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Tom Sawner, Central Figure in Senior Housing Project, Dies

827edoptionsFalls Church business and commercial property owner Tom Sawner, a central figure in negotiating for the recent approval of the Wilden Senior Affordable Housing Project in the City, died suddenly in his home at age 56 last Sunday.

Falls Church business and commercial property owner Tom Sawner, a central figure in negotiating for the recent approval of the Wilden Senior Affordable Housing Project in the City, died suddenly in his home at age 56 last Sunday.

News spread slowly of the development. When it was mentioned at a meeting of the Falls Church Planning Commission Monday night, members gasped and were in bewilderment. Sawner was expected to play an on-going vital role in working out the site plan and other details of the land sale and development of the commercial building complex at 350-360-370 S. Washington St., including 500 and 510 Annandale Road..

Sawner owned the 360 building and went around and around for a couple years of negotiations with the Falls Church Housing Corporation in the effort to secure a new senior housing building next door. In its latest iteration, Sawner signed a non-binding letter of intent to sell his building to developer Bob Young, who would replace it with a new office building that would have sufficient parking to fulfill the parking requirements for the Wilden Apartments.

That remains the plan, although how matters will move forward in Sawner’s absence is not now clear.

Sawner went back and forth as a friend and foe of the project, but was pulled in as a strong supporter, speaking in its favor at recent Falls Church City Council meetings based on his latest negotiations with Young.

827edoptions

Tom Sawner.

When on involved in commercial land negotiations in Falls Church, Sawner functioned as the CEO of his Arlington-based business, Educational Options (EdOptions), an accredited, Web-based provider of high school and adult education curriculum and the parent company of the Blue Ridge International Academy, one of the nation’s first fully accredited online high schools.

In 2006, EdOptions was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s national “Small Business of the Year. In 2009, Sawner acquired another online educational entity, the Siboney Learning Group. When paired with EdOptions, it created a single-source award-winning educational software curriculum solution for the entire pre-K-12 and basic adult education markets.

Sawner and his wife, the Hon. Bettina S. Callaway, established two not-for-profit foundations providing more than $800,000 in matching scholarships, training and support services, and supporting educational activities focused on educational grants and charter schools.

Sawner was born in Savannah, Tennessee in 1954, graduating from the United States Air Force Academy in 1976, and later receiving a doctorate from George Washington University. He retired after 20 years of military service in 1999.

In addition to his wife, Sawner is survived by children Ann and TJ and their mother, Cynthia Terriberry, his parents Tom and Doris Sawner, brother Jeff, sisters Jan Robertson and Elizabeth Kowalski, stepdaughter Tamara Press and her husband Jeremy Preiss and their two children, Madeleine and Ben.

A memorial service will be held Monday, July 26, at 11 a.m. at Clarendon United Methodist Church in Arlington.

Sawner was “a brilliant businessman who would have been a major part of the business scene in Falls Church,” said the F.C. Housing Corporation’s Carol Jackson. “He would have been a great benefit to the community. He was just the kind of person the City was hoping would come to Falls Church for its business future.”

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