The Town of Vienna wants to give its employees more breathing room — literally.
Some space has been freed up in town hall by the Vienna Police Department’s criminal investigations bureau relocating to its recently completed station. The department’s transition to the new station will be conclude with its communications team moving in by the end of January, according to a spokesperson.
As a result, the town is reorganizing how it uses the town hall building at 127 Center Street South to maximize efficiency and relieve cramped conditions that relegated one worker to a ventilated computer server room, Town Manager Mercury Payton told the Vienna Town Council on Jan. 9.
“[That] probably wasn’t the best thing for his health. We’re going to be moving him out of that area into a vacated space,” Payton said. “So, we’ve already kind of determined internally ourselves some of our best moves, and then we’ve kind of gone as far as we can go.”
To assist with the reconfiguration, the town council approved a $84,900 contract for PMA Architecture to conduct an office space study. The consulting firm was chosen from 10 candidates based on its “innovative yet practical ideas” and experience working with smaller governments, Vienna Finance Director Marion Serfass said.
Built almost 60 years ago, town hall was last renovated in 2014 when it got a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, but there was little consideration of workplace layout at that time — an oversight that became apparent as Covid heightened concerns about the spread of disease.
About 47 employees work out of town hall, not including the 12 recently relocated police personnel, according to a request for proposals issued by the town in August.
While there hasn’t been a huge increase in staff, the services offered by the town have evolved and expanded, Serfass said.
“We’re focusing on economic development, we’re focusing on video content, we’re adding slightly to town hall staff,” she said. “Some of these additions are temporary, but some may become permanent, so town hall staff is sort of bursting at the seams right now.”
The funds for the space study come from Vienna’s American Rescue Plan Act allotment, which can be used to prevent the spread of disease in the workplace. The town previously used federal Covid relief money to install an air filtration system and Plexiglas barriers, among other needs, according to Serfass.
In addition to reviewing room layouts, equipment and storage space, the study will take security needs into account, PMA Architecture Principal Katie Stodghill told the town council.
“I was very pleased to hear you raise the issue of public safety,” Councilmember Ed Somers said. “We live in a different era than we did years ago. We deal with a number of issues where people are frustrated about many things, and their most accessible level of government…is their local government. I do worry often about our staff that are there all the time.”
An exact timeline for the study hasn’t been established yet, but when it’s completed, a final report and the consultant’s recommended solution will be presented to the town council.
A new vision for the future of the Lake Anne area in Reston is brewing.
Fairfax County has hired the consulting firm Streetsense to lead the visioning effort. Beginning next month, the team will launch an initial immersion and discovery phase, followed by a significant community engagement process, according to Tracy Strunk, director of the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Development.
“A final report will identify a strategic position for the area within the competitive landscape, and guide future developments, including branding, marketing, design, and merchandizing, that create a market-relevant consumer experience,” Strunk said.
The four-month study will cost roughly $125,250.
The report will target the Lake Anne Commercial Revitalization Area in an effort to create a market approach with the interests of area stakeholders. The 44-acre area was established in 1998.
At a meeting with media yesterday (Monday), Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn emphasized that the “economic visioning study” will begin with conversations with “various stakeholders.”
Earlier this year, the county approved $300,000 in county funds to help develop a revitalization plan for the area.
In a Jan. 10 letter to Lake Anne residents, Alcorn said the funding would be used for economic envisioning and master planning in order to “support the long-term sustainable development planning for Lake Anne.”
A cursory review of the plaza flagged nearly $37 million in repairs for the aging area.
A decade after Springfield Mall was torn down, reemerging two years later as Springfield Town Center, Fairfax County officials are still trying to figure out how to make the reality of the development match that rebranding.
Progress on transforming downtown Springfield from a commercial hub into the more mixed-use, walkable environment envisioned by county planners has been slow, even nonexistent when it comes to housing, a recently released study found.
In fact, the area hasn’t added a single multifamily residential unit since the Springfield Crossing apartments were built in 2001, according to the Springfield-Franconia Market Study commissioned by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA).
“That’s insane,” Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk said. “Think about it for a second. Every market has had some sort of residential construction. We have had zero. So, that’s something that we have to obviously think about and figure out where we might allow more residential options…in the areas that make up the Franconia-Springfield market.”
Attributed at least in part to lower rents compared to areas like Tysons or Bethesda, the lack of housing isn’t the only challenge facing downtown Franconia-Springfield, which is concentrated around the I-95 and Old Keene Mill/Franconia Road interchange.
According to the study, which was conducted by the consultant HR&A, Springfield has 3.2 million square feet of retail development, 2.7 million square feet of office space, 978 multifamily units, 1,843 hotel rooms, and 0.3 million square feet of industrial space.
While the existing shopping centers, including the town center, are performing well overall, retail growth has slowed with just 22,000 square feet added since 2010, and vacancies have jumped to 6.4% during the pandemic.
Covid also drove up vacancies in the office market, where the rate climbed from 13% pre-pandemic to 19% as of early 2022, and sent hotel occupancy rates tumbling from 73.7% in 2019 to 28.4% in 2020 before bouncing back to 51% this year.
Aside from industrial construction, which has stalled since 1988, the study projects room for growth across all markets over the next 10 years, including 1,000 to 1,600 multifamily units, but mixed-use development is necessary to achieve that potential.
“There have been significant private investments in Springfield, most notably at Springfield Town Center and the TSA headquarters,” the report said. “However, growth has been focused on site-specific investments, not mixed-use development supportive of County goals or catalytic growth.”
Mixed-use development would require not only more housing, particularly mid-rise buildings less than eight stories tall, but also amenities and public infrastructure to draw residents, workers and the tourists that the study says are needed to offset declining business travel. Read More
The Town of Vienna is seeking a little guidance to determine what to do with the former Faith Baptist Church property on Center Street.
The town council approved an allocation of $92,500 on Monday (Nov. 14) to launch a study of potential long-term uses for the site, now known as the Vienna Annex.
After receiving two bids in response to its request for proposals, the town has contracted Pennsylvania-based firm Kimmel Bogrette Architecture + Site to conduct the study, whose findings will eventually be presented to the town council.
“The information from the Annex Long-Term Use Study will provide recommended land uses of the annex property based on the town’s strategic plan, [comprehensive] plan, extensive community engagement and available funding in the long run,” Vienna Parks and Recreation Director Leslie Herman said.
The town bought the 3-acre property at 301 Center Street South for $5.5 million in fall 2020, giving the Vienna Police Department a temporary base during the construction of its new headquarters. Though there was a ribbon-cutting ceremony in early September, some final work is still being done before the building can be occupied.
As officers prepare to move out at some point, town leaders have been debating the best long-term use of the former church and have, thus far, come up with a big question mark.
Herman initially proposed utilizing the building temporarily as an annex for recreational activities to supplement the Vienna Community Center, but the town council feared that would cut off other long-term possibilities, particularly since a previous study estimated the conversion would cost $1 million.
The council authorized the removal of a cross from the building’s steeple in September but declined to fund roof repairs, saying it didn’t want to invest in a building that may ultimately be torn down.
When asked by Councilmember Ray Brill, Kimmel Bogrette confirmed that it will consider the possibility of demolishing all existing structures when exploring options for the site.
“Our approach to community engagement is to try to help folks see beyond what they see there today and look at the possibilities,” Kimmel Bogrette president and co-founder Martin Kimmel said.
Town staff will meet with the consultant next week to determine a detailed timeline for the study, according to a Town of Vienna spokesperson.
“Public engagement is expected to take place in January and February, 2023 and a final report is expected to be presented to Town Council in June,” Vienna Public Information Director Karen Thayer told FFXnow.