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A bid to convert a parking lot in Falls Church into a mixed-use development may be in jeopardy after local officials raised concerns about housing affordability, walkability, sustainability and a lack of green space.

“I’ve gone through pretty much all the policy arguments the council has made for granting special exceptions, and this project doesn’t meet any of them,” Falls Church City Council member David Snyder said during a work session earlier this month. “So, I think frankly it’s a waste of resources until the proposer comes back with a development that truly is special and meets our special exception ordinance from a technical standpoint and policy standpoint.”

Maryland-based developers Cascade Realty and Stewart Investment Partners are seeking to transform the parking lot at S. Maple Avenue and W. Annandale Road — adjacent to the Harris Teeter at 301 W Broad Street — into a seven-story, 196-unit multifamily residential building, per a city staff report.

Submitted in December, the plan also proposes 11,930 square feet of commercial space, including a co-working space and child care center, and a parking garage with 259 spaces.

Stewart Investment acquired a portion of the land at 419 W. Annandale Road in 2022, and intends to purchase the remaining land from the city and Burke & Herbert Bank, with which the firm has entered into a “conceptual agreement.”

However, for the project to move forward, developers must first obtain a special exception to change the property’s zoning to a residential use.

At the March 4 work session, multiple council members contended that the project, in its present form, failed to meet the criteria necessary to earn a special exception.

The developer has suggested that 6% of the total units, amounting to 12 units, be priced at 60% of the area median income. It also plans to collaborate with CRi, a Chantilly-based nonprofit that offers supports, including housing, for individuals with developmental disabilities.

The residential building would also include ground-floor commercial space and a parking garage (via Cascade Realty and Stewart Investment Partners/Falls Church City)

However, council members voiced concern that this percentage was too low and might not cater to a wide-enough range of individuals.

“If you’re partnering with CRi, 60% is $63,000 in annual income,” Councilmember Caroline Lin said. “You might have to step that down for individuals in the population that you’re trying to serve. So, I just want to make sure, if you partner with the CRi, you don’t over-set an income to not serve the population that they’re serving.”

Members also raised concerns about the lack of green space and electric vehicle chargers in the site plan. They questioned why the developers aim to achieve LEED Silver certification, not LEED Gold — the second-highest rating for green buildings, following Platinum.

Additionally, several members took issue with the development’s current design, arguing it could cause traffic congestion and pedestrian safety issues. Read More

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The Oak, a new mixed-use condominium building in Falls Church, will feature rooftop terraces among its residential amenities (courtesy of Hoffman Realty)

A mixed-use condominium building taking shape in the upcoming West Falls neighborhood is now seeking prospective residents.

Developer Hoffman & Associates announced on Monday (March 4) that it has opened sales for the 126 condos in The Oak, a 174,000-square-foot, 11-story building under construction at 255 West Falls Station Blvd in Falls Church.

On track to be delivered in late 2024, the complex will feature about 23,000 square feet of retail on its ground floor and approximately 8,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor amenity space.

The restaurants SEOULSPICE, BurgerFi and Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls, and the Spanish immersion preschool Tierra Encantada were revealed last summer as the first retail tenants in West Falls. They’re all expected to open this fall.

Designed by SK+I Architecture, the condo units come in one, two and three-bedroom layouts, including penthouse residences. Most of them feature terraces or balconies, and the building was designed to achieve LEED Gold certification with LED light fixtures, green roofs and bioretention areas, according to Hoffman & Associates.

“These residences offer a unique opportunity to live in the vibrancy of the West Falls neighborhood in a dynamic city and come home to inspired design and inviting amenity spaces,” Hoffman Realty Principal Broker Michelle Giannini said. “This condominium is truly unique, and we look forward to welcoming future residents to discover all that The Oak has to offer.”

More on the amenities residents can expect from the developer:

Indoor amenities include the light-filled fitness center, pet spa and bike storage, as well as the residents’ lounge, which offers a large communal dining table, lounge seating, fireplace, wet bar and built-in coffee machine for entertaining. The Oak also offers two outdoor terraces for relaxation and community connection on the second and eleventh (rooftop) floors. The second-floor terrace will feature lush greenery, alfresco dining areas, an outdoor kitchen with grills, a sprawling lawn, a pergola and cozy seating areas complete with a TV and a fire pit – all westward facing perfect for soaking in the sunset. The rooftop terrace will also offer lounge seating options with sweeping views of the West Falls neighborhood and beyond.

On track to be delivered in late 2024, The Oak is part of the first phase of development on Falls Church City’s former George Mason High School site.

The first phase will also include a hotel, a medical office building, two parking garages and an apartment building with a grocery store — all expected to be substantially complete by January 2025, the developer previously told the Falls Church City Council.

Approved by the council in 2019, West Falls will be the largest development in Falls Church history, bringing 1.2 million square feet of residential, commercial and civic space to a nearly 10-acre site. Community amenities will include an 18,000-square-foot gathering space called The Commons.

The neighborhood will eventually be integrated with planned projects at the West Falls Church Metro station and Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center campus. Combined, the cross-jurisdictional redevelopment effort will transform 40 acres between Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) and the Metro station.

“The Oak is a core part of the vision for West Falls, offering residents the opportunity to call this neighborhood home and experience a lifestyle as vibrant as its community,” Hoffman & Associates President Shawn Seaman said. “…We look forward to welcoming residents to this modern, new condominium and taking the next step in building the future West Falls community.”

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A shared-use path is planned on Shreve Road from the W&OD Trail to Route 7 (via City of Falls Church)

Design work is slated to begin this spring on a new shared-use path on Shreve Road just outside Falls Church City’s boundaries.

The Falls Church City Council approved an agreement on Monday (Feb. 12) to work with Fairfax County and provide funds for the project, which will add a 10-foot-wide path for bicyclists and pedestrians from the Route 7 (Leesburg Pike/West Broad Street) intersection to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.

Other improvements will include a 6-foot-wide planting strip along Shreve Road, a crosswalk near the intersection of Shreve and Gordon Road intersection, benches near the W&OD Trail entrance, and stormwater management and drainage, Falls Church staff said in a report to the council.

Because the site is outside city limits, the county will be responsible for the project’s design and construction under the agreement.

“The concept is pretty simple and it’s pretty well-defined in the grant agreement, so we don’t think there’s going to be some curveball,” City Manager Wyatt Shields said at a Feb. 5 council work session. “…We’ve been working quite well with Fairfax County staff on this, so we feel very confident that we’re going to get what we want.”

The “West Falls Church Access to Transit and Multimodal Connectivity” project, as it’s formally known, is part of a larger effort by both the county and the city to add pedestrian and bicycle facilities connecting the W&OD Trail, the West Falls Church Metro station and Falls Church’s West End.

This component also “addresses a safety need” after a pedestrian was killed by a truck driver at the Shreve Road and Hickory Street intersection in 2019, according to a summary from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, which awarded $6.9 million to the city in 2020 to fund the project.

According to the staff report, Falls Church is also coordinating with the county and the Virginia Department of Transportation on the design of planned improvements around the Haycock Road side of the West Broad Street intersection.

Farther east on Haycock Road, a shared-use trail will be built over I-66 by developers in conjunction with a transformation of the West Falls Church Metro station’s parking lots into a mixed-use neighborhood.

Development has also been approved at Virginia Tech’s West Falls Church campus and is under construction on the city’s former high school site.

The Shreve Road project agreement still needs to be approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which is scheduled to take action on April 16, according to Falls Church staff.

Per the staff report, the project is expected to be in design from this spring into fall 2025, putting it on track to begin construction in the fall of 2026 and finish in spring or summer 2027.

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Bicyclists on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail stopped at a crosswalk in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The now-annual Mayors’ Fitness Challenge between the Town of Vienna and cities of Fairfax and Falls Church is still more than a month away, but the competitors are already getting warmed up.

Registration is now open for the contest to determine which community is the most fit, a title that has gone to Vienna for two straight years.

The competition began in 2021 as a way of encouraging residents to get active after many people stayed at home during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Falls Church won that initial bout, but it’s still hunting for a second title, and Fairfax City is seeking its first.

The fourth annual Mayors’ Fitness Challenge will take place over eight weeks from March 16 to May 11. People who live or work in each of the localities can participate by tracking the time they spend walking, cycling and otherwise engaging in physical exercise. The locality that tallies the most collective minutes wins.

Falls Church started registrations on Feb. 1, per its website, while Vienna launched its portal yesterday (Monday). Fairfax City’s registration page is also now available.

Though registration for the challenge is free, Vienna and Falls Church are selling T-shirts for $16 and $5, respectively, and Fairfax City has hats for $5. The deadline for ordering a T-shirt is April 11 for Vienna and April 13 for Falls Church.

Last year, Vienna emerged victorious with 195 participants recording 466,142 minutes of exercise, almost doubling its winning total from 2022. Fairfax came in second with 409,539 minutes in 2023, and Falls Church finished third with 400,878 minutes.

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Ingle Korean Steakhouse in Tysons is one of three Fairfax County eateries participating in RAMW’s Winter Restaurant Week for the first time (courtesy Ingle Korean Steakhouse)

The D.C. region’s biannual restaurant showcase is cooking up a return next week.

Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington has enlisted dozens of establishments to participate in this year’s Winter Restaurant Week, which will run from Monday, Jan. 15 to Sunday, Jan. 21.

The roster of first-timers includes the Vietnamese restaurant Nue (944 W Broad Street) in Falls Church and two Tysons restaurants: Ingle Korean Steakhouse, which opened at Pike 7 Plaza (8369 Leesburg Pike, Suite A) in 2022, and Tysons Social Tavern, which can be found inside the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel (1960 Chain Bridge Road).

Pisco Y Nazca Ceviche Gastrobar, which opened at Reston Town Center (1871 Explorer Street) last summer, is also making its Restaurant Week debut.

All of the participants will serve multi-course brunch and lunch menus for $25 or $35 per person, along with dinner menus for $40, $55, or $65 per person for on-site dining, though some restaurants will offer delivery.

With the promotional campaign launching on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, some participants will have extended brunch offerings, according to a press release.

“Additional menu prices have been added to the promotion to allow more restaurants to participate and have these participants offer more dining options to customers at a variety of price points that fit every budget,” RAMW President and CEO Shawn Townsend said. “Offering menus at a variety of price points helps keep the program sustainable and gives restaurants the chance to offer more memorable culinary experiences for their guests.”

The tail end of the regional campaign will run into the first-ever restaurant week planned by Falls Church City, which will kick off a 10-day celebration of its food service industry on Jan. 19. Over 40 restaurants in the Little City will offer three-course meals and discounts.

The other Fairfax County restaurants involved in RAMW’s 2024 Winter Restaurant Week are below.

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A new headquarters for HITT Contracting will anchor the redevelopment of Virginia Tech’s campus near the West Falls Church Metro station (courtesy Gensler)

The remaking of Virginia Tech’s campus near the West Falls Church Metro station as a futuristic mixed-use development can officially begin.

The university and Falls Church City completed a sale of the 7.41-acre Northern Virginia Center site to developer Converge West Falls LLC last week, the city announced Wednesday (Nov. 15).

Approved by the Falls Church City Council in August 2022, the $25 million sale required the city to terminate Virginia Tech’s 40-year lease on the property at 7054 Haycock Road. Falls Church retains about $8.4 million of the proceeds from the sale, with the remaining $16.57 million going to the university, according to agreements authorized on July 25, 2022.

The sale paves the way for the academic center’s transformation into a new headquarters for HITT Contracting, a construction company currently based in Fairview Park near Merrifield. The development will also include a construction research lab for Virginia Tech and apartments with ground-floor retail.

“This closing marks an important milestone in a decade-long planning effort initiated by the City of Falls Church,” Falls Church Mayor David Tarter said in a statement. “We are excited about having the national headquarters of HITT Contracting and the Virginia Tech Coalition for Smart Construction as neighbors to our West Falls project.”

Part of a push to revitalize the West Falls Church Transit Station Area, the Northern Virginia Center redevelopment has been in the works since 2019 but stalled in early 2021 after Virginia Tech and HITT decided not to move forward. The lease termination and sale agreements with Falls Church helped revive the project last year.

Converge — a joint venture of HITT and the developer Rushmark Properties — submitted a development plan in September 2022 that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved on July 25.

In a formal unveiling this week, HITT shared that its new six-story, 270,000-square-foot headquarters will emphasize sustainability and serve as a “hub for education and innovation in construction,” while also providing better access to mass transit for its more than 900 local employees.

Features will include a 100,000-square-foot rooftop solar panel array and 40,000 square feet of ground-floor space for Virginia Tech’s new Coalition for Smart Construction, a research center that “will advance building practices and ultimately shape the industry’s future.”

HITT says its research and development team already has over 20 projects that it plans to work on at the new headquarters.

Notable ventures already in progress include a newly patented prefabricated building skin that reduces weight, increases speed to market, and creates more efficient buildings. HITT is pioneering the first use of the Caracol Heron AM robotic arm installed in the US for 3D printing, aimed to augment traditional construction methods, and implementing robotics on-site to support an enhanced experience for HITT’s field team through technology-enabled workflows.

“As an industry, we have to do better to tackle the challenges of rising costs, labor shortages, and our environmental footprint,” HITT Co-Chairman Brett Hitt said. “I believe that Virginia Tech will push the boundaries of construction by bringing its brilliant students to a space where they can work alongside our industry’s brightest minds. Bringing industry and academia together under one roof will help us effect real change.”

Outside the construction world, the project will also deliver a 13-story, 440-unit apartment building with up to 18,000 square feet of retail, 55,000 square feet of urban parks, and a portion of West Falls Station Blvd, a new road that will link the also-redeveloping West Falls and Metro station properties.

HITT CEO Kim Roy said the company is “ecstatic” that it will “continue growing in Fairfax County.

“We’re thankful to the City of Falls Church, the Commonwealth of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Fairfax County for supporting our plans to build this cutting-edge development,” Roy said. “We’re deeply committed to being good stewards of the local community and the environment.”

According to HITT, construction on its headquarters is expected to begin in early 2025 and finish in late 2026.

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The landscaping outside 2491 helped land it the no. 1 spot on Northern Virginia Magazine’s 2023 50 Best Restaurants list (file photo)

The best place to eat in Northern Virginia right now is an upscale restaurant tucked away in an office building outside Merrifield that also houses the U.S. headquarters of defense contractor BAE Systems.

At least that’s the designation bestowed upon 2941 by Northern Virginia Magazine’s food critics, whose ranking of the 50 best restaurants in the region for 2023 hit newsstands on Friday (Oct. 27) as part of its November issue.

While the full list can only be found in print, reviews for the top 10 restaurants are online, led by 2941. Located at 2941 Fairview Park Drive, the restaurant impressed the magazine’s critics with the artistry of both its cuisine and setting, which features landscaping, a koi pond and a view of an artificial lake.

“Inside the soaring space, a talented contemporary American kitchen staff transforms top-flight ingredients into culinary art,” the review said, highlighting a five-course tasting menu curated by Executive Chef Bertrand Chemel as well as a la carte dishes like a “grilled rib-eye with crisped potatoes.”

Self-described on its website as “one of the most celebrated restaurants in the metropolitan area,” 2941 previously topped Northern Virginia Magazine’s annual rankings in 2021 and came in second last year. It has also been recognized in the past by Washingtonian, Eater DC and the Washington Post.

“We’re ecstatic to share that we’ve been ranked as the #1 restaurant in Northern Virginia!” the restaurant said in a Facebook post. “This recognition wouldn’t be possible without our incredible team and the support of our loyal customers. Thank you for making…us the best in the region.”

2941 isn’t the only Fairfax County restaurant to place in the top 10. It was joined by Nostos in Tysons (No. 6), L’Auberge Chez François in Great Falls (No. 8), Trummer’s in Clifton (No. 9) and Trio Grill in Merrifield proper (No. 10).

Praised for proving that there’s “much more to Greek cuisine” than gyros, Nostos (8100 Boone Blvd) was among Washingtonian’s “very best restaurants” in 2014, 2017 and 2018. Its owners are behind Vienna’s incoming Yellow Diner, which is expected to open at 501 Maple Avenue West early next year.

L’Auberge Chez François has been operating at 332 Springvale Road since 1976, when it moved from its original home in D.C. Also recently lauded by Washingtonian, the French establishment is a “captivating destination for celebrating life’s special moments” with “masterful cuisine” and “exquisite service,” according to Northern Virginia Magazine.

Trummer’s (7134 Main Street) originally opened as a fine dining restaurant in 2009, but it has been steadily evolving into a more casual American bistro, dropping the “on Main” portion of its name in 2019. Northern Virginia Magazine highlights its “skillful” blending of “Austrian and regional American traditions.”

Near the Mosaic District at 8100 Route 29, Trio Grill comes from Metropolitan Hospitality Group, which is also behind Open Road, Circa and El Bebe. When it opened a decade ago, Northern Virginia Magazine dinged the eatery for not taking more risks with its menu, but it now says Trio Grill offers “a night of fine food and camaraderie.”

Falls Church was also represented with Ellie Bird at No. 5 and the Vietnamese restaurant NUE coming in seventh. Both restaurants opened earlier this year in the city’s new Founders Row development on West and Broad streets.

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A raccoon walking in grass (via Pete Nuij/Unsplash)

A raccoon struck by two different vehicles on Route 29 last weekend has tested positive for rabies, Falls Church City says.

The drivers hit the animal near the 500 block of S. Washington Street in the West Falls Church area on Saturday, Sept. 23, according to the city. The raccoon’s resulting injuries led Falls Church City police to euthanize it.

Before police arrived, however, at least two people came into contact with the animal.

“A witness stated that prior to officers arriving, both he and an unidentified driver came in direct contact with the injured raccoon while removing it from the roadway,” the city said in a news release.

The Fairfax County Health Department tested the raccoon for rabies and reported that it was positive on Tuesday (Sept. 26).

“The City of Falls Church Animal Control Officer and Fairfax County Health Department are seeking to identify the unknown driver (and any other individuals) who came in contact with the raccoon to clear them of rabies exposure,” Falls Church City said. “Please call the Fairfax County Health Department Rabies Program immediately at 703-246-2433 (TTY 711) if you believe that you were exposed.”

Falls Church says this is the first animal found within its city limits to test positive for rabies in 2023.

The Fairfax County Health Department typically identifies 40 to 60 rabies cases annually. Cases so far this year have included a raccoon that got attacked by a dog in Vienna and a skunk that chased, sprayed and bit hikers on the Bull Run Occoquan Trail in Clifton.

Rabies cases often increase in the spring, summer, and end of the fall, Fairfax County health officials previously told FFXnow.

“Rabies is a viral disease that people and pets can catch from infected animals through a bite, scratch, broken skin, and mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth.),” Falls Church City said. “It is fatal if medical care is not given promptly.”

The city advises anyone who encounters sick, injured or aggressive wildlife that appear injured, sick, lethargic, disoriented, or aggressive to avoid it and call its non-emergency line at 703-241-5053.

In Fairfax County, community members can report incidents to the Animal Protection Police at 703-691-2131.

Photo via Pete Nuij/Unsplash

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The Route 7 bus rapid transit service from Tysons to Alexandria (via NVTC/Twitter)

A new bus rapid transit (BRT) route could connect Alexandria and Tysons, and the golden spike in that project could be Falls Church.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) is reviewing a study of Envision Route 7’s impact on Falls Church. The study doesn’t make recommendations but provides analysis on how BRT might impact bus and car traffic in Falls Church.

According to the NVTC agenda:

The Commission will be asked to accept the findings of the Envision Route 7 Phase 4-1 Mobility Study, a key element of the fourth phase of planning for a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system designed to connect the Mark Center in Alexandria to Tysons via Bailey’s Crossroads, Seven Corners and Falls Church along the Route 7 corridor.

The study included a variety of scenarios for how the BRT route could run through Falls Church, from a “no-build” option to full transit lanes, along with various “hybrids” inbetween.

Unsurprisingly, the scenarios with the higher number of dedicated bus lanes having the largest travel time decrease for buses, though travel times would also increase for cars and other vehicles.

The study also included feedback from public engagement, which determined 60% of respondents agreed improving bus speed and reliability was a high priority, though there was also concern about how the changes might impact bicyclist safety.

The full report is available online.

NVTC is working with Falls Church throughout this fall to develop a preferred scenario, with the project going to various boards and commissions in Falls Church, Fairfax, Alexandria and Arlington this winter.

Image via NVTC/Twitter

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A rendering of the West Falls development in Falls Church City, now under construction (courtesy Hoffman & Associates)

The development now under construction on Falls Church City’s former high school site has landed its first retail tenants.

Hoffman & Associates, the developer behind the nearly 10-acre West Falls neighborhood, announced yesterday (Thursday) that the restaurants SEOULSPICE, BurgerFi and Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls will all open in fall 2024, along with the Spanish immersion preschool Tierra Encantada.

“West Falls will serve as a dynamic destination and vibrant community in the heart of West Falls Church,” Hoffman & Associates President Shawn Seaman said in a press release. “Each of these new businesses will bring something unique to the neighborhood, and we look forward to sharing more additions to this community in the near future.”

Tierra Encantada will occupy 10,000 square feet of space at 7131 Magnolia Street in the development’s retail corridor, which will be in the median of a new street called West Falls Station Blvd bisecting the neighborhood.

This will be the second of 15 locations that the early childhood education provider has planned for Northern Virginia. The first school opened in Alexandria last year, and a third one has been proposed near Ballston in Arlington.

“This early education and preschool program focuses on promoting early cognitive development and respect for diversity with a fully Spanish curriculum, a play-based learning model, and daily scratch-made meals from organic ingredients,” Hoffman & Associates said.

Here’s more on the three restaurants from the press release:

SEOULSPICE, a quick service restaurant known for its Korean comfort food, plans to open a new, over 2,000-square-foot location at 150 West Falls Station Boulevard. This will be SEOULSPICE’s eighth location in the DMV, expanding further into the Northern Virginia market and reinforcing the company’s commitment to serving delicious and nutritious gluten-free Korean cuisine.

BurgerFi, a popular fast-casual burger concept, will open a new over 2,000-square-foot location at 170 West Falls Station Blvd. With over 125 restaurants domestically and internationally, BurgerFi is a chef-founded concept offering a casual dining atmosphere with award-winning American cuisine. BurgerFi uses 100% natural American Angus beef with no steroids, antibiotics, growth hormones, chemicals or additives and offers a diverse menu including their award-winning vegetarian VegeFi® Burger, Wagyu Beef, Cage-Free “Fi’ed” Chicken Tenders and Sandwiches, Fresh-Cut Fries and Beer-Battered Onion Rings, Frozen Custard Desserts, beer, wine, and more.

Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls will open at 235 West Falls Station Blvd with 1,375 square feet – its largest location yet. Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls is the largest lobster roll brand in the U.S., bringing the luxury of lobster to all at an affordable price point and casual environment. Mason’s uses simple recipes and the highest-quality lobster sustainably sourced directly from Maine.

Planned for 1.2 million square feet of construction, West Falls is the biggest development project in Falls Church’s history.

In addition to 142,100 square feet of retail, it will include about 647 apartment and condominium units, 217 units of senior housing, a 146-room hotel, 326,100 square feet of office space, about 14,000 square feet of civic space, and an 18,000-square-foot community gathering space called The Commons.

The project broke ground in May 2022, and the first buildings are on track to be finished in fall 2024, though the senior living facility may be delayed after developer Trammel Crow dropped out of that part of project.

Hoffman & Associates told the Falls Church City Council in June that the first phase is expected to be substantially complete in January 2025. That includes the hotel, a multifamily condominium building, a medical office building, two parking garages, and an apartment building with a still-unidentified grocery store.

West Falls constitutes the city’s portion of a massive effort to revitalize the 40-acre West Falls Church Transit Station Area. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recently approved plans to overhaul both the Metro station property in Idylwood and Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center campus.

“This larger development is intended to add an active and pedestrian-friendly area to the vibrant neighborhood that fosters community, sustainability and innovation,” Hoffman & Associates said.

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