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Nonprofit Fellowship Square has finished a major renovation of its Hunters Woods affordable housing community (via Fellowship Square)

A nearly $26 million renovation effort at the Hunters Woods Fellowship House in Reston is officially complete, property owner Fellowship Square announced yesterday (Tuesday).

The nonprofit completed its renovation earlier this month. A ribbon cutting is planned for July 21 at the affordable housing community that caters to seniors who wish to live independently and earn roughly a maximum of $10,000 per year.

Fellowship Square CEO Christy Zeitz said the completion of the project modernizes a nearly 50-year-old apartment building and addressed the critical need for affordable housing for seniors in the area. The issue has been complicated by skyrocketing real estate and rental prices as well as an aging population.

“With this completed renovation, we can continue to offer quality apartment living at rental rates they can afford well into the future and enable our residents to live independently in the dynamic Reston community,” Zeitz wrote in a statement.

The project broke ground in mid-February of 2020, but was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic and related issues.

Although work halted in March 2020 due to the pandemic, Zeitz said Fellowship Square was able to work with its builder and public safety experts to lay out a new timeline for the project.

The project was divided into two phases, focusing first on infrastructure and upgrades to heating and cooling system. The second phase resulted in more publicly visible changes, like upgrades to communal areas, an expanded lobby and entrance, a new media and wellness center, and flex space for activities and functions.

A dozen apartments were also reconfigured so they would be accessible for residents with disabilities.

The project team includes Miner Feinstein Architects and Southway Builders.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn lauded the community and its renovation.

“This renovation, including additional accessibility and other modernizations, preserves this landmark and ensures its residents will continue to be able to call it home,” Alcorn said in a statement.

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Louise Archer Elementary School (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated on 7/11/2022) Fairfax County Public Schools has officially committed $36 million to renovating Louise Archer Elementary School in Vienna.

The Fairfax County School Board awarded a contract to Henley Construction Company, Inc. during its June 16 meeting. The contractor beat out two other bidders for the project, which will roughly double the size of the school building.

The contract set a construction start date of Aug. 1, with Henley beginning its initial setup and erecting fencing by Aug. 15, according to the FCPS facilities staff.

“FCPS has already installed temporary classroom cottages behind the school,” FCPS told FFXnow by email. “The main work is expected to start with the new 2-story classroom addition in early September 2022.”

Originally erected at 324 Nutley Street in 1939, Louise Archer last underwent a renovation in 1991 and serves 510 students, as of the 2021-2022 school year, which concluded on June 10.

According to the current Capital Improvement Program (CIP), FCPS added the school to its renovation queue in 2009, but enrollment has declined over the past decade. There were 824 students during the 2012-2013 school year, pushing the facility’s program capacity utilization to 114% — well above the current utilization rate of 77%.

The school currently has a design capacity of 784 students, thanks to two temporary trailers and a 10-classroom modular introduced in 2005.

A rendering of the planned Louise Archer Elementary School renovation from Nutley Street (via Town of Vienna)

The planned renovation will eliminate the temporary classrooms, reducing the school’s design capacity to 700 students, but it will expand the 51,235-square-foot building to 103,224 square feet with a second-story addition. New amenities will include additional classrooms, offices, an updated library, and a larger parking lot.

The expanded parking lot will replace the existing modular with a new kiss-and-ride lot, separating parent drop-offs of students from the school bus area and staff parking. It will have 105 parking spots and two loading spaces, according to a Town of Vienna staff report.

Expressing optimism that the new drop-off area will alleviate overflow traffic on Nutley Street, the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals granted FCPS a conditional use permit for the project on April 20.

Construction is being funded by the 2021 school bond approved by voters last November. FCPS’ CIP status page estimates work will be completed in late 2024 to early 2025.

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Patrick Henry Library in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

An initial concept for the upcoming Patrick Henry Library renovation is here, and the Vienna Town Council has some reservations.

At a Town Council conference session on Monday (June 13), Fairfax County public works staff unveiled a conceptual site plan for a one-story library and a four-level parking garage to replace the existing facility and parking lot at 101 Maple Avenue East.

The county hopes to expand the community library from 13,817 square feet to about 18,000 square feet — smaller than the previously expected 21,000 square feet — to accommodate its programming plans, including a larger children’s section and upgraded technology.

The project will also add a public parking garage to the 1.4-acre site. The current concept provides 216 spaces, including seven accessible spots and five with electric vehicle charging stations — more than the 209 spaces required by the county’s agreement with the Town of Vienna.

Fairfax County’s initial concept site plan for the new Patrick Henry Library and parking garage (via Town of Vienna)

With an access road planned from Maple Avenue and a driveway to the garage from Center Street, the two structures will essentially take up every available inch of space.

“The site is quite constrained in size for the uses proposed,” Vienna Planning and Zoning Director David Levy said. “Parking garages in particular have minimum dimensions related to turning radii and efficient layouts. As a result, there’s not really many options for the concept design.”

The limited space will make it difficult to meet Vienna’s tree canopy requirements, which may have to be waived, Levy told the council.

The concept provides open space in the form of a plaza at the corner of Maple and Center. A rooftop terrace to provide outdoor reading and classroom space has been considered, but it would be “cost-prohibitive” to include initially, according to county staff.

Though staff said the setback from Maple Avenue will be slightly increased, council members urged the design team led by the firm RRMM Architects to find ways to use less space and reduce the height of the garage. Read More

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The renovated Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Annandale (courtesy of Hidden Oaks Nature Center)

Annandale’s Hidden Oaks Nature Center is reopening later this month after a months-long, nearly $2 million renovation and expansion.

The 53-year-old nature center, located on Royce Street and part of Annandale Community Park, closed its doors in February for a long-planned expansion and renovation.

The $1.7 million project gave Hidden Oaks a new classroom overlooking the woods, an updated outdoor play area with a safe, working water pump, a larger, remodeled pond, and ADA-compliant facilities, including restrooms. The funding came from the over $100 million 2016 Park Bond.

The facility is set to reopen to visitors on June 25 with a grand reopening celebration planned for July 16. The festivities will include entertainers from “American barbershop to Korean folk tunes to native Bolivian music and dance.” There will also be poems and thoughts from students on the “importance of environmental stewardship” as well as crafts and a puppet show.

When it opened in 1969, Hidden Oaks was the county’s first nature center. The last renovation in the early 1980s “fell woefully short of being able to meet the consumer demand and interest” even by the 1990s, when attendance was “dramatically rising,” Hidden Oaks staff tells FFXnow via email.

Prior to the pandemic, nearly 50,000 visitors and 7,000 school children per year were using the nature center.

With the new renovation, the center now has a glass-framed classroom “that overlooks a pond and the woods, inviting the outside in,” the Fairfax County Park Authority says.

The classroom includes a built-in kitchen that will be available for school groups as well as for private rentals. Additionally, there’s a new bilingual reading corner in honor of Hidden Oaks volunteer and retired county school teacher Jean Laub.

The updated Nature Playce, a wooded play area for young children, now has a workable water pump.

“Its non-pinch child-friendly features enable children of all ages to enjoy the wonders of water,” staff wrote.

There are also two new outdoor interpretive trails with signage in English, Spanish, and Korean.

The original small pond — popular with wood frogs, American toads, and spotted salamanders — was replaced with a pond nearly double its size to provide “more teaching area.”

Earlier this year, an Eagle Scout project created two temporary small pools in the front and rear of the nature center to create amphibian breeding areas so that they’d eventually migrate to the new pond.

“Between the two pools, the wood frogs returned in similar numbers while the American toads and the spotted salamanders balked at the substituted water source,” nature center staff said.

The project faced a number of minor challenges, including the placement of a beloved carved woodland sculpture.

Several years ago, a 130-year-old, 100-foot-tall tulip poplar behind the center was struck by two bolts of lightning, which severely damaged the tree but didn’t destroy its base. Instead of completely knocking the tree down, the county commissioned a chainsaw artist to turn it into a wood sculpture featuring native animals, like raccoons, a fox, an owl, and a turtle.

“Due to [the sculpture’s] prominent location in the rear of the nature center, the ability to bring construction vehicles to the far side of the center was limited,” staff said. “To alleviate tree loss, the vehicles entered in a relatively narrow space between the existing nature center and Nature Playce.”

Despite “multiple delays of material delivery,” the project was still completed roughly on time and within budget, staff noted. With Covid restrictions now gone and the renovations done, Hidden Oaks staff could move a number of programs back inside, but that isn’t the current plan.

“Due to the popularity of classes in the last few years, more of the center’s programming will continue to be focused outdoors,” staff said.

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Photo courtesy Nicola Shelley, Synergy Design & Construction

By Nicola Caul Shelley, Synergy Design & Construction

Not thinking of a complete home remodel but looking for a few design ideas to spruce your space? Then look no further, as this month the Synergy team are providing some easy hacks any homeowner can do that provide an instant upgrade.

Mina, Founder

Mina’s top tip?

“Consider using decals because they’re inexpensive, easy to order and you can install them without professional help. I did this myself in my office with roses on a dark wall. Choosing this type of contrast easily creates drama and a ‘designed’ space while remaining flexible enough to remove the decals and choose a different paint color when you tire of it down the road.”

Photo courtesy Mina Fies, Synergy Design & Construction

Emily, Interior Designer

When it comes to quick, but high-impact changes, Emily has lots of tips!

“If you can only do one thing at this time to update or make an impact on your space to make it look ‘designed’, it’s paint, paint, paint! Walls that is! Painting cabinets is a whole different ball game and painting walls is way easier, with a big impact.”

“If you’re able to hire a painter, great, but even if you have to spend a weekend to invest some time in taping, prepping and painting some walls yourself, it will make a huge difference. Paint instantly elevates any furniture or decor you then add to the room. I’ve (DIY) painted at least the bedroom and living room of every apartment/rental/house I’ve ever lived in even if it was only a year-long living situation. To me, the impact of paint outweighs even having to prime and paint back the rooms to their original color at the end of a lease!”

Download our FREE Guide to Paint Finishes to get you started!

Emily’s second tip (although, if you’re not handy or good at DIY, you might need a little outside help!) is to add vertical interest and/or add architectural details to a space. For example, create a tile, stone or millwork fireplace surround that goes to the ceiling or add a shiplap wall. These details create visual interest and can completely alter the look and feel of a room. Check out the carousel below for inspiration!

Read More

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Annandale’s Wakefield Skate Park is getting some air with a $1.2 million facelift.

The nearly two-decade-old skate park off of Braddock Road is undergoing a major renovation that will add a competition-style bowl, multilevel jump line, mini ramp, spine, A-frame and ledges.

“The project goal is to create an updated design that incorporates newer styles of obstacles and features that are found in today’s typical skateparks,” the Fairfax County Park Authority says on the project page.

When completed, it will cater “to all skill levels of skateboarders, BMX riders and other wheeled athletes.”

Demolition is now underway on a large section of the park that was closed off to the public earlier this week, Fairfax County Park Authority spokesperson Judith Pedersen told FFXnow. However, the newer, concrete portion of the park will continue to remain open for skating for the duration of construction.

The hope is that the renovation will be completed by the fall, with a reopening to come shortly thereafter.

“Fingers crossed, we will have the grand opening this year,” Pedersen said.

The Wakefield Skate Park first opened in 2004 and expanded in 2012. As the county’s website notes, the average lifespan for a wooden skate park is about 15 years. After 18 years of use, it’s time for a full renovation and upgrade.

“The skate park has been repaired several times, but due to the age and makeup of the facility, it is no longer feasible or safe to prolong the use of the original equipment,” the FCPA website says.

Wakefield is one of two county-maintained skate parks. The other is Lake Fairfax Skate Park in Reston, which opened a decade ago.

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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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