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Panjshir Afghan Restaurant Inks Deal To Relocate Into Renovated ‘Lily Strip’

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Yet another small business being displaced by new development in Falls Church will be landing on its feet, and in a location that will enhance its exposure to the public.

It was announced Monday that the long-popular Afghan restaurant, Panjshir, will be moving from its current 924 W. Broad location to the newly and thoroughly-renovated Southgate Village Shops at 100 E. Fairfax at S. Washington.

The papers have been signed for the move, according to Bob Young, principal of the Young Group, which secured the 10-shop strip mall from the historic Falls Church Episcopal eight months ago.

With its superior reputation, the restaurant is the biggest score yet for Young at the site because it insures that the establishment will survive the impending demolition of its current site for the construction of the 4.3-acre Mason Row mixed use center.

Two other small businesses have also found a way to carry on in Falls Church at new locations, including Bikenetic, which moved months ago to a location on W. Jefferson in the Little City, and Mike’s Deli, which had taken over a former thrift shop next to the 7-Eleven at N. West and W. Broad and now will be upgrading its location to the site of the former Long John Silver’s across from George Mason High School at W. Broad and Shreve Road.

This is in the spirit of the storied relocation of the historic Anthony’s Restaurant which had been a fixture in the 300 block of W. Broad for 40 years before it had to make way for the 300 W. Broad project, home of almost 300 new rental apartments and a huge Harris Teeter anchor store that has been open since July and has won awards from regional development organizations. Anthony’s, after much local controversy, wound up relocating at its present digs on Annandale Road just outside the Little City, where the Yiannarakis family has prospered, bringing many of its former patrons with it.

Such is the hope for the Panjshir, which has been a favorite for many local and regional patrons. Founded in 1985 by Aziz Niazy when he moved to this area from his native Afghanistan, when he retired it was taken over by his son Ezmat, and daughter Maria, who have continued its extensive menu of unique and affordable Afghan dishes.

The new location is much more colorful than the old one, as Young put his unique signature architectural look to a total renovation of the Southgate Center, which now goes by the nickname of the “Lily Building,” because Young has stamped the exterior with an Art Nouveau-styled look. In other words, there are big lilies on its exterior.

Young has done similarly with other of his projects in town, starting with the more modest Art Nouveau-styled Read Building in the 400 block of W. Broad. His first real leap to the look came with his “Flower Building” in the 800 block of W. Broad, now home to the City’s post office and school administrative offices, and the “Tulip Building” at Annandale at S. Washington, home to the Smash Burger and other attractions.

Young’s lease on the Southgate Center, made with the Falls Church Episcopal last spring, marked the closing of one of the more unsavory chapters in the Little City’s history. The center had been acquired by the previous leadership at the church in the late 1990s, which saw the property as the site for a new parish fellowship and educational center.

With that goal, it moved quickly to evict all the existing tenants, including Chinese and Kurdish restaurants, leaving it barren except for a few small church uses. But then that right-wing leadership went rogue and initiated a rift with the wider Episcopal Church denomination. It occupied and fought, eventually unsuccessfully, for control of the church property, including the shopping center.

As long as the outcome was up in the air, the shopping center remained vacant, resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands in tax revenues to the City.

But with the restoration of all the property in question to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, the “continuing Episcopalian” congregation that had been exiled from the land for seven years took control and moved quickly at the urgings of Young to lease the shopping center.

Young said he undertook a “top-to-bottom” renovation of the property, originally built in the 1960s, including provisions for new heating and air conditioning, electrical wiring and extensive roof repairs. The renovation, including on the exterior, took 120 days, although Dominion Power held up the process for a month but has now come through to install new transformers for all the storefronts.

Eight of the 10 storefronts there have now been accounted for, including the relocation of the historic Falls Church small business, Welsh Printing, as well as the Lebanese Butcher from a few doors away and the Ferocity Dance Studio, from its current location at 900 S. Washington. A hair salon and spa are among the new tenants, as well.

While it will take three months for Panjshir to open there, Welsh Printing and Ferocity should be open within two weeks, Young told the News-Press, as the final inspection permits were OK’d by the City this week.

“This has been a terrific experience with the City and the vestry of the church,” Young said. He also praised the role of real estate broker Trina Rinaldi.
The project is the Young Group’s ninth since entering the Falls Church development scene in the late 1990s from McLean. He built his own Art Nouveau-styled home in the City three years ago.