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Developer offers peek at mixed-use proposal in heart of Falls Church

As one major Falls Church development takes a step toward completion, another is just getting started.

Developer Atlantic Realty Companies, which owns George Mason Square and nearby buildings, hopes to transform the area with a mixed-use complex dubbed One City Center, which will include 246 residential units, office space, retail, and a grocery store.

“This is an area that has long been planned to evolve into a downtown vibrant hub,” Andrew Painter, an attorney representing the developer, said at a Sept. 27 Falls Church City Council meeting.

As part of the project, the company plans to demolish and replace a rear two-story parking garage with a building that’s nine or 10 stories tall, add a park on a vacant corner lot at South Maple Avenue and West Annandale Road, and create a pedestrian-friendly street — a Dutch-inspired woonerf — with a 30-foot by 40-foot exterior screen.

“The Digital Screen may be used to display art, landscapes, movies and theatrical presentations for ‘screen on the green’ events, coverage of live City events and performances (e.g., Watch Night performances, Memorial Day parade, etc.), promotion of the project’s retailers and City services, and related programming,” a voluntary concessions document from June 23 says.

Other buildings to be demolished include the former BB&T Bank and a tailor business building, where a temporary parking lot would be created during construction.

Atlantic Realty unveiled an initial proposal for the project on Feb. 11 and submitted a second version on June 23. The company is working with Falls Church officials as it seeks to get approval from the city council, possibly on Feb. 28 next year.

An agreement calls for designating 6% of the units — up to 15 units — as affordable. Painter said the developer is working with the city to determine what that would entail.

As part of the application, the developer is seeking special exceptions, one of which includes increasing a building height from a maximum of 75 feet to up to 115 feet.

City Looks at Proposed Concessions

The City of Falls Church has been working with the developer on concessions to make the project become a reality.

Among numerous concessions, a proposed agreement calls for:

  • A one-time payment of $1.7 million to schools to offset capital costs, provided all 246 units are built
  • 30 public parking spaces
  • A 3,000 square-foot conference center (about two-thirds the size of a basketball court) that would be available to commercial tenants in the new development and George Mason Square, nonprofits, and the city for meetings

Painter said the conference space could be used by the city and nonprofits at no cost.

The developer and project leads showcased the potential of the site on a walking tour on Wednesday (Sept. 29), making the case that a new bus shelter, bikeshare, pedestrian crossings, and other upgrades would improve transportation.

The new parking garage would have 976 spots, according to the second application, and Atlantic Realty is seeking about a 20% reduction in the number of spots that would normally be required, said Maria Lashinger, a professional engineer with Gorove Slade Associates.

The developer is justifying the reduction with other transit-friendly measures, and city councilwoman Letty Hardi noted that other projects have also had reductions.

The 30 public spots in the parking garage would be available 24/7 for a 15-year term, be on the first floor, and amend an existing parking arrangement affecting the current parking garage. The city would pay $300,000 for the spots.

“We have about 1,300 linear feet of new streetscape upgrades,” Painter said, noting that those changes include additions such as benches and planters.

Meanwhile, Falls Church City is working with a consultant to design a roundabout next to where the new triangular park would be. The city says it would like to partner with the developer on “construction of the roundabout and related costs.”

Atlantic Realty expresses support for the roundabout in its application materials, and the developer has proposed building it as a concession for the development.

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