Over five years in the making, the Akridge Company’s two-building mixed use development project on Route 29 (N. Washington St.) in the City of Falls Church won a final unanimous vote of approval from the Falls Church City Council tonight. The approval marks the first for such a project in Falls Church since the onset of the Great Recession and has City fathers hopeful that others stalled in the development queue, such as a massive City Center plan and a hotel, will soon begin moving ahead as well.
The Akridge’s Joe Svatos told the News-Press after tonight’s vote that, in talking with developer associates of Akridge throughout the U.S., the D.C. region is one of the fastest to recover anywhere, and that Akridge is now ready to begin work on another new project in the District later this year. “You don’t know how lucky you are to be in the D.C. area,” Svatos quoted others as saying.
Mike Gill, the vice president at Akridge who has spearheaded the painstaking effort to see the approval process though over a five-year stretch, told the News-Press that he’s not sure when a site plan will be ready or when the first spade might go into the ground. “We’ll have a big meeting within the next couple of weeks to lay out plans on how to proceed from here,” Gill said.
He did express satisfaction at the comments of two City Council members — Vice Mayor David Snyder and Council member Robin Gardner — that opened the door to the kind of tenant flexibility Akridge might need to ensure full occupancy in its all-commercial building. There is a concern, echoed by Gill, the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce and three members of the F.C. Planning Commission, that the provision mandating retail on the first floor of the office building could turn away a potential tenant seeking to purchase and occupy the entire building. But while the approval went through with that provision intact, Snyder and Gardner urged Akridge to return to the Council with a request for modification should it line up such a tenant.
At issue tonight was about 12,000 square feet on the ground floor of the five-story Class A office building that will face directly onto Route 29 at a location the nearest available in the commercially-zoned portion of Falls Church to the East Falls Church Metro Station. With 71,000 square feet of office space above the first floor, the 12,000 square feet designated for retail could be marketed to a firm seeking all 83,000 square feet of the structure based on the sentiment that Akridge found expressed on the Council tonight.
The Council’s final OK, following a similar 7-0 favorable recommendation from the Planning Commission last week, comes as the City of Falls Church is caught in a very tight budget squeeze caused not only by the Recession but also legal and shared-cost disputes with its larger neighbors in Fairfax and Arlington Counties. So, all the City Council members tonight paid very close attention to the report by the City’s Economic Development Office director Rick Goff that projected net revenue to the City, over and above what it extracts from the current use of the land, will range between $574,000 and $737,000 each year, equivalent to two cents on the real estate tax rate. Goff also calculated the net value of proffers Akridge made to the City to be $3.4 million, including a contribution of $1.425.800 to the City’s school capital fund.