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FairfaxVienna officials ponder future of annex space

Vienna officials ponder future of annex space

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The Vienna Town Council later this summer plans to hire a consultant to help determine how its annex building at 130 Center St., S., should be used both in the near and distant future.

Consensus eluded the Council at its June 13 work session, with some members taking a wait-and-see approach and one advocating for making public use of the property as soon as possible.

The Council in August 2020 bought the former Faith Baptist Church property for $5.5 million. The church building now is housing the Vienna Police Department temporarily during construction of a new police station, which should be finished later this year.

Town parks-and-recreation officials on March 28 shared a building-code-requirements study by Whitman, Requardt & Associates, which showed the town would have difficulty obtaining an occupancy permit to hold activities at the 1950s-era annex.

Bringing the building up to code would cost about $500,000 and improving its programming and meeting spaces would run an additional $225,000. To install an elevator to make use of the building’s second floor would run a further $200,000, for a total of $925,000, said Vienna Parks and Recreation Director Leslie Herman.

Council at the March 28 work session said those renovation-investment costs were too high for short-term use of the annex and that a permanent use of the site had not been determined.

In order to decide on the site’s long-term use, which then would dictate what happens there in the near term, town staff recommended having a professional consultant conduct a land-feasibility and community-needs assessment.

Town staff hope the study, which would cost an estimated $50,000 to $75,000 in capital-improvement funds, could begin early this fall and be finished by next spring.

If the Council then determined the annex’s long-term, that vision likely could be realized in 10 to 15 years when more funds become available.

Council after that determination could give staff direction on the site’s short-term use and the town then would renovate the building, possibly opening it to the public with recreational programming as early as 2024, Herman said.

Council member Howard Springsteen opposed installing an elevator at the building, but said its gym (at a likely renovation cost of $1 million) could help relieve the shortage of such facilities in town. The former church’s sanctuary is in good condition and might be worth renting out to community groups, he said.

A basic fix-’er-up renovation covering just essential repairs likely would cost $500,000 to $600,000, he added.

“Let’s get it fixed and start using it,” Springsteen said.

The Parks and Recreation Department’s summer camps have a long waiting list and the annex, if renovated over the next nine to 12 months to qualify for an occupancy permit, might be able to accommodate some of them next summer, Herman said.

The annex next year likely will incur at least $46,000 in utility costs and $60,000 to $70,000 for staffing expenses, said Finance Director Marion Serfass. Some of those costs could be offset with programming revenues, she said.

It will be another 10 years before the town can afford to construct a new building, Serfass said.

The town currently has other properties, such as the mulching site on Beulah Road, N.E., and the parcel formerly owned by the late Council member Maud Robinson, that could be used for municipal projects, said Council member Charles Anderson.

Until the Council decides the annex property’s temporary and long-term uses, the town should do only what is necessary to keep the building from deteriorating, Anderson said.

How quickly the town is able to realize its final vision for the property will depend on what the goal is, said Finance Director Marion Serfass. For example, razing the building and constructing an athletic field likely would cost $500,000 to $1 million and could be accomplished sooner. But a new facility likely would set the town back at least $20 million, she said.

Council member Ray Brill Jr. suggested patching the annex’s leaking roof for $20,000. The town also should form a task force this summer that could solicit views from the Council and department heads on what should be done with the property, with Council deciding on the matter next April, he said.

The town in the meantime could arrange for well-advertised public forums where residents could present their ideas on the matter, Brill said.
Mayor Linda Colbert sided with town staff on hiring a consultant to engage with the public on the matter.

The Council agreed to let Herman and her staff begin arranging for a consultant to help determine the property’s long-term vision, with the Council rendering its decision Aug. 29. Public engagement on the annex’s future would follow.

Brill, who has been a regular critic of the town’s spending on consultants, urged that if one were to be hired regarding the annex’s future, the timeline for getting results should be shortened.

Town officials also will patch the annex’s roof, gather information about the extent of renovations needed to bring the building up to occupancy grade and report their findings to the Council Aug. 29.

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