This is a copy of a letter sent to City Council and the City Manager regarding concerns with the new mixed use development plan by Insight for Broad & Washington Streets.
Mayor David Tarter
City Manager Wyatt Shields
City Hall, 300 Park Avenue
Falls Church, VA 22046
February 4, 2020
Dear Mayor Tarter and City Manager Shields,
Please find below the comments of several concerned citizens regarding the new mixed-use project proposed for Broad and Washington Streets.
Summary: The latest mixed-use proposal at Broad and Washington does not meet the commercial standard of the 2018 project and should not be approved in its present form. It creates major new problems — for the City at large, for neighboring businesses, and for the surrounding neighborhood — that far outweigh any benefits that it purports to provide. The project is anchored by an excessively large Whole Foods that will compete with other nearby grocery stores, and provides only de minimus retail space for other businesses. The project proposes to incorporate the City-owned parking lot to provide additional parking, but total parking would still fall woefully short of that needed to meet the demands of this massive complex. Moreover, too many apartments are squeezed into too small an area, with potential implications for the City’s schools. Of prime concern, this proposal eliminates any Class A commercial office space, which was a City Council prerequisite for the previous project.
Grocery: The Whole Foods is nearly 10,000 square feet larger than previously proposed, eating up essential parking space at both the ground and second floor levels. As currently designed, delivery trucks would need sufficient space inside the street-level garage to turn around and exit again on E. Broad Street. This approach pales in comparison to the entirely separate delivery alley at Harris Teeter.
Municipal lot: The developer would purchase the municipal lot to make its own parking statistics work—essentially “capturing” the 68 current public spots in order to replace them with essentially the same number—72—in a ramp structure. Four stories of apartments would be added above the structure and residential parking below ground, requiring conversion of the lot to mixed use, even though the original deed restricted the use of the lot solely for parking. The loss of the City-owned spaces during construction creates a serious risk for neighboring businesses, who also would lose substantial public parking on the current main lots.
Apartments: The number of apartments has jumped from 295 to 350, with substantially more 1 bedroom plus den and two bedroom units. Yet Insight’s projections of the students the apartments would generate have been massaged and averaged to minimize the potential fiscal cost to the City.
Commercial space: The commercial component of the proposal has been drastically reduced to just 16.6% of the project—versus 25% in the 2018 project. Instead of doubling the office space currently available on the site, as touted in the last round, there would now be none. Including adequate Class A office space has been a long-standing Council-imposed condition for a project at this vital commercial crossroads for the City.
Parking: Inadequate parking provisions would have a substantial negative impact on parking and traffic for the surrounding streets and neighborhoods. The current proposal cuts the “required” number of parking spaces for residential units by 46% to 299 spaces for 350 units. It also cuts the total number of required spaces by 32% (versus an 18% average reduction in the last proposal). The ramps leading from the street level severely restrict any remaining space for retail and Creative Cauldron parking — which might further “share” in the insufficient residential parking provided. The impact on neighboring streets could be dramatic.
It is questionable whether this project can be improved enough for the Council to even consider approval. At a minimum:
- The City should not sell the municipal parking lot, due to the negative impact on neighboring businesses; the project should be restricted to the three original lots.
- The grocery store, if included, should be sharply reduced in size.
- The number of apartments, at best, should not exceed the level previously approved.
- The 2nd floor grocery parking should be moved underground, to avoid the architectural sterility created by dedicating an entire above-ground level to parking.
- The City should require the developer to increase parking to reasonably accommodate the likely number of residents, visitors, employees, and customers, and to help provide for lost public parking on the existing lots. The idea that alternative transportation options will sharply diminish the need for parking are unrealistic, if not fanciful.
- The steep downward grade slope from rear to front could cause serious flooding in heavy rains; the handling of stormwater must be carefully reviewed to eliminate any adverse impact on neighboring residential areas, particularly if directed to Four Mile Run to save the City money.
- The traffic study needs to be updated to address the effect that other large projects, both recent and underway, will have on traffic in the City. Of specific concern is the potential for long traffic queues on E. Broad in order to enter the parking garage.
Creative Cauldron has been included in both the current and the previous proposal. We support including this fine local theater, but that should not be the sole reason for affirming this project, overriding other concerns. Insight can still revert to the previously approved project, which, on balance, is preferable.
Thank you for your attention to these concerns.
The undersigned Concerned Citizens
Vice Mayor Marybeth Connelly
Ross Litkenhous, City Council Member
Phil Duncan, City Council Member
David Snyder, City Council Member
Letty Hardi, City Council Member
Dan Sze, City Council Member
Gary Fuller, Principal Planner
Akida Rouzi, Planner