Tysons, VA

Morning Notes

J.R. Stockyards Inn for Sale — The 1.18-acre property that currently houses one of the oldest restaurants in Tysons hit the market in early March, with a new owner expected to be chosen by the end of April. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a redevelopment of the site in October that would replace the Stockyards with a 26-story mixed-use building. [Washington Business Journal]

Connolly Urges Congress to Follow Virginia’s Lead in Legalizing Weed — “Another big progressive win here in Virginia,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D) said after the Virginia General Assembly voted yesterday to legalize marijuana starting July 1. “I hope my colleagues in the House and Senate will join me in supporting the MORE Act to legalize marijuana nationwide.”[Gerry Connolly/Twitter]

Falls Church Schedules Town Hall on Gateway Development — Falls Church City staff and the developer of the West Falls Church project will present updates and answer questions on April 14 at noon. The city will also hold a town hall meeting on April 15 to discuss its proposed FY 2022 budget and new capital improvements program. [City of Falls Church]

Clemyjontri Carousel and Train Among Facilities Reopening This Spring — Fairfax County Park Authority facilities have started to reopen for the spring, with hours expected to expand further into the summer. Visitors are encouraged to buy tickets in advance, because amusements will operate at reduced capacity, though drop-in tickets will be available on-site if they do not sell out online. [FCPA]

Proof of Job Searches Will Soon Be Required for Unemployment Benefits Again — “The Virginia Employment Commission says it will start notifying unemployment benefit recipients of the return of job-search requirements starting in May. To qualify, or continue to qualify, for unemployment benefits in Virginia, those filing claims must provide evidence…of at least two job applications each week for VEC review.” [WTOP]

Photo by Joanne Liebig

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Plans to overhaul the area around the West Falls Church Metro station are slowly coming together, but some deep divisions over what shape that future will take remain, even as Fairfax County’s three-year effort to update its vision for the area nears a conclusion.

Appointed by Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust in 2019, the West Falls Church Transit Station Area Task Force is a small group with a big task: help determine what the approximately 24 acres of transit-accessible land should look like.

In the group’s penultimate meeting last night, one of the primary points of contention was how Virginia Tech’s 7.5-acre campus on Haycock Road should be separated from residences.

Dwyn Taylor, representing Virginia Tech, was left to address the fallout of the university’s decision not to move forward with plans to expand its Northern Virginia Center with a design school and other facilities.

What will or won’t be built at the site is still up in the air, and Taylor was pressed by task force member Paul Rothstein about how any future construction will divide the campus from nearby residential properties like The Villages.

Taylor answered that he couldn’t provide too many specifics on what the alignment of the campus will look like, because it was still being determined what the curriculum of the school will be.

“What does your curriculum have to do with buffering?” Rothstein said. “So it’s acceptable to you to be fronting right next to our community? Virginia Tech was not a very good neighbor to us. We asked specific questions and never got very good answers…I [hope Taylor] will take back to project executives that it’s important for Virginia Tech to consider being good neighbors to the community they say they’re proud to be part of.”

Task force chair David Wuehrmann noted that buffers are included in the proposed draft amendment to Fairfax County’s comprehensive plan, which was last updated on April 1, but Rothstein said his concern is that what constitutes a barrier is left vague.

One of the few examples of landscape buffering included in the plan is a “linear park,” which Rothstein says could constitute much less than what anyone on the task force is imagining unless specified otherwise.

“If it’s a linear trail, like W&OD trail, that’s not really a buffer,” Rothstein said. “It’s nice language, but nothing says [the] buffer will be at least X. It sounds nice, but there are no teeth in it.”

Photo via Google Maps

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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. Read More

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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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Wednesday Morning Notes

Senate Could Tie Metro Funding to McLean Station Name — “A Virginia Senate bill would withhold at least $166 million pledged to Metro unless the transit system adds the name of Capital One bank to the McLean rail station. The legislation would rename the Silver Line station as “McLean-Capital One Hall,” a reference to a performance venue the bank is building a quarter-mile from the site.” [The Washington Post]

Fairfax County Equity Task Force Presents Recommendations — The Chairman’s Task Force on Equity and Opportunity released its recommendations yesterday (Tuesday) for how Fairfax County can address systemic racism and other forms of inequality. Suggestions include ensuring access to early childhood education and increasing the availability of affordable housing. [Fairfax County Government]

Fairfax County Releases Revised Countywide Strategic Plan — “Following a year of pause and then refinement due to COVID-19, County Executive Bryan Hill unveiled his proposed strategic plan to the Board of Supervisors on Feb. 23. The strategic plan lays out a community-based vision for the next 10 to 20 years and features nine priority areas to advance that vision.” [Fairfax County Government]

Town Hall Meeting Scheduled on West Falls Church Project — The City of Falls Church will hold a virtual town hall on Mar. 2 to provide updates on its West Falls Church Gateway project. The mixed-use development has been delayed as its developers revise the terms of their agreement with the city. [City of Falls Church]

Vienna Metro Bike/Pedestrian Improvements Meeting Rescheduled — A virtual public information meeting on a project to improve bicycle and pedestrian accessibility around the Vienna Metro station has been rescheduled for Mar. 18. The meeting was originally expected to take place today (Wednesday). [Virginia Department of Transportation]

Falls Church Pharmacy Provides Free Insulin to the Uninsured — “Through this pilot initiative NOVA ScriptsCentral will provide insulin for free to uninsured patients being treated at one of its 16 safety net partner clinics in Northern Virginia.” [Falls Church News-Press]

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The City of Falls Church will hold a virtual town hall meeting at noon this coming Friday (Jan. 8) to discuss proposed changes to the West Falls Church Economic Development Project, an extensive mixed-use development that has already been in the works for two years.

This will be the second town hall on the project since developer Falls Church Gateway Partners told the Falls Church City Council in December that it needs to revise its agreement with the city in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first town hall took place on Dec. 17.

“The pandemic has caused a constriction in commercial real estate markets for new investments in hotel, office, and retail,” City Manager Wyatt Shields said at a Dec. 14 city council meeting. “The developer…requests changes to terms of the Comprehensive Agreement in order to be able [to] proceed with obtaining financing for the project.”

The composition of the project will largely remain the same, with no alterations to the proposed ratios of hotel, office and civic space, senior housing, and condo and apartment residential units.

However, Gateway Partners says the project delivery date will be delayed by six months. The developer also wants to reduce its capitalized lease payments from $34.5 million to $25.5 million, increase ground rent payments, and revise provisions for profit sharing with the city.

If approved, the amendments would come on the condition that Gateway Partners completes the demolition and rough grading of the George Mason High School property by the end of May 2021.

The developer has also committed to finishing the negotiation of agreements with a prospective grocer, office developer, and senior housing developer by Mar. 1.

Imagined as a future gateway to Falls Church City, the West End development is expected to have approximately 123,000 square feet of retail anchored by a grocery store, along with 17,000 square feet of civic space that will include a conference center and an outdoor Commons area for music and entertainment.

According to the project website, the residential components include between 150 and 250 senior housing units, up to 302 condo units, and approximately 400 multi-family apartment units. 6% of the total units will qualify as affordable dwelling units.

The plans also feature approximately 325,000 square feet of commercial office space and a limited or full-service hotel with about 146 rooms.

The Falls Church City Council will hold a public hearing and take a vote on the proposed project agreement amendments on Jan. 11.

Image via City of Falls Church

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Inova Delivers First Vaccine to Healthcare Worker — “Months of preparations led up to an emotional moment for Inova Health System’s CEO after the first healthcare worker received the COVID-19 vaccine.” [ABC7-WJLA]

National Search Underway for Next Fairfax County Police Chief — Fairfax County has hired a search firm to assist in its search for a successor to Chief Ed Roessler Jr., who has announced that he will retire in February. The search process includes an online survey and focus groups with “key community organizations.” [Fairfax County Government]

Falls Church West End Developers Propose Major Revisions — West End Gateway Partners wants to revise its plans for an “ambitious 10-acre mixed use development at the City’s west end…under conditions of the global Covid-19 pandemic. A special public town hall to outline the changes is scheduled to be held online this Thursday, Dec. 17 at noon.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Teen-Run Business Focuses on Outdoor Jobs Amid Coronavirus — “TaskTeens, a spinoff of TeenServ created by McLean High School student Jack Lannin, connects teenagers that can perform yard work for homeowners.” [Patch]

Staff photo by Angela Woolsey

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The West Falls Church Economic Development Project in the Little City has updated plans, including a new design for the hotel.

The Falls Church City Council held a joint work session with the Planning Commission and Economic Development Authority on Monday (Dec. 9) to review progress and discuss project aesthetics.

A presentation by James Snyder, the city’s director of community planning and economic development services, explored how the new development will look in the community and revealed a variety of building styles and colors to break up block redundancy.

People can expect numerous trees to be included in the final project, rooftop greenery, a grocery store, hotel, a new high school, senior living homes, family housing, shops and pedestrian-friendly walkways in the development, according to the presentation.

It has not been announced which hotel or grocery store will move into the space, but a commissioner said the announcement should be made either in the spring or summer of 2020.

Images and blueprints from the presentation primarily featured grey and white brick buildings with red, light wood and metal accents. Architects and designers said they looked toward New York and D.C. for industrial design ideas.

“The biggest change is the hotel. We heard everybody’s feedback that time that they were not thrilled with the hotel design, so we have started in a new direction,” another representative said.

The plans are expected to remain somewhat consistent throughout the next ideation phases, except for the senior living center, according to Snyder, who added that the Planning Commission is still awaiting development plans from the senior living facility.

“I like the geometric forms and modern architecture,” Planning Commission Chair Russell Wodiska said. “That’s a new look for Falls Church.”

Going forward in January, the next steps will be to work on creating a sense of community in the development, another commissioner said.

This Thursday (Dec. 12), community members are welcome to attend an event at the Town Hall (300 Park Avenue) from 7-9:30 p.m. where they will be able to learn more about the project and share their comments.

Image via City of Falls Church

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