Community members who attended a public meeting on the future elementary school in Dunn Loring last week appeared to favor replacing the existing administrative center at 2334 Gallows Road with a four-story building.
Samaha Associates, an engineering firm contracted by Fairfax County Public Schools, presented two primary design options for the planned school, which is expected to be 118,000 square feet in size with the goal of addressing crowding in the Tysons area.
One proposal would shift the school further away from Gallows Road onto what’s currently Murphy Field, a popular facility for local youth soccer groups. The building would be mostly two stories tall with a third story of classrooms on the west side.
The site would have room for an athletic field by Gallows Road as well as playgrounds, a play area, and an outdoor classroom, but they would be scattered around the property.
Slated to begin in spring 2024, construction could start sooner with this option, since the Dunn Loring Center building wouldn’t have to be completely demolished first, Samaha principal Tom Lee said at the meeting on Thursday (Nov. 10).
“More importantly, we’re able to get three site entrances off of Idylwood [Road], one aligning with Greenbriar Way and then two more for the bus loop, so you see a complete and independent separation between the kiss-and-ride traffic and the bus traffic with parking on both sides,” he said.
The other option would construct a four-story building in the existing Dunn Loring Center footprint with play areas consolidated to the west, away from Gallows.
Both options eliminate the site’s current entrance off of Gallows, but the four-story one would have a longer kiss-and-ride queue that could accommodate about 50 vehicles compared to the 30 spaces in the other design. However, drivers would have to go back out the way they came in when buses are using the loop at the front entrance.
Most attendees expressed support for the four-story design, in part because it keeps the athletic field away from Gallows Road and has a smaller footprint, likely allowing more trees to be retained, though a full tree survey hasn’t been conducted yet.
“That field that’s currently there is used all the time, some of the only good green space in the area, and to replace it with fields that are right on Gallows Road and have kids playing at one of the busiest intersections in the area, I think, is a terrible idea,” one man said to applause. “…I think it really shifts the burden of this school on all the people who live there.”
Lee noted that a four-story building would be “slightly more expensive” to construct. The project has a $36.8 million budget covered by bond funds that were originally earmarked for a school in the Oakton area.
The design also leaves no room for an expansion, but the school would be constructed with an internal “shell” on the fourth floor that could fit three to four more classrooms “as the need arises,” Lee said.
Samaha had suggested a third option to a Design Feedback and Engagement Committee that met on June 9, but it retained an entrance on Gallows for a limited kiss-and-ride lot, leading to concerns about traffic back-ups. That design has now been taken off the table.
In response to a resident who said turning right onto Gallows or coming left off Gallows onto Idylwood Road “is a problem already,” Lee said he doesn’t see any opposition to adding turn lanes at the intersection, but the project team would have to consult with the Virginia Department of Transportation.
“We just need to get it through the next level of design,” Lee said. “…We can show an intent to add those now. I don’t think there’s any pushback to that idea.”
Local residents will get their first glimpse of the planned Dunn Loring Elementary School later this week.
Fairfax County Public Schools will kick off the public input portion of the project’s design process on Thursday (Nov. 10) with a meeting at the Gatehouse Administrative Center (8115 Gatehouse Road) in Merrifield.
The meeting will take place from 6-7 p.m. in the building’s first floor cafe, where capacity will be limited to 150 people. As a result, a Zoom link will also be sent to those who register in advance.
Advanced by the Fairfax County School Board in March, the capital project will repurpose the Dunn Loring Administrative Center at 2334 Gallows Road as an elementary school expected to accommodate 900 students.
From a message that FCPS sent to area families:
The Dunn Loring Administrative Center was originally built to address the needs of a rapidly growing population. Additions were needed throughout the 1940s and 50s as the Baby Boom generation entered elementary school in this thriving community. Needs changed and by 1978, the school was repurposed, eventually serving FCPS staff as an administrative center. As our community grows in a new era, we have the opportunity to return the building to its original purpose and support the needs of students in the surrounding community.
The repurposing of the Dunn Loring Administrative Center will provide approximately 900 students with an elementary school rooted in history and poised to provide 21st-century learning, preparing young children for bright futures. Through this single project, FCPS supports quality education in ten other schools by relieving the pressures of increasing enrollment growth.
The planned renovations and additions will result in a 118,000-square-foot facility, according to the project page.
The engineering firm Samaha Associates was contracted to design the school, which is being funded by $36.8 million in bonds originally designated for a facility in the Fairfax/Oakton area.
The upcoming meeting will give members of the public their first opportunity to see and weigh in on the future school’s design, but “no major changes may be made” at this stage, FCPS said.
“Small adjustments may be considered,” FCPS said, noting that the feedback will be shared with the Fairfax County Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors, school board, and its staff.
Though originally pitched as a solution to crowding concerns at Shrevewood Elementary School, the Dunn Loring project has ruffled some feathers among school board members and residents who feel it jumped the renovation queue that FCPS uses for major capital projects.
The McLean Citizens Association, which urged FCPS to drop its plans this past spring, shared a report last week that argued the school system’s student enrollment projections might not fully capture the growth anticipated in the Tysons area.
FCPS has maintained that the future school’s boundaries remain to be determined.
“Boundary discussions will begin at the start of construction, which may be as early as spring 2024,” FCPS said.
At least one more community meeting will be held on the school’s design, along with a meeting by a design feedback and engagement committee. Comments for the committee can already be submitted online.
Those meetings will precede a public hearing before the county’s planning commission. No dates have been set beyond Thursday’s meeting.
If the proliferation of major developments planned around the West Falls Church Metro station is making your head spin, an upcoming community meeting may provide some clarity.
The developers seeking to redevelop the Metro station property and expand Virginia Tech’s nearby Northern Virginia Center campus will present their proposals and answer questions at an informational meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 15.
Sponsored by Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust’s office and the McLean Citizens Association, the event will take place at Longfellow Middle School in McLean. It will start at 7 p.m. with an open house, where attendees can look at informational boards and talk directly to the developers.
The main meeting will last from 7:30-9 p.m. and include presentations on both projects, an overview of Fairfax County’s zoning review process, and a Q&A period.
“Participants will have the opportunity to provide feedback and ask questions and remote participants will be able to submit written questions or comments during the meeting,” Foust’s office said in a community notice, noting that a Zoom link for those who want to follow virtually will be provided a week before the meeting.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors opened the door for mixed-use development in the West Falls Church Transit Station Area (TSA) with an amendment to the county’s comprehensive plan in July 2021.
The FCGP-Metro Development (RZ-2022-DR-00006) application by EYA, Hoffman and Associates, and Rushmark Properties proposes to rezone the 24-acre West Falls Church Metrorail Station (7040 Haycock Rd, Falls Church) to the Planned Residential Mixed Use zoning district. The proposed development would include up to 810 multifamily units, 90 townhomes, and a 110,000 square feet office building with up to 10,000 square feet of ground floor retail.
The Converge West Falls (RZ-2022-DR-00018) application by HITT Contracting and Rushmark Properties proposes to rezone the 7.5-acre Northern Virginia Center (7054 Haycock Rd, Falls Church) to the Planned Residential Mixed-Use zoning district. The two-block mixed-use project consists of three buildings totaling 820,000 square feet of development and includes a six-floor office building that would serve as HITT Contracting’s corporate headquarters, a 440-unit residential building, and a 2,000 square foot one-story retail kiosk. The office building would include the approximately 40,000-square foot National Center for Smart Construction laboratory space to support Virginia Tech university’s mission as an academic and research institution.
The prospect of approximately 1.8 million square feet of new development — plus the separate West Falls project that’s already under construction in Falls Church City — has some in the community worrying that navigating the area by car and foot or bicycle could become untenable.
In the hopes of finding solutions, the county has been studying the TSA’s pedestrian and bicycle network. The most recent community meetings on the study were held Oct. 26 and 27, and an advisory group met for a seventh time on Wednesday (Nov. 2).
Metro is also accepting public comments until next Thursday (Nov. 10) on its proposal to overhaul the West Falls Church station’s parking lots, which will be partly replaced by the FCGP-Metro development.