Blog posts are the personal views of Letty Hardi and not official statements or records on behalf of the Falls Church City Council
We had a lengthy work session this week, with the majority of time spent on Founders Row before our final vote next Monday. If approved, this will be one of the biggest and most impactful development projects in Falls Church. I appreciate the diligence from the community and our Boards and Commissions, many of whom convened during their typical summer recess in order to review the project and submit comments. As with any development proposal, we continue to negotiate in this last week to ensure it’s the best project it can be. We’ll hear public comment on Monday night if you’d like to attend and speak with your concerns or support. Or you can write to us, and your email will be entered into public record and shared at the beginning of our meeting.
For cycling enthusiasts (or those just interested in the City getting connected on Capital Bikeshare), take note that we’ll be authorizing contracts for bikeshare equipment and maintenance on Monday. We have been discussing bikeshare since the beginning of my term! Due to the lengthy process to use federal funds, it has taken longer than I hoped, but I am excited we’re getting another step closer.
Also, thank you to those who provided feedback and input about my weekly posts and about parking in the City. I’ll resume office hours when the kids are back in school in the fall, so look out for those dates if you’d like to chat in person.
PS – After Monday’s meeting, we’ll take a two week summer recess and reconvene on the Tuesday after Labor Day.
What Happened This Week:
(1) Founders Row
A recap – what is before us on Monday is an amendment to the Special Exception approval we granted for the then-Mason Row project in 2016. The amendment is to replace the hotel with a 72 age restricted apartments. As the scope of the project has changed + the time lapse since the original approval, staff has updated fiscal analysis and further negotiated details of the project. The developer has also announced signed leases with Studio Movie Grill, a dine in theater and City Works, one of the large restaurant tenants.
Approximate project timeline, if approved (as noted from developer’s presentation)
- Sept 30 – last tenant (7-11) vacates
- Sept 2018 – start construction
- Nov 2020 – first wave of residences open
- Spring/Summer 2021 – theater and retail open
- Jan 2022 – project construction complete
Rather than link to the Founders Row documents we saw in work session, the materials for next week have already been uploaded. A few things of note, especially those new to how we analyze mixed use projects:
- The most material changes are in the Voluntary Concessions (VCs), which are what the developer commits to doing as part of the development project – varying from capital contributions (cash) going towards schools, parks, library, etc to affordable housing to environmental sustainability to what types of retail and restaurants will be on the ground floor. The one time concessions (mostly one time, with the exception of subsidies for affordable housing) total millions of dollars and are a tangible benefit to the city. Founders Row’s community benefits are about $2.3M. This has a good summary of the VCs made in past projects. The VCs for Founders Row has been updated even since Monday’s work session, in response to many of the points we raised. The final VCs and summary of the updates are included in Monday’s online agenda package.
- In addition to the one time proffers, we pay the most attention to the annual fiscal benefit (eg, tax yield) of mixed use projects. For the 8 mixed use projects built in the city, this 2017 report shows the net tax revenue from each project, including the original projections, the pre-development revenue from each site. For Founders Row, the most up to date fiscal benefits are projected to be $1.7M-2.1M annually, with the changes since the original approvals in 2015-2016 and updated fiscal model inputs. This staff document does a good job explaining the details of the fiscal analysis. It is important to note that the fiscal analysis only includes commitments made in the VCs – for example, restaurants yield sales and meals tax revenues for the city, so only if there are firm commitments on the size and type of restaurants in the VCs will that input be used in the model.
- The staff report, nearly 30 pages, is one of the most comprehensive I’ve seen to date. It does a nice job in breadth and depth – detailing the recent public meetings, including the summary of our key comments, the VCs and community benefits, analysis of the project vs the comprehensive plan, analysis of the project vs criteria for a Special Exception, summary of board and commission comments – all of which are helpful in informing our decision and summarizing the project after it’s been in progress for years. Beyond the staff report, there are many more documents available within Monday’s agenda that we will be reviewing this weekend.
Several of us had comments on architecture, and based on the staff report, I expect we’ll see updated renderings on Monday night before we vote so the finals may be a bit different from these below:
(2) GMHS Town Hall
If you missed last Sunday’s town hall with an update on the new GMHS, the video is now available. The presentation included an overview of the project schedule and a description of the process over the next 8-10 weeks. There was also an opportunity to receive initial questions and feedback from the community, which will be later available online. You can email questions and comments to: NewGMHS@fccps.org
(3) City Hall Renovation Update
For a behind the scenes look at the renovation at City Hall (targeted to complete at the end of this year), check out this quick tour about the $17M capital project. Remember, if you need City Hall services, the majority of city government has been relocated to 400 N. Washington and other buildings around town.
What’s Coming Up:
- Monday, August 13 – City Council Meeting (730 pm, Community Center Senior Center)
- Tuesday, September 4 – City Council Work Session (730 pm, Community Center)
- Thursday, September 6 – GMHS Update & Sub-Committees (7 pm, GMHS)