Updates from Letty – February 24, 2017

Blog posts are the personal views of Letty Hardi and not official statements or records on behalf of the Falls Church City Council

Dear Friends,

This week’s update will be a little different. I’ll still highlight the topics from our City Council work session, but also want to provide you a “virtual tour” of Arlington’s Wakefield High School. The City Council and School Board have been touring various nearby schools that have been recently renovated or built (Marshall, Thomas Jefferson, among others) to get ideas and learnings to apply to the GMHS Campus Project. I’d love to hear your takeaways and questions after you “virtual tour” Wakefield – send me an email!

Also – if you missed the February Town Hall meeting, besides viewing the recorded video on online or FCC-TV and reading the materials, the City website has been revamped to include easy to navigate, summary pages for each of the 3 options presented, affordability analysis, and potential commercial development – with aerial maps and links to the specific part of the town hall video so you can watch the commentary for that section. Even if you no longer have kids in high school or high school is years away, this will be a huge undertaking for the City and we all have a role in understanding the options and financial implications.

Finally – calling all parents, park, and playground lovers. Cherry Hill is our flagship park and its playground equipment replacement is planned to occur later this year. The Rec and Parks Advisory Board invites the public to join their March meeting to further discuss the playground project next Wednesday, March 1 at 7:00 PM (Art Room of the Falls Church Community Center).



What Happened This Week:

(1) City Council Work Session – TL;DR version:

  • CIP Project Update – while it’s not always apparent – besides funding operational budgets, your tax dollars are delivering a lot of capital projects across the City – spanning parks, facilities, transportation, public safety. We review a CIP project scorecard on a quarterly schedule. Some highlights:
    • Cherry Hill’s play structures will be replaced this fall. Join the Recs and Park Advisory Board meeting on 3/1 to hear an update and provide input.
    • Bikeshare – coming this summer! Location analysis underway.
    • Staff also works hard at applying for grants to stretch our local dollars further. For example, each $1 of local funds invested can provide as much as $4-$10 in transportation funding.
  • Streetscape Design Standards – we discussed a final round of comments of the streetscape work ahead of the standards coming to a March meeting for adoption. While not glamorous, a lot of volunteer citizen time and work went into coming up with the standards – everything from benches, standard setbacks, light pole colors, tree pits, and much more – with the goal of improving our commercial streets visually and for better pedestrian access. Once adopted, future development will follow the new standards.
  • Vision – like the Streetscape work, we also provided a final round of comments on the Vision 2040 work ahead of adoption in an upcoming meeting.
  • Campus Project Discussion – we discussed the idea of a Feasibility study of the GMHS campus options and high level timeline of next steps. A feasibility study is an additional step we have not undertaken in past school construction projects, but may be an important step given the complexity of the options. A feasibility study would help verify the school program (must haves vs nice to haves) and estimate costs of the scenarios ahead of issuing RFPs for design and construction. Expect more discussion at Monday’s Council meeting.

(2) Wakefield Tour

Several members of City Council and School Board toured Wakefield High School in Arlington yesterday. See my Facebook page for the photos; photo captions have detailed commentary on what I observed and took away.

Overall – I thought Wakefield was a beautiful, thoughtfully designed school! What was very apparent was the flexible, reconfigurable space and the amount of natural light throughout. Completed in 2013 with 400K square feet, 3 stories, LEED gold school with solar and geothermal technology, capacity of 1900, it is Arlington’s newest high school. Note that like the rest of the region, their school population is also growing and Wakefield will be undergoing an expansion this summer already to accommodate more students and professional collaboration space. The construction cost was $98M, “all in” cost of $118M for the entire campus – academic building, fields, and aquatics center. However, the PM did note that the 2010-2013 timeframe was a very favorable period for construction pricing. In today’s dollars, he estimated Wakefield would cost closer to $140M. It was very interesting to learn how they sized their common, shared areas (cafeteria, auditorium, gym) which has been a theme in the school tours we’ve done. Many learnings for us to consider.



What’s Coming Up:

  • Today, February 24 – Budget and Finance Committee Meeting (8 am)
  • Today, February 24 – Economic Development Committee Meeting (930 am)
  • Wednesday, March 1 – Rec and Parks Meeting about Cherry Hill (7 pm, Community Center)
  • Thursday, March 2 – GMHS Campus Working Group (9 am, School Board Offices)
  • Friday, March 3 – GMHS Economic Working Group (730 am)
  • Monday, March 13 – City Council Meeting – City Manager presents budget (730 pm)
  • SAVE THE DATE – Saturday, March 18 – Budget Town Hall (10 am)