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Panera has closed its Tysons Corner Center location (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Panera Bread has left Tysons Corner Center.

The fast-casual bakery’s first-floor location by McDonald’s is permanently closed after at least 14 years at the mall, according to Yelp.

A worker at the nearby Panera in Pike 7 Plaza confirmed to FFXnow that the closure came shortly before Christmas.

“I heard it’s because they didn’t have enough workers,” the employee said.

Panera’s corporate office didn’t respond to requests for comment by press time.

A notice posted to the storefront encouraged customers to visit the chain’s Pike 7 Plaza or Falls Church City locations. The company also has a bakery at 136 Maple Avenue in Vienna.

Other recent developments at the mall include the arrival of a stall for Donutchew, a growing mochi doughnut business that also has a location in Vienna. A temporary exhibition of art rescued from Afghanistan or created by evacuated artists is also now on display outside Macy’s.

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An opportunity for local artists to gain exposure at the D.C. area’s biggest mall has been extended through the new year.

ArtsFairfax, the nonprofit arts agency for Fairfax County, announced on Dec. 22 that it will continue to partner with Tysons Corner Center owner Macerich to bring temporary art installations to the mall.

The collaboration was originally set to conclude on Dec. 31, 2022, but the quality of the 19 submissions that they received convinced ArtsFairfax and Macerich to keep the portal open for 2023. All artists and arts organizations based in Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church can apply.

“We had some excellent applicants, and they wanted to be able to accommodate more artists on an ongoing basis,” ArtsFairfax Senior Director of Grants and Services Lisa Mariam said. “We continue to be getting the applications and interest.”

The first exhibition resulting from the initiative, which launched in July, is currently on display in the second-floor hall outside Macy’s.

Developed by ArtLords, an Afghanistan-based street artist collective with an office in Tysons, the installation features 30 paintings that were either rescued from Afghanistan when the Taliban took over the country in August 2021 or created afterwards by recently evacuated artists.

An opening reception will be held from 6-8 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday) to celebrate the installation, which is scheduled to remain on display through February.

To involve more artists, Tysons Corner Center will open up additional sites for exhibits, including a space by Barnes & Noble where ArtLords is planning to add a mural, according to Mariam.

The applications are collected and vetted by ArtsFairfax but chosen by Macerich. Mariam says the real estate company is currently negotiating agreements with at least two other artists.

In addition to lending some color to Tysons Corner Center and giving artists a platform to display their work for the 22 million people who visit the mall each year, the partnership has helped ArtsFairfax get acquainted with new artists and organizations, Mariam says.

“It’s been a really great experience for us, because through gathering these proposals, we’ve been learning about a lot of new artists that we weren’t even aware were living or working in Fairfax County,” she told FFXnow, noting that making those connections now will be especially useful as the agency gears up to do a census of local artists.

ArtsFairfax obtained funding for the census project in November, though Mariam said it’s too early to share details of exactly what it will entail. The count will help the agency know what services it needs to provide and focus its advocacy efforts on behalf of the arts community.

The findings will be integrated into a Master Arts Plan that the agency is developing with Fairfax County.

Eligibility criteria and other information about the Tysons Corner Center partnership can be found at ArtsFairfax’s submissions portal. The mall has committed to keeping each installation up for at least eight weeks.

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Tysons Corner Center (file photo)

Fairfax County police are investigating a “smash-and-grab” jewelry store robbery at Tysons Corner Center.

The suspect used a hammer to smash display cases at Elite Jewelers, which is on the mall’s first floor near Macy’s, the Fairfax County Police Department reported at 5:53 p.m. on Sunday (Jan. 1).

Police say the suspect was a man wearing a white, hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans. Surveillance footage shared by the department show the man wearing a disposable blue surgical mask and sneakers. In a couple of images, he appears to be talking on a cell phone.

The sound of the cases being smashed evidently prompted another unfounded panic about a shooting at Tysons Corner Center, though the FCPD confirmed that there were no shots fired.

As reported by ABC7, Daily Beast reporter Zachary Petrizzo said “mobs of people began running yelling about a shooter,” adding later that he hid in the mall’s North Face store before evacuating.

Maria Leaf, a reporter for the radio station WMAL DC, said she was getting her nails done when “when all of a sudden there were people running, screaming and what sounded like gunshots.”

“I yelled to my nail tech to shut the doors and turn the lights off,” she said after reporting that the incident sounded like a robbery. “Everyone here was shaken. Mall was packed due to it being a holiday. Supposed to be open till 7.”

Anxiety about the potential for gun violence has been high at the D.C. area’s biggest mall since three shots were fired on June 18, sparking a panicked evacuation that injured three people. D.C. resident Noah Settles was indicted for that incident in September.

A shattering light fixture prompted another evacuation on Aug. 7 after the sound was mistaken for gunshots, and rumors of gunfire spread on social media last month when police chased a trio of men wanted for a robbery in Arlington. Police found a gun on one of the suspects, a teenager, but no shots were fired.

Regarding the jewelry store robbery, the FCPD said this morning that it had no updates to share, but its “detectives continue to investigate and ask for information.”

The department advises anyone with information to contact its non-emergency line at 703-691-2131.

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A Fairfax County police cruiser positioned outside the Tysons Corner Center Macy’s (staff photo by James Cullum)

One of the two individuals arrested at Tysons Corner Center on Sunday (Dec. 18) will face several charges, mostly related to possession of a gun that police say was reported stolen in Prince William County.

The Fairfax County Police Department said Monday that a 16-year-old from Centreville has been charged with possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon, possession of a firearm by a person underage, possession of a concealed weapon, possession of a stolen firearm and obstruction of justice.

The teen is one of three people sought by police in connection to a robbery in Arlington County. A second person taken into custody on Sunday — a man — has been released, according to the FCPD.

“Officers continue to work with Arlington County Police to positively identify the third suspect and determine if additional charges will be sought,” the department said.

According to the FCPD, an off-duty Arlington County police officer notified its Tysons Urban Team (TUT) at 7:54 p.m. on Sunday that they saw three people “believed to possibly be involved” in a robbery in that neighboring county.

“TUT officers waited for the three men to exit the mall and attempted to take them into custody,” the FCPD said. “The men ran back into the mall. Two of the men were taken into custody.”

No shots were fired, but social media reports of people running in the mall led to unfounded rumors of an active shooter. Police later said there were no gunshots or evacuation, though a gun was recovered in the arrest.

An Arlington County Police Department spokesperson said last night that a person had been robbed, but no further details about the robbery investigation could be shared due to a need “to ensure the integrity of the ongoing investigation.”

“The investigation into the Arlington County robbery is ongoing and no charges have been sought at this time,” APD spokesperson Ashley Savage said.

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Tysons Corner Center at night (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated at 10:25 a.m. on 12/20/2022) Contrary to some reports on Twitter, there were no gunshots at Tysons Corner Center last night, Fairfax County police confirmed.

Officers with the Tysons Urban Team did take two people into custody at the mall as part of an investigation into a robbery in Arlington County, the department said.

The FCPD said that it was working with the Arlington Police Department on the case and had located three suspects at Tysons Corner Center. Two of the suspects were taken into custody, and a firearm was recovered, but no shots were fired.

“The investigation continues. One suspect outstanding. No outstanding threat to the mall or community,” police said.

A handful of tweets from around 8 p.m. yesterday say that “everyone” in the mall started running, mentioning a possible active shooter and stores going into lockdown.

According to the Washington Post, the robbery suspects ran when officers arrived, which may have triggered a fire alarm, but no evacuation was ordered. Neither of the suspects was holding a gun when they were detained.

The FCPD didn’t immediately respond to FFXnow’s inquiry seeking to confirm the Post’s reporting.

Gun-related anxieties have been high at Tysons Corner Center since three shots were fired on June 18, triggered a panicked evacuation. The suspect in that incident was indicted in September.

The mall was also evacuated on Aug. 7 after the sound of a light fixture shattering was mistaken for gunfire.

“At Tysons Corner Center we put the safety of our retailers and shoppers at the center of everything we do,” Jesse Benites, the mall’s general manager said in a statement. “Through our robust security program, we work closely with our partners in law enforcement and are continually evaluating and adjusting our plans to address specific issues. We know Tysons Corner Center is the heart of the community and we want all who work here and visit to enjoy their experience.”

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The intersection of Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) and Tysons Blvd outside Tysons Corner Center (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Talks are underway to design a street-level crossing across Route 123 at Tysons Blvd, a daunting challenge that would — at least in theory — improve access to Tysons Corner Center for pedestrians, bicyclists and others.

Fairfax County, the Virginia Department of Transportation and Macerich, the mall owner and developer, are currently hashing out an agreement for the crossing as an alternative to the existing pedestrian bridge that links the mall’s plaza to the Tysons Metro station on the other side of Route 123, also known as Chain Bridge Road.

“We’re not there yet, but we are diligently working to find the best and safest street-level crossing there as well, because just that bridge is not the best way to have a crossing,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said when sharing the news at last month’s World Day of Remembrance ceremony honoring pedestrians killed in vehicle crashes.

Exactly what a safe Chain Bridge Road crossing might look like remains to be decided.

According to Palchik, the discussions began in the wake of 74-year-old Annandale resident Filadelfo Ramos Marquez’s death in a crash on Dec. 30, 2021.

At the time, police noted that Ramos Marquez wasn’t using a crosswalk when he got hit by the driver of a 2010 Toyota Camry going south on Chain Bridge. However, the closest crosswalk to the mall is two-tenths of a mile to the south at International Drive. Reaching it means crossing a bus entrance for the Metro and multiple gas station driveways on a narrow, sometimes uneven sidewalk.

The Metro walkway isn’t particularly convenient either except for those actually planning to take a train, and it’s not open 24 hours a day like it was supposed to be, Palchik told FFXnow.

“We’re still figuring that out,” she said when asked what a safe crossing would look like. “I think VDOT has one idea of what it would be, we have one idea, Macerich has another idea.”

Palchik says the crossing should include a pedestrian refuge in the middle of Route 123 so people at least have a place to stop, and lights will “definitely” be needed. Right now, the Tysons Blvd intersection only has traffic lights to direct vehicles with no signs or signals to indicate pedestrians might be present.

A VDOT spokesperson confirmed the department “is planning pedestrian enhancements due to the volume of pedestrian traffic and proximity to transit,” but no design details are available yet since the project “is still in early stages.”

VDOT also said Macerich is planning to modify a part of an intersection at the mall. When asked about its plans, a spokesperson for the real estate developer directed comments instead to Palchik’s office and the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, which didn’t respond to an inquiry by press time.

The developer’s proposal to replace the now-vacant Lord & Taylor store with a mixed-use tower was revised again last month to include “a grand portal” through the tower that will better connect Tysons Corner Center’s elevated plaza to the street below.

The mall’s next phase of development will also include a 10-foot-wide trail from the Metro bus bays to International Drive, according to the updated application filed with Fairfax County on Nov. 21.

The proposed staircase and additional streetscaping were added in anticipation of a future street-level crossing at Tysons Blvd, the Washington Business Journal reported.

Acknowledging that congestion can be a concern on Chain Bridge, both going north to the Capital Beltway and south toward Vienna, Palchik says a safe, more accessible crossing is still necessary, as walkability remains a challenge in Tysons.

“We do want to continue to build that as an urban city and core, and that means people walking [and] rolling across not just internal streets, but Route 123 and Route 7,” Palchik said.

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Traveling Players Ensemble, a student theater company based in Tysons, performs “Commedia Christmas Carol” (photo by Alex Mountfield)

Rep. Gerry Connolly will put his experience dealing with Scrooges on Capitol Hill to the test tomorrow when he takes the stage for a youth production of “Commedia Christmas Carol.”

The congressman and Providence District Supervisior Dalia Palchik will join student actors with the Traveling Players Ensemble for their take on the Charles Dickens holiday classic at 8 p.m., the Tysons-based theatrical company announced earlier this week.

Held at the Traveling Players Studio (DL01, 1961 Chain Bridge Road) in Tysons Corner Center, it will be the penultimate performance of the production, which launched on Dec. 2 and concludes at 3 p.m. on Sunday (Dec. 11).

Aimed at audiences 8 and older, the show puts a comedic twist on “A Christmas Carol.” It runs 75 minutes with no intermission and features a cast of kids from across the D.C. area.

“I love that it’s a ghost story, swirling out of control, careening through Scrooge’s painful past, and foreseeing his isolated future,” Traveling Players Producing Artistic Director Jeanne Harrison said in a press release. “And then he does the thing that is so brave: he changes. He lets people laugh at his newfound zest for life. And he is so much happier. He is renewed.”

Harrison founded the nonprofit theater company as a summer camp with 18 students in 2002. She is also the director for “Christmas Carol.”

Now in its 20th year with students in grades 2-12, the Traveling Players says Connolly and Palchik will make cameos in tomorrow’s show to acknowledge the key roles they played in the group’s journey.

Congressman Connolly is a lifelong supporter of arts and education.  It was through his support that Traveling Players found their first long-time home in Fairfax County at The Madeira School, back in 2007 when he was still the Chairman of the Fairfax County Supervisors.  A thespian in his own right, this will not be the Congressman’s first time taking the stage in a local production, but it will be his first cameo appearance with Traveling Players.

In 2020, Supervisor Palchick celebrated with Traveling Players by cutting the ribbon when they moved into their new home, their Studio in Tysons Corner Center, inside her district.  Also an ardent supporter of the arts and education, Supervisor Palchick’s priorities overlap with those of Traveling Players: to expand artistic opportunities to every child in her district and the wider Fairfax County community.

There will also be an introduction by Jesse Benites, the general manager of Macerich, which owns and operates Tysons Corner Center. The mall has housed the Traveling Players Studio since February 2020 and hosted outdoor performances on its Plaza this summer.

Tickets to “Commedia Christmas Carol” cost $15 and can be purchased online.

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Tysons Corner Center at night (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Rainbow Road will pass through Tysons Corner Center this winter holiday season.

The D.C. area’s biggest mall is one of 15 locations across the country that will host a “Wishlist Wonderland” pop-up from Nintendo, the video game company behind the Mario and Animal Crossing franchises announced last week.

Focused on giving customers a chance to play with and learn about Nintendo’s Switch console, the pop-up will arrive at Macy’s Court in Tysons Corner Center on Friday (Nov. 18) and remain through Dec. 27, a mall spokesperson confirmed.

From Nintendo’s event page:

Wishlist Wonderland with Nintendo Switch is a pop-up experience coming to select markets this holiday season. It’s a hands-on opportunity to learn about the Nintendo Switch family of systems and the extensive library of Nintendo Switch games! With demos of some of the latest Nintendo Switch games, interactive displays, My Nintendo Rewards check in, and more, this event will help you and your family find the perfect Nintendo products for your holiday wish list.

The games available for demonstrations will include “Nintendo Switch Sports,” “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe — Booster Course Pass,” and the 2023 edition of “Just Dance,” which is set to be released on Tuesday (Nov. 22).

However, the games won’t be available for purchase at the pop-up, according to Nintendo, which says they can be bought through retailers and its online store.

No registration is required for the pop-up, but the company says patrons must wear “secure footwear,” such as sneakers or closed-heel, flat sandals, to play “Nintendo Switch Sports.”

“Secure footwear reduces the risk of tripping, falling, or footwear dislodging when playing,” the event page says.

The pop-up’s arrival will come on the same day as Tysons Corner Center’s annual holiday tree lighting, which will take place on The Plaza from 6 to 8 p.m. The mall kicked off its holiday festivities last week with the start of Santa photo sessions.

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Tysons Corner Center’s 2021 tree lighting (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The winter holiday season is kicking off in Tysons next week with a holiday tree lighting ceremony, featuring an appearance from Santa.

The event is planned to include Santa lighting the tree, a few musical performances, complimentary s’mores and hot chocolate, and more. The event is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 18, from 6-8 p.m. in The Plaza section of Tysons Corner Center (1961 Chain Bridge Road).

The event is free and open to the public, with prior registration not required.

According to the mall’s website:

Tysons Corner Center will bring the community together to join Santa in kicking off our 2022 Holiday Season. Programming will include Santa lighting the Holiday tree, community performances, words from our Fairfax County Executives, complimentary s’mores and hot chocolate bar, giant snow globe, pop-up Holiday market featuring our Retailers, custom beverages by Barrel + Bushel, holiday music, giveaways, and more.

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Santa will return to Tysons Corner Center starting Nov. 11 (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Santa Claus is coming to Tysons this November, giving kids plenty of time to put in their gift requests for Christmas.

Tysons Corner Center announced Tuesday (Nov. 1) that Santa will arrive on Nov. 11 for photo sessions at the mall’s Fashion Court, located on the first floor of the Nordstrom wing.

Advance scheduling is now open. The mall recommends pre-booking a session “for the best experience” and to get a free, personalized call “from Santa.” Visitors who also purchase a photo package will get a “free, personalized video from the North Pole after the visit.”

Santa will be at the mall on most Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 24, though his hours will vary. There are pet nights on Mondays from Nov. 14 to Dec. 5, and the 9-10:30 a.m. slot on Sunday, Dec. 4 will be exclusively for children and families who need a sensory-friendly environment, according to the event webpage.

All sessions are free, but the professional photo packages range in cost from $39.99 to $49.99.

St. Nick — presumably played by a different person — will also take up residence at Tysons Galleria from Nov. 18 to Dec. 24, including for pet nights and a Santa Cares Day on Dec. 4 for kids with disabilities.

In addition, Tysons Galleria’s Neiman Marcus will host a “Breakfast with Santa” event at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3. Tickets are currently available through Eventbrite, costing $65 for adults and $55 for kids aged 3-12.

The department store made waves last year by inviting its first-ever Black Santa. The event proved so popular that it morphed from a three-hour storytime to two days of photo sessions with hot chocolate and cookies provided to those waiting in line.

In other events, the Town of Vienna will usher in the winter holiday season with its annual Church Street Holiday Stroll at 6-8:30 p.m. on Nov. 28. The festivities will include a tree lighting, music and deals from local businesses, though it’s unclear whether Kris Kringle will be in attendance.

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