Va. Tech Formally OKs Next Stage

Shown here is a rendering of the proposed developments at the West Falls Church metro station. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2023. (Photo: WMATA).

In a next step in the process of converting over 40 acres of land occupied by three important entities at the West Falls Church Metro station to a transformative mega-mixed use district, the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors at its quarterly meeting in Blacksburg Monday authorized the finalization of negotiations with the City of Falls Church that will clear the path for its next big phase of that plan.

Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields told the News-Press Tuesday that the step is a major move to bringing the integrated plan into being.

He said negotiations between Virginia Tech and the City will now proceed over the summer with a number of technical steps. It involves clarifying the disposition of the relationship between the two entities that began when the City back in 1992 agreed to lease the land to the school (and also the University of Virginia at that time) for $1 a year through 2035 so that a graduate center could be constructed and operated there, as it has been.

As the City’s 10 acres of land is cleared for a major mixed use project, including a 15-story senior housing project by Trammel Crow in its center that will be the tallest building in the City, and WMATA is advancing its planning for its acreage immediately adjacent the Metro station, the Virginia Tech component sandwiched between them is now being scheduled for repurposing as the headquarters of a new Virginia Tech “National Institute for Smart Construction.”

The land will go to that use, along with some residential units and a new headquarters for Hitt Contracting.

In a statement released from Blacksburg, Virginia Tech vice president and provost Cyril Clarke stated, “We have a long history in the City of Falls Church and we are excited about this new chapter. Virginia Tech will help create a world-class smart construction research center — and the community will benefit from a vibrant, mixed-use district that will transform the neighborhood.”

Plans for the redeveloped property include a new headquarters office building for Hitt Contracting and a Virginia Tech innovation lab dedicated to applied research and accelerating change in the built environment.

In addition to Hitt’s offices and the innovation center, the property would include further mixed-use residential and retail development, ample parking, and continued road networks, as contemplated by Falls Church, Fairfax County, and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

Central to the road network will be a boulevard that will run through the center of the three elements of the plan from Leesburg Pike to the Metro rail station that will be called Falls Church Station Boulevard.

According to Virginia Tech, “this plan provides improved neighborhood connectivity, walkability, and a vibrant setting for residents, office workers, and students, and will also include a smart mobility research test bed developed by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.”

The university’s statement cited Virginia Tech’s “vision for the greater Washington, D.C., area that focuses on the university’s growing strengths in clustered, thematic programs in artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, data analytics, business information technology, quantum computing, and other disciplines that will shape the way emerging technologies influence society.”

“It’s a strategy supported by the development of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus in Alexandria, the creation of the new National Security Institute in Arlington, the development of the Academy of Data Science, the growing stature of Virginia Tech’s MBA and MIT programs, and the Falls Church center for advances in smart building.”

At its work session Monday, the Falls Church City Council reviewed the latest plan for the Trammel Crow senior housing building on its 10-acre parcel. The 15-story building has been changed from a brick facade to a more contemporary look, and will represent, by far, the tallest building in the Little City.

There will be 212 apartments there, including 132 for independent living, 58 for assisted living and 22 for memory care, along with 7,200 square feet of ground floor retail.

Final Council approval on that component of the overall 10-acre development is slated for August, with construction due to begin in May 2023.