Email signup

Virginia Tech’s ‘otherworldly’ West Falls Church development approved despite height concerns

The final piece needed to fully redevelop the West Falls Church Transit Station Area has fallen into place.

After a public hearing on Tuesday (July 25), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved developer Rushmark Properties and HITT Contracting’s proposal to transform Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center in Idylwood into a mixed-use hub designed to promote sustainability.

With the aid of architectural renderings, a representative for the development team known collectively as Converge West Falls bestowed a futuristic aura on the plan to replace the university’s existing four-story academic building at 7054 Haycock Road with an updated office building and apartments.

“This all looks otherworldly almost,” Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross observed before expressing “some qualms” with the location of a kids’ play area next to four-lane-wide Falls Church Drive.

The play area will be in a 7,908-square-foot Pocket Play Park — one of three publicly accessible open spaces proposed for the 7.5-acre Converge development, according to the rezoning application.

The developers also plan to build a 7,419-square-foot Sustainability Pocket Park with a boardwalk and other features on a stormwater management pond and a 42,668-square-foot Innovation Civic Plaza in the median of West Falls Station Blvd, a new private street that will be extended west from the recently approved Metro station redevelopment to the West Falls project now under construction in Falls Church City.

Those parks will be complemented by walkways, public art, pollinator gardens, landscaping and seating throughout the property, along with QR codes that will enable visitors to learn more about the site’s construction, said Walsh Colucci lawyer Andrew Painter, the development team’s representative.

The civic plaza is intended to serve as “the nucleus” of the development with an event lawn and an electronic, LED “Cloud Pavilion” whose canopy can be programmed to change color, shape, size and design based on the environmental factors, such as the angle of the sun.

“We believe this is going to be an immersive experience that will be a distinctive public art moment for the entire West Falls Church transportation area,” Painter said of the open-air pavilion.

According to Painter, the developers also wanted to create a “defining architectural statement” with the planned, 270,000-square-foot office building, which will house a new corporate headquarters for HITT and a Coalition for Smart Construction run by Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture.

Topping out at 120 feet tall, the building will have a 100,000-square-foot solar panel array on its roof that’s expected to generate between 1,100 and 1,400 megawatts of electricity — enough to power the whole facility. It will aim for net-zero carbon emissions.

“Furniture within this building will be generated with a 3D printer,” Painter said. “The façade of the building will be prefabricated to reduce the carbon footprint…Every step of the way, we’ll be incorporating those types of sustainability elements in the building.”

Apartment building height a sticking point for some residents

Community criticisms of the project, however, focused on the 13-story, 440-unit residential building — specifically its height, which will reach 145 feet along West Falls Station Blvd and taper down to 85 feet at the corner of Falls Church Drive and Haycock Road.

While most of the Falls Church Drive frontage will be 85 feet tall or less, the building’s northwest corner could reach a maximum height of 135 feet, per the development plan.

The West Falls Church TSA’s comprehensive plan imposed an 85-foot height limit on any building “directly across from” The Village condominiums (via Fairfax County)

Fearing they’ll be literally overshadowed, residents of The Village condominiums argued at the public hearing that the proposed height violates the West Falls Church TSA’s comprehensive plan, which limits “portions of the buildings…directly across from” their complex to 85 feet high.

“The comprehensive plan accommodates a height limitation…of 85 feet all along Falls Church Drive and 145 feet for the rest of the building to mitigate the visual and aesthetic impact to the Village community and reduce the shadows cast by [the residential building] that will impact those condos directly across from the tower,” The Village Homeowners Association President Holly Wade said.

However, county staff disageed that the controversial portion of corner is “directly across” from The Village, since it’ll be 250 feet away from the nearest condo units and include a 30-foot-tall podium with up to 18,000 square feet of retail.

Noting that the Fairfax County Planning Commission fully supported the application when it met on July 12, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust concurred with staff and expressed confidence that the planned setback and varying building heights will mitigate the risk of negative impacts on The Village.

“I know people feel very strongly,” he said. “I’m sorry I can’t agree with them. I’m sorry I couldn’t solve the problem, but I will say this, I think this is an absolutely first-class project and needs to be approved.”

Some community members and even one man who identified himself as a longtime Restonian expressed support for the project, asserting that the added housing and more pedestrian-friendly design will address the county’s affordability challenges and reduce residents’ dependence on cars.

“The vast majority of my neighbors that I talk to regularly are extremely excited about the developments coming here,” said YIMBYs of Northern Virginia member Aaron Wilkowitz, who lives within a half-mile of the Metro station. “We want new restaurants, we want new neighbors. We don’t want to look at an old parking lot and a few mid-sized office buildings. We want more density and we’re very excited about it.”

Recent Stories

Good Friday evening, Fairfax County. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier…

Pints and palettes will collide next month at the Workhouse Arts Center’s annual BrewWorks beer and arts festival in Lorton. On Saturday, May 18, from noon to 5 p.m., attendees…

Realty company Terreno Realty Corporation may have plans for a cluster of warehouses called the Fleet Industrial Park in Franconia. The company recently announced that it purchased 6584-6674 Fleet Drive,…

Fairfax County Public School Board members have finalized a first draft of the division’s new boundary adjustment policy, which is scheduled for a full board review next month. The major…

Unlike our competitors, Well-Paid Maids doesn’t clean your home with harsh chemicals. Instead, we handpick cleaning products rated “safest” by the Environmental Working Group, the leading rating organization regarding product safety.

The reason is threefold.

First, using safe cleaning products ensures toxic chemicals won’t leak into waterways or harm wildlife if disposed of improperly.

Read More

Submit your own Community Post here.

There’s a reason Well-Paid Maids has hundreds of positive reviews from happy clients in the D.C. area.

The home cleaning company pays cleaners — who are W-2 employees — a living wage starting at $24 an hour. Plus, cleaners are offered benefits, including insurance, 24 paid days off a year, 100% employer-paid commuting costs and more.

Lexi Grant, an operations manager at Well-Paid Maids, said it best: “People deserve their work to be respected and recognized. When that happens, you love what you do, and you create the best results.”

Read More

Submit your own Community Post here.

Dream, Design, Build: Home Expo 2024

Sponsored by ABW Appliances & Eden, join us for a one-of-a-kind Home Expo event on May 11th from 10AM to 4PM!

The DMV’s top experts — AKG Design Studio and GMJ Construction — are opening their doors to homeowners to

Ravel Dance Company presents The Sleeping Beauty at Capital One…

Be transported to the magical kingdom of Princess Aurora, where the wicked Carabosse casts a curse that dooms the Princess and her entire kingdom. Set to the spectacular Tchaikovsky score, this beloved classic will sweep you away with its beauty,

×

Subscribe to our mailing list