Providing housing for area seniors and empty nesters has been a top priority for Northern Virginia’s jurisdictions in recent years. On September 11, 2017, the Falls Church City Council took a step forward in addressing increased demand for senior housing options by approving a unique age-restricted cottage housing project along Railroad Avenue adjacent to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.
Known as the “Railroad Cottages,” the project will include ten 1,500-square-foot “cottage” units for area seniors aged 55 and older, universal design elements, outdoor amenities, a clustered parking area, electric vehicle charging stations, and common open space. Each of the cottages will be one and one-half stories (up to 25 feet) in height, and feature porches, small floorplates, cementitious siding, and architectural shingles. An approximately 1,500-square-foot common house will serve as a central shared space for the community. The project also includes improvements to Railroad Avenue, stormwater upgrades, and commitments to green building practices.
Because the property is located adjacent to the W&OD Trail, the project includes the installation of benches, public art, bicycle racks, and gateway signage along the trail. A separate historic commemoration discussing the history of the property will also be provided.
The Railroad Cottages is the brainchild of local realtor Theresa Sullivan Twiford, who was impressed with several “pocket” neighborhoods of small bungalow-style single-family homes on the West Coast. Following research, she partnered with two Falls Church firms, The Young Group and Butz Wilbern Architects, to craft the proposal and submit a special exception to the City.
The project followed the City Council’s February 2017 adoption of a new cottage housing ordinance, which allows for the creation of clusters of small age-restricted single-family houses and common amenities by special exception.
The Railroad Cottages are anticipated to provide more moderately priced and diverse housing choices for various populations within the City and allow high-quality infill development that addresses various market segments but is compatible with adjacent properties. Additionally, as a senior housing project, the new residents will drive demand for nearby retail and local-serving office uses, as well as generate tax benefits without the added burden on the City’s school system. The Railroad Cottages project received support from the Coalition for Smarter Growth, which commended the innovative housing model as the first in the region.
Andrew Painter served as zoning counsel for the project while Tom Colucci and Kathleen Smith assisted with transactional matters.