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Best Case Scenario: F.C. City Center Groundbreaking in July

New Parking Deck Could Be Ready in Year

After eight long years, it appears at last that the opening phases of the Falls Church City Center project is about to enter the fast track.

Modifications to developer Atlantic Realty’s plans, allowing for a larger hotel, more parking and a lowering of the height to the main residential building, as reported in last week’s News-Press, have won the support of everyone on the City Council, the News-Press has learned.

The public will have its first chance to examine the changes tonight, Jan. 3, at 6 p.m. in the Art Room of the Community Center. The Council will hear the City staff’s report and a revised economic impact assessment at a work session next Monday, and should put the project to a preliminary approval vote on Jan. 14.

The Planning Commission will make a recommendation, and a final approval should come from the City Council by March, at the latest. Site plan approvals will take another two or three months, and if this time-line is maintained, the first shovel should go into the soil by July.

From that point, all components of “Phase One” of the project will come under construction simultaneously, including a widening of West Broad Street on the south side of its 100 and 200 blocks.

The current parking lot of the Post Office will close, requiring the City to hammer out a parking deal, perhaps with the owners of the site now housing Anthony’s Restaurant, until a new home for the post office in the 800 block of West Broad gets built.

The early phases of construction will also involve the demolition of the two-level parking garage that now serves employees and customers at George Mason Square, including the Ireland’s Four Provinces restaurant, and an adjacent office building.

Alternative parking options in the wake of that are still being explored, but a new seven-level parking facility will rise on that site immediately, and should be completed within seven or eight months.

The new garage, embedded between the George Mason Square and the new hotel, will provide 600 parking spaces, and will be a project funded equally by the developer and the City of Falls Church. Its use will be limited to use by George Mason Square, the adjacent office building and the hotel during daytime hours, and will also be available for general use during night time hours and weekends.

It will include one level below ground and six levels above. When asked by the News-Press why it could not go higher, and thereby serve as a general use garage during all hours, Atlantic Realty’s Adam Shulman said that it would not be aesthetically pleasing to have it “loom over” the hotel or George Mason Square.

While the parking structure will be ready in seven or eight months, the hotel will be ready for use in two years and will bring not only 180 rooms, but also a convention center and banquet capability big enough to serve the needs of a wide range of groups in the City of Falls Church.

This was a major negotiating point for the City Council. Currently, there is no venue large enough in the City to host any number of banquets and special events City organizations and charities routinely hold.

Under the present plans, a banquet hall could handle crowds of up to 300, which would be ample for most of such events. (No particular hotel chain has yet agreed to develop or operate the site, as Atlantic Realty remains in talks with a number of them).

Equally important, the plans for a larger hotel across the street from the original plan to add space for an expansion of age-restricted condos, up from 70 units to 134, lowering the height of the residential rental building from 11 to 10 stories at its highest point and ensuring that net tax revenues to the City from the project will be significantly higher than the $2.8 million annually projected for the original plan.

That’s because age-restricted units cost less to the City in services, and because the project shifts overall from 35 percent all-commercial to 39 percent.

Moreover, the developer’s proffer to assist in the construction of an affordable housing project adjacent the site still stands.