In the works since late 2011, an ambitious plan involving the assembly of five parcels of land to piece together a four-acre new development likely to include a 149-room hotel, 274 rental residential units, 42,900 feet of retail anchored by an upscale Walgreens, two levels of underground parking and a total of 425,070 square feet of construction was outlined to the Economic Development committee of the Falls Church City Council at City Hall this morning.
The development plan, according to Peter A. Batten of the Vienna, Virginia-based Spectrum Development, was brought forward at this point because the assemblage of all five parcels is on the verge of completion, even as a sixth parcel is still being negotiated. The area of the project on the northeast corner of the W. Broad and N. West St. intersection would cover the existing City Sunoco, now-vacant former Amigo Market and Brits on Broad and Panjshir restaurant small retail strips, the 7-Eleven and Lazy Sundae and Shreve Plumbing/Falls Properties building and one adjacent residential home on Park Avenue.
The plan will come to the City Council inclusive of dual options, one with the hotel component and one without, Batten said. That’s to insulate the project from a downturn in the economy, he said, since the hotel component would be most sensitive to that. The two versions would, he said, hopefully be approved jointly for needed special exceptions by the Council, to allow for emerging wider economic factors. Either way, however, the project would bring from $2 million (with the hotel) to $1.4 million (without the hotel) to the City in net annual revenues.
If achieved, the project would be the second-largest new development in Falls Church’s commercially-zoned corridors, second only to Pearson Square. Once developed, its total assessed value would be $112.5 million, compared to $10.5 million as the properties stand today. Batten suggested that a $2.05 million proffer to the F.C. schools’ capital fund would be one of the amenities, along with significant improvements to the West End Park across the street that would come with the approval of the project.
Bruce Leonard of the Bethesda, Md.-based Streetsense architectural firm said that the project will be targeted to young professionals with a mix of regional, rather than national, retailers including a number of restaurants. The rental apartments would be 80 percent studio or one-bedroom units, and being only a half-mile from the West Falls Church Metro station, a regular shuttle service would be provided from the site.
Present at this morning’s meeting were Council members Ira Kaylin, who chaired the session, David Tarter and Phil Duncan. City Manager Wyatt Shields and Planning Director Jim Snyder were present, along with Richard Goff and Becky Witsman from the City’s Economic Development Office and Mike Novotny, chair of the City’s Economic Development Authority. Suzie Atalla, mother of the owner of one of the retail strip properties, was also present. There was no general discussion of the plan, only questions and answers. Shields said that based on whether or not there were significant differences to be ironed out with the City staff ahead of time, the next step would be to bring the plan to a public work session of the Council.
Batten said that his group is prepared to begin conversations with residential and other neighbors to the site. Some conversations have already been held, he said, and there will be talk with some existing retailers on the targeted site about either help in relocating, or being absorbed into the project. He said that with numerous leases coming due by the end of this year, how those will be managed will be based on how realistic it appears by then that the approval of the overall project will be. Some subsidies to assist existing retailers on the property are being considered, Batten said.
“This is a generational opportunity,” said former Falls Church City Manager David Lasso, who was present at the meeting as an attorney representing Spectrum. It will present opportunities to address difficult storm water management and other matters in that neighborhood, as well, he said. The hotel proposed for the site would be a Hilton-brand “Home 2” extended stay model. There would also be a drive-through bank, and the new Walgreens model, with food, wellness and cosmetic departments akin to their new locations at 7th and H and at Connecticut and Van Ness in D.C., would also have a drive through. The total floor to area ratio (FAR) of the project would be 2.5 with the hotel. Building heights would range from 75 feet on W. Broad to 62 feet on the Park Avenue side, and the Walgreens would be two stories.