The proposed repurposing of Inova Health System’s former corporate headquarters in Merrifield as live/work and workforce housing units got a hearty recommendation from the Fairfax County Planning Commission earlier this week.
The commission recommended on Wednesday (June 7) that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approve the plan from Madison Highland, a developer focused on live/work projects that’s pursuing similar conversions at the Skyline Center in Bailey’s Crossroads.
“This is an art-of-the-possible application,” Providence District Commissioner Phil Niedzielski-Eichner said. “It started with a vision…but then, that interaction between the applicant and staff resulted in an outcome that is so strikingly beneficial to our county that, to me, it’s a remarkable achievement.”
Under the name Madison Investment Portfolio LLC, the developer is seeking to turn a vacant, 245,000-square-foot office building at 8110 Gatehouse Road into 240 live/work units, which are newly defined in the county’s zoning ordinance as areas designed to accommodate both a residence and a “flexible work space.”
The 89,000-square-foot office building at 2990 Telestar Road will be repurposed as 82 workforce dwelling units for residents earning up to 60% of the area median income.
Representing the applicant at Wednesday’s public hearing, McGuireWoods Managing Partner Greg Riegle pitched the new units and accompanying open space, sidewalks, and other amenities as a “significant” improvement over the existing offices, which have been empty since Inova finished moving out last fall.
“The site gets greener, more amenitized,” he said, “and something that was exclusively automobile-oriented becomes much more walkable…We take a significant step toward creating a centerpiece where people can gather and interact that’s never existed in this part of Merrifield.”
The development will feature three publicly accessible parks — a game table community park, a play zone and a “Woof Park” for dog walking — as well as three common areas for residents. Pickleball courts are also proposed on top of the Gatehouse building’s five-story parking garage.
Pedestrians will get 6-foot-wide sidewalks in front of both buildings, internal walkways for the new parks, a connection between the properties, and high-visibility crosswalks at all crossings, pending Virginia Department of Transportation approval.
Two area residents called for more roadway improvements to address safety concerns and vehicle speeds, particularly on Gatehouse Road.
“I see a lot more rush of people cutting off the corner coming up Lee Highway all the way to Gallows,” a resident of the High Point at Jefferson Park townhomes said. “Maybe at 3 o’clock after noon, there are 20 cars waiting for the red light to turn onto Gallows, so it’s already quite congested.”
The resident also said parking has been a persistent challenge for her neighborhood and the adjacent Yorktowne Square Condominiums, requesting that they be allowed to use the Gatehouse garage.
While Niedzielski-Eichner said parking access should be negotiated by the developer and homeowners separately from the rezoning application, Marc Dreyfuss with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation shared that Gatehouse Road is scheduled for a repaving this year that will create buffered bicycle lanes.
“Restriping the road through a road diet and adding the features that are proposed with this application should help slow the traffic,” Dreyfuss said, confirming that “we would not expect to see any significant increase” in traffic with the proposed development.
The application is set for a public hearing before the Board of Supervisors on June 27.
Live Fairfax is a bi-weekly column exploring Fairfax County. This recurring column is sponsored and written by Sharmane Medaris of McEnearney Associates. Questions? Reach Sharmane at 813-504-4479.
Get ready to make this summer an epic adventure for your family in Fairfax County!
From thrilling outdoor escapades to cultural discoveries and delectable delights, we’ve compiled the ultimate Summer Family Bucket List to ensure an unforgettable season of fun. So put on your sunscreen, grab your shades, and join us as we explore the best activities and hidden gems that our area has to offer.
Get ready to create memories that will have your family reminiscing for years to come, because this summer, Fairfax County is the place to be for excitement, laughter, and quality time together.
Let the summer adventures begin!
- Visit Great Falls Park: Explore the beautiful Great Falls Park located along the Potomac River. Enjoy scenic views, hiking trails, and picnic areas perfect for a family day out.
- Explore the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: Located near Dulles International Airport, this museum features an impressive collection of aviation and space artifacts. It’s a great place for kids and adults alike to learn and be inspired.
- Spend a day at Mount Vernon: Visit George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate and gardens. Take a tour of the mansion, visit the museum, and learn about the life of the first U.S. president. The property also hosts special events during the summer.
- Enjoy water activities at Lake Fairfax Park: Rent paddleboats or go fishing at Lake Fairfax Park. The park also offers a water park, hiking trails, and picnic areas, making it an ideal spot for a family outing.
- Explore Meadowlark Botanical Gardens: Discover the beauty of Meadowlark Botanical Gardens with its stunning landscapes, colorful flowers, and serene walking paths. The Children’s Garden section is especially designed to engage and entertain young visitors.
- Take a trip to the National Zoo: So, this one is not located in Fairfax County, but the Smithsonian’s National Zoo is so close. Home to a wide variety of animals, it’s the perfect place to explore exhibits, attend animal feedings and demonstrations, and enjoy a fun-filled day surrounded by wildlife.
- Attend a Rock the Block summer concert at Old Town Square in Downtown Fairfax or outdoor movie Films in the Park at Mosaic: Many parks and town centers in Fairfax County offer free summer concerts and outdoor movie screenings.
- Discover the Workhouse Arts Center: Visit the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, where you can explore galleries, attend art classes, and enjoy live performances. The center often hosts family-friendly events and exhibitions.
- Go on a nature hike: Fairfax County offers numerous hiking trails with varying difficulty levels. Check out parks like Burke Lake Park, Scott’s Run Nature Preserve, and Hemlock Overlook Regional Park for beautiful trails suitable for families.
- Enjoy a day at the water park: Cool off at one of the water parks in Fairfax County, such as Atlantis Waterpark in Centreville or the Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole in Reston. These parks offer slides, pools, and water play areas perfect for summer fun.
Whatever you decide, enjoy the moments and embrace making lasting memories!
Explore Fairfax with Sharmane Medaris of McEnearney.
Sharmane Medaris | Live Fairfax | www.soldbysharmane.com | Sharmane@mcenearney.com | @soldbysharmane | 813-504-4479 | 374 Maple Avenue Suite 202, Vienna, VA 22180
Fairfax County has already decided to rename the Providence Community Center after the late Jim Scott, a former Providence District supervisor and state delegate.
The exact phrasing of the new name, however, remains up for debate.
Fairfax County Neighborhood & Community Services launched a public vote on June 1 to determine which name out of three options should be adopted:
- Jim Scott Community Center at Providence
- Jim Scott Providence Community Center
- Jim Scott Community Center
Votes can be cast online or in person at the Providence Community Center lobby. Respondents are limited to one vote per device.
The poll will remain open until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, June 23.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted on Oct. 25 to initiate a process to rename the community center after Scott, who represented Providence District on the board for 14 years, starting in 1971. He was then elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1991 and served 11 terms.
Scott died in 2017. Here’s more from the county on his legacy:
During his decades of service in local and state government, Jim was a strong advocate of affordable housing, education and school-based daycare centers, and civil rights. Rep Gerald E. Connolly, former Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, credited Jim as a “gentle but forceful advocate for all who feel powerless.”
Jim championed formation of the School Age Child Care program, which provides Fairfax County children in kindergarten-sixth grade with high-quality before- and after-school educational care. We look forward to naming the building in his honor to recognize and preserve the legacy of Jim Scott’s community-first representation.
Located at 3001 Vaden Drive in Oakton, the Providence Community Center provides classes, summer camps, and other programs as well as meeting space. It operates on Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
It’s also one of 12 additional sites that will open at 9 a.m. tomorrow for early voting.
In an effort to reduce heat islands in vulnerable communities, the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services has applied for millions of dollars in grant funding to establish a street tree planting program.
The county will use its Vulnerability Index to identify communities in need of the program, according to county staff.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the department’s request on Tuesday (June 6) to apply for a $11.5 million Inflation Reduction Act Urban and Community Forestry (UCF) grant from the U.S. Forest Service.
“The grant period is five years from the award date which is anticipated to be October 2023,” the board meeting package said.
Department of Public Works and Environmental Services spokesperson (DPWES) Sharon North told FFXnow the department is proposing to plant 1,000 trees over a five-year period. Although the county is looking at vulnerable communities, she said “no decision on the grant recipients will be made until October.”
The Forest Service announced the funding opportunity back in April. The UCF program received $1.5 billion under the Inflation Reduction Act to support urban tree planting and forest planning and management in at-risk communities.
“The Resilient Fairfax Plan notes that 91 percent of vulnerable households are in areas identified as having a significantly high urban heat island effect and that vulnerable populations are more likely to be impacted by extreme heat,” the package said.
Factors considered by the county’s vulnerability index include household income, education, English proficiency, health insurance and the percentage of the population that owns a home or vehicle.
If the county is awarded the funds, the program will also promote tree planting through partnerships with the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Fairfax County Park Authority, Fairfax County Public Schools, and nonprofit organizations.
The county also identifies specific activities that will receive the funding:
- identifying areas in the county that are heat vulnerable low tree canopy and/or areas where green infrastructure would provide additional community and resilience benefits
- planting and maintaining up to 5,000 native and/or climate-resilient street trees over five years in neighborhoods and within the right-of-way and on public property
- educating and engaging the public on the benefits of green spaces and trees
- expansion of a green workforce to maintain existing and new street trees.
The county launched a pilot program in 2021 that provides free trees to residents of areas with minimal tree canopy coverage. The program initially focused on the Richmond Highway corridor but was expected to shift to Bailey’s Crossroads this year.
Four McLean residents lost their home last week in a fire that investigators say was ignited by grease on an outdoor grill.
The fire started accidentally in the 6000 block of Chesterbrook Road on June 2 when grease that had accumulated on the back patio grill ignited, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department reported yesterday (Thursday).
FCFRD firefighters and units from the Arlington County Fire Department were dispatched to the single-family house at 6:24 p.m. after the residents evacuated and called 911.
“Units arrived on the scene to find a large volume of fire coming from the back of a two-story, single-family home and extending up to the attic,” the department said. “Crews quickly initiated firefighting operations to contain and extinguish the fire.”
No injuries were reported, but in addition to displacing all four residents, the fire resulted in an estimated $483,060 in property damages, according to the FCFRD.
“Smoke alarms were present, but it is unknown if they activated after the fire extended to the house,” the fire department said.
#FCFRD is on the scene of an house fire in the 6000 blk of Chesterbrook Rd in the McLean area. Units arrived w/ heavy fire showing from the back of home & extending to the attic. All occupants accounted for. No reported civilian or firefighter injuries. The fire is under control pic.twitter.com/VVJq0ryXGq
— Fairfax County Fire/Rescue (@ffxfirerescue) June 2, 2023
Photo via FCFRD
D.C. Area Briefly Had World’s Worst Air Quality — “‘Very unhealthy’ and ‘hazardous’ air quality put the health of people across the Washington, D.C., area at risk Thursday as smoke from wildfires in Canada brings some of the most polluted air ever recorded in the region.” Conditions improved to a Code Red into the evening, “but for a time Thursday, the D.C. area had the worst air quality in the world.” [NBC4]
Rep. Connolly Hosts Gun Violence Prevention Talk — In the wake of this week’s mass shooting at a Richmond high school graduation, Rep. Gerry Connolly, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay, and State Senator Jennifer Boysko will discuss gun violence prevention measures with local advocates. The panel will be streamed live at 10 a.m. today (Friday) on Channel 16. [Jeff McKay’s office]
Commuters Face Long Lines for Free Metro Shuttles — “While a shutdown affecting some Orange Line stations and an Orange and Silver transfer station started, commuters have shared frustrations about long waits for shuttles between closed stations. Metro is promising to address wait times with more buses and strategies to get shuttles through traffic congestion.” [Patch]
Springfield Appears Favored by FBI in HQ Search — “As Maryland and Virginia continue to battle to be the new home of the FBI’s headquarters, a document is being circulated that indicates the bureau itself prefers to move to Virginia.” The agency sees proximity to its training academy in Quantico as a priority, suggesting Springfield may have an edge over the two proposed Maryland sites. [WUSA9, Baltimore Banner]
Reston Contractor Opens Health Clinic — “QTC Medical Services Inc., a subsidiary of Reston government contractor Leidos Holdings Inc. (NYSE: LDOS), has opened a new flagship health clinic in Fairfax…The 7,800-square-foot space at 8505 Arlington Blvd. replaces a smaller facility in Alexandria that closed last month.” The clinic will mostly serve active and former military personnel, but it’s also expected to assist civilian federal government workers. [Washington Business Journal]
Candidates Sought for Reston Association Board — “Following the recent resignation of former Board of Directors President Sarah Selvaraj-Dsouza, the Reston Association is seeking candidates interested in filling the remainder of her term.” The filing deadline is noon on Thursday, June 15, and the new at-large member will be appointed June 22. [Patch]
Students Showcase Auto Mechanical Skills in Burke — Lake Braddock Secondary School recently showed off work by students in its auto technology program. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority “donated 20 abandoned vehicles for the students to work on, and was on hand to meet with graduates about possible employment opportunities.” [WTOP]
Reston VC Firm Raises Millions — “Venture capital firm PROOF said it has raised $135 million in its third fund, ending a prolonged period of fundraising marked by both historic highs in 2021 and a more conservative environment of late…PROOF has yet to officially close its third fund but has already made 12 investments with that $135 million, [managing partner John] Backus said.” [DC Inno]
It’s Friday — Widespread haze. Patchy smoke. Mostly sunny, with a high near 76. Northwest wind 6 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%. [Weather.gov]
The Faith Baptist Church that has occupied 301 Center Street South in Vienna for about seven decades will officially be torn down.
Faced with increasing maintenance costs, the Vienna Town Council voted unanimously on Monday (June 5) to demolish the entire two-story building, which was originally built in the 1950s, according to Fairfax County records.
The town purchased the 3-acre property in 2020 in part to have a temporary base for the Vienna Police Department during the construction of its new headquarters. Chartered in 1952, the church had opted to close its doors and sell to support the creation of a new network of “connection groups” in Northern Virginia, per its website.
Some council members previously suggested keeping the church’s gym, but that would cost between $2.9 million and $3.3 million, Director of Parks and Recreation Leslie Herman reported in a May 24 memo.
After seeing those new numbers, which exceeded the $1 million that an earlier study estimated would be needed to convert the building into a usable recreational facility, the decision to send the church to “house heaven” became a “no-brainer,” Councilmember Chuck Anderson said.
“I think get the damn building down, because it’s just costing us too much money right now,” Councilmember Howard Springsteen said. “It gives us a clean slate there, and every time we turn around, another price jumps up.”
A total demolition will cost $250,000, according to town staff. The town hasn’t determined yet when the demolition will take place or how long it will take.
“There are still a lot of details that need to be worked out, including the bidding process for a contractor to do the demolition, permitting for demolition, etc., plans for how to use the property once the building comes down,” Vienna Public Information Director Karen Thayer said by email.
The property’s long-term future also remains up in the air.
The council decided to postpone a decision on whether to spend an additional $23,500 on a business planning and operational costs study recommended by consultants Kimmel Bogrette Architecture and Kimley Horn.
Hired in November, the consultants found clear support in the community for turning the site — now called the Annex — into a recreational facility, especially one with a swimming pool or fitness center, based on an online survey and public workshop.
The proposed study would give the town more concrete numbers for the costs and benefits of different recreational uses, Herman said. Read More
An Arlington-based ice cream shop that brings together flavors from around the world is planting its flag in the Mosaic District to further an ambitious expansion plan.
Mimi’s Handmade will take up residence in the Merrifield neighborhood at 2985 District Avenue, Suite 160, replacing 520 Ice Cream and Tea after the cafe closed late last year.
Currently expected to open around mid-August to early September, the new store will closely resemble the original Mimi’s, which opened in Pentagon City in December 2021, owner Rollin Amore says.
“You’ve got to have consistency across the board, consistency in the quality of your ice cream, consistency in your offerings,” Amore told FFXnow. “I mean, I want to appeal to a broad base. I want to appeal across the age span from 8 months old to 80 years old.”
Mimi’s is a family affair, dedicated to Amore’s daughters — Mimi and Alexandra — and inspired by gelato, custard and sweets recipes passed down by his Italian and German grandmothers, according to the website.
Venturing into ice cream after retiring from a nearly 40-year career as a banker, Amore has developed a diverse assortment of over 40 flavors, from classic options like French vanilla and chocolate to bolder scoops like sweet corn or wasabi peas — one of several to incorporate ingredients he encountered while traveling in Asia.
Mimi’s has 32 flavors on display at any given time, all made in-house with “real” ingredients, not flavoring, Amore says. About 70 to 80% of them are fixtures, while others rotate based on the season or their creator’s inclinations.
“If I get inspired, I’ll try a new flavor,” Amore said. “As an example, a couple of weeks ago, I started making a red guava sherbet…It’s more summer. I’ve been making fresh watermelon and fresh cantaloupe, and I just pureed a few fruit and then add a little sugar and make a sorbet out of them.”
Calling the Mosaic District “a good spot to be in,” Amore says he has always envisioned Mimi’s as “a small chain of stores.” The business is also coming to Chevy Chase in two weeks and Rockville in three months.
Looking into 2024, leases have been signed for locations in Annandale and West Falls Church, though Amore couldn’t share the exact addresses yet. A Sterling shop is also a possibility, along with a commissary kitchen where all of the ice cream production will ultimately be consolidated.
Despite the aggressiveness of the planned expansion, he expressed confidence that Mimi’s can maintain the quality that has earned it near-universal acclaim on Yelp and a nod from Northern Virginia Magazine as one of the region’s best restaurants.
“Ice cream stores, the whole dynamic is changing,” Amore said. “We went from two years ago the Baskin Robbins, the Ben and Jerry’s to now a new generation of more artisan ice creams. There’s a bit of shift in the industry, and I think I’m on the edge of that in terms of my flavor strategy, my preparations and so forth.”
(Updated at 10:30 a.m.) It’s another day of poor air quality for Fairfax County and the rest of the D.C. area.
As wildfires continue to burn in Canada, the resulting smoke has clouded the East Coast in a sometimes orange-tinted haze of particulate matter. As of 9 a.m., Fairfax was at 313 on the Air Quality Index (AQI) — a Code Maroon for hazardous air that’s even more severe than yesterday’s Code Red.
Today’s AQI appears to be the highest for the D.C. region since records began in 1999, according to Ryan Stauffer, a NASA scientist who studies air pollution.
The highest alert on the official AQI, Maroon is a health warning of emergency conditions that can affect everyone, according to AirNow, which monitors official air quality based on data reported by federal, state and local agencies.
Air Quality Alert for Thursday, June 8 🚨
Due to the wildfires in Canada, an air quality alert has been issued for today, Thursday, June 8. The air quality is unhealthy for everyone in Fairfax County and the region.
Stay informed: https://t.co/0SheATD3Zg pic.twitter.com/iHffXGXIWh
— Fairfax County Government 🇺🇸 (@fairfaxcounty) June 8, 2023
Record-breaking bad air quality in DC area yesterday dating back to 1999. Today probably will end up worse. https://t.co/YG1C95A31U
— Capital Weather Gang (@capitalweather) June 8, 2023
Everyone is advised to limit their exposure to the air pollution by staying inside or limiting the level of exertion required for outdoor activities, Fairfax County says.
Fairfax County Public Schools has canceled all outdoor activities on school grounds for the day, including recess, P.E., sports and after-school programs. The Fairfax County Park Authority has also canceled all outdoor classes, activities and amusements.
“Wildfire smoke is a mix of gases and fine particles from burning trees and plants, buildings, and other material,” the county said in an emergency blog post. “Wildfire smoke can make anyone sick, but people with asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), or heart disease are more likely to experience health effects of smoke. Pregnant women, babies and children are also at risk.”
In a twist, the masks that proliferated during the COVID-19 pandemic have made a comeback as the most effective way to filter particles from air pollution. In New York, which had the world’s worst air quality yesterday, N95 masks are being handed out for free today.
The worst of the pollution is expected to start clearing tomorrow (Friday), when a Code Orange AQI is forecast, but until then, it’s probably best to stay indoors if possible and mask up.
Image via VDOT
Air Quality Issues Continue Today — “Due to the wildfires in Canada, a Code Red Air Quality alert has been issued for Thursday, June 8, which means air quality is unhealthy for everyone in Fairfax County and the region…Take steps to limit your exposure,” such as by spending more time indoors “where particle pollution levels are usually lower.” [Fairfax Alerts]
Survivor of Fatal Blake Lane Crash Still Recovering — “Flowers, candles, crosses, rosaries and handwritten signs mark the spot where three students walking home from Oakton High School were struck by a speeding car driven by a fellow student on June 7, 2022…One year after the fatal crash and the victims’ families are still waiting for answers.” [Patch]
Vice President Recently Visited Local High School — “The John R. Lewis High School community, Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michelle C. Reid, Ed.D., and the Lewis High School band welcomed U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris to their school [last] Friday to advocate for safer schools.” [FCPS]
New Recreational Trail Will Connect Gum Springs to Creek — “For nearly 40 years, residents of Gum Springs, the oldest African American community in Fairfax County, have been waiting to gain trail access to the waterfront along Little Hunting Creek…Last October, Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck was able to secure support from his BoS colleagues to fund $600,000 in trail connections.” [On the MoVe]
VDOT Launches Study of Old Ox Road Near Herndon Area — “The Virginia Department of Transportation is seeking feedback on…potential safety, operational and accessibility improvements for about three miles of Old Ox Road (Route 606) between the Dulles Greenway (Route 267) and Rock Hill Road. Within the study limits, Old Ox Road averages about 33,000 vehicles a day.” An online survey is available through June 19. [VDOT]
Virginia Leaves Initiative to Combat Carbon Emissions — “A Virginia regulatory board on Wednesday voted to withdraw the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, fulfilling a directive from Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin but triggering the threat of legal action from environmental groups who say the board overstepped its authority.” [The Washington Post]
Madison HS Boys’ Lacrosse Team Returns to State Finals — “With a 12-8 victory over the host Robinson Rams on June 6 in a semifinal match of the Virginia High School League Class 6 state tournament, the defending champion Warhawks (19-2) will play for the 2023 state title on June 10. Madison is in the state final for the third time in five seasons” [Gazette Leader]
Park Authority Seeking New Hires — “The Fairfax County Park Authority is seeking to fill several seasonal and part-time positions at a variety of park locations surrounded by trees, sunlight, water, history, animals and fun! With so many opportunities to choose from, applicants can literally choose their own adventure!” [FCPA]
It’s Thursday — Widespread haze. Areas of smoke. Sunny, with a high near 79. North wind around 8 mph. At night: Widespread haze. Partly cloudy, with a low around 57. Northwest wind around 7 mph. [Weather.gov]