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Sandbox VR, a full-body virtual reality gaming venue, will open at The Boro in Tysons on Dec. 22 (courtesy Sandbox VR)

Zombies, pirates and other virtual characters are about to be unleashed on Tysons, just in time for Christmas.

Sandbox VR will launch its new virtual reality gaming experience at 1656 Silver Hill Drive in The Boro with a grand opening on Dec. 22. This is the first Virginia location for the San Francisco-based startup, which has expanded to over 40 sites across North America, Asia and Europe since introducing itself to the world in 2019.

“We are thrilled to open our very first Virginia location and The Boro — with its robust lineup of entertainment options — is the perfect home,” Sandbox VR founder and CEO Steve Zhao said. “We can’t wait to introduce the McLean community to our world-class VR experiences and give residents and visitors alike the opportunity to experience a whole new reality.”

Initially anticipated this summer, the 7,508-square-foot venue will feature four private rooms known as “holodecks” that can each accommodate up to six players at a time. Players get a headset, haptic vest, a backpack, and wrist and ankle sensors that enable them to interact with each other in a fully immersive virtual world.

Pre-opening booking is now available at a discount of $39 per guest through Dec. 21. Admission is typically $50 to $55 per player, according to Sandbox VR’s website.

Games available at the Tysons location will include “Deadwood Valley” (zombies), “Deadwood Mansion” (haunted house), “Curse of Davy Jones” (pirates), the fantasy world “Seekers of the Shard: Dragonfire,” a sci-fi adventure “Amber Sky 2088,” the gladitorial “Unbound Fighting League,” and ones based on “Star Trek: Discovery” and the dystopian Korean show “Squid Game.”

Sandbox VR will be open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 10 a.m. to midnight on weekends.

The virtual reality concept’s arrival continues a trend toward interactive entertainment in Tysons, as the area seeks to diversify its retail offerings to draw in visitors and support a growing residential population. Tysons Corner Center in particular has become a regular destination for pop-up “experiences,” such as the “Encanto”-themed show that opened today (Friday) and a Hot Wheels attraction coming next week.

The primary entertainment option at The Boro right now is the ShowPlace Icon movie theater.

“The Meridian Group is excited to officially welcome Sandbox VR to The Boro,” said Charlie Schwieger, vice president of asset management at TMG, the property owner and developer. “This tech-driven, immersive and social experience will be an entertainment destination for visitors of all ages. It’s the perfect addition to The Boro’s experiential retail lineup, restaurants and family-friendly entertainment options.”

Next year, The Boro will see the arrival of The Trillium Tysons, a senior living community currently under construction. The high-rise apartment building constitutes the first block of the neighborhood’s second phase, a 9.37-acre expansion that will include 40,000 square feet of retail space and more than 800 residential units.


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.

Embarking on the holiday season demands more than just festive cheer — it calls for a dash of magic in our style survival. Join me as we meet up with sometimes referred to the “Style Therapist” by her clients, Katie with Style by Valentine at the amazing Tyson’s Corner Nordstrom.

As Katie shares insight on navigating the holiday chaos in style. As we dive into the festivities, Nordstrom emerges as our trusted companion, offering a seamless style experience with budget convenience. As women from all walks of life face the thieves of season from time constraints, packed schedules, family stress, and the inevitable lack of sleep, which could result in dark circles, frumpiness, and a general sense of discomfort that hinders us from fully enjoying the season’s moments.

Fear not, as our gift to you is a Style Survival Guide Clip — a toolkit of several practical strategies applicable to all, regardless of budget, size, age, or style preferences.

Tailored insights for moms, families, and general professionals ensure everyone can embrace the holiday spirit and look great doing so. From avoiding winging it to cleverly remixing your wardrobe with a single statement piece, strategically using color, texture, and accessories, to embracing cozy monochromes and metallics for that chic festive vibe — we’ve got you covered.

Katie definitely adds a few final tips on value, quality, and staying true to yourself, this video encourages a thoughtful and authentic approach to holiday style.

Thank you so much for tuning in to our style survival video! I hope these tips bring a touch of magic to your holiday season. As you navigate the festivities, may your days be filled with warmth, joy, and the creation of beautiful memories.

Wishing you an amazing Christmas season where every moment is wrapped in happiness. Here’s to embracing the magic of the holidays and making memories that will last a lifetime.

Merry Christmas!

Collaboration with Style By Valentine

Explore Fairfax with Sharmane Medaris of McEnearney.

Sharmane Medaris | Live Fairfax | | | @soldbysharmane | 813-504-4479 | 374 Maple Avenue Suite 202, Vienna, VA 22180

Gov. Glenn Youngkin announces a “Building Blocks for Virginia Families” plan to increase funding for early childhood education (Official Photo by Christian Martinez, Office of Governor Glenn Youngkin)

With the last pandemic-era expansions of federal child care aid to states set to end next year, Gov. Glenn Youngkin is proposing to put $448 million into the commonwealth’s early learning and child care system in each of the next two years.

“The reality is that in March 2024, without significant reforms to improve this long-term viability of our child care programs, we would otherwise see children simply being kicked out of these most important collaborations that enable families to realize their dreams and so we can’t leave families, parents and their children without options,” said Youngkin at a press conference for his “Building Blocks for Virginia Families” initiative Thursday.

The funding will be part of Youngkin’s proposal for the state budget over the next two years, which he is scheduled to present to lawmakers Dec. 20. The General Assembly, which Democrats will narrowly control when the session begins this January, will use that proposal as the jumping-off point for their own spending plan.

While the administration has not yet provided a detailed breakdown of how all of the $448 million would be spent, a document provided to reporters includes a list of priorities. They include the desire to “ensure every low-income working family that currently receives public support continues to have access to early childhood and afterschool programs,” “accelerate parent choice, from home-care providers and public school preschools to community co-ops and private day centers,” and require all early childhood programs to “annually measure and report unmet parental demand and preference.”

A few priorities have dollar figures attached: The proposed investment includes $25 million to develop public-private partnerships in areas with child care shortages, $10 million in educator incentives and $1 million to launch early learning and child care accounts on a digital wallet platform for families with children under five. Families can use the wallets to accept funds from such groups as employers, local governments and family members.

Additionally, the plan calls for streamlining teacher licensure requirements and “rightsizing” student-teacher ratios.

“This is about an opportunity for success,” Youngkin said, “and it starts with success for families.”

Kathy Glazer, president of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, called the proposal “a remarkable commitment to Virginia’s children and families.”

“By sustaining access to quality, affordable early childhood care and education services, these investments will help unlock the potential of all children and keep Virginia on the path to economic success,” she said in a statement.

An October report by Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission found approximately 1.1 million children in Virginia aged 12 and younger need child care, and the majority of Virginia families find care to be unaffordable. Read More

The taiyaki and ice cream shop Rice Culture is open near the Dunn Loring Metro station (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Rice Culture is now serving taiyakis and ice cream just outside the Dunn Loring Metro station.

The pop-up bakery, a regular at several D.C. area farmers’ markets, kicked off the soft opening phase of its first brick-and-mortar shop last week on Nov. 30. Its location in the Shops at Avenir Place (2672D Avenir Place) had been vacant since Bruster’s Real Ice Cream closed in 2020.

“Come through and bring a friend,” Rice Culture said in an Instagram post announcing the opening. “We want to extend our thanks ahead of time for everyone’s patience as we get adjusted to our new space and find our footing.”

Founder MikkiJo Bayawa started Rice Culture in January 2021 with her fiancé Kevin Tsai after getting delivery requests for her homemade taiyakis, a Japanese waffle snack that’s shaped like a fish and stuffed with sweet fillings.

The business quickly gained traction and moved production to Frontier Kitchen in Chantilly, Bayawa previously told FFXnow. It has appeared at the Mosaic District’s weekly FreshFarm market and The Block in Annandale, among other locations across the D.C. region.

With its new, permanent space, Rice Culture has expanded its menu to include soft-serve ice cream, which can be purchased by itself in a cup or with a taiyaki on top. The ice cream flavors — ube, black sesame, corn and pandan — can be swirled, and toppings are available.

Inspired by Bawaya’s Japanese and Filipino heritage, taiyakis can be filled with ube, pandan, nutella, Oreo, or corn and cheese, along with the traditional flavors of traditional red bean paste and vanilla custard. They come in single, three-pack and six-pack orders.

Bayawa says a grand opening will be held in January, but an exact date is still being determined.

For now, the shop is operating during limited hours of 4-9 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.


Morning Notes

The sunset seen from a Vienna parking lot (photo by Amy Woolsey)

Fairfax County Resident Wins “Squid Game” Reality Show — “Mai Whelan — also known as Player 287 on Netflix’s Squid Game: The Challenge — is one of the DMV’s newest multimillionaires. [On Wednesday] night, she took home the top $4.56 million prize in the game show’s finale, beating out 455 other contestants, including Falls Church native Shelby Hoefling.” [Washingtonian]

New Funding Goes to N. Va. Rail Projects — “Elected officials announced Thursday the state has received $729 million in federal funding. The money will go toward the construction of a new Long Bridge over the Potomac River. Currently a major chokepoint on East Coast, the project will double the bridge’s capacity.” [WTOP]

Toy Store With “Encanto” Experience Opens in Tysons — “Get ready to have the lyrics of ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ stuck in your head…again. On Friday, CAMP at Tysons Corner Center opens its Encanto-themed experience, its first interactive show at this location…The experience is currently open through the end of April, though it is likely to be extended.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Popular Tree Relocated Ahead of Fairfax Station Road Project — “This afternoon, we finished transplanting the beloved Popes Head tree from the Fairfax County Pkwy to a location at our district office. The Popes Head interchange project will be starting soon and we didn’t want to lose this tree that means so much to tens of thousands of people.” [VDOT/Reddit]

Police Seek Toy Donations for Santa’s Ride — “Residents who wish to support Santa’s Ride can drop off new, unwrapped toys, games, books, and gifts at the Vienna Police Department…by 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023. Police officers on motorcycles from multiple jurisdictions will escort Santa to local schools and government buildings to pick up the donated items and deliver them to hospitals and to community children in need on Tuesday, Dec. 12.” [Town of Vienna]

Culmore Residents Air Crime Concerns — “When Capt. Patrick Brusch, commander of the Mason Police District, asked Culmore residents about their concerns, he got an earful. Several people complained about the criminal element hanging out and drinking by the 7-Eleven at 3337 Glen Carlyn Drive. Others said gangs are recruiting young boys, shoplifting is getting out of control, and when they reported crimes, nothing happened.” [Annandale Today]

Work Underway to Restore South Run Trail — “The Fairfax County Park Authority has begun trail restoration work along a 3,086-foot section of the South Run Stream Valley Trail between the Burke Lake Dam on Laketree Drive and South Run District Park. Weather permitting, the work is expected to be completed within approximately two to three weeks.” [FCPA]

Virginia Proposes Additions to Banned Plants List — “Virginia is considering adding 12 more plants to its noxious weeds list, a compilation of species that are banned from use in the state because of the damage they provide to ecosystems…The public comment period is scheduled to end Friday, Dec. 8.” [Virginia Mercury]

It’s Friday — Expect mostly sunny skies with temperatures reaching 56°F and calm winds from the south at 5-8 mph during the afternoon. Tonight, watch for patchy fog after midnight alongside partly cloudy sky and lows around 37°F, with south winds at 3-6 mph. []

The latest design for the new Patrick Henry Library was presented to the Vienna Town Council on Nov. 13 (via DPWES)

(Updated at 3:05 p.m.) The anticipated cost of renovating Patrick Henry Library has escalated in recent years, leading Fairfax County to seek a bigger contribution from the Town of Vienna.

The Vienna Town Council agreed on Monday (Dec. 4) to raise the town’s cap on funding for the new library’s construction to approximately $4.7 million — a $590,000 increase from the previous maximum set in 2020.

Under the existing joint development agreement, the town committed to paying up to $4.2 million or 19% of the total construction costs, along with 30% of the design costs. The project will replace the 13,817-square-foot community library at 101 Maple Avenue East with a bigger facility and a new parking garage.

The remainder of the funds will come from Fairfax County. However, an updated cost estimate completed in September found that the price of materials, labor, fuel and other factors has gone up, a trend affecting all of the county’s capital improvement projects, county staff recently told the town.

“The higher costs are attributable to the market escalation for material costs including supply chain issues, and continuing shortages in skilled labor,” Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services spokesperson Sharon North told FFXnow by email.

North says more specifics about the county’s cost estimates can be shared “in the next few days” after DPWES updates county leaders on the town council’s decision.

In an email summarized by town staff, DPWES project manager Maryam Mostamandi told Vienna officials that the county’s cost estimators believe costs could continue escalating “at least through the end of 2025.”

“However, they have also cautioned that the market remains volatile, and they are finding it difficult to predict costs for the future,” she wrote.

She said plans for “aggressive” sustainability goals — including solar panels and all-electric building systems to achieve net-zero carbon emissions — have also contributed to the rising cost of the Patrick Henry project.

Those initiatives don’t affect the town’s share, which covers the 84 spaces it has been allocated in the four-level parking garage, Vienna Director of Finance Marion Serfass told the council. She said it “may not be practical” to eliminate a floor of the garage to lower costs, a suggestion evidently floated by council members in an earlier closed session.

“That would cut our number of spaces dramatically,” Serfass said. “…It would cut 68 spaces out, so we probably would not have enough garage spaces to get anything from [the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority] or to receive the grant we have agreed to, because NVTA wants to see something for their money.”

Though construction bids aren’t expected to go out until next fall, this was the last opportunity for Vienna to back out of the joint agreement. If the town took that “off-ramp,” it could’ve gotten back $331,500, or 50% of what it paid for the project’s design, according to staff.

Instead, the council unanimously voted to move forward with the project, which has been in the works since a feasibility study started in 2018.

“I hope construction costs come down, but it’ll give us the parking we need and improve the vibrancy of Vienna,” Councilmember Howard Springsteen said.

Councilmember Chuck Anderson agreed that the library is important to the community but warned county officials in the room, including Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, not to expect any additional increases to the financial cap.

According to town staff, the county gave “verbal assurances that there will be no more requests for cost increases.”

“I think we deserve the best possible library, and if there are overruns, we’ve kind of already paid for it through our regular property taxes to the county of Fairfax,” Anderson said.

New boundaries have been approved for McLean elementary schools to relieve crowding at Kent Gardens (via FCPS)

Kent Gardens Elementary School should finally get some substantial capacity relief, starting next school year.

The Fairfax County School Board approved tweaks to the boundaries of five elementary schools in McLean on Monday (Dec. 4) with the goal of alleviating crowded conditions at Kent Gardens (1717 Melbourne Drive), which was at 121% of its programming capacity, as of the 2022-2023 school year.

When it takes effect with the 2024-2025 school year, the approved plan will shift 190 students to Franklin Sherman Elementary School and 38 students to Haycock Elementary School, according to Fairfax County Public Schools. To avoid creating capacity issues at Franklin Sherman, 112 of its students have been reassigned to Chesterbrook Elementary School and another 40 to Churchill Road Elementary.

One of six scenarios suggested by FCPS staff, the adopted proposal also adjusted the boundaries for Advanced Academic Placement (AAP) centers at Churchill Road and Haycock.

In total, an estimated 380 elementary school students will be affected, but no impact is expected at the middle or high school levels.

“When boundary adjustments are necessary, it is vital that our school communities join us in the process,” School Board Chair and Dranesville representative Elaine Tholen said in a statement that thanked families, students and other community members who participated in the boundary study, which has been in the works since fall 2022.

“It is through a combination of your input and staff expertise that we are able to provide a solution that best meets the needs of our students,” she added.

Before the school board’s vote, Tholen acknowledged that the changes will have a “significant” impact on Franklin Sherman, but the “realities of the geography” made the chosen scenario the best option.

“It was hard to move students from the eastern side of the attendance area to Chesterbrook, since most of those students are walkers,” she explained. “Transportation [staff] specifically requested we not move any walkers due to the shortage of bus drivers.”

While community members generally recognized the boundary adjustment as necessary at a Nov. 30 public hearing, some raised concerns about moving students out of a familiar environment where they’ve established friends and separating siblings.

One speaker observed that Stoneleigh and Hallcrest Heights, the biggest multi-family and townhouse communities currently served by Kent Gardens, are being reassigned to Franklin Sherman. Read More


Morning Notes

The National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar Hazy Center in Chantilly at night (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Washington Post Workers Walk Out in Bid for Union Contract — “Unionized journalists and other staff at The Washington Post in D.C. and around the world are set to strike for 24 hours starting Thursday…In a letter to readers, the Guild asked subscribers to not ‘engage with any Washington Post content’ during the span of the strike.” [WTOP]

Virginia Requires Teamwork for Local Water Supply Plans — “Virginia’s State Water Control Board amended regulations last week that will require local governments in the same river basin to work together in crafting plans for water supply and use. Previously, the state allowed local governments to choose whether they wanted to submit such plans independently or work with other localities in a regional approach.” [Virginia Mercury]

Legal Action Possible Over Buildings Damaged by Fire — “The owners of the buildings destroyed by a fire on Columbia Pike in Annandale have failed to respond to the Fairfax County Department of Code Compliance, so the matter is being referred to the commonwealth’s attorney’s office. The fire, on March 12, 2023, affected four businesses.” [Annandale Today]

McLean Community Supports Working Student — The McLean High School community has rallied with donations for a student who “has been working 40 hours a week, while in school, to support his family.” Nearly evicted last week, the student’s family also recently escaped domestic violence, and his mom and brother are dealing with health issues. [NBC4]

Local Residents Compete on “Squid Game” Reality Show — “Virginia native Shelby Hoefling was one of the 456 contestants competing to win $4.56 million, the largest single cash prize in game-show history. Unfortunately, she was eliminated in Episode 3, so now she’s rooting for her fellow Virginian, Mai Whelan, a 55-year-old immigration adjudicator from Vietnam who lives in Fairfax County.” [WTOP]

Some Reston Tennis Courts to Close — “Starting Friday, December 8 at noon, the clay tennis courts at Glade and North Hills will be closed for the season. The courts will reopen in Spring 2024. The hard courts remain open year-round.” [Reston Association/Twitter]

County Library Exceeds 3 Million Digital Checkouts — “The Fairfax County library system on Nov. 29 reached a milestone of more than 3 million digital loans for the year to date. This is the first time the library system has exceeded the threshold since introducing OverDrive, the library system’s online-digital-catalog provider, in 2006, county officials said.” [Gazette Leader]

Fort Belvoir Turns Out for Christmas Tree Lighting — “Fort Belvoir kicked off the Christmas season with the installation’s annual tree-lighting and Winterfest celebration Saturday. Hundreds of families celebrated the start of the season with bounce houses, laser tag, face painting, a candy cannon shoot, train rides, a gingerbread house contest, snowball fights and more.” [Inside NoVA]

It’s Thursday — Expect a partly sunny day with highs reaching around 45 degrees, accompanied by a southwest wind at 5 to 9 mph. As for Thursday night, it will be mostly clear with lows around 33 degrees. The southwest wind will be around 5 mph, calming down in the evening. []

Quarry Inn Motel in West Falls Church (via Google Maps)

A Falls Church man has been arrested in connection to a sexual assault at the Quarry Inn Motel (7179 Lee Highway) in September.

Erick Vladamir Chacon Martinez, 23, was taken into custody yesterday (Tuesday) after detectives obtained warrants charging him with raping a woman at the West Falls Church motel on Sept. 16, the Fairfax County Police Department announced today.

As previously reported, police say that Chacon Martinez arranged to meet the victim in a motel room at 6:40 p.m.

“When she opened the door, the suspect displayed a knife and threatened the victim,” the FCPD said. “The suspect then sexually assaulted her. The victim was able to escape the room and call 911.”

Surveillance video allegedly depicting the suspect was shared with the public, suggesting that he was a man in his 20s, police said in September.

According to the FCPD, detectives were able to identify the phone number used to arrange the meeting at the motel, leading them to Chacon Martinez.

“Additional investigation, including open-source data leads from Social Media accounts and additional camera footage, further linked Chacon Martinez as the suspect,” the police department said in its news release.

Chacon Martinez has been charged with rape, abduction with intent to defile and forcible sodomy. He is currently being held without bond at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.

The Fairfax County General District Court doesn’t list any previous cases involving Cacon Martinez.

Image via Google Maps

Boaters and geese can be seen in the distance on Lake Accotink (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The best path forward for saving Lake Accotink might to let it shrink, a Fairfax County task force has proposed.

Created by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in May, the 30-person group was charged with exploring alternatives to fully dredging the sediment that has accumulated in the man-made body of water or converting it to a wetland, as recommended earlier this year by county staff.

In a final report delivered to the board yesterday (Tuesday), the Task Force on the Future of Lake Accotink suggested that 20 to 40 acres of the lake could be preserved with “a program of regular maintenance dredging,” which would allow kayaking and other water recreation to continue at the popular Springfield park.

The remainder of the lake could be turned into “some combination of a managed wetland and a grassland,” the task force proposed. Originally 110 acres in size, Lake Accotink has already been reduced to 49 acres, thanks to sediment build-up from the area’s development, the report says, citing Fairfax County Park Authority project manager and senior planner Adam Wynn.

“There is no doubt that preserving a smaller lake meets significant community and social goals,” a task force subcommittee charged with analyzing alternatives to a full dredging wrote in the report. “Even a small lake would allow the maintenance of the current marina area, a community gathering place for picnics, birthday parties, and many others who enjoy the calming effects of a lake environment. And, importantly, a small lake would still preserve the beauty that so many find in a lake for generations to come.”

Frequented by over 250,000 visitors a year, Lake Accotink Park (7500 Accotink Park Road) is one of the park authority’s top attractions. It features miles of trails, a carousel, a mini golf course, a picnic area, bicycle rentals and a recently updated playground in addition to a marina, where visitors can rent canoes, kayaks and paddle boats.

However, sediment carried into the lake by Accotink Creek needs to be periodically dredged, a process undertaken in 1985 and 2008. The Board of Supervisors approved a plan in 2019 to conduct an initial $30.5 million dredging operation, followed by annual maintenance dredges that would cost an estimated $2 million per year.

But the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) and its consultant, Arcadis, reported in February that 43% more sediment would need to be removed than initially estimated, and the costs of both the initial dredgings had skyrocketed to roughly $95 million.

The first 20 years of the annual dredging program would require an additional $300 million in funding, according to the February report, which was based on data collected since 2021.

As a result, DPWES staff recommended letting the lake fill up and revisiting the park’s master plan to determine how it might be maintained in the future as a “wetland and/or floodplain forest complex” — a proposal that alarmed community members. Read More


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