Fire Guts Building on Annandale Road

By STEPHEN SIEGEL
Falls Church Times Staff

September 25, 2010

A raging fire ripped through a commercial building on Annandale Road Saturday, forcing the closure of the street and of Hillwood Avenue while leaving several businesses, including the locally famous Lebanese Butcher restaurant, shuttered.

The cause of the fire wasn’t immediately known, but it appeared no one was hurt in the blaze, which left the 60-year-old building in such poor condition that the word “condemnation” was being bandied about by onlookers at the scene. One rumor suggested a fan left on in an office may have caused the fire, which severely damaged the southernmost office on the second floor, caving in the roof and melting the steel support beams.

Windows throughout the second floor were shattered, although it was unclear if that was caused by the fire or by the efforts to extinguish it. Power was off throughout the area, even at the adjacent Tower Square stores.

Restaurants and stores in the building’s first floor also were heavily damaged by water, and ceilings were caving in. Store owners were not allowed to go into the building pending a safety inspection by fire investigators.

Samir Rababe, son of the Lebanese Butcher owners, said the Falls Church City institution has been at that site for 30 years, and had been considering expanding into the storefront next door. They now hope to find another city location, and city Economic Development Director Rick Goff pledged to help them find one.

The building, at 101 E. Annandale Rd., was just sold in May for $2 million to a firm called Falls Church Investments, based in Great Falls. The 19,000 square foot property sits on nearly an acre of commercial land.

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September 25, 2010 

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16 Responses to “Fire Guts Building on Annandale Road”

  1. R.L. Travers on September 26th, 2010 10:06 am

    I am sure the building was insured, and I would like to see a mixed use project (residential and retail) go in here.

  2. Joel Sigler, Falls Church on September 26th, 2010 5:15 pm

    Best of luck to the Lebanese Butcher to recover from such a tragedy. The store is one of the great things about living in Falls Church. I hope to see it reopen nearby very soon!

  3. Amy Moore on September 27th, 2010 12:48 pm

    Such incredibly sad news, but happy to hear they’ll be rebuilding! We eat here at least once per week.

  4. Brian Williams (City of Falls Church) on September 28th, 2010 7:00 am

    There is plenty of retail space available a block away in the Pearson Sq. building that has been empty since they finished construction a few years ago. I’m sure it’s too expensive (in comparison), which is frustrating — I guess it’ll continue to sit empty.

  5. FXC Resident on September 28th, 2010 10:57 am

    “The building…was just sold in May for $2 million.” Insurance fire?

  6. Dan Lehman on September 29th, 2010 12:04 am

    > happy to hear they’ll be rebuilding!

    Surely you mean “relocating” (if they can)

    > The building … was just sold in May for $2 million.
    —+—
    > I am sure the building was insured, and I would like to see
    > a mixed use project (residential and retail) go in here.
    —+—
    > Insurance fire?

    Yeah, there’s that angle, huh –someone else would like to see
    a different investment. Frankly, I don’t fancy turning the “Little”
    City into the New Rosslyn.

    – - – - – -

    I discovered the fire on Sunday, and a person at Halalco said that
    the building was condemned and would come down, but that’s maybe
    just speculation (else very quick inspection!). YET, today, when I returned
    w/camera in case there were some changes, a workman told me much
    the same thing, and that
    THE FIRE DEPT WILL BURN IT DOWN AS A TRAINING EXERCISE
    WEDS/THURS !?!?!
    Now, that does seem damn fast (and too fast to investigate hard for
    arson, eh?); but he was there IIRC to salvage a freezer, from the
    cafe (out the rear door).

    Damn shame about all of the apparently FINE food that sits inside
    the Gucong Supermarket (big bags of rice, much boxed/jarred/canned
    foods, and some pricey teas I am unlikely to try, but on a fire sale …!?),
    and Lebanese Butcher. If they’re without power, then refrigerated goods
    are going, though cheeses would be okay.

    All one can see of “damage” in the ground floors, to my eye, is water
    on the floor — didn’t notice even damaged ceiling tiles from where I
    looked in (the salon was open (door) on Sunday). The ground floor
    places really don’t LOOK bad, and esp. not their contents.

    Of the windows, most but for those on the south end are boarded.
    One can see smoke scarring on only the windows you show (nicely)
    in your photo, and some slight marking on two rear ones (southern).
    I’ll guess that fire fighters knocked out the others.

    There was a CHAIN LINK FENCE around just the southern end, today
    – just up to the Lebanese Butcher (unfenced) !? It cordons off a little more
    than the near parking spaces, in terms of area. And I believe I saw two
    fellows wheel off some stuff from the other end somewhere.

    –dl*
    ====

  7. Dan Lehman on September 29th, 2010 12:54 am

    Oh, one more thing, from the Halalco hearsay:

    fire occurred circa 9am-1pm, Saturday.

    –dl*
    ====

  8. Jennifer Taylor, Annandale on September 29th, 2010 10:52 am

    2 million dollars for 60 years old building??? Do they have business inspection annually? Do they ever renovated? Lots of old buildings in the Annandale area are more than 50 years old and need to be inspected immediately or otherwise almost half will end up guts in fire. Waste on taxpayer money.

  9. FXC Resident on September 29th, 2010 12:22 pm

    Jennifer – It’s not the value of the building so much as the value of the land. That it was purchased for that much suggests the new owner planned to tear it down — those are pretty crappy little buildings, and not much value in renovating them.

  10. Dan Lehman on September 29th, 2010 1:08 pm

    Well, so much for that immediate fire-training rumor.

    Today (noon ff), Unlimited Restoration, Inc., personnel are like ants over the
    building, i.p. on top, erecting some sort of 2×4 structure on the top, power-nailing
    2×4 around upper building perimeter, and … . They have a big power generator.

    Trucks for Lebanese Butcher & Gocong Supermarket are apparently there
    to ferry away stock — the latter’s enclosed pick-up left with a load, more to
    go. (The former has a bigger truck, fewer help?)

    ———-
    UPDATE RE TIME:
    A neighboring-store worker told me that the fire began ca. 10am,
    and when she arrived ca. 10:30 she could still get into her lot right
    beside the south end of the burned structure, not yet closed off.
    – but later had to evacuate and wait ’til 1pm or so.

    –dl*
    ====

  11. Dan Lehman on September 29th, 2010 8:18 pm

    later (afternoon) Weds. update:

    I heard that tenants have 7 days to move out goods.
    Lebanese Butcher and Gocong Supermarket were engaged in this.
    Temporary chain-link fencing is set up from the north divide (the burned
    building abuts that with the 7/11 & barber shop AT the latter) to the rear
    wall of raised lot by Halalco; there is enough further fencing to suggest
    that at the rear will be soon fenced off.

    The Lebanese Butcher claims to have ONLY water damage,
    no smoke or other damage.

    Restoration Unlimited’s work in part was apparently to set up a plastic
    covering in anticipation of our rain; this was being put into place around
    16:00. (Frankly, the way workers moved around the upper floor suggests
    that they don’t have much concern about its stabiity!?)

    –dl*
    ====

  12. Tamar Yager on October 2nd, 2010 7:07 pm

    So sad that these small businesses, especially the Lebanese Butcher, will have to try to relocate. Maybe they can relocate in the nearby shopping center at Arlington and Annandale road – sure would bring a boost to that area since Westlawn supermarket moved out. I’m sure going to miss the food at one of the best Lebanese restaurants in the area.

  13. R.L. Travers on October 4th, 2010 9:44 am

    I believe the site where the Westlawn supermarket was is in the process of receiving approval from the county to redevelop that site, along with the car dealership next to it. However, further down Rt. 50 towards 7 corners, there is a strip center that has had a vacancy for years, where the big and tall store was, I think it was called Winston or Winsords, something with a W I think, anyways, that would be a good spot.

  14. Coin Storm, Falls Church on April 28th, 2011 8:35 pm

    Any word on what is happening with this site? Seem to have had zero progress in months. I’m sure there are plenty of insurance and legal issues that could hold things back for a while longer, but is there any buzz out there about who might come in and pick up the land and redevelop it, and into what?

  15. Andy Rankin (Falls Church) on April 29th, 2011 11:01 am

    Coin, my understanding is that it’s a tricky situation. I assume the owners will get some money from their insurance company but what to do from there is a challenge. Under current zoning rules the lot doesn’t have many options for redevelopment. I’m guessing that to maximize the a value to the owner they would need to rebuild what they had before since there’s not enough room to build something bigger/better.

    I have no idea if it would be possible but I’d love to see that lot consolidated with neighboring lots and push for redevelopment of that entire shopping area.

  16. Michael Corral on April 29th, 2011 11:30 am

    I grew in the area and now live near there, and I would love to see some mixed use in there. With some residential condominium / apartment / townhouse type of buildings on the second level (and possibly a third story, about the same height as the townhouses a block down the street from there) and some retail on the first level.

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