Vienna officials still can back out of an agreement with Fairfax County to build a new Patrick Henry Library with a parking structure, but now the town financially has something to lose.
Vienna Town Council members on June 7 reconfirmed the town’s participation in the agreement and agreed to support the project’s design phase.
The town and county conducted a feasibility study for the library/parking garage project in 2019 and Vienna officials in 2020 approved a design-and-construction agreement with the county.
Plans call for a two-story, 20,490-square-foot library and a parking structure with 125 spaces for library users and 84 for the public. Construction is slated to begin in 2023.
Vienna officials agreed to pay 30 percent of the project’s design costs (up to $850,000) and 19 percent (up to $4.2 million) for construction.
Town leaders already have borrowed $600,000 for the design costs and $2.4 million for construction. In addition, the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority has committed to provide $2.3 million for the project’s construction, officials said.
Until now, Vienna officials had been free to pull out of the project at no cost to the town.
“We had lots of what the county calls ‘off-ramps’ written into the contract,” said Vienna Finance Director Marion Serfass.
But after the June 7 vote, the town will be on the hook for at least 15 percent of its share of the design work, which county officials will contract out in July.
Other opportunities to back out of the deal will occur at future development stages, but the town’s share of the costs will increase each time.
Vienna officials are hoping the third time will prove the charm at obtaining structured parking for the town’s central commercial district.
Two previous public-private partnerships to build parking garages on Church Street, N.W., and Mill Street, N.E., fell through.
By partnering with Fairfax County, town officials are more confident that a municipal parking garage will become a reality.
“They’re a strong partner,” Serfass said. “They’ve borrowed the money already, we’ve borrowed the money already and they’re moving forward. And we have a grant.”
Fairfax County voters last year passed a library-bond referendum that included $23 million for design and construction of the Patrick Henry Library project.
“I don’t see the downside to this,” said Council member Howard Springsteen. “I don’t see anyone out there who’s really working to get any parking for us.”
Some Council members questioned whether the town would have input in the garage’s design. Andrew Jinks, a town transportation engineer and planner who served on the project’s design committee, said he was confident the county would present town officials with several design concepts.
“They will listen to our comments and our opinions,” he said.
The future parking garage by-right could be a maximum of 35 feet tall, unless town officials agreed to a waiver.
While it’s possible to build no-frills parking garages, town officials have indicated to their county counterparts that they want something more aesthetically pleasing for Vienna’s center, said Town Attorney Steven Briglia.
“We did not want a Tinkertoy-looking garage,” Briglia said. “I’ll be honest with you, the town has probably driven up the design costs a little bit on the garage because of that.”
“I’m sure they want to be proud of it,” Mayor Linda Colbert said of county officials. “It’s on a premiere location, on a corner close to Town Hall and all our other municipal buildings.”
Both the new library and parking garage will need to be reviewed by the town’s Board of Architectural Review, said Deputy Planning and Zoning Director Michael D’Orazio.
The current 13,817-square-foot Patrick Henry Library, located on 1.43 acres at 101 Maple Ave., E., was built in 1971 and last renovated in 1995. The facility is Fairfax County Public Library’s busiest community library.
Council member Charles Anderson said he hoped the town also would have the chance to influence the new library’s design, as well as that of the parking garage.
“Libraries, their functions have changed dramatically,” Anderson said.
“It’s a very different kind of beast than it was even 20 years ago. Hopefully, we’ll get a state-of-the-art facility to serve our town.”