News

5 Impressive Design/Development Teams Reply to New High School Call

A SURPRISINGLY LARGE turnout showed up Sunday afternoon for a Falls Church town hall meeting at the Community Center that provided an update from City Manager Wyatt Shields and Superintendent Peter Noonan on the West End School and Commercial Development project. (Photo: News-Press)

As promised in the interests of maximum public transparency, only somewhat redacted versions of responses to the Falls Church City Schools’ initial request for conceptual proposals for the construction of a new George Mason High School were unveiled on the City of Falls Church website Wednesday, and the display of skills, accomplishments and professionalism of the five respondents are breaktaking.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with the quality of the companies who responded,” F.C. School Superintendent Peter Noonan told the News-Press in an interview yesterday. “These are all big companies that will do an outstanding job if given the chance. All responded appropriately with comprehensive and thorough looks at what we need.”

The task of narrowing the list from five to three by Feb. 20 now falls to an “RFP Down-Select Committee” composed of Noonan, City Manager Wyatt Shields, Planning Commission chair Russ Wodiska, Councilman Dan Sze, School Board members Justin Castillo and Erin Gill and School Board legal counsel Trish Minson.

Once this group announces who’s made the cut, a more detailed “request for proposal” is then issued on Feb. 22, and the three finalists will have about three months to hone their more detailed responses. Their submissions will be due in June and the final choice (to be made by a different group) will come in July.

Then, the chosen company will begin a year of intensive work with the City’s and Schools’ best, with ample chances for continued public input, that will prepare the ground, so to speak, for the construction project.

“It is important for the public to know that what is being proposed now by the five companies is representative of their talents and accomplishments, but do not represent any final design proposals. Those will be hammered out in the year between the final selection of our development partner and when construction begins in July 2019,” Noonan said.

The five design and construction team respondents are Clark Construction with Moseley Architects; David Smoot with Perkins Eastman; Gilbane, Stanec, Quinn Evans Architects; Grunley Construction with Samaha Associates; and, Turner Construction with Architecture Inc and Fanning Howey.

The Clark/Moseley team wrote that “we have proven our abilities to foresee and mitigate project challenges.” It was key in F.C.’s Henderson Middle School project of 2005, and stated, “As your partners in this (Mason High) project, we are ready to collaborate with Falls Church Public Schools, citizens and stakeholders on this important project that will help shape the future of the Falls Church community for generations to come.”

The Davis/Smoot and Perkins Eastman team has already been involved in the project since participating in the October 2014 Urban Land Institute on-site review of the location and its potential. They “developed and priced the options that informed the community’s approval of the bond referendum.” They’ve done two $120 million high schools in the District, Dunbar and Roosevelt Senior High Schools ,and have over 16 national awards associated with these projects alone.

The Gilbane, Stanec, Quinn with Evans Architects have 136 projects totalling $3 billion under their belts nationally, with Gilbane delivering over $220 million in educational work in this area for $630 million in recent design-build K-12 projects. With Stantec, Gilbane is ranked as the No. 1 K-12 build and No. 1 K-12 designer nationally by Building Design and Construction of 2017.

The Grunley and Samaha Associates team is currently involved in the Mt. Daniel Elementary expansion in Falls Church along with a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project for a new 51,000 square foot child development center. Over the past 15 years, Grunley modernized or constructed over 2.5 million square feet of educational, administrative and extracurricular activity spaces in 19 public schools, doing work at Herndon, Fairfax and Marshall High Schools in this area.

The Turner with Architecture Inc. and Fanning/Howey team is currently delivering the Coolidge Senior High School, a $135 million modernization in Washington, D.C. Touting their “strong values of teamwork, integrity and commitment,” their effort would be “supported by a nationwide network of 46 offices with 5,600 professionals.”

“This is all very exciting. I feel like I’ve died and gone to school heaven,” Noonan quipped at a well-attended town hall meeting on the construction effort last Saturday at the Community Center, noting that he’s jumped into this effort after becoming the local system’s superintendent barely six months ago. He noted that the commitment to transparency is the most challenging part.

(An earlier effort by the City Schools drew two bidders and resulted in a high level of secrecy because neither one wanted to reveal its plans to the other. So it was eventually ditched in favor of this more transparent approach.)

In the extended period between now and the Summer of 2019, after the final contract is let after an interim reduction of the competitors to three, issues such as the school auditorium capacity, parking and transportation, green space, tree canopies, legacy preservation, community uses, athletics and environmental sustainability will all be hammered out with major input from the community encouraged.

This side of the project is separate from the economic development component, which has its own timetable lagging the schools’ by a few months to make the synergies work better.