‘Founders Row 2’ Gets F.C. Council’s Final OK

At Monday’s City Council meeting, five members of the community took oaths of Office for City Board and Commission positions. Pictured here (l. to r.) are Alison Miller, Urban Forestry Commission; Allen Greenberg, Historic Architectural Review Board; Tatiana Eaves, Environmental Sustainability Council; Stuart Whitaker, Citizens Advisory Committee on Transportation and Kristine Ward, Board of Zoning Appeals. Not pictured: Debra Z. Roth, Human Services Advisory Council. (Photo: News-Press)

The Falls Church City Council didn’t get around to the matter until well after 10 p.m. Monday night, having to deal with the City Manager’s unveiling of his recommended FY23 budget first, but when they did, matters went smoothly for its final vote of adoption to OK the next large scale mixed use project in the City, the 280 residences and more constituting what is now known as Founder’s Row 2.

By contrast with the hair-thin 4-3 vote to preliminarily allow it to advance last September, this time the vote was 5-2, with only Mayor David Tarter and Councilman David Snyder voting “no.” A sustained effort at major improvements to the look and content of the project on 2.09 acres at the southwest corner of W. Broad at West Street undertaken by its Mill Creek owners led to the relative ease of Monday’s vote.

The project will include 280 residential units, a height limit that ranges from 85 feet on the W. Broad frontage to 35 feet on the Ellison Street side, 22,278 square feet of ground floor retail, including 10,000 square feet for a restaurant, 409 parking spaces underneath, residential occupancy contingencies based on leases of retail spaces, and 12 percent of the residential spaces being dedicated for affordable housing, half of which will be available to those at the lowest end of the income scale.

The deal calls for 75 percent of the retail space to be under lease within six months of the first residential certificate of occupancy, along with some other technicalities. There will also be 5,000 square feet of “co-working space.”

All the appliances in the residential units will be electrical (though gas will be needed for a ground floor restaurant, Mill Creek’s Joe Muffler insisted).

The project can generally be expected to complement Mill Creek’s Founders Row 1 that is already well along in construction across the W. Broad at West Street intersection. Numerous residents have already moved in over there, and the big issue is whether or not the promised multiscreen movie theater is actually going to come to pass at that site.

On that one, it was Mayor Tarter who put up the strongest resistance to going ahead with Founders Row 2 with no lease yet signed for the movie complex across the street.

But while Mill Creek has a “letter of intent” from a movie theater company, it is considered of little value without an actual lease. Mill Creek had such a lease until the pandemic knocked the movie-going industry for a loop and the company filed bankruptcy. It remains to be seen how fully that industry will rebound post-pandemic.

New deals to increase Mill Creek’s take from ticket sales at the theater have been agreed to by the City in an effort to boost its commitment, but a lot of the commercial revenues anticipated from restaurants, in particular, are considered contingent on getting the movie screens in there.

A motion by Snyder to hold the Founders Row 2 approval contingent on a signed lease for the movie complex failed, 5-2, however, with Tarter joining Snyder was the only “yes” votes.