F.C. Now Urging Hekemian: ‘Bring Us Another Plan’
Silverwood Homes’ WestLee mixed use condo project on the North Washington Street/Lee Highway boundary between Arlington and Falls Church is completed, and all but a handful of 128 luxury condo units in the structure have been sold. It’s opening marks a major inflection point in the coming development boom at and around the East Falls Church Metro station.
The East Falls Church station is suddenly among the hottest development location prospects in Northern Virginia, based on last year’s decision by Metro to use that station as the transfer point onto the system’s projected Silver Line through Tysons Corner, and eventually to Dulles Airport and beyond.
The WestLee (so named because it is located at the farthest west point in Arlington on Lee Highway) came in just under the wire of the recent sharp downturn in the regional housing market, selling all but 13 of their units so far, according to Silverwood Vice President Andrew Basham.
The downturn has temporarily slowed the pace of development in that neighborhood, as it has everywhere, but according to Northern Virginia’s long-term economic forecast guru, Dr. Stephen Fuller of George Mason University, the first and strongest rebounds in the housing market will come nearest the Metro stations.
Officials in the City of Falls Church are also now better recognizing the potential of that end of their City for economic development. They’ve gone back to Hekemian Homes, which City officials had twice previously rebuffed when it came forth with plans for a high-density rental structure at the site of the former Pearson Funeral Home site on North Washington.
Rather than the “good bye and good luck” reaction City officials gave Hekemian in its last petition, the City’s Economic Development Department team is now actively engaging in behind-the-scenes negotiations with the developer about bringing back yet another plan.
The neighborhood of expensive single family residences on East Jefferson Street behind the Pearson Home site played a big role in dashing Hekemian’s last proposal, but that has not deterred City officials from wanting Hekemian back.
Akridge is another major developer that has acquired property on North Washington and has already made an initial foray at City Hall about a mixed-use project. While its plan was an environmentally and neighborhood-friendly one, the City could wind up encouraging even greater density on the site.
That’s because plans for a major redevelopment of the City Center in Falls Church, located a half-mile down the road and away from the Metro, is stalled indefinitely by the current $10 million per acre real estate asking price by local property owners. Either way, the impetus and potential for robust development will be stronger the closer it can occur to the East Falls Church Metro.
Asked about that at the monthly luncheon of the Greater Falls Church Chamber of Commerce last week, Acting Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields said that North Washington’s commercially-zoned properties don’t go deep off the main corridor, at least on WestLee side of the street, before hitting residential neighborhoods.
He said that more might possible across the street, where the Jennings Company recently constructed a new office building.
It was pointed out at the meeting, however, that residential neighborhoods might be giving way to development around the East Falls Church Metro station, especially as the housing rebound sets in.
In the meantime there, one large project still on the books for imminent construction across the street from the WestLee on Westmoreland Street, has switched from condos to rentals.
The K. Hovnanian company flipped the property to Hanover House, which is slated to begin construction soon on 220 rental units adjacent the LaCote D’Or restaurant.
While Lynne and Ramon Campet, proprietors of the popular La Cote D’Or, suffered the impact of construction of the WestLee, it is expected to benefit from the proximity of the new residents soon to be moving into the project. But then, they will take another hit from the start-up construction of the Hanover project.
Also just completed are 18 luxury town homes behind the WestLee by the Ed Peete Company.
Meanwhile, a signal light is going up at the intersection of N. Washington and N. Westmoreland, and a new restaurant, the Bear Rock Café, will be opening on the ground floor of the WestLee early next year. N. Westmoreland will be introduced to metered parking with two hour limits to deter Metro commuter parking there.
The WestLee, itself, features stately units with fine wood and granite features standard, eight foot doors and 10 to 16 foot ceilings. The hallways, lobby and community areas are done with striking monochromatic colors. Its innovative interior fashion, according to Sabine Roy Associates, LLC, “has strategically composed the fusion of global up-to-the-minute modernism with the intimate warmth of home.”
More retailers are currently being lined up to fill its 10,000 square feet of ground floor space.