ULI Washington recently released a Technical Assistance Panelreport documenting existing challenges and recommendations for the future of the Eastern Gateway in the City of Falls Church, Northern Virginia. Falls Church’s Eastern Gateway is a 64-acre commercial and multi-family residential area located at the intersection of West Broad Street (Route 7), Wilson Boulevard, and Arlington Boulevard (Route 50). It is approximately ¾ of a mile from the East Falls Church Metro Station (hub station for the Orange and Silver Lines). The study area abuts both Fairfax and Arlington Counties, and is adjacent to a thriving commercial center – Seven Corners in Fairfax County.**
Existing development in Falls Church’s Eastern Gateway is a mixture of commercial (69 percent) and multi-family and condominium residential (31 percent). The Eastern Gateway area is home to the Eden Center, one of the largest Vietnamese restaurant and shopping areas in the country. Other commercial uses include community and neighborhood-serving shopping centers. Three mid-and high-rise multi-family and condo developments lie to the north of the commercial area along Roosevelt Boulevard. In addition to being relatively disconnected from other commercial areas in the City, it is also buffered from lower density residential by Oakwood Cemetery and two 14-story office buildings in Fairfax County.
Technical Assistance Panels, or TAPs, provide expert, multidisciplinary advice to public agencies and private sector clients facing complex land use and real estate issues in the Metropolitan Washington Region. Over the course of two days, a team of ten ULI members endeavored to understand the existing challenges in the Eastern Gateway of Falls Church. The results of this Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) are intended to assist the City of Falls Church in the following ways:
determine the best land use mix for the future of the study area
plan for urban design features and gateway entry point enhancements that will boost the identity of this district
identify redevelopment and reinvestment strategies to strengthen Eden Center as a prime economic generator in the City
prioritize infrastructure elements and site design to better connect the study area to the East Falls Church Metro Station
plan for a transportation grid to support multiple modes
foster cooperation amongst Fairfax County, Arlington County and the City during the redevelopment process to ensure mutually beneficial growth.
At the onset, Panelists acknowledged that the study area is a prominent economic generator for the City, and decision making towards shaping its future should entail strategic steps to retain this economic importance for the City. They pointed out that the study area also poses multiple challenges in terms of land use and design. The land is underutilized with the FAR being far lower compared to similar commercial developments in Northern Virginia. There is a limited ability to provide a mix of uses. Everything is segregated, standing independently on their own – residential, large and small-scale retail and industrial uses like storage are not conducive to mixed-use. There are sidewalks in the study area, but they are not attractive or safe enough; and do not connect these various uses together to foster pedestrian culture. Moreover, there is very little open space. Adjoining the study area along its north-west edge is the Oakwood Cemetery, but it is private ownership and does not accommodate any passive recreation areas.
The Panel further identified transportation related challenges posed by the study area – the car-centric design; lack of inter-parcel access for vehicles, pedestrians or bicyclists due to presence of individually developed fences and incompatible topography; missing sidewalk connections along Roosevelt Street; and cut-through traffic traveling to and from I-66 that the residential community has to deal with and is currently regulated by signs with time-of-day restrictions.
Panelists are optimistic about the future of Falls Church’s Eastern Gateway, and emphasized the importance of maintaining this thriving commercial center as one of the prime economic contributors to the City. With its unique and ethnic Vietnamese focused retail component, it will be very important for the City to conduct public outreach and engage with the multicultural community present in the City. Residents, business owners and visitors will provide valuable inputs to shape the future of the district. Moreover, the community should create a Small Area Plan, and use the document to guide the FAR, height limits and road framework during the redevelopment process.
The Panel approached the TAP by dividing the challenges into five categories: Land Use, Design, Identity, Transportation and Cooperation. They studied the current conditions on the site, and formulated strategic recommendations for the site over a short-, middle- and long-term time frame as a chronological sequence of events. They defined short-term as 0 to 2 years, medium-term as 3 to 10 years and long-term as 11 to 30 years.
The TAP was chaired by Andrew Brown, Founder of Stanford Properties in Bethesda MD. Members of the Panel included: Elizabeth Baker, Walsh Colucci Lubeley & Walsh, P.C.; Rita Bamberger, The Holladay Corporation; Michelle Chang, IMBY Community; Sukriti Ghosh, Rhodeside & Harwell; Edward W. Gosselin, Chesapeake Real Estate Group, LLC; David Kitchens, Cooper Carry; Karl Moritz, City of Alexandria Department of Planning and Zoning; Kaushambi Shah, local Urban Designer; Renan Snowden, District Department of Transportation; Michael Workosky, Wells + Associates, LLC.