34 Public Improvements Done Or Progressing in Little City

Falls Church Chamber of Commerce leaders spoke at a City Council work session Tuesday and were queried on their views of improvements taking place and being considered. Left to right: Sally Cole, Alan Frank, Andrew Painter and Joe Wetzel. (Photo: News-Press)
Falls Church Chamber of Commerce leaders spoke at a City Council work session Tuesday and were queried on their views of improvements taking place and being considered. Left to right: Sally Cole, Alan Frank, Andrew Painter and Joe Wetzel. (Photo: News-Press)

Visible new public infrastructure things are popping up all around the City of Falls Church these days from new bus stops to fresh crosswalks, and the Falls Church City Council got a summary of all 34 of them (excluding school and sewer projects) at its work session kicking off a busy fall season Tuesday night.

Assistant City Manager Cindy Mester and Interim Public Works director Mike Whitfield engaged the Council with a check-off list of projects, led by the plans for the renovation of City Hall itself, which is advancing in its planning stages.

“We’re starting to see things happen,” said F.C. Mayor David Tarter, “and something as simple as a crosswalk can be huge for a neighborhood.”
“We’re gathering momentum,” added City Manager Wyatt Shields.

A City Hall task force meeting held Tuesday afternoon demonstrated that there remain some basic differences on issues of the style and look of a renovated and expanded City Hall. The tentative design for a single-entrance reconstructed center of the building by Studio Twenty Seven architects led to some blow back by Falls Church Planning Director Jim Snyder, and other suggestions from the task force members made it evident that more work needs to be done before a public forum on the project will be held on Oct. 8.

Public information on the project will be available at a special table that will be set up at the annual Fall Festival on Sept. 17.

The preliminary designs were due to be presented before the City’s Architectural Advisory Board last night, where significant additional input was expected. Still, the plan’s most basic features, a single entrance, enhanced security and ADA compliance features and a parking deck on the back side, will not change and construction is slated to begin in a year and be completed by the end of 2019.

Unlike the library renovation and expansion, no public referendum to authorize the City Hall renovation and expansion is required, since it is work being done for a public safety purpose.

On the library project, the Falls Church League of Women Voters has slated a community forum on Oct. 16 in advance of the referendum that will be on the Nov. 8 ballot.

In the meantime, however, a lot of smaller projects are either completed or soon will be, including in the City’s parks. The West End Park is completed, as is the daylighting of the streams running through the Howard Herman and Berman Parks, the trail restoration at Berman, the tennis and basketball court restorations and synthetic turf and track work at the high school.

The work on the downtown public plaza that the Council approved for the northside of the 100 block of W. Broad will begin this month with community and business input and design, and a date for completion in 2018. A project manager is being hired this week who will also work on the updates and improvements for the Big Chimneys Park.

A transit plaza utilizing state and federal funds, including streetscape and utility undergrounding is moving ahead along S. Washington Street where Hillwood Avenue merges onto it, with the full project expected to be completed by the Fall of 2018.

The merging intersection of S. Maple and S. Washington St., coming as the major Lincoln at Tinner Hill mixed use project moves toward completion, is in the design stage with community and business engagement this fall, and the project completed by the summer of 2018.

Downtown, LED street light conversions, brick sidewalks and fresh crosswalks at Park Place and N. Washington are complete, new City streetlight poles on N. Washington are installed and the power switch to new liners is pending a final OK.

A new bridge across N. Van Buren is 90 percent complete, with construction to be completed within the year.

S. West Street reconstruction is complete with new street and bike route markings, there is progress on the pending street light at E. Broad and Cherry St. and a new light at N. West and Great Falls and N. Washington and Columbia are in the works.

Five new bus shelters have been installed with benches, trash cans and maps being installed, and easements for six more shelters are nearing completion.

The Parker at Kent neighborhood traffic calming project has been completed, with signage and plantings on Pennsylvania and Maple avenues pending.

There will 16 locations in the City for bike share set ups, with federal and state funding, and Virginia Department of Transportation approval due by November, and the first installations expected by next summer. City staffer Kerri Oddenino is directing the work.

Six new crosswalks and ramps are due for completion this fall, and seven “Little City” bike racks and benches installed on W. Broad St., and roadbed reconstruction work progressing on Roosevelt, Lincoln, Walnut, Pine and Sycamore streets.

City Council member Letti Hardi commented on the noticeable impact of brighter LED lights on W. Broad St., and Mayor Tarter said he favors “holiday lighting” on W. Broad operative on a year round basis.

Storm water, telecommunications, public safety and other improvements were also included on the check-off list.

Comprehensive capital improvement progress reports will be made available to the Council on a quarterly basis going forward.