The Falls Church City Council is considering two ordinances that officials say could allow a $2.5 million office project off North Washington Street.
The ordinances would authorize the closing of a half-block section of East Great Falls Street and the sale of a portion of the city-owned Madison School site to the political consulting firm of Craver, Matthews, Smith & Co.
The Falls Church-based firm owns two 19th-century buildings on Washington Street on either side of East Great Falls Street, and it wants to purchase a 24,000-square-foot section of the adjacent school site and a 240-foot-long section of the street to expand its operations.
The firm also has submitted a site plan to the city's planning department to build a third three-story Victorian-style office building behind one of its two existing facilities, construct about 100 parking spaces at the site and landscape the area around the three buildings.
The firm has agreed that if the street is closed and land sale approved, it will pay the city $388,075 for land and allow the public to use the landscaped area around the three buildings. Residents also could use the parking area on weekends.
At a council meeting Monday night, about 10 city residents spoke on the proposal to vacate the half-block section of East Great Falls Street. More than half supported closing the street for the Craver development.
"I think we should strive to keep this business in Falls Church," said Mary Ann Pulsifer, who lives on Lawton Street. "I do not easily support the closing of streets . . . but the potential for the wrong type of development is serious and substantial."
"This is a good proposal," said Virginia Sherbina, another resident of nearby Lawton Street. "Ideally, many of us would like no change, but there will be change and I for one would prefer to see good change."
Other speakers said they were against closing East Great Falls Street. "I do not approve of what is being proposed," said Joseph Pelletier. "I object to the closing of a right of way for commercial development."
Falls Church planning director Henry Bibber said it has been at least five years since the city has closed a street.
"Each segment of street has a certain constituency," he said. "The more people who use the street, the more difficult it is to vacate a street."
Bibber said, however, that closing a section of the one-block East Great Falls Street would have "relatively little effect on people who live in the city."
The city's planning commission will make a recommendation on the proposed street closing and land sale at its meeting Monday, while the City Council will take final action on the matter July 28.
The planning commission will take its first look at the site plan in August.
Some City Council members Monday gave tentative support to the project. "I think what we have before us is a very, very creative proposal," said council member J. Roger Wollenberg.