News

Columbia Pike development plans fall through at beleaguered Fillmore Gardens Shopping Center

Plans to redevelop a Columbia Pike retail strip as a 247-unit apartment building have fallen through.

Following a year and a half of delays and recent issues with vermin and vandalism, the would-be developer has filed to abandon former ambitions and return the Fillmore Gardens Shopping Center to its former status as a strip mall.

A request to discontinue a use permit for the site on the 2600 block of Columbia Pike is scheduled to go before the Arlington County Board on Tuesday, May 21.

“The use permit has not yet been acted upon, construction has not begun, and no financial benefit has been realized related to its approval, therefore, staff recommends that the County Board discontinue the use permit and associated conditions,” a county report says.

This would reduce the tax burden on the applicant, Fillmore Center, LLC.

It’s unclear when the location will be in a suitable state to house more commercial tenants. Several businesses left the Fillmore Gardens Shopping Center when the county approved Insight Property Group’s plans to build a new apartment building, dubbed “The Elliot,” in early 2022.

At the time, construction was supposed to start in late 2022 or early 2022. But the project paused indefinitely after a planned ground-floor grocery store — reported to be an Amazon Fresh — backed out in December 2022.

Since then, much of the property has fallen into disrepair.

A fire was reported in a vacant portion last June, the county report says. Other alleged issues included trespassing, a rodent infestation, trash around the outside of the building and storage of combustible materials inside.

Safety concerns led the county to condemn some retail bays last June. Though a representative said at the time that the owner stepped up cleaning and security, much of the building remains unfit for commercial use, according to the report.

“The applicant has been encouraged to continue working with the Building Official and county staff to complete the necessary work to reinstate the remaining retail spaces as safe and occupiable,” the report says. “Long-term plans for the site are presently unknown.”

Changes could also be coming to an adjacent commercial building on the 2800 block of Columbia Pike. Multiple business owners told ARLnow that they have been on month-to-month leases as the property owner considers selling to a prospective developer.

Establishments in that building include Sicilian Pizza, the Art and Framing Club and Acme Pie Co.

If the Fillmore Gardens retail bays become usable again, one business owner said he might consider setting up shop there if forced to move later this year.