Who saw this one coming? Up until Tuesday night, it was highly uncertain that the latest submission for the 3.14 acre Broad and Washington mixed use project, even with its highly appealing Whole Foods megastore as its anchor, would get to first base with the Falls Church City Council. There were grave and legitimate concerns that there simply weren’t the votes, three required with two seats vacated, to push the project to the next stage, which will now be a thorough scrubbing by an array of advisory boards and commissions before coming back for a final OK in late January that will also require a supermajority to include the sale of City land was an integral part of the process.
But a proverbial “full court press” jelled at just the right time Tuesday night, made a powerful impact during the City Council’s online meeting, and the end result as a unanimous vote, not counting the two vacant components, to move forward. It would be easy to say that it was the ability of the Insight Properties people to win over the two adjacent, small but popular restaurants that changed everything. It was a big new development, but no, that was only part of what did it.
One major factor was the last-minute weighing in by Colm Dillon, owner of the Ireland’s Four Provinces at the same intersection that the Insight group wants to develop. It was key because it counterbalanced the heartburn coming from owners at the Clare and Don’s Beach Shack and Thompson’s Italian. Owner of another small business right there, Dillon stressed how beneficial the Insight Project will be for his business, and frankly, for the ones exhibiting distress over a temporary loss of free parking for their locations. Dillon said it baffled him because he has no such benefit of free parking but pays a good price for his, and wondered why the City would hold up such a giant revenue generator because its free parking would be temporarily disrupted. Dillon’s restaurant is one of the most popular in the City.
A second major factor was the mobilization by the dedicated staff and volunteers of Creative Cauldron, which has been promised the equivalent of a $2 million subsidy in a 5,000 square foot black box theatre at the Insight location that will work in de facto tandem at the site with the State Theater to make the intersection a major destination for live entertainment. The long list of names of staunch supporters of Creative Cauldron was read out in full Tuesday night and with so many names of prominent citizens, it made a huge difference.
Then there was the tireless efforts by the developers to line up agreements with the neighbors to the site, and making modifications to their project to do so, making it better and better each time. The announcement of signed support by Clare and Don’s and Thompson’s Italian was only the final step.