In what was described as a virtual “love fest,” the Falls Church Planning Commission gave unanimous 7-0 final site plan approval to the Rushmark Project slated for the 300 block of W. Broad that will bring a “super flag” Harris Teeter to the site, expected to be up and running in just over two years.
Rushmark executives told the News-Press following tonight’s vote that a groundbreaking on the site should occur by mid to late February, and that the project, including the Harris Teeter and 286 residential units, should be completed within 22 months after that, or by the end of 2016.
While there remain a couple of undetermined factors yet, including whether the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will permit a left turn into the project from the west-bound lanes of Route 7 (W. Broad), , there was no sense given tonight that anything now stands in the way for the launch of this long-awaited project.
Discussions of a Harris Teeter going onto that site have been underway for the better part of the past decade, including through the era of the recession-killing Atlantic Realty City Center project that won a final OK only to run into the teeth of the Great Recession in 2008.
Now, the Rushmark Project was billed, in a short power-point presentation tonight, as “A Premiere Mixed Use Development Leading the Revitalization of the Falls Church City Center.”
Indeed, in tandem now with the Lincoln Properties project given its final OKs four blocks to the west, the downtown area of Falls Church will get its first major facelift, and the area in between the two giant projects will suddenly gain an enormous boost in developer interest.
As if to underscore the benefits of the project for Falls Church (it is estimated to bring $1,32 million in net new revenue annually once completed), the one local business that citizens lamented was displaced by the project, the legendary Anthony’s Restaurant, announced last week that it now has its new site on Route 50 at Annandale Road under construction. Now, it seems like everybody is happy.
That includes the neighbors just behind the Rushmark site, residents of the Winter Hill condominiums. Chuck Anderson, an activist with the Winter Hill Condo Association, spoke tonight to praise the project and the willingness of the Rushmark people to listen to and work with the residential neighborhood behind it as much as they did. “Broad Street will be more vibrant and Winter Hill will be more fun and joyful,” Anderson said.
Another neighbor, Chamber of Commerce activist Gary LaPorta, called it “a first class property,” a sentiment echoed by all the seven Planning Commission members who chimed in with their own remarks.