Updates from Letty – May 18, 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,

It’s been (and will be) a big news week. We received some good news and expect to have a meaty work session on Monday, focused on economic development and land use. For those of you following the Mason Row (now Founders Row) project at Broad/N. West, which was one of my first votes 2 1/2 years ago – you should tune in. They are back on the docket on Monday night. The developers are expected to announce a signed movie theater lease, which means we will then consider their request to replace the hotel with age restricted apartments. We also expect to discuss a proposed condo project at Park and N. Lee. The condo market fizzled after the housing recession (I regularly hear about demand for more housing options for purchase in the city) so this project will be the first for us in awhile. Read on for links to both.

Two weekend reminders:

1) Final reminder to submit your 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 last week’s post and my post from April). You can still email the NVTA at SYPcomment@TheNoVaAuthority.org until this Sunday, May 20 with your support before the NVTA votes in June. In case you’d like to learn more about the NVTA including the 60 project applications totaling $2.5B (only $1.285B is available), we received a presentation by the NVTA this week as well.

2) Town Hall about the GMHS and West Falls Church project – Community Center, 2 pm on Sunday May 20.

Finally, after next Monday’s meeting – our next scheduled meeting will be a work session on June 4th due to the Memorial day holiday. I’ll be holding office hours in two weeks – on Friday, June 1st at 9 am, Cafe Kindred if you’d like to share feedback, ask questions, etc in person.

Stay dry,


What Happened This Week:

(1) Good news re: our bond rating – the City Manager announced in that our May 2018 bond issuance of $24M received our first ever three Triple A ratings from all three agencies. We were upgraded by Moody’s from Aa1 to Aaa and maintained our AAA ratings by Fitch and S&P. All the work on financial policies, reserves, and other prudent financial decisions in preparation for this large debt undoubtedly helped us secure the upgrade. Ultimately, this means we will get the lowest possible interest rate for the May bonds which reduces the cost to taxpayers.

(2) West Falls Church Project – the 6 conceptual proposals received for the WFC 10 acre site are now posted online (with proprietary and confidential sections redacted). As a member of the evaluation committee, I’ll be chugging away for the next few weeks when our recommendations are due to the full City Council; we will likely make our recommendations in a closed session with City Council on 6/4. This is a procurement process governed by legal requirements, which means protecting information from public view until decisions are made about selecting a proposer. This ensures a level playing field and leads to better competition, which will ultimately helps the City get the best agreement possible for this project. As such, I won’t be blogging about the proposals received, but I still welcome community input if you’re taking the time to read the proposals.

(3) City Hall status – we’re nearly at the halfway point of the year long construction process at City Hall. Demo has occurred and wall framing and sheet rock installation in is well underway.  For those curious, here is an updated floor plan and virtual tour of the progress, especially noting a new central lobby corridor making it easier for citizens to access key services and meeting rooms. www.fallschurchva.gov/CityHallUpdate

Monday’s Work Session:

As mentioned in the intro, both Founders Row and the Park and Lee condo projects are on Monday’s work session agenda. There are A LOT of documents for both. Some noteworthy snippets from various staff reports and documents:

Founders Row – pending Monday’s work session outcome, the amendment to change from a hotel to senior apartments would be referred out to boards and commissions, along with public comment opportunities, and a final vote proposed in August.

  • “The major item for discussion is a requested use change from the planned hotel to age-restricted multifamily residences…The Applicant was unable to secure a hotel operator. Consequently, the current application is requesting to remove the planned 112-145 room “Hotel” commercial use and replace it with an “Age restricted multifamily residential” use. The proposed 72 age restricted multifamily rental apartments would be designated for individuals 55 years of age and older….In comparison to the original approval, the ratio of commercial to residential uses changes from 32.7 %/67.3% commercial/residential to 17%/83.% commercial/residential. The result is a 48% reduction in commercial space, from approximately 180,000 square feet to approximately 100,000 square feet.
  • On May 10, 2018 a signed executed lease for the movie theater at Founders Row was provided to the City Manager, as required for the current special exception approvals and Voluntary Concessions, Community Benefits, Terms and Conditions. A public announcement of the theater is scheduled on the evening of May 21st.
    • Mill Creek Residential (“MCR”) has executed a lease with a movie theater operator. The name of the Theater will be publicly announced at the first work session with the City Council and Planning Commission… The operator is a luxury dine-in movie theater concept playing first-run and independent films. They currently have more than 30 theaters in operation in locations throughout the country. Their concept includes a ground-level bar and restaurant that will activate Founders Row along Mason Avenue, along with eight screens (approximately 815 seats) on the upstairs level.
    • MCR has executed a lease with a restaurant that will occupy approximately 9,500 square feet along Mason Avenue. The restaurant is City Works Eatery & Pour House…City Works is an upscale restaurant and bar featuring modern American classics with brilliant twists, including 90 craft beers on draft.
    • The Theater and City Works leases total approximately 45,000 square feet, which amounts to nearly 50% of the total retail in the project already under lease commitments.
    • Mill Creek has secured commitments for our complete capital stack to fully finance this project. We have a committed joint venture equity partner along with a bank to provide the remaining balance of the financing, both of whom we have successfully completed numerous other projects. Closing with these two institutional financial partners is contingent on all approvals and amendments from the City.”
  • The VCs have changed to reflect the Age-Restricted Multifamily additions and Hotel use removal. The VCs related to ADUs, park and recreation, Falls Church public library contributions are similarly reflecting the increase in 72 residential units…The building footprint, massing, and height are generally unchanged. The planned ground floor uses are retail as before
  • The projected traffic is less and the parking generally reflects the use changes at the parking ratios applied previously.
  • The overall net revenues modeled in January, 2016 were $1,298,921-to-$2,071,115 ...the city’s recently updated fiscal impact model estimates reflecting the latest resubmission for the proposed Mason Row (Founders Row) mixed use project reflecting the special exception amendment, which indicates a range of approximately $818,578 to $1,761,568 (May 2018)”

Park and Lee Condos 

  • Five (5) story residential condominium units (70 units) on 1st through 5th floors; ground level retail (4,000 square feet); one (1) story above ground parking in addition to two (2) underground levels providing a total of 114 parking spaces; and average building height of five (5) stories and up to 70 feet
  • 2 studio condominiums • 12 one bedroom plus den condominiums • 43 two bedroom condominiums • 13 three bedroom condominiums • 70 total residential condominium units • 4,000 SF of service retail • Average condominium unit price = $540,127
  • The application seeks a zoning map change or “Rezoning” from the existing T-1, Transitional to B-1, Limited Business for both parcels.
  • The current submission does not appear to meet the essential primary criteria [for a special exception]…Improvements are needed in providing a significant net new commercial square footage and a sufficient mix of commercial and residential uses….residential/commercial use ratio of 96% residential and 4% commercial…Improvements are needed to provide greater conformance with the Comprehensive Plan and Design Guidelines, particularly in regards to the building’s proportionality to surrounding land uses. Greater achievement should be made in integrating the development with nearby land uses, particularly the existing low-density residential neighborhoods, in the form of tapering, step backs, and buffering”
  • Fiscal impact: Between $530,571 – $598,514 is estimated as the probable net revenue per acre.” (comparison to the average $350K/per acre in our other mixed use projects)

What’s Coming Up:

  • Today, May 18 – Bike to Work Day (Falls Church’s annual pit stop is at W&OD and Little Falls) – rain or shine!
  • 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 25 – Campus Coordinating Committee – 730 am, School Board Office
  • May 28 – Memorial Day Festivities
  • June 1 – Letty’s office hours – 9 am, Cafe Kindred
  • June 4 – City Council Work Session – 730 pm, Community Center