Final Site Plan OK Completes Votes for Affordable Housing

In its final legislative hurdle, the Wilden Apartments, a new senior affordable housing project inspired, shepherded and funded through the Falls Church Housing Corporation and its allies, won approval for its site plan by a 6-1 vote of the Falls Church Planning Commission Monday, with only Planning Commission Chair John Lawrence voting against.

The vote culminates an over decade-long process by the Housing Corporation (FCHC), commissioned by the City of F.C. to bring affordable housing to the community, to pass muster with the City’s political and policy-making bodies toward the achievement of its mission with the project.

Elated FCHC Executive Director Carol Jackson and FCHC allies have announced that a celebratory ceremony is scheduled for June 22 on site site of the 66-unit Wilden. The event, organized in conjunction with the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce, will “celebrate the next phase of active development of the project.” An official groundbreaking is planned for July.

The site plan approved Monday also encompassed the more-recently added McKeever Building, a project of Jefferson One and developer Bob Young, an all-office and retail building with sufficient parking to fulfill the parking requirements for the adjacent Wilden Apartments. The two buildings’ combined approval tonight confirmed a four-way agreement between the FCHC, Young, Tom Sawner, the prospective seller of his property to Young, and the City. The Wilden will be constructed at the current address of 350 S. Washington St., and The McKeever Building at 360 S. Washington St.

A still newer, added component to the plan was the decision by the F.C. City Council last week to locate a federally-funded “multi-modal transportation center” across the street, with the option that its parking component come in the form of an added deck onto the McKeever Building (a matter still to be determined through an upcoming competitive bid).

“I am very, very proud of what’s happened here, and I think the City will be, too,” said Planning Commissioner Lindy Hockenberry. Commissioners Russ Wodiska, Melissa Teates and Michael Kearney applauded the willingness of the developers to make modifications based on Planning Commission concerns, even as late as during the meeting tonight. Commissioners Rob Meeks and Ruth Rodgers expressed reservations but voted “Yes.”

Chair Lawrence, the only “No” vote, said he felt the plan was contrary to the City’s Comprehensive Plan and by putting all the City’s affordable housing dollars into this “one basket,” it will deter the affordable housing needs of the City in the future.

The “Wilden Limited Partnership” is a partnership between the Community Buildings, Inc. and FCHC. The building, named for the late Bob Wilden, a tireless, life-long advocate for affordable housing who provided critical seed money for the FCHC project, will be a six-story mixed-use structure containing 66 residential units, 63 one-bedroom and three two-bedroom units, and 1,500 square feet of commercial space. Seven units will be fully accessible for residents with disabilities, and all senior and disabled units will be affordable to residents earning less than 60 percent of the area median income (60 percent being $43,140 for a one-person household and $49,320 for a two-person household). The total cost of the construction is $16.4 million that includes a $2 million loan from the City of Falls Church and federal stimulus tax credit assistance.

The adjacent McKeever Building (named for the late Falls Church City Manager Dan McKeever) will be five stories and will include 27,000 square feet of office space, with ground floor retail and a parking structure that will include 40 parking spaces designated for The Wilden.