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Fairfax County police car lights (file photo)

(Updated at 7 p.m. on 12/22/2022) A pedestrian involved in a crash on Richmond Highway (Route 1) in Groveton on Wednesday (Dec. 21) has died, police announced today (Thursday).

Around 6:40 p.m., the driver of a 2014 Nissan Altima going south on Richmond Highway hit 72-year-old Kim Hampton, who was crossing the southbound travel lanes from Beacon Center to Beacon Hill Road, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

Hampton was transported to a hospital and ultimately succumbed to life-threatening injuries.

Police said that, based on a preliminary investigation, alcohol and speed don’t appear to be factors, and Hampton wasn’t in a crosswalk, though Richmond Highway has a crosswalk on only one side of that intersection.

The FCPD says Hampton is the 23rd pedestrian killed in a crash on county roads this year, surpassing the 13 such fatalities seen at this point in 2021.

Virginia crash data, which includes crashes on interstates and other roads not policed by FCPD, shows 27 pedestrian fatalities for this year, exceeding every other year since the interactive reports began in 2010.

However, by FFXnow’s count, Hampton would be the 32nd pedestrian to die in a crash this year and the second just this week. The state report only shows one death so far for December, when there have now been at least five.

This is the fourth fatal pedestrian crash on Route 1 this year, following two in July — including a hit-and-run — and one at Backlick Road in Fort Belvoir on Oct. 6.

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A project set to place affordable housing for seniors along Richmond Highway (Route 1) has cleared another hurdle.

At its final meeting of the year on Dec. 7, the Fairfax County Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of a plan amendment to allow a six-story, 70,000-square-foot affordable, independent senior living facility with a “community-serving” ground floor at 6858 Richmond Highway.

The development will be next to the Beacon of Groveton apartment building and about a half block from the Beacon Center, a retail area with a Giant, Lowe’s, and other stores. It will be also about a half-mile from a Richmond Highway Bus Rapid Transit station, which could begin operating around 2030.

The roughly half-acre site in Groveton was previously approved for “office and retail uses” in 2004, per the staff report. Right now, it sits essentially undeveloped as an “interim park space” with a sign out front noting its availability.

The proposed plan amendment won’t change the previously approved density or height of any possible development, only the allowed use.

With this go-ahead from the planning commisision, the plans to build this affordable, senior living facility along Richmond Highway will now go to the Board of Supervisors. A public hearing is set for Jan. 24, 2023, with rezoning consideration likely not until May.

The facility is not expected to be open to residents until at least 2027.

The plans didn’t get much pushback from commissioners, who noted the need for more of this type of facility in the county.

“There’s a significant shortage of independent, senior, affordable [housing] throughout the county,” said At-Large Commissioner Candice Bennett. “For folks who are trying to stay in their community and near family…preserving enough options so folks can stay in their community, I think, is going to be important. I’m excited to see this plan amendment come forward.”

Mason District Commissioner Julie Strandlie recalled how important it was to her family to live nearby when her grandma, at 102 years old, needed a facility of this nature.

“It’s really important to have many of these types of facilities for families in as many communities as possible,” Strandlie said. “Because with traffic and the time commitment, it’s really difficult to get to that facility to see your loved one as often as one would like…I hope there will be more facilities like this throughout the county.”

However, during the public hearing, one member of the community shared concerns about building another development along the already congested Richmond Highway.

An area resident for three decades, the neighbor said he’s a caregiver for his elderly parents, and the traffic is so bad, he does not feel safe letting his dad walk along Richmond Highway in the evening. Read More

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Kung Fu Tea opens along Richmond Highway (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

(Updated, 4:15 p.m.) The Kung Fu Tea along Richmond Highway has finally started brewing.

The boba tea franchise opened its newest location in Penn Daw earlier this week. It’s next to the also newly opened Crab Cab and across the parking lot from Krispy Kreme.

Store employees told FFXnow an official grand opening is set for next month.

FFXnow first reported that Kung Fu Tea was coming to 6328 Richmond Highway over the summer, set to replace a dry cleaner.

Co-owner Wes Ky told FFXnow that the reason they decided to open along Richmond Highway is because of the revitalization efforts and the new development that’s been happening in the corridor. Ky said they’ve been looking for a spot in Alexandria for more than three years and finally settled on this location, despite the space being a bit bigger than they initially wanted. But the opportunity to open along a main thoroughfare like Richmond Highway was too good to pass up, he said.

Ky also co-owns two other franchise locations in Springfield and Burke.

Kung Fu Tea is known for its boba (or bubble) tea and coffee. The first shop opened in Queens, New York in 2010. The company claims to be “America’s largest bubble tea brand.

The chain has nearly 400 locations nationwide and appears to be expanding, including one that just opened in Ballston in Arlington last month.

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Former food truck Crab Cab has found a permanent home along Richmond Highway.

The seafood restaurant and bar opened last week in a 1,500-square-foot space in Penn Daw at 6238 Richmond Highway, as first reported by On the Move. It’s next to also newly-opened Kung Fu Tea and across from Krispy Kreme. Menu highlights include crab cakes, salmon fries, and shrimp baskets.

This is Crab Cab’s and owner Ghazal Amir’s first brick-and-mortar location after nearly a decade serving out of a mostly-D.C.-centric food truck. Amir is a mother of three, from Alexandria, and went to high school just down the road at what’s now called Alexandria City High School. So, it made sense to bring her business back close to home.

“It’s a very busy location,” Amir told FFXnow about why she decided to open up here. “Along Richmond Highway, it’s a lot of fast food or older [restaurants]. So, we are bringing something a lot newer and modern to the neighborhood.”

Since she was a kid, Amir had always wanted to open her own restaurant. For years, she worked in nearly every aspect of the restaurant industry – from buser to cook to bartender to cocktail waitress, she said. In 2013, she decided to strike it out on her own and open a food truck that served crab cakes and other seafood dishes.

“I wanted to offer people something higher quality than just a burger,” she said.

Amir said for much of the time running the Crab Cab food truck was quite successful, living off recommendations and knowing what blocks were best for business. But when the pandemic hit, office workers and their appetites dried up.

She started taking the truck to apartment buildings and hospitals, while also donating food to nurses and workers at the height of the pandemic. The kind act didn’t go unnoticed.

“People said, ‘Hey, why don’t you come to our neighborhood? People would actually buy your food. It’s really good.’ So, we went to one neighborhood and after that, it just grew,” she said.

It was earlier this year when she started seeking out space for Crab Cab’s permanent home. But “a lot of doors were closed in our face,” she said because she would ask for a tenant improvement allowance that a lot of landlords didn’t want to provide. In the end, Amir found a landlord – JCR Companie – that “believed in me” and provided some funds to revamp the space.

A combination of her own funds and the landlord resulted in an updated, modernized space that Amir said is “really beautiful inside.”  Crab Cab opened last Monday with help from her three kids, who all work at the restaurant.

“They have helped me a lot and stuck by me,” Amir said. “I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing if I didn’t have those people in my corner helping.”

There’ve been challenges, of course, in the first week of operation, including the need to hire more help and Amir learning how to run a full-service restaurant for the first time.

But the shell of success is there. While Amir spoke with FFXnow, twice she stopped to ask customers how their meal and service was.

“I just want to leave behind a legacy for my children,” she said.

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The new Lorton Community Center (via Fairfax County)

The doors of the $18 million Lorton Community Center are now open, ahead of a ribbon-cutting ceremony set for this coming weekend.

The 30,000-square-foot facility on Richmond Highway is combined with a renovated and expanded Lorton Library as well as the new 1.7-acre Lorton Park.

The community center features a gym, a fitness room, a kitchen, an art room, and a sensory room. The facility also includes space for the Lorton Senior Center and the Lorton Community Action Center, a nonprofit that provides emergency financial assistance to those in need.

The 10,000-square-foot library has been expanded by 6,000 square feet for a larger children’s area, increased seating, and more meeting and study rooms. The new Lorton Park is located behind the parking lot and has open field space, picnic tables, playground, fitness area, and a trail loop.

The new Lorton Community Center site plan (via Fairfax County)

The facility also has sustainability features like a rain garden, underground stormwater facility, and infrastructure for solar panels.

The full project — the park, community center, and library — cost $27.23 million, with the community center accounting for essentially two thirds of the cost, according to a county spokesperson.

The entire facility opened to the public yesterday (Monday) with a ribbon cutting and “community celebration” scheduled for Saturday (Oct. 15) afternoon, rain or shine.

Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay and other local officials are expected to attend. There will be tours of the new center and light refreshments.

The facility was initially scheduled to open late last month but was pushed several weeks to allow for “final facility work to be completed,” Storck said.

Read More

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Eastbound Route 7 is partially closed at Route 123 after a fatal crash in Tysons (via VDOT)

(Updated at 1:50 p.m. on 10/7/2022) Three more people were killed on Fairfax County roads Thursday morning (Oct. 6), police reported.

In Tysons, two people died in a single-vehicle crash on eastbound Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) remains partly shut down in Tysons after two people died in a single-vehicle crash at Chain Bridge Road, shutting down the road for nearly three-and-a-half hours, the Fairfax County Police Department said.

Today (Friday), police identified Lori Byars, 51, of Woodbridge as the driver of a 1986 Mercedes 420 SEL, and 59-year-old Triangle resident David Turch as a passenger.

“The vehicle left the roadway prior to the intersection near the overpass of Chain Bridge Road and struck a light pole,” the FCPD said. “The vehicle continued striking another traffic signal pole where it came to stop.”

Police say speed and alcohol are both believed to have factored into the crash. A few community members who passed by the scene described it as “horrible.”

Further south, 53-year-old Melodie Kiem was struck and killed on Richmond Highway (Route 1) at Backlick Road in the Fort Belvoir area around 6:49 a.m. Thursday.

A preliminary investigation suggests Kiem was walking from the Richmond Highway median to the eastern side when the driver of a 2015 GMC Terrain going north on the highway hit her, the FCPD said.

Police say the driver had a green light, and Kiem was crossing “against the pedestrian cross signal.” At that intersection, Richmond Highway is eight lanes across, including dedicated turn lanes, and there is no crosswalk on the western side.

“The driver remained on scene,” the department said. “Rescue personnel responded and pronounced Kiem deceased at the scene. Preliminarily, speed and alcohol do not appear to be factors in the crash.”

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Fairfax County is considering renaming three stations in the first phase of its Richmond Highway bus rapid transit project (via FCDOT)

Fairfax County is going back to the drawing board for the names of its proposed Richmond Highway bus rapid transit (BRT) stations.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation says it is looking for feedback on names for three stations “in response to community ideas about better ways to reflect station location and community character,” according to a news release published today (Tuesday).

The three stations being revisited are:

  • Station #2: currently named Penn Daw, located at North Kings Highway and South Kings Hwy
  • Station #5: currently named Hybla Valley, located at Boswell Avenue and Fordson Road
  • Station #6: currently named Gum Springs, located at Sherwood Hall Lane

Dubbed “The One,” the planned BRT service will ultimately consist of nine stations in the Route 1 corridor, starting at the Huntington Metro station and ending in Fort Belvoir past the Woodlawn Plantation.

To gather input on what the stations should be called, FCDOT will host an open house at the Hybla Valley Community Center (7950 Audubon Avenue) from 6:30-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 12.

An online survey will also launch that day and stay open through Nov. 4.

Not expected to begin operations until 2030, the BRT will use dedicated bus lanes built in the median of Richmond Highway after the Virginia Department of Transportation widens the roadway from four to six lanes.

This summer, the county asked the public to weigh in on design elements and artwork at the future stations. The designs will be finalized by a Richmond Highway BRT Executive Commission in late spring 2023, according to FCDOT.

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Jefferson Manor neighborhood in Groveton (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

One of the oldest neighborhoods in southeastern Fairfax County is holding its birthday party this weekend, despite the likelihood of rain.

Jefferson Manor near Groveton is celebrating its 75th birthday tomorrow (Saturday) with a block party that will include food trucks, music, beer, a kids’ zone area, and a magician. Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk and Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay are both expected to attend.

Held on Monticello Road between Fairhaven Road and Edgehill Drive from 4-7 p.m., the block party is expected to draw about 300 attendees, even with the potential for dicey weather, Jefferson Manor Citizens Association President Derek Cole told FFXnow.

“We started the block party in 2017 just to celebrate how tight-knit our community was,” he said. “The turnout that we get speaks volumes to the community participation that we have.”

Consisting of about 550 semi-detached duplex homes, Jefferson Manor was built in 1947, as thousands of veterans returned home from World War II for jobs in the military and government.

Then covered in dairy farms, Fairfax County was a perfect place to build a home and settle with a family near enough to the urban core. Between 1940 and 1960, its population sextupled, growing from about 41,000 to nearly 249,000 people in just two decades. Those new residents needed homes fast.

A D.C. developer named Clarence W. Gosnell began buying up land across the county, including about 80 acres near Old Town Alexandria from S. Cooper Dawson, the co-owner of the well-known Penn-Daw Hotel.

Gosnell immediately went to work on the land, naming the neighborhood and the surrounding streets after president Thomas Jefferson.

Gosnell was one of the developers who was able to put up housing quickly and affordably,” Tammy Mannarino, a local historian who recently presented at a Jefferson Manor Civic Association meeting. “And he did that by having them be partially prefabricated.”

Gosnell’s company built and installed 12 to 16 homes a month in the neighborhood, a rate only exceeded by how quickly the homes were being sold, The Washington Post reported in 1947.

Every time they released a section of Jefferson Manor, it sold out,” Mannarino said. “They almost couldn’t build them fast enough.”

Homes were directly marketed to veterans, with Gosnell often advertising the starting price of $8,750 — about $114,000 today — as something “you can afford.”

Amenities soon sprang up to serve the budding neighborhood. Mount Eagle Elementary School (then called Penn Daw School) was built in 1949 to accommodate the new families.

However, as was the case in many county neighborhoods, there were restrictions on who could buy the homes.

The original contracts to purchase a Jefferson Manor home all contained a discriminatory covenant precluding anyone “not of the Caucasian Race” from occupying, using, selling, renting, or being given the home. The only exception was for “domestic servants.” Read More

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Mount Vernon Woods Park sign (via Fairfax County Parks Authority)

Mount Vernon Woods Park is set to add a playground, picnic shelter, multisport court, a field, and a skate park.

Design work is underway on the county-owned, 7-acre park on the southeast side of Huntley Meadows Park in Hybla Valley. The proposed improvements are based on the park’s 2015 master plan, which calls for a number of additions including a playground, a half-court, a skate park, on-site parking, a pavilion, and an open playing field.

The project is set to cost $2.5 million, which will come from the 2020 park bond, Fairfax County Parks Authority (FCPA) spokesperson Judith Pedersen told FFXnow in an email.

More detailed designs will be presented at a public meeting set for Sept. 8 at Mount Vernon Elementary School just south of the park.

The community will have a chance to comment on the designs both at the meeting and via email until Oct. 10.

The master plan was developed seven years ago to upgrade the 1960s-era park. The goal was to build “new, active facilities to be located in the park closer to Fielding Street to help create a more active and family-friendly park.”

A “neighborhood-scale skate park” is proposed in the southeast corner of the park with features for “both experienced and less-experienced users,” per the plan. This would be only the third county-maintained skate park.

Also proposed is a multi-use half court that could be used for activities like “basketball practice, one-on-one games, four square, hopscotch, or as an area for young children to practice riding a scooter or bike.” A fitness cluster, interpretive signs, and an open playing field are also part of the 2015 plan.

The master plan notes the need to upgrade access to the park as well, which currently doesn’t have easy pedestrian access, on-site parking, and out-of-date facilities.

FCPA has hired the engineering consulting firm Kimley-Horn, which has experience in the county, to assist with the development of the plans.

The designs that will be proposed next month to the public “generally follow” the approved 2015 Master Plan and any differences are “very minor,” Pedersen said.

A construction timeline and schedule will also be presented at the meeting in September.

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Trees at the corner of Jefferson Manor Park off Telegraph Road (photo by Brandi Bottalico)

Fairfax County is looking to grow a tree planting program that has resulted in 139 trees being planted along the Richmond Highway corridor since last year.

The “Residential Tree Planting Pilot Project” is a county-run program, in partnership with the D.C.-based nonprofit Casey Trees, providing free trees to residents in census tracts with low tree canopy coverage.

The three tracts targeted for the pilot program are all along the Richmond Highway corridor and within the Mount Vernon and Franconia Districts.

Since April 2021, residents living in those areas have planted 139 free trees on their properties. While a bit short of the 150-tree goal, the county has deemed the pilot program enough of a success to make it a “recurring program,” per an update to the Board of Supervisors last month.

The aim of the permanent program is to expand the tree canopy in other census tracts. A less expansive tree canopy often coincides with more “economically vulnerable neighborhoods,” Department of Public Works and Environmental Services spokesperson Sharon North wrote FFXnow in an email.

With that consideration, the program will be targeting census blocks in the Bailey’s Crossroads area of Fairfax County during its next planting cycle said North.

Money for the program will come out of the county’s Tree Preservation and Planting Fund and will be managed by a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. The fund’s current balance is $208,000, North said. Any additional funding recommendations will go to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors as part of its annual budget process.

Nearby localities like Arlington have similar programs to increase tree canopy in neighborhoods where it’s insufficient, which contributes to heat and temperature increases.

Back in 2021, Fairfax County staff identified 4,000 single-family and multi-family addresses within the three census tracts that would benefit from increased tree canopy.

Casey Trees devised a marketing campaign that sent out letters and greeting cards advertising the availability of free trees to those residents, who ultimately planted 139 trees.

That’s about a 3.5% success rate — higher than the industry average of 2%.

A majority of the trees planted were medium to large, including shingle oaks, river birches, hackberry trees, and honeylocust ‘shademasters.’

“Larger trees provide more shading, cooling, stormwater control, and related benefits over their smaller counterparts,” Casey Trees said in a report. “Not just to the property where the tree is planted but also to the neighborhood at large.”

The pilot program cost the county about $60,000, approximately $11,000 in marketing materials and close to $49,000 for the actual trees. It cost $350 per planted tree.

The report also provided a few recommendations to help grow the program.

Proposals included increasing the number of trees provided to one particular lot from three to five, noting that “residents often requested more,” as well as sending out arborists for site visits to increase education and displaying “free tree” yard signs in eligible neighborhoods.

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