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WMATA Seeks Fairfax OK for Mixed Use Project at West Falls Church Metro

West Falls Church Metro. (Photo: Wikipedia)

A plan for dense, mixed development at its West Falls Church Metro station site adjacent the City of Falls Church has been filed with Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning by the Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA), according to a report by Katie Acieri in the Washington Business Journal this week. The article quotes Bernard Suchicital, senior land use planner for the county, who stated that the WMATA submission is for 150,000 square feet of office space, 300 multifamily residential units and 200 townhomes in the 20 acres WMATA owns at the site, which to date are being used for primarily surface parking.

The announcement is a blockbuster for the City of Falls Church, which is in the preliminary stages of developing 10 acres of its own on George Mason High School property immediately adjacent the WMATA site. Falls Church Mayor David Tarter told the News-Press today that while the City has been in touch with neighbors to the site about the potential for collaboration in development efforts, this week’s news has come as a surprise to him.

The fact that the WMATA submission includes 240,000 square feet of “institutional uses as a joint graduate and continuing education facility,” according to the Journal report, suggests that WMATA has been in serious talks with the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech Graduate Center, which is also sandwiched in that immediate area, and suggests the talks have taken place without the City’s knowledge.

Tarter noted that the West Falls Church Metro station site has been losing about $1 million a year since the Silver Line opened and has been siphoning off passenger traffic from points west on the Orange Line from where it merges with the Orange Line at the East Falls Church Metro station. A structured parking lot at the West Falls Church station has been largely vacant since the Silver Line opened, and according to the Journal report this week, WMATA’s plans there “plays into the authority’s work to monetize its real estate holdings and increase ridership.”

According to the report, the county is now processing the WMATA nomination, along with others around the county, and a community review will commence in March. Public hearings on resulting proposed comprehensive plan amendments beginning in June. Final Fairfax Board of Supervisor approval of any changes are not expected until 2019.