Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

prenny-fcnpDuring the nearly three-year community process to re-plan the Seven Corners/Willston area, there was a lot of discussion about the future of the Willston Multicultural Center, an old school site declared surplus by Fairfax County Public Schools in March 1981, and transferred to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in July 1983. The building was constructed in 1951 as an elementary school; its age and condition will not support renovation or rehabilitation. A Special Exception for a child care center as an alternate use was approved by the Board in 1988, to provide space for the Seven Corners Child Care Center in an adjacent building.

Last December, School Superintendent Karen Garza sent a letter to County Executive Ed Long, about the school system’s interest in using the Willston Center for a future school site. Dr. Garza’s letter followed a lengthy meeting with Mr. Long, Chairman Sharon Bulova, School Board member Sandy Evans, county staff, and me, about anticipated school capacity challenges in Mason District.

The five acre Willston site is an important part of the future redevelopment of the area. The Seven Corners Land Use and Transportation Task Force identified the site, also referenced as Sub-Unit A-3, as a location for a future East County Human Services Center. As I listened to many community discussions about the Willston site, it became clear that a multi-pronged approach to redevelopment of the site would best serve the many interests expressed. The draft language in the proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment for Seven Corners/Willston provides two options for Sub-Unit A-3: (Option A), an East County Center, or (Option B), educational, cultural, governmental, and/or human services uses. Option B is the preferred approach.

Focusing on the language in Option B, School Board member Sandy Evans and I are working on a concept that can provide a win/win/win for schools and the community when future redevelopment opportunities are planned and funded. The rough concept would have two attached buildings – a four or five story elementary school for 500 students, and a mirror image building with room for the existing child care center, perhaps two floors for the multicultural center, and other floors hosting some county human services focused on the student population. The multicultural center portion could host a computer café or “hot spot” and include some sort of food service. A playground could serve both the school and the child care center. Any redevelopment of the site would require a parking deck. The acre-and-a-half triangular asphalt parking lot between the existing building and Route 50 is part of the Seven Corners Shopping Center, so the possibility of a public/private partnership to build a parking deck there also needs to be explored over the long term.

 


 Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov.

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