West Broad Street Redevelopment Begins to Percolate

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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By Stephen Siegel
December 14, 2010 


9 Responses to “West Broad Street Redevelopment Begins to Percolate”

  1. Jan B Hertzsch on December 14th, 2010 7:05 am

    Very nice article. I appreciate the effort and the information. Thank you.

  2. Mike Smith, Falls Church on December 14th, 2010 9:00 am

    Good information, sounds like we may be seeing some revival in the commercial sector. I’m a little puzzled at the objecton to the bank drive-through, however. I’m guessing that fewer people drive through a bank than drive through a gas station, so I would think the bank would reduce traffic.

  3. Sol FCC (City of Falls Church) on December 14th, 2010 10:28 am

    I believe the problem was the location of the drive-thru entrance. East bound Broad St traffic turning left just before Bangkok Blues.

  4. Stephen Siegel on December 14th, 2010 10:33 am

    Thank you, Jan and Mike, for the compliments. I appreciate the feedback.

  5. Brian Williams (City of Falls Church) on December 14th, 2010 12:11 pm

    Very informative article, Stephen. Thanks for taking the time to do this. I’m very interested in potential development projects in our city, so I appreciate you / FCT taking the time to really research what’s going on and sharing updates.

    Does anyone know what the city can do to encourage consolidation of commercial properties so that we have larger redevelopment projects falling under a consistent plan? I would personally love to see taller, denser commercial construction along Broad St. (I recognize some wouldn’t) but I worry about random buildings going up haphazardly. I think lining Broad St. with a bunch of Flower Buildings would be a mistake.

  6. Stephen Siegel on December 14th, 2010 4:44 pm

    Thanks, Brian. I’m not privy to any inside information, but I would suspect that whoever is closing in on the El Zunzal property is interested in lot consolidation. It would seem difficult for the city to encourage, though, since it’s all privately held by a variety of different owners.

  7. Bob Burnett on December 15th, 2010 3:04 pm

    Thanks for the article. What the City can encourage is the consolidation of parking between private parcels. This practice creates incentives by having locations share parking as much as possible (case in point the Reed Bldg. and the office building on Virginia Ave.) so that we don’t end up duplicating minimum space requirements per parcel. Shared parking, as the article states, would be great at the RIte-Aid location.

  8. Barry Buschow on December 16th, 2010 8:36 am

    Tax breaks are the best way to promote consolidations and to stop home owners from subdiving their land for more houses. Tallwood is a prime example. If the owner subdivides that big lot who knows what “new architecture” will end up there and also diminish the historical character of the house.

  9. Andy Rankin (Falls Church) on December 16th, 2010 9:10 am

    Tax breaks are one way, increased height or density allowances are another – and I’m sure there are others.

    Ultimately, you need to set up a situation where the owners of various lots can maximize the value of those lots by consolidating them.

    For example, let’s say you have two adjacent lots (A and B) owned by two different people. Maybe you could build a building worth $1M on each lot. If you could build a building worth $3M on a combined lot then owner A and owner B would have an incentive ($500k) to combine the lots and maximize their value. How can the City encourage this situation? Maybe these lots can only support 3 story buildings as they are – if the City says that they would allow a 5 story building on the combined lot then you have an incentive.

    Obviously this is a super simplified view of the situation, and I think there are a lot of different approaches to encouraging lot consolidation. It would be interesting to hear comments from people who have more expertise on things like this (I’m not an expert, that’s for sure).

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