The small meeting room at the Falls Church City Hall reserved for work sessions was packed like a just-opened sardine can Tuesday night, as neighbors to the site of a proposed large-scale mixed use project anchored by a 60,000 square foot Harris Teeter grocery story piled in to hear the latest on the plans.
They learned that Patrick J. Kearney and his colleagues at the Rushmark Properties, LLC, had revised the plans for the 301 W. Broad Street proposed development, making a number of key concessions based on further meetings with City staff and house meetings with the neighbors.
It was a time to digest the changes, and while some on the City Council and Planning Commission who were present groused about issues of “massing” and a “suburban rather than urban feel,” at the end of the two-hour session, Council members were crowing about the prospect of the project to be a “seminal” project kicking off the development of the City Center area, and a “catalyst for a new, vibrant downtown.”
The project, in its latest form, fits a state-of-the-art Harris Teeter below five floors of rental residential units, requiring a special exception for a height of 90 feet, three levels of underground parking, a plaza for outside dining fronting on W. Broad, additional landscaped buffering between the project and the Winter Hill neighborhood behind it, enclosed loading and trash docks, reversing of the pattern for supply truck circulation in and out of the site, undergrounded utility lines, and the shift of its density further away, up to 70 feet from the neighborhood behind.
The total number of residential units was scaled back to 282 from 294, and there will be a pedestrian walk-though in the middle of the site from Annandale Road to W. Broad.
Kearney told the joint work session that the project still promises to yield $1.32 million in net new revenue to the City, the equivalent of 4.5 cents on the real estate tax rate. In addition, the project offers an aesthetic “full masonry skin,” 17 affordable dwelling units, LEED silver environmental impact and a generous contribution to the school system.
While members of the Council and Planning Commission expressed misgivings in general, including the lack of a plan for handling left-turn traffic from the westbound lanes of Rt. 7 (W. Broad St.) into the project, in the end the Council comments were positive.
Councilman Phil Duncan applauded the developers’ “process of involvement with the community,” saying, “You’re making good progress.” He added, “I am ready to move. This is a big thing for Falls Church, a catalyst for more up and down on West Broad.”
Councilman Ira Kaylin said, “I would like to have something really successful here” given the “budget numbers coming up.”
Council member Johannah Barry called the plan “seminal,” being “very important in a very important location.” She added, “I want to make it viable for Rushmark and its clients.”
Councilman David Tarter added, “I am confident we can work through these issues. It will be a catalyst for a new and vibrant downtown and we need it desperately. We need this anchor.”
No mention was made in the meeting of the fate of Anthony’s Restaurant, the long-standing historical icon of the City that would be sacrificed to the project if it gets approved. However, Kearney reiterated that there will be 3,400 square feet of ground floor retail available, which could be for a restaurant.