Dozens of supporters of Anthony’s, the 40-year-old Falls Church restaurant that could be forced to move after its lease from a private owner is up in March, flooded Monday night’s city council meeting.
After a 7-0 vote by council to approve the sale of the land next to the old post office, the group of supporters filed out of the cold room. It has been said by officials that the owners of the old post office and the building Anthony’s is in will sell their properties to Rushmark Properties, LLC so the developer can bring a Harris Teeter to the city.
Rushmark will buy the land owned by the city on West Broad Street for $4.3 million.
“My first choice is to stay in the same location,” said Anthony Akis, owner of the restaurant. “If the developer offered me space in the new building, I would consider that. The only way I wanted to leave Falls Church was in a casket.”
City Manager Wyatt Shields said the city has been working hard for quite some time in anticipation that the current location would be redeveloped at some point. The city’s Economic Development Office (EDO) has proactively worked with Anthony’s and nearby property owners to explore options for relocation of the restaurant, Shields said. Councilman Ron Peppe said if the issue with the restaurant moving is not about the building, there shouldn’t be a problem with the business moving locations. The city’s first reading of the sale was Oct. 9.
A majority of the people at the meeting stood when it was asked how many of the people in attendance were in support of Anthony’s. Mayor Nader Baroukh urged Patrick Kearney, principal for Rushmark, to take note of the number of people in support of keeping the restaurant. Baroukh said he would be willing to facilitate a meeting between Akis and Kearney to discuss the possibility of maintaining the location on West Broad Street.
Councilman Phil Duncan agreed with the mayor.
“If the parties are willing, there’s a great potential for this to be a win-win,” Duncan said.
The leases for the old post office and Anthony’s both expire in March. Neither building is owned by the city. Shields said the owner’s intention to redevelop the property at the end of the current lease terms has been known for many years.
Shields said council has established a deliberate process for considering this redevelopment: First, establish terms for the sale of the city owned property, on a straightforward fair market basis and second: consider a land use application for the proposed redevelopment, which will require a Special Exception and city council’s legislative approval.
“It is not just a building or a wall,” Akis said. “It’s about the people.”