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Council Mulls Final Edits to RFP for West End Development Plan

In another step to enhance the public transparency of the City of Falls Church and the City Schools’ efforts to build a new high school and commercially develop 10 acres of land at the west end of the City, another public town hall will be held this Sunday at the Community Center at 2 p.m. An update will be provided and questions and comments will be entertained.

At this Tuesday’s F.C. City Council work session, another wide-open conversation about the content of the City’s “request for conceptual proposals” (RFP) due to go out to the commercial development community was held to hone the 22-page document prior to its official release on March 1.

As the document is modified by Council suggestions, one new feature unveiled this week was a short “executive summary” at its opening which states, in part, that the City “is seeking a development partner for a premier 10.38 acre site adjacent to the West Falls Church Metrorail Station, I-66 and Leesburg Pike/Route 7. The site is envisioned as a vibrant mixed-use development that incorporates compelling commercial components, delivers significant economic value, and creates an exciting sense of place.”

The biggest issue Tuesday was the extent to which the RFP might be “too prescriptive” in its parameters, that it might deter a maximum participation from prospective developers.

A minor dust-up occured when Council members David Snyder and Dan Sze squared off briefly after Snyder remarked that “we need to earn a lot of money from this site, we need to encourage more height, a higher FAR [“floor to area ratio” –ed.], to generate a huge financial contribution from this site, and thus the RFP “should not be loaded up too much” in the way of demands such that it may “inadvertently drive off” prospects.

Sze challenged the concept, noting that environmental sustainability goals contained in the RFP raise the bar for developers who will be eager to meet such higher standards.

Council member Letty Hardi chimed in, “We all want to maximize the value of this site, but we also want to keep it clean and elegant.” As a substitute for “elegant,” Sze musingly suggested the word, “lyrical.”

Mayor David Tarter warned, “We should not be too prescriptive at first.” He also suggested that a hotel should be put at the top of the list of desired possible uses of the site, since one would by far generate the highest net revenue to the City.

Councilman Ross Litkenhous said he’d like to have the word “trophy” included and underscored the value of sustainability and resiliency components, and “would be happy to see it rise to a LEED Gold standard.”

Many on the Council were present for a expert panel presentation hosted by the City’s Environmental Sustainability Council last week where the value of features like open space, flexibility and affordable housing were shared.

A meeting of the Campus Coordinating Committee will be held this Friday at 7:30 a.m. to digest the latest proposed edits to the RFP.