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Key Retailer Drops Out of Founders Row Project Due to Pandemic

Correction: In the original version of this article, the News-Press wrote that City Works restaurant had backed out of its agreement to join the Founders Row development. A representative from principal Mill Creek Properties told the News-Press that that wasn’t the case. Language in the article has been updated to reflect that correction.

Business casualties from the coronavirus pandemic hit home for the City of Falls Church, with major retailer in hybrid theater-restaurant Studio Movie Grill backing out of its commitment to the Founders Row development due to financial troubles.

Studio Movie Grill declared bankruptcy in late October.

Developers Mill Creek Properties announced that the biggest non-residential components of the 4.3 acre project will not be coming to its site at the intersection of N. West and W. Broad Streets during a periodic Zoom meeting of neighbors to the site on Thursday.    

Joe Muffler of Mill Creek broke the news at the meeting, information that some on the Falls Church City Council, according to Councilman Phil Duncan, have known about for a few week already. But Muffler insisted that Mill Creek “will leave no stone unturned” to find a replacement movie theater company to move in at Founders Row, he told the meeting, even though he said that almost no new movies are being released in theatres now due to the pandemic. In addition, he said, “all retail is struggling mightily” during the pandemic, including the restaurant industry “that is terrified of this winter.”     

But as construction of Founders Row continues to advance, Muffler said that Mill Creek has contacted “more than a thousand potential commercial tenants” and is currently in lease negotiations with “five or six of them.” 

Muffler concluded his remarks saying Mill Creek “remains bullish on Falls Church, this is an exceptional location. The City of Falls Church is such a draw. We see it as underserved from a retail perspective.” He said as far as potential new retail clients for the Founders Row location, his company will “see who is still standing” after “we make it through the winter.”     

He added that the work of constructing Founders Row project is “proceeding well,” with the first residential move-ins expected in late Summer 2021. Traffic signals will be installed and other transportation improvements will be finished in 6-8 months. A design for a mural on the east side of the main building will come to the F.C. Planning Commission for review next month.