Sometime in 2022, individuals and groups could be able to rent space for community
The meeting provided a forum for everyone in Great Falls to voice their opinions, ask questions, and seek clarification on the proposed license agreement that would transfer operational responsibility and management of the County Park Authority-owned Great Falls Grange Hall, Forestville School, and Grange picnic pavilion, to the Great Falls Grange Foundation.
"I believe there is a tentative agreement. We're very confident what we've done and what community representatives have done negotiating is in the best interests of all of Great Falls," Foust said. "There's no doubt in my mind; however, there has not been a meeting like this where everyone, not just the community leaders and the organizations … participating in the negotiations, has an opportunity to express their opinion, ask questions, and ask for clarification. ... That's why we are here."
Fairfax County staff: Aimee L. Vosper, deputy director/chief business and development; Sara Baldwin, deputy director/chief operating officer; Kurt Lewis, director of Parks Operations; Liz Crowell, manager, archaeology & collections branch; and Cindy Walsh, park services director, were among those in attendance.
Foust provided a short account of the 10-year process of attempting to transform the Grange Hall into a community center that the Great Falls community might utilize. "The residents of Great Falls are very lucky. There were so many who worked hard and patiently to get us to this point," he said.
Foust recalled preparing for what he thought would be a "difficult negotiation."
Kirk Kincannon, executive director of the Fairfax County Park Authority, and his team showed up in Foust’s office. "I said something like, ‘Kirk, I really want this to happen,’ and he said, ‘we'll make it happen.’ That was the negotiation. The second part was a little more challenging: coming up with $500,000 to make the historic Grange Hall ADA compliant. "But we got it," Foust said. He received funds from the Park Authority and the county to perform the required interior and exterior renovations.
Foust recognized key community project leaders, including Jorge Adeler, who had the vision to create a community center for Great Falls 10 years ago. "I've learned to appreciate how much Jorge loves Great Falls. ... This was a mission of love. Jorge, congratulations. You pulled it off ... And we're all very, very grateful that you did," Foust said.
The Foundation's objective is to expand community event space while improving and maintaining the integrity of the structures, including landscaping, interior aesthetics, and safety. The planned public-private partnership is intended to create a self-sustaining community center and provide the financial and staffing resources that the Park Authority lacks to manage the structures on the historic property.
Judith Pedersen, public information officer for the Fairfax County Park Authority, moderated the discussion. Gary Pan briefed community members on the evolving plans to manage and operate the Park Authority's Great Falls Grange Hall, adjacent historic Forestville School, and pavilion as rentals. The proceeds from the rentals for educational, corporate, and organization meetings, weddings, celebrations, and visual and performing arts events and the like would pay to upgrade the building's interior infrastructure and establish new landscaping. According to Bill Canis, the Great Falls Citizens Association president, the project might unfold this spring. "In a matter of months, we may see the transformation begin," he said.
Great Falls community groups have committed to "Adopt-the Grange" and will organize volunteers to clean up and maintain GFGF grounds. "These are treasures, and if we don't take care of them, they are going to deteriorate," Pan said.
Julie Casso, executive director of The Arts of Great Falls, provided the final comment. "Our local nonprofit art foundation has supported this effort as a founding member of this group for ten years. We completely support stewardship of our local facility in the hands of the people who will likely care the most. My experience is that local leaders have been hands-on and will do what it takes to make this venture successful."
The project's next steps are to finalize the license agreement, schedule fundraising events, receive online donations, make site improvements, begin marketing and open reservations.
Visit GFGrange.org to watch town hall recording, view the new marketing, and get further information. Rental prices, Base Fee (4-hours): $850; Extra Hours: $225/hour; Alcohol Beverage Use Fee: $200; Security Deposit: $300, at https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/historic-property-rental-services/great-falls-grange.
Part of an ongoing series leading to a proposed community center for Great Falls. The public-private partnership between Fairfax County Park Authority and Great Falls Grange Foundation is seen as a prototype for a countywide application that will eventually be a self-supporting community center for Great Falls. https://www.gfgrange.org/
Q & A is lightly edited for length and clarity.
Discuss the design efforts and use of community support.
Charles Owen: Design efforts are primarily to advocate the use of native plant species,... There are nine different areas…We have six participants to provide the labor and materials and the follow-on maintenance… Boy Scouts will participate in doing the heavy lifting.
What about startup cost challenges?
Bill Canis- Rentals and fundraising. There will be a challenge to this community to see if they are willing to help with the seed money … We will be seeking grants, but we will also be asking this community to respond to that. The financial stability depends on that and the commercial success of renting out those facilities.
Questions after the meeting:
What is the rental history of the Grange?
According to Judy Pedersen- The Grange has been reserved approximately 25 times in the last five years. The Grange has been closed since March 2020, except for one GFG Foundation event in November. It is important to note that COVID closures and limits on capacity impacted use over the last two years.
Is it intended to have public hearings on the issues?
Linda Thompson-My understanding is that we had the town hall meeting (on Feb. 15). That was supposed to be the hearing.
What is the price range for prospective rentals?
Gary Pan -At or below the county's current reported rates. Great Falls Grange | Park Authority
Base Fee (4-hours): $850; Extra Hours: $225/hour; Alcohol Beverage Use Fee: $200; Security Deposit: $300
Does the renter provide insurance at $1,000,000 per occurrence and $2,000,000 aggregate commercial general liability?
Gary Pan-Our foundation has general liability insurance; however, we encourage the renter to get their own insurance.
Linda Thompson- If they have alcohol, we will require that they have a rider.
Who will be taking reservations and staffing the venues?
Gary Pan- Initially, it will be volunteer-driven.
How will you ensure time for community organizations to use the venues?
Gary Pan- We will be reliant on the reservation system.
Will the natural wood inside the Grange Hall be painted?
Linda Thompson-The only new paint is on that which is painted. We are not painting naturally finished)wood.
Do exterior alterations need to be approved by the FXCO Historical Review Board or a similar review panel?
Linda Thompson-There is a Fairfax Park Authority historical section to get approval.
Is an archaeological survey planned before any landscaping work is done?
Bill Canis- I believe the Park Authority will send someone to undertake an archaeological investigation as part of the review.
How will the new landscaping affect the two buildings' historical integrity and sightline to the Pike?
Bill Canis- Taller trees and shrubs will be planted towards the rear of the old schoolhouse to screen the neighbor's home and along Innsbruck, where a Toll Brothers community is being built. We want the buildings to shine, not be obscured.
Name the supporting landscape companies.
Gary Pan- Fine Landscapes, Pots & Plants, Riverbend Landscapes & Tree Service, Rossen Landscape, SAB Lawn & Landscaping, Sisson Landscapes, and Pots & Plants on the Pike