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West Falls Church task force delays meeting after Virginia Tech changes development plans

When Virginia Tech canceled plans to expand its West Falls Church campus on Feb. 28, the ripple effects could be felt in three different jurisdictions.

The proposed project to establish a design school and a new headquarters building for the Falls Church construction company HITT Contracting at the Northern Virginia Center had been in the works since 2019. It was expected to be part of a sweeping redevelopment of the area around the West Falls Church Metro station.

Officials with Fairfax County, the City of Falls Church, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which all oversee land around the rail station, say the collapse of Virginia Tech and HITT’s project has not substantially altered their ambitions for the area, but the full consequences are not yet clear.

Fairfax County’s West Falls Church Transit Station Area Study Task Force has postponed a meeting that was scheduled to take place tonight (Tuesday) until April 6 to give county staff more time to assess the implications of Virginia Tech and HITT’s decision.

“Virginia Tech’s decision does not change the County’s overall vision for the West Falls Church transit station area,” the county said in a statement to Tysons Reporter. “The county is evaluating next steps for the current Plan amendment under review given the recent announcement by Virginia Tech.”

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust assembled the task force in 2019 to make recommendations for updating the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan for the West Falls Church TSA in light of new development proposals from Virginia Tech and Metro.

While its work was interrupted last spring by the COVID-19 pandemic, the task force has met 20 times over the past two years to evaluate proposed changes related to “the addition of residential and non-residential uses to the TSA, improved connections, and additional parks and open space,” according to Fairfax County.

A draft comprehensive amendment was released on Dec. 9, and a public hearing before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is expected to take place late this spring, though an exact date has not been set.

“The main goals for development in the West Falls Church transit station area are encouraging use of rail transit, preserving stable neighborhoods, and enhancing the established sense of community,” Fairfax County said. “…The County looks forward to working with Virginia Tech in the future in fulfilling the goals of the transit station area.”

WMATA spokesperson Sherri Ly told Tysons Reporter last week that its plans to bring mixed-use development to a 24-acre site next to the West Falls Church Metro station have not changed.

The proposal calls for a replacement and reconfiguration of the existing station parking lot, along with the addition of 500-700 units of new residential development, 150,000 square feet of office, and 50,000 square feet of retail.

In the hopes of coordinating with adjacent property owners, Metro hired EYA LLC, Hoffman and Associates, and Rushmark Properties LLC for the venture. EYA and Hoffman are working on Falls Church City’s Gateway project, while Rushmark was involved in the planned Virginia Tech expansion.

Ly confirmed that the development team has not changed but did not provide any further details on the current status of Metro’s project.

City of Falls Church communications director Susan Finarelli says “there’s not much to say” about Virginia Tech’s cancellation in terms of its impact on the city. The Gateway project has been undergoing revisions, but those were prompted by the economic impact of the pandemic.

However, she did confirm that the city will be working with Virginia Tech on a smart city technology initiative that will outfit the planned mixed-use development with data-collecting sensors and a new road connecting Route 7 to the Northern Virginia Center on Haycock Road, as the Washington Business Journal reported on March 8.

“The City is delighted to partner with Virginia Tech on the Smart City technology program that will bring cutting edge transportation solutions to Falls Church, including support for autonomous vehicles, adaptive lighting, and parking garage utilization indicators,” Falls Church Mayor David Tarter said. “These solutions will reduce pollution and traffic congestion and improve public safety.”

Images via Google Maps, Fairfax County

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