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Storm Damage Closes Bowl America: For How Long?

Almost as if on cue, the Bowl America facility in the center of where the City of Falls Church is preparing to redevelop has been closed indefinitely. Structural damage resulting from a recent snow storm is the cause. Falls Church’s building inspector confirmed the need for closing the facility.

News-Press sources indicate the closing is “indefinite” at this point, given the “significant structure damage” pending a further assessment of the extent of the damage by Bowl America, itself.

A spokesman for Atlantic Realty, which just last week unveiled publicly its plan for a major overhaul of the F.C. downtown blocks inclusive of the Bowl America site, said his company is in constant contact with the leadership of the New Jersey-based bowling entertainment firm.

Everything going forward, he said, depends on an evaluation of the extent of the damage to the building. Bowl America had worked out a deal with Atlantic Realty, years in the making, to sell the current site, but only on condition that a new bowling alley be built across the street in a first phase of redevelopment.

The idea was that Bowl America could maintain a seamless continuation of its business in the neighborhood. The Falls Church site is the most lucrative of all the 13 locations owned by Bowl America.

Only after the new alley was completed would operations move over to that site, and the old one become vacated for demolition and the construction of over 500 residential rental units and a big grocery store.

But the unexpected closing this week of the Bowl America location could result in a major reconsideration of the overall plan. Should the building be too severely damaged for an easy fix, Bowl America could decide to stay closed until the new alley is built.

It would mean that demolition of the current site could begin right away. That would speed up completion of that phase of the redevelopment by more than two years.

In a curious coincidence, this marks the second case in recent years of sudden incapacitation of a bowling alley in Falls Church speeding the way to new development. Three years ago, an aging duckpin bowling alley on the site where the Pearson Square condo project is nearing completion on S. Maple St., suddenly caught fire and burned to the ground days before a clearing of the site was slated to begin.