Blog posts are the personal views of Letty Hardi and not official statements or records on behalf of the Falls Church City Council
Happy long weekend! As we head into summer when business normally slows down, we expect a busy season ahead. As planned, we heard two economic development projects in a joint work session this week with the Planning Commission. Signed leases with a 8 screen, dine-in movie theater, Studio Movie Grill and with a restaurant City Works was the headline from Founders Row (formerly Mason Row) at Broad and West. An amendment for age restricted housing in lieu of the hotel in the project will be considered this summer. We also continued discussions on the draft RFDP (request for detailed proposals, the 2nd phase RFP) for the 10 acre West Falls Church project. Meanwhile, evaluation of the 6 conceptual bids is underway; the evaluation committee’s recommendations will be shared with the full City Council at the June 4 work session. After that, we’ll be voting on the shortlisted proposals and issuing the RFDP to the shortlisters at the June 11 meeting. Whew! It’s a good thing we have next Monday off as we prepare for the next few weeks.
I will be holding office hours next Friday morning at 9 am at Cafe Kindred if you’d like to share feedback, ask questions, etc in person.
PS – A PSA if you have friends or family coming in town for Memorial Day: pay attention to the parking signs. There has been an uptick in towing in private lots, and towing will be enforced by property owners, even on holidays. Besides public parking spaces, the Kaiser (N. Washington and Park Ave) and George Mason Square (103 W. Broad) parking garages have free parking all day.
What Happened This Week:
(1) Founders Row – I highlighted various parts of the documents last week, so you can refer back to last week’s blog post if you’d like to catch up. Besides the announcement of Studio Movie Grill and the restaurant (combined, is half of their proposed retail space), they also announced that 7-11 would vacate by Sept 30, and they’ve secured financing to proceed into groundbreaking and construction. The schedule proposed has a new first reading vote on June 11 to consider the age restricted housing swap for a hotel. If passed, it would be referred to Boards and Commissions through the summer for feedback until Council casts a final vote in August.
Letty’s thoughts: as this project was one of my first votes 2.5 years ago and has since stalled, I was glad to see it re-started on our agenda especially with announcements and progress. I’ve been fielding questions from some in the community who prefer the hotel vs 72 age-restricted/senior apartments. One of the questions I asked is whether we actually have a choice to continue pushing for a hotel. The developer’s letter to us stated their best efforts with over 28 hotel companies and could not secure a hotel deal with any of them, ie the project would fail without the amendment. So the real choice is between age restricted housing vs nothing. See below photos from the developer’s presentation on their hotel efforts and more info on age-restricted apartments.
With that in mind, there are additional items we need to consider now that the project is back. I believe since 2.5 years have elapsed, the bar for various voluntary concessions has been raised – affordable housing, environmental sustainability, tree canopy… I’d also like to see clear fiscal analysis to understand the impact of the loss of the hotel. The fiscal benefit is slightly lower but still expected to be net fiscally positive – $800K to 1.7M net impact annually, which is the equivalent of 2-4 pennies on the tax rate. We’ll continue discussions on Founders Row at our work session on June 4.
(2) Park and Lee Condos – I also wrote about Park and Lee already last week.
Letty’s thoughts: while many of us support a revival of condos in the City to add more options to our housing stock, coupled with the underperforming properties on the land currently – most of us on the City Council and Planning Commission also shared the same concerns about the 5 story residential condo proposal (70 units). Because of the small site (less than 3/4 acre) and location on a more residential street vs Broad St, the redevelopment proposal doesn’t fit the Special Exception ordinance that is normally used for mixed use developments around other parts of the City. Many of us encouraged the developer to consider office condos on the first floor and better height tapering and massing strategies to be a better fit on Park Ave.
(3) $15.7M Transportation Grant for Broad/Haycock/Shreve intersection
We received good news that the NVTA staff has recommended the $15.7M grant request for intersection improvements at Broad and Haycock/Shreve. The final vote will be on June 14, but it is significant that staff has included it in its recommendations. It was noted that 85% of comments received were for 9 projects (out of 60 total projects) and our project received 134 comments of support, which put us among the top 6 projects. Thank you to all those who have written and testified! Also, while officially a project of NOVA Parks, the dual trials pilot on the W&OD (dedicated lane for bicyclists and a dedicated lane for runners and walkers) will run through the City and was also on the recommendation list. Stay tuned after the June 14 meeting.
(4) Call for Volunteers
Starting this summer, and continuing through the year, FCCPS will work with the selected design/construction firm on the new GMHS school design. Several volunteer subcommittees will be assembled to help with this process. They will include community members and staff. The subcommittees will be asked to provide input in their area of expertise. The subcommittees will include:
- Community Use
- Fine and Performing Arts
- 21st Century Design
Those interested in serving on a subcommittee, please indicate your interest by completing the form below.
What’s Coming Up:
- Today, 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