The Woods Community Center’s charm is something the neighborhood wanted to keep, and that charm is what the architects are preserving during the building’s extensive renovation project that breaks ground this summer.
The project has been in the planning stages for years, due to a lengthy Fairfax County permitting process. Last winter, county planners rejected a minor site plan because the Conservancy needed to file a Planned Residential Community, or PRC, plan first. That added a curveball since the Conservancy and its project engineers read the zoning ordinance differently, said Patrick Gloyd, executive director for the Burke Centre Conservancy.
But Burke Centre celebrated with a slightly premature groundbreaking ceremony for the project, Thursday, July 26. About 30 people were in attendance, and they received a glimpse into the Woods Community Center’s future, including Gloyd, several current and past Boards of Trustees’ members, and Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-37).
"We’re getting close; we’re getting real close," said Jimi Grande, president of the Burke Centre Board of Trustees.
Burke Centre’s staff and Board of Trustees recognized the need to upgrade the Woods Community Center years ago. They wanted Burke Centre to have a community center that could accommodate all kinds of activities, for both large and small crowds.
"The question was how much could they do without a public hearing," said Florence Naeve, senior staff aide to Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock). "It takes a while for consensus."
Bulova’s office served as a liaison between Burke Centre and the county. Since Burke Centre is one of three Planned Residential Communities, or PRCs, in Fairfax County, the permit process was different from what it would be typically, said Naeve.
"We were able to help untangle some of the bureaucratic strings," said Bulova.
New-uses or expansions of existing uses in PRCs that go above and beyond specific size requirements need a special PRC plan. Once the county approved that plan, the Conservancy was able to move forward with the minor site plan, which did not require a public hearing as regular site plans do. The Conservancy is about a week or two out from having the final mechanical permits approved. Once that happens, construction crews will break ground.
"The optimistic view is that this will be done by the first of the year," said Gloyd.
THE BURKE CENTRE community voted on whether to keep the older structure — which is the front portion of the building — intact, said Kala Quintana, the trustee representing the Woods neighborhood on Burke Centre’s Board of Trustees.
"The community felt strongly enough about keeping a part of our history," she said.
Keeping that history includes demolishing the back portion of the structure and starting anew. And at $1.6 million, the project is "not a small undertaking for a small homeowner’s association or PRC," said Gloyd. The Conservancy previously estimated the project would cost about that, and set aside capital improvement funds and capital reserve funds for it. Then delays in the permit process caused some to worry the estimate would become outdated.
But Vantage Construction Corporation, based in Sterling, Va., bid the project at just that though, much to the Conservancy’s delight and surprise.
The Woods Community Center served as the Conservancy’s offices in the 1980s, until the facility at 6060 Burke Centre Parkway was built in the early 1990s. That’s when the Conservancy converted the Woods building into a community center, but the building was already suffering. While the Conservancy was using it as office space, a ceiling collapsed one year, said Quintana. The Conservancy recognized the need to renovate the building immediately.
"I’m pleased we’re finally getting to this point," said Luanne Smith, a Burke Centre trustee.
Portions of the main house, the eastern side, date back to the 1760s. Remodeling took place in the 1890s, 1900s and in 1940, according to the Conservancy. The Woods Center Committee formed in 2003 to address the future of the building, which officially closed to the public in January 2006. Asbestos removal began shortly thereafter, said Gloyd.
The renovation will include demolishing the western portion of the building, while leaving the main, oldest, structure intact. The lower level will include three meeting rooms, a file room, bathrooms and storage space. The main level will feature a large community room, a kitchen, two foyers, bathrooms, two offices, a balcony, porch, terrace and deck, with one at each of the building’s four sides. Two offices will also be located on the second floor.
"The idea is that this is going to be the nicest and newest facility in Burke Centre," said Quintana. "It’s going to have as many of the latest amenities we can offer."
The historic eastern portion of the building will keep its current look, because Gloyd calls it a "landmark within the community."
"It will look like its old self when it’s done, it will just be new," he said.