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Motor Lodge Remains Boarded Up Amid Interest Rate Hikes

The Stratford Motor Lodge has been an eyesore for neighbors and passerbyers since it closed and was boarded up in 2021. But it sits on a prime piece of Falls Church real estate, across from the Harris Teeter in the commercial section of Broad Street. 

Development proposals have come and gone — including a senior living center and a Wawa convenience store — but high construction costs and interest rates have presented challenges to soliciting proposals. 

Commercial real estate firm Rappaport has had 300 West Broad listed for several years, marketing it as a “retail and hospitality” parcel in the “heart of Falls Church” open for sale, ground lease or build to suit. 

The site is currently owned by Bristol Capital Corporation, a Bethesda-based commercial real estate company that received the property in the fallout of an Securities and Exchange Commission civil lawsuit against disgraced investor and developer and currently imprisoned Todd Hitt. 

Hitt and his investment company, Kiddar Capital, were the subject of investigations by the Department of Justice and SEC and in 2019, he was sentenced to six and a half years in federal prison for misleading investors about various development projects that resulted in an estimated $20 million loss for investors. 

Hitt purchased the Stratford Motor Lodge property for $6 million in 2017 with plans to raze the existing buildings, including the popular La Caraqueña restaurant, to develop the site into a multi-story senior living building. This plan fell through after the City of Falls Church raised objections and Hitt’s subsequent fall from grace. 

Since being boarded up in 2021, the Motor Lodge sits on a prime piece of Falls Church real estate. (Photo: Catherine Kane)

Falls Church property records indicate 300 W. Broad was transferred from an LLC that Kiddar Capital controlled to Bristol Capital Corporation for $0 in June 2019, just days before Hitt was sentenced to prison. A representative from Bristol was not available for comment. 

Since Bristol has owned the property, there has been only one public proposal for the Motor Lodge site. Wawa announced in May 2022 that it had secured a ground-lease for 300 W. Broad to build a convenience store. However, by July 2022, Wawa pulled out, saying the economics of a store without a gas station component weren’t viable. 

Since then, no new proposals have come before the city’s Economic Development Council. In the meantime, the Motor Lodge has its windows covered up with wood boards and is surrounded by a tall chain link fence with “no trespassing” signs. 

Becky Witsman, Economic Development Division chief for the City, said the 0.7 acre property presents difficulties to developers. 

“It’s challenging to do underground parking here because of the size of the lot,” Witsman said. 

Pat O’Meara, senior director of brokerage at Rappaport, said there is a listing agreement among adjacent landowners, bringing the potential for a development that would span nearly the size of the block. If the right developer offered the right price to all parties involved, they could purchase up to 1.7 acres along Little Falls Street. However, O’Meara sees that as a long shot right now.

“Interest rates and construction costs over the past 12 months have made it challenging for people to make the numbers work,” O’Meara said. “The parcel itself is not large enough to do anything to scale.”

Witsman said she knows of a proposal coming in the near future for the site, but declined to give further details.