News

Dirt Flies as Groundbreaking Kicks Off Long-Awaited Northgate Project

Construction Begins On N. Washington St. Mixed Use Building

It’s been a long time coming, but the first groundbreaking in Falls Church for a major new mixed use project in six years occurred under perfect summer skies last Thursday, the first definitive sign of a thaw in the paused, recession-wracked economy for this neck of the woods, at least.

hekemianphoto

GROUNDBREAKING FOR THE long-awaited Northgate mixed-use project on N. Washington St. occurred last Thursday with the help of some Hekemian Company and City officials. Among those identifiable in this picture are (l. to r.) Bryan Hekemian and Chris Bell of Hekemian, Melissa Teates of the F.C. Planning Commission, Lawrence Webb of the F.C. City Council and in the foreground right, F.C. Mayor Nader Baroukh. (Photo: News-Press)
Construction Begins On N. Washington St. Mixed Use Building

It’s been a long time coming, but the first groundbreaking in Falls Church for a major new mixed use project in six years occurred under perfect summer skies last Thursday, the first definitive sign of a thaw in the paused, recession-wracked economy for this neck of the woods, at least.

The Hekemian company of New Jersey has had all the approvals it’s needed since 2007 for the construction of the Northgate, a building combining 95 rental residential apartments, 10 rental townhouses, 15,000 square feet of office space, and 23,00 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

It will go up on the property of the long-defunct Pearson Funeral Home, and will be the first big project on N. Washington St. that is expected to gain tremendously from its proximity to the East Falls Church Metro station.

Already two large residential projects have been completed just over the boundary line in North Arlington that are sold out due to their location near the Metro station, and the Akridge Company won its final approvals earlier this year is preparing to launch its Gateway project within a block of The Northgate.

Still, this should be only the beginning. With Arlington County approving a concept plan for development around the East Falls Church Metro station, it won’t be long before that station becomes a central transportation hub for all of Northern Virginia, as it will serve as a transfer station from the Orange to the Silver Line, now under construction to link the Tysons Corner, and ultimately Dulles Airport, to the Metro system.

The added transportation components of proximity to I-66 and the Beltway, while clear of the impending uber-congestion of Tysons Corner, make the location of The Northgate and areas around it highly desirable.

Hekemian’s in-house operation to find tenants for the retail and restaurant space is already producing some significant interest, as reported at last Thursday’s groundbreaking event.

Mayor Nader Baroukh headlined a cast of Falls Church A-Listers invited to the ceremony, which was catered by a local restaurant. In his comments, Baroukh called the project “important to the City’s image and its economic health.”

Byran S. Hekemian, one of three principals of the Hackensack, New Jersey company (along with his brother and father), was on hand for the event. He described the history of the family-owned construction and management company, and its projects scattered over the Eastern Seaboard, including in Vienna and Alexandria in this region. The company was founded by his grandfather, an immigrant from the Armenian section of Turkey.

But it was Hekemian’s Chris Bell that was the company’s familiar face at the event. He’s been Hekemian’s point man on the Northgate project since it first was presented to City Hall in Falls Church over seven years ago. Bell extended thanks to all the City officials involved in bringing the project to the point of construction, leading with Planning Commissioner (former Vice Mayor) Lindy Hockenberry, and City Council member (former Mayor) Robin Gardner.

“This is a beautiful project, even if it will be a mess for awhile,” Bell said.

Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields thanked everyone “for making this project as good as it can be,” and said, “This is what the City needs. This entire corridor will help the City’s financial condition.”

It took three tries for the project to finally get approved in 2007 after many modifications, public hearings and meetings with residential neighbors behind the site.

Baroukh inserted an interesting historical fact into his remarks: “Exactly 100 years ago next week, President William Howard Taft spoke on the stairs of the former home of Dr. Tunis Quick to a gathering of about 300 Falls Church residents. He was on his way from the White House to the site of the first battle of Bull Run to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of that event,” he noted.

An historic marker citing Taft’s visit, and other uses of the site since colonial days, will be placed at the Northgate location.

 

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