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66 Signatures Set West F.C. 10 Acres In Motion

City of Falls Church officials who participated in the lease signing for the 10 acres at the City’s west end were (left to right), City Manager Wyatt Shields, City Attorney Carol McCoskrie, and Chair of the Economic Development Authority Bob Young. (Courtesy Photo).

In a complex signing event at the Falls Church City Hall last Friday, the long-awaited 99-year lease on the 10 acres of land at the City’s west end between the City, the City’s Economic Development Authority and the West Falls Partners group of EYA, Regency and Hoffman Associates was completed. Over 66 documents were signed in the morning-long event at the F.C. City Hall.


City Manager Wyatt Shields, City Attorney Carol McKoskrey and F.C. Economic Development Authority (EDA) chief Bob Young wore out their signing hands and maybe a pen or two in the culmination of a decades-long process such that construction on the site is now due to commence.


In recognition of that, a formal groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for today (Thursday, May 19). It marks one of the biggest days among many in the City of Falls Church’s history. It not only signals the start of construction of multiple mixed-use components on the land, but it also the start of what will expand beyond those 10 acres to include adjacent land now occupied by Virginia Tech and WMATA at the West Falls Church Metro station site, a combined total of over 40 acres all being planned for extensive development.


It is noted that, put together, the new developed area will be bigger and more consequential than the Mosaic project in Merrifield. Construction of a boulevard through the center of all three parcels connecting Route 7 to the West Falls Church Metro station is expected to begin soon. It will be known as the West Falls Station Boulevard.”


The signings last week insure, among other things, that the funding will be there to pay for Falls Church’s new $120 million Meridian High School campus at no cost to City taxpayers.


It brings the combined projects, and the City of Falls Church, into the middle of the wider Northern Virginia tech and higher education boom led by the decision of Amazon to locate its second national headquarters (HQ2) just down the road. That move played a big part in last week’s announcement by Boeing that it will move its headquarters from Chicago to this immediate area, and a lot more.


Now, according to a market impact study published last month, the area has a whopping eight million square feet of new office space in the pipeline, with an anticipated 9,000 new jobs, all over and above Amazon’s plans.


In response to last Friday’s signing and today’s groundbreaking, the F.C. City Hall issued a statement saying that “10 years of thoughtful, deliberate planning, negotiations, and community input led to the signing of the 99 year ground lease for the West Falls project. The payments – in large amounts in two phases, then in smaller amounts for 99 years — will finance the completed high school project.”


F.C. developer Bob Young, chair of the EDA who was in on all the signings last week, also issued a statement.


He wrote, “On behalf of the City Council and the Economic Development Authority, this past Friday morning I was extraordinarily pleased to sign my name 66 times to the documents needed to implement the West End Project.


“This is truly a monumental event for our Little City, and when linked with the prospective development of the adjacent Virginia Tech and Metro sites, will have an enormously beneficial effect on our community for years to come. Among other things, for example, the Project will generate a large scale expansion of places to go and things to do, prompt a significant increase in affordable housing units, and spur a major decrease over time in the tax rate.


“In celebrating this milestone achievement, I think it is important to likewise acknowledge the extraordinary contributions on the part of many, many people over the years of effort it took to bring it about. While it’s not possible to name them all, they were an integral part of literally hundreds of public meetings that included virtually all of our Boards and Commissions, the City Council, and scores of community members. Among these many meetings, the visioning session held by the Urban Land Institute, at the urging of the City’s Community Planning and Economic Development Director, Jim Snyder, needs to be singled out. At this key event, participants laid out the collective vision for how the 10 acre property might be developed, which is about to become a reality.


“In addition, great credit should go to City Manager, Wyatt Shields and City Attorney, Carol McCoskrie, and their staffs for their dedicated and tireless efforts over the last two years to help make this all happen. Likewise, I want to acknowledge the role played by Falls Church News Press Owner/Publisher Nick Benton, who for more than 30 years has advocated for sensible commercial development in the City and, most recently, for this Project in particular.


“In closing, let me again express my thanks to everyone mentioned above and the hundreds of others who volunteered their time and effort to bring the West End Project to this important point.”