Homeowners Voice Concerns About H-T Project
By GEORGE BROMLEY
Falls Church Times Staff
December 1, 2012
Winter Hill homeowners were out in force last Thursday evening to hear a briefing on the proposed Harris-Teeter store and apartment complex at 301 W. Broad St. Many in the standing-room-only crowd did not like what they heard.
The six story building, which would replace Anthony’s Restaurant and the old post office property, may provide a significant tax windfall for the city. However, given the residents’ strong objections, the project clearly will face a struggle when it comes before the Planning Commission and City Council.
Ten Winter Hill townhouses are adjacent to the site and many others are in close proximity. Owners of some of those homes and many other area residents objected to several features of the project’s design and how it will impact the neighborhood.
Many of their objections concerned the location of the access route for trucks and the loading docks for the grocery store and the apartments. As designed, this alley will parallel the property line on the west side of the building. Residents felt that it would be better to shift these features to the opposite side of the complex, where the noise and air pollution generated by vehicles would be away from their homes.
The residents noted that the building also would cast extensive shadows over their properties much of the day. As proposed, the structure will be 83 feet high, which is 8 feet over the standard city limit. This will require a special exception, which already has been filed.
Residents also were concerned that the combination of a supermarket and an apartment building would significantly increase traffic in the area and contribute to the neighborhood’s parking problem, long severe due to the lack of space in Winter Hill lots. Attendees’ suggestions included a traffic signal at the intersection of Gundry Drive and Annandale Road and a special parking district with spaces reserved for area residents.
The city projects that the apartments will add only 34 additional pupils to its crowded schools, but some people were skeptical of this estimate. Thirty percent of the apartments will be two bedroom units. This is a much lower ratio than found in Pearson Square (401 S. Maple Ave.), which includes 133 two bedroom and 25 three bedroom apartments.
As now designed, the project’s ground level includes the 60,800 square feet Harris-Teeter store and an additional 3,110 of retail space. Five upper floors will offer 294 multi-family rental apartments. There will be 30 studio apartments, 176 one bedroom, and 88 two bedroom units.
The development also will include a three level underground parking garage which will provide 586 spaces. Parking on the first level will be reserved for shoppers. The residential parking ratio will be 1.33 spaces per unit.
Architect Doug Carter of Davis, Carter, Scott and Patrick Kearney of Rushmark Properties responded to the homeowners’ questions and concerns. Carter, who was the architect of the Byron (513 W. Broad St.), welcomed the comments and stressed that the project process is in a very early stage. Mayor Nader Baroukh, a Winter Hill resident, and Council member Johannah Barry attended the meeting but did not speak.
Information on the complex is available in five files at the city’s website. Architectural elevations and conceptual floor and parking level plans are in Part 4. Project specifications and a preliminary fiscal impact analysis are in Part 5.
This effort is the latest attempt to restart the City Center project, originally proposed in 2007 but set aside during the recession. Attempts to approve a senior citizens apartment house at 350 S. Washington St. and an adjacent office and retail building failed in 2010.
In October 2012, the City Council approved the sale of two city-owned lots in the 200 and 300 blocks of West Broad Street to a development company called Falls Church Development Partners, LLC, of which Rushmark is a member. One lot, adjacent to the Burke and Herbert Bank, is technically owned by the City’s Economic Development Authority. Together, the city is selling them for $4,322,000, a value arrived at in an appraisal done for the city earlier this year.
However, other issues must be resolved before the project can begin. The developer won’t be able to close on the land until it applies for and receives a building permit. The city also is including a performance requirement that would allow officials to buy the land back if the project is not started in 12 months or completed in 24 months of the sale.
Also, the city’s suit flied last year against City Center developer Atlantic Realty must be resolved. Falls Church sent a “notice of default” to Atlantic on March 2, 2011, arguing that the developer “failed to perform its obligations under the agreement” between the city and the developer. Until the court declares that project null and void, the city cannot proceed in other directions with the land.
By George Bromley
December 1, 2012