The Office of the City Manager of the City of Falls Church released Friday extensive non-confidential components of the two responses the City received to its request for proposal for the development of the 36-acre Upper West End property. The two bidding entities are Edgemoor Infrastructure of Bethesda, Maryland, including its leading contractor Clark Construction, and an entity going by Mason Greens Joint Venture, with the Republic Properties Corp. of Washington, D.C. as the major component.
The Falls Church City Council and School Board, partners in deciding the destiny of the land that was ceded to the City from Fairfax County last year, held a three-and-a-half hour session behind closed doors Monday night to discuss the next steps now that the proposals have been received.
According to News-Press sources, the meeting was confined to the two elected bodies and their teams of consultants and attorneys, and no outsiders, including no members of the bidding entities, were present. The long meeting took place in the Dogwood conference room at City Hall without a single break, while one floor above them, the Planning Commission was struggling with the Mason Row proposal.
The one takeaway for public consumption of the closed session was the announcement of two public forums that will be held in early December to explain the process over the coming year that will, once a primary contract is awarded and public hearings held next spring and key decisions made, a public referendum will be held next November.
The two town halls will be held on successive Saturdays, December 5 and 12, in the Council chambers of City Hall from 10 a.m. to noon. The identical information will be provided at each meeting, giving the public maximum opportunity to make it to one or the other of the events, having only to negotiate through the Saturday morning farmers’ markets to get inside the chambers.
There will still be six months to go before the final terms of an agreement with the winning bidder is negotiated. The Council and School Board will come back to the bidders with requests for more specific and refined proposals that will be due in March, and then the bodies will decide who they’ll choose to do the daunting job.
A final negotiation will be completed by next summer, and then the signing of the contract papers will follow the public referendum that will be on the Nov. 1, 2016 election day ballot.
Complicating the project, which City officials have dubbed the “Campus Redevelopment Project,” is the desire of the City and Schools to have the 35 acres include ample provision for both a new high school and a renovated and expanded middle school that are already there, and then for up to 10 acres dedicated to economic development.
Copies of the non-confidential components of both the more than 150-page submissions made by the Oct. 30 deadline are available on both the City’s and the City Schools’ website, and in hard copy at the Mary Riley Styles Public Library.
The Edgemoor team includes the same key team members who collaborated to complete the Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School as the first project awarded in Virginia to build an educational facility under the Public Private Education Act.
“This project is incredibly important to our entire team as many of our key personnel are residents of Falls Church and have children who have attended or attend George Mason High School and Henderson Middle School,” an introductory letter from James Martin – a George Mason High School Class of ’81 alum – states.
Clark, the note adds, “will guaranty Edgemoor’s obligations for the project and will provide a single payment and performance bond for the school facility improvements.” It appears the submission is very similar to the one that Clark submitted unsolicited last year prior to the City’s and Schools’ decision to put the project out to bid.
The second proposal, the Mason Greens Joint Venture, proposes as the Edgemoor one does as well, “replacing and relocating the obsolete high school and expanding the middle school.”
It proposes to build a new high school on the western portion of the campus to “best avoid disruption to existing students’ educational experience while also delivering facilities more quickly and at lower cost.”
Following the new high school construction, it says “the former high school site will be harvested for a mixed-use development.” The plan “intentionally incorporates playing fields, parks and open spaces as common elements (between the community and schools),” and the gymnasium and performing arts theater facilities are located and designed to foster community co-use after classroom hours.”
It adds, “This approach recognizes that Falls Church’s greatest asset is its people.” It organizes the project’s buildings around a new George Mason soccer field and aquatics center, with mixed use buildings of five stories including diversified residential offerings. A final mixed use ‘tower’ will be located on the north end of the campus between the schools’ campus and the West Falls Church Metro Station.