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Hybrid emergency and urgent care center could replace West Falls Church strip mall

Graham Center in West Falls Church (via Google Maps)

Graham Center’s days may be numbered.

The 61-year-old retail strip in West Falls Church has been targeted by the not-for-profit health system VHC Health for a future emergency department and urgent care center, according to a special exception application recently submitted to Fairfax County.

“This innovative hybrid model of a Freestanding Emergency Department combined with an Urgent Care Center (the ‘FSED-UCC’) will offer convenient and timely access for emergency patients, many of the Applicant’s scheduled outpatients, and the general public,” Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh attorney Kathryn Taylor wrote in a statement of justification for VHC Health.

Built in 1953, Graham Center was anchored for decades by Harvest Moon, a Chinese restaurant and banquet hall that became popular for wedding receptions after it opened in the mid-1980s. However, the restaurant closed permanently during the pandemic, leaving behind a mix of small shops, including eateries, a nail salon, a shoe repair outlet and a Vietnamese supermarket.

County property records show that VHC Health bought the 105,698-square-foot site at 7234 Arlington Blvd for $2.4 million in July 2023. The future of the still-operating tenants remains to be determined, but VHC Health’s application says the one-story retail building will be demolished.

VHC Health Vice President of Real Estate Acquisition and Development Adrian Stanton said in a statement to FFXnow that the organization has “maintained open and continuous communication with the tenants about plans for the site” since it purchased the property.

VHC Health chose the Graham Center location because we saw a need in the surrounding community for an important and currently unavailable care option — emergency department services co-located with urgent care services. VHC Health prides itself on offering convenient healthcare options in the communities where our patients live and work…Given the current condition of the property, the plan includes redevelopment as part of the County review and approval process. While we wait for approval from the County, we are still working to determine what other healthcare services and business development opportunities will be offered that will benefit the community most.

According to the Feb. 16 application, which was first reported by Annandale Today, the retail strip will be replaced by an approximately 24,250-square-foot, 40-foot-tall medical facility. About 14,000 square feet will be devoted to the emergency department and urgent care center, while the rest will house primary care, specialty and diagnostic imaging services.

The proposal continues VHC Health’s recent push to expand beyond its main hospital in Arlington with more community-oriented sites around Northern Virginia.

“The primary purpose of the proposed facility will be to decompress high emergency department utilization on the nearby Virginia Hospital Center campus and provide the surrounding community with an important and currently unavailable care option,” the application says. “In addition, the medical services of the FSED-UCC will be provided at a fraction of the cost for services typically furnished at conventional emergency departments or hospitals.”

A special exception is needed to allow the facility in a commercial district that limits office uses to 25% of the lot. The facility is categorized as an “office” under the county’s zoning ordinance because it won’t support overnight stays or regular ambulance usage, according to Taylor.

As part of the redevelopment, VHC Health has offered to eliminate access points to the property except for a northeastern entrance along Graham Road and a southwestern entrance along Arlington Blvd, which will be upgraded with crosswalks and ADA-compliant curb ramps.

Other proposed infrastructure improvements include:

  • An 8-foot-wide sidewalk along Graham Road to replace the existing 5-foot-wide facility
  • A new 12-foot-wide shared use path along Arlington Blvd, connected by internal crosswalks to sidewalks around the new building
  • A covered drop-off area for visitors and patients over the building’s main entrance, which will be on the east side
  • Closure of the Arlington Blvd service road, which will be turned “into open space that integrates pedestrian as well as bicycle infrastructure”
  • A expansion of the drive aisle that residents of the neighboring Kingsley Commons often use to access Graham Road and Arlington Blvd

Expanding the drive aisle to 22 feet wide will enable community members to continue using it “in a more efficient and safe manner,” the application says.

VHC Health estimates that the future emergency and urgent care facility will see 19,556 patients a year, though it’s expected to generate 1,279 fewer weekday daily trips than the current retail uses. The facility will be open 24 hours a day and have 40 employees, with up to 20 on-site at any given time.

It will be the first facility of its kind in Virginia, according to Taylor.

“Adjacent to residential communities and proximate to other commercial uses, the proposed medical office will complement surrounding uses and will be a significant asset to surrounding neighborhoods as well as Fairfax County as a whole,” the application concludes.

The application is currently awaiting a review by Fairfax County planners.

Image via Google Maps

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