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‘Standing Room Only’ With Anthony’s Supporters at Monday’s F.C. Council

The Falls Church City Council Monday gave a second and final unanimous vote in favor of selling City-owned land in the 200 block of W. Broad St. for purposes of constructing a new Harris Teeter grocery store with residential units above.

img 5518ANTHONY YIANNARAKIS, the owner with his wife Faye of Anthony’s Restaurant, stands at the podium before the Falls Church City Council Monday night, with a veritable army of supporters behind him seeking pro-active efforts on the part of the Council to preserve his legendary restaurant, even as the Council voted to sell City-owned land adjacent it for a large-scale project including a Harris Teeter grocery store that would engulf the property where Anthony’s has served the community for over 40 years (Photo: News-Press)

The Falls Church City Council Monday gave a second and final unanimous vote in favor of selling City-owned land in the 200 block of W. Broad St. for purposes of constructing a new Harris Teeter grocery store with residential units above.

But the vote was anti-climactic following exchanges between the Council and a standing-room-only turnout of citizens urging that the 40-year old City historic icon, Anthony’s Restaurant, be spared in the process of the new development.

The repeated urgings of the citizens for City Hall to work harder to either include Anthony’s in the redevelopment of the block, or to relocate it nearby, did not fall on deaf ears on the Council.

“This is like a scene from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,'” Councilman David Tarter said, congratulating Anthony’s owners Tony and Faye Yiannarakis, sitting in the front row of the audience, for bringing out so many people to hail and advocate on behalf of the restaurant.

“This turnout and 1,671 signatures on petitions (since last Thursday-ed.) tell me that people want me to be around,” Yiannarakis told the Council.

He said he’d be willing to take space in a new building or be relocated nearby. “My restaurant is not just to make money — although it has helped us to raise and put our children through school — but it’s been for all the people for 40 years that we’ve served, talked to and loved, things you can’t buy with dollar bills.”

“I am pretty optimistic that if all the parties are willing, there is great potential for this to be a win-win,” Councilman Phil Duncan said. Mayor Nader Baroukh said he is “asking the developer Rushmark Properties to “work toward a win-win situation, and I am asking Anthony’s to do the same.”

“We’ll do all we can to have you stay in the community,” Tarter said. “This is not a matter of choices between one or the other, but we have to find a way to have both,” Vice Mayor David Snyder said.

City Manager Wyatt Shields referred to the efforts of the City’s Economic Development Office to work with Anthony’s for a solution since it was known that the property owner would look to sell or redevelop the property, and that Anthony’s lease expiring in early 2013 would not be renewed.

Shields said the following:

“The City has been working hard for quite some time to see that Anthony’s Restaurant stays in The Little City, in anticipation that the current location would be redeveloped at some point. The City’s Economic Development Office (EDO) has proactively worked with Anthony’s and nearby property owners to explore options for relocation of the restaurant.

“It is also possible that Anthony’s could be located within the redeveloped site. The EDO provides this kind of assistance for all businesses that are facing the end of their lease and are seeking a new location. We have worked to help them identify opportunities, believing in the importance of this long standing business to the City.

“But we must note that Anthony’s Restaurant is located on private property and subject to a lease with the owner of that property. That lease expires in 2013. The owner’s intention to redevelop the property at the end of the current lease terms has been known for many years. The City Council’s decision tonight on terms for selling its property comes well after a decision has been made by the private owner of the former Post Office and Anthony’s property.

“The owner has made it known for some time that the private land on which the former Post Office and Anthony’s sits will be redeveloped. The question before us tonight is whether it may be redeveloped in conjunction with the City and EDA owned land.

“Given the importance of this redevelopment to the future of the City, the Council has established a deliberate process for considering this redevelopment. First: establish terms for the sale of the City owned property, on a straightforward fair market basis. That is the ordinance before the Council tonight. Second: consider a land use application for the proposed redevelopment, which will require a Special Exception and City Council’s legislative approval. The land use approval process is a very public process.

“That is where we will shift our focus next. Through that approval process, we will consider all issues associated with the proposed redevelopment – its design, its uses, traffic, impacts on adjacent property owners and businesses, impacts on City services, and how well the project meets community needs.”

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