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Sandbox VR is planning to open a virtual reality gaming center at The Boro in Tysons (courtesy Sandbox VR)

(Updated at 10:25 a.m.) In case the apocalyptic vision of HBO’s “The Last of Us” adaptation isn’t immersive enough, you’ll soon be able to physically battle zombie hordes at The Boro.

The Tysons neighborhood will be home to a new virtual reality gaming venue from the San Francisco-based startup Sandbox VR, which says it utilizes full-body motion capture technology to achieve a level of realism and immersion inspired by the holodecks in “Star Trek.”

The deal was first reported by the Washington Business Journal.

According to a press release, Sandbox has leased a 7,500-square-feet space at 1656 Silver Hill Drive that will feature four private gaming rooms, or holodecks, which can each accommodate up to six players. The center is expected to open this summer.

Located across the street from the ShowPlace ICON Theatre, the new tenant is part of a push to provide more “experiential” amenities for residents and workers, according to The Meridian Group, the developer behind The Boro.

“At The Boro, we strive to create an interactive, socially engaged neighborhood cultivated by experiential retailers like Sandbox VR,” Meridian Vice President of Asset Management Charlie Schwieger said. “With a concept that promotes community and team building through technological innovation, Sandbox VR makes a unique, exciting addition to The Boro’s growing portfolio of eclectic restaurants, shops and attractions.”

Launched in 2019, Sandbox has over 30 locations worldwide and counts celebrities Will Smith, Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake and Kevin Durant among its investors, according to its website. The Tysons location will be the first in Virginia, though Virginia Beach and Woodbridge centers are also in the works.

Sandbox VR offers six different virtual reality “experiences,” including one involving zombie-fighting (courtesy The Boro)

The company says its in-house studio has developed six different “experiences,” including a pirate adventure, a haunted-house game and the latest addition involving zombies.

The Boro shared more on how the holodecks work in its press release:

The Boro’s Sandbox VR location will feature 4 private rooms for virtual reality gameplay called “holodecks,” in which groups of up to six players will explore virtual worlds and rely on each other to succeed in games designed to be social experiences. Together with friends, family, or co-workers, players are equipped with a VR headset, a haptic vest, a backpack and motion sensors on their wrists and ankles. This technology allows players to see and physically interact with one another while feeling like they are in the middle of an action movie, with the heightened emotions that come from not just watching a film, but from actually becoming the stars of the action.

David Friedman, Sandbox’s vice president of global real estate, said the company was drawn to Tysons due to its proximity to D.C. and status as “one of the largest areas for office and retail in the country.”

Just last month, the Boro welcomed the long-awaited restaurants Circa and Él Bebe. The burger joint Caliburger is expected to open at 8301 Greensboro Drive in the first quarter of this year.

Construction on a second phase of The Boro on the north side of Westpark Drive is on track to reach substantial completion in 2025.

Work began last April on The Trillium, a 16-story senior living facility, and Fairfax County approved plans for more residential buildings a month later. In total, the 9.37-acre expansion will add 160,000 square feet of retail and 610,000 square feet of housing.

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The final phase of a concept plan to redevelop the Boro East office complex in Tysons (via Fairfax County)

A shake-up may be coming to the EastBoro offices, where companies like Booz Allen Hamilton and Alarm.com are currently headquartered.

The building that houses Alarm.com, which shared plans to expand back in February, is one of two that The Meridian Group has proposed razing to make room for housing and retail development on the block bounded by Solutions, Greensboro and Pinnacle drives.

In a proposal submitted for Fairfax County’s Site-Specific Plan Amendment (SSPA) process, the developer asks the county for the flexibility to favor residential uses in the block, instead of offices, a shift that would more closely align the site with The Boro, its growing Tysons neighborhood to the west.

“This amendment seeks to further the mixed-use environment that has been successful in the submarket already,” Venable land use lawyer Zachary Williams wrote in the Oct. 24 application, citing “the continuously fluctuating office market resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors” as justification for the request.

Right now, the four parcels in question — collectively referred to as “The Boro-East” — are occupied by five office buildings and parking. They’re designated as a transit station mixed use area in the Tysons Comprehensive Plan, which recommends an overall mix of 65% office and 20% or more residential uses.

With no upper limit set for housing, Meridian has proposed transforming EastBoro with approximately 1.9 square feet of development, 32% of which would be office, 64% residential, and 4% retail.

Described as “one of several potential redevelopment scenarios,” the concept plan calls for the buildings at 8251 and 8281 Greensboro Drive to be demolished, leaving 611,158 square feet of office space.

The resulting development would have seven buildings with a total of 974 residential units and 96,000 square feet of retail. Constructed in three phases, the buildings could range in height from a two-level retail podium to a 14-story residential high-rise.

The plan also shows a central plaza and four parking structures, providing 3,291 spaces, including 52 surface parking spots.

“Additional residential development helps buoy retail traffic and office traffic creating a node that is attractive not only to work, but also to live,” Williams wrote. “This nomination would create flexibility in the designated percentages for office use to be below 65% and residential use to exceed 60% to reflect current market trends.”

While office-to-residential swaps have been trendy in Fairfax County, Meridian’s request comes as a slight surprise when the developer is also seeking the option to build offices in place of an approved residential tower on a different section of The Boro.

With Boro Tower fully leased, Meridian says it’s still getting demand for more office space in the neighborhood, but it hasn’t necessarily settled on one option or the other for that planned high-rise.

“While the pandemic resulted in a time when remote/hybrid work is dominant, trends show that more companies plan to bring their employees back into the office and are seeking modern, tech-enhanced buildings to do so,” Meridian Vice President of Asset Management Charlie Schwieger said by email. “TMG understands and will implement this concept into a new office building, if we decide to go that route.”

The application was among dozens that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted on Dec. 6 to advance to a screening phase. The SSPA proposals will now be more closely reviewed by county staff, with community meetings expected early next year.

Other advanced nominations in the Tysons area include a redevelopment of the Koons auto dealerships and mixed-use projects in Idylwood and Merrifield.

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The wait for new restaurants at The Boro in Tysons is over at last.

Circa bistro (1675 Silver Hill Drive) and Él Bebe (8354 Broad Street), a Mexican restaurant and bar, will open their doors to diners at 4 p.m. today, said the Metropolitan Hospitality Group (MHG), which owns both brands.

This is the fourth Circa overall and second in Virginia, after an Arlington restaurant opened in 2011. Specializing in tacos and tequila, Él Bebe launched at D.C.’s Navy Yard in 2019, making the Tysons location its first expansion.

“We think in many ways, we’re kind of bringing the city out to Tysons,” MHG President Matthew Carlin said. “We have Circa and Él Bebe at the Navy Yard, here in Nats Park, so we’re most excited to bring some of our D.C. concepts…to Tysons and The Boro.”

When MHG announced in November 2019 that it was bringing two restaurants to The Boro, the company anticipated that they would open in late 2020 or early 2021. At that time, Él Bebe was going to be joined by Open Road, another American bistro concept that has a location in Merrifield.

Then, COVID-19 showed up.

Construction took “much longer than we ever imagined,” Carlin told FFXnow. Global supply chain issues resulted in equipment, particularly if it involved computer chips, taking months to arrive.

At the same time, the initial pause in construction in spring 2020 gave MHG and The Meridian Group, the developer behind The Boro, an opportunity to revise their plans.

“The longer we talked with The Meridian Group, they felt like Circa would be a better fit [than Open Road], because it’s a little more contemporary and would be a better fit for some of the office tenants,” Carlin said.

The company is also working on an Open Road Distillery and a “speakeasy” restaurant called Heirloom at Reston Town Center, so it wanted to bring something different to Tysons, he added.

Circa and Él Bebe are located in adjoining 5,000-square-foot suites in Boro Tower, directly across from ShowPlace ICON Theatre with a view overlooking Boro Park. They both allow outdoor dining, including on a 2,000-square-foot patio for Circa with an awning and bar seating.

Carlin says MHG had been interested in expanding to Tysons and specifically The Boro for a while.

“The Boro market for us is a perfect demographic, where it has really extraordinary commercial, office and residential demographics, and we think with the Silver Line and Greensboro Metro [station] right here, it’s easily accessible,” he said

The restaurants will open at 11 a.m. daily with happy hours from 4-7 p.m. on Monday through Thursday.

Here’s more from MHG and The Boro on what to expect from the eateries: Read More

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The Boro in Tysons will kick off its winter holiday festivities this Saturday (courtesy The Boro)

Updated at 5:45 p.m.With rain in the forecast for this Saturday, “Rudolph’s Rockin’ Reindeer Games” has been postponed to Saturday, Dec. 17, The Boro announced today.

Earlier: Officially, winter won’t come for another three weeks, but as far as the Tysons area is concerned, its spirit is already in the air.

This weekend will bring a number of festive, mostly Christmas-oriented events to usher in the colder weather and upcoming winter holidays, from a dance party at The Boro to the previously announced McLean Holiday Art and Crafts Festival.

Winter Boroland

The Boro in Tysons will kick off its festivities from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday (Dec. 3) with Rudolph’s Rockin’ Reindeer Games, which it describes as the “ultimate holiday dance party.”

“Get your groove on with friends, families and neighbors at this holiday-themed dance party featuring a live DJ,” the development said in a press release. “Move and sing to your favorite seasonal tunes while sipping hot cocoa, doing arts and crafts and capturing memories (with Santa photo ops!) for your holiday card. Take part in a special scavenger hunt and compete in reindeer games like freeze dance, red light green light and limbo!”

Santa will be present for photos from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The festivities at Boro Park (8350 Broad Street) are free, but advance registration is encouraged.

Winter Boroland will continue on Dec. 10 with a Holiday Movie Pajama Party at ShowPlace ICON Theatre, which will screen three films that morning:

  • 9:45 a.m. — Arthur Christmas (2011)
  • 10 a.m. — The Polar Express (2004)
  • 10:15 a.m. — Elf (2003)

Tickets cost $8 but include admission, a small popcorn, an apple juice, a goodie bag with candy and a holiday craft, and a photo booth opportunity.

Reindog Parade

Over in McLean, the annual “Reindog Parade” will return to the Langley Shopping Center for a 25th year on Saturday.

Hosted by the Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce, the event invites community members to dress up their pet dogs for a parade that will start at 8 a.m. outside Flowers & Plants Etc. (1378 Chain Bridge Road).

Prizes will be determined by a panel of judges, including Del. Marcus Simon (D-53). Dominion Energy spokesperson and former WUSA9 Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Peggy Fox will serve as emcee.

In addition to the parade, the 90-minute event will feature gift bags for participants, hot chocolate and donuts, music by Bristol Sounds, and an appearance by Santa, per the chamber of commerce. An antique McLean Volunteer Fire Department engine and Dominion Energy bucket truck will also be at the scene.

The fire department will have holiday ornaments for sale as a fundraiser, the chamber told FFXnow.

As in past years, the chamber is asking participants to bring two cans of dog food that will be donated to a local animal shelter as a form of “admission.”

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A residential high-rise planned for The Boro in Tysons (via Fairfax County)

The developer behind The Boro in Tysons is rethinking its plans to build a residential high-rise on what’s currently a parking lot in front of the mixed-use neighborhood.

In an Oct. 17 proposal to Fairfax County, The Meridian Group seeks to turn an approved 310-foot-tall residential tower into a 304-foot-tall office building — an unexpected shift when high office vacancies and demand for more housing has most developers moving in the opposite direction, as the Washington Business Journal noted.

The application still maintains housing as an option for the tower at 8399 Westpark Drive, known in development plans as Building B1:

  • Option 1: A 304-foot-tall office building with up to 420,000 square feet of office and 20,000 square feet of ground-floor retail
  • Option 2: A 357-foot-tall residential building with up to 425 multifamily dwelling units and 20,000 square feet of ground-floor retail

“The proposed office option will provide the Applicant with additional flexibility to respond to market fluctuations in its ongoing efforts to attract tenants to the Boro and Tysons as a whole,” Walsh Colucci attorney Robert Brant wrote in a statement of justification for Meridian.

In either scenario, the building would be paired with another high-rise labeled Building B2, a 395-foot-tall residential building with up to 550 multifamily dwelling units and up to 12,000 square of ground-floor retail.

“By preserving residential options for both Buildings B1 and B2, the Applicant retains the ability to attract more residents to a rapidly growing and highly desirable area of Tysons in close proximity to major employers, retailers, Metro, urban parks, and other attractive amenities,” Brant wrote.

The Boro’s planned Block B consists of the completed The Loft (Building B3), a proposed residential high-rise (Building B2), and an office or residential high-rise (Building B1) (via Fairfax County)

If Meridian opts for offices in Building B1, it estimates that the development would generate 4,925 vehicle trips per day and host about 1,400 employees, based on the county’s standard ratio of one employee per 300 square feet of office.

The developer says it’s committed to making 55% of all trips undertaken by Metro, bus or walking.

With the application, Meridian is also requesting that the parking garage for the towers be connected to The Loft, the retail and office condominium building directly to their rear along Boro Place that was completed in 2019.

The parking garage will consist of eight above-grade levels and two underground levels. The developer says the podium could either be built all at once — where interim, private amenities would be provided for residents on the top level — or with the eastern portion under Building B2 coming in first.

In the latter case, the garage would serve Building B2’s residents and retail, while the remaining land on the western part of the block is used as a surface parking lot until the second phase is built with Building B1.

When fully built, The Boro will have five blocks with approximately 5 million square feet of development, 1.7 million of which was delivered with its completed first phase.

Meridian is also working to expand the neighborhood with another five buildings on the other side of Westpark Drive. Construction on The Trillium, a senior living facility, began in April.

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Tysons Corner Center (file photo)

Halloween is showing up on Tysons Corner Center’s doorstep a couple weeks early this year.

The mall’s Fall Festival this weekend will include a full Halloween experience, with trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving, and other activities.

The festivities will mostly unfold on the Plaza, where Maniac Pumpkin Carvers founder Marc Evans will put on live pumpkin-carving demonstrations from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. There will also be face painting, a photo booth, a vender market, a beer garden from Barrel & Bushel, and a Seasons52 wine tent.

Live entertainment will be provided by country musician Scott Kurt and the bands Under the Covers and The Moonlighters. In addition, the Traveling Players Ensemble will stage a puppet show from 1-5 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday).

There will also be a kids’ corn maze set up on Sunday (Oct. 16).

Kids who arrive between noon and 2 p.m. on both days can participate in Tysons Mall-o-Ween, where they’l be able to collect candy from over 40 retailers in the mall. Free tote bags will be handed out at the Plaza.

Advance registration is required for Mall-o-Ween, but only one ticket is needed per family, according to an announcement on Facebook. The mall encourages kids to don costumes, but Halloween masks won’t be allowed inside.

The Town of Vienna is also getting a head start on the season of ghosts and ghouls with Halloween on the Green.

From 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. tomorrow, the parks and recreation department will offer snacks, games and prizes, story times, moon bounces, crafts and pumpkin decorating at the Vienna Town Green. The event page says a limited number of pumpkins will be available.

For area residents who’d prefer to celebrate closer to the actual holiday, Vienna will have its annual Halloween parade at 7 p.m. on Oct. 26. Saturday, Oct. 29, will bring costume contests to The Boro and The Perch at Capital One Center, and a Festival of Frights to McLean Community Center’s Old Firehouse.

The Mosaic District in Merrifield will close the weekend with a Halloween Spooktacular, which will feature trick-or-treating and a screening of the 2019 “Addams Family” movie on Oct. 30.

Finally, on Halloween itself (Monday, Oct. 31), Celebrate Fairfax will throw a party at The PARC (8508 Leesburg Pike) with “face painting, balloon twisting, mad science activities, and of course candy and other treats,” according to the Facebook event page.

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The Boro previously invited dogs to a “Yappy Hour” in June (courtesy Lancer Photography/The Boro)

(Updated at 2 p.m.) Dogs will be the ones dressing up for spooky season at The Boro this year.

The Tysons neighborhood will host a “Best in Show” dog costume contest on Saturday, Oct. 29 to celebrate Halloween.

Registration for the free event is now open and required for all participants in the dog show, which will be accompanied by a Bone Bar with pet treats. The booth previously made an appearance at the “Yappy Hour” Pride Month fundraiser in June.

Scheduled to run from 3-8:30 p.m., The Boro’s Halloween festivities will also offer trick-or-treating, an outdoor screening of the live-action “Scooby-Doo” at 6:30 p.m., and other activities for human attendees, per a media alert:

Don’t have a dog of your own? Guests are invited to watch Best in Show at The Boro and enjoy a live DJ, crafting stations, trick-or-treating, face painting and glitter tattoos. There will also be plenty of Instagrammable moments with light-up marquee letters spelling “BOO!” And once the sun goes down, everyone is invited to head to The Sandlot for Scooby-Doo (2002) under the stars.

Other happenings at The Boro this month include a free exercise boot camp this Saturday (Oct. 8), yoga on Oct. 12 and 19, Sandlot Cars and Coffee on Oct. 16, and an American Red Cross blood drive on Oct. 26.

For those more interested in retail updates at the development, Metropolitan Hospitality Group now says it’s looking to open El Bebe and Circa in November — slightly later than the previously hoped-for October time frame.

However, staff could start moving into the restaurants at the base of Boro Tower soon.

“Our team is looking forward to entering the space this month,” a spokesperson said.

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The Boro is bringing back its annual Oktoberfest celebration (courtesy The Boro Tysons/Lancer Photography)

October will come a couple of weeks early to The Boro in Tysons.

With fall on the horizon, the mixed-use neighborhood near the Greensboro Metro station announced earlier this month will host an Oktoberfest celebration at 8350 Broad Street on Sept. 17.

Here’s more from the news alert on what to expect from the event, which will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. at Boro Park with a biergarten from The Sandlot Tysons:

Sip a stein and join friends and family for an afternoon of fall-themed festivities including outdoor games, crafts and a special Polka concert by The TKO Band (dirndls and lederhosen optional!).

The day will be packed with fun activities and giveaways, with special Oktoberfest embroidered pins, a glitter tattoo station, pretzel necklace making and plenty of IG-worthy photo ops in front of marquee letters that spell out “Prost!”. The first 150 guests to arrive at Boro Park will receive their very own branded mug from The Boro!

Oktoberfest at The Boro will be free and open to the general public, but advance registration is encouraged, the alert said.

In the meantime, the wait for The Boro’s newest restaurants will drag on into the autumn, despite previously expressed hopes for summer openings.

The Mexican restaurant El Bebe and Circa bistro don’t have set opening dates “but hope to open sometime in October,” says a spokesperson for Metropolitan Hospitality Group, which owns both brands.

“There have been a few delays,” the spokesperson said in an email. “I am not aware of all of the details, but I know that (as is the case with most projects) construction is taking longer than we thought it would.”

Caliburger didn’t immediately return FFXnow’s request for comment, but broker H&R Retail’s site plan for The Boro suggests the California-based burger chain will open later than El Bebe and Circa.

News that Caliburger was bringing a restaurant to the neighborhood first came out in November 2019, while El Bebe was once expected to open in late 2020 or early 2021. It was initially paired with Open Road Grill, another concept from MHG, but the restaurant group later switched to Circa.

The last retail tenant to open at The Boro was Bluestone Lane in October.

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Community members have criticized the placement of tree planters by curbside parking spaces in The Boro (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The accessibility of Tysons is under a microscope after community members pointed out oversights at The Boro that make the development challenging to navigate for people with disabilities.

In a presentation to the Fairfax County Planning Commission’s Tysons Committee last week, county staff said they’re looking more closely at how developments are designed — from the availability of drop-off zones to the slope of a sidewalk — and flagging potential issues earlier when reviewing new proposals.

“We’re going to continue to raise these concerns with applicants during the review and working toward continual improvement as the development of Tysons builds out, so we’re keeping a really close eye on these and trying to get better and better as we go,” Suzie Battista, the Department of Planning and Development’s (DPD) urban centers section chief, said at the July 14 meeting.

Accessibility Issues Found at The Boro

Since its first phase came online in 2019 and 2020, The Boro has exemplified both the promise of Tysons and the obstacles facing the county’s vision of a walkable, inclusive urban center.

Built by The Meridian Group, The Boro brought 1.7 million square feet of development to two blocks near Leesburg Pike and the Greensboro Metro station, including 677 housing units, 500,000 square feet of office space, and retail anchored by Whole Foods and the ShowPlace ICON Theater.

After all that construction, the new neighborhood failed to consider the needs of people with mobility issues, says retired architect and The Boro resident John Colby, who shared his concerns in a Washington Post op-ed last year.

None of the 34 street parking spaces were reserved for people with disabilities, as all 31 Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant spaces are inside garages. There are no drop-off or loading zones, and the button for the entrance to the Verse condominiums, where Colby lives, is frequently broken, he told the Tysons Committee.

“ADA-compliant entry doors are minimally required at public-to-private interfaces, such as entry doors from the street, but not private-to-private internal doors,” he said. “Contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of the ADA law, those dependent on a wheelchair are thus denied unaccompanied access to our building’s fitness and meeting rooms, the half-acre skypark, and similar amenities.”

Other issues are more subtle, such as a garage entrance and utility manhole cover on Silver Hill Drive that make those areas of the sidewalk steeper than the adjacent street — putting it out of compliance with the ADA, according to Fairfax County Tysons Urban Center Coordinator William Marsh. Read More

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The Sandlot pop-up bar at The Boro in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The Boro in Tysons is going to the dogs this weekend, hosting a pair of canine-friendly events that will also benefit a local LGBTQ youth advocacy group.

The mixed-use development near the Greensboro Metro station is inviting pups and their humans alike to a “Yappy Hour” at 5-7 p.m. tomorrow (Friday).

The Sandlot Tysons (1640 Boro Place) will feature a Bone Bar with dog treats and branded bag holder giveaways and a photo opportunity in front of the word “bark” spelled out in “jumbo light-up letters,” according to a news release.

There will also be live music and cocktails, and the local nonprofit Wolf Trap Animal Rescue will be present to share information about fostering a dog. A portion of all beverage proceeds will go to Safe Space NOVA, an Alexandria-based nonprofit that provides support and resources to LGBTQ teens.

In addition to offering a support group, educational programs, and social activities, the organization will host its annual Pride Prom for high school students at The St. James in Springfield tomorrow. Designed to be inclusive of all genders and sexual orientations, the event had been on a two-year break due to the pandemic.

“In celebration of Pride Month, The Boro is excited to partner with one of the great local organizations aiming to help members of the LGBTQ+ community,” The Boro said in a statement. “Safe Space NOVA is dedicated to providing a safe, accepting and supporting environment to combat social stigmas, bullying and other challenges faced by LGBTQ+ youth.”

“Yappy Hour” is free and open to the general public, but the development encourages registering in advance through Eventbrite.

The following morning will bring a less-boozy affair with a “Camp Bark” training session at Boro Park.

A local trainer will lead the class for beginners from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday (June 25). Free coffee and treats will be available, and a portion of sales from the tickets, which cost $10 per dog, will be donated to Safe Space NOVA.

Registration on Eventbrite is required for participants.

Additional Pride Month events coming to the Tysons area this June include the Mosaic District’s first-ever Pride Celebration on Saturday and a concert by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington at Capital One Hall on Sunday (June 26).

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