Evan Goldman, spokesman for EYA, principal developer with Hoffman and Regency of Falls Church’s West End Economic Development project, told a joint work session of the F.C. City Council, Planning Commission and Economic Development Authority Tuesday night that plans advancing on that project are being done in the context of growing collaborative planning with two other major adjacent property owners, Virginia Tech and the Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA). He said it is being done with an eye to a seamless development of more than 40 acres combined that will become an integrated “one big neighborhood” running from the West Falls Church Metro station over to Route 7.
He noted that WMATA has just given the development duty for its land adjacent the Metro station to the same Rushmark and Hoffman teams that have hands in the Virginia Tech (Rushmark) and F.C. West End (Hoffman) projects.
Goldman also reported that his firm has already held numerous “productive” meetings with representatives of Federal Realty, owners of another adjacent site, the West Falls Shopping Center (two blocks of strip malls including the Giant and Staples) adjacent the City’s 10.3 acre site. Another candidate for collaborative development is the Beyer Automotive property of more than 20 acres whose assemblage was recently completed across Route 7.
The West End team led by Goldman also presented its progress toward submitting a detailed site plan, due in January, to the F.C. School Board Tuesday and was scheduled to present it at a public forum for anyone wishing to attend at the F.C. Community Center last night. This morning, the same presentation was due to be presented to a meeting of NAIOP, a regional real estate developer organization, at the Fairview Marriott, with Goldman, Shawn Seaman of Hoffman, Rafael Muniz of Regency along with Falls Church’s City Manager Wyatt Shields and Director of Economic Development Services James Snyder.
Much of the extensive update presentation Tuesday night dwelled on plans for the 1.9 acre “commons” area in the center of the West End project, which has been broken into five spaces: a “front door” area adjacent Route 7; a food and beverage area; a park area in the center; another food and beverage area; and then an adult play area.
But most significant is the news Goldman presented that the commons, with the roads in both directions headed from Route 7 in the direction of the West Falls Church Metro station, will hopefully be connected to an extension on the Virginia Tech and Metro properties leading directly to the Metro station, and that, in the real blockbuster, the full length of this “yellow brick road” will be completed by the time the West End Project is fully completed, even as the full development of the Tech and WMATA properties will not yet be fully developed.
The new EYA, Hoffman, Regency plans for the West End Project include a better face to the Federal Realty property across Haycock Road, with a new welcoming access across Haycock including a stairway, elevators and drive through options to lift the public from Haycock by 26 feet up to the projects’ Commons.
Aspects of the architecture of the office, residential, condominium, hotel and “micro unit” buildings on the site were described as “warehouse model” with “factory-style” windows, with the exception of an ultra-modern designed micro unit building.
The developers plan to submit their final site plan in January, leading to a six-to-nine month process for a final OK. If all proceeds according to plan, it will be all approved and set to go for the December 2020 completion of the new George Mason High School and subsequent demolition of the existing high school buildings, clearing the land for West End project to commence in January 2021.
Meanwhile, the Virginia Tech and WMATA properties will be lagging somewhat but moving expeditiously toward a hopefully integrated 40 acres, with prospects for the Federal Realty and Beyer properties potentially folded in, as well.
Comments from Council members stressed the need for the West End project to avoid the mistake of the recently-constructed Mosaic in Merrifield that creates a fortress sense, focusing inward and with something less than a welcoming facade to the surrounding neighborhood.
Goldman said he was sensitive to the concern, thus the effort to present a welcoming face across Haycock Road, including a major entrance to the planned new grocery store right on the Route 7 and Haycock corner facing outward to that intersection.