F.C. Council Moves Forward on S. Washington Mixed Use Project

February 25, 2013 11:54 PM5 comments

The developers of the proposed Reserve at Tinner Hill large scale mixed use project delivered a signed letter of intent from the Fresh Market grocery people to occupy 20,000 square feet on the ground floor to the Falls Church City Council tonight, a critical requirement stipulated by the Council for a green light on the project.

. But although it was evident the Council would subsequently vote unanimously to edge forward with the Lincoln Properties’ plan for S. Washington St. tonight, it still took three and a half hours to get there. Even with the signed letter of intent in hand, and a 7-0 vote to move a step ahead, there remained some uncertainties about the project’s eventual outcome..

The project, which has been the subject of discussions internal to City Hall for months, is designed to have 224 rental residences above a ground floor of retail and commercial and three levels of underground parking. The developers have offered to deliver a $1.57 million cash contribution to the City schools’ capital fund and $540,000 in permit fees to the City before putting a shovel in the ground, and once completed, according to the City’s economic model, could bring a fresh $1.2 million into the City’s coffers annually on two parcels of land now dedicated to automotive use that generate $79,000 a year.

Surprising to everyone tonight was the chorus of support that showed up from businesses and residents surrounding the project, including from one of its strongest early detractors, the Creative Cauldron and Arts Space of Falls Church people who would be across the street on S. Maple. Former Falls Church Vice Mayor Marty Meserve, speaking for those groups, hailed the Lincoln team for revising its project to provide significant “portico” and “incubator” retail spaces on its ground floor facing onto S. Maple, and the Pearson Square/Creative Cauldron space.

It was earlier renderings of the project that presented S. Maple with a blank wall that caused major heartburn at first, as well as the potential competition from a prospective occupant of the new space, the Levine School of Music.

Indeed, Levine was out in force at tonight’s hearing, led by its CEO Peter Jablow. But while making their forceful case for the benefits of allowing Levine’s Arlington-based Northern Virginia campus to occupy the new project, they also conceded that they could only do so if the City subsidized their rent to the tune of $100,000 annually for 10 years. For a Council tonight veritably obsessed with maximizing the return on its commercially-zoned land, it may not have been the best time to pitch for a discount.

Vice Mayor David Snyder said that if the project yielded the projected high end estimate of $1.2 million a year, it would be worth it, but if its proceeds came in at the low end of $540,000 a year if nothing on the ground floor were filled but the Fresh Market, it would not. “This presents a potentially positive, but also a potentially negative juncture,” he said, and stressed that while the Council voted unanimously tonight to forward the plan to a long list of City boards and commissions for input and feedback, that every effort be found to ensure the project generates the high end annual revenue amount. “If the revenue is at the low end, it is not worth the risk,” he said.

Councilman Phil Duncan said he the immediate impact of $1.57 million to the schools and $540,000 in up front permit fees could not be overlooked, outweighing the impact of the projected 26 school-aged students that could be expected to enroll in City schools from families living in the project’s new units.

With tonight’s preliminary vote, not exactly a “first reading” but enough to require only one further vote for final Council approval, the Council sent the plan out to its boards and commissions with the expectation of taking that final vote on May 13.

  • http://twitter.com/GarrickBoyd Garrick Boyd

    What is the projected construction schedule and impact to nearest residences and roadways?

    • philduncan

      Hi Garrick. City Council, staff and others have repeatedly impressed upon Lincoln the importance of securing commercial tenants for the ground floor of the proposed “Reserve.” Last night’s news that Fresh Market has signed a letter of intent to come to FC is an important step in the right direction.

      Our experience with other mixed-used buildings in the City shows that in time, when market conditions allow, first-floor space in newer buildings will fill up (e.g., the Spectrum, now with Mad Fox, Beadazzled, Sweet Frog, and Moby Dick’s). But obviously, it’s good to have the kind of firm early expression of tenant interest that FM’s letter of intent represents. Hopefully, the FM news will help Lincoln attract additional commercial tenants to the rest of the building’s ground-floor space. Lincoln is working closely with a firm that seems to have good connections with potential commercial tenants, and an understanding of what our City wants and can attract from the market.

      Your question on construction schedule and impact is important, and would become a matter of intense focus, IF the project is greeted favorably by boards and commissions and approved by Council. We would expect Lincoln to work very closely with neighbors and the City to minimize the disruption that any sizable development project will necessarily entail.

  • http://twitter.com/GarrickBoyd Garrick Boyd

    Additionally, how are projections for filling the commercial spaces looking given that the spaces across Maple are taking so long to fill?

  • james george

    what a hoot, i never see any of the council people at any of the local art venues. (let alone other public facilities.) only time i seen the ‘mayor’ (ha!) at a local restaurant (that’s to be destroyed for what? a harris teeter? LMFAO! only to stop in for a ‘opportunity’ and a few hand shakes.. how atrocious to shake the hands of those that they’re taking the livelihoods away. :( seriously, what kinda community support is that?) some support. i’m surprised they even allow culture in the city considering it’s not the big franchise money pillager that they desperately desire to ‘enrich’ their ‘greed’. falls church is not going to be utilized properly. i highly doubt they’re working on roadways OR other infrastructural priorities. they’ve already ‘forgotten’ about projects from 10-20 years ago on pedestrian and bike bridges to expansion of sidewalks. not important, doesn’t bring in the $$$$ and if someone gets hit and runned, big deal. there’s still no talk of the light between panera bread and the virgina inn.. nor the bike bridge at the trail that crosses route 29. (among other things that have ‘mysteriously’ faded over time. what happened to all that money given to the city for those projects? where did it go THIS TIME? falls church, the little city.. ) infreakingdeed. i think i’m going to get sick, again.

    and it’s OUR freaking responsibility how? ??? all my money goes to the feds, state and city governments. i have nothing left other than what little time to donate. (then that matters not.) that righteous finger pointing “your community” crap never fooled me one minute.

    oh and if FC keeps pulling the legs of the educational structure, guess what happens next?

  • City Parent

    The newish Pearson Square apartments are full of kids. I’ve seen them unloading from the Mt. Daniel bus, and I couldn’t believe my eyes at the numbers. The Foreign Service even has several units on lease to handle Oakwood overflow. Meanwhile, as predicted years ago, there seem to be relatively few children in the condos. If more rentals are created, there will be major problems with classroom space.

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