Final, Final OK Given to 4.3 Acre Founders Row Project

WITH A RENDERING on the wall behind them of what the intersection at W. Broad and N. West Street will look like within three years, in place of the Sunoco station now there, now that Mill Creek has all its final OKs, Planning Commission vice chair Andy Rankin (left) and chair Russ Wodiska talked about the plan before Monday night’s final vote. (Photo: News-Press)

One final gesture of neighborliness exhibited by the Mill Creek developers of the major 4.3 acre Founders Row project was offered at Monday night’s Falls Church Planning Commission meeting, and it was all it took to ensure a gregarious and unanimous vote, 6-0, for the site plan approval.

The final hurdle has now been cleared for the project to begin clearing the site, hold an official ceremonial groundbreaking in early November and, within three years, to present the City with a signature project of housing, senior housing, affordable housing, restaurants, a unique movie complex, a civil space and lots of added retail.

It’s been a long time coming. In the works since late 2011, the plan first came to the F.C. City Council in the summer of 2013 as a project to be anchored by a Walgreens drug store. Now, the assemblage and consolidation of 12 lots into one for the plan is a reality, and as everyone on the Planning Commission agreed Monday, it will be something the City will be proud of that will be a major contributor to the City’s tax base and sense of identity, alike.

Monday’s final concession involved the developers’ decision to forego a logo on top of a tower rising 11 feet above the top of the four- and five-story project. This was a potentially serious bone of contention, opposed by neighbors to the site and, before the subject even came up, Mill Creek’s Joe Muffler announced that his team decided to ditch the idea.

The Planning Commission’s final approval included a strong recommendation to find a way to put a crosswalk from Grove Avenue to the site and to make the construction management process, once the digging begins, open to the public. Likewise for the decisions that will be made about public art on the site. The art selection process, the Commissioners recommended, should “involve appropriate art-focused organizations.”

With the iconic 7-Eleven on N. West St. already vacated, remaining businesses, in particular the popular Ken Currle Sunoco station, will have until late October to relocate. Currle already has a new Sunoco location in Pimmit Hills behind the Trader Joe’s.

Here are some of the key revisions since mid-July of the project:

An age-restricted/active adult 55+ component has been added in lieu of the hotel usage.

The proposed food and beverage establishment minimum has been raised from 20,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet of the ground floor commercial area.

“Restaurants” have been substituted as a commitment in lieu of the more general “food and beverage establishments” as a means of capturing those establishments that allow for a meal tax levy (i.e. eliminating convenience stores from the 25,000 square foot commitment).

Language has been changed to reflect that only 50 percent of the total residential units can receive certificates of occupancy prior to the movie theater beginning their tenant improvements. Previously that was tied to the final certificate of occupancy.

A commitment was added stating that all commercial shell spaces to be completed, in addition to having a minimum of 50 percent of the total commercial spaces will have tenant improvements underway, prior to the issuance of the final certificate of occupancy.

The total number of affordable dwelling units has been increased to 27, inclusive of the four additional units in the Active Adult 55+ community.

The term of the affordable dwelling unit commitment has been revised from 20 years to the life of the project.

A new provision has been added allowing for the owner to make a cash contribution to the City upon the annual anniversary of the issuance of the first certificate of occupancy in lieu of providing the affordable dwelling units described above, per Mayor Tarter’s request.

The owner agrees to maintain the street trees.

The owner has added a commitment to provide a water feature in the market square, a “family sprayground.”

A commitment to providing a conduit for the potential future installation of solar panels has been added.

The commitment to electric vehicle charging stations has been revised to 10 installed stations and conduit to 10 future stations (from five and five, respectively), allocated between commercial and residential uses.

The cap on reimbursements for the BikeShare has been removed, and the applicant commits to bearing the full cost of maintenance for the life of the project.

The voluntary contribution package includes $1.8 million to the schools, $219,307 to the library, $25,000 to the CATCH foundation, $150,000 to the City parks, $50,000 to a post-development traffic study, totalling $2.297 million.