(Updated 3:35 p.m.) Mark Sugden, a familiar face to customers and employees of the Target on Sunset Hills Road in Reston, has died, family and friends have told Reston Now.

Known for his ever-present smile and balloons, Sugden had been a constant sight at the back of the Target parking lot for the last six years. He usually sat on the curb and waved at passersbys, who sometimes stopped to hand Sugden money or groceries.

Sugden had been experiencing homelessness, and a GoFundMe had been set up to help with the costs of staying in a nearby hotel. He also suffered from bipolar disorder, depression, and several other physical limitations, as he told Reston Now back in May.

Despite these challenges, Sugden continued to have a positive attitude.

“He was just a really, down-to-earth, good person. He always treated everybody well,” his brother George Sugden told Reston Now. “[He was] one of those things that’s pretty rare these days — a good soul.”

A memorial and tribute was set up this morning (Thursday) in his honor in front of the Sunoco station on Sunset Hills Road. It’s expected to be there for at least the next few days for those who would like to pay their respects, friend David Ritter tells Reston Now.

There may also be a remembrance service at a later date, but the logistics are still being figured out, Ritter notes.

According to the original GoFundMe page, Sugden died on Aug. 27. The Fairfax County Police Department confirmed the death, though a cause is not immediately known. FCPD does not suspect foul play.

A new fundraiser has been launched to help with funeral costs. The goal is to raise $2,000.

Ritter met Sugden a few years ago and was immediately struck by Sugden’s positivity. He believed that attitude rubbed off on everyone Sugden met.

“It never ceases to amaze me how Mark affected people,” Ritter said.

Once, when it was snowing during the winter, Ritter went to check on Sugden and make sure he had everything he needed. When Ritter arrived, he found a line of cars already waiting to give supplies and food to Sugden.

In May, Reston Now joined Sugden for about an hour at his usual spot between the Target and Sunoco on Sunset Hills Road. Six people in cars stopped to say hello and help him out.

Each time, Sugden greeted them with a wave, a smile, and a thank you.

“Your smile makes me happy,” one woman told Sugden. After she drove away, Sugden said, “I love to see them smile back.”

Over the last several days, both Ritter and George have been hearing from the community about how much Sugden meant to them.

“[From] the stories and the people I’ve met in the last 24 hours, it’s obvious that he touched a lot of people without really going out of his way,” George said. “It was just the way he was.”

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Red Velvet Bakery and Little Beast Bistro will open at Reston Town Center West on Sept. 15.

First announced in May, the bakery and bistro now have an official opening date for their new location at 12100 Sunset Hills Road after passing a health inspection, getting a liquor license, and obtaining necessary permits, owner Aaron Gordon tells Reston Now.

Gordon previously ran Red Velvet Cupcakery at Reston Town Center, but the venue closed more than three years ago mostly due to Boston Properties instituting paid parking.

He always envisioned returning to Reston, though.

“We’re extremely excited to be back in Reston after three years away!” he wrote in an email to Reston Now. “Red Velvet Bakery is coming back to Reston much stronger.”

He says the menu will include a “full array of favorite cupcakes,” along with new items like croissants, cross-cinnamon rolls, butterkuchen, and other pastries.

The bakery will be carry-out with 10 to 12 seats outdoors and a separate, side entrance.

Alongside Red Velvet will be Little Beast Bistro, a sandwich and pizza concept also from Gordon. They will share kitchens but will have separate storefronts, much like how it is at the Chevy Chase location.

Little Beast, which will have about 100 seats inside and 20 outside, will serve Detroit-style pizza, sandwiches, and pasta. It will also have a full bar and cocktail bar.

These ventures were partially supported by crowdfunding. Gordon raised more than $46,000 with a campaign through MainVest that launched in May, allowing those interested to invest in the restaurants in exchange for perks like owner hats, customized beer stein, and cupcakes for life.

The restaurants are taking the space formerly occupied by Famous Toastery, which closed in March.

Back in May, Gordon said they were seeking a pre-built, second-generation space that could be open on a quicker timeline. He called the location at Reston Town Center West “ideal” because of all the new development and the eventual arrival of a Metro station across the street.

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CACI International, one of the country’s largest government defense, intelligence, and cyber security contractors, cut the ribbon on its new Reston headquarters last week.

The corporate headquarters of the nearly $6 billion company is now located in a newly renovated 135,000-square-foot, six-story building at 12021 Sunset Hills Road across the street from the impending Reston Town Center Metro station.

“We’re very excited about our updated modern facilities and confident that this new building will be key to continuing this vital work for our customers’ important national security missions and groundbreaking technology,” CACI President and CEO John Mengucci said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The building will house approximately 450 employees as well as a Center for Research, Application, Development, Learning and Engagement (CRADLE). The workshop will allow employees and clients to interactively work together on concept design and prototypes.

CACI headquarters was located in Ballston for nearly fifty years, but the company signed a lease with Boston Properties, which owns nearby Reston Town Center, late last year to move into two-decade-old building.

Bearing the slogan “Ever Vigilant,” CACI has become one of the nation’s leading defense contractors since its founding in 1962. In fact, President Joe Biden’s recent nominee for the assistant secretary of defense for readiness job is a former employee.

In attendance at the ribbon-cutting were a number of local officials, including Rep. Gerry Connolly, who represents Virginia’s 11th Congressional district which includes large swaths of Reston and Herndon.

Connolly complimented the company’s foresight and spoke about the region’s continued growth.

“[CACI has] chosen a location that is only going to grow in economic investment and technological importance in the coming years: the Dulles corridor,” he said. “This is maybe one of the most dynamic economic corridors in the United States. It is certainly going to eclipse even downtown Washington as the single most important investment and economic corridor in the capital region.”

He also noted that the building’s proximity to a soon-to-be-opened Metro station showcases why extending the Silver Line was critical to economic growth in Reston and Herndon, a sentiment echoed by Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.

“It’s an affirmation that the long-term development strategy of transit-oriented development makes sense,” Alcorn told Reston Now. “It’s important to have employers like CACI in Reston, where there are multiple transportation options available to workers, visitors, and others using the facilities.”

Building around public transportation, Alcorn notes, allows more people to benefit from economic and development activity.

Del. Ken Plum, who represents Virginia’s 36th House District, says that, as Reston and Fairfax County grow as a economic and technology center of the region, there needs to be efforts to service a diverse workforce.

“We also need to recognize the service workers and others that support [this headquarters],” Plum said to Reston Now. “We’ve also got to accommodate them with appropriate housing and transportation alternatives. It’s all good to cut a ribbon, but we have to recognize the bigger picture…and provide the support structure necessary.”

Even as some workers return to offices with vaccine rates rising, there may be a permanent shift toward more teleworking as opposed to employees coming into an office every day, a possibility anticipated by the renovations and more open work spaces in CACI’s new headquarters, Mengucci said.

Both Alcorn and Plum say a more flexible approach to work spaces could have positive ramifications on everything from public transportation to child care.

“The new normal is recognizing working at home doesn’t reduce productivity,” Plum said. “I think we are seeing an increasing emphasis on that as an option.”

However, bringing more companies like CACI to Reston remains a priority for tax revenue reasons as well as continuing to grow Fairfax County’s economy.

“They’re still very much a role for office space in centralized commercial locations,” Alcorn said. “But people will have more options now, not only about where they live, but also how often they come into work.”

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Red Velvet Cupcakery is coming back to Reston and is set to open later this summer.

The well-known bakery that was formerly at Reston Town Center will open a new location at Reston Town Center West on Sunset Hills Road, owner Aaron Gordon tells Reston Now.

It will share a kitchen with Little Beast Bistro, a sandwich and pizza concept also developed by Gordon, but much like the two do in Chevy Chase, D.C., they will have seperate, distinct storefronts.

“I’ve always wanted to get back out [to Reston],” Gordon said.

His partner on these ventures is Kristen Brabrook, the former manager of Red Velvet’s Reston Town Center location.

“She’s been the manager with me since the store opened 10, 11 years ago. This is for her hard work,” he said.

Red Velvet Cupcakery and Little Beast will be located at 12100 Sunset Hills Road, replacing Famous Toastery, which closed in March.

Gordon says they sought out a pre-built, second-generation space so they could open on a quicker timeline.

The plan is open in early August, he says. The new location will be right across from Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant.

“It’s an ideal location,” Gordon said. “…With [development] projects and the Metro coming, it was very attractive. It’s easy to get in and out for take away and delivery too.”

Red Velvet Cupcakery will be carry-out with 10 to 12 seats outdoors and a separate, side entrance from Little Beast. It will serve up many other treats beyond cupcakes, Gordon says, including croissants, cinnamon bins, acai bowls, and cruffins.

Little Beast will have about 100 seats inside, 20 outside, and a bar/cocktail area. It will focus on pizza, pasta, sandwiches, and cocktails, and brunch will be available everyday.

To support these ventures, Gordon launched a crowd-sourcing campaign last week through MainVest, allowing anyone to invest in his Reston restaurants in exchange for perks like owner hats, a customized beer stein, and cupcakes for life.

Red Velvet closed almost exactly three years ago at Reston Town Center, a decision was mainly driven by developer Boston Properties instituting paid parking.

“We did our best to fight paid parking in RTC and we are proud to have played a large role in forcing the owners to reduce the paid parking hours, which costs them tens of millions yearly,” Gordon said at the time. “We only regret we were unable to force them to scrap their greedy money-grab entirely.”

A number of businesses ended up suing the developer over the paid parking system, claiming that it was costing them significant business. The lawsuits were settled in 2019.

Gordon says Red Velvet Cupcakery at Reston Town Center stopped being profitable when paid parking was put in place. So, when the lease ended in 2018, he was unable to negotiate an extension with Boston Properties, since he felt it no longer made sense to stay “at the same high rent.”

Now, Gordon is happy to be coming back to Reston particularly after a very tough past year.

“Going through the pandemic was hard for all, but particularly so for restaurants,” he says. “It was about finding the perfect spot, and I think we have.”

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Reston community members have set up a GoFundMe to help an individual experiencing homelessness pay for a local hotel room.

On a sunny May morning, 62-year-old Mark sat on the curb at the back of Target’s parking lot on Sunset Hills Road in Reston.

When a gray Honda CR-V pulls up in front of him, he smiles and waves. The car’s window comes down, he stands up, limping to the car. The woman inside hands Mark some money.

“God bless you,” Mark said.

“Your smile makes me happy,” the woman responded.

“I love to see them smile back,” Mark said, sitting back on the curb as the woman drives away. “It’s a little bit of interaction.”

With his balloons, signs, and a smile, Mark — who asked Reston Now not use his last name out of privacy concerns — has become a well-known fixture at this spot. He has been sitting there six days a week, with Mondays off, since he started experienced homelessness five years ago, going on six.

Earlier this year, Oak Hill resident David Ritter set up a GoFundMe to assist Mark in paying for a room at a nearby hotel. Currently, the fundraiser amassed over $900, but it has a goal of $10,000.

Ritter tells Reston Now he’s helping because he’s gotten to know Mark over the last several years.

“A lot of homeless people don’t interact, don’t engage, and are not positive like Mark,” Ritter said. “I think that’s a testament to his character.”

Mark tells Reston Now that he’s a veteran and a Columbia University medical school graduate who has a past criminal record that has prevented him from getting a job.

“I’ve sent out 1,500 job applications in five years,” Mark said. “Nobody will hire me…The computer probably just spits it out once you check that box.”

He also has physical limitations stemming from diabetes, a bad hip, and a shoulder surgery gone bad, putting his left arm in a sling. He additionally suffers from bipolar disorder. He says he’s applied for disability and is still waiting to hear back about help.

Behind the smile and loquacious nature, Mark admits that the difficulty of his situation can affect his mental health.

“It’s definitely difficult at times,” he said. “I’m bipolar. I can have massive depression episodes. I go down hard.”

In general, Mark says, people are very kind to him.

The nearby Sunoco gas station owns the land where he sits, Mark says, and they let him sit there every day (Reston Now independently verified this with Sunoco). Target employees are also very nice, teasingly calling him the “goodbye person” since he waves to everyone exiting the parking lot.

He says Fairfax County police check in on him regularly, always treating him with respect and dignity.

And people in cars often stop to give a few dollars, food, and other supplies. On good days, he says he makes about a hundred dollars a day.

Over the course of his hour-long interview with Reston Now, no less than six people in cars stop to help Mark out. He greets everyone with a wave, a smile, and a hearty thank you.

“I get a lot of food from Target and all the restaurants from around here,” he says, chuckling. “I haven’t had to buy my own lunch or dinner in a long time.”

The hope with the GoFundMe is that it would provide Mark the means to get a room every night at the local hotel where he’s staying. Read More

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Fairfax County officials are seeking $66.4 million in state funds for the Soapstone Connector.

The project, which would create a new one-mile roadway between Sunrise Valley Drive and Sunset Hills Road, recently received $15 million from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

A bridge would be built over the Dulles Corridor, providing an additional crossing that is critical to reducing congested areas along Wiehle Avenue

At a July 28 meeting, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to seek the funds through the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s FY2022-FY2027 Smart Scale Program.

The program considers projects for funding based on factors like congestion mitigation, economic development, safety, land use and environmental safety. In Northern Virginia, the factor of congestion mitigation has the most weight.

The county worked with the Virginia Department of Transportation to flag nine other projects for consideration, including the widening of Route 7 for bus rapid transit and the widening of Fairfax County Parkway from Route 123 to Nomes Court.

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A pedestrian was struck by a car at the intersection of Wiehle Avenue and Sunset Hills Road yesterday (Wednesday).

The individual walked away with minor injuries, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

The pedestrian had the right of way, FCPD Sergeant Tara Gerhard told Reston Now.

But the incident prompted FCPD to encourage motorists and pedestrians to use roadways safely. The busy intersection where the incident occurred is known for pedestrian-related accidents.

FCPD urged pedestrians to maintain eye contact while crossing the road, use the crosswalk, and follow all signs associated with the crosswalk. Motorists should also ensure they are avoiding distractions while on the road.

“Responsibility has to be shared with motorists,” said Lieutenant John Lieb.

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Monday Morning Notes

South Lakes High School to Begin Distributing Laptops — Distribution of laptops provided by the school system begins this Wednesday (August 7). Students must be present to receive the laptop, which is part of a recent initiative by the school system to give laptops to students across the county. [South Lakes High School]

Police Search for Missing Great Falls Man — Local police are looking for William “Billy Brener, an 83-year-old Great Falls Man who went missing over the weekend. Brener is roughly 150 pounds and has gray hair and brown eyes. [Fairfax County Police Department]

Silver Line Construction Prompts Closures — Access to several lanes and ramps will be limited this week due to ongoing construction, including Sunrise Valley Drive, Sunset Hills Road, and Herndon Parkway. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]

Photo by Caroline Causey/Flickr

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Local fire and rescue crews were on the scene of a gas leak in Reston earlier this week.

A gas leak occurred on the 12100 block of Sunset Hills Road around a little before 10 p.m. this past Tuesday (July 9).

Hazmat crews opted to flare a tank — a technique that burns gas in the tank to reduce volume or lower internal pressure.

A spokesperson for the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department told Reston Now that only the pressure relief valve was damaged.

“No buildings were evacuated as everything was under control,” the spokesperson said.

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Monday Morning Notes

Lane Closures on Sunset Hills Road — Closures are scheduled for eastbound Sunset Hills Road near the future Reston Town Center Metro station from today (Monday) through Wednesday. Crews are completing stormwater management work. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]

Metro Adds More Service Options — The price of four passes — the seven-day unlimited, the seven-day short trip, the seven-day regional bus and the one-day unlimited pass — will be lowered. A new option for a three-day unlimited pass will also be available. The service and affordable pass product changes begin today (Monday). [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority]

Lake Anne Paddle Set for Friday — Registration for the event is $7 for Reston Association members and $9 for all others. Attendees will get a chance to canoe or kayak on Lake Anne with a naturalist. [Reston Association]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Monday Morning Notes

Lane Closures Planned on Eastbound Sunset Hills Road — The road near the Wiehle-Reston East Station will be closed several days this week to allow Silver Line Phase II crews to complete stormwater management work. Closures are in effect today (Monday) and Thursday (June 13) from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and on Friday (June 14) from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]

The Post’s Sietsema Reviews Bombay Velvet in Reston — Tom Sietsema writes that the upscale Indian restaurant in RTC West has “fine aspirations with an uneven start.” [The Washington Post]

Reston-based SAIC Has “Stout Revenue Growth” — “Amid the torch-passing between outgoing CEO Tony Moraco and CEO-elect Nazzic Keene on Thursday’s first quarter earnings call, Science Applications International Corp. (NYSE: SAIC) delivered stout revenue growth fostered by its acquisition of Engility Holdings Inc. The Reston-based technology contractor reported $1.6 billion in revenue for the quarter, a 37% increase from the prior year, fueled largely by growth attributed to the Engility buy, which closed in January.” [Washington Business Journal]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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State and local transportation officials have been working for more than a year on clearing the Soapstone Connector through the environmental approval phase — one of the latest hurdles for the roughly $170 million project.

The connector — which extends Soapstone Drive from Sunrise Valley Drive over the Dulles Toll Road to Sunset Hills Road — provides a new north-south alternative to tackle increasing traffic congestion on Wiehle Avenue. By the time the project breaks ground, hundreds of additional residential units are expected to come on the market in Reston.

County transportation officials are working with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to determine the next steps for the project after the state determined a group of buildings on Association Drive the project could cut through are considered historic. The Fairfax County Department of Transportation must conduct an alternatives analysis to find possible ways to reduce the impact on the buildings.

Discussions have been ongoing for more than year. The county’s Architectural Review Board first determined the collection of buildings could be historically significant in early 2018. Since then, county staff have been trying to chart the best path forward to minimize the impact on the buildings  — which are considered historic as a collection, but not on an individual basis.

More hurdles are expected as the project goes through design and planning. Construction isn’t expected to begin until the mid to late 2020s.

“Anytime you’re building a new major project in a built environment, it’s more challenging than if we’re working out in a cornfield,” Tom Biesiadny, FCDOT’s director, told Reston Now. “None of them are insurmountable.”

Although funding for the project has not been secured yet, Biesiadny says the county has enough dollars to finish project design, which will move forward once the county receives necessary environmental approvals. The county plans to then tackle right-of-way and land acquisition between 2022 and 2024. Utility relocation is also complicated by the fact that area businesses rely on fiber optic cables along Sunrise Valley Drive and Sunset Hills Road.

“At the moment, money is not holding anything up,” Biesiadny said. “It’s several years out before we need the construction dollars.”

So far, the project has $24 million secured from federal, regional and local funds. A $45.4 million grand application for Smart Scale funding has been submitted. The county plans to continue to aggressively apply for grant funding.

The connector has been on the county’s planning books for years. A hybrid design for the project received county approval in 2014.

Map via Fairfax County Government

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Common Ground Childcare recently opened its second Reston location earlier this week.

The new location by the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station is the first expansion by Common Ground Childcare, which debuted in Reston in 1972, according to its website. It is geared toward kids ranging from infants up to the age of 2.

A ribbon-cutting on March 30 celebrated the opening of the new spot at 11480 Sunset Hills Road.

The original location at 1700 Wainwright Drive offers before-school, after-school and drop-in care for young kids.

Photo via Facebook

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Ballet instruction will soon arrive near Plaza America.

Building permits indicate that a new tenant layout for Principal Ballet is coming to 11495 Sunset Hills Road.

The ballet school has signed a lease for a 3,630-square-foot space on the first floor, according to Renaud Consulting, a commercial real estate company.

Currently located in the Hunters Woods Village Center, Principal Ballet provides year-long classes with offerings for preschool, elementary and middle school students; teens; and adults.

Image via Google Maps

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Fairfax County police recently arrested a Herndon man and charged him with seven larcenies in connection with a stash of guns and drug paraphernalia.

Two weeks ago, an officer smelled marijuana coming from a car, which had been sitting in the 12100 block of Sunset Hills Road for awhile, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

After speaking with the driver, Brandon Hernandez, 19, of Herndon, officers searched the car and discovered more than a pound of marijuana along with a handgun, ammunition, THC cartridges and cash, police say.

Police arrested Hernandez and the two passengers in the car — Kevin Fernandez, 20, of Herndon and Guillermo Alfaro, 20, of Reston.

FCPD then teamed up with the Herndon Police Department to obtain a search warrant for Hernandez’s home. Police say they ended up seizing seven loaded weapons, which have been linked to several burglaries and armed robberies in the area, and more than 450 THC vape pens.

Hernandez is currently being held without bond, and more charges are pending as detectives continue to investigate, according to police.

Images via FCPD/Facebook

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