kibum Kim isn’t trying to heal century-old wounds with his upcoming restaurant Rateba Grill & Ramen at the Pan Am Shopping Center in Merrifield. He’s simply looking to give people what they want.

“Everybody loves ramen, and everybody loves Korean barbecue, so how about we make it as one place, combine it?” Kim told FFXnow.

Taking the place of Lo’s Chinese Restaurant, which closed late last year, Rateba will be Kim’s third venture in Fairfax County. He already owns and operates Matsui Sushi & Ramen and Puzukan, which are both located in Newington’s Landsdowne Centre.

Kim envisions the new restaurant as a fusion of those concepts, with ramen noodle soups and Korean-style grilled meat, but much of the menu will be new. He says to expect a lot of bao — steamed buns typically filled with pork.

Kim says his team has long been interested in opening a restaurant in the Vienna or Falls Church area, and he regularly visits the Pan Am Shopping Center for Micro Center and other stores.

“We saw all these people in this area, a lot of cars, a lot of people come and go, and there’s…a lot of people in the residential area, so we thought it was a good opportunity here,” he said.

Rateba will have 60 to 70 seats in a 2,000-square-foot space, joining a strip that remains a hot spot for Asian eateries, with the long-standing Vietnamese restaurant Pho Thang Long, Bangkok Street Thai, and California Shabu Shabu.

Property owner Federal Realty plans to redevelop the shopping center with multifamily housing, but the main, Safeway-anchored building is expected to remain intact, and the company says it intends to retain some tenants.

Kim is targeting a late May or early June opening for Rateba, but the supply-chain issues still affecting the food service industry nationally make it difficult to predict when the restaurant will be ready. For instance, a refrigerator that would typically get delivered in two or three weeks now takes four months to arrive.

Still, Kim is confident that the team will pull off the launch, whenever it happens, and looks forward to “making good food and good memories,”

“We’re trying to make really good food here,” Kim said. “I hope people like it and come to the restaurant a lot.”

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