The iconic Falls Church business, Don Beyer Volvo, a.k.a. Beyer Automotive, took the first big public step in the redevelopment of the acreage it has been quietly assembling around its showroom and famous pigs statue, coming before the F.C. Planning Commission on Monday night.
The organization won a unanimous approval for two variances and a special use permit that would allow them to demolish old buildings at 1119 and 1121 W. Broad St., now housing sign painting and auto detailing services, and replace them with a new building that would double as a four-strong auto showroom and administrative offices.
With the Planning Commission’s OK, the matter now comes before the City’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) which will have the final say at its July 12 meeting next week.
While the request Tuesday, which had come before the Planners earlier in a low-key work session, was modest in scope, Beyer representatives said it was just the first step in what’s been the long-awaited major redevelopment of the assembled Beyer properties in what’s known as the Gordon’s Triangle end of the City.
The step, if it moves forward, will involve the relocation of the company’s current auto showroom at 1231 W. Broad, which will then free up that property and surrounding areas for a much more robust development plan.
The property assembly process has been slow and has required a lot of patience from the Beyer family. Spearheading the effort has been long-time F.C. resident Mike Beyer, co-owner of the business with his higher-profile brother, progressive U.S. Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr., a national leader in the Democratic Party’s Congressional Campaign Committee.
The two brothers are heirs to the business begun and sustained at its current location by their father, Don Beyer Sr., in 1973. Beyer Sr. (1924-2017) passed away last December. The business grew from his Don Beyer Motors to one that employs over 350 people. While other locations have sprung up throughout the region, the original Falls Church location has always remained the flagship.
Plans for the assembly of surrounding properties in the heavily-industrial part of Falls Church’s 2.3 square miles have been frequently taken out of a bottom desk drawer and updated while, gradually over years, the properties were assembled.
One recent move was to convert a long-standing Long John Silver’s fast seafood location to Lazy Mike’s Deli, which has done a brisk business since its relocation from a site that will soon be rolled into a 4.3-acre large mixed-use development down the street.
Now with the dense redevelopment of 10 acres of the George Mason High School land across the street being actively pursued by the City in the context of the construction of a new high school, and with WMATA revealing plans for the mixed development of its land around the West Falls Church Metro station just up the street, the Beyers are starting to make their move.
An effort earlier this year to explore moving the showroom off-site entirely, to a location at a new mixed-use project on S. Maple Avenue, for example, failed to materialize, leading to the decision that was advanced Monday night.
The new 7,600 square foot two-story building, if approved, will not be there for the long term, Planning Commissioners were told Monday, but will permit the family business to begin its major development process by freeing up the land on which the current main showroom exists. Undoubtedly, the pigs statue, and a newer one of a Depression-era man eating a can of beans, will be moved, too.
The building would take about a year to put up, with eight months of serious construction, Beyer representatives said.
In addition to functioning as Phase One of the Beyer’s long-term plans, the new building project will also bring the business into compliance with new marketing standards that have been set by the Volvo company.
Volvo has been very pleased with the Beyer plans, seeing them as a prototype for urban dealerships on the East Coast.
It “will be a jewel of a building,” Beyer COO John Altman said. “This will deepen the role of the location as the company’s home base, and redouble the company’s involvement as a big part of this community.” It will be “functional, and better looking,” he said.
According to the staff report, the variances and special use permit sought by the Beyer group are “justified,” having “no adverse impact on adjacent properties.
Planning Commission chair Russ Wodiska commented before the unanimous vote was taken, “This is more of a technicality than anything else. I see that there are no issues, at all.”