Rushmark Wins Final Site Plan OK, Iconic Eatery Lives
For Falls Church, it was a form of ultimate “win-win.” On Monday, the Falls Church Planning Commission gave a final, unanimous 7-0 approval to the site plan for the Rushmark Project, with its “super flag” Harris Teeter, in the 300 block of W. Broad, leading the developers to offer that an official groundbreaking can be expected by February.
On the same day, news was reported on the website of the much-beloved iconic Falls Church family restaurant, Anthony’s, that it had signed a lease, and will be up and running at a nearby new location by April.
The one major downside to the Rushmark project, in the minds of many City residents, was that Anthony’s, located in the 300 block of W. Broad for over 41 years, had been forced to vacate.
Despite the obvious benefits of the Rushmark project, with its 286 residential units on 2.5 acres above the Harris Teeter promising to add $1.2 millon in tax revenues annually to the City coffers, the prospect that Anthony’s would be forced out caused a huge outcry from area residents.
Buoyed by the unexpected level of public support for the restaurant, the Yiannarakis family undertook a search for an alternate location to reopen, and they found it at the intersection of Route 50 and Annandale Road.
A lease has been signed, and construction will begin this month at 3000 Annandale Road. Pete Zoutis, son-in-law of Anthony and Faye Yiannarakis and general manager of the restaurant, told the News-Press this week that the new location will be about 4,400 square feet, and should be open for business by April.
Zoutis said, “With many of the familiar faces from the original Anthony’s, as well as the classic menu favorites that we will keep, we look forward to having the opportunity to serve our friends in Falls Church again soon.”
Meanwhile, Monday’s Planning Commission meeting was described as a virtual “love fest,” as the Planning Commission gave unanimous final site plan approval to the Rushmark project.
Rushmark executives told the News-Press following Monday’s vote that a groundbreaking on the site should occur by mid to late February, and that the project, including the Harris Teeter and 286 residential units, should be completed within 22 months after that, or by the end of 2016.
While there remain a couple of undetermined factors yet, including whether the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will permit a left turn into the project from the west-bound lanes of Route 7 (W. Broad), there was no sense given Monday night that anything now stands in the way for the launch of this long-awaited project.
Discussions of a Harris Teeter going onto that site have been underway for the better part of the past decade, including through the era of the Atlantic Realty City Center project that won a final OK only to run into the teeth of the Great Recession in 2008.
Now, the Rushmark project was billed, in a short power-point presentation Monday, as “A Premiere Mixed Use Development Leading the Revitalization of the Falls Church City Center.”
Indeed, in tandem now with the Lincoln Properties project given its final OKs four blocks to the west, the downtown area of Falls Church will get its first major facelift, and the area in between the two giant projects will suddenly gain an enormous boost in developer interest.
As if to underscore the benefits of the project for Falls Church (it is estimated to bring $1.32 million in net new revenue annually once completed), with the legendary Anthony’s now set to re-open, it seems like everybody is happy.
That includes the neighbors just behind the Rushmark site, residents of the Winter Hill condominiums. Chuck Anderson, owner of a townhome behind the project, spoke Monday to praise the project and the willingness of the Rushmark people to listen to and work with the residential neighborhood behind it as much as they did. “I am feeling hopeful that the project will not only make Broad Street more vibrant, but will make my Winter Hill neighborhood a more fun and enjoyable place to live,” he said. Anderson represented an informal group of neighbors throughout the approval process, and provided regular project updates to about 60 Winter Hill residents via email.
Another neighbor, Chamber of Commerce activist Gary LaPorta, called it “a first class property,” a sentiment echoed by all the seven Planning Commission members who chimed in with their own remarks of high praise, especially for how Rushmark met, listened and responded to its residential neighbors.