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Falls Church High School is finally going to get some upgrades.

The Fairfax County School Board unanimously approved a $133.6 million contract for the construction firm Grunley Construction Company, Inc. on Thursday (April 14), ensuring that a renovation project that community members have sought for more than a decade will actually happen.

“The Falls Church community has been waiting for a very, very long time for this,” Dr. Ricardy Anderson, who represents Mason District on the school board, said before the vote.

The renovation will add approximately 126,000 square feet of space to the building at 7521 Jaguar Trail, including new science labs, a music wing, an expanded gymansium, a new library, adminstrative offices, and a new entry specifically for the Falls Church Academy.

Expected to be completed in summer 2026, the future school will be 429,000 square feet in size with the capacity for 2,500 students, according to Fairfax County Public Schools’ current capital improvements program.

FCPS added the project to its renovation queue in 2009 but ranked Falls Church as the high school least in need of upgrades, prompting questions about equity and the fairness of the evaluation process.

Despite reports of crumbling facilities, insect infestations, mold, and other problems at the school, which was built in 1967 and last renovated in 1989, the project did not receive funding for planning and design until the 2017 school bond.

Voters approved about $130 million for construction as part of the 2021 school bond, but that wasn’t the end to the project’s troubles: at a community meeting on Feb. 3, parents noticed that a new parking lot proposed at the current site of the school’s softball field had been suddenly removed from the presented site plan.

The Falls Church High School renovation site plan (via FCPS)

At Thursday’s school board meeting, Anderson thanked parents for bringing the issue to her and Providence District Representative Karl Frisch’s attention. She said they were able to work with FCPS staff to restore the original site plan, presented in April 2021, “without any delay.”

Frisch said the incident illustrated the importance of “robust community engagement.”

Construction on the renovation is expected to start this spring and will unfold in three phases over four years, including one summer when the gym will have to be closed, according to Annandale Today.

Prior to the vote on the construction contract, Frisch recalled attending a community meeting in 2019 where a project design team shared drawings of the envisioned future Falls Church High School.

“The community still didn’t believe it was going to happen, because they’d been waiting for that long,” he said. “This vote is putting our money where our mouth is, and it’s proof that it’s going to happen.”

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A number of public spaces in Reston Town Center will get a facelift.

As reported last month, work on Fountain Plaza and the pavilion will begin this spring. Now, Boston Properties is offering a first look at the planned upgrades.

The renovations will be the first major updates to the town center’s public spaces in roughly 30 years.

Alan Ward, a principle at Sasaki Associates, is leading the design team of the project. He deferred comment to Boston Properties on the overall project, but said in a statement that the spaces will meet the needs “of today and into future.”

“I am thrilled to work on these updates, which respect the spirit and vision of the original designs while enhancing access, activating the spaces, and providing years of enjoyment and to come.” Ward said.

Per Boston Properties, the enhancements will include:

The Pavilion

  • Two fire pits in front of the Pavilion adjacent to Market Street will add to the holiday and cooler months’ experience
  • Large fans will help cool the space during warmer months for both formal and informal gatherings
  • An expansion through the service street adjacent to the Hyatt will create more flexibility and space for programming, events, and daily activations
  • A wooden deck that will serve as a seating area and a stage for smaller events and performances
  • Additional seating areas in the artificial turf area during warm months

Other

  • The fountain: Renovation of the lower base area, with new tiling, expanded seating, and tiered landscaping, and replacement of the entire outdated mechanical system. The original design of the upper base and Mercury statue will remain unchanged.
  • New trees and plantings to replace aged greenery and damaged root systems
  • Expansion of outdoor seating, including stadium-style structures and traditional tables and chairs

The town center’s ice rink will operate from November through March, but some events will be relocated or rescheduled during construction. Some areas might be temporarily unavailable, according to Boston Properties spokesperson Sapna Yathiraj.

“We are working with our event partners to providing alternate locations in 22 for our annual events, which will provide the dynamic, community focused atmphosphere RTC is known for even while some areas are temporarily unavailable.” Yathiraj wrote in a statement.

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Photo courtesy Synergy Design & Construction

By Nicola Caul Shelley, Synergy Design & Construction

We’ve been in the home remodeling business a long time. We know it can be overwhelming when you start thinking about a kitchen remodel and all the decisions that have to be made. We’re here to help make life a little easier. Here are five design tips when it comes to remodeling your kitchen to get you started!

 1. The Kitchen ‘Triangle’

This one is a BIG one. We often say a great home remodel starts with figuring out how you actually use the space. Function first, form follows. When it comes to kitchen design, one of the first considerations is the kitchen ‘triangle’. Simply put, this is the most effective layout between the refrigerator, stove and sink, usually loosely based on a triangle. It’s not a hard and fast rule (and one that has undergone some changes with the addition of multiple kitchen ‘zones’ over the years), but it’s a great place to start with your dream kitchen remodel.

Got a galley kitchen or other layout that doesn’t lend itself to the triangle rule? No problem! The main consideration is to think through the best flow and energy efficiency of your space to minimize the back and forth between cooking, cleaning and storing areas.

In this kitchen remodel in Reston, the redesign of the kitchen included the sink and refrigerator along one wall with the stove on the left forming the third point of the ‘triangle’. This remodel also highlights another kitchen design issue to consider — cabinet height! Read on for more information…

The Kitchen Triangle (Photo courtesy Synergy Design & Construction)

 2. The Kitchen Island

The kitchen island has made it onto the “must have” list for many homeowners. Kitchen islands are great in large kitchens and provide tons of prep space, storage and a gathering place when everyone inevitably ends up in the kitchen! They also work great in smaller spaces where walls are being removed to open up a kitchen to a dining area or family room, for example.

A growing trend in recent years has been the addition of not one but two kitchen islands. Two islands allow you to have one dedicated to prep and/or cooking and another for casual dining/entertaining. This kitchen remodel in Herndon features two islands and shows how the kitchen now seamlessly blends into the family room and dining area.

Double Kitchen Islands (Photo courtesy Synergy Design & Construction)

The general rule of thumb is that aisles in the kitchen should be at least 36″ wide. Ideally, the aisle in a cooking zone should be 42″ to 48″ depending on your cooking configuration. Island and peninsula sizes should be adjusted accordingly.

Lastly, if you have a small or galley kitchen with no room for an island, fear not! There are LOTS of really great versatile options for moveable islands that double up as dining tables or bar areas that won’t break your remodeling budget.

3. Cabinet Height

Nothing says “wow” more than kitchen cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling. Adding  cabinets that go to the ceiling WILL add cost to your remodel, but if look outweighs budget considerations and it’s something you really want, go for it!

Ceiling height cabinets look at home in all types of kitchen designs from transitional to contemporary. If your aesthetic leans more transitional, a good way to break up cabinet “blocks” is with the use of smaller, glass fronted upper cabinets. This allows for the storage and display of treasured, but infrequently used, items. A great example of this can be seen in this local home remodel. The interior cabinet lighting is the final touch to this elegant space!

Cabinet Height (Photo courtesy Synergy Design & Construction)

Read More

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Safeway in South Lakes Shopping Center completes renovations (via Google Maps)

Although it may not look like much has changed from the outside, inside, Safeway at South Lakes Shopping Center has a new look.

A ribbon cutting ceremony for the grocery store, which has been open through the renovation process, is planned on Friday (April 1) at 11120 South Lakes Drive. Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn is expected to attend.

“We are pleased to share the numerous renovations that we’ve made to enhance our Reston South Lakes store,” said Safeway Mid-Atlantic Division President Jim Perkins. “We have added new features and expanded our selections in multiple departments to make the shopping experience even more enjoyable for our Reston neighbors.”

According to the company, Safeway’s interior got a facelift, including community photos, signing, paint and flooring, new display cases, and new graphics.

Here’s more from the company on other upgrades:

Safeway’s service deli department has expanded its selection of ready-to-go prepared meals, as well as its overall offerings, including an increased variety of pre-sliced meats and cheese items, and an increased selection of specialty cheeses.

The meat department has added new cases featuring a variety of organic and natural chicken, as well as a wide array of beef selections from which to choose, including choice beef, grass-fed beef, natural beef, and organic beef.

The seafood department has added a new refrigerated grab & go seafood case with crab meat, smoked fish, and more.

An expanded selection of fresh cut fruits and vegetables has been added to the produce department, now showcasing over 150 organic items.

A new juice section features more than 100 different varieties of premium juices and beverages, including Kombucha, specialty juices and juice shots, with additional healthy alternatives and soy offerings.

The bakery department now offers an expanded array of fresh baked-in-store items, with a full line of new cake designs, as well as a wider variety of fresh bread, bagels, and rolls.

The beer and wine departments have added hundreds of new items in multiple categories, with a focus on craft beers and top-quality wines.

The grocer will continue to operate from 5 a.m. to midnight all week.

Friday’s ceremony starts at 10 a.m. Live music, free gifts and refreshments are planned.

Photo via Google Maps

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Vienna’s Starbucks is closed for renovation (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Commuters passing through Vienna will need to last another week without their Starbucks fix.

The drive-thru cafe at 362 Maple Avenue East has been closed since Sunday (March 13) for renovations, as indicated by multiple signs posted around the building.

However, the coffee chain’s absence from town won’t be felt for long. The store will reopen on March 26, a Starbucks spokesperson told FFXnow.

“As a standard course of business, we continually evaluate our store portfolio, using various criteria to ensure we are meeting the needs of our customers,” the spokesperson said in an email. “…The store will reopen with new furniture, art, and handoff counter to better serve customers in the Vienna, Va., community.”

Starbucks employees elsewhere in the country have reported less savory reasons for store closures, as more than 100 locations explore the possibility of unionizing.

Workers in Merrifield and Springfield stores are currently seeking to hold union elections, becoming the first sites in Fairfax County to join the nationwide Starbucks Workers United campaign.

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By Mina Fies, Soulful Living Guide & Founder, Synergy Design & Construction

Let’s face it… we all live busy lives and are often stretched way too thin — and yet it’s our homes that help us come back to ourselves at the end of every day. While it’s always been important to me that our home remodels go beyond gorgeous countertops and new flooring, it really is all about the creation of ‘home’ however that shows up for us.

Everyone deserves to feel good when they walk in the door everyday, which is why I created a dedicated way in which I could help others create personal, meaningful spaces that support them in day-to-day life (even when they’re not ready for a full remodel). Although I don’t have a magic potion for achieving a perfect equilibrium, I have realized finding time to renew and recharge, even if it’s just for a few minutes, is the single most important part of my day.

Imagine a space created just for you, to restore your energy, provide a sense of calm and restoration, and bring you back in alignment with your true nature.

As a Soulful Living Guide, I like to call this the “Zen Zone”.

Personally, I use my Zen Zone as a place to meditate and to be present to how grateful I am for the blessings in my life. I love to journal, so this is where I find time to write. Some of my clients use theirs as a place to read a few pages from a book, flip through a magazine or cool down after a long week.

Your Zen Zone can be anywhere you’d like. The key is feeling relaxed and calm when you’re there.

So, how do you create your own Zen Zone?

Identify Your Zone — Start to visualize your home and ask yourself where you feel your zone should be. Use your intuition to choose a spot that feels right. If you have an extra bedroom, that’s fine, but all you really need is a little nook, corner of a room, even a portion of a walk-in closet.

Prepare Your Zone — It’s time to shift the energy. Remove any nearby clutter from your new spot so the energy feels light and calming. Do a thorough clean of the area.

Zen Your Zone — Cozy it up! Add objects that activate your senses and give you a positive vibe! THIS finishing touch is what makes it such a powerful addition to your self-care routine.

Have fun with it, incorporating natural elements like plants and flowers, calming scented candles, music, or your seasonal journal.

Looking for design inspiration and more pointers to create your own Zen Zone?

Watch my free Zen Zone masterclass here. Our homes serve as access to our highest awareness and yet we rarely give them the attention they deserve. Learning to tap into a deeper understanding of how your home can support you and your evolution is the first step in shifting everything and creating your very own sacred space in time.

Are you ready to love your home again? Learn more at minafies.com.

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