Updates from Letty – March 8, 2024

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,

It was another busy week, with business on our agenda spanning a new project proposed for the vacant lot next to Harris Teeter, affordable housing, and updates to the floodplain maps. That’s fitting because one of the messages I shared with Meridian and Henderson students this week in celebrating Women’s History Month is how local government touches our daily lives so much more than you think! Read on for my thoughts.

Also – speaking of history, in honor of the City’s 75th anniversary, we plan to modernize the art in City Hall to better reflect our city’s history. We’d love to hear your input about this project via this survey before we get started.

Stay tuned next week – we’re scheduled to adopt our 2024-2025 Council Priorities (input welcome!), along with deep dives on a new, greener HVAC for the Community Center and sewer financing. And the Mayors’ Fitness Challenge starts next Saturday, so don’t forget to register and help us win back the trophy!


PS – Support more bike routes and lanes? Come check out the conceptual designs for five routes of E. Broad, N. West, S. West, Great Falls, and Park Ave – this Saturday, March 10 at 1 pm.

What Happened This Week:

(1) Maple & Annandale Project

We had our first look at a new mixed use project proposed for the corner of Maple and Annandale, in the vacant 1.2 acre site next to Harris Teeter and behind Burke and Herbert bank. It’s currently proposed to be about 196 residential units, with ground floor co-working and childcare concept and some units set aside for adults with disabilities. It would also involve a land sale of a small sliver of city land (about 4K square feet) if the project were to be approved.

Letty’s thoughts: For such an underutilized parcel (mostly used as a parking lot today), it is great to see a better use proposed. I support increasing the availability of childcare options, supportive housing for adults with disabilities, and generally like the interesting architecture. I did express concerns that the project as proposed doesn’t meet the bar we’ve set for mixed use projects such as for affordable housing, environment, tree canopy, and open space. As proposed, it also orphans the Burke and Herbert building. While not every project needs to be multi-acre assemblages (and in fact, I believe we should encourage more small infill projects like this one) – as designed, it leaves a large blank facade facing Broad St. and reduces the possibilities for that prime commercial frontage in the future. During these work sessions and negotiations, we challenge each project to ensure it delivers a building we’re proud of and brings new benefits and amenities to our community – this one isn’t there yet. It’s very early in the process, and I look forward to seeing future iterations based on our feedback.

(2) Virginia Village Update

After several years, the Virginia Village closing and transfer to Wesley Housing is close to the finish line, which means the next phase of the project can begin soon. A long term plan at Virginia Village is a key part of our housing strategy to meet our affordable and workforce housing needs.

Quick recap: as you may recall, over the past several years, the City and EDA had acquired 5 units at Virginia Village (a neighborhood of 20 quadplexes on S. Maple) using a combination of local and grant funds with a long term plan for preservation and redevelopment for additional affordable housing. We entered a MOU (memorandum of understanding) with non profit housing Wesley Housing in 2022. Due to increased rehab costs and meeting Virginia Housing financing standards, the project has taken longer to get to refinancing than we’d like.

What’s next: This week, we discussed the final financing terms, including the details of the city’s equity contribution (about $2.3M total, mostly using American Rescue Plan Act funds), which requires amendments to the original MOU. Once we get to closing where ownership and operation of these 5 housing units are transferred to Wesley, the next phases of the project can begin. We can then start the work on an acquisition and redevelopment strategy, including visioning and community engagement.

(3) Floodplain Updates

We also reviewed changes to the city’s floodplain ordinance, which needs to be adopted before FEMA’s new flood insurance rate maps (FIRMs) go into effect June 6, 2024. With new technology and increasing frequency and intensity of storms, FEMA releases new maps periodically across the US.

Why this matters to you: the city participates in FEMA’s insurance program. Residents who live in the floodplain get discounts on their flood insurance premiums (about 15%) due to the city’s rating. Based on the FIRMs and standards we adopt, the city reviews building applications to ensure development is protected from flooding and/or mitigated. The code, as proposed, brings our ordinance into compliance with national standards. Current structures won’t be penalized if they don’t conform to the new standards, but future improvements would need to meet the new regulations. If you live in or near the city’s floodplains around Tripps Run or Four Mile Run, check out the new maps. More communication to property owners to come.

What’s Coming Up:

Saturday, March 9 – Bike Master Plan Community Meeting (1 pm, City Hall)

Monday, March 11 – City Council Meeting*

Friday, March 22 – Letty’s Walk and Talk (9 am, Big Chimneys Park)

Monday, March 25 – City Council Meeting*

*Mondays (except 5th Mondays and holidays) at 7:30 pm. You can access the agenda and livestream here, including recordings of past meetings