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Second phase proposed for Founders Row development in Falls Church

Falls Church City could be getting a second phase of the Founders Row development project on W. Broad and S. West streets.

Developer Mill Creek Residential Trust is proposing a mixed-use apartment building with 319 units, ground-floor retail, and underground parking with 80 retail and 351 residential spaces. It would replace the vacant Rite Aid and carpet store at 1001 and 1003 W. Broad Street across the street from the first phase of Founders Row.

“It’s meant to complement phase one in the evolving downtown of the City of Falls Church,” Mill Creek representative Joe Muffler said during a Falls Church City Council meeting on Monday (March 15).

Mill Creek submitted an application for Founders Row II to the city in November. The developer anticipates finishing the first phase by next March and hopes to start phase two around that time, Muffler said.

The developer is seeking special exceptions to allow a 30-foot height bonus, which would make the development to 85 feet tall, and to build residential units in a mixed-use area.

Aiming for LEED Gold status, Founders Row II will have electric vehicle charging stations in the parking lot and plan for future solar panel installations. The developer also plans to put utilities underground and has committed to making street and sidewalk repairs.

Mill Creek plans to re-time signals and add traffic calming measures at the intersection of S. West and W. Broad streets. The project is projected to produce a net 3-4% increase in cars at peak hours, Muffler said.

A Falls Church City staff analysis says nearly 40 units could be set aside as affordable, which is “in significant excess of the ‘typical’ 6% of all units at 60% AMI.” The proposed contribution includes 6% at 60% AMI and 6% at 80% AMI.

The affordable housing unit contribution compensates for a lack of cash contributions, but the developer is willing to be flexible, Muffler said.

The larger-scale contribution also compensates “for not providing net new commercial square feet,” Becky Witsman, the city’s economic development division chief, said in a letter.

58 units will be restricted to residents 55 and older, bringing the total number of proposed age-restricted units to 134 across both Founders Row developments, Muffler said.

“We wanted to bring a thoughtful, diverse mix that brings new renters into the city, that isn’t just kind of one size fits all,” he said.

On Monday, Councilmember Ross Litkenhous commended Mill Creek for adding green space to the proposed project in response to feedback two weeks ago. He said it will help with connectivity to the neighborhood and the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, which passes the site to the north.

In addition to housing, Founders Row II will have 15,000 square feet of retail, 5,000 square feet of medical or professional offices, and a 5,000 square-foot community co-working space. Muffler envisions less experiential, more necessary retail occupying this space.

“We all know Founders Row phase one has lifestyle- and entertainment-heavy retail,” he said. “One thing that is never going away and gets set aside for ‘sexier’ uses is retail such as convenience marts, pharmacies, and dry cleaners.”

The retail will be recessed to provide outdoor seating that will be appealing in light of the pandemic, Muffler said.

Councilmember Letty Hardi said there was “a lot to like” about Mill Creek’s proposal but cautioned that recessed retail with pavilions does not always work. She also suggested adding a turn lane onto S. West Street, as traffic can back up to Madison Lane.

“I know that this will be a consistent point of feedback, as users have trouble turning onto West right now,” Hardi said.

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