Restaurant Site Plan Approved To Revitalize 'Eyesore' Old Motel Site

FALLS CHURCH, VA — The indoor-outdoor restaurant planned for the old Stratford Motor Lodge site can move forward after a site plan approval by the Falls Church Planning Commission Wednesday.

The plan to revitalize the former Stratford Motor Lodge site at W. Broad and Little Falls Streets calls for renovating an existing building for a café with grab-and-go service and demolishing the rest of the former motel for a new restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating and surface parking. The project is named Stratford Garden.

The proposal comes from the team behind Dominion Wine and Beer in Falls Church, Downtown Crown in Gaithersburg and Georgetown Square Wine and Beer in Bethesda. The Stratford Motor Lodge at 300 W. Broad St. has been closed since 2021 and the site is fenced off to discourage trespassing. La Caraqueña, a popular Venezuelan restaurant in the Stratford Motor Lodge, closed in 2017.

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Because the proposal is allowed as by-right under the zoning ordinance, Planning Commission approval of the site would allow the construction and renovation of the indoor-outdoor restaurant. A date for project completion is not yet known, but Dominion Wine and Beer’s Arash Tafakor told the Planning Commission it may come to fruition next year. Patch has reached out to the developer for details on the next step for the project.

One public speaker testified in support of the project. Pirouz Khanmalek, the property owner of an office space on Park Avenue, said he supports the project knowing the high quality of service provided at Dominion Wine and Beer. He called the Stratford Garden project a “big value add to our city.”

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“Their service is great, their food is fantastic. The way they handle their business is, I will say, is top in City of Falls Church,” said Khanmalek. “And the way they handle the customers, the way they handled the dishes, the way they wipe up all the glasses before they put it there for serving…giving filtered water which you don’t see normally in places like that. When I look at all of that…the ambience they have created, I get very excited to see that. I’m sure that they would do something like that at this project also.”

Planning commissioners expressed support for turning the old site into a new use.

“It’s a small property that’s currently acknowledged as an eyesore,” said Planning Commission Chair Tim Stevens. “So there’s a lot of momentum behind wanting to see this happen, especially since it’s a local business that proved itself successful, another location which contributes to civic improvement, I think those are all the things that were in my mind as I approach this.”

“I think it’s definitely a great adaptive reuse of something that is currently blighted in the center of Falls Church, unfortunately,” said Planning Commissioner Sharon Friedlander.

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“I will join my colleagues and also being excited about this project,” said Planning Commissioner Andrea Caumont. “I think it will be a big improvement, very popular in the city, huge improvement for this, as you said, blighted area of our downtown.”

Tafakor told the Planning Commission he hopes the outdoor part of the property will be activated throughout the year in order to support the cost of rent.

“Hopefully, we will have you know fire pits out there, and there’s a there’s a lot of different things we can do especially in the winter months, because the winter months, it’s going to be tough,” said Tafakor. “Summer is not going to be hard but winter is going to be tough and I think if we activate with fire pits, give people blankets serve hot drinks, stuff like that, we definitely are going to put our heads together to make sure that is activated during the winter.”

The site plan calls for a 65 percent parking reduction for the site with a 33-space surface parking lot, including two handicap spaces, as well as 16 bike spaces. The developer’s Transportation Demand Management plan cites the proposed restaurant’s proximity to public transit and public parking lots. Discussions are also happening to lease underutilized spaces on the ground floor of the Harris Teeter parking garage.

Tafakor also explained why the plan doesn’t include pedestrian access between the site and adjacent Broaddale Shopping Center. He noted concerns with Stratford Garden customers parking at the Broaddale Shopping Center, which has towing enforcement.

“I think people will park there and then come to us, and then they’ll get towed, and then they won’t come patronize our place or their place. It’s just not a great experience when someone does get towed,” said Tafakor.

Even with the Planning Commission approval, a city staff report noted there are a few unresolved technical elements of the proposal that will receive administrative approval from the planning and public works directors.

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