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Tysons Corner Center is now home to one of three “LOVE” signs in Fairfax County (courtesy Tysons Corner Center)

Local artists could get their work seen by tens of millions of people under a new partnership between Tysons Corner Center and Fairfax County’s official arts agency.

Property owner and developer Macerich announced yesterday (Tuesday) that it has teamed up with ArtsFairfax on an initiative to enlist individual artists and groups “to activate several spaces” in the mall with temporary installations.

The selected artwork will be on display for at least eight weeks, according to the press release:

The goals for this initiative are to create unique and interactive art environments, echo Tysons Corner Center as a contemporary and creative destination, and most importantly, to showcase the talents of local artists and arts organizations.

This unique collaboration will enable the more than 22 million yearly visitors who explore Tysons Corner Center’s retail and entertainment offerings to discover the diversity, creativity, and quality of visual artists from the Fairfax region.

The submission period opened on July 7, and contracts will be awarded on a rolling basis through Dec. 31, according to ArtsFairfax.

Applications can be filed through ArtsFairfax’s website, but they’re being evaluated solely by Macerich.

Tysons Corner Center also announced yesterday that it has recently acquired a permanent installation: a 6-foot-tall, 7,000-pound “LOVE” sign.

The sign comes from the Virginia Tourism Corporation as part of its ongoing “LOVE works” campaign, which has placed more than 300 similar signs across the state. The Tysons Corner Center sign will be just the third in Fairfax County, joining displays at Reston Station and the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton.

“The steel display features a uniquely designed ‘V’ that represents the shopping center,” Tysons Corner Center said in the press release. “This installation also has a QR code in which, upon scanning, visitors will learn about tourism in Fairfax County and things to do in the surrounding area.”

The mall says the installation was funded with a grant from the VTC’s DRIVE Tourism 2.0 plan, which is the state’s blueprint for promoting travel and tourism, and “was made possible through a partnership with Visit Fairfax and Virginia Tourism.”

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Visit Fairfax President and CEO Barry Biggar talks outside George Washington’s Mount Vernon for a tourism event (staff photo by David Taube)

Visit Fairfax is exploring the idea of a tourism improvement district, which could mean an added fee to hotel stays and other amenities.

The tourism organization’s president and CEO, Barry Biggar, said the proposal could go to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for a vote this September. The fee would go toward marketing the region, in accordance with a General Assembly law passed last year.

Biggar says southern Fairfax County will be targeted for the district, which would act on its own authority and set fees that could vary for different business types. It would mark a first for the county and could be a model for other areas, he said.

“That money then is collected, accumulated and used purely for the purpose of marketing, promoting the area…which collects the money, but also capital development and capital improvement,” Biggar told FFXnow.

The move could generate an estimated $1 million per year from hotels and restaurants, Biggar said.

It comes amid a county effort to revitalize and rebrand the Route 1 corridor. So far, that push has brought promises of bus rapid transit and a “Potomac Banks: Explore Fairfax South” tourism campaign with a discount pass for historic sites, partnering businesses and more.

“Only the hotels here in the area would be included, so that wouldn’t be added to a Tysons hotel,” Biggar said of the possible fee. “For a hotel, they may go, ‘We’ll do a dollar a room per night.’ For a restaurant, they may go…a half a percent of the total bill. For an attraction, you know, maybe 50 cents per admission.”

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Just in time for the summer tourist season, Fairfax County is stepping up its efforts to promote the amenities in its southeastern area, providing a discount pass for admissions and more.

County and tourism officials, along with staff of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, touted a new digital pass yesterday (Wednesday) that gives visitors at historic sites and other destinations 20% off admissions and other deals.

Launched last December, the branding campaign is called “Potomac Banks: Explore Fairfax South” and was developed by the digital marketing agency Streetsense. It was showcased during a media event outside the first president’s mansion overlooking the Potomac River.

“Fairfax South is the place to be,” said Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, who started the Mount Vernon Tourism Task Force in 2019 that led to the branding.

Storck, who was a President Abe Lincoln re-enactor for 25 years, said his love of history was a driving force in showcasing the region’s amenities.

An original marketing push rolled out in February 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic soon took hold in the U.S., particularly damaging the hotel and restaurant industries, Storck said.

The effort also includes one year of marketing with a business development campaign, said Barry Biggar, president and CEO of Visit Fairfax, the area’s official tourism organization.

“Now the real work begins,” he said.

Savings pass launched to promote region

The pandemic-induced delay meant the marketing effort could include a new feature: the Potomac Banks Savings Pass, a $46 pass that gives discounted admission to partnering sites, including George Washington’s Mount Vernon, George Mason’s Gunston Hall and Woodlawn & Pope-Leighey House.

The pass, which has a $25 version for kids ages 6 through 11, also provides deals on tours, gifts and activities at sites such as the National Museum of the U.S. Army, the Workhouse Arts Center, G34.3 Brewing Co., Woodlawn Press Winery and Historic Huntley.

The pass is valid for 90 days, but once it’s first redeemed at a site, it lasts for seven days.

While Washington’s historic property has weathered the pandemic and had buses of visitors there yesterday, other sites will be able to cross-promote.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said teachers and textbooks are amazing, but nothing can replace experiencing history in person, and there are historic assets right in people’s backyards to enjoy that people from across the world come to visit.

Biggar said there are plans to create the county’s first tourism improvement district in southern Fairfax County. He said it could be a model for the rest of the region.

According to Biggar, Fairfax County’s tourism dollars generate the most revenue for the Commonwealth of any jurisdiction. The county’s tourism industry generated more than $3 billion in 2019, and he projects it will reach $4.5 billion in five years.

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