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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Mixed-use project planned for shopping center on Route 50




Big changes are coming to Graham Park Plaza, the shopping center on Route 50 in Falls Church that used to be called Loehmann’s Plaza.

The owner, Federal Realty Investment Trust, wants to tear down the western half of the shopping center and replace it with a mixed-use development with 250 apartments, a parking deck, a reconfigured retail center with new, different stores, and a public gathering place to serve as an “outdoor living room.” 


Graham Park Plaza's auto-oriented design is obsolete, the owner says.
Representatives from Federal Realty and many county officials, but only about half a dozen local residents, attended a community meeting on the project May 31 at Westlawn Elementary School hosted by Mason Supervisor Penny Gross.

The shopping center doesn’t seem to be doing that well. LA Fitness closed nearly a year ago, and the Bova furniture store, Stein Mart, and CVS will probably close next year when their leases are up, said Allison Williams, development manager for Federal Realty. About half the office space at the center is vacant.

Federal Realty is seeking an amendment to the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan, which would be the first step in redeveloping the site. The Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing on the plan amendment for Oct. 20. The Board of Supervisors hearing will be Dec. 6.

The county would then consider a rezoning proposal. If all that goes smoothly, Williams said construction could start in 2018 at the earliest. Another community meeting will be held this fall.

Federal Realty won’t be able to redevelop the eastern half of the property because Giant has a long-term lease that won’t expire until 2067, and Giant’s lease gives it control over that section, which includes Advance Auto Parts, Jos. A. Bank, Pet Valu, a dentist, a martial arts studio, nail salon, 7-Eleven, and offices.

The company’s vision for the other half of the center calls for an “active, pedestrian-friendly environment,” Williams said. As “brick and mortar retail is evolving,” the most successful stores are “in an environment that is safe and engaging, and has a heart.”

To make that happen, Federal Realty plans to create more open space between the two halves of the center, add two smaller plaza spaces as gateways to the adjacent residential areas, add a grid of streets, and replace 140,000 square feet of obsolete retail with 80,000 square feet of new retail space, including a mix of current tenants and new businesses, such as restaurants and community-serving retail.  

The apartments would rise five stories above the stores along the west side of the shopping center across the street from the Monticello garden apartments. An above-ground parking garage would primarily serve the new residents.

“It’s not going to be the next Mosaic,” Williams said. The rents at the new apartments would be lower than those at the Mosaic District in Merrifield.

The project might include a new westbound exit onto Route 50, although that would have to be approved by VDOT.

The few residents who attended the meeting raised concerns about traffic congestion, pedestrian safety, and the need for better access for bicyclists. The county’s planning and zoning staff will draft a report analyzing the proposed project’s impact on traffic, pedestrian access, transit, and schools.

31 comments:

  1. Boy, when they're _starting_ by saying "this isn't going to be the next Mosaic," you know you're looking at some real quality development there...

    And there goes the Bollywood movie theater. :(

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  2. Ha Ha!
    That is the truth.
    More mediocrity in Mason.

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  3. Isn't Federal Realty the same company that thought it was a good idea to sign the lease with DMV at Barcroft Plaza?

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  4. Don't they realize we would benefit from having higher end housing and shops like Mosaic? Penny and the County seem to believe that if it isn't low end it isn't welcome here in Annandale/Falls Church. We have plenty of low end. Let's gets some diversity by having some good stuff too.

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    1. 7 Corners 76/2/16, 8:31 AM

      Don't you realize that the county is not doing this? That is is a company and they may not be trying to benefit you but the shareholders of the company?

      To me this is not a county or board of supervisors issue. I do not live in a county that taxes me to build shopping centers and housing for the affluent. I am pretty sure that is exactly what I do not want. But if someone comes in with money and is going to do something legal that will not harm the communities around it and maybe improve them I am all for it. I think then it is the counties job to be a check and balance to make sure water runoff, traffic, pollution and other issues are addressed properly.

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    2. That is exactly right. Federal Realty Trust is in it only for themselves. We need the county to be perform the checks and balances that will make sure it does not affect quality of life. Also, it's only half the center which will look weird.

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  5. 250 apartments? Much to dense! How about 100 larger apartments with balconies, high end kitchens, etc. More green space.
    Higher end housing will bring in the type of stores that is need!

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    1. 250 apartments to be 'informally' subdivided into 500+ apartments. Not condos, apartments/motels as is the custom here in Mason District. Money will change hands.

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  6. 7 Corners 76/2/16, 8:24 AM

    I am not sure what the negativity is. I like some of the shops at Mozaic but the center itself is not my personal cup of tea. Narrow streets and buildings high enough to block out a lot of the sun.

    I would like to see a smaller, more open, area.

    Also I am not sure why people think that they can get the same rent in Annandale or this area as they do in an area that is within a mile of a Metro stop?

    Then we get to the discussion of if mixed use spaces are only good enough for more affluent people or if all classes can benefit from this type of arrangement. I barely visit that plaza but his the one across Graham Road from it a couple of times a week. I just do not like the layout there.

    My only wish would be to fix the traffic pattern on Graham if they do go mixed use.

    If it is successful they could end up being higher rent apartments and spurring some more development.

    Remember it was not that long ago that DC was not considered hot or desirable and now it seems to be extremely desirable.

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    1. 7 Corners 7

      Some people want no new density, and so are negative about it in general - if it is high end, they say its housing for yuppies and we need more housing for the less affluent, if its cheaper they say it is not high end enough. Others just want a reason to attack Penny Gross.

      Personally I love Mosaic, but I don't think it was feasible to get something like that this far from metro.

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    2. 7 Corners 76/2/16, 1:13 PM

      Anonymous6/2/16, 10:03 AM,

      I agree, but attacking Penny or other politicians on a Blog and not offering solutions does not make anything better.

      I understand people do not want change or more traffic and the other negative effects of density.

      Personally I do not want more traffic, but I do want some of the conveniences that come with higher density.

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  7. Can they PLEASE find a way to keep Celebrity Delly?

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    1. Last time I was at Celebrity I asked if they would be staying in they said yes.

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  8. Is anyone keeping count of how many new residences/occupants are being packed into a 5 mile radius around 7 corners?
    I've lost count!

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  9. Graham Park Plaza does not have the footprint to be the "next Merrifield". Fed Realty is investing back in our community to avoid having row after row of closed stores. It should also be noted that Penny cannot force a developer to do anything they dont think is economically feasible. I have never understood how trashing our community gets us anywhere.

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  10. I read the "not Mosaic" comment to be "it's not going to be that big", which is obvious based on the size of the plot of land they are redeveloping. But yes, they have GOT to do something about the Graham Rd traffic pattern. Coming north on Graham last night the light at 50 was backed up past Westmoreland.

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  11. So I've looked up new housing complexes in just Falls Church; on Broad street, Washington, cherry and lee hwy (8 projects in roughly a 2 mile radius)

    If there are just 2 people in all these units (1 BR, 2 BR, 3Br.) it equals 3,288 new residents AT A MINIMUM, within reasonable access to multi-modal transportation.

    Didn't even look into the 7 corners projects or Mason District.

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. also, let's discuss the already overcrowded elementary school. Westlawn was recently updated and expanded, already 100 kids over capacity. great let's bring more.

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    1. This is my issue as well. I am afraid that they will not increase the size of the school or build a new elementary school in the neighborhood until the population is even more overcrowded. Considering how long it took to get the Westlawn renovations done the last time that could be many, many years...

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  14. But... but... the movie theater! :(

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  15. Also, a trivial matter but it caught my eye: Giant has a lease until 2067? Wow! There's some long-term planning for you!

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  16. I once was going to purchase a franchise and studied successful shopping centers. I concluded that the best centers had a grocery store, starbucks, liquor store, drugstore, restaurants, bank(s) and specialty shops. Access and parking are critical. I was going to open a specialty shop and for it's survival the type of neighbors are important. 7 Eleven, Dollar Store and other discount places I considered undesirable for a specialty shop neighbor.
    One of the most irritating things about the shopping center is the access road running parallel to rt. 50. It doesn't have to curve and the access aprons(turn ins to the center) need to be a lot wider especially on the west side. The entrance near Giant is a nightmare if you need to turn left. A box needs to be implemented such as they have in many D.C. intersections where it is illegal to sit in the box and block traffic. I never approve of low income housing, look what it did to Seven Corners.

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    1. You mention 7 Corners and low income housing. In the 50's it was the equivalent of the "Mosaic District". Affordable housing within 10 minutes of the city and plenty of shopping choices. The low income housing came as a result of management companys wringing every last penny out of outdated dwellings. Even today I think some of those buildings have community based boilers for heat and window shakers for AC.
      This project would be a great improvement in rental options for that neighborhood. A new crowd of residents might bring some that prefer to bike or use mass transit. I'm sure a few will have the opportunity to live the innercity life of working downstairs.

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  17. The reason that stores do so poorly in the shopping center is not the stores but the fact that getting in and out of the parking lot is nearly impossible. You take your life in your hands if you need to turn left out of Giant onto Graham Rd. If you want to go out at the light at 50 and Allan St be prepared to wait through 2-3 cycles of the light!!

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  18. Traffic flow and egress is essential. I only go there if I have to because you could die of old age trying to get out of the parking lot.

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  19. I already think twice before going into this shopping center. It is not easy to turn out onto Graham. I hope they take this into account. Plus why have a meeting right around Memorial Day?

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    1. Do we think that more density will solve density related problems?

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    2. Of course the County wants us to believe that people who live in apartments don't have cars or children -- so no problems.

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  20. Sadly, just got a report of fatal accident near intersection of Graham and 50 on 6/4/2016...As predicted.

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