By STEPHEN SIEGEL
Falls Church Times Staff
August 14, 2012
A plan to bring a Harris Teeter grocery store to Falls Church City is alive but mired in litigation, the Falls Church Times has learned.
The plan, which first surfaced last year, would bring the upscale grocer to the 300 block of West Broad Street, where the now-vacant old Post Office building, two parcels of city-owned land, Anthony’s Italian Restaurant, and a Burke and Herbert bank branch now stand.
The project, which also calls for several floors of apartments or condominiums above the grocery, may also encompass the overflow parking for the Falls Church Bowl bowling alley, at the northwest corner of Maple Avenue and Annandale Road.
But if you ask city officials about it, including new city councilor and former Economic Development Authority chair Dave Tarter, he will say that he “can’t talk about it.” Other city officials also demur when asked about the topic.
The reason they are reluctant to speak on the subject is that the project is the subject of a lawsuit filed by the City against Atlantic Realty, the huge regional development company that originally was tapped by the City to build the now discarded City Center proposal, which went down in flames when the economy declined in 2008.
The suit, which now is scheduled to be heard before a judge in April 2013, seeks to have the City Center plan, and Atlantic’s role in it, declared null and void — presumably so the City could engage a new developer to build the Harris Teeter complex.
Atlantic is fighting the suit.
Documents filed in Arlington County show the city sent a “notice of default” to Atlantic dated March 2, 2011, arguing that the developer “failed to perform its obligations under the agreement” between the city and the developer. Among those obligations, the city says, was for Atlantic to “diligently” pursue efforts to obtain a site plan approval from the city, that would be required before the project could proceed.
The city’s suit also asserts that Atlantic no longer even has the capacity to get the needed site plan approval because it doesn’t own, or have control over, all the land necessary for the City Center project. It cites the fact that Falls Church Bowl, Inc., owner of the bowling alley, refused to sign necessary documents to execute the plan. The bowling alley would have been demolished as part of the 2008 proposal.
On January 20, 2012, the city sent Atlantic a letter formally asserting that the agreement between the two sides is terminated. But on February 9, Atlantic sent a letter back that said it was not. “Atlantic vehmently disagrees that it is in breach of the agreement with the City and the Economic Development Authority,” said the letter, which was signed by Executive Vice President Adam Schulman. Mr. Schulman did not return a call seeking comment.
But despite the legal wrangling, the new project appears to still be moving forward. Multiple sources tell the Times that they saw soil samples being taken at the site about a month ago. Typically, soil samples would be conducted after a contract is signed between a landowner and a developer. Their purpose would be to see if the ground is contaminated; if it is, extensive cleanup would be required before new construction could begin.
In an interview, Mr. Tarter said a grocery store is a great revenue generator for the city because the high volume of sales would result in significant tax flows into the city’s coffers. The project also would enhance the value of what is now either underutilized land — such as the tiny, one story bank branch on the site’s east end — or tax exempt and vacant land — the lots owned by the city and the city’s Economic Development Authority, and the now-vacant Post Office building. That would lead to higher assessments and higher property taxes.
But it also would generate controversy over density, because it would, like the other mixed-use buildings on Broad Street, such as the Spectrum, Byron, Broadway, and Read, add many residents to the already-congested Leesburg Pike corridor.
Special to the Falls Church Times
August 14, 2012
When he’s not teaching art at Glasgow Middle School, Gus Guthrie often can be found working in his basement, putting the finishing touches on his second handmade mandolin. As a founding member of two local bands, NoBetterOff and Martinez & Guthrie, Gus sings lead and harmony vocals and plays guitar, mandolin and harmonica. “Before I was a teacher, I was a carpenter. Building my own mandolins has been a way to reconnect with my craft….and it’s cool to play an instrument you made yourself.”
When Joe Martinez was an All-Met basketball player at Fairfax High School, he was known for the intensity he brought to the game. “I did get a few technical fouls in my day, but they were always for a good cause,” said Martinez. Now an elementary school teacher in Fairfax, Joe brings that same intensity as the drummer in NoBetterOff and a multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer for both of Martinez & Guthrie’s successful albums on NezRecords, “Gathering Change” and “Still Here.”
Joe and Gus will be busy on Friday night when they open a show presented by The Creative Cauldron featuring Martinez & Guthrie and NoBetterOff. Joining the locals will be the Bay Area’s Dore Coller, an in-demand instrumentalist and songwriter who recently released a solo album “Life’s a Beach” on Deltamc records. Fritz Horisk of WSIG in Staunton, VA said, “It’s one of those rare albums where every song is outstanding.”
In this “East Meets West” evening, the bands will be playing original compositions, as well as covers of some of their favorite artists, from John Hiatt to Bob Dylan, Smokey Robinson to Jimi Hendrix, John Prine to Roseanne Cash.
“We’ve always enjoyed playing at ArtSpace,” said Tom Stamp, vocalist and guitarist for NoBetterOff. and a performing arts teacher at Bailey’s Elementary School. “It’s a warm environment, with great sound and an appreciative audience.” NoBetterOff plays regularly in the area and recently headlined Arlington County’s July 4th celebration at Long Bridge Park.
In addition to Guthrie, Martinez and Stamp, NoBetterOff features Arlington’s Terry Judd on bass and Falls Church’s Steve Selby on guitar. Joining Martinez & Guthrie will be Andy Bailey on bass, Colin Miller on guitar, and Augusto Torres on percussion.
ArtSpace Falls Church is located at 410 South Maple Street in Falls Church. Doors open for this show at 7:00 PM, music starts at 7:30 and tickets are available at the door for $15. It promises to be a lively evening — you might want to bring your dancing shoes.