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Converge West Falls LLC has proposed redeveloping Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center (via Fairfax County)

A developer has officially filed plans with Fairfax County to bring housing, retail, and new office and academic facilities to Virginia Tech’s campus in Idylwood.

As a joint entity named Converge West Falls LLC, real estate investment firm Rushmark Properties and the construction company HITT Contracting have proposed replacing the existing Northern Virginia Center at 7054 Haycock Road with a 283,000-square-foot office building, up to 440 residential units, and a 2,000-square-foot retail pavilion.

Submitted last Thursday (Sept. 22), the application fleshes out an agreement made earlier this year between Converge and the City of Falls Church, which intends to sell the approximately 7.5-acre site to the developer.

The project will “serve as a logical connection” between the West Falls development on Falls Church’s former George Mason High School property and a planned redevelopment at the West Falls Church Metro station, Walsh Colucci land use attorney Andrew Painter wrote in a statement of justification on Converge’s behalf.

Rushmark is also involved in the Metro project, which will turn the Metro station’s existing parking lots into housing and office buildings with some retail.

Reviving a stalled plan between Virginia Tech and HITT, Converge’s Northern Virginia Center proposal features roughly 820,000 square feet of development across three buildings on two blocks west side of Falls Church Drive and north of Haycock Road:

  • Building A: A 283,000-square-foot office and education facility that will house HITT’s corporate headquarters and a 40,000-square-foot laboratory space for Virginia Tech, dubbed the National Center for Smart Construction (NCSC)
  • Building B: A residential building with up to 440 units and approximately 16,000 square feet of ground-floor retail uses. It will have a maximum height of 15 stories and 145 feet, providing parking in a 2.5-story underground garage.
  • Building C: An approximately 2,000-square foot one-story retail kiosk/pavilion

If approved, the project would link the West Falls and Metro developments by extending the former’s central West Falls Station Blvd through the property. Building C would be in the center of the street’s 12,300-square-foot, publicly accessible median.

Straddling the boundary between the city and Fairfax County, the “Median Green” will also serve as a green space with landscaping, trees, movable tables and chairs for “informal gatherings,” open lawn areas, an outdoor stage or performance space, and public art.

Other proposed amenities include entry plazas for both the office and residential buildings and public gardens on Haycock Road and Falls Church Drive. The latter’s garden would feature a bio-retention rain garden.

The developer says it will also provide approximately 0.29 acres of publicly accessible open space on the Metro redevelopment site as well as private, “vegetative” roof decks for the office and residential buildings.

“Building A’s office roof will, for example, feature outdoor working and social spaces with lush planters and stormwater areas,” the application says. “The Building B’s residential roof deck will include a pool, recreation lawn, and seating terraces.”

As part of its transportation commitments, the applicant says it will upgrade the existing sidewalks on Haycock Road and Falls Church Drive, provide bicycle racks, and extend bicycle lanes planned for West Falls Station Blvd through the development. A total of 1,138 parking spaces will be provided.

“When constructed, this new neighborhood will function as one larger transit-oriented neighborhood,” Painter wrote. “The proposed NCSC facility will serve as a hub for research and testing of emerging construction methods, materials and technology that will inform Northern Virginia’s construction and real estate industries. Further, the proposal will attract individuals who think creatively, share ideas, and drive daytime demand locally-serving office and retail uses, as well as Metrorail ridership.”

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A rendering of the proposed development outside the West Falls Church Metro station (via WMATA)

Metro anticipates reducing the parking capacity at its West Falls Church station by over 700 spaces in order to accommodate a planned redevelopment of the property between I-66 and Haycock Road.

Under review by Fairfax County, the project would replace the Metro station’s surface parking lots with 24 acres of mixed-use development, including up to 900 residential units, 110,000 square feet of office, and 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

Working with private developers known collectively as FGCP-Metro LLC, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has proposed eliminating a south parking lot off of Falls Church Drive and reducing the number of bus bays and Kiss & Ride spots at the station.

“Proposed changes are intended to promote transit-oriented development, increase Metro ridership, enhance bicycle and pedestrian access to the station, and modernize transit facilities,” WMATA says.

Park and Ride

Taking out the south parking lot will reduce the station’s park-and-ride capacity from 2,009 to 1,350 spots, according to an environmental evaluation by the consultant WSP.

The evaluation found that demand had dropped from an average of 1,500 vehicles per day when the Silver Line opened in 2014 to 850 per day in 2017. Prior to the pandemic, the average rebounded to 950 in 2018 and 1,100 in 2019.

The West Falls Church Metro station’s existing parking lots (via Google Maps)

About 1,350 to 1,400 spaces are projected to be sufficient to meet parking demand through 2045, the report says. The station’s existing 1,200 garage will be retained, while construction on the office and multifamily residential buildings planned on the north parking lot won’t begin for another 10 years.

At that time, Metro will “reassess” whether to keep as parking or give the developers permission to redevelop it, on the condition that private garages for the new buildings include 150 to 200 spots for commuters.

“Several factors could affect commuter parking demand, including post-COVID changes in commuter travel patterns, the planned openings of Silver Line phase 2 and the I-66 toll lane project, and efforts by Metro to manage parking demand,” the evaluation says, noting that FGCP-Metro will construct approximately 700 parking spaces. Read More

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Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center in Idylwood (via Google Maps)

A redevelopment of Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center (7054 Haycock Road) in Idylwood is back on the table.

The Falls Church City Council authorized agreements on Monday night (July 25) that will terminate the university’s 40-year lease for the 2-acre parcel and allow the city to sell the land to Converge West Falls LLC, an entity of developer Rushmark Properties.

Advanced by Virginia Tech’s board in April, the exchange will revive a plan to build a new design school, a headquarters for the construction company HITT Contracting and more on the Northern Virginia Center campus that abruptly collapsed in early 2021.

“Virginia Tech has a long history in the City of Falls Church and we are excited about this new chapter,” Virginia Tech Media Relations Director Michael Stowe said. “This vote moves us a step closer to creating a world-class smart construction research center in collaboration with HITT Contracting, and it means the community will benefit from a vibrant, mixed-use district that will transform the neighborhood.”

According to a city staff report, the Northern Virginia Center is a 101,000-square-foot office building on a larger, 7.4-acre site located in Fairfax County but owned by Falls Church, which has leased a portion of the land to Virginia Tech since 1995.

Under Falls Church’s new agreements with Virginia Tech and Rushmark, the city could sell the full site to the developer for $25 million, including $16.57 million that it would then pay to the university. The resulting development must feature:

  • A 240,000-square-foot office building for HITT’s corporate headquarters, including at least 40,000 square feet for a Virginia Tech National Center for Smart Construction
  • 440 residential units with ground-floor retail
  • Construction of a West Falls Station Blvd through the site, among other road improvements

The project still has to go through a number of steps to come to fruition. First, Virginia Tech has to get the governor’s approval for its planned land transfer to the city, and then, Rushmark must submit its plans to Fairfax County.

“Virginia Tech will continue to occupy the site, with no rent payments to the City, until the final closing date, which is no later than March 31, 2025,” the staff report said. The agreements are expected to be closed sooner than that, coming within 30 days of zoning and site plan approvals from the county. Read More

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Morning Notes

Under the virtual shark tank at Reston Station (photo by Marjorie Copson)

Austin Transit Leader Named New Metro General Manager — “Metro on Tuesday tapped the chief executive of a Texas transit agency to lead the system through safety and pandemic-related challenges that have frustrated riders and strained public transportation…Randy Clarke, 45, will replace Paul J. Wiedefeld, who announced in January that he would retire on June 30″ [The Washington Post]

Fairfax County Firefighter Gets Funeral Procession — “Tuesday marked the final farewell for Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Captain Kimberly Schoppa, who died last month from occupational cancer. Her line-of-duty funeral included a procession and escort to the church, with her flag-draped casket onboard a fire truck and then carried inside by the Honor Guard.” [ABC7]

Jury Awards Tysons Company $2B in Damages — A Fairfax County Circuit Court jury awarded Appian over $2 billion in damages after finding rival software company Pegasystems Inc. stole its trade secrets. Announced yesterday (Tuesday) after a seven-week trial, the damages are the largest ever awarded in Virginia court history, Appian says. [Appian]

County Board Approves New Budget — “On Tuesday morning, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors gave final approval to the fiscal year 2023 budget, which reduces the real estate tax rate by 3 cents. The approved budget did not change from the budget markup the board approved on April 26.” [Patch]

Teachers’ Union Calls for Continued Virtual Learning — The Fairfax Education Association sent a letter to Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand and school board members last week urging them to “continue offering a limited virtual school program for vulnerable students and staff.” FCPS announced in March that it will discontinue the option in the next school year. [WTOP]

Former Reston Association Board President Dies at 84 — “In the words of one reporter, Mike [Freeman Jr.] had a case of chronic community activism for a myriad of Reston organizations, including St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, FISH, and soccer and swim teams. He was a volunteer driver for the first local RIBS bus, and an elected board member of the Reston Association, serving as Board President 1988-89.” [Patch]

County Opens West Falls Church Transportation Survey — “The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) will hold a second round of virtual community meetings to present updates on the West Falls Church (WFC) Active Transportation Study…The public will have the opportunity to ask questions and provide input as well as completing an online survey to provide feedback.” [FCDOT]

Fairfax County Honors Hockey Team and Teachers — The Board of Supervisors recognized the Langley High School ice hockey team yesterday for winning the Northern Virginia School Hockey League championship in February while also completing the season with the least amount of penalties among teams. The board also designated May as Teacher Appreciation Month. [Fairfax County]

Veteran and Military Spouse Career Fair Starts Today — “The free-to-attend event features two days of opportunities for candidates to connect with companies, with in-person sessions between 10:00 am-12:00 pm and 1:00-3:00 p.m. ET on May 11 at the National Museum of the United States Army at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and a virtual fair taking place from 1:00-4:00 p.m. ET on May 12″ [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]

It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 69 and low of 50. Sunrise at 6:01 am and sunset at 8:12 pm. [Weather.gov]

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A rendering of the West Falls Church Metro development’s proposed Building D (via Fairfax County/Hord Coplan Macht)

Plans for the massive development in the West Falls Church Metro station area were revised to provide new details on three of the project’s five buildings.

Known as FGCP-Metro LLC, developers EYA, Rushmark Properties, and Hoffman & Associates have partnered with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to build more than 1 million square feet of residential, office and retail space on 24 acres of land currently occupied by parking.

The developer group previously filed a plan with the county in December, but that was later withdrawn in favor of the new rezoning application, dated March 10.

“There are no material changes to the proposed application,” Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh attorney Andrew Painter, who represents the developers, told FFXnow. “It was refiled to incorporate the entirety of the site into a single Final Development Plan (rather than multiple Final Development Plans) for ease of administrative review.”

Envisioned as part of a 60-acre neighborhood that includes Falls Church City’s West Falls project and Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center campus, Metro’s development will have 900 residential units, a 110,000-square-foot office building, and up to 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

Developer FCGP-Metro LLC’s conceptual development plan to replace the West Falls Church Metro station’s parking lot area (via Fairfax County)

The new application includes three buildings that weren’t detailed in the previously submitted plan:

  • Building A: A 120-foot-tall multifamily residential building with a maximum of 130,000 square feet of gross floor area and 210 residential units. It may include any remaining approved residential units not provided in other buildings.
  • Building B: The office and retail space will be in this building, which will have a maximum height of 120 feet
  • Building F: A 90-foot-tall multifamily residential building with up to 265,000 square feet of gross floor area and 280 residential units. It will face a proposed Metro Plaza and have a private, interior courtyard for residents as well as wayfinding elements for the Metro station.

Because these buildings haven’t been fully designed yet, the final development plan will need to be amended in the future, assuming it is approved, according to a statement of justification from Painter. Read More

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