Site Plan Submitted, Ground Break May Be by September
By a unanimous 6-0 vote Monday, the Falls Church City Council gave a final OK to modifications of zoning and special exception provisions sought by the developers of the Hilton Garden Inn that will now move forward toward construction in the downtown City of Falls Church.
The six-story, 110-room hotel will be located at 706 W. Broad St., and was initially OK’d by the Council in 2008 before the downturn in the economy forced its delay. With a new developer, the hotel project was reintroduced with modifications to lower its cost of construction this spring, and is now set once again to get built.
Following Monday’s vote, the formal site plan for the project was submitted to City Hall on Tuesday, and is expected to take 30 to 45 days for review and approval by the City’s Planning Commission. There are no indications that any significant stumbling blocks will delay this process.
If all goes according to plan, a groundbreaking ceremony will be set for sometime in late September or early October, and the construction will take about a year. It could be ready for occupancy in time for the holiday season of 2012.
Key leaders of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce, F.C. residents John Rodock and Sally Cole, appeared before the Council this Monday to report on the Chamber board’s continued support for the effort, and for the hotel’s expected boon to the business community.
By contrast to the earlier approval process for the hotel in 2008, there was only two citizens who spoke against approval this Monday.
City Manager Wyatt Shields expressed his strong support, saying “We’ve worked hard to make this project as good as it can be,” citing the limitations of the size of the parcel involved and “neighborhood issues.” He noted that special exceptions are provided for businesses that are considered “desirable for the City,” and added, “I strongly support it.”
Rick Goff of Falls Church’s Economic Development Office told the Council that projected net revenues to the City from the project were developed carefully and “we’ve taken very conservative approaches” to estimates. Net new revenues to the City are expected to range anywhere from $430,000 to $644,000 annually.
“I am delighted that the City has re-approved this project,” developer Bob Young, on who’s land the hotel will be built, told the News-Press Wednesday. “We very much look forward to having this hotel become another center of activity in the City of Falls Church.”
In addition to the sizable annual benefit to the City from taxes, the hotel will provide the City with its first significant meeting space facilities. Over 3,000 square feet of meeting space is slated, which can be opened up into a single meeting or banquet area, or divided up into smaller spaces. A full kitchen and catering capability will make it possible for major banquet events to be held there, bringing to Falls Church its first such facility within its city limits.
In the deal struck between Young and the hotel developers, Gosnell and Palmer Holdings, Young’s sale of the land will be consummated upon approval of the site plan, and Young will continue to be a minority stakeholder in the hotel.
It was Young who originally came forward with the hotel project in 2008, but when the economy tanked, it became unfeasible for him to proceed, even though he’d secured solid City Council approval. It remained idle until Young found the Gosnell Palmer Holdings group, based in Tysons Corner, willing to revive it with some modifications to make it economically feasible in the current environment.
It was those modifications which the City Council finally agreed to this Monday.
In expressing the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce’s support for the plan, Rodock and Cole took turns presenting a formal statement to the Council Monday. They noted the project will most likely generate more than $500,000 in net revenue annually, provide jobs for more than 30 people, provide residents and businesses an upscale, focused service hotel option for out of town guests, capture business from tourists and business visitors in need of upscale amenities who now go outside the City, make meeting space available, and will support and promote local restaurants and businesses generating sales for them and tax revenue for the City above and beyond the fiscal impact projections.
They concluded, “With all due respect to our motel and extended stay lodging providers, the City needs an upscale service focused hotel.”
Monday’s vote was 6-0 with Council member Robin Gardner not present.