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Long Time Coming, F.C. Council OKs Affordable Housing Project

66-Unit ‘Wilden’ Wins Approval by 6-1 Margin

Bracketed by nationally historic developments on health care reform Sunday (when Congress passed it) and Tuesday (when the president signed it into law) this week, The Little City of Falls Church enacted its own historic legislation Monday night.

After a dozen years of relentless efforts led by the City-mandated non-profit Falls Church Housing Corporation (FCHC), a new affordable housing structure finally achieved final approval by a 6-1 vote of the Falls Church City Council late Monday.

The six-story, 66-unit senior affordable housing apartment building on two-thirds of an acre at 360 S. Washington St., won a hard-fought approval with only Council member Nader Baroukh dissenting on three votes taken shortly before midnight.

 

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FALLS CHURCH CITY Councilmen Dan Maller (left) and Nader Baroukh, who took opposite sides on Monday’s historic vote to approve a new senior housing project in Falls Church, were seen “burying the hatchet” during a brief recess following a brief flare-up between the two in the debate on the project. (Photo: News-Press)

The $16 million project involves a financial commitment of $2 million from the City, in the form of a loan to be fully repayed within 15 years, and otherwise is financed with federal stimulus funds and resources of the FCHC, itself.

 

It will be named for the late Bob Wilden, a tireless and passionate advocate for affordable housing all his life, who as a resident of Falls Church, challenged the community to match a large contribution of his own that became the essential seed money for the project approved Monday.

For Carol Jackson, executive director of the FCHC, Monday’s vote marked the culmination of over a decade of arduous work by the FCHC that began in the late 1990s. Looking for locations for such a project began under her predecessor at the FCHC, Cynthia Stevens, over 12 years ago.

Jackson, FCHC board chair Dr. Steve Rogers and a group of friends and admirers were grateful that the Ireland’s Four Provinces restaurant remained open last Monday so they could gather in an atmosphere of great relief and sense of accomplishment.

Now, Jackson told the News-Press in a telephone interview yesterday, the work begins to secure the complex financing for the effort, which she expects will be all buttoned up by the end of the summer. In the meantime, a site plan for the property will come to the F.C. Planning Commission at a work session April 12, and a final approval on that is expected by May 3.

Jackson said she did not expect significant issues with the site plan, given that key elements of it were already vetted with the City’s Planning Department in advance of Monday’s key vote. The Planning Department had recommended approval of the project.

Although there was only one dissenting vote Monday, battle lines for the upcoming May 3 City Council election were clearly drawn over the project. On the Council, incumbent candidates David Snyder and Hal Lippman were both strongly in favor, as was candidate Lindy Hockenberry from her position on the Planning Commission. Opponents of the project included candidates John Lawrence, chair of the Planning Commission, Ira Kaylin and Johannah Barry.

Only Ron Peppe and Barry Buschow among the eight candidates running for the four Council seats in May did not take official stands on the subject.

A key component of Monday’s vote involved the proposal by developer Bob Young to build an office building on a site adjacent to The Wilden that would include parking to meet requirements for The Wilden.

Young, who can construct the building “by right,” announced during an interview on the Falls Church News-Press Live! TV show Monday night that his new building will be named for the late Falls Church City Manager Dan McKeever.

Concerning The Wilden, Jackson said yesterday, “We are pleased with the outcome, although with the length of time and the resources used up to get to this point, there needs to be a better way. We will now work hard to make everyone proud of us in the result.”

Another new development Monday was announced by Arlington-based business owner Tom Sawner. The owner of two other buildings adjacent The Wilden, Sawner told the City Council he intends to rent 15,000 square feet in Young’s new building, that he fully supports The Wilden, and that he feels its construction would enhance the redevelopment of his two buildings at 500 and 510 S. Washington.

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