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Compass Coffee advances in quest for West Falls Church drive-thru cafe

Compass Coffee will limit the travel aisle near Route 29 to one direction of traffic to accommodate its planned drive-thru cafe in West Falls Church (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

Compass Coffee is still weeks, if not months, away from opening its first Fairfax County cafe, but it’s already being warmly welcomed — at least by local planning commissioners.

After a public hearing on Wednesday (Feb. 7), the Fairfax County Planning Commission voted in support of the D.C.-based coffee company’s application to convert a vacated BB&T bank at 7393 Lee Highway (Route 29) in West Falls Church into its second drive-thru restaurant.

Before the unanimous vote, a couple of commissioners admitted that they’re inclined to view Compass Coffee favorably based on their experiences with its existing locations.

The Rosslyn shop is a regular morning stop for Franconia District Commissioner Dan Lagana, who joked that the business may “sort of have an unfair advantage.” After visiting on Tuesday (Feb. 6), Braddock District Commissioner Mary Cortina praised the Fairfax City location for its ambiance and the coupon for a free cup of coffee for first-time patrons.

“It’s a very nice, comfortable place, and people looked like they were settling in for the day,” she observed.

For its new location, Compass Coffee intends to repurpose the 2,552-square-foot bank building in the Shops at West Falls Church as a full-service cafe with two drive-thru aisles — one for in-person orders and one for online and mobile orders. One of the three existing aisles will be closed to traffic so baristas can bring items to vehicles in the online and mobile pick-up lane, according to a staff report.

The drive-thru lanes will accommodate a total of 14 stacked vehicles at a time, more than what’s currently possible on the site. To fit those vehicles on the 0.55-acre property, the coffee shop has proposed limiting the travel aisle closest to Route 29 to westbound traffic.

“The applicant has proposed to install landscape islands, bollards and signage to ensure eastbound travelers recognize this driveway is ‘do not enter’ for eastbound traffic,” county planner Curtis Rowlette told the commission.

The business has also committed to refreshing the trees and shrubs around the building with native, non-invasive plants after “site visits revealed that landscaping was either missing or in poor condition,” according to Rowlette.

At-Large Commissioner Phil Niedzielski-Eichner questioned whether the one-way drive aisle will affected parking. The change will require the replacement of 14 perpendicular parking spaces with four parallel ones, but the restaurant will have 27 spots overall, which Rowlette said meets the county’s standards.

Cortina said she doesn’t anticipate parking will be an issue, since the cafe will be in a strip shopping center that currently has 200 total spaces.

As of late December, Compass Coffee was targeting a spring opening for its West Falls Church shop, Vice President of Marketing Joel Shetterly told FFXnow. With the Board of Supervisors not scheduled to vote on the special exception amendment application until March 19, it’s unclear if that timeline will hold.

Still, Shetterly said at the planning commission hearing that the company is “very excited” to expand into Fairfax County.

“I just wanted to thank everyone for their hard work and all their help on our application over the last year, so we’ve learned a lot,” he told the commission and county staff. “We’re very excited about what lies ahead for us in Fairfax.”

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