3 New Grocery Stores Get Public Review at F.C. City Hall in Week

As everyone who’s lived in the City of Falls Church for a period of time undoubtedly knows, there’s one major supermarket located within the City limits. But based on briefings at City Hall in the last week, there are now plans for three more.

The best-known is the plan for a large Harris Teeter in the 300 block of W. Broad St. But that’s not all. In the same meeting last week where the Harris Teeter plans were detailed for the City Council and Planning Commission, the developer of the Lincoln Properties property on S. Maple announced publicly for the first time that a letter of intent has been signed by Fresh Market to occupy a major portion of its large scale mixed-use proposal.

Then, this Monday night, the Planning Commission learned at its meeting that a New York-based Asian-American grocery chain, Good Fortune Grocery, is seeking to locate its first store in the Washington, D.C. area at the Eden Center in the City. Its representatives made a preliminary presentation of a redesign of the frontage of its intended new location.

Incorporating suggestions from the City’s Architectural Advisory Board, the plan is to demolish the front of the 44,000 square foot building in the Eden Center that used to house the Ames Department Store and National Wholesale Liquidators and construct an impressive new design in keeping with the dominant architectural themes of the rest of the Eden Center.

The steps will require some waivers in the site plan approval process before the Planning Commission which will begin to be considered at the commission’s Jan. 22, 2013 meeting.

With both the Harris Teeter and Fresh Market, which currently has a location in nearby Vienna, developments the subject of a City Hall work session last week, Richard Rose of the Lincoln Property Company said that Fresh Market will be a complement to, not primary a competitor for, business at Harris Teeter, even though the two locations will be within four blocks of each other.

The Lincoln project, dubbed “The Reserve at Tinner Hill,” would occupy two acres at the current International Motors and adjacent Meineke sites, and include a small park to go with a proposed 224 residential units, a 24,000 square foot grocery store, 60,000 square feet of retail and 12,000 square feet of retail.

Peter Jablow of the Levine School of Music was present at the hearing. He has made his desire to locate the school’s Northern Virginia center at that location has been enthusiastically expressed.

Following content-heavy presentations last week on both the Rushmark Properties’ Harris Teeter project and the Lincoln Property’s “Reserve at Tinner Hill,” Mayor Nader Baroukh summarized concerns that arose in comments from the City Council and Planning Commission.

On the 2.3 acre Rushmark plan envisioning 294 residential units above the Harris Teeter, Baroukh listed issues including massing and scale, setbacks, location of the loading docks, the number of residential units, the need for more buffering, the results of a traffic study, voluntary proffers, issues surrounding elevator towers, operating hours and lighting, the impact on property values in the neighborhood, the pricing of residential units, and a resolution to the future of Anthony’s Restaurant.

On the Lincoln plan, Baroukh said that issues to be resolved include the “dead wall” space facing Maple Ave., the lack of solid commitments on use of commercial spaces, the parameters of a so-called “festival street” on S. Maple, loading dock location and the number of residential units.

But there was no evidence that anyone on the Council or Planning Commission was dead set against either plan. On the contrary, in fact. It will be very hard for them to turn down the $1.4 million in annual revenues to the City that the Harris Teeter project promises, or the $626,000 annual yield to the City of the Lincoln plan. That’s over $2 million between them, and in a City with an annual budget in the $66 million range, that’s very significant.

In that spirit, Planning Commissioner Lindy Hockenberry commented, “This is a very unusual, exciting situation.” Also a former vice mayor on the City Council, Hockenberry added, “I’ve never had two new development projects presented in one evening before.”

She said “I don’t want it to be an ‘either-or.’ Both projects add vibrancy to the city.”

Councilman Johannah Barry concurred. These “could be an extraordinary benefit to the City,” she said.