Atlantic Realty, which up until the Great Recession of 2007 had won approval for a major downtown Falls Church mixed use plan, came to the Economic Development Committee of the F.C. City Council this morning with a somewhat more modest revival of that plan and it ready to move ahead. The new plan, which will require four separate special exception approvals from the Council, will cover 5.82 acres at the intersection of W. Broad and S. Washington, directly across that major intersection diagonally from the equally massive Whole Food-based project that the Insight Property group is moving through the City’s approval process now.
Atlantic’s was the original downtown mega-plan for the City involving $340 million in development and encompassing the bowling alley and a wider neighborhood reach before the Great Recession brought it to a screeching halt. This morning, connecting virtually at the online meeting, some of the same principals from Atlantic, including Adam Schulman who is a dozen years older than the last time the Council saw him but doesn’t look it, laid out their plan to fill the entire City block that takes up the three George Mason Square buildings (anchored by the Ireland’s Four Provinces restaurant), the vacated BB&T bank building, a two-story parking garage and a tailor shop.
The plan is to renovate the three George Mason Square buildings and demolish everything else on that block, replacing them with 264 mostly-one bedroom apartments in a 115 foot tall building, a 26,500 square foot grocery store (for which there is already secured a letter of intent), and a “woonerf,” a Dutch concept of a “living street” running through the center of the project with small retail spaces and stage for public concerts and festivals. The “woonerf” would be directly across from where Mr. Brown’s Park, the popular pocket park renovated last year by the City is located,. and the City’s Jim Snyder suggested be linked with a crosswalk in the center of the 100 block of West Broad. Thomas Dinneny of Atlantic said the plan is scheduled to be submitted to the City on January 15. He said the fact that yet another grocery store, this one sandwiched between the Harris Teeter and proposed Whole Foods, will be located in that project is seen by the grocer as an advantage, since face-to-face competition seems to benefit all parties involved.
With 88,800 square feet of commercially-oriented use, the project will be one of the most balanced mixed-use projects in the City, being 40 percent commercial and 60 percent residential.
The plan met with favor with all three City Council members present at the meeting, including Phil Duncan, Letty Hardi and Ross Litkenhous. “This looks very promising, it is a great plan,” Litkenhous said. Atlantic has a history in Falls Church that goes beyond the earlier plans, having a hand in the development of Pearson Square and the Harris Teeter building. It is involved in the operations of over five million square feet of development in the D.C. area.