West Broad Street Redevelopment Begins to Percolate

December 14, 2010 by Stephen Siegel · 9 Comments 

Falls Church Times Staff

December 14, 2010

The appearance of Falls Church City’s North Washington Street corridor is poised to change dramatically with the Gateway and Northgate projects in varying states of approval. West Broad Street hasn’t received the same interest yet, but redevelopment is starting to percolate there as well.

The building at 917 W. Broad may be sold and renovated soon.

No huge, two acre projects are in the pipeline. But 917 West Broad, currently the site of the El Zunzal restaurant, is expected to be under contract to be sold any day now, with the likelihood that the building on the one-half acre parcel could soon be either expanded and rehabbed or demolished.

A few doors away, at the northeast corner of Broad and West streets, which now house a Sunoco gas station and a mostly-empty strip mall to its east, a new construction Capital One bank branch could rise on the two parcels.

That deal is not set in stone; Capital One continues to negotiate both with the venerable Shreve family, which owns the land, and with the City, which has expressed concern about the creation of a drive-thru facility at the busy corner.

The El Zunzal site has been for sale for several years, and the price recently has been reduced to $1.6 million. The site is the largest on the 900 block of West Broad, but is much smaller than sites for other large buildings, such as the Flower Building or site of the proposed Hilton Hotel, at 706 Broad.

“We are working on something,” said Rob Meeks, an agent with Grubb & Ellis and a member of the city planning commission. “I hope we are under contract shortly, but we’re not.”

“Whenever it sells, there will be changes,” Mr. Meeks added. “The existing tenants would like to stay, but I don’t see them there five years from now. There’s a higher and better use.”

Capital One, which is headquartered in Tysons Corner, gained access to the City market when it bought Washington-area icon Chevy Chase Bank in 2009. Chevy Chase had a branch on West Broad just east of Falls Plaza, at 1100 West Broad, which now has been renamed with the Capital One brand.

The Sunoco gas station at Broad & West could give way to a new Capital One bank.

They’re apparently interested in moving one block in order to get a larger and newer facility at a more visible location, although it’s unclear if the cost of acquiring the land, building, and moving just one block would be worth the trouble. The company must think so, but the public relations office did not return a telephone call and employees at the branch hadn’t heard a thing about it. “We have no clue,” one employee said Saturday.

City officials have balked at Capital One’s idea of a drive-thru branch, concerned about added traffic at the already-congested intersection. For the same reason, city officials rejected plans by BB&T bank to relocate from its Falls Plaza location a few feet to the former Chicken Out site, which remains vacant years after a fire ousted the former restaurant from the building.

Also unclear is what would happen to the existing Capital One branch. Assessed at $1,053,000, the site is just a quarter-acre and has very limited parking, making it untenable for a restaurant or other store.

Now a bank, 1100 W. Broad could be available for redevelopment.

The same problem continues to plague the site of the former Falls Church Cabinetry at 1001 W. Broad, which continues to languish empty and remains for lease. City officials say they’ve gotten many inquiries on the building, but the lack of parking has been an issue. The investors who lease the adjacent property to Rite Aid have expressed some interest, but it appears Broad Street Realty Trust is not interested in selling.

Rite Aid has ample parking, so a purchase of the parking-challenged adjacent site, or some kind of joint venture, would be a good fit.

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