Parishioners attending services at the historic Falls Church Episcopal Church Sunday morning were notified that the vestry of the church had closed and signed a deal with the Falls Church-based Young Group leasing the long-idled Southgate Shopping Center. The lease calls for the Young Group to renovate and re-tenant the center, which Young Group principal Bob Young told the News-Press, “We intend to do as quickly as possible.” Young added that he will “give first priority for occupancy there to those businesses in the City that have been or could be displaced by redevelopment elsewhere, and that he hopes the renovated Southgate will include “at least one or two restaurants with outside dining along with an eclectic mix of interesting businesses…We will try to bring needed new goods and services to the City.” The center has 15,000 square feet and had been home to eight separate businesses before being vacated in 2005.
The announcement about the long-term lease was made at the church’s two services Sunday by Mark Hadley, warden of the church. The church acquired the shopping center, located directly across the street from the existing church property, in 2001 with the intention then of redeveloping the land for a new “parish life center.” However, the church leadership at that time, after expelling all of the tenants from the center, then voted to leave the national Episcopal denomination, which brought such redevelopment efforts to a halt while a six-year legal battle ensued over who had rights to the property, the local defecting congregation or the national denomination. The eventual ruling was in favor of the latter, and shortly after the Diocese of Virginia affirmed its consent for the shopping center land to be dedicated to its “highest and best use” to the benefit of the church and its programs serving the Falls Church community. A two-year process of agreeing to lease terms with the Young Group was thus culminated last Friday.
The deal also allows for the Young Group to acquire more properties adjacent to the Southgate site as they may become available for a larger redevelopment in accord with the vision contained in the City’s small area plans, Young said.