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‘West End Gateway Partners’ Issue Bid on Virginia Tech Site

EYA’S MASTER Director in charge of its West Falls Church Economic Development Project Evan Goldman (far right) made three presentations in three nights this week to different Falls Church groups, including a public town hall meeting, the Planning Commission and the School Board. (Photo: News-Press)

The team that won the bid for development of the City of Falls Church’s 10.3-acre sub-section of its high school/middle school campus designated for dense economic development continues to move aggressively to educate Falls Church citizens on its plans. The group is also working to advance prospects for extending the development area to subsume the adjacent Virginia Tech and WMATA properties, as well.

Composed of EYA, PN Hoffman, Regency and Torti Gallas, the team has adopted the name, Falls Church Gateway Partners, and its principal spokesman, Evan Goldman of EYA, and others were present for in-depth briefings on three successive days in Falls Church last Sunday (at a public town hall meeting), Monday (at the Planning Commission meeting) and Tuesday (at the School Board meeting) to spell out their preliminary plans.

At the same time, the team is moving on developing opportunities to bid on the adjacent 7.4-acre Virginia Tech site, and on the other side of that, the 22-acre WMATA site at the West Falls Church Metro station.

Goldman has made it clear that the group wants to build a project that will integrate all three sites into a mega-development bigger than the Mosaic District in Merrifield and potentially far superior based, if nothing else, on its immediate access to the Metro.

From the standpoint of Falls Church, the integration of the sites, and their dominant uses, could explode the relevance of the area to the greater Washington D.C. Metro region and make it a preferred destination for commerce, jobs, educational opportunities and quality of life.

Responding to a preliminary site development request from Virginia Tech in October, the same team of players, adopted the name of “Discovery — West Falls Church” for purposes of its submission with the addition of academic development partners, Clark Construction and Edgemoor Real Estate.
Their vision is for a seamless extension of their Falls Church project, connected by the broad boulevard designed to go south-to-north through the middle of the Falls Church 10.3 acres, and, if the WMATA site can also be joined, up to the West Falls Church Metro station, a highly aesthetic, commercially-dense link connecting West Broad Street/Leesburg Pike to that Metro station.

On the Virginia Tech portion, in the terms submitted by the team, the proposal is for “a new state-of-the-art Virginia Tech campus that becomes the center of life for the university in the national capital region” inclusive of up to three new academic buildings totaling between 300,000 and 370,000 square feet, a student housing building with 530 beds as well as 23 townhomes for faculty housing, a one-acre “Tech Quad” and a public-facing park surrounded by 44,000 square feet of retail.

The hub of the new campus will be a 60,000-square foot Discovery Center that encompasses laboratories for research, incubator space, focus groups, conference space and a fitness center, all surrounded by an interactive commons that will be a draw for students, faculty, industry and the more than 35,000 Virginia Tech alumni living in the National Capital region.

The submission also included the identification of “a major leader in the technology industry who is interested in meeting with the leadership of Virginia Tech to discuss collaboration on four of Tech’s Identified Focus Areas — adaptive brain and behavior, creativity and innovation, data and decisions and policy,” noting that “With this lead partner on board, Virginia Tech will be able to develop the Discovery Center as the heart of the new Falls Church campus and attract additional partners to make the center thrive.”

F.C. PLANNING COMMISSIONERS Melissa Teates, Andy Rankin and Russ Wodiska await completion of a report by Planning Department Chief Paul Stoddard at Monday’s meeting. (Photo: News-Press)

In the cover letter for this submission signed by Goldman, Shawn Seaman of PN Hoffman and Rafael Muniz of Regency Centers, said that “While the team is proud of our accomplishments as developers, construction executives, designers, architects, planners, place-makers, operators and innovators, we are not educators,” but added, “The missions of the team’s partners are very consistent with Virginia Tech. We all focus on doing what is right and connecting to our communities. Many of us view our jobs as a mission to do good in the world, bringing positive change and to serve and enhance our communities.”

It noted that Virginia Tech’s motto, “Ut Prosim” (“That I May Serve”), “exemplifies the professionals you will work with.”

The submission is one of two that were made to Virginia Tech, the other by the Rushmark team that came in second in the City’s West Falls Church bidding.

Goldman has made it clear that whoever wins the bid for the Virginia Tech site, his team will work closely to integrate the two sites, and also integrate with WMATA, whose board was due to act this week on whether or not to circulate a “request for qualifications” for the development of its site in January.