Hospitality workers looking to return to their jobs and hotels trying to recover from the pandemic are seeing signs of progress in an industry wrecked by shutdown orders and an upheaval in business trips.
Fairfax County’s new PIVOT grant program is prioritizing grant money for hotels, while also assisting other hard-hit businesses with $25 million in federal COVID-19 relief money. The program received 581 fully completed applications — including 15 in the lodging category — on Wednesday (June 23), its first day accepting applications.
Applications will be accepted through July 9, and the order they are received has no bearing on priority. But if funds are limited, lodging businesses with at least 10 rooms will be addressed first before a lottery then determines which companies in need will get money.
Managers in the Reston-Herndon area say they’re around half capacity. One said many furloughed staff are inquiring about when they can return, and three wedding parties stayed there recently.
Michael Riddlemoser, manager of the Inns of Virginia’s Falls Church location, said his 32-room hotel is also around 50% full, down from 75 or 80% full before March 2020.
“We just need more people coming into town,” he said. “DC [needs] to get full for us to start getting the DC business.”
A “Fairfax County Economic Recovery Framework” report presented to the county board of supervisors in January found that the accommodation and food services industries shed more jobs than any other sector, projecting a loss of 12,420 jobs or 26% of its workforce through December 2020.
“The pandemic has had disproportionate impacts across industries, with hospitality, food service, and small retailers most heavily impacted and facing the longest trajectory for recovery,” the study said.
The leisure and hospitality sector has lost 3.1 million jobs during the pandemic, representing over a third of all unemployment in the U.S., according to an American Hotel & Lodging Association report from February.
The report said the industry lost over 17,000 jobs in Virginia last year and was projected to lose over 13,000 jobs this year.
UNITE HERE Local 25, which represents about 7,200 hospitality workers across the DC region, had only 2% of members working last July, but the employment rate has bounced back to 25% in Northern Virginia, according to Benjy Cannon, the union’s director of communications.
Cannon attributes recent gains over the last eight weeks to vaccinations and domestic travel.
But the union believes pre-pandemic occupancy levels won’t return until international travel and long-term business travel returns, Cannon said. With unemployment benefits set to expire in September, that could lead the group to press legislators for changes.
“By late 2023, 2024, the industry is slated to recover stronger than it was in 2019,” Cannon said. “So, while this is an unfortunate bump in the road and our members are certainly mourning over it, we do still think that this region, this market, can recover in a really robust fashion and expect it to, even if it’s still a few years away.”
Photo via Febrian Zakaria on Unsplash
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
Plans to develop a new luxury brand hotel in Reston were revealed today.
Comstock Companies made the announcement that one of its managed companies, CRS Hotel, LC, entered a franchise agreement for the development and operation of a JW Marriott and Residences Reston.
The hotel is expected to be in Phase I of the Reston Row District at the Reston Station development. It will take up 8.4 acres of space at the intersection of Reston Station Boulevard and Wiehle Avenue near the Wiehle Reston-East Metrorail Station.
“We are excited to partner with Marriott to bring Virginia’s first JW Marriott to Reston,” Chris Clemente, CEO of CHCI, said in a press release.
“We look forward to adding this incredible brand to Reston Station and expect that the unrivaled amenities and meeting spaces will attract business and social functions from around the Washington, DC area, while meeting the needs of our corporate office clients, including Google, Rolls Royce of North America, Neustar, ICF Global, and others.”
In addition to an expected 250 guestrooms, the proposed 26-story tower will provide 90 luxury branded residences. The residences will include a separate residential lobby entrance and will be located on the upper floors of the JW Marriott tower. The residences will also have dedicated spaces and amenities such as an owner’s lounge, fitness center, outdoor area and dog park.
Two restaurants on the site are also included in the current plans for the hotel.
“We are thrilled Comstock Companies has chosen to bring the JW Marriott brand to Reston, in the heart of the Dulles Technology Corridor,” Noah Silverman, Chief Development Officer, North America Full-Service Hotels at Marriott International said in a press release. “This project will serve as a signature component of the exciting Reston Row development, offering both guests and owners a welcoming luxury experience.”
The expected timetable for the hotel’s opening is in 2024. The Comstock press release lists the project’s price tag at approximately $250 million.
In addition to the proposed hotel, the Reston Row District at Reston Station will eventually include various mixed-use buildings, two office towers and a 350-unit multi-family building. It will also include more than 65,000 square feet of retail, service and fitness spaces that will surround a 1.2-acre park.
Images courtesy Comstock
Hotel rooms have suddenly become difficult to come by in Fairfax County ahead of Inauguration Day on Wednesday.
That is a welcome problem for the lodging sector of the hospitality industry, which has been in a downward spiral since the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a slew of travel restrictions and stay-at-home health guidance.
But this inauguration will be unlike any other in recent political history. The general public’s ability to attend President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s Oath of Office ceremony has been sharply curtailed due to the pandemic, but hotels are hosting another large group of guests: the National Guard.
Up to 21,000 members of the National Guard have been authorized to come to D.C. and secure the city ahead of potential attacks, after Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill on Jan. 6. Fairfax County hotels are reportedly housing some of the 15,000 guard members already in the D.C. metropolitan area.
“We are indeed hearing anecdotally from hoteliers that there has been an uptick in reservations compared with the past 11 months, but we are unable to ascertain whether those reservations are directly related to the inauguration and/or the National Guard or people who are visiting for leisure or business travel,” Visit Fairfax President and CEO Barry Biggar said in a statement.
The pandemic and ensuing shutdowns devastated the hospitality industry across the U.S. In Virginia, COVID-19 has resulted in the loss of about 100,000 jobs, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
In November, the AHLA found that 71% of its member hotels said “they won’t make it another six months without further federal assistance given current and projected travel demand.” 47% of respondents said they would be forced to close hotels.
Many hotels were forced to layoff more staff this winter, even as access to the second round of the Paycheck Protection Program has expanded to all lenders.
But the employees who remain taking the sudden surge of guests in stride, Biggar explains.
“What we do know is that our hotels have been working tirelessly, even with staff shortages and for long hours, to ensure that our guests are treated with the utmost hospitality,” he said.
Photo courtesy Sheraton Reston
A plan to redevelop the Residence Inn on 315 Elden Street took a step closer to final approval this week.
At a meeting Monday night, the Town of Herndon’s Planning Commission unanimously approved a plan to repurpose the property into a 168-unit residential development. Roughly 55 percent of the units would be dedicated as workforce housing.
The plan, which was pitched by the new owner of the hotel, will move forward to the Herndon Town Council for a vote. Specifically, it calls for an amendment to the town’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan. The property’s zoning classification would change from business corridor to adaptive-area residential.
Commission members lauded the plan for repurposing an aging and underused area to meet a critical need for affordable housing in the area.
“I see it as a favorable way to repurpose this aging cluster of properties,” said Marcia Bouchard at the meeting. She added that the location for residential units is ideal due to the “exceptional” walkability of the area.
More details about the plan are expected as it moves through the rezoning and zoning map amendment process.
So far, 84 studio and 42 one-bedroom and 42 two-bedroom units are planned, with a total of 168 units spread across 21 buildings.
Staff noted that the development will likely result in a limited number of new students. Low-rise multifamily units typically produce roughly 0.3 students per dwelling unit.
Image via Google Maps
Homewood Suites by Hilton is opening in Reston next month.
The new hotel, which owned locally by Thomson Hospitality, will be located at 1735 Business Center Drive.
The business is accepting reservations for arrivals on Nov. 15 and onwards. While an exact opening date has not yet been determining, the hotel may accept reservations before Nov. 15 as it moves closet to completion.
A hotel representative told Reston Now that Homewood Suites is offering a 20 percent discount on room rates.
The facility includes studio and one-bedroom suites, each with a full kitchen and a fitness center with Peloton.
Photo via Homewood Suites
The Residence Inn on 315 Elden Street in Herndon could be transformed into an affordable housing development.
The new owner of the hotel is seeking to repurpose the property into a 166-unit residential development. According to preliminary plans, 55 percent of the units would be dedicated as workforce housing.
Before the traditional approval process can begin, the Town of Herndon’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan requires an amendment to the land use map, which would change the property from the business corridor classification to adaptive area-residential.
The Herndon Town Council will consider a proposal to refer the matter to the town’s Planning Commission. Public hearings will follow at a date that has not yet been announced.
In meeting materials, town officials indicate that the proposal could address a shortage of affordable housing in the area.
The meeting is set to begin at 7 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday) in the Herndon Council Chambers Building (765 Lynn Street).
Image via Google Maps
Board OKs Split of Child Care Center Property — “The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a special exception amendment Tuesday, allowing the owner of a piece of property along Centreville Road south of the Town of Herndon to adjust the lot lines of his property. The 2.61-acre property, which is situated east of Centreville Road and south of the West Ox Road intersection, consists of two lots.” [Reston Patch]
Hotel Rooms Help Homeless People in Fairfax County — “Fairfax County’s Office to Prevent and End Homelessness and local partners worked to establish a hotel room program to house homeless persons based on need during the coronavirus pandemic. People are referred to hotels by homeless service providers, medical providers such as Health Works of Northern Virginia and Neighborhood Health, and county staff.”[Reston Patch]
Coronavirus Leading to Fall of Urban Village — “‘Relatively better performance of single-family homes in relation to multi-family condominium properties clearly suggest migration from the city centers to the suburbs,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association Realtors, in parsing sales data from May.'” [Inside NOVA]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
A new five-story hotel, which will house two separate hotel business, has been proposed on vacant property on Sunset Park Drive.
Shamin Hotels is proposing to build the hotel on 232 Sunset Park Drive. The 151,00-square-foot building would be home to a Hilton Garden Inn and Home 2.
“The building is a delicate merge between the two hotels, providing an individual identity for each hotel, while creating a cohesive building design,” according to the proposal.
The 250-room hotel complex will include an indoor pool, health fitness room, and meeting spaces, among other features. The concept was first discussed at a Town of Herndon meeting in 2014.
The Town of Herndon’s Architectural Review Board will consider the proposal at a meeting on Wednesday (Nov. 6) at 7:30 p.m. in the Herndon Municipal Center (777 Lynn Street).
Photos via handout/Town of Herndon
Reston Association’s Design Review Board deferred a decision on the proposed renovation of Sheraton Reston Hotel last night (Tuesday).
Board members said that some proposed renovations to the 298-room hotel (11810 Sunrise Valley Drive) were tacky and departed significantly from conceptual plans that the DRB approved in mid-October.
As the direction of the project changed, hotel representatives said they dropped several natural wood tone elements and wood-printed screens on the facade of the building in favor of green paint on the fins. Darker gray tones to the building were also proposed.
The green paint is intended to bring in tones from the landscape into the building, according to project representatives. In October, the design had more wood-based elements and lacked a vertical strip of repeated chevron patterns where the sign of the hotel is currently situated.
W. Neal Roseberry, the DRB’s vice chair, said he had a “visceral reaction” to the proposed green color, which he said does a disservice to one of Reston’s most iconic buildings and departs significantly from the previously proposed wood elements that were “a wow.”
“I think its not what Reston needs to be doing to its older iconic buildings,” Roseberry said.
He also noted that the blue colors of the EXO apartment building — which is not within the DRB’s purview — often produces criticism from the community. If approved, the green paint would likely do the same.
Richard Newlon, the DRB’s chairman, also noted that the broader issue was very different from the original conceptual plan and could stand-alone as an entirely new project.
Wurzak Hotel Group, a Philadelphia-based company and DoveHill Capital Management acquired the property in March 2018. The DRB preliminary approved a conceptual renovation plan in October 2018.
Photos via handout/Reston Association
The owners behind the major Halley Rise want the county to approve a reshuffling of the square footage on what they say is a crowded block in the project.
Right now, work is underway on the portion of the 4 million-square-foot mixed-use development that will bring Reston its first Wegmans in June 2020. Halley Rise will be adjacent to the Reston Town Center Metro Station, occupying the northwest corner of the intersection of Reston Parkway and Sunrise Valley Drive.
One Reston Co. LLC and Two Reston Co. LLC want to redistribute some of the square footage from three denser blocks to two different blocks, “which still have [the] capacity for additional development,” according to the application.
The proposed changes would shift the hotel from block G to block E. Block E also would have a significant chunk of its retail space shifted elsewhere, along with moving all of its residential units to a different block. Meanwhile, block H would shave off about 150,000 square feet of office space.
The largest change would make block D the densest in the development with 100,000 square feet of office space, in addition to 391 residential units and four times more retail square footage.
The proposed changes were spurred by the realization that retrofitting the existing parking structure on block E with more than 400,000 square feet of development “would be more challenging than [the applicant] initially anticipated,” the application says.
“As a result, the applicant’s plan began with redistributing some of the square footage that had been concentrated on block E in order to relieve pressure from its planned over-development.”
The application, which stresses that the proposed changes do not adjust the project’s mix of uses or density, calls the proposal “modest improvements” that will allow for a new pedestrian promenade.
In early March, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins’ requested the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors speed up the review process for proposed plans that would adjust the grid of streets and accelerate construction of the streets to coincide with the opening of the grocer.
The Fairfax County Planning Commission is set to take up the proposal with a public hearing on May 22.
Photos via Fairfax County and Halley Rise/website
The new owners of Sheraton Reston Hotel (11810 Sunrise Valley Drive) in Reston Town Center have proposed a series of renovations to the 298-room hotel.
Wurzak Hotel Group, a Philadelphia-based company and DoveHill Capital Management acquired the property in March. Reston Association’s Design Review Board will consider the owners’ proposal to renovate the building’s exterior at the board’s meeting on Tuesday (Oct. 16).
Proposed renovations include repairs and repainting of the building’s facade. New louvers will be installed and wood-printed aluminum screens would be added to bring a “natural element” to the property, according to the owners’ proposal. Nature-inspired wood-printed metal will be repeated throughout the building and a clearer entry to the new Gastropub location will be added.
The DRB meets at 7 p.m. in Reston Association headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive). The board will also hear a case that was previously rejected in April.
T-Mobile has filed another application to install antennas on the roof of the Waterford Square Condominiums — a proposal that was flatly rejected after opposition from residents. Opposition to the proposal remains.
Photos via handout/Reston Association
MCR, the owner of a new Courtyard by Marriott near Dulles International Airport, is motivated by the potential of a possible newcomer in the area: Amazon’s HQ2.
The owner is marketing the 187-room hotel, which is located at 13717 Sayward Blvd., with Amazon packages in the foreground in promotional materials. The company converted the former Sheraton hotel into a Courtyard.
“We developed the Courtyard by Marriott Dulles Airport Herndon with Amazon.com in mind,” said Tyler Morse, CEO and Managing Partner of MCR and MORSE Development. “In our hotel, the area’s tech workforce will have flexible spaces and free lightning fast Wi-Fi to stream, shop and work online.”
Amazon is expected to make a decision on the location of its second headquarters by the end of the year. Northern Virginia is among the 20 finalists, including the 26-acre Center for Innovative Technology campus.
The hotel includes a restaurant called The Bistro and a fitness center.
Photo via MCR
Noble Investment Group, a Georgia-based investment company, has acquired Westin Reston Heights, a 191-room hotel located at 11750 Sunrise Valley Drive.
The company plans to renovate guests rooms and common areas in the hotel. Westin Reston Heights has a business room and is also the location of Vinifera Wine Bar & Bistro. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Noble principal Ben Brunt said the acquisition was motivated by substantial growth and corporate relocations planned in Reston.
“The Westin afforded Noble the opportunity to acquire a first-class physical asset that is well suited to the wide array of demand generators in the area while offering substantial upside through the reconfiguration and enhancement of the hotel public spaces and guest rooms,” Brunt wrote in a statement.
Nearby, another hotel changed hands this year. In March, Wurzak Hotel Group and DoveHil Capital Management acquired Sheraton Reston Hotel at 11810 Sunrise Valley Drive. A renovation project is planned for the 298-room hotel.
Photo by Starwood Hotels
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved plans Tuesday to replace surface parking in Lake Fairfax Business Park with a four-story hotel.
The 138-room hotel, proposed by TH Holding Company, would be built next to the headquarters of Thompson Hospitality (1741 Business Center Drive), TH Holding’s retail food and facilities management company.
TH Holding Company plans to provide 299 parking spaces, including 149 spots for hotel guests and employees. An outdoor terrace will be adjacent to the hotel’s main entrance.
Under requested rezoning approvals, the hotel will be subject to its own zoning and permit regulations, separate from Lake Fairfax Business Park. The Planning Commission unanimously approved the project on May 3, with one member abstaining from a vote.
Photo via Fairfax County Government, Google Maps