After passing muster with the Falls Church Planning Commission by a unanimous vote last month, and winning predominant kudos from the City’s boards and commissions, the 2.6-acre mixed-use redevelopment project three years in the making for the northeast section of the City’s central Broad and Washington (Rt. 7 & 29) intersection still drew some hesitancy from the City Council at a work session Monday night, although its final vote of approval is still not until April 9.
While the development team was clearly pleased with their progress with the Planners and advisory board and commission groups, their concept of a “restaurant row” girding the project including the existing State Theatre, Clare and Don’s Beach Shack, Argia’s, and then a series of restaurants on the retail ground floor of their project, wrapping around it to the space they’ve designated for the Creative Cauldron theater group, did not win the wows from the Council they might have expected.
Instead, at least three of the seven-member Council want more revenue-generating substance from the commercial component of the project, and Mayor David Tarter made it most explicit. He wants to see a grocery store included in the mix there. Council member Phil Duncan echoed the sentiment, saying that Falls Church has in the past, and can in the future, handle multiple grocery establishments as it is in the habit of City residents to “forage for food” at a variety of different places on any given shopping day. Councilman David Snyder piped up in a similar fashion, even suggesting that the City withhold occupancy permits for the 300 residential units on the site until occupancy permits are in hand for all the commercial spaces.
All that said, however, all on the Council retained a very cordial approach to the developers, whose project promises to yield up to $1 million in “net net” revenue to the City, over and above what’s being generated there now. With a new high school, new city hall and new library all now in process of being built, the City is going to need all the added revenues it can get, and Council members will undoubtedly be cautious about how pushy they intend to be in the case of this ambitious project.