WMATA Files for West F.C. Mega-Plan

Another monster step has been taken to advance the prospects for one of the wider region’s biggest and most comprehensive mixed use development districts inclusive of the City of Falls Church’s 10 acre west end development, the adjacent Virginia Tech site and 23 acres around the West Falls Church Metro station.

A formal rezoning application by the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA), owner of the Metro station land, was filed last month after earlier comprehensive plan amendments and other steps were OK’d last year.
Unlike other mega-projects like the Mosaic in Merrifield, this project promises to not only be bigger, but will be directly integrated into the regional Metrorail system to make it a huge player in the blossoming urbanization of the wider D.C. Metro area.

Falls Church’s Andrew Painter of the law firm of Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley and Walsh, a leading board member of the F.C. Chamber of Commerce, functioning as a spokesman for the visionary project, told the News-Press in an exclusive interview last week that the combined district will be, when developed, a humongous 60-acre urban neighborhood centered around its Metrorail transit capabilities.

The WMATA property’s development teams of EYA, Hoffman and Associates and Rushmark Properties are the same involved in the development of the dense 10-acre West Falls project now being built atop the leveled former George Mason High School in the City of F.C., and in the planning for the development and integration of the Virginia Tech site sandwiched between the WMATA and West Falls sites.

The 60-acre assembled lands will be integrated by a “commons road” that will run the length of sites from Route 7 west of Haycock Road, through the center of the West Falls site, and onward through the Virginia Tech and WMATA sites to the West Falls Church Metrorail station. That road will provide a direct access to the Metro station with various feeder elements to transform the public’s accessibility of the station, greatly alleviating disparate alternatives that would have otherwise have built up congestion in the region.

It will completely revitalize the Metro station there, as well, whose rideship has shrunk dramatically by 64 percent since the 2014 opening of the Silver Line.

“The property comprises five parcels of record, containing approximately 24 acres in the aggregate, and is located in the Dranesville Magisterial District. In addition to the Metrorail station, the property consists of a transit bus loop, a six-level approximate 1,200 space parking garage, a surface commuter parking lot, two access roads and a stormwater management pond. The entirety of the property is located within a quarter-mile radius of the Metro station.

“The Metrorail station has provided transit service to the greater Falls Church area since opening in 1986. Following the 2014 completion of Phase 1 of the Metrorail Silver Line, rail and bus ridership atr the Metrorail station declined by approximately 64 percent. Concurrent with this ridership decline, the City began moving forward with redevelopment of the former George Mason High School into an approximately 10 acre high-density mixed-use neighborhood known as the West Falls development site. The City also began construction of its new Meridian High School. At the same time, Virginia Tech expressed interest in redeveloping its Northern Virginia Center into a mixed use development. These factors encouraged WMATA to consider redevelopment of its property in a way tha would link the property, the West Falls site and the Virginia Tech site into one larger mixed-use community to help drive transit ridership,” the application stated.

The land use recommendations seek to transform the properties into a high-density, pedestrian oriented, transit oriented community in a way that is Metrorail-oriented and compatible with surrounding neighborhoods, it stated.
The WMATA land would include up to 810 multifamily units and up to 90 townhomes and an office building comprising a maximum of 110,000 square feet of office floor area, including up to 10,000 square feet of ground floor retail with a resultant density of 0.96 floor-to-area ratio.

The report adds that “housing affordability has figured prominently into the proposed design, and the provision of affordable and workforce housing is a critical strategy in addressing regional affordability issues, providing 15 percent of for-sale units as affordable and 10 percent of the rental units as workforce dwelling units.

As a “catalyst” the project “will encourage consumers and visitors to patronize commercial uses on and in the vicinity of the property, adding “vitality to the area’s economy, as new residents will drive demand for retail and locally-serving office uses, which will have a very positive fiscal impact.”

Publicly-accessible open spaces and experiential community gathering areas are proposed that include an urban park and green, a transit plaza, a dog park and play space, and a “nature play space.”

Comprising 2.1 acres in aggregate, they “will meet the total urban parkland goal for the property and create a public realm centered on the collection of public spaces and their connectedness, offering the ability for pedestrians to pause, socialize, interact with one another, and increase urban vitality.”