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F.C. Council OKs Sale of Va. Tech’s 7.41 Acres

Land the City of Falls Church leased for $1 a year in 1995 with an option to buy to Virginia Tech (and the University of Virginia at the time) will now be sold to a group headed by Rushmark developers that goes by Converge F.C. LLC as part of a larger plan to knit together that 7.41 acre site with parcels that it is sandwiched between, the 10-acre F.C.-owned West End development on the site of the now demolished former high school and the 20 acres owned by WMATA at the West Falls Church Metro station.

If all goes according to plan, the complicated deal will lead to a seamless large scale mixed use site of over 40 acres with a planned West Falls Church Station Boulevard at its center that will run from Route 7 to the rail station and should be ready for active use as one of the first completed components of the project by 2025..The Virginia Tech property sale price is $25 million with a third going to the City and two-thirds to Virginia Tech. That is a far cry from the 1995 originally negotiated option to buy the property at $2.85 million.

Back in the early 1990s, the issue was the subject of major contention, but Council members at the time, fearful that the land might be subjected to a less-favorable development, dove head first into a “deal” that leased the property at $1 a year pending an option by the universities to buy after 30 years.

MAGGIE REDDEN (seated), the City of Falls Church’s new senior communications and marketing specialist, received the City Council’s proclamation acknowledging Disability Pride Month at this Monday’s meeting. She is flanked by (l. to r.) Council members Marybeth Connelly, Caroline Lian, David Tarter, Debbie Hiscott and Phil Duncan. The proclamation states that Disability Pride Month “builds on the celebration of the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).” (News-Press photo)

When the two universities put out a “request for location” for their shared project at the time, the City of Falls Church jumped in with a bid, and was chosen from a large number of regional competitors because of its location adjacent to a Metro rail station and near the Beltway and an interstate.

Touted as a boon for the City, given the educational nature of the project and the promise the City and its adjacent high school would benefit, the Council was euphoric about being chosen and was eager to virtually give the land away (it was never reported whether the $1 a year checks to the City were ever actually received).

This happened despite the claim by David Lasso, the city manager at the time, that the undeveloped land was “possibly the most valuable piece of real estate on the entire eastern seaboard.”
It is ironic that now, with the prospective development of it and its adjacent City and WMATA owned parcels, that claim has the potential to come true.

On the Virginia Tech site now will go the international headquarters of Hitt development company, a building of 240,000 square feet, an innovative Virginia Tech National Center for Smart Construction, 440 residential apartments and ground floor retail, all on 7.5 acres.

Next to it is the plan for the dense development of the Falls Church 10 acres on the one side, and of the plans for heavy residential and other uses on the 23 acres of WMATA owned land, including the Metro station, on the other.

The sale agreement to Virginia Tech (the University of Virginia having transferred its stake to Virginia Tech six years ago to focus instead on a site off Gallows Road in Annandale) was approved by a 6-0-1 vote, David Snyder abstaining.

In another Council action Monday, a first reading was approved for tax exemptions for three properties in the Virginia Village block of four-plex buildings adjacent S. Maple Avenue which are scheduled for sale to Wesley Housing, an affordable housing operator, once the exemptions are finally approved next month. That item was approved by the Council 7-0.