Tysons, VA

Virginia Tech is no longer looking to expand its campus in West Falls Church.

The university announced yesterday (Sunday) that it made a mutual decision with the Falls Church-based construction company HITT Contracting to stop pursuing plans to redevelop its Northern Virginia Center at Haycock Road just south of the West Falls Church Metro station.

The proposed project would have added a new academic building and a research center for design and construction to the center, which currently houses administrative offices and a handful of graduate-level academic programs. It would have also featured a new headquarters for HITT, which is currently located about three miles away on Fairview Park Drive.

“After a period of due diligence and business analysis, HITT and Virginia Tech jointly decided not to finalize a comprehensive agreement for the project,” Virginia Tech said in a statement. “Despite this news, the long-time partners remain committed to working together to advance “smart” building in the construction industry.”

Virginia Tech unveiled plans to redevelop its Falls Church property in July 2019 after it received an unsolicited proposal from HITT through Virginia’s Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act (PPEA) process, which allows private entities to develop certain public facilities and infrastructure projects.

University leaders said at the time that the potential expansion of the Falls Church campus was part of a wider effort to reorganize programming throughout Northern Virginia, including by establishing an innovation campus in Alexandria.

Virginia Tech Senior Vice President and Chief Business Officer Dwayne Pinkney says the university will contine to work with HITT “to advance building construction research.”

“Virginia Tech has a long history in Falls Church,” Pinkney said. “We are committed to being there and working with Fairfax County, the City of Falls Church, and other partners to create a vibrant district around our campus.”

HITT still plans to develop a new headquarters building and a school focused on design and construction. The company says it remains interested in collaborating with Virginia Tech on those projects.

“While the redevelopment project isn’t moving forward, we believe deeply in the partnership and our work together,” HITT Vice President of Research and Development Megan Lantz said.

The real estate investment firm Rushmark Properties had also partnered with Virginia Tech on the Northern Virginia Center redevelopment. An individual with the developer confirmed to Tysons Reporter that it is no longer involved.

The Northern Virginia Center expansion was part of an ambitious redevelopment plan for the West Falls Church Transit Station Area that Fairfax County has been coordinating with the university and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).

The next meeting of the task force appointed to develop recommendations for the West Falls Church TSA study is scheduled to take place virtually on Mar. 16.

Photo via Google Maps

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In response to a new wave of public feedback, Fairfax County staff has revised its drafted plan to revitalize the McLean Community Business Center.

The changes include harder caps on building heights, guarantees for syncing development to public school capacity, and more specific environmental requirements — all concerns that some community members and civic associations have recently raised.

Staff discussed the changes during a virtual open house on Saturday (Feb. 20).

The draft plan is currently under review as it winds through county processes. It will go before the Fairfax County Planning Commission for a public hearing on Apr. 28, followed by a May 18 Board of Supervisors meeting when county leaders will vote on whether to adopt the plan.

McLean Citizens for Right Size Development (Right Size McLean), a coalition of local neighborhood associations, welcomed the changes.

“We were encouraged to see the proposed changes to the maximum heights by zone and that the plan would spell out the maximums in linear feet, reducing the allowable height of the land parcels that abut Franklin Sherman Elementary School along Chain Bridge Road to 40 feet,” Right Size McLean member Linda Walsh said.

Walsh says the group was also glad to see that the new draft sets stronger environmental goals, especially for tree canopies and stormwater quality and quantity.

The McLean CBC study process began in 2018 when consultant StreetSense worked with members of the McLean community to draft a 10-year “Vision Plan.” Since then, a task force appointed by Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust has worked with county staff to create a Comprehensive Plan spanning 25 years.

According to Foust, task force members, and staff, downtown McLean will become a vibrant, biking- and walking-friendly downtown that creates a real sense of place. The plan envisions a total of 3,850 residential units in the district as well as traffic pattern changes and streetscape updates.

The community business center will be divided into three zones: Center, General and Edge, with corresponding heights for each. The most recent draft does not change height caps for buildings in each zone, but it does specify maximum heights in feet as opposed to the number of stories.

Buildings cannot exceed 92 feet (or seven stories), although one building in the Center zone will be allowed to reach 128 feet (or 10 stories). The developer who is awarded the tallest building will be responsible for creating the two-thirds-acre public plaza envisioned in the plan.

General zone buildings surrounding the Center zone can reach 68 feet (five stories). The county did not make any changes to the Edge zone in the most recent draft. Read More

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Falls Church City is acquiring a Virginia Village apartment building on Shirley Street with the goal of preserving the units as market-rate affordable housing.

The City of Falls Church Economic Development Authority unanimously voted on Feb. 17 to enter into a contract to purchase the property at 302 Shirley Street for $925,000.

According to a presentation given to the EDA, there were nine other bidders for the property, which is 2,560 square feet in size and has four one-bedroom apartments. The competition required that the city act quickly to take advantage of the opportunity, Falls Church EDA Chair Robert Young says.

“The EDA has taken a strong position in the last year or such that its members believe that Affordable Housing is key part of economic development, especially in a small city like Falls Church,” Young said in a statement to Tysons Reporter. “This opportunity arose over a weekend and it quickly became clear it would be necessary to move quickly if the city/EDA was to have any chance of acquiring this asset.”

Young is also president of the property developer The Young Group, which he says put the building under contract to give the EDA and Falls Church City “sufficient time to properly consider the purchase.”

The building is currently fully leased, but three out of the four tenant leases are scheduled to terminate on May 31. Once the sale is complete, the existing tenants will be allowed to remain until the end of their leases, and the city will consider options for future property uses with a commitment to maintaining the units as affordable housing.

According to the presentation, the current rents for the one-bedroom apartment units are below 60% of the area median income.

If the sale is completed, this will be the second Virginia Village property owned by the City of Falls Church, since the city already owns the apartment building at 208 Gibson St. near Big Chimneys Park. That building is managed by a property management company for use by a nonprofit, and the rents are around 40% AMI, according to Young.

The city’s plans for the Shirley Street property will be in line with its South Washington Street Small Area Plan, which states that the Virginia Village neighborhood should either be preserved or redeveloped with replacement affordable housing incorporated into the new development.

To cover the purchase and operating costs, the EDA is utilizing $1.3 million in land banking funds, including $100,000 in transferred coronavirus relief funds.

Falls Church’s land banking program allows the city to sell a property to a developer for redevelopment. Previous purchases made through the program include a property in the mixed-use Rushmark development that now contains the West Broad apartments and Harris Teeter.

“Opportunities to acquire property consistent with the EDA’s land banking program are rare,” EDA Vice Chair Brian Williams said. “In this case, the City will be able to preserve affordable housing units in what is an important part of the South Washington Street small area plan. The EDA is pleased to help the City make progress in this area.”

Photo via Google Maps

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(Updated 5 p.m. — This article has been updated to correct the number of residential units being proposed and to expand the sources of residents’ concerns.)

Fairfax County staff are hosting a virtual town hall tomorrow (Saturday) to present changes to a draft comprehensive plan for revitalizing the McLean Community Business Center and hear residents’ opinions.

The meeting takes place from 9-11 a.m. and will be accessible via this link.

The new draft includes changes that address building heights and environmental guidance, Fairfax County Planning Division Director Leanna O’Donnell says. Many of the tweaks were made in response to concerns raised by community members about a draft of the plan that was released on Dec. 9.

“This is an exciting opportunity to bring forward the vision plan developed by the community, take it and get it into our Comprehensive Plan formally,” O’Donnell said. “We look forward to continued engagement with the draft as we move forward.”

Some residents, including a coalition of local neighborhood associations called McLean Citizens for Right Size Development (Right Size McLean), have developed a laundry list of concerns about the December draft plan and representation on a task force appointed by Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust.

Right Size McLean recently issued a survey that drew about 600 responses from an even mix of young and old, new and longtime residents, group member Linda Walsh says.

While the full results will be released later, Walsh said that 90% of respondents oppose bringing the total number of residential units downtown to 3,850 units.

The increasingly vocal opposition comes as a culmination of three years of work by county staff draws nearer. A recommended new comprehensive plan will be presented to the Fairfax County Planning Commission for a public hearing on Apr. 28, followed by a hearing by the Board of Supervisors on May 18.

The McLean CBC study process began in 2018 when consultant StreetSense worked with members of the McLean community to draft a 10-year “Vision Plan.”

“Everyone was invited to participate and hundreds did,” Foust said of the visioning process. “It was a good process and almost everyone who participated was supportive of the Vision that was adopted.”

Residents shared their visions for McLean and the amenities it would offer. The plan outlined incentives to attract commercial and residential developers to McLean with requirements for contributing toward community benefits such as open spaces. Read More

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Updated at 3:25 p.m. on 2/18/2021 — Tri-State Development Companies will not be constructing a vehicular link between a private road in its proposed independent living facility and Fern Oak Court.

Fairfax County planning staff had recommended such a connection, but “the applicant has expressed that the surrounding neighbors have voiced opposition to such a connection and therefore, is not proposing this link,” according to the staff report.

Tri-State tells Tysons Reporter that the internal, private road will be closed.

Earlier: Tri-State Development Companies has secured the approval of Fairfax County’s planning staff to build an independent living facility for adults 60 and older on Chain Bridge Road in McLean.

A staff report published on Feb. 10 recommends that the county grant the McLean-based developer’s request for a special exception, which would enable the construction of the proposed Chain Bridge Estates facility on 3.26 acres of land zoned for single-family residential use.

If the application is ultimately approved, the existing single-family dwellings at 1638 and 1642 Chain Bridge Road will be replaced by 35 independent living units designed to serve residents over 60 years of age.

According to the report, the new residences will be a mix of single-family attached units and multi-family dwellings. In keeping with the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance, 15% of the units will be priced at a rate affordable to households that earn 70% or less of the D.C. area’s median income.

The report says that Fairfax County staff initially had concerns about the development’s proposed layout, but those were allayed after Tri-State revised its application to include an eight-foot-wide trail along Chain Bridge Road and full transitional screening, except for a northwest corner that will have an underground stormwater management system.

“While staff acknowledges that screening alone does not address concerns with compatibility and intensity, staff finds that the combination of screening, architecture and open space results in reduced massing and intensity near the property line,” the report said.

Staff also note that having individual residential units, rather than a large multifamily building, will ensure “the development is more in keeping with the residential character of the area and does not appear as a commercial use.”

To serve residents, Tri-State has proposed building a 3,600 square-foot community clubhouse with various amenities, such as rooms for on-site medical and physical therapy appointments, an indoor warm-water pool, a community library, fitness room, art studio, and outdoor gathering area for dining.

The developer also says it will provide 90 parking spaces and an on-site network of walking trails with seating, recreation areas, and connections to nearby neighborhoods.

The McLean Citizens Association passed a resolution on Feb. 3 supporting the project with some conditions, including that Tri-State pay for a traffic light if one is needed at the Davidson Road intersection.

According to the report, evaluations by Virginia and Fairfax County transportation staff and an analysis submitted by Tri-State indicate that the intersection will not warrant a traffic signal, but it will need a turn lane with at least 100 feet of vehicle storage. Tri-State has proposed constructing a 117-foot lane.

The property is expected to generate seven trips in the morning peak hour, nine in the evening, and 130 daily trips when completed, the report says.

Other transportation-related commitments from Tri-State include:

  • renovating the existing Fairfax Connector bus stop at Chain Bridge and Audmar Drive with a new shelter and pad
  • providing a vehicular link between a proposed internal, private road and Fern Oak Court to the north (Correction: A vehicular link was proposed between the internal road and Fern Oak Court, but it is not being considered due to neighborhood opposition. Tysons Reporter apologizes for the error.)
  • giving residents the ability to outfit their homes with electric vehicle charging infrastructure

The Chain Bridge Estates project has been scheduled for a public hearing before the Fairfax County Planning Commission on Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m.

Map via Fairfax County

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The Falls Church City Council took a notable step earlier this week in its effort to increase affordable housing.

The city council unanimously approved a resolution on Monday (Feb. 8) to reduce some of the voluntary concessions attached the city’s Broad and Washington mixed-use project in exchange for a commitment from the developer Insight Property Group to provide more affordable housing.

“I’m very excited about this project,” City of Falls Church Mayor David Tarter said. “The possibility of having increased affordable housing and raising the bar in that area is one I think is very exciting for our community.”

In its initial voluntary concessions agreement, Insight said that 18 of the 339 residential units planned for Broad and Washington would be available for below market value. Nine studio efficiency units would be at prices affordable for households making 40% of the area median income (AMI), and the remaining nine would be two-bedroom units for households making 60% AMI.

The voluntary concessions agreement also included an option to trade off other cash proffers that were proposed for schools, stormwater funds, and Bikeshare facilities, as well as a concession for libraries and park and recreation.

The newly approved resolution permits city staff to ask for 15 additional affordable studio units at 80% AMI, making 10% of the units in the Broad and Washington project available at some level of affordability below market rate, according to City Manager Wyatt Shields.

“What we’re getting in Broad and Washington is probably the richest mix and largest contributions in [voluntary concessions] across the board,” Councilmember Letty Hardi said. “So, while we can always do better, I do want to make sure people understand that we are getting a lot from this project.”

The resolution reduced Insight’s funding obligations to school capital costs by $2.3 million and to libraries and parks and recreation by $153,000 to allow for the increase in affordable housing.

While the project received unanimous approval, Councilmember David Snyder voiced concern with the manner in which the additional affordable housing was procured.

“My preference had always been that we not rob Peter to pay Paul, that we would add this on and use our leverage with developers,” Snyder said. “I want folks to understand that, yes, I support an increase in affordable dwelling units. This is not at all my preferred or desirable approach to funding them. I think we had other opportunities that were not taken.”

The Falls Church Planning Commission gave its support to the Broad and Washington project on Dec. 2 after a public hearing, but the group encouraged the city council to explore options for adding more affordable housing to the mixed-use development.

The city council voted on Jan. 25 to approve a comprehensive plan amendment, special exception, and the sale of a parking lot on Park Place to pave the way for Insight’s project.

The development plans call for a 56,000-square foot grocery store — likely Whole Foods — on the ground floor and mezzanine levels. At least 6,500 square feet of ground-floor space will be dedicated to other retail, sales, and restaurants, while 5,000 square feet has been set aside for the arts group Creative Cauldron.

A site plan for the development is expected in June, according to Shields.

Image via City of Falls Church

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A new assisted living community is preparing to open its doors in the Vienna area.

Watermark Retirement Communities announced in a press release yesterday (Tuesday) that it will welcome tenants to The Providence Fairfax with a grand opening in March.

Located at 9490 Sprague Ave., The Providence is part of the MetroWest neighborhood just south of I-66 and the Vienna Metro station. It sits one-tenth of a mile down the road from The Atrium at MetroWest, a condominium complex for adults 55 and older run by Pulte Homes.

According to its website, The Providence features 100 assisted-living residences, along with 30 units for a memory care program designed to support residents with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and memory loss. There are also 24 units for residents in The Bridge program, which serves people who experience mild cognitive challenges.

“The Providence is perfect for anyone searching for the support and connection of a community accompanied by first-class amenities and unparalleled wellness and learning opportunities,” The Providence Executive Director Annamarie Mariani-Huehn said.

Seven stories tall with two floors of underground parking, the senior living complex is structured around a central courtyard. Amenities include a wellness center with a salon and spa, a fitness center, club rooms, a community room, and dining venues, such as a bistro and bar and a formal dining room with an open-hearth oven.

The residences take the form of private studio, one or two-bedroom apartments that are available for rent on a monthly basis. Prospective tenants can arrange tours for tours of the building by appointment.

The Providence is a collaboration with Silverstone Senior Living, which is also planning to bring senior housing to The Boro in Tysons. This is Watermark’s first community in Fairfax County, but the company has been working on a facility in Alexandria that its website says will open in early 2022.

The new senior living facility is the latest addition to the MetroWest development, which spans 56 acres from I-66 to Lee Highway and has been slowly emerging for more than a decade. Plans to bring more housing, retail, and office space to the community are still underway.

Photo courtesy Watermark Retirement Communities

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Vienna leaders got their first chance this week to weigh in on potential updates to the town’s commercial zoning rules.

The Vienna Planning Commission and Vienna Town Council held work sessions on Wednesday (Feb. 3) and Thursday (Feb. 4), respectively, to discuss proposed changes to the districts that dictate what businesses and other non-residential properties look like and where they can be located.

As part of the town’s massive Code Create Vienna zoning code overhaul, the consultant ZoneCo previously met with the planning commission and town council in December to talk about possible updates to standards for residential zones. A community survey on those proposals will remain open until Feb. 19.

However, ZoneCo believes non-residential zones are where Vienna has “the greatest opportunity for noticeable and impactful change,” according to a Jan. 26 memo to town leaders.

“Updated, modern, easy-to-use and administer zoning districts particularly calibrated to desired development patterns and character, along with a modern list of uses, will enhance the quality of development and life for Vienna’s residents and businesses,” ZoneCo lead principal Sean Suder said in the memo.

To help organize the town’s land use, ZoneCo proposes simplifying and consolidating some of Vienna’s existing non-residential zones into districts that are mostly based on their geographic location and can be more easily adjusted as the area evolves.

For instance, the existing pedestrian commercial zone would become the Church Street District, and the limited industrial zone would be renamed as the Mill District to reflect its alignment with Mill Street.

The most substantial change proposed by ZoneCo is a consolidation of the town’s special and general commercial zones into an Avenue Center District that would extend the “pedestrian-oriented context” of Church Street to Maple Avenue “to create a more pronounced and stronger Town center.”

Concentrated in the section of Maple between Vienna and Danor Plaza shopping centers, the district would consist of small-scale ground-floor retail, upper-floor commercial, multi-unit residential, and boutique hotels. Larger-scale retail would be allowed only with a conditional use permit.

“While Maple Avenue will remain a busy regional connection to and from Tysons, this portion of the Avenue provides the greatest opportunity for pedestrian orientation,” Suder said.

The Avenue Center District would be flanked by East and West Gateway Districts that would permit more large-scale retail and other commercial uses, such as daycare and assisted living facilities.

ZoneCo also suggests using a zone-oriented approach for places that have similar development patterns but are less geographically focused, such as the transitional areas between the town’s commercial corridor and single-family residential neighborhoods.

ZoneCo says it designed the districts and zones based on Vienna’s comprehensive plan, whose goals for non-residential development include maintaining a balance of land uses, encouraging a vibrant central business district, and creating a more walkable and bikeable town.

“A new set of consolidated, geographic and context specific commercially focused districts will allow for desired development patterns to be more particularly calibrated now and into the future,” the memo said.

Vienna kicked off its zoning code and subdivision ordinance update in September, but the effort has been in the works for a while, as the stalled Maple Avenue Commercial zone illustrated the challenges of pursuing new development using 50-year-old regulations.

The town anticipates adopting a newly updated zoning code in late 2021.

Images via Town of Vienna/ZoneCo

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The McLean Citizens Association (MCA) board of directors passed a resolution last night (Wednesday) in support of an indepedent living community for seniors that has been proposed for Chain Bridge Road.

Under the name Tri-State Chain Bridge LLC, the McLean-based Tri-State Development Companies has applied for a special exception from Fairfax County to construct a facility with 35 attached condominium units and a 3,600 square-foot clubhouse on a 3.2-acre site at 1638 and 1642 Chain Bridge Road across from Davidson Road.

“The MCA supports this Application because of the desirable and unique situation of the Property for this kind of housing and because it meets an expressed need of the senior residents of McLean,” the MCA resolution says.

However, MCA’s support of the project comes with some conditions.

The community group recommends that Tri-State commit to paying for the installation of a traffic light at the Chain Bridge and Davidson intersection if Virginia and Fairfax County transportation officials ever determine that one is needed.

Tri-State’s statement of justification to Fairfax County states that “a signal is not warranted” for that intersection. A traffic impact assessment found that the proposed facility would generate approximately seven trips during morning peak hours and nine trips during the evening peak, producing an estimated total of 85 daily trips.

MCA board member Winnie Pizzano, who lives near the proposed development site on Westmoreland Street, suggested setting a limit on how long the developer could be obligated to pay for a potential traffic light.

“I’d like to have a light there. It would make a big difference. But I’m not convinced that there’s enough traffic flowing up Davidson,” Pizzano said. “…In the long term, you’re asking this association to pay for a light, the need for which may be generated by other communities that could be built along there.”

The board discussed Pizzano’s proposal, but it was not incorporated into the final resolution.

Other conditions attached to MCA’s support of the project include requirements that Tri-State contract with a transportation service to facilitate outings for residents of the independent living community and a healthcare provider so residents have around-the-clock access.

“The applicant should be bound to stronger covenants to better assure that the contemplated services for seniors will in fact be provided and that the age limitations are enforced,” MCA Planning and Zoning Committee Chair Scott Spitzer said.

A Fairfax County planning staff report on the Tri-State project is scheduled to be released on Feb. 9 before the proposal goes before the county planning commission for a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 24.

Image via Google Maps

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A proposal to build a wireless communications tower next to a fire station in Vienna is about get a vote of confidence from the McLean Citizens Association.

The unofficial town council of McLean will discuss a resolution supporting the project when its board of directors meets at 7:30 tonight (Wednesday).

“The Application is consistent with and furthers the goals and objectives of the [Fairfax County] Comprehensive Plan, and will provide improved communication services without undue impact on the surrounding community,” a draft of the proposed MCA resolution says.

The Reston-based cell tower developer Milestone Communications submitted plans to Fairfax County in October for a wireless tower on the Wolf Trap Fire Station site at the intersection of Leesburg Pike and Beulah Road.

According to Milestone’s plans, the tower will consist of a 114-foot-tall pole with antennas, topped by a two-foot lightning rod, and it will be surrounded by an eight-foot-tall chain link fence. The facility is expected to occupy 2,500 square feet within the 11.5-acre site, which is owned by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Milestone says all existing structures and open space will be preserved, and the impact of the unmanned facility on neighboring properties will be minimal, noting that the structure will be screened by existing trees.

“There will be no noise or fumes emitted and only 1-2 maintenance vehicle visit sper month maximum,” the plan submitted to Fairfax County says.

The tower will be initially outfitted with Verizon wireless cables and antennas, though designs show that it will be able to accommodate at least four more wireless carriers in the future.

In order to pursue the project, Milestone has asked Fairfax County to grant a special exception and a proffer condition amendment to permit telecommunications facilities on the site, which is zoned for low-density residential use.

The project also has to be approved through the county’s 2232 review process, which determines whether proposals for public facilities are in accordance with the county’s comprehensive plan.

The MCA board of directors notes in its draft resolution that Milestone held a virtual town hall to present the project to the community and has agreed to provide additional buffering to further minimize the visual impact in response to community comments.

MCA says it supports the Milestone tower because it will “improve the cell phone capacity and coverage levels in the areas surrounding the property and would also work with existing neighboring Verizon sites to handoff signals for wireless transmission of voice and data.”

“This will improve customer service including Internet connectivity speed and voice connectivity, resolve customer complaints in the area, and help address increasing demand for quality wireless service so that the service does not further degrade,” the MCA resolution says.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the Milestone tower on May 12, and a hearing before the Board of Supervisors has been scheduled for June 8.

Images via Google Maps, Milestone Communications

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