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Ever since he got into the restaurant business, Usman Saleem wanted to open a place in Fairfax City.

After mostly working in Tysons and D.C., the restauranteur finally achieved that dream earlier this year, when The Commons Fooderie officially opened at 3955 Chain Bridge Road, Suite 107, in Old Town Fairfax on Jan. 22.

Set to celebrate its opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. on Thursday (Feb. 22), the fast-casual restaurant and coffee bar brings Saleem back to his college days, which he spent studying just down the road at George Mason University.

“The area felt like home, and so, we wanted to bring our concept to the City of Fairfax because we felt like it was a venue that was kind of missing, a place where the community can meet, [with] good food at reasonable prices in a fast-casual format,” Saleem told FFXnow.

Natives of Springfield, Saleem and his wife and fellow restauranteur, Hanna, have spent more than a decade now serving up coffee and bistro-style food around the D.C. area, often in office buildings and cafeterias. Their established eateries include Bistro 1775 in Tysons and Carvings and Uptowner Cafe in D.C.

The Commons Fooderie represents a culmination of those ventures, combining their top-selling items into one menu. In addition to drinks provided by Grace Street Coffee, the restaurant offers omelets and other breakfast items, sandwiches, burgers, quesadillas, wraps, salads, rice bowls and more.

Saleem says the team is “extremely obsessed” with using fresh ingredients, including for the coffee, which is roasted within 24 hours whenever they order a batch.

“We don’t make anything in advance,” he said. “So, when you order your food, it’s made fresh to order, and I think that really resonates when people eat the food, because the response that we’ve gotten is, ‘Oh my god, the food tastes so fresh,’ and we’re like, that’s because it was literally made after you ordered it.”

During its first month of business, the restaurant has also gotten a positive community response for its “pretty and cozy” environment, according to Saleem.

Designed by Hanna Saleem, the approximately 3,000-square-foot space can accommodate 85 patrons at a time and features a variety of seating areas that Saleem hopes to complement with an outdoor patio in the spring. At that time, they might also consider introducing live music, something that patrons have suggested.

“We created a space not only for people in the community, but also for people who are working in the area and also the George Mason students who are studying in the area,” Usman Saleem said, noting that the restaurant does accept “Mason Money,” the university’s prepaid debit system for students.

The Commons Fooderie is currently open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., though the Saleems intend to extend the hours to midnight once they become more established in the community.

The concept appears to be successful enough so far that the couple is rebranding other locations, including cafes in the office buildings at 1750 and 1600 Tysons Blvd, as The Commons Fooderie. Another office-based location at 12011 Sunset Hills Road in Reston will also have that name when it opens.

Saleem says they hope to open the Reston restaurant “this month,” but the date remains to be decided. The menu will be slightly smaller than the one in Fairfax City due to a lack of fryers.

“That one serves more of the corporate environment,” Saleem said. “It’s right outside of Reston Town Center. So, there’s a lot of office buildings, a little less residential, so I think that’s different in that manner, where Fairfax City has a good mix of commercial, residential and students.”

The intersection of Cedar Avenue, Chain Bridge Road and Jenny Lynne Lane in Fairfax City (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) This week, Fairfax City kicked off a project to build a new 530-foot sidewalk on Chain Bridge Road’s east side, connecting Old Town Fairfax with the Northfax areas.

On Monday (Feb. 5), construction crews began work on the new eastern sidewalk from Jenny Lynne Lane to Kenmore Drive, with plans also to relocate a pedestrian crossing at Cedar Avenue from the south to the north side to make pedestrians more visible to motorists..

Slated for completion in July, roadwork is scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the week, with reduced hours on Friday. Off-road construction will occur from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday, avoiding weekends.

The east Chain Bridge Road sidewalk improvement project was approved in 2021 and was paid for using a total of $430,000 in federal and local funds.

A public hearing is planned for summer 2024 to discuss allocating another $9.25 million for additional improvements along the western edge of Chain Bridge Road, which extends from Taba Cove to Warwick Avenue.

In 2020, the city applied for SmartScale funding, which is allocated by the state for transportation projects, for this initiative.

The improvements along the west side of Chain Bridge Road would include improvements to pedestrian crossings at five intersections, upgrades to two bus stops, a new drainage system, new street lighting, and the construction of a retaining wall.

Image via Google Maps


The winter gift-giving season has come to a close, but a new retail incubator store in Fairfax City will encourage the community to shop local year-round.

Set for a grand opening at 10 a.m. this Saturday (Dec. 30), Wander In will host more than two dozen painters, candle-makers and other artisans in a shared retail space at 3950 University Drive, Suite 211 in Old Town Plaza.

The program aims to give “prime retail space” to small and emerging businesses that are either based in the city or might consider opening a permanent storefront there, promising a relatively low start-up cost and some provided training.

“With Wander In, our goal is to enhance the shopping experience through exciting special events and collaborative business initiatives,” said Tess Rollins, executive director of the Old Town Fairfax Business Association (OTFBA), which developed the idea with the Fairfax City Economic Development (FCED) office. “This resonates with both our cherished residents and valued visitors.”

At 1,974 square feet in size, including classroom, office and storage space, Wander In will accommodate over 30 vendors, including:

  • Paris Love Jewelry offers a diverse selection of handcrafted and designed jewelry encompassing a blend of eclectic vintage and modern styles.
  • White Dove Candle LLC presents a curated selection of premium candles, artistically designed to infuse your space with serenity and sophistication.
  • Mary Bockenek Art features thumbnail-sized landscapes, mini abstracts, and three-dimensional heart art, all crafted with joy to add a vibrant pop of color wherever they find a home.
  • Toute-Petite, translating to ‘attention to detail’ in French, embodies a commitment to meticulously crafted artwork, ensuring each piece is thoughtful. The brand offers a collection of greeting cards and small gifts appropriate for any occasion.

Each vendor is expected to stay at Wander In for terms of three, six, nine or 12 months. According to the FCED, vendors pay a $200 per month, along with a 10% consignment on products sold, and artists get 60% of the consignment fee.

In addition to getting to sell their wares, the vendors will host workshops, participate in community events, and learn marketing and other business skills from the Mason Small Business Development Center, which partnered with FCED, the business association and property owner Kimco Realty on the initiative.

With many of the participating businesses primarily run out of homes or at farmers’ markets, the store will enhance their visibility in the community, while also providing a new shopping option to customers, according to Fairfax City Mayor Catherine Read.

“This will offer residents and visitors a fun browsing experience,” Read said, noting that Old Town Plaza is served by a free parking lot. “This is a great resource for those unique items we all look for at festivals and fairs, only now we can find them all year round.”

This weekend’s grand opening event will include refreshments and “limited giveaways” for customers. After that, Wander In will be open on Tuesdays through Sundays.

There will be regular workshops, classes, and events where customers can meet and even learn from the makers of the items that are being sold. One event coming in January will be a weekend pop-up, where vendors can reserve a two-day spot for $150.

“Wander In is more than a retail space; it’s a pioneering collaboration that echoes our vision for
Fairfax City,” FCED Director and CEO Christopher Bruno said. “With its innovative offerings, we anticipate not just a hub for unique, locally crafted gifts, but a redefined shopping experience that speaks to our community values. Wander In represents a significant stride in reshaping the entrepreneurial and community engagement landscape of Northern Virginia.”


A new art initiative is bringing light to Old Town Fairfax, just as winter and the darkest days of the year arrive.

Illuminate Fairfax officially launched last Friday (Dec. 15), but the last and biggest artwork was installed just yesterday (Wednesday), according to Fairfax City Economic Development (FCED).

The economic development office developed the project in conjunction with Fairfax Spotlight on the Arts, the city’s Office of Historic Resources and Department of Parks and Recreation and the Virginia Tourism Agency.

“Our goal is to establish compelling spaces where people can enjoy quality time with their families, indulge in shopping and dining, and socialize with friends,” FCED Director and CEO Christopher Bruno said. “The concept of Illuminate emerged from the vision that Fairfax City can evolve into a beautiful and enjoyable destination — a vibrant community for living, working, and visiting. We want to literally shine a light on that potential.”

The four displays have been placed around the city’s historic downtown to encourage people to walk around and visit key destinations, including Old Town Plaza (3950 University Drive, Suite 211), Old Town Square (3936 Blenheim Blvd), the Ratcliffe-Allison-Pozer House (10386 Main Street) and the recently opened Commonwealth Brewing Company (10426 Main Street).

Two of the artworks — titled “Joi De Vie” and “Pin Toy Meditation Wall” — come from Fairfax County-based metal artist and sculptor JP Muller, whose work also appeared at Tysons Corner Center in the spring.

Also featured are North Carolina new media artist Robin Vuchnich’s “Swell No. 1,” which combines a light projection and audio recordings to evoke “the forces of nature,” and David Kaufman’s “Fireflies and Heartbeats,” which uses about 1,000 small LED lights to simulate fireflies.

Based in Bethesda, Maryland, Kaufman founded the graphic design app Polygonia Design. Full artist statements and descriptions of the artwork can be found on the Illuminate Fairfax webpage.

The installations will remain in place through much of the winter, with the project ending on Feb. 10.

City Centre West will replace commercial buildings on Main Street with a mixed-use condominium complex (courtesy Ox Hill Companies)

Fences have gone up around three commercial buildings at the corner of Main Street and West Street in Old Town Fairfax, signaling their impending demise in favor of a planned mixed-use development known as City Centre West.

Developer Ox Hill Companies anticipates demolishing the vacant Wells Fargo bank, a restaurant last occupied by OudResto & Hall and the office building with its headquarters (10501, 10515 and 10523 Main Street) by the end of this year, Managing Principal Christopher Smith recently told FFXnow.

The restaurant, which was partially burned down by a fire in 2020, will be knocked down first, followed by the bank and then the offices. Ox Hill and Infinite Technologies Orthotics and Prosthetics, the low-rise office building’s other tenant, will temporarily relocate to 4031 University Drive, a five-story office building that the developer acquired last month.

Construction on City Centre West — a six-story condominium complex with office and retail space — is on track to break ground between April and July of 2024, according to Ox Hill.

“It has been a very, very, very tough economy to work in for the last couple of years, and [I’m looking forward to] the fact that we’ve made really good headway and are getting things done and moving toward actually breaking ground and starting the construction process of these buildings,” Smith said.

Approved by the Fairfax City Council in July, City Centre West will have about 79 condos, over 18,000 square feet of general and medical office space and 7,731 square feet of restaurant or retail space, which will be joined at the Main and West street corner by a publicly accessible, 0.31-acre urban park.

Features of the plaza will include cafe seating, benches, an event lawn, a pergola, paved paths and bicycle racks, according to the development plan.

Currently in design, the condos will consist of one, two and three-bedroom units and a penthouse. Residents will have access to a gym, a rooftop pool, a private dining room and an underground parking garage with dedicated spaces, electric vehicle chargers and a security gate.

The real estate brokerage Douglas Elliman announced on Nov. 2 that it will handle sales and marketing for the residential portion of the development, which has been branded Ten501 at City Centre West. Pre-sales will launch this winter, with prices starting at $1 million.

“This project will create a versatile mixed-use space for the community to experience for years to come,” Howard Lorber, Douglas Elliman’s executive chairman, said in a press release. “Our expertise in new development projects, coupled with our recent expansion into the region, makes this a truly exceptional opportunity for us.”

Under Fairfax City’s relatively new Affordable Dwelling Units (ADU) program, the development is required to designate 6% of its units as affordable to households earning 70% of the area median income or less, but in its application, Ox Hill requested the option to instead provide those five units in a separate, all-ADU development that it’s “actively pursuing” in Old Town.

The developer says it’s “working closely with the city” to address the ADU requirement.

“Our concern is placing an undue burden on the occupant, but we do look to provide these ADUs in the Old Town area,” Smith said. “We have identified an ideal location that works in conjunction with another of our development projects. This will be made public at the appropriate time.” Read More

Fairfax City has been working to promote its downtown retail (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax City is browsing for makers of art, crafts and other products who want to expand beyond an online shop or farmers’ market stall but aren’t quite ready to commit to a full storefront.

Those are the budding entrepreneurs that the Fairfax City Economic Development team (FCED) hopes to attract to Wander In, an upcoming retail incubator store that the city is developing with the Old Town Fairfax Business Association (OTFBA).

Announced in September, the store is expected to launch this coming winter in Old Town Plaza, replacing Sylvan Learning’s tutoring center at 3950 University Drive, Suite 211.

“Establishing Wander In as a business incubator in our historic downtown plaza is an important step in building Fairfax City’s small business retail,” Mayor Catherine Read said in the press release. “It’s a path for our local artisans from online sales and festival participation to a brick and mortar presence. Located in close proximity to a free parking garage and three very busy restaurants with outdoor dining, this multi-vendor retail offers residents and visitors a reason to wander in.”

The FCED and OTFBA concocted the idea for Wander In after the city received a grant that it wanted to use to help small businesses grow, according to Tess Rollins, the business association’s executive director.

Initially, the economic development office suggested opening a temporary pop-up store, but the local business owners on OTFBA’s board of directors were wary of supporting a new business that could compete for customers and the association’s attention.

Rollins and the FCED then pitched the board on the concept of an incubator that would not only provide retail space for up-and-coming businesses, but also educational events and resources to give them the skills needed to be viable long-term — and potentially open a permanent brick-and-mortar location in the city.

“They were more receptive of basically helping…small businesses grow because each one of them has their own establishment, whether it’s a restaurant or a retail store,” Rollins said. “So, they felt that was more in line with the mission and the core values of Old Town Fairfax Business Association.”

Applications for prospective Wander In vendors are now being accepted. Vendors must stay in the space for at least three months, be OTFBA members, obtain a city business license after the first 30 days, and pay a $200 fee each month, along with 10% of sales.

Rollins says one of the initiative’s goals is to promote businesses in Fairfax City, but it’s also open to businesses and entrepreneurs based outside city limits.

“We do want to promote other businesses who may be looking for a place in Fairfax City to see if our community is a good place for them to have an additional location,” she told FFXnow.

At the moment, there’s no limit on how many vendors will be accepted, since the capacity will depend on how much room each business needs. While most will likely sell jewelry, paintings or other artisan goods, Rollins says prepackaged food vendors could be considered.

FCED and OTFBA worked with Old Town Plaza manager Kimco Realty to secure the suite, which is in the same building as the recently opened Commonwealth Brewing Co. With the pub Earp’s Ordinary also on the way, the shopping center’s revitalization is central to the city’s Old Town Fairfax Small Area Plan, which was adopted in 2020 and seeks to make the historic downtown more active and pedestrian-friendly.

To encourage collaboration between businesses and with the larger community, Wander In will work with George Mason University’s Small Business Development Center to assist and provide training to the vendors. It will also host events both inside the store, where customers can meet and learn from the vendors, and outside.

Rollins suggests shopping days or scavenger hunts that involve other Old Town retailers as possibilities.

“I love the idea of the mix of having retail shopping with a creative experience, whether it’s ‘Meet the Maker’ or whether it’s one of their classes,” Rollins said. “I think that having the combination of the two is going to bring something different to Old Town.”


Something new is brewing in Old Town Fairfax.

Expanding operations from Virginia Beach, Commonwealth Brewing Company is gearing up to join the neighborhood with an anticipated Labor Day weekend opening at 10426 Main Street.

In honor of its opening, which will ideally come on Sept. 1, the brewery will offer a “pie and a pint” special associated with its participation in Fairfax City’s upcoming Restaurant Week. Customers can choose from one of Commonwealth’s eight signature pizzas and a draft beer for $25.

Fairfax visitors can expect “an even bigger implementation” of Commonwealth’s offerings in Virginia Beach (2444 Pleasure House Road), where the brewery serves 25 to 28 styles of beer crafted in house, owner Jeramy Biggie says.

The new Fairfax location will boast a 4,800 square-foot tap room with 48 taps, five of which will be dedicated to draft cocktails that are currently exclusive to Fairfax. It will also eventually add the coffee brand that Commonwealth recently launched in Virginia Beach.

“It’s a great, great spot right on Main Street, and it has a pretty expansive patio with outdoor seating where dogs are welcome,” Biggie told FFXnow. “I’m just really excited to see how people can respond to the beer.”

Along with specialty alcoholic beverages, Fairfax’s Commonwealth Brewing will serve freshly made food, like its signature Neopolitan wood-fired pizza, and it will experiment with “eclectic concepts” and “interesting ingredients,” such as Korean short rib and kimchi, Biggie says.

He plans to maintain a rotating menu by introducing three to five new beer styles every week and new food items every month.

“I think our ethos is all about being creative and trying to really foster an environment where people can come together and have a really enjoyable, hopefully world class product,” Biggie said.

Also new with the Fairfax location is a dedicated beer production space for Belgian-style, long-term, barrel-aged sour beers — the very beer that Biggie says first sparked his passion for becoming a commercial brewer. This particular style of beer is aged on wild bacteria for a year to three years, so it’s “a labor of love,” Biggie says.

“They’re not profitable at all, but they’re delicious, so we like to make them,” Biggie laughed. “…It’s a really small percentage of our total volume, but it’s a really important part of it.”

Beers have long since been a labor of love for Biggie, who began home-brewing around 13 years ago as a hobby while working full-time as a structural engineer.

“When I met my wife, she was studying abroad in Germany, and I flew over to Europe to spend Christmas with her over 20 years ago now, and she took me to all the hot houses and European beer gardens, and I was blown away by the food and the quality of the beer,” Biggie said. “That’s where it all kind of started for me. I came back and started seeking out more interesting beers and then that turned into home brewing.”

After a decade of home-brewing, Biggie and his wife Natalie decided to liquidate their retirement savings and “make the huge jump” into their “first-ever entrepreneurial endeavor,” Biggie recalls.

“I found I had a pretty natural ability to make recipes and really loved doing it,” Biggie said. “I loved all the social inspiration that I got from it, being able to invite the neighborhood over to come try the beers and just really got into it and got super passionate about it — basically filled my entire house with fermenters. After making all different styles over a decade and passively researching, we made a decision to open a brewery.”

Formerly based in Alexandria’s Del Rey neighborhood, the couple found no better place to break ground on their brewery than where they first met: Virginia Beach.

Now, after experiencing success by the ocean for the past eight years, the Biggies are heading back to Northern Virginia, where they hope to “create a bigger and stronger nightlife scene” in Old Town Fairfax, Biggie says.

“We know the area, we know that people up there really appreciate high-quality products,” Biggie said. “We came across the Fairfax property, and it was just amazing, and we really liked the building owner, and we loved it being in a really cool main street.”

As Commonwealth prepares to open in Fairfax at the beginning of next month, Biggie says he’s focused on integrating the brewery into the Fairfax community and involving George Mason University students, who he hopes will become regulars.

His goal, he says, is to make Commonwealth a close-knit community hub that promotes interpersonal connection.

“We want to be a community center. We want to be a place where people can come every week and meet and see each other,” Biggie continued. “…We’re the antithesis of a sports bar. We have no screens anywhere, and we really want you to focus on the beer you’re enjoying, the food you’re eating and the people you’re with.”


A new eight-story mixed-use development will officially be moving into Old Town Fairfax.

The Fairfax City Council unanimously voted on Tuesday, July 11, to approve Ox Hill Companies‘ application to build City Centre West after a five-year-long planning process. Ox Hill anticipates breaking ground at 10501 Main Street in March 2024 and completing the project by spring 2026, according to a press release.

A 210,029-square-foot development spanning nearly 2 acres, City Centre West is slated to have 79 luxury condominium units and a penthouse, 7,731 square feet of restaurant and retail space, 8,584 square feet of medical office, and 10,079 square feet of general office, according to a presentation at the council meeting.

Commercial space has already been allocated for a drive-through Truist Bank and updated facilities for Infinite Technologies. The site will also include a public plaza for outdoor dining and public gatherings and an underground parking garage with 309 spaces.

“I think this is a very nice building. It’s a lot better than a burned down hookah bar,” Josh Alexander, a local restaurant business owner in Old Town Plaza, said during the public hearing. “Can we please move forward and grow? We’re getting outgrown by Fairfax County left and right.”

The building will be constructed predominantly out of brick to fit the historic charm of Old Town Fairfax, Ox Hill says. Visiting NYC-based architect Thomas Juul-Hansen conceived the building’s architecture, interior design and furniture.

“In the design of City Centre West, we selected quality materials that pay homage to the historic architecture, especially the use of brick,” Juul-Hansen said. “This was the first brick building I have ever designed, so it was an exciting challenge for me. The new building will coexist seamlessly with structures that have stood for two centuries, such as Fairfax’s federal buildings.”

Ox Hill further plans to add a connector road to Main Street that will provide access not only to City Centre West’s parking garage, but also the Fairfax County Judicial Complex in collaboration with the county, according to Bob Brant, a representative of Walsh Colucci Lubeley & Walsh PC.

Brant noted during the council meeting that the developer seeks to more closely connect the judicial complex — which the county is working to redevelop — to Old Town Fairfax and the City.

Brant also touted the eight-story height of City Centre West as a palatable transition for residents and visitors to the even taller buildings slated to accompany FCJC’s future redevelopment. However, not all agreed.

“This project completely disrespects the historic nature of Old Town Fairfax,” a resident of Old Town Fairfax since 1974 said. “[We] strongly oppose the City West project, which will be over 90 feet high. It will dwarf our city hall and the surrounding historical buildings on Main Street, one that rings in the death knell of the old town feel that used to be Fairfax. If Old Town Alexandria can keep its historic charm, then City Council can do the exact same thing for Old Town Fairfax.”

In addition to following the FCJC redevelopment, Brant said City Centre West’s mixed-use nature, provision of public open spaces and “buy-down” housing opportunities align with Old Town Fairfax Small Area Plan, which envisions adding thousands of new residential, office, retail, and institutional and arts spaces to the historic area. Read More


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