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Elected officials and Mitre leaders cut a ribbon to celebrate the opening of Mitre’s AI Discovery and Assurance Lab in Tysons (courtesy Office of Senator Mark Warner)

When you have concerns about an artificial intelligence-based technology, who are you going to call? For many federal government agencies, the answer is now the Mitre Corporation.

The not-for-profit research organization launched a new AI Assurance and Discovery Lab at its Tysons headquarters yesterday (Monday) with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and Reps. Gerry Connolly and Don Beyer.

Staffed by Mitre’s scientists and engineers, the lab will help federal agencies and, in the future, private companies assess the risks, security and effectiveness of AI systems that could be used in health care, national security, transportation and other fields, according to a press release.

“Government use of AI will have consequential impacts on the nation and world,” Mitre Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Charles Clancy said. “…However, in adopting these systems, we also need to mitigate risks. Providing an independent assessment of the security, safety, and efficacy of AI systems will play a critical role toward helping government and business realize the transformational power of AI in benefits processing, intelligence analysis, autonomous vehicles, and more.”

Clancy added that the lab is envisioned as “a blueprint for a national network of AI assurance facilities.”

Founded in 1958 in Bedford, Massachusetts, where it still maintains a headquarters, Mitre was started by MIT to develop and manage an air defense system designed to detect potential Soviet missiles. Now bringing in a reported $2.2 billion in revenue, the contractor has helped build everything from facial recognition tools for the FBI to a contact-tracing system used during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Forbes profile.

The new lab inside the Mitre 4 high-rise at 7525 Colshire Drive will provide a space for testing AI technology, which is already being used by federal agencies to analyze drone photos, study volcanoes and match job seekers with openings, among other reported examples.

“The opening of MITRE’s AI Assurance and Discovery Lab is an exciting development in the most fertile frontier of technological progress — extracting maximum value from AI while mitigating some of its risks,” Warner said in a statement. “We need to have an all-hands-on-deck approach to studying and unleashing the potential of AI, and I look forward to seeing the discoveries and progress the lab will be able to make in this critical field.”

According to the press release, the lab’s physical space can be customized “for specific mission scenarios and workflows.”

The facility will be supported by more than 200 staff members from Mitre’s AI and Autonomy Innovation Center, according to AI Assurance Solutions Lead Miles Thompson, who oversees the lab. The space can accommodate 50 people at a time and “thousands of remote connections.”

“Federal agencies, and soon private companies, can bring AI-enabled systems to the lab to explore potential risks including whether they perform effectively, consistently, and safely in real-world contexts,” the release said. “MITRE will also use the lab to evaluate factors such as whether systems are secure and free from harmful bias, and allow users to control how their information is used.”

Connolly said Mitre’s lab will be “invaluable” for helping the government adopt AI “with the proper guardrails in place,” while Beyer noted that it suggests Northern Virginia will “continue to lead the way on tech innovation.”

A new pedestrian bridge between Vienna’s Freeman Store and the W&OD Trail is open (via Town of Vienna/Twitter)

Users of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail can now more directly access the Freeman Store and Museum — and, beyond it, the Town Green — in Vienna.

The town has opened a new pedestrian bridge over Piney Branch that links the regional trail to the historic site. Completed in November, the facility replaces a wooden bridge that collapsed in 2016 due to water damage and general deterioration.

“It looks as it did many years ago and restores an important link to the Town’s history, connecting past and present,” the Town of Vienna said of the new bridge.

The town will celebrate the bridge’s reopening this Saturday (March 23) with a ribbon-cutting and reception starting at 10 a.m. Refreshments will be provided, and the Freeman Store will unveil two new museum exhibits: “Exploring Books Throughout Time” and “Vienna Unveiled Through Maps.”

Vienna officials had been looking to build a new bridge since they closed the previous one in February 2016, but an initial lack of response from contractors and rising costs for lumber and other materials delayed the project.

Construction finally began in February 2023, requiring a temporary detour around the affected section of the W&OD Trail.

Measuring about 53 feet long and 5 feet wide, the new bridge was made out of steel and timber. It’s also ADA-compliant, serving as the only way for wheelchair users to access the Freeman Store.

“Since the Freeman Store opened in 1859, it has been a store, a home, a train depot, a hotel, a hospital, an officers’ quarters, and a fire department, and the pedestrian bridge over Piney Branch to the store’s side entrance has been an integral part of the structure,” the town said in a news release.

Designated as a historic Virginia landmark in 2011, the Freeman Store is run by the nonprofit Historic Vienna Inc. and sells candy, artist prints, pottery, mugs, used books and other Vienna-themed items.

Located at 131 Church Street NE, the Freeman Store is open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday between March and December. The store closes on most federal holidays.

Photo via Town of Vienna/Twitter


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 community has kept VHC Health’s primary care office in West Springfield busy since it opened last June.

Officially welcomed by Fairfax County leaders with a ribbon-cutting and open house on Jan. 31, the practice at 5803 Rolling Road, Suite 110, started with one physician but added a second in October to meet the demand for services, according to Darryl Ernst, the senior vice president of VHC Health Physicians.

He says the nonprofit health system anticipates adding two more physicians into 2025, bringing the office up to VHC’s typical primary care staffing levels. With each physician usually seeing up to 2,500 patients annually, the West Springfield practice could ultimately care for as many as 10,000 to 12,000 patients.

“The office itself has gotten busy fairly quickly,” Ernst told FFXnow. “That’s been very encouraging for us because I think it reinforces why we’ve been asked to come and provide care in that community.”

Located in a brick office building south of the Kings Park neighborhood, VHC Health’s West Springfield facility provides primary care services to people 18 and older, including physical exams, wellness visits and other preventative care, lab testing and chronic disease management. Same-day urgent appointments and telehealth visits are available.

The practice may expand in the future to also offer cardiology services, but a definite decision on that hasn’t been made yet, Ernst says.

Decisions about what services to offer where are driven by community need and possible gaps in a given neighborhood’s health care network, according to Ernest, who says a lot of patients who get cardiology services at VHC Health’s hospital in Arlington live or work in the West Springfield area.

“We want to be in communities that don’t have many providers in a certain specialty,” he said. “So, we believe cardiology is the need in that community, and so, that’s one of the reasons we would do it, in essence, because there’s not the kind of access that we think it should exist for cardiology services.”

The West Springfield practice was among several new VHC Health facilities to pop up in Fairfax County over the past couple of years. Rebranding from Virginia Hospital Center, the nonprofit now also has facilities in Annandale, Tysons, McLean, Vienna and Kingstowne.

A digestive health center that focuses exclusively on gastrointestinal issues also opened this past Tuesday (Feb. 13) at 3025 Hamaker Court in Merrifield.

Ernst says VHC Health has been “very intentional” with its expansion into Fairfax County, which was in the works before the COVID-19 pandemic but got temporarily slowed down as medical providers pivoted to virtual services.

In addition to seeking to give its existing patients a more convenient option, the nonprofit has gotten a “tremendous amount” of outreach from elected officials and business leaders requesting facilities in different parts of the county, including West Springfield, according to Ernst.

Though VHC’s offices have been concentrated in the eastern part of the county so far, it’s developing plans to expand to the western side. Ernst says they’re not at a stage yet where he can disclose specific details, but the focus will likely be around Fairfax City and its surrounding areas.

“We think [our facilities are] special, and we just really want them to be a resource for the community and for the residents,” Ernst said.

Prospective residents and other community members cut a ribbon to celebrate The Virginian’s renovation (photo by Jamey Simpson)

At 43 years old, The Virginian decided the time has come for a fresh look.

The senior living community held a grand opening last Friday (Nov. 17) to reveal the results of its first renovation since getting established at 9229 Arlington Blvd in Mantua more than four decades ago.

The $67 million renovation overhauled the facility’s assisted living wing, adding a restaurant and bistro, a movie theater, a library, a fitness center, a salon and other amenities for residents and their families.

“We wanted to refresh the building and bring a new product to the market that the new generation of seniors were really looking for, providing more of an independent living setting, more flexibility and options,” The Virginian Director of Sales and Marketing Jenna Ballard said. “So, that’s really what drove this.”

According to Ballard, design work on the renovation got underway before the pandemic, but the project got put on hold during the early months of COVID-19. Construction took about three years and is expected to fully finish by the end of this year.

A 32-acre property surrounded by Mantua Park, The Virginian was acquired by an affiliate of the Chicago-based private equity firm Focus Healthcare Partners in 2019. The new owner said it would undertake a “substantial renovation that will transform the property into a true Class A asset,” the Washington Business Journal reported at the time.

The Virginian consists of 330 rental apartments, including assisted living, independent living, memory care and skilled nursing units. It currently has about 275 residents, Ballard told FFXnow.

While the renovation didn’t significantly expand the 367,000-square-foot building, it provided more amenities and common areas for residents, according to Ballard.

“It’s like a one-stop shop. Everything is here for them,” Ballard said. “They could have meals in different restaurants. They could have a number of different activities and programs all here on campus. They don’t ever have to leave if they don’t want to.”

The design by interior designer Meyer Senior Living Studio and architect Moseley Architects aimed to “honor the old town charm of colonial Virginia with a new, hospitality-inspired contemporary flair,” according to a preview in Environments for Aging magazine.

More than 100 prospective residents, community partners and members of the Central Fairfax Chamber of Commerce attended last week’s grand opening, which featured a ribbon-cutting, champagne, hors d’oeuvres and a VIP tour.

Ballard says The Virginian’s goal going forward is to ensure residents have access to all the services they need on campus, regardless of “what stage they are in life.” In addition to long-term residences, the facility offers outpatient rehabilitation services, including a program specifically for people who have Parkinson’s disease.

“This is one of the best communities I’ve ever seen,” Ballard said. “It’s extremely attractive to our prospects and their families, because it provides them with so many options where they can be here for life and have peace of mind when they make this decision that it was the right move for them. So, I think from the design aspect to all the new amenities and resources that we have here, I think the entire project was incredible.”

New lanes are open on Route 28, which has been widened from four to six lanes between Bull Run and I-66 (courtesy Northern Virginia Transportation Authority)

(Updated at 12:05 p.m.) The Centreville section of Route 28 is now two lanes wider and, local officials hope, noticeably less challenging to travel.

Construction is substantially complete on the project to widen Route 28 (Centreville Road) from four to six lanes between the Bull Run bridge at the Fairfax and Prince William county line and Route 29.

Fairfax County elected representatives joined regional and state transportation officials at the Centreville United Methodist Church Park and Ride (6400 Old Centreville Road) for a ribbon-cutting yesterday (Wednesday) to celebrate the milestone, which arrived right on schedule with two new lanes opening in early October.

“The anticipation surrounding this project in our community is palpable, with residents eagerly looking forward to the profound improvements in accessibility and…efficiency this project promises to bring,” Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith said at the ceremony. “The successful execution of the Route 28 widening project is poised to significantly enhance the quality of life for our residents.”

Under construction since September 2021, the Route 28 widening is intended to reduce traffic, improve safety and provide more transportation options on a highway that sees approximately 60,000 vehicles a day, according to the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

In addition to the new lanes, the $79.5 million project constructed a 10-foot-wide shared-use path for pedestrians and bicyclists on both sides of the roadway. It also made improvements to intersections and side streets, including installing upgraded traffic signals and removing some median breaks and crossovers.

“Whenever we make road improvement projects like this in Fairfax County, we focus on not just the road improvements, which are absolutely critical to moving traffic and people, but also all the multimodal improvements, improvements for pedestrians and safety improvements for people who live along this corridor,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said.

Work is expected to continue until May 2024 on some of those elements, including the shared-use paths, noise barriers, storm water management facilities and side street improvements.

However, FCDOT says drivers have already reported shorter trips and less cut-through traffic.

“Morning rush-hour commuters from Manassas Park to I-66 have reported experiencing a reduction in their commute of 10-15 minutes each day,” the department said. “They have also reported a reduction in morning rush hour cut through/bypass traffic on Ordway Road and Old Centreville Road.”

A study conducted by the Virginia Department of Transportation in 2015 found that widening Route 28 would shave about 15 minutes off current travel times, though trips through the 5-mile stretch were still projected to take 40 minutes in the morning due to the area’s increased density and development.

Benefitting Loudoun and Prince William counties, as well as Fairfax, the Route 28 widening has “regional significance,” Northern Virginia Transportation Authority CEO Monica Backmon said. The regional transportation planning agency contributed $26 million to the project, which also got local, state and federal funds.

(Correction: The spelling of Monica Backmon’s name has been fixed.)

Lauding the “innovative design” of the expanded roadway, which could be widened even further to eight lanes in the future, Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity highlighted the project’s benefits for his constituents, even though it’s in the Sully District.

“Much of the benefit from this project will be felt in the Springfield District, as we start the process of alleviating all the cut-through traffic in the Occoquan watershed and through the Town of Clifton,” he said. “Those are people who really should be using this route, but it’s too congested. This project is the first step in making it less congested.”

The next step, Herrity said, is for Prince William County to widen Route 28 to six lanes on its side of the border. A preliminary design for that bypass project was presented in the spring, but construction isn’t slated to start until 2026.

Officials cut a ribbon to celebrate a new bird enclosure at Frying Pan Park (courtesy Fairfax County Park Authority)

The ducks, turkeys and peafowl at Frying Pan Farm Park now have a reason to celebrate.

A new bird enclosure was recently completed to house the park’s creatures, funded by contributions from the nonprofit Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park. Local officials gathered last Thursday (Aug. 24) to celebrate the grand opening of the project.

The $9,000 project included demolishing the old structure, regrading the site, and installing a new foundation, sheds, pond, drainage system, lighting and fencing.

Fairfax County Park Authority Executive Director Jai Cole said the project emphasizes the importance of partnerships.

It may not seem like much, but this enclosure not only allows our park guests to get up close and personal with the animals, it also improves the overall safety and living accommodations for the birds themselves – not to mention the improved drainage and restoration of the pasture in the process. We are grateful for the continued involvement and investment of our Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park that helps us continue to provide a fun and unique experience here on the farm.

The oldest working farm in the county, the park includes animals like pigs, horses, goats, and chickens. It’s located at 2739 West Ox Road.

The new Sugarland Run Bridge in Herndon gets a ribbon-cutting ceremony (courtesy Fairfax County Park Authority)

A new pedestrian bridge at Sugarland Run Stream Valley Park has officially opened.

The steel bridge, located in a section of the park between Heather Down Drive and Eddyspark Drive, was added to connect the community to the Sugarland Run Stream Valley Trail on the opposite bank of the creek.

The 10-foot-wide structure now completes the connection, which was previously broken due to flood and storm damage for many years.

The project was funded by nearly $740,000 from a park bond in 2020, according to the Fairfax County Parks Authority.

“We celebrated National Park and Recreation Month in July, and the theme of this year’s observance was ‘Where Community Grows,'” FCPA Executive Director Jai Cole said during the ribbon cutting. “I can’t think of a more fitting example of how parks and recreation, particularly our trails and bridges, bring communities together and connect residents to a wide range of opportunities, amenities and to one another.”

Crews demolished and removed the remaining structure so the previous bridge, installed a prefabricated steel bridge and built 10-foot-wide, connecting approaches to the bridge.

Local officials and staff, including Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, celebrated the grand opening of the bridge earlier this month.


A new shop in Old Town Fairfax hopes to spark fresh joy with its shelves of vintage wares.

Lucy Loves celebrated its official grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday (Thursday) after initially opening its doors at 10414 Main Street on Saturday, July 1.

With its eclectic, handmade items, the vintage shop is appropriately located down a small alleyway tucked behind the Vietnamese restaurant East Wind, offering the impression of a hidden gem.

Though narrow, the hallways of the store managed to fit local residents, Old Town Fairfax Business Association members, Fairfax City Economic Development Authority officials and Fairfax City Mayor Catherine Read.

“This kind of business is the kind of business that Old Town Fairfax has been missing,” Read said.

Lucy Loves is an outgrowth of the Fairfax Funky Flea, an outdoor flea market that operates on the last Saturday of every month from April to November. Owner Sharon Buttram says she and longtime friend Kathy Hackshaw decided to launch the now-popular flea market in 2021 after bonding over a mutual love of hunting for vintage odds and ends at thrift shops and estate sales.

“I love mixing old stuff and new stuff, and I like making it current,” Buttram said. “…I don’t want my house to be a museum of old stuff. I like to mix it up and be really eclectic in my approach. So we just thought we should do a flea market. We love going to flea markets.”

Lucy Loves currently sells a mix of items like clothing, jewelry and pottery from 16 commissioned local vendors, many of whom Buttram recruited from Fairfax Funky Flea. But in the future, Buttram hopes to also use the cozy space for community gatherings.

“I’d also like this to become a cornerstone of the community as well as an event space,” Buttram said. “Like, if you want to have a conversation about something, let’s have conversation nights. I think after a couple of years of isolation with Covid, we were starved for person-to-person [interaction]. We want to touch things…Everything you see here, you can find online, but it’s a different experience when you go, and you can touch it, and you’re supporting somebody small.”

Read sees Lucy Loves as “exactly the kind of business that people want in a historic downtown.”

“They want some place where they can go to lunch or go to dinner and wander around and pop their head into shops and spend 30 minutes looking at everything in the shop,” she said.

According to Read, Fairfax City has been working to attract more businesses and shoppers so it can better compete with major shopping centers like Fairfax Corner, Mosaic District and Tysons Corner Center.

“I think Lucy Loves is the beginning of seeing more of this kind of retail want to come to our downtown,” Read said. “This is a very promising turn of events for the City of Fairfax because we want to attract visitors. But we also want our residents to stay here. We want our residents to dine here, shop here, attend our events here and to support businesses just like this one.”

In the future, Buttram envisions collaborating with George Mason University students to further engage them in the creative process.

“I’m really excited about a bigger partnership with GMU, and I’ve talked to them about doing workshops for students in their makerspace,” Buttram said. “But I’m also talking to them about even [giving] makers on campus that want to sell things [an opportunity to sell here].”

But for now, Buttram is proud of what she’s accomplished, finally cutting a ribbon on a shop named after her grandmother — “an original thrifty soul” who loved everything, she says.

“I’m really proud of the shop and the turnout today and of all my friends and family in the city,” Buttram said. “I love doing it here in the city. I’ve lived here for 30 years, and it’s just my absolute favorite place here in Virginia. So to have this here is the culmination of all the things I’ve wanted and then to have all my friends come out and support me, it’s been really meaningful to me.”

“This is a small shop, and I fully expect that one of these days, they will outgrow this space,” Read said. “But for now, having a space that’s over full of things is a good thing.”


The first segment of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s planned shared-use trail along I-66 has been completed.

State and Fairfax County officials will celebrate the milestone today (Wednesday) with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11 a.m., followed by an inaugural bicycle ride or walk on the finished section, which starts east of the Vienna Metro station and extends to Cedar Lane near Merrifield.

The segment includes a tunnel under Nutley Street, one of several below-grade crossings planned for the 11-mile, mostly 10-foot-wide trail being built from Gallows Road in Dunn Loring to Route 29 in Centreville.

More portions are expected to be finished later this month, including a crossing at an I-66 entry ramp at the Nutley Street interchange and a segment from Blake Lane to Route 123 in Oakton.

“The 66 Parallel Trail and new bike and pedestrian access across the I-66 bridges supports VDOT’s commitment to providing multimodal travel options to ‘move more people — not just vehicles,'” VDOT said in a statement to FFXnow.

VDOT’s private partner I-66 Express Mobility Partners (I-66 EMP) and construction contractor FAM Construction built the 66 Parallel Trail — a name chosen by a Fairfax County survey — as part of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project, which added 22 miles to the I-66 Express Lanes.

Including sidewalks being added on bridge crossings over I-66, the project will deliver 18 miles of new pedestrian and bicycle facilities, according to VDOT.

The trail’s inclusion in the highway widening project came after a campaign by local pedestrian and bicycling advocates, including the nonprofit Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling (FABB).

“The new 66 Trail will significantly improve east-west connectivity for people walking and biking in the corridor that does not exist today,” said former FABB President Sonya Breehey, who’s now the Northern Virginia advocacy manager for the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “The trail opens up the opportunity to walk, bike, roll to the Metro, schools, parks, restaurants, retail, and other places throughout the corridor.”

The 66 Parallel Trail will span 11 miles across Fairfax County when completed (via VDOT)

The design process for the trail was contentious, as cycling advocates pushed to keep it outside the I-66 soundwalls. However, adjacent homeowners objected to giving up part of their backyards, fearing a loss of privacy and green space.

The final design placed approximately three miles directly next to the highway, while about eight miles will be behind a noise barrier or have no noise barrier.

Breehey calls the trail’s placement inside the soundwalls an “unfortunate compromise,” but VDOT mitigated some concerns by elevating some portions above the highway and putting others behind a 50-inch concrete barrier. Read More


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