DEVELOPMENT NEWS: Honey Baked Ham Coming Soon

September 11, 2011 by · 6 Comments 


September 11, 2012

Shopping Center News:

Honey Baked Ham Store – (old Jerry’s Subs space at Broaddale).   Honey Baked Ham is relocating to the City from Idylwood Plaza in Fairfax County.  Owners hope to open on Friday, October 7.

Famous Dave’s – (in the old Pancake House space at Broaddale) opened officially on Aug. 29.

BB &T Bank (at Falls Plaza/former Chicken Out) – Revised site plan for demolition of the old Chicken Out and a new drive-thru bank in this location has been approved by the Planning Commission.  Sewer capoff and demo permits have been issued, but it is uncertain as to when demolition and construction will commence.

101 E. Annandale Road Shopping Center – De/reconstruction of building is underway on same foundation.

Mixed Use Project News:

Spectrum residential condos – (444 W. Broad St.).  As of August 24, 98 units settled, 15 are Pathway to Homeownership (rental) and 7 units have ratified contracts, leaving 68 units left to sell.  The Spectrum will no longer be renting units or renewing leases.  As leased units complete their lease term, those units are put on the market for sale.

Spectrum retail – Signed letter of intent for 1,500 square feet; expect a month or more before a possible lease might be signed.

Spectrum office condos – (431 Park Ave.)  $265 per square foot to purchase plus tenant improvement allowance.  The Spectrum is no longer offering an option to lease any of this office space.

Pearson Square Apts – (410 S. Maple Ave.)   Now 94% occupied.

Pearson Square retail– In a conversation with the owners of Pearson Square late in August, they mentioned they plan to build out the space between the new Edward Jones office and Creative Cauldron to try to attract a user for the space.  They are also working with a prospective user for space located up from the Pearson Square leasing office.

The Byron – (513 W. Broad St.)  Special exception amendment (SEA) application to grant additional leasing flexibility for professional office/office use in the vacant ground floor space was approved by City Council on July 25.  The Byron owner has engaged a new leasing broker who has listed the space in Co-Star and has new leasing signs up in the windows.  Broker reports increased interest in space in the building and is working closely with the City to find suitable tenants.

Flower Building  – (800 West Broad St.)  Sfizi Café ( is open!

Broadway/retail space – (502 W. Broad St.)  Wise, LLC purchased all of the retail space on Nov. 15, 2010 for $4,115,900.  They currently operate pain clinics at Washington Hospital Center and in D.C., Leesburg, Woodbridge and Utica, N.Y. (  They have confirmed that they plan to open a clinic in the old Hollywood Video space but are in no hurry to do so at this time.

Northgate – (472 N. Washington St.)  Demolition began but was suspended.  “Dig” for the underground parking garage is expected to begin soon.  Off-site construction vehicle staging/parking plans are being finalized.

706 W. Broad/Hilton Garden Inn – SEA was approved.  Variance for Board of Zoning Appeals scheduled for September 15 for additional building signs.   A Planning Commission public hearing on site plan is expected in October but as yet unscheduled.

Real Estate and other News:

709 W. Broad/Old Stacy’s Coffee Parlor – New “Space Bar”, by owner of Galaxy Hut in Arlington, hopes to open in November/December.  They have filed for their ABC license. They hope to offer live music (small groups) and will have a full kitchen that will be vegetarian friendly.  Beer-focused venue also to serve wine; no hard liquor.

360 S. Washington Street – Purchase of the building is expected by mid-September.  A purchase contract also is pending for 500 W. Annandale.

917 W. Broad/El Zunzal – Dominion Jewelers now owns this property/building and are awaiting approval of plans to demolish and rebuild a new two-story building.  The site plan is pending.  El Zunzal will cease operations once demolition plans are approved and demolition is scheduled.  An Architectural Advisory Board hearing on September 7 went well.  A Planning Commission hearing is set for September 19.

Old Syms site – (1000 E. Broad St.).  24-Hour Fitness had hoped to open by the end of 2011 but it will now likely be in early 2012.  Financing for tenant improvements is taking longer than expected.

Hilton Hotel Project Advances, Byron Office Space Approved

July 26, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

Falls Church Times Staff

July 26, 2011

The proposed Hilton Garden Inn moved closer to reality last night as the Falls Church City Council unanimously approved special exceptions requested by the project’s developers.   The exceptions, for building height and zoning, remove the last remaining hurdles before the site plan stage.  The Planning Commission had approved the project on July 18.  Construction of the 110 room hotel at 706 W. Broad St. could begin as early as October.

Originally approved in 2008, the project has faced stiff opposition from residents and from parents of children at the adjacent St. James School.  However, only two people spoke out against the hotel last night, one citing concerns over security and trash pickup, the other questioning the project’s long-term financial viability.  Several representatives of the Chamber of Commerce spoke in favor of the hotel, stating that it would provide jobs for 30 people and generate substantial tourist and conference revenue, estimated at $540,000 annually.

The developers are proffering that the hotel will be built to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified standards.  If that is not met within three years of the issuance of the certificate of occupancy, the developer will contribute $50,000 toward repaving N. Oak St. or other such work as designated by the City.

Byron Office Space  –  The Council also approved the use of office and professional office space at the Byron (513 W. Broad St.) in locations previously approved for retail.  The resolution passed, 5-1, with Ms. Gardner absent.  Both the Planning Commisson and the Economic Development Authority had earlier endorsed the change.  Some of the first floor space on the west side of the building has remained vacant since the Byron opened in 2006. 

Mayor Nader Baroukh opposed the measure, questioning whether the space had been fully marketed.  The mayor said he did not want to see space left unoccupied but believed that the Council’s intention was that the space be used for retail and questioned whether such exceptions should be granted in the future without a penalty clause.  “When we approve something through a (special exception) amendment, there’s an expectation we’ll get something in return,” he said.  

The mayor  also cited unresolved issues with the building’s parking arrangements, which have made it difficult to market its retail space.  Councilman Ron Peppe noted that building has the most confusing labels of any building in town.  “It’s not clear where you’re going to park that you don’t get towed away and where you do,” he said. 

City Manager’s Report   –  Mr. Shields advised that eleven speed limit radar signs soon will be installed as a traffic calming measure.  The installation is funded through a federal grant.  Homeowners have been notified as to where the signs will be placed.

One hundred seventy residents participated in last Saturday’s household hazardous waste collection.

Sign-up now is open for the September 17  Fall Festival / Taste of Falls Church. 

Appointments–  Mark Sokolowski and Steven Knight were appointed to unexpired terms on the Citizens Advisory Committee on Transportation.  Their tems run until January 31, 2013.  David Braun was appointed to an unexpired term with the Health Systems Agency of Northern Virginia.  The term extends until Jun3 30, 2013.  

Closed Session  –  At 10:55 pm the Council entered into a closed session concerning water system litigation.

Video  –  A tape of the public meeting is available at the City website.

Mayor Hails Northgate Groundbreaking

July 15, 2011 by · 2 Comments 


July 15, 2011

Yesterday, Mayor Nader Baroukh and other City officials participated in the groundbreaking of the Northgate.  First proposed by Hekemian & Company over seven years ago, the project is located at former site of the Pearson Funeral Home at the corner of N. Washington and E. Jefferson St.

“After enduring – we all hope – the worst days of the recession, we can celebrate the start of construction and the transformation of this property, which is important to the City’s image and its economic health,” said the mayor. 

The Northgate is intended to help enliven the North Washington area of Falls Church City.  The project is a short walking distance from the East Falls Church Metro Station and regional access that will connect the City to Dulles Airport via the new Silver Line.  As a transit-oriented development, the Northgate will produce 95 new apartments and 10 rental town homes.  Seven of the units will be designated as affordable dwelling units. 

The project also offers 15,000 square feet of office space and nearly 23,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.  “We all have a stake in seeing the Northgate become a hub of commercial activity with appeal to both the immediate neighborhood and customers from outside the City,” Mr. Baroukh said.

The mayor expressed his gratitude to the residents of the East Jefferson Street neighborhood and to all City residents who participated in the evolution of the project by providing input during each phase of its review and approval process.  He also thanked Chris Bell of Hekemian and City staff under the direction of City Manager Wyatt Shields and the late Dan McKeever in guiding the Northgate from concept to reality.

City Council members Johannah Barry, Lawrence Webb, and Ira Kaylin, Economic Development Authority Chairman Dave Tarter, Planning Commission chair Melissa Teates, and many other officials also attended the groundbreaking ceremony.

The Northgate was approved by the Planning Commission and the City Council in 2007.  Construction is scheduled to be completed in 2013.  

The architecture of the Northgate will be unique in the City.  The design, by MV+A Architects of Bethesda, will reflect materials and features common in buildings along Connecticut Avenue in NW Washington, DC.

The site is the location of a presidential visit to Falls Church.  Exactly one hundred years ago next week, President William Howard Taft spoke on the stairs of the former home of Dr. Tunis Quick to a gathering of about 300 Falls Church residents.  The president was on his way to the site of the first battle of Bull Run to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that event. 

His visit will be reflected in an historic marker on the site.  There also will be a marker that explains the history of the site from its colonial origins through its most recent function as a long-standing Falls Church business location.

Northgate Groundbreaking Set for Thursday

July 10, 2011 by · 1 Comment 


July 10, 2011

A ceremonial groundbreaking is scheduled for Thursday, July 14, on the Northgate project in the City of Falls Church.  Located at the north entrance to the City at the intersection of N. Washington Street (Rt. 29) and E. Jefferson Street, the project, owned by Hekemian & Co., will include 23,000 square feet of ground floor retail, 14,000 square feet of office space, 95 apartments and 10 townhouses.  The Northgate is being developed on the former site of Pearson’s Funeral Home.

“On a high profile gateway connecting the City of Falls Church and Arlington, the Northgate project represents a $50 million investment in our community,” said Mayor Nader Baroukh.  “This development will have Orange and Silver Line Metro accessibility and will help enliven N. Washington Street just a few blocks from the State Theatre and a host of popular Falls Church restaurants.”

Following many public meetings, public hearings and staff conferences, the Northgate was approved by the Planning Commission and the City Council in 2007. Construction is scheduled to be completed in 2013.

The architecture of the Northgate will be unique in the City.  The design, by MV + A Architects of Bethesda, will reflect materials and features common in buildings along Connecticut Avenue in NW Washington, DC.

Council Votes Preliminary Approval of Water Rate Increase; CDC Parents Plead for Lease Extension

June 28, 2011 by · 10 Comments 

Falls Church Times Staff

June 28, 2011

The Falls Church City Council unanimously approved the first reading of a controversial 8% water rate increase Monday evening.  Prior to the vote, several Fairfax County residents spoke in opposition, insisting that the increase was unjustified, due in part to earlier court rulings against the City.    

Dennis Hennigan, an attorney, said he did not see how a system that had been so profitable  now needed a rate increase. “Something does not add up here,” he said.  “Falls Church should be reducing its rates and returning its overcharges to customers.”  He added that he found it somewhat disturbing that the City showed so little deference to the findings of Virginia courts. 

Hennigan cited Judge R. Terrence Ney’s Jaunuary 2010 finding that Falls Church could not transfer profits from its water system to its general fund.  As only 8% of its customers reside in the City, most of the system’s revenue is collected from Fairfax residents, who derived no benefit from transfers to the general fund.  The judge ruled Falls Church’s practice an unconstitutional tax on non-residents and enjoined it from making further transfers. 

McLean Citizens Association president Ron Jackson criticized the water rate study the City used to justify the increase.  “We’re paying twice,” he said, claiming that the system’s reserves were already built up due to past overcharges to Fairfax customers.

Elaine Cerriano called on the City to give people more time to review the study and raise.  She asked for at least 45 more days and suggested the information be made available in county libraries. 

Larry Sexton of the Falls Hill Civic Association concluded his questions for the Council by asking “Do you think if you didn’t have a monopoly we’d still be your customers?”  Another speaker was even harsher, calling the Council arrogant and its actions unconscionable.

In response to the customers’ comments, Vice Mayor Dave Snyder stated that the City’s intention is to insure that the water rates are set so that the system will provide safe and reliable water to our customers, whether in Falls Church City or Fairfax County. 

“I will not be swayed by political arguments or arguments directed to keep our rates artificially low that the system suffers,” he said.  “Nor will I delay needed rate actions, even though politically popular, if those rate actions are essential to providing the quality of the water we provide all of our customers.”

Snyder said that the City was in full compliance with Judge Ney’s ruling and that the proposed rate increase is consistent with that ruling and not based on any such profit transfer.   He added that traditionally, such organizations that are running a risk have a right to a fair rate of return, and that he respectfully did not agree with the court’s decision. 

The vice mayor noted that the rate study had been posted on Falls Church’s website on June 1 and that copies have been provided to Fairfax officials and anyone who’d asked for it, but he agreed to furnish copies to libraries within the system’s service area.    

Snyder said the bulk of the rate increase is to fund reserves and that the monies received would remain in the water fund.  He also lauded the system’s water quality and its past performance during inclement weather, when it maintained its high standards while other systems could not.

Second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for July 11.  If approved, the rate increase, the first in six years, would take effect on August 1.

Child Development Center Parents Seek Extension  –  Over a dozen parents of children attending the CDC asked the Council to consider extending the Easter Seal’s lease on the property, which is scheduled to expire in November.  Speakers had high praise for the quality of care provided at the Center and the dedication of its staff.  Many were concerned that they would not be able to find an alternative if the CDC were to close on short notice.

A task force has been formed to address the issue.  Deputy City Manager Cindy Mester informed the council that it had met Monday afternoon and was scheduled to meet again on Thursday.  Staff will set up a website page on the topic that would appear on both the City and Schools sites.  Mester said the task force will ask the Council to extend its deadline to July 30.      

For nearly 50 years the facility has been leased to Easter Seals, who would prefer an extension until at least the summer of 2013.  Easter Seals would be willing to pay $50,000 annually for the space, currently leased at $1 per year. 

City Schools have asked to assume control of the property in July 2012 in order to house the preschool education programs currently located at Mt. Daniel.  This would also free space to permit the relocation of  the Falls Church Community Center preschool program

Economic Incentives Adopted  –  The Council also unanimously approved, 6-0, with Ms. Gardner absent, a resolution establishing a policy which will give the City the opportunity to provide new incentives for commercial redevelopment. The stated goal is to encourage new and sustainable economic development and private investment in targeted areas of the City and to create a better balance between the City’s residential and commercial tax base components.

This will be achieved primarily through land use planning and zoning that provides height and density bonuses for desired outcomes in designed areas. In some cases the City will encourage and accelerate new commercial redevelopment by considering public participation, including tax increment financing and partial and temporary abatement of business taxes.

City Attorney John Foster advised that the resolution essentially serves as a guide to the Council going forward and that it does not extend any rights to developers.

Appointments  –  The Council appointed the following citizens to unexpired terms on various City commissions, committees, and boards:

Robert Loftur-Thun to the Planning Commission:  (01/01/09) – 12/31/12
Julio Idrobo to the Housing Commission:  (01/01/09) – 12/31/11
Paul Baldino to the Citizens Advisory Committee on Transportation:  (02/01/09) – 1/31/12
Steve Selby to the Recreation and Parks Advisory Board:  (09/01/09) – 08/31/12
Ed Henderson to the Historical Commission:  (9/01/09) – 8/31/12

These officials were reappointed to their positions:  

Jeff Peterson to the Library Board of Trustees:  07/01/11 – 06/30/15
Jonathan Fritsch to the Architectural Advisory Board:  06/01/11 – 05/31/14
Mark Gross to the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board:  07/01/11 – 06/30/14

Falls Church City Council Adopts Financial Incentives for Economic Development

June 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 


June 28, 2011

The Falls Church City Council has adopted a new policy which will give the City the opportunity to provide new incentives for commercial redevelopment.  “It is the City’s goal to encourage new and sustainable commercial development, accelerate redevelopment, and attract private investment in targeted areas of the City,” said Mayor Nader Baroukh.  “Our current land use planning and supportive zoning are the City’s primary tools for incentivizing development and creating a stronger commercial tax base.  However, in exceptional cases the City will now consider providing additional incentives, including tax increment financing and partial, temporary abatement of business taxes,” he said.

The resolution adopted by the City Council noted that as the Washington, D.C. region begins to recover from the recession, it is critical for the City to best position itself for the next round of business investment and commercial development.  Staff has examined policies of other jurisdictions in the region for best practices and has followed closely proposed new legislation that can be utilized by the City to create an advantage in the fierce competition for the highest quality commercial projects and business location commitments.

The proposed policy contains threshold requirements for City participation in selected projects.  There must be a demonstrated consistency with official City land use visioning and zoning.  Projects must demonstrate exceptionally strong and sustainable net new positive commercial revenue potential for the City.  Projects will be measured by their return on City investment compared to the best performing projects of a similar nature and land use in the City and the Washington, D.C. region.

Vice Mayor David Snyder said, “This is a component of our overall strategy to keep and attract new business to our inside-the-Beltway location, which is well-served by public transit and highways and has a  strong community spirit, a high quality of life and a history going back 300 years. Other aspects of our commercial strategy include tangible improvements such as new parking signs, streamlined review processes and the use of transportation enhancements to support economic development.” 

Specific financial incentives and options for City participation are identified in the policy, which is available on the City website.  For more information, contact the City’s Economic Development Office, 703-248-5491 or [email protected].

Hotel Project Criticized But Advances; Northgate Reviving

June 16, 2011 by · 6 Comments 

Falls Church Times Staff

June 16, 2011

In the face of considerable criticism, the Falls City Council approved two special exceptions for the Hilton Garden Inn project Monday evening.  The exceptions, for building height and rezoning, both passed unanimously with Vice Mayor Snyder absent.  The Council votes refer the project to several City boards and commissions for further review.     

The project’s critics, including many parents of students at the adjacent St. James School, expressed their concerns about security and traffic.  One speaker called the hotel a “crows nest for predators.”  Another, warning of “sex travellers”, noted that Viginia Code prohibits sex offenders from living within 500 feet of a school and wondered how this would be enforced.         

Speakers also questioned whether aspects of the project would conflict with the City’s Safe Routes to School plan and if deliveries to the hotel might further snarl traffic on Broad Street.

Other speakers termed the current state of the site deplorable and called on the developers to clean it up.  One stated that the weeds there now are six feet high.

In response to the comments Mayor Nader Baroukh called St. James School part of the community.  “Don’t feel you can discount them because they are not voters,” he cautioned the developers.  He referred to the evening’s vote as a kickoff for a more formal review, not a final approval.  The mayor then listed numerous open items pending before second reading in July, including dumpster locations, traffic calming measures, architectural design, and security.

Developer Barry Gosnell said that he had taken active steps to address many of the citizens concerns.  His colleague Bob Young stated that the developers had met with the St. James PTO on three occasions earlier in the process and had executed an agreement with the school that addresses many of their concerns.  Young said that Falls Church chose not to participate in an agreement with two private parties but he would provide the City with a copy this week.  

Northgate (AKA North Gate)  –  Earlier in the meeting City Manager Wyatt Shields announced that the long-delayed Nothgate project (pictured) is ready to move forward.  Approved in 2007, the Nothgate will occupy the former Pearson Funeral Home property at the corner of N. Washington St. and E. Jefferson St.  The project consists of 95 apartment units, 10 three-story townhouses, and 14,000 square feet of office space.  Representatives of developer Hekemian & Co. met with neighborhood residents Wednesday evening to discuss the phasing of the construction, traffic management, and parking plans.

City Officials Content With Hotel Redesign

June 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Falls Church Times Staff

June 8, 2011

Developers of the proposed Hilton Garden Inn (706 W. Broad St.) presented a revised design to members of the City Council and the Planning Commission at Monday evening’s joint work session.  The officials, who were not impressed with an earlier rendering on May 17, seemed more content with the latest design. 

The elevation on W. Broad St. now features a flat rather than a triangular roof.  A secondary entrance has been added on the parking deck.  Signs now are smaller.  Dumpsters will be situated in an enclosure at the edge of the parking garage along Oak St.  However, the structure now is rated LEED Standard (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) instead of LEED Silver. 

Council members looked forward to the promise of $540,000 in anticipated tax revenue and the 2,500 square feet of meeting space on the hotel’s second floor.  Presently the City has no comparable conference center.  The hotel’s space can be divided into up to three separate conference rooms.

Vice Mayor Snyder asked that the developers establish and maintain close contact with neighborhood representatives throughout the construction process.  He also said he would like some continuing security presence at the hotel.      

The project will be up for first reading at next Monday’s Council session.  After the expected approval, the design will be referred to other boards and commissions for review.  Various elevations of the new design for the hotel are available here.

Drive Through Zoning Change  –  The Council and the Commission also discussed an ordinance which would shift responsibility for the approval of special use permits for drive through facilities from the Board of Zoning Appeals to the Planning Commission.  As this is a land use issue, rather than one of dimensions (such as setbacks), the Commission is seen as better suited to conduct the appropriate reviews.  The BZA has advised it is willing to relinquish authority. 

Solid Waste Fees  –  The Council alone then was briefed on the coming implementation of new solid waste charges.  The cost of yard waste stickers for 30 gallon bags is scheduled to increase from $.50 to $1.00.  There will be a $1.00 fee for each bag of excess refuse.  Fees for special collection services also will rise.

City engineer Bill Hicks reported that most citizens who commented on the topic at the recent town hall meeting either were supportive or neutral.  He said that a survey of 78 houses found that only 3%  put out excess refuse.

Staffer Kathy Allan noted that a May 25 survey conducted on 11 streets found that 20% of the houses had put out yard waste bags.  However, many of the bags contained either sticks which can be bundled and not subject to a fee, or grass clippings which the staff advocates leaving on lawns as natural organic fertilizer.   She estimated that nearly 40% of what was put out could have avoided a fee.

Financial Policy  –  The Council briefly reviewed possible financial policy changes with CFO Richard La Condre.  Topics for an upcoming review include the following:

1. Fund Balance
2. Capital Replacement – Infrastructure
3. Capital Replacement – Vehicles and Equipment
4. Capital Investment – Expansion
5. Revenue Stabilization
6. Revenue Policy Related to School Transfer

Mr. Snyder emphasized that he did not want policies in place that set expectations which could not be met and stressed the importance of the fund balance.  “I  want a fund balance that meets our standards and objectives and gives us a pulpit  when we go for long-term financing that we are managing things in a constructive way” he said. 

Mr. Kaylin concurred but added that Falls Church’s over-reliance on real estate taxes necessitated greater protection of the fund balance, a situation he did not see changing without economic development.  “I don’t think we’re sufficiently diversified [financially] to handle the risks we face” he added. 

The policy standards will be discussed by the Council/School Board liaison group tomorrow night and also referred to the Council’s Budget and Finance Committee.  Mr. Shields said a status report on the policy revisions should be available by the first work session in August.

Child Development Center Task Force  –  Ms. Gardner urged that the task force be formed and set to work quickly, as the issue is supposed to be resolved by July 8.  According to Mr. Shields the task force has a draft statement of work but formal membership has not been established.  Ms. Gardner said she would be willing to serve as a member.  The Council will discuss the task force further at next Monday’s session.  

A video of the work session is available at the City website.

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