A developer has abandoned plans for a Vietnamese business complex at Washington and Broad Streets in Falls Church on what the city considers its most important and valuable business site.
Falls Church developer Berl M. Erlich, who owns half a dozen office buildings in the city, said yesterday that he is buying the long-vacant site for $1.3 million and next month will seek approval to build several office buildings and public plazas on the site.
Vietnamese businessman Nguyen Van Minh, whose family owns a food and department store in Arlington and the Mekong Restaurant in Tysons Corner, bought the property last year for $864,000 and proposed a complex of Oriental and European shops to be called the Mekong International Center.
A spokesman for the Minh family, N.T. Hung, a Howard University economics professor, said yesterday that the project had proved to be too expensive. To erect the seven-story building, which the city had approved, "would require a $2 million parking garage and cost over $10 million, too much for the rents you could charge," Hung said. The family initially estimated that the project would cost about $4 million.
The 117,000 square-foot lot, near the city's historic Falls Church, has been sold several times in the past six years and more than doubled in value.
A bank owned the land for decades and had proposed building a 12- or 14-story office building there, but sold the property after Falls Church imposed a limit of seven stories on any buildings in the city.
Two developers, Ross Keith and Alexander Feldman, bought the lot and won approval for a seven-story office building and two-story garage there, but their plans were curtailed by a real estate slump and high interest rates. They sold it to the Minhs.
Erlich said, "Keith bought the land for about $6 a square foot, I think . . . and I'm buying it for $11."
The Minhs hope to build a similiar project elsewhere in the Washington region, Hung said.
Erlich met Tuesday with the city planning commission to discuss a preliminary plan for the site, which showed three buildings of up to seven stories and a two-story parking garage, separated by plazas and including a large public plaza on the corner.
"I've been around this city a long time and I have a very big ego," said Erlich. "I want people to say that's a very nice looking project." He said that he hopes to take his plans before the city planning commission next month and, if the project is approved, begin construction next spring.
Falls Church planning director Henry Bibber said yesterday that in the city's master plan the corner lot is "recognized as one of the most important sites in the city" and crucial to the economic viability of the central business district.
The plan calls for a public plaza on the corner and a mixture of businesses in buildings there, including restaurants, stores and banks, Bibber said.