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‘West F.C. Outlet Center’ Preps for Makeover & New Tenants

dianastory2Even in its prime location on the edge of the City of Falls Church, with Route 29 frontage and a traffic signal at its entrance, the West Falls Church Outlet Center is easily overlooked. With a tired facade, way too much vacant space and a worn and obsolete Safeway anchor, the property seems trapped in times past.

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The West Falls Church Outlet Center, just outside the City limits on Lee Highway, is currently undergoing renovations. (Photo: News-Press)

Even in its prime location on the edge of the City of Falls Church, with Route 29 frontage and a traffic signal at its entrance, the West Falls Church Outlet Center is easily overlooked. With a tired facade, way too much vacant space and a worn and obsolete Safeway anchor, the property seems trapped in times past.

According to shopping center owner Edens & Avant, who bought the property in 2005, this situation is all about to change for the better. Steve Boyle, Edens & Avant Managing Director, confirms that the West Falls Church Outlet Center currently is on the precipice of receiving a much needed make-over.

Developing, owning and managing various shopping venues in primary markets throughout the East Coast, Edens & Avant’s regional headquarters are found in nearby Bethesda, Maryland.

From across the river, came the decision to update the Falls Church center. With a focus on creating a new vision for the center, the vacant space meant room for new ideas, growth and better shopping opportunities.

“We believe that the center is not currently meeting its full potential. When the redevelopment is complete, local residents will benefit from a more engaging shopping experience,” said Boyle.

Currently the center is quite bare, with nine vacancies at last count, leaving much in the realm of potential. The exodus began a few years after the 2005 purchase by Edens & Avant.

One of the first to leave, Dunkin’ Donuts departure created quite a stir in the neighborhood. With a customer line that often spilled out the front door and rounded the corner of the building, its absence further decreased interest in the aging center.

Other noteworthy tenants following Dunkin’ Donuts’ exit included Hair Cuttery, Metropolitan Bath and Tile Showroom and McGuire Appliance.

For many months neighbors watched uneasily as tenants vacated the shopping center. Residents already tended to avoid the Safeway, even though conveniently located, favoring the newer grocery stores popping up in the area.

Neighbors were not the only people concerned about the increasing vacancy and wondering about the center’s future. The remaining tenants, feeling the squeeze of diminishing activity and therefore decreasing patronage, felt anxious as well.

The property owners acknowledge that the planned renovations will affect the remaining businesses, although none will be forced to close.

“As you might expect, the existing tenants will be temporarily impacted by the construction of the center upgrades and improvements. However, all tenants will remain open,” said Boyle.

Some of the remaining tenants in the main Safeway anchored building operating during the renovations include Rite Aid Pharmacy, Radio Shack, a drycleaner, C&H Nail Spa and potentially the “Eastern Restaurant,” though with its tacky neon lit windows its future is looking a bit dim.

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(Photo: News-Press)

The Nail Spa staff are eagerly awaiting the center’s renovation. Employees at the nail salon are not just co-workers, but relatives as well. Born in Vietnam, Huan Tran is the store’s manager, his wife Chi Nguyen is a nail technician, along with Chi’s sister, Trang Nguyen and sister-in-law Tring Tran. This operation is a family affair. Together they keep the salon clean, bright and friendly.

While the spa depends on its regular customers and their families for business, they also rely on new patrons, especially female customers, who comprise the Nail Spa’s primary client base. The manager is hopeful that the redevelopment will include some family friendly tenants that will entice more people to visit the center, including their store.

“It would be nice to have a clothing store and maybe a nice restaurant. We are hoping the new shops will bring more women and children to the center,” said Huan.

Another benefit of a new restaurant is the possibility that customers will come for a meal and then visit other shops. Luckily for the Nail Salon and according to Boyle, promoting cross-shopping is a key goal of the center’s revitalization.

“We want the center to be a natural extension of the community, a place for neighbors to gather, dine outdoors and have easy access and to shop in a pedestrian-friendly environment,” said Boyle.

As previously reported in the Falls Church News-Press, an incoming tenant is all about dining. The Original Pancake House is leaving the City of Falls Church, but only moving a few streets away to nourish its neighbors to the west.

Other shops confirmed as inbound tenants include a replacement for those missing Dunkin’ Donuts treats. At the bakery-cafe Bruegger’s, customers will be able to get baked goods and coffee, in addition to offerings from a full menu.

The owner is also maintaining that the new tenants will include a mix of both local and national retailers.

“We have signed new leases with Bruegger’s, Verizon Wireless and The Original Pancake House,” said Boyle.

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A sign alerts passersby to the status of the under-construction shops at the West Falls Church Outlet Center. (Photo: News-Press)

These newly confirmed shops are slated to arrive in the fall of 2010, when the exterior build out should be completed. As additional tenants sign leases, work will begin on those interior areas and as other stores open the effort will continue into next year.

“Our goal is to have the center 100 percent occupied by the spring of 2011,” said Boyle.

In order to achieve the redevelopment’s vision, the owner is targeting appealing tenants such as a sporting goods or running store, sit-down restaurant, market or deli, ice cream shop, upscale pet store and yoga studio. A pooch friendly environment would be unique and welcome in the area.

With all the new additions, it’s heartening to learn that Safeway is also planning to renovate. Edens & Avant confirmed that Safeway plans to remodel the interior and exterior of their store this year based on their “lifestyle prototype.”

Along with the renovations and new businesses comes a new identity, wisely dropping the “outlet” from the title, the center will be renamed, The Shops at West Falls Church.

“We have already commenced the demolition phase of the construction process. The parking lot and facade work upgrades will commence over the next couple weeks,” said Boyle.

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