Local Commentary

Editorial: Harris Teeter’s Explosive Start

It is like a nuclear explosion hit downtown Falls Church yesterday. But instead of blowing things apart, it’s pulled everything together. The long-awaited opening of the massive new mothership Harris Teeter store in the 300 block of West Broad Street, to say the least, did not disappoint. Opening at 8 a.m. Wednesday, it was choked with curious local citizens all day long. The range of offerings, from ready-prepared meals to a massive wine and beer section and everything in between is mind-boggling.

In the short term, the impact may be a negative one on existing local businesses, but the store will attract many net new patrons to Falls Church’s downtown, inclusive of the hundreds of new City residents piling into the new apartments above the store and soon also at the Lincoln Tinner Hill project down the street. So, overall, in the medium term, all the existing viable businesses in the area will enjoy a net benefit, including from all the new tax revenues the project will generate.

After a decade of planning, approvals and false starts, many have watched as the 300 West Broad building went up the last two years and opened its doors to its 286 new residential units earlier this year. Now, as of yesterday, we’ve witnessed the opening of the new Harris Teeter 60,000 square foot mega-store that rivals any of the biggest comparable stores in the region and that will be open 24 hours a day. It is truly a game changer, not to mention the projected $1.2 million in net annual tax revenues the entire project will bring to the City and its taxpayers.

This happy outcome includes the fact that the major locally owned business that was displaced by this development has long-since successfully relocated. Many local citizens were saddened and upset by the closing of Anthony’s Family Restaurant, a fixture at that location for over 40 years. But the family owning Anthony’s worked and found a new 4,400-square foot spot on Route 50 at Annandale Road and is thriving there. So this has truly been a case of a win-win.

This has been more than a decade in the making. The massive $300 million City Center project that was pieced together 10 years ago included the Harris Teeter component, but while it was all formally approved, it fell apart when the Great Recession hit. All other components of that project vanished, but the Charlotte-based Harris Teeter retained its interest, even after being sold to the Cincinnati-based Kroger supermarket chain, and came to anchor the latest project developed by Rushmark.

Given the scale of the new Harris Teeter, it is not surprising that new owners of the Fresh Market pulled out from their plans to locate on the ground floor of the Lincoln at Tinner Hill project still under construction, and that the Whole Foods company has also withdrawn from the project envisioned up the street at the intersection of Routes 7 and 29.

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