Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School

Falls Church, Virginia

Edgemoor provided development, design, construction, and finance services as the turnkey developer and worked with Falls Church to determine the most viable site location and program for this 131,000 SF middle school.

Edgemoor served as the turnkey developer and worked with Falls Church to determine the most viable site location and program for this 131,000 SF middle school. The ultimate delivery of the school saved the school system two years and $10 million. This project was the first P3 project in Virginia to build an educational facility using the Public-Private Educational Facilities Infrastructure Act (PPEA) of 2002. Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School features technologically advanced flexible-learning environments. In addition to classrooms, the program includes a cafeteria/auditorium, gymnasium, art lab, library, media production area, and science and computer rooms.
Project Type
Public Private Partnerships
Project Details
Cost: $25 million
Size: 131,000 Square Feet
Project Newsletter

Supporting a City and School System with No Development or Construction Expertise

The City of Falls Church had not built a new school in over 50 years and had no dedicated construction or facility development department when it sought a public private partnership to help locate land and provide development services for a new middle school facility. The City had identified parcels of land located in and around the City that could potentially support a new school facility but the City had no control of those land parcels and had asked the development community to help secure the necessary land as part of the public-private partnership.


Edgemoor, doing business as Public Private Alliances LLC, became the de-facto developer for the City and School District when it was chosen to help develop the new middle school based on a proposed plan that utilized existing high school property, saving several years of land acquisition and entitlement processes and millions of dollars for land acquisition costs. Initial studies of the high school land entitlement status indicated that limited additional density rights would prevent the proposed new school from being built at the size required without creative understanding and application of the zoning rules. Edgemoor's plan utilized nuances of the zoning code to allow for the full development of the required school program without the need for rezoning of the land. Edgemoor worked as the City's development manager in obtaining the necessary permits for construction and in coordinating and obtaining all the necessary utility connections for the new school. The City also hired Edgemoor to develop an addition to an existing elementary school and to renovate four high school science labs under the initial development agreement.

Developing for a Municipality in an Adjacent Municipality - Land Use and Permitting

The City and School system owns the land upon which its high school was built and where the new middle school was proposed to be built but the land itself was located outside the City limits in an adjacent county, meaning the school development was subject to the jurisdictional authority of the neighboring county. The City and School system had no experience working with the County's zoning and entitlement system.


Edgemoor's team includes members with significant experience in local land use processes as well as particular experience in this local municipality. As development manager for the City and School System, Edgemoor guided all of the land use strategies, including state mandated land use approvals for public facilities as well as developing a unique strategy to build more density on the land than would otherwise be permitted by the zoning ordinance. Edgemoor developed a fast-track program for entitlement and permitting that allowed work on the site to commence before the design of the project was complete, saving several months on the overall schedule.

Building a New School within an Active School Campus

The proposed new middle school was to be placed on a portion of existing parking and athletic facilities and was only 90 feet away from the existing high school building. The location impacted existing tennis courts and bus parking areas as well. The proposed school construction would intercept the path of travel for students getting to and from the high school athletic facilities. Existing utilities would also be impacted by location of the proposed school, including electric service, telecommunications, domestic water and sanitary sewer piping.


Edgemoor was aware of the many constraints an active school campus would create for the development of a new middle school. From day one, Edgemoor and its contractor strategized to sequence the work to minimize impacts on school operations and the learning experience of students within the existing high school. Replacement tennis courts were one of the first work items that were completed in advance of the start of the new middle schools construction so that the old ones could be removed without impacting the tennis program. Major work in the parking lot areas was scheduled to occur in the summer months when the school program was less intense. Safety of the students, faculty and staff was paramount and the plan and program of safety was discussed at each and every progress meeting. The school exam schedules, and even the schedule for fire drills, were integrated into the construction schedule to lessen the impact of construction on the high school students and staff. On exam days the noise level of the construction work was minimized. Construction material deliveries were prohibited during school bus arrival and departure times to minimize interactions between large construction vehicles and school buses. Outages for relocating or altering utilities were also coordinated with the school calendar to avoid impacting any high school programs.

“Through their frequent communication and meticulous attention to detail, the team reduced overall design and construction time. The aggressive schedule was successfully achieved despite severe weather delays, unforeseen conditions and major Owner-initiated design revisions.”

Department of Facilities and Transportation Services, Office of Design and Construction Services, Fairfax County Public Schools

Middle School Lifecycle

We understand that every client is different and that each project will contain some, if not all, of the Project Lifecycle elements. Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School, structured as a Turnkey Design-Build (TDB) project, included the following lifecycle elements:

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