Developer Unveils Plans for Large South Washington Parcel
By STEPHEN SIEGEL
Falls Church Times Staff
Sept. 22, 2012
After months of rumors and speculation, big national developer Lincoln Property Company has outlined its plans for the two acre South Washington Street site that is now home to Saab dealer International Motors and a Meineke muffler shop.
In an interview with the Times, the company said its plan, which still requires the approval of city officials and a zoning exception, is to build a large apartment complex featuring 224 one and two-bedroom apartments, along with underground parking. It also would offer a ground floor retail space that would include a 20,000 square foot specialty grocery store and a full-service restaurant.
The developer also plans to build a new city park on the northwest part of the site, essentially between the Victory Comics store, which will remain, and Maple Avenue, said Richard Rose, vice-president of acquisitions and development for the Dallas-based company’s mid-Atlantic office.
And unlike some other developments, where retail spaces have remained empty for years, that shouldn’t be the case this time. Mr. Rose said they already are negotiating with the grocery store, which he wouldn’t name because a contract hasn’t been signed. The development also will be designed from the beginning for a restaurant: “We are putting in the necessary mechanical equipment to handle venting,” he said.
The project will enhance the appearance of the South Washington corridor, which is the first site in the City seen by thousands of morning commuters each day. But it also seems likely to reignite the ongoing debate in Falls Church City over density, the impact on the city’s small schools, and the desirability of residential uses on the city’s small amount of commercial land.
Mr. Rose is aware of these issues and is attempting to meet them head-on. Regarding concern about the impact on the schools, he points out that the rental units they plan to build will be small, which he says “will be a draw for young professionals.”
Left unstated is that they will be less desirable for families with children, minimizing the number of new students in the schools, which already are growing at a robust rate.
Seventy percent of the units will offer one bedroom. The remaining 30 percent will have two bedrooms, but those will be just 950 square feet, he added. The company’s “saturation analysis” suggests there is ample demand for smaller apartments, which local developer Bob Young also has said. “We see a niche in smaller units with a smaller price point,” Mr. Rose said.
That would be a contrast to the adjacent Pearson Square, whose large, three-bedroom units have attracted many families with children, causing the bus stop at the building’s door to have as many as 100 kids, according to Falls Church City Public Schools Superintendent Toni Jones.
Another controversial feature that Lincoln is asking for is the right to build 85 feet high, which would be 30 feet higher than Pearson Square, which sits just across Maple from the proposed building. The complex would have either four or five stories of residential above the retail, five at the western end where the land slopes down, and four at the eastern end near Tinner Hill Road.
It would have wood-framed apartments with a brick face on them, Mr. Rose said. Loading docks for the grocery store would be located on Tinner, and loading for the other retail would be on Maple. Vehicular entrances would be on Washington and Maple.
“The (loading) door will be disguised so you don’t really know it’s a door,” Mr. Rose said.
Asked if he had any concern about possible traffic congestion on Maple, which has a fair amount of traffic cutting through to South Washington from the Broad Street area, he said no. “Traffic on Maple won’t cause any problem. I don’t think it will be an issue.”
As part of the proposal, the developer will be making capital contributions to the city in the form of proffers that amount to about $7,000 per apartment for a total of $1,568,000.
Mr. Rose said Lincoln has built all around Northern Virginia — in Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax — but never in Falls Church City. “We think it’s a great location and great community, and we want to be a part of it,” he said.
He also praised new City Planning Director Jim Snyder, who came over from Arlington, saying he was a good addition who “has a lot of vision.”
Lincoln has filed its plans with the City, and is hoping to do zoning and site plan approvals concurrently and have them done in the next six to 12 months.
By Stephen Siegel
September 22, 2012