With Larger Hotel, F.C. City Center Will Fly With Council

Reports Council Near Unanimous For Thumbs Up

A light bulb went off in the head of Atlantic Realty’s Adam Shulman last week that has apparently provided a workable solution to key nagging concerns about the developer’s Falls Church City Center proposal.

According to News-Press sources, the latest configuration of the ambitious project adds more real estate on the east side of S. Maple Street that is currently under contract to the developer, allowing for a larger hotel component, and lowers the height of the main residential structure. Those two elements have been key to some City Council members.

The new plan adds about 1.5 acres to the 5.2 acres that had been the focus of the development to date. It will also add considerably to the net revenue estimates for the City’s tax coffers. Although official figures have not been provided, one News-Press source said it could help the project yield more like $4 million a year, far more than the $2.8 million conservatively estimated previously.

The new plan was the subject of an extended closed session of the City Council and Planning Commission last Thursday night. It is predicted that at the Council’s first public business meeting on Jan. 14, it will vote “first reading” approval to the new plan. If not unanimous, the vote should be close to it.

That will be key, because the plan involves the sale of City-owned property, which requires a so-called “super-majority” vote of 75% of the Council. That means six out of the seven Council members must vote “yes.”

After the “first reading,” the Planning Commission will have up to 60 days to recommend for or against it. As soon as it makes its recommendation, the proposed ordinance will come back to the Council for a “second reading,” which would be a final approval. That could be done within the narrow time frame that still exists in the terms struck between Atlantic Realty and Bowl America.

The new eastside of Maple Ave. element will involve the demolition of the current parking structure supporting tenants at the George Mason Square complex, also owned by Atlantic Realty. In its place will be a much-taller, five story parking structure that will fit just behind the new hotel design.

The hotel, which will be built and operated by the Marriott Corporation, will have more rooms and larger convention and banquet facilities than initially proposed. That has been a major goal of the City Council in its negotiations with Atlantic Realty, because they want a place that local civic and related groups can hold events, including annual banquets and confeces.

Prior to this new plan, the hotel Atlantic Realty had in its plans was too small for such a use, as is the Hilton Garden hotel, now also planned by the Young Group for the 800 block of W. Broad.

Once the final approvals are obtained from the City, the hotel component will be flipped over to Marriott, which will handle all the construction and then, management.

The hotel has always been the primary economic driver of the overall City Center plan, and by being larger, its contribution to the overall net annual tax income to the City could be significant. Also, of course, prospective hotel guests would spend more money in the City than previously estimated.

Another important element involves the expansion of the age-restricted condominium project, enlarged to fill the space that was previously dedicated to the hotel. Since the units will be available only to persons aged 55 and above, they will involve a very minimal expense to the City (lacking school aged children) such that the more there are, the higher the net tax yield to the City.

As a trade off against the added condo units, Atlantic Realty will reduce the number of rental units in the largest single building above the planned Harris Teeter grocery store. That reduction will knock a full floor off that building, making it a better fit for the area and giving the Council another of its negotiating requests.

The new hotel plan will now be included in the first, instead of the second, phase of the project, meaning it will be brought on line up to two years sooner than in the old plan, bringing the benefits of its revenue and convention/banquet facilities to the City.