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Morning Notes

A Japanese maple tree on Church Street in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Heat Raises Risk for Outdoor Activities — “The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a special weather statement for early season heat for Friday, May 20, through Sunday, May 22. Temperatures will rise into the 90s this weekend for the first time since last fall, with Saturday forecast to be the hottest day.” [Fairfax County Emergency Information]

FCPS Teacher Arrested on Child Porn Charges — “A 28-year-old middle school teacher from Springfield faces two felony charges of possession of child pornography…At the time of her arrest, Kristine Knizner was employed by Fairfax County Public Schools as a teacher at Irving Middle School in Springfield. She had previously been a teacher at Key Middle School in Franconia.” [Patch]

School Bus Crashes at Inova Fairfax Hospital — “Two-vehicle crash involving a Fairfax County School bus on the 3300 block of Gallows Rd @ 5:53pm. Two students were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Bus driver & the driver of the other involved vehicle have non-life-threatening injuries.” [Allison Papson/Twitter]

Natural Gas Tank Explodes in Springfield — “Approximately 6 PM, units were dispatched for a cylinder tank in natural gas vehicle that exploded/ruptured in 6800 block of Industrial Road in Springfield. Fire in vehicle extinguished. No hazard and no reported injuries.” [FCFRD/Twitter]

Metro Eyes Late Summer to Restore Troubled Trains — “Amid a leadership shakeup at Metro, the transit agency says its plan to restore its long-sidelined 7000-series rail cars by late this summer remains on track. Late Thursday afternoon, Metro submitted a formal return-to-service plan aiming to safely bring back a limited number of 7000-series rail cars, and Metro’s safety watchdog…gave the plan a green light.” [WTOP]

Project Near West Falls Church Metro Begins — The City of Falls Church broke ground yesterday (Tuesday) on West Falls, a major mixed-use development that, in its first phase, will bring five buildings totaling 1.2 million square feet to the former George Mason High School site. It’s the biggest project in the city’s history and will eventually be joined by development from Metro and Virginia Tech. [Washington Business Journal]

Couple Thankful After Reston Fire Station Baby Delivery — “It’s been a whirlwind couple of days for Isabelle Ahearn and Ray Qasimyar, after Ahearn went into labor early Tuesday morning and wound up delivering her baby in the parking lot of a Fairfax County fire station.” [ABC7]

Colvin Run ES Teacher Turns Basketball into Education — “P.E. teacher Patrick Noel had started his first year, a virtual one, at Colvin Run Elementary School during the pandemic. He says during his breaks, he would perform trick shots and share them with his students, ultimately presenting them on Tuesdays and dubbing it Trick Shot Tuesday.” [ABC7]

Vienna Adds Street Beacons — “Vienna has two new sets of Rectangular Rapid-Flashing Beacons! The LEDs flash with high frequency when activated to improve pedestrian safety. Check out the new RRFBs at the intersection of Courthouse Road SW & Glen Ave SW as well as Beulah Rd NE & Creek Crossing Road NE.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

It’s Friday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 87 and low of 66. Sunrise at 5:54 am and sunset at 8:20 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Cars travel westbound I-495 on the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge (via Google Maps)

Work to expand the I-495 Express Lanes to the north is only just warming up, but the Virginia Department of Transportation is now turning its attention to the southern end of the Capital Beltway.

The I-495 Southside Express Lanes environmental study is evaluating possible express lane additions on an 11-mile stretch of the corridor east of the I-395 interchange in Springfield to Maryland Route 210 in Prince George’s County.

Crossing over the Potomac River, the corridor currently has two to five lanes typically, though a divided highway splits local and pass-thru routes. There is also a portion with six lanes, but the corridor overall has no express lanes presently.

VDOT presented its proposal at a virtual meeting yesterday (Wednesday), kicking off a series of meetings during a public comment period that’s slated to end June 6.

In-person meetings will take place tonight in Maryland, Monday (May 23) at John R. Lewis High School in Springfield, and the Nannie J. Lee Memorial Recreation Center in Alexandria on May 25.

The study is seeking to reduce congestion, address safety concerns and provide other improvements.

“In the morning, there is significant congestion going in the westbound direction, or from Maryland towards Virginia,” Abi Lerner, a VDOT engineer for megaprojects, said during the virtual meeting.

According to VDOT’s weekday data for the interstate, there’s approximately two hours of congestion in the morning from around 6:30 to 9, Lerner said. In 2019, average travel speeds could be as low as 30 mph during peak commuting times.

In Virginia, there’s significant congestion for an even longer time frame from approximately 3 to 7 p.m. for traffic going eastbound to the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge.

Expressing several concerns, resident Poul Hertel asked for the public comment deadline to be extended to June 18. VDOT said that would be considered and updated, if possible, on its project page.

The study is also evaluating whether express lane exit and entry connections could be added, an idea that drew mixed reactions.

“It’s very distressing to see that you have exit points into Old Town Alexandria,” Hertel said. “I would strongly urge you to remove that from your list.”

Meanwhile, multiple Maryland residents weighed in, with Prince George’s County Councilmember Jolene Ivey noting the area’s opposition to toll lanes there.

Lerner responded that whatever VDOT ultimately recommends “is going to require buy-in…from the Maryland side” of the Beltway.

Oxon Hill resident Howard Herrnstadt said it seems that a small number of affluent and time-stressed motorists use existing express lanes, questioning how the infrastructure expense would be justified.

Lerner said VDOT has seen significant usage of the express lanes for carpooling, which enables drivers to use them for free, but he was unable to provide data. Herrnstadt challenged that narrative.

According to VDOT, the proposed changes wouldn’t interfere with the possibility of light rail in the future, which the Woodrow Wilson bridge was designed to accommodate.

The study will inform any recommendations, including no changes, or potential projects in the future. VDOT plans to present options this fall or winter and finish its review in the fall of 2023 or winter of 2024.

Photo via Google Maps

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A plan has been submitted for a scaled-back version of a new hotel at Springfield Town Center (via Fairfax County)

The first pieces of the massive redevelopment of Springfield Town Center have finally come forward, more than 12 years after Fairfax County initially approved a mass of new development for the property.

Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust has filed a plan for a five-story hotel along Loisdale Road, according to an application submitted to the county on May 11.

The hotel would stand alongside a proposed residential building, bringing about the property’s “much-desired rebirth” and acting as a catalyst for the “first free-standing buildings to be built at the property in decades,” according to the application.

The town center is slated for up to 2,736 residential units and 2 million square feet of commercial development, a plan fell into place more than a decade ago, when the complex was still known as Springfield Mall.

While the mall underwent an extensive renovation in 2012, no new development proposals have gained traction since the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ preliminary approval in 2009.

“Over the years, a variety of users have tried to introduce both commercial and residential uses to the property, but the significant proffer package and details plans have hamstrung those projects,” the application says.

The developer says the proposal should be able to move forward because it covers a limited application area, fits “seamlessly” within the existing landscape at the mall, and helps establish a new internal street network that will support future development.

The hotel would take up surface parking spaces and sit next to a 460-unit residential building proposed by Hanover to the south of the property. PREIT says it plans to coordinate with Hanover as it moves forward with its application.

A big sell of the project, according to PREIT, is that the building requires minor changes to previously planned access road and uses existing curb cuts from Loisdale Avenue. The latest proposal shifts the hotel from across Village Drive to Loisdale Avenue.

The hotel will also have 140 rooms instead of the 225 proposed in the original redevelopment plan, along with some retail to serve hotel guests. Originally, up to 23,000 square feet of ground-floor retail were planned with the hotel.

PREIT says the plan will bring vitality to an area that has been “overlooked” and will create a “mixed-use center as a community and regional focal point.”

The company purchased the town center seven years ago after Vornado Realty Trust, the previous owner, completed nearly $200 million in mall renovations and established retail facing Village Drive.

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A scaled-back residential building is proposed as part of the Springfield Town Center redevelopment (via Fairfax County)

The redevelopment of the Springfield Town Center could be scaled back with fewer residential buildings than originally planned.

Hanover R. S. Limited Partnership is seeking Fairfax County’s permission to consolidate two approved high-rise residential towers into a single 85-foot-tall, mid-rise residential building with up to 460 units.

The proposal, submitted on May 6, also includes changes to the existing parking garage north of the property, upgrades to the planned fitness park on the corner of Spring Mall and Loisdale roads, and a small adjustment to the approved internal street network.

An initial development plan for the town center approved in 2009 envisioned a 275-foot high building and a 152-foot high building, totaling a little over 408,000 square feet.

Big plans are in store for the 68-acre campus. An additional level is proposed to the existing four-story parking garage, which is located to the north of a proposed South Street. Roughly 550 parking spaces in the garage will be allocated for residents and their visitors only.

In a statement of justification to the county, senior land use planner Elizabeth Baker described the change as a “relatively minor adjustment to the original approval.”

Baker wrote that the development of the building “with new streets, new streetscapes, and a community park is an important first step in redeveloping Springfield Mall into a mixed-use town center as envisioned in the Comprehensive Plan.”

Despite the changes, she also said the redevelopment plan continues to envision a “lively mixed-use development consisting of residential, retail, office, hotel and park uses” for the town center.

The application is in the preliminary phases of the planning process and has not yet been accepted for review by the county.

The news comes as the owner of the campus, the Philadelphia-based Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, makes plans to sell a hotel development parcel at the town center, according to a quarterly earnings call earlier this month.

The overall redevelopment plan was approved in June 2009, but none of the approved 5.7 million square feet of development has been constructed yet.

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Upgrades are planned for a prominent gas station in Springfield (via Google Maps)

Fairfax County is considering a plan to make over part of the Ravensworth Shell Station, which has served the area for more than 50 years.

Applicant Capital Services, Inc. has filed plans with the county to convert its existing service station building into a convenience store at 5200 Port Royal Road in Springfield.

The station is part of the Ravensworth Shopping Center, which county records indicate was originally built in 1965. It was last remodeled in 1983 when the gas pumps were shifted and a canopy was added over the pumps. It currently includes four service bays, back offices and a vehicle lift.

An application before the Fairfax County Planning Commission notes that the changes would add roughly 200 square feet to the building. The existing gas pumps and canopy will not be affected.

“The conversion of the four service bays into the convenience store, and the continued operation of the six fuel pumps is expected to increase the overall daily trips for the site from the current 3,128 trips to 4,033 trips, or an additional 905 daily trips,” the application says.

The applicant plans to convert the existing northernmost curb cut on Port Royal Road into a right-turn only for southbound drivers in order to allow tanker trucks to access and service underground fuel tanks easily.

“This proposal is a unique opportunity to allow a long-standing business to adapt to changing market conditions in order to continue serving the surrounding community,” legal representative David Gill wrote in a statement to the county. “The proposal will provide a convenience store use that will serve the needs of motorists, while improving the traffic operations and safety of this portion of Ravensworth Shopping Center.”

The Fairfax County Planning Commission is expected to discuss the proposal on May 22 at 7:30 p.m. The owner did not return requests for comment from FFXnow.

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A Virginia State Police vehicle (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A person has died after a three-vehicle crash occurred early this morning (Monday) on I-95 in the Springfield area.

According to the Virginia State Police, troopers responded to a crash in the interstate’s southbound lanes at the 169 mile marker (Franconia Road) around 3:33 a.m.

“The impact of the crash caused one of the vehicles to strike the cement Jersey wall and catch fire,” VSP spokesperson Corinne Geller said in a statement. “A passerby was able to pull the passenger from the burning vehicle.”

The driver of the burning vehicle has been confirmed as the fatality. The passenger was transported to Inova Fairfax Hospital for treatment of serious injuries.

The occupants of the other two vehicles involved in the crash did not report any serious injuries, the VSP says. An investigation of the crash is currently underway.

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Morning Notes

Traffic and construction on I-66 outside the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Two Hospitalized in West Springfield Crash — “Yesterday at 4:09 PM, units responded to three-car crash on Old Keene Mill Rd at Hillside Rd. #FCFRD used “jaws of life” to free 2 persons from one car. Both transported to hospital w/serious, non-life threatening, injuries. 1 person from another car transported w/minor injuries.” [FCFRD/Twitter]

Virginia Hits 14-Year High in Crash Fatalities — “In 2021, 968 people died in crashes on Virginia roads. That’s up 14.3% from 2020, when there were 847 crash fatalities. And it’s the highest number of annual deaths since 2007, which saw 1,026 fatalities.” [WTOP]

Merrifield Cancer Screening Center to Open Next Month — “The Inova Saville Cancer Screening and Prevention Center will be the first of its kind in Northern Virginia. It’s designed to be a one-stop shop to not only detect the disease but prevent it. Anyone can make an appointment, and referrals are not needed.” [NBC4]

Reston Association Unveils Pool Schedule — “Summer is coming soon & so are the pools! We’re excited to announce the schedules for Seasons 1, 2, and 3, of our pool facilities! You can also find scheduled RSTA swim meets, and our Memorial Day hours at reston.org/aquatics!” [RA/Twitter]

Vienna Artist Reacts to War in Homeland — “The war in Ukraine hits hard for Vienna Arts Society member Viktoriya Maslova, who was born and grew up in that Eastern European nation…Speaking at the Vienna Art Center on April 13, Maslova described how Russian forces had invaded her homeland from three sides in what she said was an effort to displace Ukraine’s government.” [Sun Gazette]

Fire Department Encourages Fitness with Chantilly Center — “The Wellfit center offers strength training and physical therapy for Fairfax County’s finest and is part of an all-encompassing strategy FCFRD has undertaken that is unique in the country. Alongside these services, the department provides dietary guidance and behavioral counseling…to ensure firefighters are in the best shape possible to perform their arduous tasks.” [Fairfax Times]

Big Trucks to Motor into Herndon — “Families with children who love big trucks take notice. The Town of Herndon’s Department of Public Works will be putting the town’s large vehicles and heavy equipment on display during ‘Big Truck Days’ in May.” [Patch]

It’s Wednesday — Clear throughout the day. High of 60 and low of 37. Sunrise at 6:26 am and sunset at 7:52 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Fairfax County Connector in Reston (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority wants the public’s input on more than two dozen projects that could drastically change travel in the region.

The projects cover a six-year funding span and involve over $1.2 billion in requests, though the authority acknowledged it’s not immediately clear how much funding will be available.

Launched Friday (April 15), the public input period lasts through May 22. People can comment by email, an online form, voicemail or mail as well as in-person or remote testimony at a May 12 hearing.

Fairfax County has requested a total of $572 million — the most of any jurisdiction — for seven projects:

  • Fairfax Connector: $10 million to buy eight electric buses for an express route between Tysons and Franconia
  • Fairfax Station: $108 million to add two lanes to Fairfax County Parkway (Route 286) for a 2-mile stretch near Route 123
  • Mount Vernon District: $80 million for a $730 million project to add bus rapid transit along a 7.4-mile stretch of Route 1
  • Mount Vernon: $60.2 million for a $415 million project to add two lanes to a 3.1-mile section of Route 1 and provide other multimodal upgrades
  • Reston: $73.8 million for the $235 million Soapstone Connector. The planned one-mile extension of the roadway over the Dulles Toll Road will span Sunrise Valley Drive to Sunset Hills Road, providing vehicular lanes with a middle turning lane, bicycle lanes, and sidewalks.
  • Seven Corners: $94.8 million to start the first segment of a “ring road” at the often congested and circuitous intersection
  • Springfield: $145.2 million to extend Frontier Drive to Loisdale Road, reducing trip times and providing new access to the Franconia-Springfield Metro station and co-located Virginia Railway Express station
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Vehicles parked long-term in two Springfield commuter lots are preventing those spaces from being properly used, an organizer of the area’s sluglines program says.

Fairfax County pays for 235 spots at Springfield Plaza (7025 Old Keene Mill Road) through two leasing agreements worth over $199,000 per year. The spots are supposed to be reserved for commuters, but sluglines organizer Nicole Miller says several vehicles stay parked there for weeks.

“Those cars have been there 30 days plus,” she said in an email to FFXnow, citing four vehicles and an ice-cream trailer.

The ice-cream trailer, which is acting as a pop-up food truck, and other vehicles are using the premium commuter parking spots, making them unavailable for commuters, says Miller, who has tried to get the county to have them towed.

Both lots must have the spaces available for commuters between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation says staff have talked about the issue with the lot owners, who are responsible for enforcing those hours, according to their lease agreements.

The lower lot where the ice-cream truck parks must have 127 spaces for commuters, delineated by blue parking space lines. The county currently pays over $648 per each spot there for the year as well as paving work under a 2019 lease agreement.

Fairfax County leases commuter spots in two Springfield Plaza parking lots (via Fairfax County board documents)

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the agreement in June 2019 to give commuters a substitute for the nearby Old Keene Mill Park and Ride, which was rendered unusable by construction of the new six-level Springfield parking garage slated to open in 2023.

The Springfield Plaza lot appears to be owned by property management company Rappaport under the name Springfield Plaza LLC. A Rappaport executive responsible for shopping centers declined to comment, saying he’s “not the right person to answer those questions” and has “forwarded your email along to the appropriate person.”

The county has to keep leasing the blue-marked spaces until it has completed the new Springfield parking garage and transportation center. Read More

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New restaurant coming to Brookfield Plaza (staff photo by David Taube)

A new Korean restaurant is preparing to open at Brookfield Plaza in Springfield.

Under the trade name MCDD Springfield, the restaurant Makchang Dodook recently obtained a license for wine and beer in a mixed-beverage restaurant from the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority.

The eatery will be located at 7024 Spring Garden Drive between the Korean fried chicken restaurant Bonchon and Dera Restaurant, which serves Pakistani cuisine.

The business has faced a lengthy timeline for opening. An application to establish the restaurant was submitted on April 15, 2021, and it’s been picking up permits throughout 2021 and 2022.

A Bonchon restaurant worker said the new place, which belongs to the same owner, is scheduled to open next week. She said it would mark the first U.S. location of the chain Makchang Dodook.

According to the company’s website, Makchang Dodook started in the South Korean city of Daegu and has 110 franchises around the world, including in China and Vietnam.

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