City Officials Pan Hotel Design, Mull Future of Child Development Center
By GEORGE BROMLEY
Falls Church Times Staff
May 17, 2011
Planning commissioners and City Council members were not impressed with the latest design for the proposed Hilton Garden Inn (706 W. Broad St.), which was presented at last night’s joint work session.
Officials felt more brickwork was needed and that the overall design inappropriate for a city as old as Falls Church. ”I don’t think you could have built this down in Fredericksburg,” said a disappointed Lindy Hockenberry.
Commission chair Melissa Teates called the facade ”unacceptable, especially on Broad Street.” ”I’m not happy with the [building's] sides but can live with it; the front has to look different,” she said. “I don’t think it meets our design guidelines.” Mayor Nader Baroukh concurred, stating that he thought the design needed a significant amount of work.
As now proposed, the hotel will offer 110 rooms and 121 parking spaces. It is expected to generate $540,000 in tax revenue. A two story office building on Park Avenue, which was not part of the original 2008 proposal, has been dropped.
City Manager Wyatt Shields said he hoped the project will be submitted for first reading on June 13. If a special exception amendment and rezoning are approved by the Council, the project would be referred to boards and commissions for review and returned for second reading on July 25.
The Council and the Planning Commission also reviewed a request by owners of first floor space at The Byron (513 W. Broad St.) to allow professional and office use for space designated for retail. The area involved is on the far right side of the structure and has never been occupied since the building opened in 2006.
Retailers have considered the space unattractive because it is far removed from the building’s non-resident parking spaces and has a narrow front. The parking problem cannot be corrected as residents have assigned spaces, while the commercial and retail spaces are shared.
The mayor asked the applicant’s attorney to furnish information on the efforts to market the space and whether the owner would consider joining it with the adjacent space, previously occupied by Verizon. Mr. Shields said that the matter may be ready for Council action next Monday, assuming a prompt response to the mayor’s request.
The joint work session concluded with a discussion of a homeowner’s request that the City vacate 1,638 square feet of unimproved space at the end of Park Place near the State Theater. Mr. Shields recommended the Council approve the vacation, however Mr. Baroukh expressed some reservations, given that the City might build a parking facility near the location. Planning Director Jim Snyder said that his staff would review the matter.
CDC Future - The Council then was briefed on the status of the Child Development Center (201 S. Cherry St.). The building, which was built by private funds, has been leased to Easter Seals for nearly 50 years. The current 25 year, dollar-a-year lease is expiring in November, but the leasee would prefer an extension until at least the summer of 2013 so it could secure another facility. Easter Seals would be willing to pay $50,000 annually for the space.
City Schools have asked to assume control of the property in July 2012 in order to house the preschool education programs currently located at Mt. Daniel. This option also would free space to permit the relocation of the Falls Church Community Center preschool program. Other options include leasing the facility to another day care provider or another commercial user, selling the property for residentinal use, or converting the space to City government offices.
School Superintendent Lois Berlin told the Council that waiting an additional year to acquire the property would result in “underserving” of students. Pre schoolers now are receiving three hours of classes instead of the more desirable five. She said that two trailers at Mt. Daniel are used for half day pre school, but that an additional class was needed due to the increase in special needs students.
Vice Mayor Dave Snyder called for more analysis of the options, including possibly combining government and school use. “A dollar a year is history” he said, stressing the need to obtain the maximum value of the property for taxpayers.
Mayor Baroukh asked Mr. Shields for an updated staff report on the issue, ideally by next Monday. School Board member Kieran Sharpe advised that the Board also would discuss the question at Tuesday’s meeting and submit input.
TJ Renovation Status - Mr. Sharpe and Dr. Berlin advised the Council that there will be a public forum on the renovation at the school on May 26 at 7:00 pm. Ceremonial groundbreaking will be held on June 13 at 9:30 am. The School’s Architecture Selection Advisory Committee will begin to review the RFP and design.
3rd Quarter Financial Report - CFO Richard La Condre reported that the City revenues were at or higher than budgeted and that expenditures are running at or close to budget. He advised that the projected fund balance would be $4.9 million at the end of the fiscal year, an increase of a little over $900,000.
Economic Development Incentive Policies - A draft resolution has been prepared for referral to City boards and commissions for comments. Final Council action will occur in June.
Closed Session - The work session concluded shortly before 10:00 pm. The members then withdrew for another conference on the water refunds case.
Video of the public meeting is available at the City website.
By George Bromley
May 17, 2011