Seeks Council OK For Bank on Site, Eatery Signs Up
The developer of the largest new mixed-use project yet in the City of Falls Church told the City Council Monday that his mammoth, “The Spectrum,” going up in the 500 block of West Broad Street is being completed on schedule. He added that despite the slow-down in the housing market, he fully intends to market all the project’s near 200 units as for-sale condominiums, without reverting them to rentals.
Jan Zachariasse of the Waterford Group, who’d also launched the City’s first new project, “The Broadway,” in the adjacent block six years ago, said that the only impact the housing downturn has had on the effort to date was a delay in the start-up of condo sales efforts.
“In this market, it’s hard to sell something sight unseen,” he said, adding that while his sales effort will gear up this fall, it will not be at full steam until early next year, when the project is nearer completion.
Otherwise, he said, “We will deliver ‘The Spectrum’ as originally approved by the Council four years ago.” He said the “truly magnificent building,” and the first in the City with an environmentally-friendly “green roof” will be delivered in early 2008.
The only hitch, if it could be called that, is that redoubled efforts to find a suitable tenant for one of the larger retail spaces on the ground floor has only produced yet another bank for Falls Church.
After howling about that option earlier this year, the Council seemed approving Monday, given the “good faith effort” Waterford officials put into finding a more diverse use. Zachariasse introduced Eric Rubin, a retail broker, who said that a sweeping effort to find an alternative business for the site over the last four months did not bear fruit.
While City Councilman David Snyder protested the use, other Council members seemed satisfied that Waterford’s has been a good faith effort, and that the market at the present time will only offer up a bank. Still, the lease for the location will be a short one, only five years, keeping options open for a shift in the market fairly soon.
Zachariasse and his lieutenant, Chris Ciliberti, also reported a new, trendy restaurant has signed a “letter of intent” to occupy the corner space that will anchor the project’s “market square” area in its center. Slated for the site is a new “Not Your Average Joe” location, one of a small restaurant chain’s dozen other locations in New England and at the Landsdowne Shopping Center in Loudoun County. It features all freshly prepared American-style food with a New England twist.
The restaurant is slated to have plenty of outside dining space adjacent to the “market square” which will be a one-way vehicular horseshoe drive-around with on-street parking and a small square in the middle. That location, which is currently used as a parking lot for Panera Bread, the Koi Koi Restaurant and other businesses in the 450 W. Broad office building, will soon undergo construction.
Tenants at the 450 W. Broad building were notified this week that the lot will soon be closed off entirely for the construction, but not before 45 parking spaces will be ready for use beneath ‘The Spectrum’ with an entrance off Pennsylvania Avenue.
Other prospective retailers interested in “The Spectrum” include a gym for toddlers, a “tropical smoothie” store, an eyewear store, some soft goods retailers, a wine store, art gallery and jeweler.
Jacobs told the Council that “time” is the most important factor in whether or not enough “critical mass” is generated in Falls Church to make it a significant magnet for the retail industry. Among other things, including competition from a rapidly-expanding Tysons Corner, is the fact that in the current market, retail tenants nationally are in a “risk mitigation” mode with more cautious decision-making going on. “It is like herding sheep to the corral now,” he said. “If you don’t have the lead sheep, it won’t work.”
The demographics are all here now, Rubin said, “But there is no ‘there there’ in Falls Church yet.”
In other related developments, new retailers announcing plans to open in Falls Church include Road Runner Sports, slated to open a store here in the Spring of 2008 at the site of departing Offenbacher’s, Pie-tanza, with wood-fired pizza and subs, opening a location soon at 1216 W. Broad, former home of the Pizza Hut, and Vintage This and That Furniture, which has filed for a building permit with the City for the commercial space recently vacated by M & M Floors at 1075 W. Broad.