Plans for a first-rate Class A 67,000 square foot office building with ground floor retail and attached to a second building with 292 luxury apartments smack in the middle of downtown Falls Church were filed with the City of Falls Church this week.
The new configuration for the northeast corner on the intersection of Washington (Rt. 29) and Broad (Rt. 7) is the newest to come from Todd Hitt’s Kiddar Capital, with its headquarters in the older building there now, and his partnership with Rick Hausler’s Insight Property Group.
While an earlier version included a large grocery, this one has an even more alluring attraction that fits right into the emerging “arts and entertainment” neighborhood that is keyed by the renovated old State Theater a few doors away.
A letter of intent has been signed between the developers and Laura Connors Hull of the Creative Cauldron, the group which Hull started from scratch 15 years ago to become one of the D.C. Metro region’s most iconic and popular small theater performing arts companies to put Hull’s operation right there.
With the move, Creative Cauldron will nearly double its current space on S. Maple Street and enjoy exposure to one of the most heavily trafficked roads in the region. If the new overall project moves ahead with due dispatch at City Hall, Cauldron will be able to complete its lease on S. Maple and move right into the new space.
In a statement to the News-Press about the news, the Cauldron’s Connors Hull said, “Creative Cauldron is thrilled to be included in the plans for this exciting new development. Rick Hausler and Todd Hitt understand the impact that the arts can have in a community and are committed to creating an inviting, vibrant arts end entertainment hub for the City of Falls Church. We look forward to working with them and to contribute to the economic and cultural vitality of the City.”
The vision of Falls Church’s Planning Director Jim Snyder to dedicate the neighborhood to “arts and entertainment” in his ”small area planning” will gain a major boost from this. A long-standing major recording studio, a popular used CD retailer and other businesses have already been situated there, with other live music venues at popular restaurants within the block.
With the combination of 67,000 square feet of office space and 292 apartments, the developers predict that 250 to 300 permanent jobs will be created there, combined with the residents of the apartments to put “feet on the street” in that natural City center, making it a bustling and vibrant downtown.
But the biggest boost of all from this proposed new project will be what it does for the City’s tax coffers. The developers’ consultants, the same that the City of Falls Church uses to calculate such things, project that once completed the project will bring $1.4 million in annual tax yields to alleviate the tax pressures on residents to provide the many infrastructure needs now pressing on the City, such as a renovated City Hall, library and a new high school. Over the course of 20 years it is projected that the project could bring $31.4 million to the City tax coffers, with a lot of collateral spin-off effects, as well.
Hitt and Hausler told the News-Press in an exclusive interview Tuesday that they took to heart responses from City Hall to their earlier designs for the intersection, and sought to carefully address each need and concern.
The new plan, for example, leaves the existing parking lot between the State Theater and the project, and behind Argia’s and the Beach Shack restaurants, untouched. Also, there will be a 10,000-square foot elevated courtyard connecting the office building at the corner and the apartment building to its east on Broad St. The ground floor spaces of both buildings will be dedicated to “neighborhood serving” retail and fine restaurants.
The alignment of the restaurants in the new building with the State, the Beach Shack and Argia’s will create a natural “restaurant row,” Hitt noted.
A balcony above the ground floor at the intersection will be available for use by the retailers or local events, as will a much larger rooftop space above the office building for, as an example, New Year’s Eve “Watch Night” and other special occasions.
The developers themselves will be the major tenants of the new office building, taking the top two floors.
“Unlike the old-style Class A office buildings in D.C. or even Tysons, ours will be full of life and breathing, with a mix of uses and a friendly place to be. We want it to be part of the community,” Hitt said.
As for the apartments, they are being designed to be “in-between” sizes, to attract empty nesters, those who want to relocate but stay in Falls Church, and generally of a more mature demographic. “Some, of course, will work in the office building right next door. For them, it will provide for the world’s shortest commute,” Hausler quipped.
The developers are patrons of the arts, and Hausler attended recent productions at the Creative Cauldron which he commented were of “Kennedy Center quality.” Indeed, the Cauldron has four nominations for Helen Hayes Awards that will be announced next month.
Hitt was the driving force behind the 301 W. Broad and Harris Teeter building, and he said he hopes the process at City Hall will be as helpful with his new project as it was for that one.
Seeing the benefit of the revenues and the vitality that this project will bring to the City, he said, he’s hoping that the wheels will move with due dispatch to get the needed approvals at City Hall to get to work on it. The developers are not reliant on private equity markets for their capital, so they will be able to get started right away.
Once underway, the whole thing should take about two years to build, he noted.