The developers of two major W. Broad St. projects within blocks of each other have both made it clear to the Falls Church City Council that the approval process needs to get going next month for their plans to remain viable.
Spectrum Development, having secured all the parcels adding up to a four-acre site at the northeastern corner of N. West and W. Broad Streets in Falls Church, spelled out their latest plans for the site to a meeting of the City Council’s Economic Development Committee Monday night, and said they need the Council to begin approving their project by the second week of February.
Developers of the Kensington, a proposed senior living project slated to go on the three-quarters of an acre site of the current Burger King on W. Broad, also need the Council to kick off the approval process by the end of February, as was stressed at the same committee meeting Monday. As of now, it is scheduled for a “first reading” before the Council on February 10.
The time pressure for the Kensington is the greatest, as developers have the land under contract only until April 1, and if the plan is still uncertain by that date, the developers will have to relinquish control.
That means, among other things, that the Burger King people are poised to jump on renewing a long-term lease at the site to keep it dedicated as an ungraded Burger King for decades to come. New rules requiring fast food drive-throughs to be on site no smaller than a full acre have made the current Burger King location, grandfathered in, even more valuable.
Hardly, the “highest and best use” of the site, now sitting next to the Hilton Garden Inn under construction, the current Burger King generates $125,000 in tax revenue to the City. This is contrasted to the $313,000 annually that the City’s Economic Development Office has deemed will be derived from the proposed 88 unit assisted living facility with ground level retail.
Project developers Ed Novak, president of Nova-Habitat (of the Byron fame), and Harley Cook have pointed to economic analysis showing the Kensington would provide the City with more economic benefit per acre than all existing mixed-use projects in the City, and exceeds the lower-range estimates for annual yields from two projects set for development in the City, the Reserve at Tinner Hill and Rushmark Properties’ Harris Teeter-anchored project.
A few blocks west on W. Broad, at the intersection of N. West Street, the mega-project Spectrum project will include a Hilton Home Suites extended-stay hotel with 150 rooms and 302 units of rental residential (70 percent studio and one-bedroom units), will occupy land currently home to long-time Falls Church businesses Kenny Currle’s City Sunoco, the 7-Eleven, the former Amigo Market, the Panjshir restaurant and Brits on Broad.
That project could net in tax revenue to the City between $1.36 and $1.7 million annually, according to Becky Witsman of the City’s Economic Development Office, present at tonight’s meeting.
Former F.C. City Manager David Lasso, who is assisting the Spectrum group with this project, said that even if the ball gets rolling next month, it may take up to a year for current businesses in the development area to have to leave. Peter Batten of Spectrum said tonight, however, that his group would like for some key businesses in the area to remain in new retail spaces that will comprise 40,000 square feet of the total.
Batten, there with his partner Dick Buskell, said he is “very confident” of the ability of retail to succeed at the location, which is a half-mile from the West Falls Church Metro station and equidistant from the Route 7 on-ramp to Route 66 and Route 29.
He said the smaller rental units are designed to attract a younger demographic to the City, and easy access to the W&OD Trail, across the street, will not only help define some of the retail but also some of the rental tenants who will want to be there.
As part of a buffer of the project to the residential properties on Park Avenue, the latest plan includes two single family homes on Park and a pocket park, modifications, Batten said, that have been well received by residential neighbors to the site.
Getting back to the Kensington assisted living proposal on the Burger King site, Novak was outspoken in a statement to the News-Press yesterday. He wrote that despite its good numbers, the hesitancy of the City Council to move ahead to date apparently is due to its proposed use. “Certain members of the Council and Economic Development Authority (EDA) have expressed their opinion, strongly, that seniors in need of assisted living services should look elsewhere. Such seniors are not consistent with their vision of a vibrant, sexy Broad Street.”
He added, “Since we’ve been working on the Kensington, the City Council has unanimously approved two large residential mixed use projects and is considering a third totalling nearly 1,000 apartment units targeting younger singles and professionals. We are proposing an attractive 88 unit project that will allow seniors to remain in the community, have no impact on school enrollment, and enormously upgrade the Broad Street streetscape.”