Usually almost nobody shows up for sub-committee meetings of the Falls Church City Council, but this was not the case Thursday night, when the Dogwood Room at City Hall was graced with not only five of the seven members of the City Council, but with representatives of the City’s Planning Commission and Economic Development Authority, two from the City’s own Economic Development Office among others. Everybody was eager to hear the first public briefing by the Insight Property Group LLC, represented by McGuire Woods LLP, who purchased the southeast corner of the City’s central crossroads at the intersection of Routes 29 and 7.
Leaked reports from the spring that made headlines about plans for a 50,000 square foot Whole Foods as the prime anchor of a major mixed-use development covering four parcels that were acquired earlier this year were not repeated last night, as the developers stressed those plans have yet to be solidified. But local developer and new EDA member Bob Young said at one point, “We all know what grocery group we’re talking about here.”
The components of the project that were accented with architectural renderings last night include a five-story mixed-use building with a ground floor retail use of approximately 67,000 square feet, which includes a grocery store mostly on the second floor, a five-story residential multi-family rental apartment component with 324 units, a four-story office building, and a two-story above grade parking garage in addition to two levels of underground parking.
Earlier reports indicated the project could involve a public-private component for the construction of a multi-level parking facility, but that was not mentioned in the presentation made last night. To go forward, the project will need zoning map and comprehensive plan amendments and two special exceptions.
But the City’s Planning Director Jim Snyder said last night that not all the applications components for the project have yet been filed with the City, and as of now there are no follow-on meetings to last night’s that are scheduled.
“This is the most important and prominent site to come through this process” that the City has yet encountered, it was pointed out. Initial revenue projections are that it could bring $60 million in net tax revenues to the City over the next 20 years, and create 120 new permanent jobs. The plan is for two existing popular restaurants – Clare and Don’s Beach Shack and Argia’s – on N. Washington (Rt. 29) between the project and the venerable live music venue, the State Theatre, will fit nicely into the scheme.
It was noted that plans were in the works for development of this site for a long time before the properties were acquired. The 324 rental units will be on balance smaller than other new projects in the region, although there will be a range of options. Mayor David Tarter said that the architectural designs (which can be seen on the City’s website) are “very exciting.” Jim Snyder noted that this may be the only quadrant of the crossroads intersection. he called it the “Number One intersection in the City,” susceptible to significant new development. He noted that grocers “want to be near one another” (a Harris Teeter and Fresh Foods are now under construction nearby) and that with the State Theatre in the same block, and existing restaurants in the immediate area, “it could become a food and restaurant focal point for this part of Northern Virginia.”