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Virginia Tech campus redevelopment finds new life with possible Falls Church sale

Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center in Idylwood (via Google Maps)

A redevelopment of Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center (7054 Haycock Road) in Idylwood is back on the table.

The Falls Church City Council authorized agreements on Monday night (July 25) that will terminate the university’s 40-year lease for the 2-acre parcel and allow the city to sell the land to Converge West Falls LLC, an entity of developer Rushmark Properties.

Advanced by Virginia Tech’s board in April, the exchange will revive a plan to build a new design school, a headquarters for the construction company HITT Contracting and more on the Northern Virginia Center campus that abruptly collapsed in early 2021.

“Virginia Tech has a long history in the City of Falls Church and we are excited about this new chapter,” Virginia Tech Media Relations Director Michael Stowe said. “This vote moves us a step closer to creating a world-class smart construction research center in collaboration with HITT Contracting, and it means the community will benefit from a vibrant, mixed-use district that will transform the neighborhood.”

According to a city staff report, the Northern Virginia Center is a 101,000-square-foot office building on a larger, 7.4-acre site located in Fairfax County but owned by Falls Church, which has leased a portion of the land to Virginia Tech since 1995.

Under Falls Church’s new agreements with Virginia Tech and Rushmark, the city could sell the full site to the developer for $25 million, including $16.57 million that it would then pay to the university. The resulting development must feature:

  • A 240,000-square-foot office building for HITT’s corporate headquarters, including at least 40,000 square feet for a Virginia Tech National Center for Smart Construction
  • 440 residential units with ground-floor retail
  • Construction of a West Falls Station Blvd through the site, among other road improvements

The project still has to go through a number of steps to come to fruition. First, Virginia Tech has to get the governor’s approval for its planned land transfer to the city, and then, Rushmark must submit its plans to Fairfax County.

“Virginia Tech will continue to occupy the site, with no rent payments to the City, until the final closing date, which is no later than March 31, 2025,” the staff report said. The agreements are expected to be closed sooner than that, coming within 30 days of zoning and site plan approvals from the county.

The Northern Virginia Center redevelopment started taking shape in 2018 after Virginia Tech received an unsolicited proposal from Rushmark. The university unveiled plans to partner with HITT Contracting in 2019 but announced on Feb. 28, 2021 that they had “made the mutual decision not to move forward.”

The news created some uncertainty in Fairfax County, which was in the midst of revising its comprehensive plan for the West Falls Church Transit Station Area to permit more development.

The Board of Supervisors approved a new plan last September, ushering in a proposal for over 1 million square feet of mixed-use development on a West Falls Church Metro station parking lot.

The application from the development group FGCP-Metro LLC — which includes Rushmark — is under review by county planners. No public hearing dates have been set.

The county is also conducting an active transportation study for the area in the hopes of addressing residents’ traffic and safety concerns before all of the planned development comes online.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, whose district includes the West Falls Church TSA, said in a statement to FFXnow that he “was pleased” by the Falls Church City Council’s vote and hopeful that any rezoning application for the Northern Virginia Center redevelopment will adhere to the county’s comprehensive plan:

If it does, HITT’s project would be key to delivering critical transportation improvements and advancing the vibrant, pedestrian friendly, transit-oriented community that is planned around the West Falls Church Metro station. In addition to creating vibrant communities, it is important that we take advantage of development opportunities around Metro stations to support and grow the county’s economy. Keeping HITT Construction’s headquarters in Fairfax County and locating the proposed National Center for Smart Construction at this site would contribute to the county’s long-term economic success.

Image via Google Maps

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