Consultants Tell F.C. Campus’ Commercial Land Worth $43.5M

Ted Rich of the Alvarez and Marsal consulting firm presented an initial campus project commercial use valuation report at City Hall last week. (Photo: News-Press)

The consulting firm of Alvarez and Marsal told the Falls Church high school property economic development working group last Friday that the value of the 10 acres of the 36 acre site identified for commercial use is roughly $43.5 million, slightly more than City officials expected, and that the City could capture the entirety of the funds by the end of 2022. The City is planning on using the money to offset the cost of a new high school, which could top $120 million and will be subject to voter approval of a school bond referendum in November.

The assumptions of the consultants’ report, which was a 10-day exercise and awaits some further refinements, include the adoption of a four-year old Urban Land Institute team’s overnight, back of the envelope recommendation for the land development that designated land off the intersection of Route 7 and Haycock Road as the best area for commercial use. It also did not include any consideration of what surrounding property owners may or may not wish to do themselves or contribute to the plan.

The consultants’ assumptions also included a heavy underground parking component and major multi-family, condominium, senior restricted and affordable housing components.

The initial report will be refined and Alvarez and Marsal will then take the lead in finding a buyer or leaser later this year.

The estimated value is roughly $5 million an acre and is based on an assumed floor-to-area (FAR) ratio of 3. But that, like the precise location, does not represent a restriction. Provisions exist in their plan for paying premium costs for FARs above 3.

“The market will figure this out within your constraints,” said consultant presenter Ted Rich to the working group Friday morning.

Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields told the group that often a discussion of land valuation of this kind is held in closed session, but that it was determined it would be wiser to keep it open so the Falls Church public is aware of all the factors going into the cost of a new high school when public approval for a bond referendum will be required in November.

News-Press sources indicate that the approach is a good one but that the main impediment to the City’s getting the best deal is a residual reputation the City has that it is too picky and that translates into too pricey for developers to take the chance on winning a bid. They also worry that the City will want to underpark the site.

Except for Falls Church Planning Director Jim Snyder’s mention of potential collaboration with surrounding properties, like the Metro land, there was no mention of advocating reaching out to neighbors to expand the scope of a potential development.