At the Falls Church City Council work session tonight, there was a silver lining held out to the report of the continued dismal performance by the GEORGE bus system in F.C. and the even more dismal news that it would be costlier to pull the plug on the system than to continue the local taxpayer subsidy of it.
A suggestion was offered by Council member Dan Maller to link the plight of the bus system to an entirely different item on the Council’s agenda for the evening, the news that a way forward for the construction of The Wilden, a senior affordable housing project at 350 S. Washington St., has apparently been established.
On the matter of The Wilden, a clear path toward its hard-fought goal of realization was accomplished with the pending sale of the adjacent four-story office structure at 360 S. Washington to local developer Bob Young of Jefferson One.
Among other benefits of that development are prospects that the combined site inclusive of 350 and 360 S. Washington Street could be, under plans now being considered, large enough to include a sorely-needed downtown F.C. structured parking garage.
Maller put that notion together with the ailing GEORGE, and noted that $6 million in federal funds for an “intermodal transportation hub” for the City of Falls Church sits waiting to be put to use by the City, before it hits its expiration date and reverts back to federal coffers. Plans to deploy that money in the context of the $314 million Atlantic Realty City Center plan ran afoul of the recession and the drying up of financial backing for the City Center project.
Now, however, the federal funds could be reintroduced into the downtown development plans of Falls Church in the context of the new developments unveiled last night. The condition on the use of the federal funds is that they include an active transit component, in addition to parking. Maller suggested that GEORGE’s continued existence can provide for the City to meet the transit condition for the federal funds, and that in conjunction with GEORGE, a parking garage could be built with federal dollars at the combined 350-360 S. Washington site.
The Planning Commission met last night to mull a way of putting the federal “intermodal transportation” funds to work, but had not been appraised of Maller’s suggestion before undertaking its own discussion.