A “We’re open” sign in a business window (via Clay Banks on Unsplash)

Arts organizations, museums, and hotels are some of the key targets for Fairfax County’s new initiative to get money to those in need, and informational sessions are providing help.

Approved by the county board last week, the PIVOT program will provide financial grants to small businesses as well as other recipients, and webinars about the effort will begin at 1 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday) in English and at 2 p.m. Thursday (June 17) in Spanish.

Links to the webinars can be found on the Fairfax County Department of Economic Initiatives website.

“Fairfax County is committed to helping businesses recover from the effects of the pandemic,” Board of Supervisor Chairman Jeff McKay said in a news release. “Through the PIVOT grant we will help those businesses who saw the greatest financial impact regain their momentum so they will be able to thrive in the reopening marketplace.”

Federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act is supporting the program with $25 million to the county.

Applications can be submitted online through a grant portal that will be open from June 23 to July 9. The money is being administered through the nonprofit Latino Economic Development Center, said Rebecca Moudry, director of Fairfax County Department of Economic Initiatives.

The areas targeted will give relief to food services, lodging, retail, services, amusements, arts organizations, museums, and historical sites.

Potential monetary awards for individual businesses and nonprofits include the following:

  • $18,000 for restaurants with less than $3.5 million in annual receipts or gross revenue per establishment
  • $12,000 for retail, services, and amusements with less than $3.5 million in annual receipts or gross revenue per establishment
  • $10,000 for large arts organizations, museums, and historical sites with annual receipts or gross revenue greater than $100,000
  • $5,000 for smaller arts organizations
  • $1,500 for food trucks that don’t belong to a restaurant
  • $400 per room to hotels with a minimum of 10 rooms

The money will go to businesses that have no more than 500 employees, among other criteria. Nonprofits don’t have an eligibility restriction regarding the number of workers they have.

The new outreach comes after the county ended its Fairfax Relief Initiative to Support Employers (RISE) program last year, distributing around $53 million, one of several financial outreaches by the county.

The PIVOT grants will go to hotels first, then to other organizations if demand is too great. The county could also add to the funding in the future.

Photo via Clay Banks on Unsplash

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StarKist Co. is relocating its headquarters from Pittsburgh to Fairfax County.

The food manufacturer known for its tuna is investing $3.6 million to relocate its corporate and administrative headquarters, occupying approximately 24,000 square feet at 1875 Explorer St. in Reston, according to a news release from Gov. Ralph Northam’s office.

“StarKist is proud to make Reston, Virginia our official global headquarters starting in April 2022,” Andrew Choe, president and CEO of StarKist, said in the release.

The 10-story property was developed by Boston Properties in 2008. It’s located in Reston Town Center and totals 253,643 square feet of space.

Northam noted Virginia is now home to 800 corporate headquarters, and Fairfax County “consistently attracts top talent and is well connected to key customer markets and major metro areas.”

Known for its brand mascot Charlie the Tuna, StarKist began as the French Sardine Co. in 1917 by Martin Bogdanovich, who immigrated from Croatia to California, and four associates. The company says it started selling products with the StarKist name in 1942.

The company announced in May it would relocate to Virginia in 2022 but did not indicate at the time where the new site would be. Its Pittsburgh headquarters will close March 31 next year.

A company spokeswoman declined to answer questions about how many employees will be at the new headquarters and the company’s hiring plans, but Northam’s office says SunKist’s arrival in Reston will create 83 jobs.

One job listing posted nine days ago confirmed the Reston location, but another posting from over a month ago listed Washington, D.C. but said the position was in Pittsburgh.

“I am so pleased to thank StarKist for choosing Fairfax County for its new headquarters,” Fairfax County Economic Development Authority President and CEO Victor Hoskins said. “This is a testament to the growing attractiveness of Northern Virginia to a wide variety of industry sectors and companies that know we have the assets and talent base to succeed here.”

StarKist comes as Volkswagen Group of America is also moving its headquarters nearby to Reston Gateway, and Metro’s Silver Line anticipates opening next year.

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A bridge over Sugarland Run Stream (Photo by Mike Madigan)

(Updated at 7 p.m.) A stream project that could help reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay is getting additional money from Fairfax County.

A $1.2 million contribution from the county will be upped to $1.4 million, thanks to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ approval on Tuesday (June 8). The project will restore part of Sugarland Run by the Washington & Old Dominion Trail in Herndon.

“Upon completion of the design, the County will grant the Town with an additional $1 million for construction,” county staff said in a report to the board.

Herndon town officials say the project will restore a portion of the body of water known as Sugarland Run South between the trail crossing and approximately 1,200 linear feet north.

It comes amid a corrective measure from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to limit pollution by mitigating nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment levels to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay region.

The town already received $200,000 from the county through a 2018 agreement, but an additional $201,800 was needed to complete the design phase. The town plans to use its staff to carry out the project.

“Under the amended agreement, the County has the discretion to pay construction cost overruns, but in an amount not to exceed 10 percent of the total estimated Project cost,” county staff also said.

Herndon is working with Vienna and the county to meet the region’s limits on pollution levels known as the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load.

Work to be completed includes re-planting vegetation and restoring a portion of the stream near the W&OD Trail, among other changes, Reston Now previously reported.

Herndon officials didn’t immediately return Reston Now’s requests for comment.

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Longtime staple Pica Deli has closed after serving the area for three-plus decades, telling customers that it is a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Started in 1987 by Frank Pica, the business was carried on by his son Tyler Pica and Tyler’s childhood friend Caleb Max, but has now shut down.

“People call every day and ask if we’re going to open up,” Max said. “It really just depends on the real estate market and what’s out there.”

A sign on the store’s entrance says that COVID-19 got the best of them, adding that “hopefully, we will be back when the pandemic is over.”

The restaurant is located at 11864 Sunrise Valley Drive, nestled next to office buildings and tucked away off Reston Parkway.

Max says the business stopped after the building changed ownership. According to a county property database, Sunrise Valley Real Estate LLC bought it April 6 for nearly $1.1 million from Pentagon Federal Credit Union.

He told Reston Now he thinks an orthodontist is putting an office there.

Max and Tyler Pica took over the eatery in early 2020 after it was run by Jung Sook Kim for over a decade. A photo even showed the business in 2004 when they were Reston neighbors on a Pica Deli-sponsored little league baseball team.

The business received Paycheck Protection Program or PPP loans for over $17,000 and other assistance, but Max says the exodus of office workers made too great of a deficit.

“The aid was good, but for the restaurants, we were hit so hard,” he said.

If Virginia’s timeline for businesses to reopen had been clearer, Max says he would have closed for much longer than the two-week shutdown that they had in early 2020.

Pica Deli could continue in the form of a food truck in the interim, Max says, but he wants to make sure they’re well past the pandemic before returning to the food industry.

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Fairfax County is developing a new grant program intended to help small businesses and nonprofits recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, but in a change from previous relief efforts, this program will first award money to hotels before determining recipients in other industries by lottery.

If it’s approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors today (Tuesday) as scheduled, the proposed PIVOT Business Recovery Grant program will be supported by $25 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress in March.

“The estimated 48,200 jobs lost in Fairfax County through December 2020 were heavily concentrated in the food service, hospitality and retail sectors,” county staff said in the agenda for today’s meeting, which starts at noon.

Staff added that approximately 50% of job losses in the county in 2020 were lodging, food services, retail, arts, entertainment, and other services.

But why hotels should get first dibs on the new money over restaurants and other affected businesses remains unclear. A county spokesperson says it’s a draft and subject to change.

The background provided in the agenda item does note that Northern Virginia’s lodging industry has been struggling in comparison to the rest of the state:

According to the global hospitality data firm STR, Virginia lodging businesses experienced a 2020 monthly average 50.5 percent decrease compared to 2019 — totaling more than $2.2 billion in lost revenue. Northern Virginia is the only region in Virginia that continues to decline and as of March 2021 has the lowest revenue per room in the Commonwealth.

The plan says hotels with at least 10 rooms will be eligible for a grant. Businesses in the program could get the money if they have 500 employees or less and their principal place of business is in the county.

Hotels are not the only industry hit hard by the pandemic. An International Monetary Fund report shows that in the U.S., the pandemic at one point led to a crash in restaurant bookings as well as steep drops in flying and driving.

Small business owner Caleb Max, who acquired Pica Deli in Reston early in 2020, says it’s good that another part of the hospitality sector would be helped. While restaurants have gotten a boost from relief funds and promotional efforts like restaurant weeks, he said hotels seem to have been left out.

Max shared his thoughts even as his own business has became a victim of COVID-19, according to a handwritten sign on the restaurant’s door announcing the business’s closure.

Max received Paycheck Protection Program money to the tune of $17,241 for his eatery as well as other assistance, saying the money helped but still left a significant deficit with office workers no longer around as consistent customers.

“The aid was good, but for restaurants, we were hit so hard,” Max said.

The new business assistance plan comes after Fairfax County distributed around $52.6 million to small businesses and nonprofits last year through the Fairfax Relief Initiative to Support Employers (RISE) program. Recipients had to have less than 50 employees across all locations.

The RISE program, which helped over 4,800 recipients, dedicated at least 30% of the money to women-, minority- and veteran-owned businesses, which ended up with 72% of the funding, according to the county.

That aligns with the findings of a consultant report completed in January that said the county should target further assistance to help those most affected by the pandemic. It detailed how low-income and minority households faced greater difficulties in the workforce, along with women, who have been held back by affordable child care challenges.

Photo via Febrian Zakaria/Unsplash

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A crowd enjoys a concert during the 2019 “Friday Night Live!” music series in Herndon (Photo courtesy Laura B. Poindexter)

(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) Friday Night Live! — a free concert series held annually in the Town of Herndon — is returning this summer and will be almost back to normal.

After shifting to a virtual season for 2020 due to the pandemic, the series’ 27th season will be in person with 13 concerts between July 2 and Sept. 24.

“We were thrilled with the tremendous support from the community and our sponsors over the past year,” Laura Poindexter, the event’s chair, said in a news release announcing the full series schedule.

The shows will take place on the Herndon Town Green, located behind the town’s municipal building (777 Lynn St.) and adjacent to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail and Herndon Fortnightly Library.

Most of the bands, featuring popular local acts from along the East Coast, play rock ‘n’ roll covers from classic to modern rock.

Here’s the lineup:

“Friday Night Live!” delayed its start this season, hoping for COVID-19 cases to decline and rising vaccinations to justify normal operations.

While organizers previously planned with the expectation that some capacity limits would be required, Poindexter tells Reston Now that the concerts will essentially operate like they did prior to the pandemic, since Gov. Ralph Northam ended capacity restrictions on May 28 and eased mask requirements for fully vaccinated people with some exceptions.

“We believe the community is ready for some sense of normalcy,” Poindexter said.

The events will also have food from local restaurants, along with beer, seltzer, and wine for purchase. Proceeds benefit the Herndon Chamber of Commerce, which produces the concerts, with a portion of tip money from alcohol going to Herndon High School alcohol-free party programming.

In addition to providing some summer entertainment, Friday Night Live! is an economic development initiative intended to promote downtown Herndon and encourage both residents and visitors to support local businesses.

After some debate, the Herndon Town Council approved $20,000 in additional funding for the series as part of its fiscal year 2022 budget.

“I am looking forward to the July 2 kickoff! ” Herndon Mayor Sheila Olem said. “After the past year I know I am ready to see so many people I have missed during the COVID pandemic. Our citizens and visitors as well as our local businesses are looking forward to this event as well.”

Photo courtesy Laura B. Poindexter (@laurabcreative). Angela Woolsey contributed to this report.

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The Virginia Democratic Party is holding a primary tomorrow (Tuesday), and the ballot will feature some crowded races, including statewide contests for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general.

The Republican Party chose to replace its primary this year with a convention in May to select statewide candidates. Some local races are also occurring in the state.

About 7,300 people in Fairfax County have voted early in person, and 50% of the vote-by-mail ballots requested by voters have been turned in so far, county spokesman Brian Worthy said in an email on Friday (June 4).

Here’s what to know:

Casting Your Ballot

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. If you’re in line by 7 p.m., you will still be able to vote. You generally need an ID to vote, but alternative options are available, which includes signing a statement that says you are who you say you are. You can find your polling place online.

For absentee ballots, the deadline to hand deliver them is 7 p.m. Tuesday. They can be dropped off at polling sites, and other options are available. By mail, absentee ballots must be postmarked on or before June 8 and also received in the county elections office by noon on Friday (June 11).

Unofficial results will be posted on the county’s website on election night as well as the state elections’ website.

The Ballot

While the lieutenant governor race remains crowded, candidate Elizabeth Guzman withdrew from to focus on getting re-elected as a delegate for the 31st House District, which serves parts of Fauquier and Prince William counties. However, her name will still be on the ballot.

For the gubernatorial race, Virginia’s constitution bars governors from running for consecutive terms, preventing Gov. Ralph Northam from seeking re-election this year but opening the door for former Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

The state elections board previously drew candidates’ names randomly for their order on the ballot. They’re listed below, and sample ballots are available online.

Governor

Lieutenant Governor

Attorney General

House of Delegates — 36th District (Reston)

House of Delegates86th District (Herndon)

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Getting to and from Metro stations can be a harrowing experience for pedestrians and cyclists, and the Fairfax County Planning Commission and others want something to be done about it.

The planning commissioners have called on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to require Metro, the state and county transportation departments, and more to “work immediately” to make safety and accessibility improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists to transit stations.

“This is a call for action by the public to improve pedestrian/bicycle access to metro stations as envisioned in the comprehensive plan,” Hunter Mill District Planning Commissioner John Carter said when introducing a motion during the commission’s meeting on May 19.

The measure calls for numerous changes, such as:

  • Providing wide sidewalks at intersections within walking distance of transit stations,
  • Making turns on roads tighter at intersections to slow traffic down,
  • Providing a “double ramp” for people with disabilities instead of single ramp that’s currently in use directing pedestrians to the middle of intersections,
  • Avoiding extra turning lanes at intersections with high volumes of pedestrians
  • Providing closely spaced street trees between curb and sidewalk areas to protect pedestrians.

The motion passed, with 10 members voting for it and at-large member Timothy Sargeant, abstaining. Sargeant did not respond to a message seeking comment on why he voted that way.

“Failure to act will cause pedestrian access to continue to be ‘significantly challenged’ and ridership on the metro station to be reduced,” Carter said.

He introduced the motion during the commission’s discussion on whether to approve changes to the office-residential complex Reston Gateway being constructed, but he noted that the issues seen at Reston’s Metro stations could apply to other locations as well.

Supervisor Walter Alcorn, whose Hunter Mill District includes the Reston Gateway project, agrees that the main crosswalk serving the upcoming Silver Line station at Reston Town Center is not pedestrian-friendly.

“The rail project used cookie-cutter designs,” he said, adding that a walkway over the road has been proposed but could be years away from coming to fruition.

When touring the area a couple weeks ago, Alcorn asked the Fairfax County Department of Transportation to identify short-term improvements to occur before the station opens, which isn’t expected to happen until early 2022.

“I want to make sure riders can readily get to the stations on day one and every day thereafter,” he said.

Pedestrian and bicyclist advocacy groups expressed support for the commission’s call for change. Read More

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The Fairfax County Democratic Committee wants county leaders to fire newly hired county Police Chief Kevin Davis in response to continued controversy surrounding his history as an officer.

The local political group passed a motion at its general membership meeting yesterday (Tuesday) recommending that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors fire Davis, reopen the police search, and implement a transparent hiring process.

“We believe we need to overhaul the criminal justice system from top to bottom, to end racial inequity in policing, end police brutality and build a police force built on trust where our residents don’t need to worry about protecting their families from the police sworn to protect and serve them,” FCDC said.

Davis’s hiring has drawn vocal criticism from civil rights advocates and community groups since he was appointed as retired Chief Edwin Roessler’s successor on April 23, particularly in the wake of an NBC4 report on two lawsuits that he faced while working as an officer in Prince George’s County, Maryland in the 1990s.

In one case, Davis reportedly stopped and violently arrested a driver, eventually leading to a $12,500 jury award to Mark Spann, who is Black. The other case involved Davis and a group of narcotics officers illegally detaining a 19-year-old, who later sued and won a $90,000 judgment.

Davis has also faced renewed scrutiny for his 2015-2018 tenure as commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department, which included a secret aerial surveillance program and a six-day lockdown of the predominantly Black Harlem Park neighborhood that is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit filed by the ACLU’s Maryland chapter.

“Hiring a candidate with a history of racially charged use of force incidents in their past is not starting from a place where community trust can be built,” FCDC said.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay has repeatedly expressed confidence in Davis as Fairfax County’s new police chief.

A spokesperson from his office declined to comment on the FCDC motion, which was developed by the committee’s Black caucus. The committee says in a press release that it was “overwhelmingly” supported by its 1,000-plus members.

In lieu of a comment, McKay’s office shared a letter sent to FCDC on May 20 that touted Davis’s “ability to implement progressive reforms,” citing his efforts to implement changes in Baltimore like the introduction of body-worn cameras and a revised use-of-force policy that emphasizes deescalation.

The letter, which was signed by all nine Democratic supervisors, also defended the level of public engagement used during the police chief hiring process. The search included a pre-screening panel, a survey that generated over 3,000 responses, and an outreach campaign with over 275 community meetings and calls.

Davis also participated in a public input session during his first week as the new police chief — albeit with continued controversy.

“We are confident that this year’s process was the broadest and incorporated both extensive public input and intentional inclusivity,” the Board of Supervisors letter said. “Regardless, we commit to looking at our entire public participation process for future personnel decisions and establishing a framework for further improvement.” Read More

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The Fairfax County Planning Commission gave its support this week to the Reston Gateway developer’s plans to swap retail space for offices.

Boston Properties, the developer behind the multi-phase development being constructed next to the forthcoming Reston Town Center Metro station, wants to switch its designs for a structure previously slated for retail, restaurant, and residential use by scaling back retail space and bringing offices there.

The planning commission voted on Wednesday (May 19) to recommend the changes that will go before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on June 22.

The overall development calls for office space for Fannie Mae as well as Volkswagen of America in Blocks A and B, but Boston Properties wants to transfer office space approved there to Block D, legal representative Mark Looney said at the meeting.

“That was planned to be a residential building from the beginning,” Looney said of Block D, a site located along Town Center Parkway that potentially could have two residential towers of up to 36 and 12 stories.

The proposal calls for up to 78,000 square feet of transferred office space in Block D. According to a county document, the square footage of development in Block D would be reduced from 731,000 to 650,832 with the changes, which would eliminate restaurant space and reduce retail space by 63%.

Phase I of the project, which consists of Blocks A through D, permits up to 2.23 million square feet of development.

Looney, an attorney with Cooley helping to represent the project, told Reston Now that the parking garage reconfiguration would mean more parking spaces for Block D are underground than above ground. The parking garage will still have at least four levels above ground, he said in an email.

County staff also have worked with the developer regarding the aesthetic of the building, given the proposed adjustment.

With the parking garage on the ground level, design improvements such as artwork are envisioned to facilitate pedestrian use.

“We will work with Public Art Reston on the extent of the public art, we will show it to the zoning administrator for their input and then ultimately, the Reston Town Center [Association]…Design Review Board has final say over what’s to be installed,” Looney said. “But we hope that that collaborative process will result in a better building and a better design for all concerned.”

Images via Fairfax County

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Local restaurants are getting help from DoorDash and a statewide association for the hospitality industry.

The Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association gave $3,500 awards to businesses after over 690 restaurants in Virginia applied for relief. Egg Karne, Pho2000, Spice Town, and Sully’s Pour House in Herndon as well as Sprout Café in Reston were among the nine recipients in Fairfax County.

According to a county news release, Qaiser Aziz of Spice Town said the restaurant lost nearly 30% of its revenue during the pandemic, noting a big chunk of its lunchtime business decreased due to physical distancing as well as business and office closures.

“These restaurateurs are building businesses and community, and they continue to give back in spite of the hardships they have faced over the past year,” the VRLTA said in a news release. “Many have adapted and pivoted to offer online ordering, takeout, delivery and outside dining, and they are looking forward to a better year in 2021.”

The association joined forces with the online food ordering platform DoorDash to give out money to small restaurants that had operations disrupted, saw reduced revenue, or experienced financial stress between March and December 2020.

The 2021 DoorDash Restaurant Operator Relief Grant program was part of DoorDash’s Main Street Strong Pledge and did not require businesses to be a DoorDash partner to be eligible, the VRLTA said.

To be eligible for the grants, businesses had to have no more than three locations with 50 or fewer employees and annual gross revenue of $3 million or less for the specific location that was applying.

VRLTA and DoorDash allocated a total of $450,000 in grants to 128 restaurants in Virginia.

Fairfax County noted eight of the local recipients also received money from the Fairfax Relief Initiative to Support Employers that the Board of Supervisors established last year to give financial assistance to local businesses and nonprofits.

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issuing new mask guidance for fully vaccinated people, Virginia has eased its mask mandate, and major retailers such as Starbucks and Walmart have also lifted restrictions in stores for vaccinated customers, but businesses can still impose restrictions.

Under Gov. Ralph Northam’s current public health order, restaurants and other food service venues are limited to 100 people indoors and 250 people outdoors, and different groups of patrons must be kept at least six feet apart. However, the state will end those and other capacity and distancing restrictions on May 28.

Photo via Griffin Wooldridge/Unsplash

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