Updates from Letty – May 11, 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,

We are back to business this week. Two call outs and then the updates:

1) We had a meaty work session this week, all about the West Falls Church economic development project. ICYMI, we received 6 proposals for the 10 acre development opportunity. Read on to find out the members of the downselect evaluation committee, next steps, how to view the proposals and easy way to give input and ask questions before the next milestones in June (spoiler: Town Hall on Sunday, 5/20).

For those of you interested in learning about green infrastructure at the 10 acres, the ESC (Environmental Sustainability Council) is hosting another panel about stormwater, open space and energy issues and how we can make the 10 acres really green! Thursday, May 24, 2018, 730-930 pm, MEH Library

2) Have you submitted comments about the $15.7M NVTA grant application to improve the intersections of Rt 7/Haycock/Shreve intersections for walkers, bicyclists, commuters, and students (see my post from April), it’s not too late! You can still email the NVTA at SYPcomment@TheNoVaAuthority.org until May 20. I, along with various citizens and members of the PTAs, attended last night’s packed meeting and testified – read on for my comments.

Next Monday’s regular meeting is full of good proclamations and other “formalities” that are held at the beginning of the meeting. A few that I’m particularly excited about / have been working on behind the scenes: our annual Wear Orange proclamation for gun safety, our first proclamation recognizing Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and appointing our next group of high school student reps to our boards and commissions, organized by the CBC. If any of those pique your interest, I hope you’ll join us next Monday, May 14 at 730 pm, Community Center.



What Happened This Week:

(1) West Falls Church & GMHS Campus Updates

  • What’s the latest? 
    • You likely have read/heard that we received 6 proposals for the West Falls Church 10 acre site. Over the next month, we’ll be “downselecting” the 6 proposals to a shortlist of proposals. At this phase, we’ve primarily asked for qualifications, experience, high level project approach and financial capability.
    • The mayor and staff also traveled to New York at the end of April to meet with the three bond ratings agencies to discuss the $23M bond issuance this spring and the $145M in debt we’re issuing in the coming years; we expect an update on our rating later this month. A good bond rating means we can secure a better interest rate and pay less debt service for the bonds.
    • We also continued discussion on a zoning recommendation for the site. While it was very detailed (even for me), the zoning, special exception, and entitlement process are important in facilitating the kinds of development we want and minimizing the risk of development that we don’t want. The rezoning and subdivision for the entire 34 acres (into separate parcels for the schools and for economic development) will complete this fall.
    • Meanwhile, detailed proposals for a new high school are due 5/17 with a finalist to be selected in late June/early July.
  • Who is shortlisting and how? The downselect committee for economic development is made up of members of City Council (Mayor Tarter and me), a rep each from the School Board, Planning Commission, EDA, a consultant, and the City Manager, Director of Economic Development and Planning, and Superintendent. We’ll also be using a detailed evaluation tool that we discussed in this week’s work session to assess the responses in order to downselect by the end of May, with a recommendation due to City Council beginning of June.
  • What’s next?
    • While the downselect process is occurring for the economic development half of the project, work is also underway on the draft of the detailed RFP (RFDP) – that will be issued in June to the downselected proposers. The RFDP will ask for more details on the development program, project execution plan and timing, financial transaction and value to the city.
    • Expect both the announcement of the shortlist and issuance of the RFDP to occur in June.
    • How to read and comment:
      • The 6 proposals will by posted on the City website by May 15.
      • I expect we’ll continue discussing both topics at work sessions and meetings over the next month – we have a regular meeting on 5/14 and work sessions on 5/21 and 6/4. When a draft of the RFDP is available, I’ll provide links.
      • Another opportunity to learn and comment is to attend the continuing Sunday Series town hall meetings:
        • Sunday, May 20 at 2 p.m. in the Community Center
        • Sunday, August 5 at 2 p.m. in the Community Center
        • Sunday, September 23 at 2 p.m. in the Community Center

(2) Help Falls Church win $15.7M! We’ve applied for a $15.7M transportation grant to improve walkability, bike access, pedestrian safety, and congestion relief at the Broad/Haycock/Shreve intersection around the MEH and GMHS campus. $15M is a significant grant in a competitive regional process, but critical for safety, access to Metro, and the GMHS project. Even if you no longer have students at those schools or no students there yet – sports, camps, and community events occur there for all ages and is an important corridor for transit users.

I, along with various citizens and members of the PTA, testified at a packed house at the NVTA (Northern Virginia Transportation Authority) meeting last night. You can email SYPcomment@TheNoVaAuthority.org with your own comments by 5/20 or use a suggested sample here.

Letty’s comments to the NVTA:

Besides being a City Council member for the City of Falls Church, I’m also the parent of 3 young kids and would love to talk about the importance of walkability and safe routes to school. You’ll hear from several other Falls Church residents tonight about that. So instead, I’d like to take the opportunity to advocate for the importance of transit-oriented economic development and the interconnectedness of transportation projects – and how both address the regional (and national) urban planning opportunity AND congestion relief at the same time. 

I specifically ask for your support of the West Falls Church multimodal project grant request at the Rt 7/ Haycock/Shreve intersection, directly next to the WFC Metro Station. It serves as the western gateway to our city but is also a transit hub for commuters in Idylwood, Pimmit Hills, southern Mclean in Fairfax County. I want to thank our friends in Fairfax County who support this grant request as the transportation improvements will help their residents greatly as well. Finally, our middle and high schools are located in this corridor.

The $15M grant is pivotal to the future of that area. We plan to develop 10 acres of the West Falls Church area into a vibrant, mixed use activity center for the region – a great sense of place not only for our residents but a regional draw. We want to create a desirable community where you can truly live, work, and play. Mixed use is not a new concept for Falls Church nor the region, but it is still a powerful and compelling urban planning model. Employers and businesses want to locate where people live for easier commutes. Transportation improvements that create multimodal options – for walkers, bikers, etc to easily get to and around that future development – are key. 

As public officials, our job is to be responsive and address our local needs. We have a bigger opportunity to do that and apply a broader approach in solving our regional challenges at the same time. Providing more walking, biking, and transit options means easier commutes for everyone in that corridor, whether you live there or not – everyone can get through more easily. Pairing smart, transit-oriented growth, with transportation improvements will enable congestion relief for all.

On that note, I also want to lend my support to several other projects up for consideration that add multimodal options for the region – the pilot of dual/enhanced trails on the W&OD bike path, N. Washington multimodal improvements, and adding bikeshare to the City of Fairfax which is important in extending the bikeshare network across the region.


(3) Facebook – in case you don’t use Facebook or follow me (you should!), check out a few updates from my Facebook page:

Photos from last week’s tour of the Capitol Riverfront Parks to consider learnings for the WFC site. My family is a summer regular at Yards Park, but it was very cool to be able to see the behind the scenes green infrastructure at Canal Park – like how stormwater is collected and recycled for use around the park.


I was invited to the Governor’s Mansion for an Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month celebration and was able to talk up Falls Church with both the Governor and First Lady.


What’s Coming Up:

unnamed (2)

  • May 18 – Bike to Work Day (Falls Church’s annual pit stop is at W&OD and Little Falls)
  • May 20 – Last day to submit email comments for $15.7M grant – email: SYPcomment@TheNoVaAuthority.org
  • May 20 – Sunday Series Town Hall – 2 pm, Community Center
  • May 21 – City Council Work Session – 730 pm, Community Center
  • May 24 – ESC Panel, 730 pm, MEH Library
  • May 28 – Memorial Day Festivities
  • June 4 – City Council Work Session – 730 pm, Community Center