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West Falls Church Metro mixed-use development approved, but parking decision still to come

West Falls Church Metro redevelopment rendering (via EYA)

A plan to transform the West Falls Church Metro station’s parking lot into a mixed-use neighborhood has gotten Fairfax County’s approval, but a requested parking reduction — perhaps the most contentious element of the project — won’t be settled until July.

After a public hearing on Tuesday (June 27), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors gave its support to the proposal from developers EYA, Rushmark Properties, and Hoffman & Associates, known collectively as FGCP-Metro LLC.

Conceived to boost train ridership and revitalize a 24-acre site that Metro has described as “underutilized,” the redevelopment will bring up to 810 multifamily residential units, 85 single-family townhouses (including nine live/work units), a 110,000-square-foot office building and up to 10,000 square feet of retail, totaling over 1 million square feet of development.

The development team has also promised six publicly accessible parks and several transportation improvements, including a shared-use trail on Haycock Road over I-66 and a portion of the West Falls Station Blvd that will eventually link Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) to the West Falls development now under construction in Falls Church City.

“In my opinion, the project meets all the criteria for a mixed-use development option in the [West Falls Church Transit Station Area] comprehensive plan,” said Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, who represents the area. “I’m excited about the benefits it will bring to the community, and it’s not just me. It’s the community residents who have also said [that].”

The board’s approval came three months after the Fairfax County Planning Commission first recommended the project in March. The application returned to the commission on June 7 as a precaution after the Virginia Supreme Court voided the county’s modernized zoning ordinance, which threw two years of land use decisions into question.

Following the commission’s original vote, the county and developers tweaked some of the conditions, or proffers, tied to the project. Notable changes to the agreement, which was finalized on April 13, include:

  • Four bus shelters as a minimum commitment instead of a maximum
  • Clarification that street closures for farmers’ markets or other events must be approved by the Virginia Department of Transportation or Metro
  • Agreement not to utilize an existing stormwater management pond on the site that serves the adjacent Pavilion and Village condominiums
  • Certain parking garages will accommodate electric vehicle charging infrastructure for 30% of the spaces
  • A $350,000 contribution to the county for pedestrian and bicycle improvements in the area, if the developer can’t build the Haycock trail because it’s unable to get necessary VDOT approvals and right-of-way acquisitions

Walsh Colucci lawyer Andrew Painter, who has been representing FGCP-Metro, told the commission at its June 7 hearing that the developers are confident they won’t run into any issues.

“We are assuming all waivers and modifications will be granted, assuming no easements will be necessary,” he said. “That was a conservative design that we developed, and as a result, we are obligated to construct that road within 12 months of the first occupancy permit on the property.”

The redevelopment plan has generally gotten support from the surrounding community, including the three civic associations representing residents immediately adjacent to the site, according to Foust.

Sonya Breehey, an area resident and Northern Virginia advocacy manager for the Coalition for Smarter Growth, praised the inclusion of pedestrian and bicycle facilities, green spaces and workforce and affordable housing.

“Providing more homes and jobs in walkable communities at a Metro station is how we can accommodate future growth with more sustainable transportation options that help reduce vehicle miles traveled and slash our greenhouse gas emissions,” she told the Board of Supervisors, calling the project “a great opportunity” to create a community that’s “healthy, sustainable and inclusive.”

However, some residents remain concerned about the potential influx of traffic and whether local roads can support the 3.2 million square feet of development planned for the area, including the Falls Church project and a proposed expansion of Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center campus.

Ellison Heights-Mt. Daniel Civic Association president Adrianne Whyte argued that the county and developers are making “incorrect assumptions” about people’s ability to travel in Fairfax County without a car, calling the plan for parking “ludicrous.”

FGCP-Metro hopes to provide 1,053 parking spaces, a 34% reduction from the 1,599 spaces required under the zoning ordinance. While the existing five-level Metro parking garage will remain, the station will lose approximately 700 spots to the development.

“We are stuck with the overdevelopment on the three parcels on Haycock Road that will add thousands of new residents in total to our neighborhood without corresponding infrastructure to support them,” Whyte said. “Can you name another transportation-oriented development of its magnitude on a two-lane road with an already stressed school system?”

Painter disagreed about the Metro development being “over-dense,” noting that it will taper down from the Falls Church and Virginia Tech projects.

Remarking that “some people do want to live a car-free lifestyle,” Breehey urged the county to fund more recommendations from an active transportation study released in December, including a road diet on Haycock and flashing beacons at the Washington & Old Dominion Trail and Virginia Lane crossing.

“These are the types of investments the county should be making to support its transit-oriented development,” instead of funding road widenings, Breehey said.

The board deferred a vote on the parking reduction request to July 11 so the county and developers can work out “some issues…that came up late in the process,” Foust said.

Foust and Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay thanked community members who’ve provided input on the development, going back to a comprehensive plan task force that launched in 2019.

“I do think this will be an outstanding addition to the area,” McKay said. “…Properties adjacent to Metro stations, these are the prime pieces of property in the county, where we can accomplish so many goals, from workforce housing to parks and reductions in vehicle trips and encouraging people to use mass transit, certainly something that is needed with [Metro].”