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Downtown Site Developers Tighten Up Plan Before F.C. Council Vote

SCOTT ADAMS from Insight Property Group goes over updates to the off-site parking aspect of the Broad and Washington development during the F.C. Council’s work session on Tuesday. (Screenshot: News-Press)

Developer Insight Property Group, who are captaining the proposal for the Broad and Washington project, are still making changes in the days leading up to a critical vote before the Falls Church City Council this next Tuesday.

The proposed development in the center of the City of Falls Church with a mega-Whole Foods market as its anchor will come before the Council on Tuesday to vote on whether or not to move the process toward a potential approval. The project’s supporters are cautiously optimistic that a majority of the five Council members who will vote next week will send the plan to the next step, which is a two month review by all the City’s relevant advisory boards and commissions and groups like the independent F.C. Chamber of Commerce and Village Preservation and Improvement Society.

If it is moved along Tuesday night, the final destiny of the plan won’t come until just after the new year, when a second vote on the special zoning exceptions being sought, and an even more critical vote on the sale of a half-acre of City-owned land at the location will require a Council “supermajority” to OK.

Even with the addition of one new member to the Council through the special election on Nov. 3 to fill the seat vacated by the death of Councilman Dan Sze in July, a minimum of five members of the Council will need to vote “Yes” for the sale of the land in order for the whole project to proceed. That vote will also most likely take place in earlier January even though it will be on the agenda for this Tuesday’s meeting.

In an update on new modifications to the project’s plans at this Monday’s Falls Church City Council work session, Maury Stern and Scott Adams from the Insight team concluded with an emphasis on the fiscal benefits to the City of the project, including the estimates that the plan if completed will bring $2.28 million in new revenue annually to the City’s coffers, compared to the $116,000 annually that the City currently receives from the same three acres.

They pointed out that the estimated $2.3 million to the City is in considerable excess of the estimated $1.57 million that an earlier version of the corner’s development, one with some significant Class A office space that won unanimous approval by the Council, achieved in 2018.

The revenue estimate is especially impressive given the current trends in the wider economy in the face of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, as it is expected that the current recession will deepen considerably.

It was also noted that there is the so-called “Whole Foods Effect” on community development, cited in a regional RCLCO Real Estate study, citing areas like the 14th Street NW corridor in Washington, D.C. where the strategic location there transformed a run-down neighborhood into a major revitalization of the entire wider neighborhood. That kind of impact has resulted in an average of a six percent value added to everything there including real estate.

But the developers reported Monday night that one of the stumbling blocks to a wider appreciation of the deal — the impact, even if temporary, it will have on parking prospects of three adjacent businesses, has been mitigated in the past week by a written deal of a neighboring business to offer its parking lot for use by the three establishments, bringing the total to 65 of the total spaces now contracted for that use and equalling the number that will be temporarily lost with the conversion of the City-owned parking site to the Insight property’s use.

The loss of the spaces will be for only three months during the construction process, when the alternative spaces will be provided by contract with Insight.

Adams told the City Council it’s extraordinary that such a special arrangement has been achieved by a developer more than three years before it will be needed.

Stern also cited some architectural design changes improving the project’s look on Park Place, behind the two restaurants on N. Washington and across from residences on Lawton Street, and said there will be more presented at Tuesday’s meeting.

Also added to the mix for next Tuesday’s meeting is a strongly-worded letter signed by most members of the volunteer board of directors of the Creative Cauldron, the City’s award-winning theatrical troupe that has been promised 5,000 square feet to double the size of their current nearby black-box theater venue.

Speaking more than just to the benefit of their operation, but to the benefits to the entire community of the project, it hails the prospects of the development’s impact on a new “lively, diverse live-work-play area in downtown Falls Church.” There will “finally be a there there,” the letter touts. (The letter is published in full elsewhere in this edition).