4-Acre Mixed Use Development Plan At W. Broad & N. West Unveiled

July 12, 2013 11:32 AM17 comments

321spectrumIn the works since late 2011, an ambitious plan involving the assembly of five parcels of land to piece together a four-acre new development likely to include a 149-room hotel, 274 rental residential units, 42,900 feet of retail anchored by an upscale Walgreens, two levels of underground parking and a total of 425,070 square feet of construction was outlined to the Economic Development committee of the Falls Church City Council at City Hall this morning.

The development plan, according to Peter A. Batten of the Vienna, Virginia-based Spectrum Development, was brought forward at this point because the assemblage of all five parcels is on the verge of completion, even as a sixth parcel is still being negotiated. The area of the project on the northeast corner of the W. Broad and N. West St. intersection would cover the existing City Sunoco, now-vacant former Amigo Market and Brits on Broad and Panjshir restaurant small retail strips, the 7-Eleven and Lazy Sundae and Shreve Plumbing/Falls Properties building and one adjacent residential home on Park Avenue.

The plan will come to the City Council inclusive of dual options, one with the hotel component and one without, Batten said. That’s to insulate the project from a downturn in the economy, he said, since the hotel component would be most sensitive to that. The two versions would, he said, hopefully be approved jointly for needed special exceptions by the Council, to allow for emerging wider economic factors. Either way, however, the project would bring from $2 million (with the hotel) to $1.4 million (without the hotel) to the City in net annual revenues.

If achieved, the project would be the second-largest new development in Falls Church’s commercially-zoned corridors, second only to Pearson Square. Once developed, its total assessed value would be $112.5 million, compared to $10.5 million as the properties stand today. Batten suggested that a $2.05 million proffer to the F.C. schools’ capital fund would be one of the amenities, along with significant improvements to the West End Park across the street that would come with the approval of the project.

Bruce Leonard of the Bethesda, Md.-based Streetsense architectural firm said that the project will be targeted to young professionals with a mix of regional, rather than national, retailers including a number of restaurants. The rental apartments would be 80 percent studio or one-bedroom units, and being only a half-mile from the West Falls Church Metro station, a regular shuttle service would be provided from the site.

Present at this morning’s meeting were Council members Ira Kaylin, who chaired the session, David Tarter and Phil Duncan. City Manager Wyatt Shields and Planning Director Jim Snyder were present, along with Richard Goff and Becky Witsman from the City’s Economic Development Office and Mike Novotny, chair of the City’s Economic Development Authority. Suzie Atalla, mother of the owner of one of the retail strip properties, was also present. There was no general discussion of the plan, only questions and answers. Shields said that based on whether or not there were significant differences to be ironed out with the City staff ahead of time, the next step would be to bring the plan to a public work session of the Council.

Batten said that his group is prepared to begin conversations with residential and other neighbors to the site. Some conversations have already been held, he said, and there will be talk with some existing retailers on the targeted site about either help in relocating, or being absorbed into the project. He said that with numerous leases coming due by the end of this year, how those will be managed will be based on how realistic it appears by then that the approval of the overall project will be. Some subsidies to assist existing retailers on the property are being considered, Batten said.

“This is a generational opportunity,” said former Falls Church City Manager David Lasso, who was present at the meeting as an attorney representing Spectrum. It will present opportunities to address difficult storm water management and other matters in that neighborhood, as well, he said. The hotel proposed for the site would be a Hilton-brand “Home 2″ extended stay model. There would also be a drive-through bank, and the new Walgreens model, with food, wellness and cosmetic departments akin to their new locations at 7th and H and at Connecticut and Van Ness in D.C., would also have a drive through. The total floor to area ratio (FAR) of the project would be 2.5 with the hotel. Building heights would range from 75 feet on W. Broad to 62 feet on the Park Avenue side, and the Walgreens would be two stories.

  • FallsChurchCitizen

    No frozen yogurt?

  • Kristina Honkala

    i see Traffic nightmares..that corner is already too busy. Adding 274 residential units and a hotel…. that’s alot of additional traffic. We certainly don’t need another large drugstore .

    • David

      Why do people in Falls Church oppose development on the basis of traffic concerns? Ya know, there are ways to calm traffic, through various road measures, mass transit, etc. Of course, all of those things require money…something the City primarily gets now via RESIDENTIAL property taxes. If you expand the tax base (commercial and residential), the City will get more funds and can invest in things that ease traffic.

      I’m getting a little tired of people using “traffic” and “schools overcrowding” to oppose every single development project. I grew up in an area that had substantially more people per square mile than FC and schools with gym classes about the size of our entire high school…it can be done, and the quality of life can be high. Stop being so damn negative!

      • BobBurnett604

        It’s easy to assume “traffic nightmares” when increased building density is proposed but I would wager the auto traffic of 274 residential units and a hotel isn’t “alot of additional traffic” when you look at the current traffic generated by the comings and goings of the Sunoco gas station and 7-11 at that location. The central traffic issue in Falls Church will always center on the non-Falls Church resident cut-thru drivers on roads that are unfortunately patterned not for people walking or local drivers running errands or visiting local businesses but for the convenience of the cut-thru cars.

      • Andrew

        The existing infrastructure will not be able to carry the additional
        traffic. You cannot “calm” the traffic that would result. It would be
        gridlock. The roads leading to this site are single-lanes, except for
        Route 7 which is 2 through there and already at or above capacity. You
        sit through two light cycles at rush hour to get through that
        intersection, and the intersections to the East and West of it. And as
        another
        has pointed out, a drug store for an anchor? Upscale Walgreens? What,
        do they have a wine section? This is a terrible idea.

        Why do I suspect the only proponents of this deal are the developers who probably live in Loudon County McMansions and never come anywhere near Falls Church.

        • FourQ

          Because the only proponents of this deal ARE the developers and their bought-and-paid-for lapdogs on the FC Council.

      • LV

        David – You must not live on a street that is used as a cut through. I am not opposing the development – I do believe the City needs to do something to ease the tax burden on its residents – but also want the planners to be aware of the impact of the additional traffic and to begin to think of ways to calm the traffic now, instead of later.

  • Fred Packer

    “…anchored by an upscale Walgreen’s…”

    When your anchor tenant is a drugstore, even an “upscale” drugstore, then you aren’t very upscale. Let’s just say the Little City appears to have finally jumped the shark, but at least Nick Benton is getting what he always wanted.

  • Long Time Falls Church Residen

    Seriously, there are already 2 CVS’s, a riteaid, and a mom and pop drug store on the 1.3 mile stretch that makes up west broad. There are already multiple high rises that price them selves out on that stretch as well, with a semi low occupancy.

    Since that location is about a mile to west falls church metro, and more to east falls (not to mention the fact that the area is not super walking friendly right there – as another poster mentioned) there will be a decent influx of new vehicles cutting through neighborhood roads.

    This is a terrible idea.

    • West Street Neighbor

      This is a legitimate traffic concern. North West Street is a major cut through for Arlington traffic and no one heeds the 25 mph limit. The speed sensors show that the average speed is 35 mph, notwithstanding the school off of Oak. The sidewalks are not walkable during rush hour because of the speeders and the cars that must drive aggressively from the side roads to make it onto West during rush hour. Our neighbors are frustrated and we call the police to issue tickets, which they do for one day and then don’t appear until we call again. This development will ruin West Street’s property values, making it the next Broad Street, but without the traffic lights or speed bumps in between Lincoln and Great Falls to ensure the residents can live safely. And for what? More condos, yet another drug store?

      • FourQ

        West street is similar in key respects to Great Falls above Haycock Rd. – broad, relatively straight, with good lines of sight and homes set well back from the road. The 35 mph speed limit there seems to work well.

        The fact that the average speed on West is 35 mph tells me the limit should be raised to reflect practical reality, not that FC police should waste time and resources enforcing an unrealistically low limit.

        • West Street Neighbor

          You clearly don’t have children if you think West Street’s speed limit is too low. In fact, there are numerous bends (see Highland street intersection), a school entrance off of oak, and many houses that sit very close to the street.

          • FourQ

            I do have children. I also enjoy a certain measure of common sense, which includes not succumbing to nanny state hysterics “for the children”.

  • Brits on Broad

    Not to mention small retail like us, i’m sure that all of us small bisness owners have invested a lot of time, courage, and money to open here in the little city.the same thing happened in the town i grew up in the UK .

    • FourQ

      I hope you and your neighbors can band together and fight this, I really do. Falls Church’s hostility towards small businesses and entrepreneurs has got to stop!

  • LV

    As a resident living on Grove Avenue, this planned develop causes me great concern for many reasons; foremost is the number of vehicles it will add to the already high volume we see on a daily basis. The mini-speed humps currently on the street, placed to slow the speed of the drivers using our street as a cut-through, and the restricted hours for turns are of little to no use.

    As the City proceeds with the review and approval of this development, I can only
    hope they will recognize the impact it will have on Grove Avenue and include in
    their plans larger speed bumps (like the ones found on Little Falls Road) and
    other traffic calming measures.

  • FourQ

    If you didn’t think Falls Church’s so-called “leadership” was in the pockets of developers before, this news should forcibly rip the scales from your eyes. Do we really need ANOTHER hotel on Broad Street? Do we really need a Walgreens right across the street from an existing Rite-Aid? I say absolutely not. We need a centrally-located gas station. We need an ice cream parlor. We need a couple of modest eateries, a bike shop and, yes, a knick-knack shop. Enough is enough!

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