A summer-long project for Federal Realty has been transforming and rebranding Falls Plaza Shopping Center into Birch & Broad, and it looks to be finished just in time for the holiday season.
Taking its “farmhouse aesthetic” and upgrading it to a “modern farmhouse aesthetic,” in the words of Deirdre Johnson, Federal Realty’s vice president of asset management, was a goal of the firm after Falls Plaza had gone over 30 years without significant changes. But this is more than a facelift.
The new shopping center is adding in patio seating in the parking lot, such as a small island across from the storefronts of Tasty Dumpling and Jersey Mike’s in its eastern end, to encourage people to hang around after they’ve loaded their bags in the car.
Diagonally across from that patio is a giant chimney, which will serve as a freestanding fireplace for diners to gather around in the colder months. The fireplace isn’t complete just yet, but Johnson said once all the construction wraps up around Thanksgiving, there will be a “commemorative lighting of the fireplace” when the shopping center hopes to cut the ribbon by December.
But Johnson said they are open to holding other kinds of gatherings at the redone shopping center. “Once we do the things that facilitate outdoor dining and creating other social connections, it opens the [door] to have community engagement in terms of entertainment,” Johnson said. “And Falls Church is absolutely a community that embraces the arts.”
The decision to transition away from Falls Plaza and into Birch & Broad came at the end of 2019/early 2020 when Federal Realty opened up a regional office in Virginia. Johnson said that the company found Virginia to be a great place to do business, thanks to strong job growth and the competence of county and city governments it works with here.
That meant not only growing in terms of acquisitions, according to Johnson, but also updating its current investments.
Federal Realty has actually owned the western portion of the shopping center since 1967, and purchased the eastern half five years later.
Whether the firm will do anything to bolster nearby major developments, such as the West End project that will be coming to life in a few years, remains to be seen. However, Johnson did say that Federal Realty is embracing the City of Falls Church’s vision for how to use their nearly 10-acre portion of the land, and is interested that the City may look at adjusting the street grid once that project is completed down the road.