‘Palatium’ Project Unveiled to F.C. Council, Planners

Despite the recession, large-scale commercial development is still on the agenda in the City of Falls Church.

It’s been awhile since something new like this has come forward, but a proposal for a three-story retail and office building at the corner of Lee and Park Ave. was aired before a joint work session of the Falls Church City Council and Planning Commission Monday night.

“The Palladium” is a project that Pirouz Khanmalek wants to build, and has spent three years preparing, he told the group Monday. Following closely the travails of other developers coping with the concerns of nearby neighborhoods, he said, he downsized his plans from four to three stories for the all-commercial project that, if built, would sit just behind The Broadway.

Khanmalek said he envisions a restaurant of 3,500 square feet and a gourmet market of 2,500 square feet occupying the first floor, along with two other smaller retail spaces, but has no specific businesses lined up so far. The first-floor retail component would total 9,320 square feet.

map.jpgAlthough the proposed 46-foot building will meet so-called LEED (“Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design”) standards, it will not have a “green roof,” which has become a mild fad in new building construction in Falls Church and elsewhere.

In a new twist on the fad, Khanmalek said that new evidence shows “green roofs,” the calculated cultivation of vegetation on roof tops to absorb water runoff and cool the environment, has come under criticism for contributing to mosquito problems. It adds to the risk of spreading the West Nile virus, he said, citing a study reported in a recent newspaper article.

Among the LEED features the building will include are showers and changing rooms on both the upper floors, dedicated to office spaces. This, combined with ample racks for bicycles in the parking areas, is designed to contribute to use of bicycles as an alternative to auto commutes to the work place, he said.

The Class A office condos on the two upper stories of the building would be broken up into spaces of 1,000 to 3,000 square feet, totaling 38,744 square feet.

With his three-year effort to develop the site, Khanmalek said, “It is my passionate desire to create a lasting tribute to the City of Falls Church.”

Praise for the architectural design of the building, which was displayed in a slide show during the presentation Monday, was universal from the Planning Commissioners and Council members.

However, they echoed concerns of the City Planning staff for the building’s parking arrangements, noting they came in below the zoning code requirements, necessitating the need for a conditional rezoning.

Planning Commissioner Michael Kearney, calling the design of the building “very elegant,” said that if the parking requirements are calculated against the net usable space in the building, and not its gross size, then “the gap between the code and the parking provided is much, much smaller and resolvable.”

Planning board chair John Lawrence called it, “A very good design,” and board members Russell Wodiska and Lindy Hockenberry said, “It is architecturally very appealing,” and “It is a beautiful design,” respectively.

(The meeting marked the first time that three newly-appointed members of the Planning Commission, taking over Jan. 1, participated in such a joint work session with the City Council).

The Palladium would replace two low-scale, low-density office buildings currently on the site. According to the City planning department, it is consistent with both the City’s Comprehensive Plan and design guidelines, including the use of brick on its façade.