Updates from Letty – June 8, 2018

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,

I hope everyone had a good holiday and start of summer last week, and recovering from a great CAPS win last night! We’re also starting the summer off with a bang, with several big votes coming up next Monday night: the downselect recommendation for 6 proposals received for the 10 acre West Falls Church project, the approval of the next RFP, and a new first reading vote for Founders Row (formerly Mason Row). Read on for the latest.

Before we’re off the Stanley Cup high, do you already receive the City’s weekly e-newsletter? This week’s e-newsletter is all about the CIP (and the CAPS). Long time readers know I’ve written a lot about CIP projects, and this week’s e-newsletter has good updates on bikeshare, the downtown plaza, Big Chimneys Park, the Van Buren bridge and others. You can read this week’s here and subscribe to get a copy in your own mailbox.

I look forward to hearing from you about all of these topics!


PS – this weekend is the 25th annual Tinner Hills Blues Festival, right here in town. Tickets are required for some activities, so check the website for details.


What Happened This Week:

(1) West Falls Church Conceptual Proposals & Process Update

While much of our discussion of the 6 proposals and the downselect committee’s recommendation was held in closed session due to confidential information and the procurement process, we did publicly review a staff-prepared high level summary of the 6 conceptual proposals received. Again, the 6 proposals are posted online, but if you only have a few minutes, the summary slides are a quick read so you can be informed about what the market is proposing for the 10 acres and compare conceptual drawings.

Here’s the schedule I posted at the beginning of 2018, and so far we are on track with the process as outlined.

West FC RFP timeline

What’s next?

  • We will be casting a formal vote to downselect the 6 proposals at next Monday’s meeting. At that point, the detailed RFP (RFDP) will be issued to those finalists.
  • We will have a short lull over the summer while the shortlisted respondents work on their detailed proposals, which will be due back to us in late August. Similar to this time, we’ll have an evaluation committee to review and make recommendations on the top respondent.
  • When the top respondent is chosen in Oct 2018, we’ll enter into what you may hear as an “ERA” Exclusive Rights Agreement, which begins the negotiation process for the 10 acres. You can expect a very public process after the top respondent is selected, similar to other land use/economic development projects in the city where there were be public hearings, public comment, board and commission review and discussion, etc.
  • That process takes us through May 2019, when we will enter in “CA” Comprehensive Agreement with the terms of the lease or sale of the land and the conceptual development plan finalized.
  • Meanwhile – on the school design side, the finalist for the school design and construction team will be selected and announced this month (June 2018), which commences the school design process through May 2019.

*May 2019 will be a pivotal month, as that is when there is a key linkage between the economic development project and the high school project. In order to proceed to school construction in summer 2019, a signed comprehensive agreement on the land transaction will need to occur; otherwise, school construction would not proceed and the next set of bonds would not be issued (that was one of the key risk mitigation steps I wrote about last year).*

(2) RFDP – Request for Detailed Proposals

Staff and our real estate consultants continued work on the RFDP, so it’s ready to be issued to the downselected proposers next week. The working draft discussed this week and a summary of the key changes and updates made are available for review. We’re continuing to receive input from various citizen groups. As this is a key economic development opportunity for us, we have ambitious goals for the 10 acres while balancing the original goals of maximizing value of the site (both initial financial transaction and long term value) and creating a vibrant sense of place at the western gateway to the city.

As outlined in the schedule above, we have a ways to go before finalizing the project. So while the RFDP is important in sharing our expectations and eliciting the best ideas from the proposer teams, you can expect many more months of negotiation and discussion ahead after the next round of proposals are due back to us in August.

(3) Founders Row (formerly Mason Row)

We continued discussion on Founders Row, focusing on the fiscal impact questions we raised last time and a discussion with Eric Smart, one of the city’s real estate consultants who has confidentially reviewed the developer’s books in order to give us his assessment on the hotel for age restricted apartments swap.

First on the fiscal impact. With the change from hotel to age restricted apartments, the net fiscal benefit to the city is about 20% less than what was modeled in late 2015/early 2016 when the project was originally approved. Still, the projected impact is between $800K-1.7M annually (equivalent to 2-4 cents on the property tax rate), or $190K-400K per acre, which puts it on par with other mixed used projects done in the city so far. (The staff report has details on all the behind the scenes changes with the model inputs. Since this project is 2+ years old, we have updated pupil counts, operating costs, tax rates, etc.) That said – don’t get too hung up on the numbers as I expect a 4th model run to occur and the results to be published before our Monday vote. Based on our feedback to the developers, we expect updates to the Voluntary Concessions (VCs) so those updated commitments in the VCs will be used for another model run.

Finally, our discussion with Mr Smart was around the theater lease and his review of the developer’s pro-formas. He has seen the executed lease between Studio Movie Grill and the developers and provided his assessment that the theater tax sharing is critical to the project and bringing the theater here. As a quick blast from the past – here’s an excerpt from my Jan 2016 post about how the theater tax works, which is similar to the BJs tax sharing agreement that pre-dates me but I understand to be very successful for both BJs and the City:

“The current proposal is modeled after the BJs tax sharing agreement – the City would levy a new 10% theater tax on ticket sales (no other taxes on tickets, like sales tax). The City would receive the first $20K in taxes, the developer gets the next $340K. The City receives any taxes above $360K. There is a 3% annual increase on both the City and developer share, with a 20 year term of the tax sharing, which would be the length of the theater lease.

As the theater is proposed to be a dining concept, the City expects to receive revenue from meals tax…”

If Founders Row secures first reading approval next Monday, it will be in Board and Commission review over the summer so that a final round of feedback and changes can be incorporated before a second reading vote occurs in late August.


(4) ICMYI – Could Falls Church Be the Next Ellicott City?

After the rainy season we’ve had and the Ellicott City flooding in the headlines last week, there was a timely and informative guest commentary this week that you may find helpful (and reassuring to know that your stormwater fees are being put to work).



What’s Coming Up:

Looking Ahead – Sunday Series Town Halls:

  • Sunday, August 5 at 2 p.m. in the Community Center
  • Sunday, September 23 at 2 p.m. in the Community Center