Saving of Historic Woodland House and Poplar Tree Moves Closer
By STEPHEN SIEGEL
Falls Church Times Staff
February 3, 2012
The historic Woodland House at 610 Fulton that so many residents asked be saved has moved closer to survival with the emergence of a buyer who is interested in renovating the 120-year-old home.
If the buyer’s contract goes through, it also would lead to the survival of the spectacular and much-loved tulip poplar tree on the property.
The possible sale is ultimately the result of a city ordinance that requires a home deemed historical to be placed for sale for one year at a price determined by an independent appraisal. If no one buys it, the owner then has the right to demolish it.
Many people, including some local real estate agents, scoffed when the Woodland House was listed at the appraised price of $1,120,000, because it needs extensive rehab.
But owner and agent Joey Randhawa, of developer ASR Designer Homes, said he received serious interest as soon as he listed it on Dec. 21. Prospective buyers immediately came armed with contractors who would do the necessary work, he said.
The house went under contract after just three weeks on the market. But Mr. Randhawa cautioned that it’s not a done deal; the buyer’s contract contains contingencies that run through February — which could cause the contract to fall through. He declined to elaborate, citing the buyer’s request for privacy.
But the quick contract and general level of buyer interest in the house is certainly a good sign for the structure’s eventual survival and renovation; even if this contract fails, 10 more months would have to elapse without a sale before the house could be torn down.
As far as the poplar tree goes, it, too, would be saved if a buyer executes a contract — but not by force of law. Instead, it would be saved either voluntarily or by developer generosity: Mr. Randhawa says he will put in the deed a requirement for any buyer to keep the tree for some number of years — a number yet to be determined.
The Falls Church Times erred in December when it wrote that the city had required the developer to save the tree; in fact, it hasn’t and can’t do so, because the tree has not been labeled a “specimen tree.” The Times had it right previously, when it wrote last year that city officials were not empowered to save the tree, even if they wanted to. The Times apologizes for the error. Instead, the tree is being saved voluntarily by Mr. Randhawa and ASR.
Asked why the developer was being so generous — he could build and sell a near $1 million house on the lot with the tree, which has been legally subdivided away from the Woodland House lot — he responded via email:
“This is our good will to the community to give anyone the opportunity to buy the house and the large tulip poplar. I verbally told the planning commission this is our plan, it is not in writing. If we want. we can build on (the lot) and tear the tree down tomorrow — it’s our property and our right, but that is not our goal and not what we want to do in this neighborhood. We are making an effort to appease the community.”
Pressed further, Mr. Randhawa said via email that he is taking the long view.
“I do not want any negative feelings towards my company and I have always tried to build in neighborhoods to improve them and increase the value and appeal of a neighborhood…I want to keep all the neighbors happy and on my side for the construction and sale of the houses on (two nearby lots he is building on). I am young and will be building here for many years and would like to keep working in the City and keep our mutually beneficial relationship.
“It is a long term plan but it served my parents who founded my company well and I would like to continue their vision,” Mr. Randhawa said.
However, his generosity may not be needed in this case: the buyer under contract wants to keep the tree while adding on to the back of the Woodland House.
By Stephen Siegel
February 3, 2012