DEVELOPMENT NEWS: Hollywood Video Turns Out Lights

November 10, 2009 by · 4 Comments 

Falls Church Times Staff

Hollywood Video, the Broadway Condominium’s anchor retail store, closed Nov. 1 – one of 450 stores suffering that fate this year out of some 2,900 stores owned by parent Movie Gallery.

Retail establishments at the Broadway have not enjoyed much success during the 80-condo building’s five-years of existence. Zing’s Grill opened first on the corner, but subsequently shut down, later to be replaced by Huang’sThe Broadway's anchor tenant closed Nov. 1.  (Staff photo by George Southern) Grill, which with the departure of Hollywood Video becomes the only ground-floor business left. Other stores, including Verizon and, most recently, Impulsive gift shop, have come and gone.

The Broadway’s anchor tenant closed Nov. 1. (Staff photo by George Southern)

The good news? Plenty of customer parking.

Hollywood Video’s demise was anticipated in a Falls Church Times report last March: “Video Rental Firms on Deathwatch – Blame Netflix and Internet.”

Mad Fox Brewery Looks at April Opening

Those empty parking spots at the Broadway could be enticing to the hundreds of customers that Mad Fox Brewery hopes to attract to its pub/restaurant location just down the street at the Spectrum. The City’s Economic Development Office reports that Mad Fox developers are busy with floor plans, elevations, and equipment orders. But in a cautionary note, the EDO observes that Mad Fox has “many City/State/Federal regulations to navigate.” Hmmm – April, you say? The clock is ticking. Read more

Video Rental Stores on Deathwatch: Blame Netflix and Internet

March 11, 2009 by · 3 Comments 

Can Falls Church branch avoid this fate?

Can Falls Church branch avoid this fate?

Businesses offering cheap entertainment traditionally perform well in a recession.

Unfortunately, the video rental industry is proving the exception to that rule.

The nation’s largest video rental chain, Blockbuster, is close to bankruptcy. Stock trading was halted briefly last week when values fell 86 percent; yesterday the stock closed at 41 cents a share. That’s a steep fall from the $30 high seven years ago.

Here in Falls Church, only one video store remains: Hollywood Video in the Broadway condominium on Broad Street. Unfortunately, times are tough all over. Hollywood Video’s parent and #2 retailer, Movie Gallery, filed for bankruptcy protection in 2007 but emerged successfully last May. Recovery required closing more than 1,000 underperforming stores. In January, Movie Gallery consolidated its distribution centers, cutting another 200 jobs. Most recently, last week CEO “Gabe” Gabriel resigned after only 10 months on the job. The resignation came with the news that Movie Gallery lost another $39 million in its last 3-month reporting period.

Industry observers warn that stand-alone, brick-and-mortar video rental stores are doomed by a triple-whammy of innovative competitors: Internet downloads, TiVO and Pay-per-view cable, and – the biggest threat for the moment – Netflix.

In-store video rentals may only survive as secondary ventures – for example, “Redbox,” the self-service video kiosks developed by McDonald’s and now available in the Giant grocery store on Broad Street. The selection is limited but the price is right: $1 a day. (McDonald’s, by the way, decided to get out of the video rental business and sold Redbox last month.)

Hollywood Video is the Broadway building’s largest and oldest commercial tenant. Sadly, even if the local store is viable (figures are not made public), its fate rests with national owner Movie Gallery.

Meanwhile, another DVD movie outlet in the City is going great guns: Mary Riley Styles Public Library. “Rentals” are free to City residents, while all others pay cash ($1 per day).

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.

DEVELOPMENT NEWS: 3 New Restaurants Opening Soon

March 12, 2011 by · 1 Comment 


March 12, 2011

Sfizi Café will open soon at 800 West Broad — possibly before Easter.

Paisano’s restaurant hopes to open by June 1 in the former frame shop on West Broad close to Stifel and Capra.

Famous Dave’s has signed a lease and plans to open by late August or early September in the former Pancake House space in Broaddale Shopping Center.

BB &T has received approval by the Planning Commission of its revised site plan for a drive-thru bank at Falls Plaza at the former Chicken Out location

24 Hour Fitness is continuing to pursue approval of a site plan for the old Syms building.  A lease is not expected to be signed until the site plan is approved and, possibly, building permits are issued.

A karate studio is expected to move into the former condo sales office at the Broadway condominium.

The former Hollywood Video space at the Broadway has a new owner; plans for the space are not yet known. Read more

MAN ABOUT TOWN: Get Ready – It’s Coming to an End

October 25, 2010 by · 15 Comments 

Falls Church Times Columnist

October 25, 2010

James Thurber (who as a boy spent the summer of 1902 in Falls Church) wrote about the “Get Ready Man”: – a lank unkempt elderly gentleman with wild eyes and a deep voice who used to go about shouting at people through a megaphone to prepare for the end of the world. “Get ready! Get read-y,” he would bellow. “The worllld is coming to an End! “

And yes, I realize that, in Little Falls Church, I’m the modern-day “Get Ready Man.”  That wasn’t the plan when the Man About Town began his weekly musings more than a year ago. The column was intended to be light and whimsical, featuring such City phenomena as the duck tree and what-not, with political comment confined to the City’s ugliest buildings or the failed GEORGE bus.

But the introduction of the Falls Church Times dispelled my innocence (ignorance) of City politics. After only a short exposure to City Hall I was like Adam and Eve eating the apple: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked.”

My first “Get Ready” proclamation came on September 21, 2009, when I wrote “Why Falls Church Needs Arlington.” I noted that Falls Church City’s tax rate, at $1.07, was “almost 25 percent higher” than Arlington’s. A year later, our rate is $1.24 and rising. But the tax rate is only a symptom of our City’s systemic problem.

When Hollywood Video filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the board of directors did what every board does in those circumstances: they fired the CEO and announced a restructuring plan. But it didn’t work, because Hollywood Video’s problems were not due to bad management — they were experiencing a “who moved my cheese” situation. The Internet and Netflix spelled the death of brick and mortar video rental stores, and the next to fall will be Blockbuster, which began bankruptcy proceedings last month — concurrent with firing its CEO and announcing a restructuring plan.

Falls Church City is little different. We’ve fired our CEO (mayor and City Council leadership) and begun a restructuring plan. The City’s been downsizing for more than a year, and recently began outsourcing garbage pickup. And if you believe what the ex-mayor’s husband writes (a risky proposition, but he does have a good source), our sheriff’s duties could be transferred to Arlington County and our Commissioner of the Revenue and Treasurer offices could be combined.

It won’t work. Downsize and outsource all you want – the City remains unsustainable.

People refuse to accept this, arguing that Falls Church is no different from hundreds or even thousands of other municipalities currently struggling to balance their books. But as I’ve been shouting through my megaphone, Falls Church is different – very different – from almost any other municipality in the country.  Creating that difference is the state of Virginia, which historically has required its cities to be independent of surrounding counties. That works, more or less, for larger cities like Alexandria, but the knockout punch for small cities came in 1987, when the General Assembly imposed a moratorium on city annexation of county land. (Not that it matters for Falls Church – our opportunity to grow was lost years earlier when Fairfax County developed sufficiently to offer competing services.)

The problem in a nutshell is this: no viable municipality can fund services primarily on the backs of its households. A commercial component – the larger the better – is required. Normally, a commercial sector grows naturally within a municipality. But little Falls Church’s 2.2 square miles are largely residential and becoming more so. We shop across our borders, in Fairfax and Arlington counties, and no “restructuring” can change that.

Unsolvable problems create stress. As our plumber commented upon our purchase of a 1923 beach house, “the fun is just beginning.”  Yes.  Or in the case of Falls Church, the fireworks are just beginning. The acrid smell of gunpowder will be particularly pungent during encounters between the City Council and the School Board. This is most unfortunate, because these are good people. But the School Board faces rising enrollment and a shrinking budget, while the City Council needs to raise the tax rate another 5 cents just to get us through the fiscal year.

And that’s just the beginning — there’s little provision for capital improvements, not to mention school expansion, and City pension contributions are running low as well. Add it all up and you need at least a $1.50 tax rate. Whoops, forgot about the pesky 12 percent fund balance requirement which is still running on empty. Better aim for $1.55.

Foreseeing this, and remembering the English Queen Mary’s marriage for political purposes to Prince Philip of Spain, the Man About Town urged that, to forestall a school war, the former School Board chairman be made the new mayor. Instead, my friend and neighbor Nader Baroukh was anointed – something I wouldn’t have wished on him. He’s doing a great job and I salute him, but, oh dear, the fun is just beginning.

Get readd-y.