After passing muster with the Falls Church Planning Commission by a unanimous vote last month, and winning predominant kudos from the City’s boards and commissions, the 2.6-acre mixed-use redevelopment project three years in the making for the northeast section of the City’s central Broad and Washington (Rt. 7 & 29) intersection still drew some hesitancy from the City Council at a work session Monday night, although its final vote of approval is still not until April 9.
While the development team was clearly pleased with their progress with the Planners and advisory board and commission groups, the Insight Property Group’s concept of a “restaurant row” girding the project including the existing State Theatre, Clare and Don’s Beach Shack, Argia’s, and then a series of restaurants on the retail ground floor of their project, wrapping around it to the space they’ve designated for the Creative Cauldron theater group, did not win the wows from the Council they might have expected.
Instead, at least three of the seven-member Council want more revenue-generating substance from the commercial component of the project, and Mayor David Tarter made it most explicit. He wants to see a grocery store included in the mix there.
Council member Phil Duncan echoed the sentiment, saying that Falls Church has in the past, and can in the future, handled multiple grocery establishments as it is in the habit of City residents to “forage for food” at a variety of different places on any given shopping day. Councilman David Snyder piped up in a similar fashion, even suggesting that the City withhold occupancy permits for the 300 residential units on the site until occupancy permits are in hand for all the commercial spaces.
In the Feb. 1 written response from Scott Adams of McGuire Woods, which represents Insight, it was contended that “the market dynamics of more locally focused users of this size is that they make leasing decisions much closer to when a space is available to move into as compared to a typical anchor tenant. That dynamic makes it difficult, if not impossible, to sign tenants prior to the zoning and years before the user could move into the project.”
In a comment posted on his Facebook page following the meeting, Duncan said the Broad and Washington proposal “has some appealing elements, but in my view it has some ways to go before it’s ready to return to Council for a final up-or-down vote. The Insight team said it will continue to work with City staff on concerns and suggestions expressed at Monday’s meeting.”
Asked about the name for the proposed development, the Insight spokesmen Monday said they like calling it the “Broad and Washington Project” because it captures the significant central geographic location it will have in the center of the City.
All that said, however, all on the Council retained a very cordial approach to the developers, whose project promises to yield up to $1 million in “net net” revenue to the City, over and above what’s being generated there now. With a new high school, new city hall and new library all now in process of being built, the City is going to need all the added revenues it can get, and Council members will undoubtedly be cautious about how pushy they intend to be in the case of this ambitious project.
The subject will undoubtedly come up at the Council’s annual day long retreat which will begin at 9 a.m. this Saturday, Feb. 10, and go into the early afternoon in the library of the Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School. Then comes the Council’s next regularly scheduled business meeting and public hearing set for Monday, Feb. 12, at its new temporary digs in the Community Center’s Senior Center at 7:30 p.m.