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Office building planned for Virginia Tech campus could be powered by solar panels

A solar panel array has been proposed on the future HITT Contracting headquarters building at Virginia Tech’s Idylwood campus (via Fairfax County)

A massive array of solar panels could provide cover for the office building that developer Rushmark Properties and the construction company HITT Contracting are planning to build at Virginia Tech’s campus near the West Falls Church Metro station.

In a final development plan recently submitted to Fairfax County, the two companies — collectively known as Converge West Falls LLC — propose installing a photovoltaic array canopy on top of the building, which will house HITT’s corporate headquarters and laboratory space for Virginia Tech’s planned National Center for Smart Construction.

Standing approximately 117 feet tall, the canopy would encompass approximately 112,000 square feet, making it larger than the roof of the 270,000-square-foot building. It would have nine support columns ranging in height from 91 to 111 feet, per the application.

“The tree-like columns provide a structural solution while also creating the sense of lift and grandeur emulating a modern woodland canopy,” Walsh Colucci land use lawyer Andrew Painter said in a Nov. 22 statement for the applicant. “The multifunctional solar array canopy also shades the building from the sun, as one of the proposed building’s energy-reduction measures.”

The array is expected to generate between 1,100 and 1,400 megawatts of electricity — enough to supply most of the building’s energy, the application says.

The solar panels are one of several amenities detailed in a trio of plans filed last week to expand Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center at 7054 Haycock Road.

Block A

Most of the office building — 230,000 square feet — would be devoted to HITT’s headquarters, but Virginia Tech would have up to 40,000 square feet on the northern side for educational purposes. A maximum height of 97 feet and six stories has been proposed.

Under the submitted plan, the building would be served by a below-grade parking garage and a 23,500-square-foot entry plaza on the south side with built-in benches, movable tables and chairs, “playful” lighting, and garden areas with native tree, pollinator and flower plantings.

“A large depression pond that exists on the site will be repurposed into a bioretention garden to treat stormwater run-off and provide visual interest along Falls Church Drive,” Painter wrote.

Block B

Further south on the 7.5-acre site between Mustang Alley and Falls Church Drive will be a 532,000-square-foot multifamily building with 440 residential units and 18,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

A multifamily residential building proposed for the redevelopment of Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center campus (via Fairfax County)

Converge is planning to offer a mix of one, two and three-bedroom units that “will be larger than the current industry trend to better accommodate families,” according to the application. The building will be up to 139 feet tall, descending to 82 feet along Falls Church Drive.

Planned amenities include a residential and civic plazas with seating, landscaping, and areas for outdoor dining; a publicly accessible pickleball court and private dog park along Falls Church Drive; and a public walkway with art and garden terraces along Haycock Road.

The plan provides up to 701 parking spaces in a below-grade garage, including up to 86 spaces for the retail uses. The garage would be topped by “an occupiable vegetative roof deck and amenity space” for residents.

Block C

As part of the redevelopment, Converge has proposed extending West Falls Station Blvd — a new road included in Falls Church City’s adjacent West Falls project on the former George Mason High School property — east to Falls Church Drive.

The West Falls Station Blvd extension through Virginia Tech’s Idylwood campus redevelopment would center around a green median with an open lawn and pavilion (via Fairfax County)

Located between the office and residential buildings, the street median will feature a publicly accessible park with an open lawn, art installations and a 2,000-square-foot, one-story open-air pavilion, according to the submitted final development plan.

The plan also shows raised crosswalks that will provide pedestrian access to the median and on-street bicycle lanes for the boulevard, which has one travel lane in each direction.

The county hasn’t formally accepted the latest applications for review, but a conceptual plan for the overall development is currently scheduled to go before the planning commission for a public hearing on June 7, 2023.

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