Connolly describes narrow escape from the Capitol - Fairfax County to begin vaccinating teachers - Officials release draft plan to renovate WFES roadway infrastructure

Robinson football standout commits to Clemson - FCPS unveils $1.1B Capital Improvement Program - County assures Mantua residents it has no plans to remove beavers

Welcome to Braddock Buzz, where we’ve changed our name but have the same mission: building community through hyperlocal news. ICYMI, we published a special investigative report last week on the door-to-door solicitation practices of the Virginia Youth Club. For next week’s edition, we’re interviewing Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw to reflect on 2020 and look ahead to 2021. If you have questions for Walkinshaw, please send them our way at braddockbuzz@gmail.com.

Big thanks to our sponsor, Realtor Jennifer Mack, whose column today looks at current real estate trends in the Braddock District. Jennifer loves answering reader questions—you can reach her about all things real estate at jennifer@jennifermackproperties.com.

Connolly describes narrow escape from the Capitol: Eyes were glued to TV screens last week as we watched an attack on our democracy and processed the aftermath. The Braddock District’s congressman, Gerry Connolly, described his escape in an interview with WUSA9. “I turned to my left as I was leaving the House chamber, and I saw the mob right there at the doors—breaking the windows, pounding on the doors, trying to get into the House chamber,” he said. “That’s when I realized, you know, this is very close.”

See the interview here:

Pandemic

We’re moving into the next stage of vaccine distribution: This week, Fairfax County moves into the second stage of vaccine distribution, “1b.” This will include teachers—offering hope for a return to in-person instruction next month after the School Board paused plans to return this month. Other groups in “1b” are frontline essential workers, people 75 years or older, and people living in prisons, homeless shelters, and migrant camps. Among the frontline workers in this category are police, firefighters, grocery store workers, and mail carriers.

The previous phase, “1a,” will continue as well—this one includes healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities. Here’s a breakdown:

Brabrand announces vaccine partnership with Inova: FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand sent an email to teachers and staff yesterday informing them that all FCPS employees will be eligible for vaccines as part of the “1b” phase, and that vaccinations will be administered via Inova starting as early as Jan. 16.

The Fairfax County Health District “has partnered with Inova to vaccinate an estimated 40,000 teachers and staff of public and private schools and childcare programs across [the health district],” Brabrand wrote. “The FCHD is finalizing the logistics with Inova and is collaborating with FCPS on an implementation plan to accomplish this within the next three weeks, as vaccine supplies permit.”

He added: “The availability of this vaccine for our staff, coupled with implementation of the five key mitigation strategies, strengthens our ability to gradually return to in-person instruction. Hope and help are now truly on the way.”

The numbers: Fairfax County has so far administered 20,794 vaccine doses, out of a population of more than 1.1 million, according to the state’s vaccine dashboard. Across Virginia, 165,198 people have received one shot and 12,747 are fully vaccinated with two, in a state with a population of more than 8.5 million.

The vaccine rollout comes as our Covid-19 status is flashing red. Back in November, FCPS leaders scrapped plans to bring kindergartners back to the classroom because the county had surpassed the threshold of 200 new cases per 100,000 people—putting us in the “highest risk” category for community transmission. Now, we’re at nearly triple that threshold—577 cases per 100,000 in the past 14 days.

Schools

Officials release draft plan to renovate WFES roadway infrastructure: FCPS has released its draft plan for renovating the roadway infrastructure at Wakefield Forest Elementary School, as you can see in the blueprint below:

The proposal is designed to improve traffic flow during morning drop-offs and afternoon pickups while eliminating backups on Iva Lane. “This is the plan FCPS is currently taking through the regulatory process,” said Heather Diez, FCPS Assistant Director for Design and Construction. “We will be returning to the school and community for updates and additional coordination as plans develop.”

It’s part of a $30 million renovation of WFES to accommodate a growing student population—a project set to be bid for construction in the spring of next year.

FCPS unveils $1.1B Capital Improvement Program: The school system is out with its latest Capital Improvement Program, which would spend $1.1 billion from FY22-26 on new school construction, renovations, and capacity enhancements, funded largely through bond referendums. The pandemic threw this year’s planning process into disarray, since decisions to renovate schools are made in part based on enrollment projections—and FCPS enrollment has declined 5% this school year. Because of the uncertainty, FCPS will largely stick with the plan from last year, making few adjustments and adding no new big-ticket items, as Reston Now reports.

In addition to the WFES renovation, the plan includes these projects in the Braddock District:

  • Bonnie Brae Elementary School (Robinson pyramid): Planning is underway for a $35.7 million renovation that will add 13,000 square feet. The planning stage was funded by the 2019 bond referendum; construction will be funded by the 2023 bond.

  • Braddock Elementary School (Annandale pyramid): Permitting has begun for a fully funded $35.6 million renovation to bring “modern amenities” to the building, remove modulars, and add about 38,000 square feet.

  • Frost Middle School (Woodson pyramid): Construction will continue on a fully funded $59 million renovation that will add 79,000 square feet, eliminating the need for modular and temporary classrooms.

Robinson football standout commits to Clemson: Robinson Secondary School offensive tackle Tristan Leigh, ranked the top football prospect in the state, has committed to Clemson University, selecting the Tigers over Alabama, Florida, LSU, Ohio State, and Oklahoma, The Washington Post reports. Here’s more on Leigh from the Post:

Leigh became known around the country at the end of his sophomore season in 2018, after he grew three inches. Coaches from local colleges visited Fairfax County to meet Leigh, and within a few months recruiters came from the top programs in the Big Ten and SEC. Leigh received his first Division I scholarship offer from Virginia in January 2019, and he finished his recruitment with more than 40 offers.

News in Brief

  • WMATA Metrorail expects to receive $610 million from the federal stimulus package passed last month, staving off drastic service cuts that would have affected commuters throughout the region, The Washington Post reports.

  • FCPS high schools will begin allowing up to 25 spectators at sporting events, the Annandale Blog reports.

  • Also from the Annandale Blog: The county insists it has no plans to “trap, remove, or relocate” beavers in the Mantua neighborhood after residents created a petition called “Save the Mantua Beavers” out of concern for two beavers living in a stormwater retention pond.

  • The Park Authority is seeking public comment on proposed FY21 fee adjustments. Because of a drop in usage due to Covid-19, the Park Authority is recommending no fee adjustments for RECenters, but is considering adjustments for golf courses and managed parks.

  • Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay has endorsed Terry McAuliffe in a crowded Democratic primary field for governor, Inside NOVA reports.

  • Fairfax County Public Library branches have returned to curbside and virtual services only—a backstep from the “Express Services” previously offered, which included the option to use library facilities for up to 30 minutes per visit.

Events

  • Monday, Jan. 11, 7 p.m.: Superintendent Brabrand hosts a return-to-school town hall that will be streamed here.

  • Tuesday, Jan. 19, 7 p.m.: The Braddock District Land Use and Environment Committee holds a virtual meeting. A draft agenda and call-in details will be posted on the Braddock District website three days in advance.

  • Monday, Jan. 25, 7 p.m.: Supervisor Walkinshaw holds a virtual community meeting to discuss the Zoning Ordinance Modernization Project, or zMOD. A meeting link will be included in an upcoming advisory email from Walkinshaw’s office.

  • Thursday, Feb. 11, 7 p.m.: A community meeting will be held on the Long Branch Central Watershed Management Area Project. County officials will provide an update, solicit input about the watershed condition, discuss the work plan to be developed this spring, and introduce some of the project partners. Meeting link here.

Real Estate

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Jennifer Mack column: Inventory is low across the Braddock District

Happy New Year to all! Real estate has been very busy as many people get back into their normal routines after the holidays and resume their home searches. As I have mentioned in previous columns, condo sales have been very slow lately and last week I received three offers in one day on one that I had had on the market over a month!

As the coverage area of this newsletter has expanded to the entire Braddock District, I thought I would provide an overview of real estate activity in the area so we can track it as we move forward and hopefully provide some meaningful and interesting data that may impact local homeowners.

There are currently 61 properties—11 “coming soon” and 50 “active for sale”— in the Braddock District. Of those properties, there are 33 detached homes, 19 townhomes, eight condos, and one mobile home. By contrast, there are 90 under contract and 114 properties closed in the last 30 days. 

What does this data tell us? The biggest thing is that we continue to have extremely low inventory. Anytime we see more properties under contract than we have active we know we are in an extreme sellers market. Does this mean every home sells quickly? No. Homes must be properly priced and prepared for market to sell quickly. When they are priced right and show well, we typically see multiple offers, especially for ones with nice outdoor space—a highly prized home attribute during the pandemic, even in the winter.

This area has a very diverse array of properties from a $45,000 mobile home in Waples Mill to a $1.3 million new build near Woodson High School. The average price is $588,000 and median days on market is three. All eyes are on inventory this winter to see whether local homeowners decide to make a move or stay put as Covid-19 continues to have a large impact on real estate in the area.

Jennifer Mack has more than 15 years of experience in the real estate industry, with her team servicing Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. You can contact her with real estate questions at jennifer@jennifermackproperties.com or by calling 703-672-0038.