Newsletter
The office building at 1750 Old Meadow Road in Tysons, which could be replaced by a mixed-use development (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) A developer wants to bring hundreds of workforce housing units to Tysons East with a proposal that would replace an aging, vacant office building near the McLean Metro station with a residential complex.

Under the name Somos at Tysons LLC, SCG Development plans to build a mixed-use building at 1750 Old Meadow Road with 460 residential units and approximately 5,000 square feet of ground-level commercial space.

At least 300 of the residences would be made affordable to households that earn up to 60% of the area’s median income (AMI), according to a rezoning application submitted to Fairfax County on Oct. 1.

That commitment would easily exceed the workforce dwelling unit (WDU) requirements that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted for the Tysons Urban Center on Feb. 23, giving developers the option to provide 10% WDUs at 60% AMI or 13% WDUs with a greater mix of income levels.

According to a statement of justification written by John McGranahan Jr., a land-use attorney representing the developer, SCG’s proposal comes in part to satisfy proffer requirements that the property must meet due to its proximity to the nearby Capital One Center and Scotts Run developments.

“The vision of Tysons as an urban center where people live, work and play must include a diversity of housing opportunities at price points across the income spectrum,” McGranahan wrote. “This application will deliver a greater number of affordable units at the 60% of AMI level much sooner than would be achieved with existing proffers and Tysons Plan policies, all within a convenient 1/3 mile walk to the McLean Metro Station.”

The proposed 1750 Meadow Road development site is in Tysons East, near the McLean Metro station and Scott’s Run Park (via Fairfax County)

To make way for the new development, SCG says it will raze the seven-story office building that currently occupies 1750 Old Meadow Road, but an existing three-level parking garage behind the building will be left intact.

Constructed in 1985 and occupied for more than 36 years, the 142,000 square-foot office building was sold by owner Matan Companies in 2018. It’s in the former West*Gate office park, a portion of which is being transformed into the Highland District.

SCG’s plans call for a mixed-use building with a maximum height of eight floors or 85 feet and 440,605 square feet of gross floor area, which would increase to 470,453 square feet with the bonus density granted by the workforce housing commitment. Read More

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As one major Falls Church development takes a step toward completion, another is just getting started.

Developer Atlantic Realty Companies, which owns George Mason Square and nearby buildings, hopes to transform the area with a mixed-use complex dubbed One City Center, which will include 246 residential units, office space, retail, and a grocery store.

“This is an area that has long been planned to evolve into a downtown vibrant hub,” Andrew Painter, an attorney representing the developer, said at a Sept. 27 Falls Church City Council meeting.

As part of the project, the company plans to demolish and replace a rear two-story parking garage with a building that’s nine or 10 stories tall, add a park on a vacant corner lot at South Maple Avenue and West Annandale Road, and create a pedestrian-friendly street — a Dutch-inspired woonerf — with a 30-foot by 40-foot exterior screen.

“The Digital Screen may be used to display art, landscapes, movies and theatrical presentations for ‘screen on the green’ events, coverage of live City events and performances (e.g., Watch Night performances, Memorial Day parade, etc.), promotion of the project’s retailers and City services, and related programming,” a voluntary concessions document from June 23 says.

Other buildings to be demolished include the former BB&T Bank and a tailor business building, where a temporary parking lot would be created during construction.

Atlantic Realty unveiled an initial proposal for the project on Feb. 11 and submitted a second version on June 23. The company is working with Falls Church officials as it seeks to get approval from the city council, possibly on Feb. 28 next year.

An agreement calls for designating 6% of the units — up to 15 units — as affordable. Painter said the developer is working with the city to determine what that would entail.

As part of the application, the developer is seeking special exceptions, one of which includes increasing a building height from a maximum of 75 feet to up to 115 feet.

City Looks at Proposed Concessions

The City of Falls Church has been working with the developer on concessions to make the project become a reality.

Among numerous concessions, a proposed agreement calls for:

  • A one-time payment of $1.7 million to schools to offset capital costs, provided all 246 units are built
  • 30 public parking spaces
  • A 3,000 square-foot conference center (about two-thirds the size of a basketball court) that would be available to commercial tenants in the new development and George Mason Square, nonprofits, and the city for meetings

Painter said the conference space could be used by the city and nonprofits at no cost.

The developer and project leads showcased the potential of the site on a walking tour on Wednesday (Sept. 29), making the case that a new bus shelter, bikeshare, pedestrian crossings, and other upgrades would improve transportation.

Read More

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Morning Notes

Cause of Death Confirmed in Bailey’s Crossroads Murder — “A 19-year-old man stabbed his father several times in the upper body and then burned his father’s body before burying him in the family’s backyard in the Bailey’s Crossroads area of Fairfax County, the county police department said Monday. Philip Nguyen was arrested and charged with second-degree murder last Wednesday in his father’s killing.” [Patch]

Area Residents Can Get Abortion Medication By Mail — Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, which serves the D.C. area, has been offering abortion medications by mail to patients in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia since Aug. 12. The new service was officially announced on Friday (Sept. 10) shortly after the Supreme Court allowed a prohibition on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy to take effect in Texas. [The Washington Post]

Deadline to Apply for Amazon REACH Funds Extended — The deadline to submit affordable housing proposals to Fairfax County for up to $5 million each in Amazon REACH funds has been pushed to 4 p.m. Friday (Sept. 17). The state has committed $15 million annually to support affordable housing in Northern Virginia as part of the deal that brought Amazon’s second headquarters to Arlington County. [Fairfax County Housing and Community Development]

Tysons Consultant Buys Maryland Cybersecurity Company — “Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. (NYSE: BAH) again tapped the mergers and acquisitions market, it announced Monday, purchasing cybersecurity company Tracepoint. Terms of the acquisition weren’t disclosed, but the move follows a strategic investment the McLean management and IT consulting firm made in the Fredericksburg company back in January.” [Washington Business Journal]

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A Fairfax County-owned property along Balls Hill Road slated for a traffic improvement project at the intersection with Old Dominion Drive (staff photo by David Taube)

Faced with challenges from providing affordable housing to mitigating flooding, Fairfax County has its hands full, but it’s currently armed with vacant property assessed at tens of millions of dollars.

Currently tax-exempt, the properties could be used for commercial development, environmental preservation, housing projects, recreation, or stormwater drainage, among other purposes.

“There is a critical shortage of affordable housing options in Fairfax County,” Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said when asked about what the county should do with its vacant properties.

The total financial value of vacant, county-owned properties exceeds $50 million, as calculated based on a public records request and assessments in an online county database for over 100 parcels that could be used for commercial, residential, or other uses.

It wasn’t immediately clear if other restrictions, such as environmental issues, setbacks, and prior plans, limit the use of those properties.

The $50 million-plus figure includes at least $10 million in assessed property that was listed as vacant but nonbuildable, but it excludes properties in floodplains as well as parcels already in use, such as parking lots, parks, or school areas.

One of the largest vacant property acquisitions is across from the Fairfax County Government Center: a 2.6-acre property bordered by Legato Road and Post Forest Drive that cost around $50 million in 1994. It currently has an assessed value of around $11,450.

“One of the elements of the County’s Housing Strategic Plan is to utilize vacant parcels as well as to repurpose land, such as existing parking lots, to increase the supply of housing,” Foust noted by email.

Created in 2018, the Communitywide Housing Strategic Plan calls on Fairfax County to make vacant or underutilized, publicly owned land available for affordable and mixed-income housing “to expand housing options without direct public financial subsidy” through public-private partnerships.

Currently, the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority has three such properties that are slated to be developed through public-private partnerships:

The county’s more sizable vacant lots include five adjacent properties along South Van Dorn Street in Franconia that occupy around 3.7 acres located near Thomas A. Edison High School.

The county also has a 9.63-acre parcel near the Innovation Center Metro station that will eventually open in Herndon as part of the much-delayed Silver Line extension.

Foust says part of the property includes a community playing field, but its proximity to the Metro station could make it a candidate for future affordable housing.

“Placing affordable housing on the site could be a good use of the land,” he said. “If that came about, the playing field would need to be relocated.”

In McLean, the county has two properties in a residential neighborhood at 7135 and 7139 Old Dominion Drive that have been assessed at a combined $2.06 million. They are slated for a traffic improvement project at the intersection of Old Dominion and Balls Hill Road. The project is currently in the design phase.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a Washington Business Journal story about affordable housing that land is the county’s “single most useful tool.”

“Reallocation of Board-owned property can occur in a number of ways,” McKay said in a statement. “However it is often at the request of a County agency and is followed by an extensive review of the property. Within the last year, the Board was proud to authorize the transfer of two properties to the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority for the potential creation of affordable housing.”

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A nonprofit is looking to build affordable housing in Tysons by the Spring Hill Metro station (via KGD Architecture/Fairfax County)

The nonprofit Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing is looking to develop a two-acre parking lot into the first entirely affordable housing project in Tysons.

The project would construct a six to nine-story building with 125-175 units on the north side of Spring Hill Road, according to a July 2 letter for a rezoning application that is currently under review by Fairfax County planners.

“APAH is excited for the unique opportunity of providing a fully affordable building within the heart of Tysons,” Scott Adams, a McGuireWoods land-use attorney representing APAH, wrote in the letter. “This important project…will serve as a benchmark for the crucial goal of providing new affordable housing options close to employment and transit.”

The proposed residential building would have 34 three-bedroom units, 109 two-bedroom units, and 32 one-bedroom units available to individuals and families with up to 30% to 60% of the area median income level.

The chosen parcel is adjacent to a joint Land Rover/Jaguar auto dealership and about a six-minute walk from the Spring Hill Metro station.

The site of Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing’s proposed project at 1592 Spring Hill Road in Tysons (via Fairfax County)

According to the Washington Business Journal, which first reported the story, Fairfax County could play a crucial role in the deal by buying the property — likely through its redevelopment and housing authority — and leasing it to APAH.

The property belongs to Tysons-based Capital Automotive Real Estate Services (known as CARS), which is owned by the real estate firm Brookfield Property Partners. Fairfax County has assessed the parcel at $8.5 million each year since 2015.

The application materials submitted to the county include an affidavit signed by CARS, signaling that it is permitting APAH to proceed with its project.

CARS previously obtained zoning waivers and modifications from the Fairfax County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors in 2017 for mixed-use development of the site. APAH is seeking to use those approvals with its application and not require additional zoning waivers.

However, the application calls for reducing the minimum parking requirement of 175 spaces to 105 spaces. That’s because the project, which would include a parking garage, is within a quarter-mile of the Metro station, and the lower number would support the expected parking needs based on the nonprofit’s experience with similar projects, Adams wrote.

The development would be part of the Planned Tysons Corner Urban District that the Board of Supervisors established in 2010 to transform the area from a suburban office park and activity center to a mixed-use neighborhood geared toward pedestrians, bicycles, and transit.

The application says the project fits with a requirement there that a development contributes to urban parks, reduces vehicle trips involving a sole driver, and addresses other urban revitalization factors.

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Morning Notes

I-66 West Lane Closures Start Tonight — I-66 West in the Vienna area will be reduced to a single travel lane around 10 p.m. today (Friday) and tomorrow with one lane remaining closed during the day on Saturday. The closures are needed to shift the westbound travel lanes between Gallows Road and Nutley Street to new pavement as part of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project. [VDOT]

Two Injured in McLean House Fire During Storm — Two people went to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries after a house in the 6600 block of Osborn Street caught fire around 9:10 p.m. on Tuesday (Aug. 10). The fire, which displaced five occupants and resulted in approximately $25,000 in damages, was caused by an unattended candle placed too close to curtains during a thunderstorm-induced power outage. [FCFRD]

Craft Beer Restaurant Planned for Tysons Galleria — “Yard House, the casual, craft beer-focused restaurant with a growing Greater Washington presence, will open a new location inside the redeveloped former Macy’s store at the Tysons Galleria. Building permits filed this week with Fairfax County describe the project as eventually spanning 14,236 square feet and entailing an outdoor patio at the redone Galleria space.” [Washington Business Journal]

Falls Church Adds Affordable Housing — Falls Church City bought properties at 310 and 312 Shirley Street for $925,000 each on Wednesday (Aug. 11). The 2,560 square-foot buildings consist of four one-bedroom apartments that will be preserved as market-rate affordable units, joining the 16 such units that the City already owns at 208 Gibson Street and 302 Shirley Street. [City of Falls Church]

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A new report by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) highlights some remarkable regional success in reducing homelessness. In Fairfax County, the numbers seemed to tell a different story, but county leadership says some of that is a result of the way the survey is conducted.

The annual study sends researchers across regional localities to collect a snapshot of how many residents are experiencing homelessness, and while not a comprehensive scientific count, it’s generally seen as a look at regional trends.

While neighbors like Arlington County and the City of Alexandria reported declines in their homeless population counts by 14% and 49%, respectively, Fairfax County is one of only two out of nine jurisdictions surveyed that saw its homeless count increase.

In Fairfax County, homeless population counts went from 1,041 in 2020 to 1,222 in 2021, a 17% increase. The only other D.C.-area locality to report a year-to-year rise in its homeless population was Prince George’s County, which increased by 19%.

Fairfax County claims on its website that the increase reflects an expansion of shelter capacity and services, rather than an increase in homelessness.

“The increase is primarily attributable to the increase in the community’s capacity to provide shelter with increased federal emergency funding associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the commendable efforts of service providers to care for unstably housed community members,” the Fairfax County Office to Prevent and End Homelessness said.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay similarly credited the increase in the count to an increase in accommodations for people experiencing homelessness.

“This year’s data indicates an outstanding effort by our Housing staff and our community-based partners to respond to the unprecedented impacts of 2020,” he said in a statement. “By providing safe housing accommodations and a wide variety of supportive services to assist our most vulnerable neighbors along the path toward housing stability, we have been able to help our entire community.”

However, since at least 2017, the homeless population counts for Fairfax County have been gradually increasing, which McKay says is also indicative of an inadequate affordable housing stock.

Released in two parts across 2018 and 2019, the county’s Communitywide Housing Strategic Plan set a goal of producing a minimum of 5,000 net new affordable housing units within 15 years. 1,800 units are currently in the pipeline, according to McKay.

In his statement to Tysons Reporter on the homelessness point-in-time count data, McKay said:

Most importantly, it indicates that our work on the issue of housing — including emergency housing — must and will continue to be a critical priority for this Board. This is an essential component of our community’s crisis response system for those who need help in regaining a safe, decent and stable housing situation.

Housing is a foundational component in achieving positive outcomes in nearly every aspect of our lives and having thousands of our neighbors experiencing homelessness or struggling to remain in their homes is not something that we as a community will turn a blind eye to. This could be any of us. There are too many circumstances beyond our control which can cause that stability to be shaken through no fault of our own.

Photo via MWCOG

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Following in the footsteps of his Fairfax County counterpart, Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields is proposing a one-cent reduction in the real estate tax rate as part of the city’s advertised fiscal year 2022 budget.

However, because of rising assessed values, the average homeowner will still experience a $291 increase in their tax bill next year.

Presented to the city council on Monday (March 8), the advertised budget increases city government operating expenses by 2.3% (or $946,567) and public schools funding by 2.5% (or just over $1 million).

“With vaccines rolling out, and springtime in the air, we need to maintain vigilance but certainly have optimism toward the future — and hopefully, this budget reflects that as well,” Shields said.

Falls Church City School Board Chair Shannon Litton called the proposed $1 million funding increase for FCCPS “a bit better than we expected, given COVID-19.” The school division will also be receiving an additional $20,000 from the state and $31,000 from the federal government, she said.

Shields said the budget keeps revenues in line with forecasts from December without proposing a larger increase on residential real estate taxpayers. The city saw year-over-year increases in taxes on groceries and online sales, but a large decrease in revenue from hospitality taxes.

Highlights of the budget include funding for:

  • $145,000 for body-worn cameras and civilian positions to support the department, which is a first step in addressing recommendations from the Use of Force Review Committee
  • $200,000 in coronavirus contingency funds to address uncertainties, either revenue shortfalls or increased demand for services and assistance
  • $150,000 to develop a Parks Master Plan
  • $100,000 for the Affordable Housing Fund to supplement the $3.75 million Amazon REACH grant funds and leverage future developer contributions.

Shields has also proposed increasing stormwater management rates by 2%, or $4, for a median homeowner to pay for projects intended to address smaller-scale nuisance flooding. He anticipates that the city will need to increase rates by 10 to 15% for the next five years to fund six larger-scale stormwater management projects.

The advertised budget gives Falls Church City employees a 3% merit compensation increase, and a 3.5% step increase to uniformed police staff, but Shields told the city council on Monday that this small-scale growth is not sustainable in the long-term.

“My budget guidance for six years in a row was to keep non-personnel expenses flat,” he said. “So, it is really important to emphasize that after six years in a row of doing that — in addition to cuts made last year due to COVID-19 — our budgets are extremely lean.”

The city has about $3.94 million in unfunded needs across all departments, he said. These range from adding positions, including police officers, IT staff, and economic development staff, to maintaining public amenities, such as basketball and tennis courts and athletic fields.

Other highlights include:

  • A $500,000 decrease in debt service, as due to the cancellation of planned debt issuance during the current fiscal year and refunding prior bonds from 2013 and 2011 at lower interest rates.
  • A $4.5 million transfer from the 10-acre land at the George Mason High School campus to capital reserves.
  • Anticipated concessions from Founders Row for $1.8 million, which will also be placed in capital reserves.

In addition to flood mitigation, other public safety spending includes investments in sidewalks, paving — which Shields said has been underfunded since the Great Recession — and neighborhood traffic calming activities. State grants will pay for improvements to the Park Avenue “Great Streets” project, the Oak Street Bridge and the Washington and Columbia intersection.

The city will also receive funding through the Biden administration’s American Recovery Act.

“That congressional aid [is] needed and necessary, and we will use it very well for infrastructure and capital needs,” Shields said.

Community members will get a chance to learn about the budget and share their comments at a town hall from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Thursday (March 11). Budget meetings will be held on March 22 and April 12, and there will be a second town hall on April 15 before the city council is slated to adopt the budget on April 26.

Photo via City of Falls Church Government/Facebook, charts via City of Falls Church

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Updated March 2 to clarify that the funding is Amazon-related, not Amazon-funded.

The City of Falls Church is getting $3.75 milli0n in grants for affordable housing initiatives to prepare for Amazon’s arrival in Arlington County.

In response to concerns about the anticipated impact of its second headquarters in Arlington on the region’s housing prices, Virginia Housing is investing $75 million dollars spread out over five years in affordable housing.

“Ensuring affordable access to housing for all is a key priority for the City Council and our community as a whole,” City of Falls Church Mayor P. David Tarter said in a statement. “We are delighted that Virginia Housing has awarded this grant and appreciative to Senator Dick Saslaw (VA-35) for his efforts to bring this important program to the City.”

Falls Church will get $3.4 million for a new affordable housing homeownership program and $350,000 to extend the availability of nine committed affordable apartments at the Read Building (402 W. Broad Street).

“Homeownership has been increasingly out of reach for many, and this is an innovative first step to reverse the trend,” Councilmember Letty Hardi said, calling the grant “a major step forward for the city.”

The NHP Foundation will manage the homeownership program with support from the city’s Housing and Human Services Department. Once the program is established, the city says it will take about one year for NHPF to purchase, rehabilitate, and resell the homes.

With the $3.4 million, the city estimates that 18 qualified first-time home-buyers will be able to purchase rehabilitated homes between $425,000 and $525,000. The program will make use of Virginia Housing special lending programs and mortgage credit certificates, as well as local down payment assistance, according to the city.

“We’ve already received several calls from interested homebuyers, so we’re excited to get the program established,” Falls Church Housing and Human Services Deputy Director Dana Lewis said in a statement.

The city says it expects most qualifying homes to be condominiums, but single-family homes and townhouses could also be eligible.

NHPF currently manages the Winter Hill Apartments in the City of Falls Church.

The remaining $350,000 in grant funds will subsidize rent prices for nine workforce units at the Read Building until Dec. 31, 2032. These units are reserved for qualified renters, including Falls Church City Public School teachers and staff and City of Falls Church government employees.

“In the City, there is a gap between what many households can afford and available rental and ownership homes,” Nancy Vincent, director of the City’s Housing and Human Services Department, said. “These grant funds help address the diverse housing needs of the City’s current and future populations.”

City officials suggested these solutions during a city council meeting on Nov. 9, building on a consultant’s report that outlined ways for the city to expand its affordable housing supply.

Virginia Housing is managing these grants through its REACH (Resources Enabling Affordable Community Housing in Virginia) program, which supports affordable and accessible housing as well as revitalization and preservation efforts.

Gov. Ralph Northam first announced the investment by Virginia Housing in 2018.

Image via Google Maps

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is aiming to formally update its Workforce Dwelling Unit (WDU) policy to provide more affordable rents for local workers as rents continue to increase across the region.

The proposal, which will come before the board for a public hearing and a vote today (Tuesday), offers greater flexibility to developers and has a particular focus on the Tysons Urban Center.

Under the proposed policy, developers in Tysons would have two options for meeting their workforce dwelling unit requirements:

  • Make 13% of the units WDUs, with a breakdown of 2% at 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI), 3% at 70% AMI, and 8% at 80% AMI
  • Or make 10% of the units WDUs at 60% AMI

Adopted in 2010, Fairfax County’s current Tysons WDU policy gives developers a 20% density bonus if they commit to making 20% of their rental units affordable at various income levels for at least 50 years.

Fairfax County Housing and Development Director Tom Fleetwood says expectations for WDU commitments in Tysons are higher than in the rest of the county “because of the density available in the Tysons Urban Center.”

The Board of Supervisors initiated a review of the county’s workforce dwelling unit policy last July after a task force convened in March 2019 found that the policy was, in effect, allowing market-rate units to be considered WDUs by including units at 100 and 120% of the AMI, which is currently $126,000 for a family of four in the D.C. area.

The task force recommended amending the policy so that it can more effectively serve its purpose, which is to provide more affordable housing in the county’s urban and mixed-use centers, like Tysons.

“We conducted a housing strategic plan process over the last two or three years, which identified, sort of these lower incomes as being in the greatest need,” Fleetwood said. “While at the same time, the higher income tiers that were served under the original version of the WDU program really were closer to the prevailing market rents here in Fairfax County.”

About 1,600 WDUs have been introduced in Fairfax County under the current policy, according to Fleetwood.

Based on a county staff report released in Janaury, the proposed amendment lowers the household income levels included in the rental WDU program from a maximum of 120% AMI to 80%. It also now includes households at 70% and 60% of AMI in the program.

It also updates the policy to allow developers outside of Tysons to get a 12% density bonus by offering 8% of their rental units as WDUs, a drop from the current 12% threshold. 4% of the units should be at 80% AMI, 2% at 70% AMI, and 2% at 60% AMI.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission unanimously recommended that the proposed policy changes be approved when it met on Feb. 3.

The amended policy that the Board of Supervisors is voting on today also includes revisions to update data, rework outdated terminology, and remove references to programs that no longer exist.

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