Around F.C., News

Va. Tech Piece of West Falls Plan OK’d

A week after approving the requested modifications in plans for the mixed use development of WMATA’s land at its West Falls Church Metro station, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors this Tuesday granted unanimous approval of plans for the spectacular development of the Virginia Tech 7.53-acre site sandwiched between the WMATA site and the 10 acres adjacent the new Meridian High School now under full bore construction in the City of Falls Church.

The latest approval sews together three sites into what will emerge as over 40 acres of highly innovative, cutting edge architectural, technological and culturally-centered development, promising to be the most spectacular in the region, eventually eclipsing Merrifield’s new Mosaic district.

Fairfax Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay said “there are a lot of moving pieces to this complicated but high quality project that will be a great addition to the region.”

Supervisor John Foust, in whose district all but the City of Falls Church’s portion of the three-part project sits, said that one of the two buildings on the Virginia Tech parcel will be “one of the most attractive in Virginia” with its 100,000 square foot solar array propped above the largely glass-enclosed building that will house Virginia Tech’s Coalition for Smart Construction with a robotics lab and HITT Construction’s international headquarters.

It will be situated right on the new Mustang Way access road that many students at Falls Church’s new Meridian High School will walk along, being able to look inside the structure while on their way.

The approval Tuesday culminated five years of planning and effort to put the overall plan together. The chief spokesman for the project, called “Converge West Falls,” that has come before the Supervisors has been Falls Church resident and local F.C. Chamber of Commerce activist Andrew Painter of the Arlington law firm of Walsh Colluci Lubeley and Walsh.

Painter described the principal building on the site as characterized by its “defining architecture” on six floors below the solar array up at 118 feet providing 1.1 to 1.4 megabytes of electricity. Supervisor Penny Gross commented that she found it “almost otherworldly,” and Foust called it “the most attractive in the entire region” that will be “iconic, a statement in itself about the importance of sustainability.”

“This represents a bold vision, a cutting edge of construction innovation and sustainability,” Foust said. “This is fabulous.” 

The second building on the site will rise to 145 feet and provide 440 residential units with 18,000 square feet of retail on the first floor.

A last minute proffer from HITT offered $500,000 for improvement of the intersection at Haycock and Mustang Way. Running between the two buildings on the site will be the West Falls Station Boulevard, the unifying element of the three properties that will run seamlessly through their center from Route 7 to the West Falls Church Metro station. Along it will be two pocket parks and a unifying “innovation civic plaza” with a moveable “cloud pavilion.”

Painter said, “This is much more than a redevelopment, it is a partnership of many critical elements coming together to make the entire area work.” 

“This is absolutely a first class project,” Foust added. There were nine citizens who spoke about it Tuesday and another 13 who spoke at the earlier Planning Commission meeting where it was also approved unanimously. Some nearby residents objected to what they claimed were violations of the county master plan, but Foust and others said they disagreed with that assessment.