The Falls Church Housing Corporation, which provides affordable housing opportunities, currently awaits a formal staff review of its project at 350 South Washington Street, where it plans to demolish its recently purchased office building and a neighboring office building, and replace them with a seven-story, 'affordable' apartment building. The non-profit is preparing for their meeting with Falls Church City Council on May 12, officially beginning the public review process, in which organizations like the Architectural Advisory Board, the Planning Commission, and Zoning can have their say. FCHC hopes to get a final approval from the Council by the end of June so the arduous financing process can begin, all to begin construction by summer of 2009.
The properties to be redeveloped are owned by FCHC and Homestretch Inc., working together to bring down their separate office buildings and provide affordable housing. Homestretch, like FCHC, is an non-profit organization that serves lower-income families. But while FCHC is an affordable housing provider, Homestretch serves the community by renting transitional housing and offering services to families that are at risk of homelessness. The duo will work with Atlantic Realty Companies, the master developer, and the City of Falls Church. Virginia-based architect Butz Wilbern is designing the new building.
Homestretch acquired their building roughly six years ago, and rents out some of their building to local businesses, using the remainder for administrative functions. FCHC just purchased their building in February, with the goal of redeveloping it, and now leases two-thirds of the space. Carol Jackson, Executive Director at FCHC, pointed out that the firm has no interest in being a commercial property owner: "If we get turned down any step of the way [in the development process], we will be selling the building." Both firms use their respective commercial leases to subsidize the outstanding mortgages.
The two 1970's office buildings currently on the site will be cleared away to make room for a mixed-use 150,000-s.f. building which will hold office space for both firms on the ground floor, and offer 172 rental units for families earning 60% of the Area Median Income, or about $40,000. According to their November '07 pitch to the City government, the project will serve to restock the affordable housing supply in Falls Church, which has recently been depleted. "By the City’s own estimate, Falls Church: lost nearly 200 affordable rental units between 2001 and 2006; [has] a shortage of 262 affordable housing units in 2007 – not including 650 additional units that may still be lost through conversion or redevelopment; [and] suffered a 60 percent loss since 2001 in the number of for-sale units affordable to households earning less than 120%."
FCHC has referred to the development as turning "an isolated area of obsolete office buildings into well-located, quality affordable housing for a vital local workforce...who will otherwise be unable to remain in Falls Church." Said Jackson, "Like many of the older 'inner ring' suburbs, Falls Church is transitioning into an expensive, newly urban environment where property values have left behind 75% of the local workforce who are unable to live in the city where they work and contribute to the balanced economy Falls Church desires to foster."