Chick-fil-A — you ain’t seen nothin’ yet, 11/19/2018

Posted on November 19, 2018

Status of the Chick-fil-A/Flagship Car Wash

I took a stroll just after nine o’clock this morning (11/19/2018), to take a few pictures of the Chick-fil-A/Flagship Car Wash.

This is a followup to a brief posting about the start of construction of the Chick-fil-A/Flagship car wash.  At that point it was a glimpse of how these MAC buildings would change the face of Vienna. Now we’re getting closer to a solid look at what MAC will do to Vienna.

Until last week, the new Chick-fil-A/Flagship Car Wash (just west of Nutley and Maple) merely looked like a moderately large building.  That’s because they hadn’t started building the last 30′ of it.  Now they’ve actually started on the front face, and you can begin to see just how different these MAC buildings are from what is currently on Maple.

Keep in mind, if you read the rest of this, that you ain’t seen nothing yet.  For the Chick-fil-A, they still need to add the rest of the front face.  And they need to add the towers, the tallest of which will be almost 1.5x as tall as the structure you see now.  The building as it now stands gives just a hint of how large the finished building will be.

I like to underscore that by saying that in Vienna, the Tower of God still rises higher than the Tower of MammonBut only by a few feet.   The bell tower at Vienna Presbyterian is the second-tallest structure on Maple, with the peak of the roof about 60′ above the church entryway.   Only by the cross on top will it be taller than the eventual 62′ 1″ Chick-fil-A tower.

The context:  Traffic.

First, it was a typical Monday morning in Vienna.  Traffic was solidly backed up the entire distance from the Maple/Courthouse light to the Maple/Nutley light.   These are shots looking east-bound on Maple from the Nutley/Maple intersection. The large brown building in the second photo is the Wolf Trap motel.

Looking in the other direction, traffic was backed up as far as I could see.  Note the line of cars going all the way up the hill.  So well past Emmanuel Lutheran, but I could not tell if the backup went all the way to the light at Flint Hill Road.

In your face.

MAC zoning more-or-less forces buildings to be built right up against the Maple Avenue.  So where the existing buildings are set back from the road, the new Chick-fil-A will be in your face.

Here’s a picture of the difference between the building next door (which includes a dry cleaner) and the new Chick-fil-A.  The older building sits about 55′ off the roadway, and has convenient parking in front.  The MAC building, by contrast, comes forward another 35 feet or so.  There’s no parking in front of it because MAC bans that.  So as you drive or walk past, it will be “in your face” compared to what we are used to here in Vienna.

That in-your-face configuration is particularly unfortunate because it will be directly opposite the “Welcome to Vienna” sign.  Which I now nominate to be changed to the “Welcome to CHICK-FIL-A” sign.

The Town likes to pretend that the “entrance” to Vienna is the Nutley/Maple intersection, but in fact, the Town of Vienna proper starts right where McDonald’s is.  So the the actual entrance to Vienna will consist of a couple of fast-food restaurants, one of which will tower over the surrounding buildings.

One final note on front-of-store parking, which is banned under MAC.  A lot of Town business comes from individuals on their way elsewhere.  As I was taking these pictures, three cars pulled in to pick up some dry cleaning.  That sort of business  — dependent on those passing through town —  isn’t going to be available to MAC-based stores, because there’s no easy in-and-out without front-of-store parking.  All the new retail in MAC buildings will have to get along without it.

In this next picture, I’m just showing you the distance between the front of the building and the road.  It’s not much, given the size of the building.   So this is what I characterize as “in your face”.  (Please note that they have less than half of the front face of the building up at this point — this narrow space between road and building will eventually continue past where the crane is sitting in this picture.)

That little gap right there — the gap between the front of the building and the road — turns out that’s important.  These MAC buildings are supposed to provide some type of public benefit.  And you’re looking at it, right there.  The Town is requiring  Chick-fil-A to put in an outdoor seating area there.  Yes, when I think of a good time, I think of eating lunch with 33,000 cars a day going by 20′ from my table, with a glass-and-concrete wall directly behind me.

You can check this page to see how useful I think that’s going to be due to the noise level.  I actually measured the noise at Tequila Grande, but the results should be roughly the same for Chick-fil-A.

The final oddity about that space is that, because the Town requires it to be seating, you can’t drive on it.  This means that every car that uses the Chick-fil-A drive-through must exit right onto Maple — at the corner of the building you are looking at above — and pass through the Nutley/Maple intersection.  Refer to the “traffic” section above.

Thank goodness the Mayor made them take down those power lines!

Arguably the single weirdest aspect of MAC is the Mayor’s obsession with burying the power/phone lines along Maple.   That seems to be critically important to her, regardless of any consideration of cost, value, or technical merit.  And so, each piece of property, on both sides of the road, must “voluntarily” proffer to put the utilities underground, or the project doesn’t get past the Mayor.

As a result, instead of burying the power lines rationally (i.e., digging a single trench, on one side of the road, and burying them all at once), we are, instead, digging pieces of trenches on both sides of the road, and burying the utilities one piece at a time.  And installing all the hardware required to do that, with each individual piece that gets buried.  E.g., in the picture just above, those expensive-looking green electrical boxes you see in the foreground — I am fairly sure they are there so that Chick-fil-A could bury its piece of the power lines.

I certainly hope that you, as a citizen of Vienna, have felt much better now that those ugly power lines in front of Chick-fil-A are underground.  Or, did you even notice it?

Let’s take a look at the results now.

Woot!  See where there power lines stop?  Thank the Mayor for that.

And see where they pick right back up again?

Anyway, that little gap in the power lines is courtesy of the Mayor.  And several hundred thousand dollars of the developer’s money.

Now, you may ask yourself, what good is that?  I’ve been asking myself the same thing, because prior to this year, the Town had absolutely no plan for putting the rest of the power lines underground.

Let me emphasize that: They required the MAC developers to put the lines underground before they did even the most cursory study of what it was going to cost the Town to finish the job.  That’s MAC zoning in a nutshell.

And now, while the Town still has no formal plan for it, it is at least squirreling away $250K per year in a fund for eventually putting all the power lines on Maple underground, and has finally commissioned an initial feasibility study on putting the lines underground.  What can you say?  Better late than never, I guess.

Anyway, my best guess, based on the reported cost of putting these lines underground, at that a rate of $250K per year, the Town will have enough money to bury all the lines on Maple in about 94 years.  (No, that’s not a typo.)  I would be more than happy to be proven materially wrong about that.  But I would be happier still if we could have some rational discussion of costs and benefits of burying those lines.  Particularly about burying them one piece at a time, on both sides of the road.