It’s taken since last June when the application for a special exception was filed at City Hall, but the plans for an architecturally attractive assisted living facility with ground floor retail on the site of the current W. Broad St. Burger King has finally been cleared by the Falls Church City Council for a preliminary approval at next Monday’s Council business meeting.
An important development at a Tuesday night work session on the subject was the assessment presented by the City Economic Development Office chief Richard Goff that the project will yield annual tax revenues to the City of $314,000, compared to $125,000 a year from the Burger King currently there.
That information put the decision into a stark relief for the Council. Developer Ed Novak of Nova-Habitat has told the Council that if his project doesn’t get approved, the Burger King people are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to nail down a long-term lease to stay at that location for decades to come.
But even under the schedule set by the Council, a final OK of the assisted living facility, to be known as the Kensington, won’t come until May 19. That will compel Novak and his partner in the project, the Kensington Assisted Living Group, to take a leap of faith since their hold on the .75 acre property is only good until April.
Novak and Kensington counterpart Harley Cook were praised for their “approachability” by City staff, and for having incorporated many staff suggestion into improvements of their project, a five-story, 88 unit facility with a cafe and more on the ground floor.
Members of the City’s Planning Commission, who sat in on the presentation Tuesday night, expressed appreciation for the progress made in the design of the project. “It’s an attractive building,” “the project looks great,” “progress is being made,” and “you’re making real progress” were comments expressed.
With the preliminary approval expected on Monday, the plans will be forwarded to City boards and commissions for review and recommendations.
One of the biggest new developments in this project came with last November’s election and the change in the makeup of the Council, itself. Councilman Nader Baroukh continued his scathing objections to the project in comments he made this Tuesday, but prior to the November election, he was mayor and two others on the Council who supported his view then did not seek re-election.
It is expected that there is a minimum of four votes on the Council, out of seven members, who will support this project.
Arguments for the project include the fact that it will be fully occupied without the addition of any children to add to the cost of the City schools. Creative architecture will allow the frontage on W. Broad St. to feature outdoor dining components of a coffee shop or small restaurant.
In another development at Tuesday’s meeting, plans for a six-story (72 foot) Class A office building with ground floor retail were presented by DRI Development Services, LLC, to be located at 400 N. Washington St.
While there was a lot of discussion about the adequacy of parking plans and potentially burdensome automobile ingress and egress, it was also noted that the construction of the building would be contingent on finding lead tenants to commit.
Given the glut of commercial office space in the overall Washington, D.C. region now, finding such tenants may not be that easy.
There was no date set for the next step before the City government for this project.