The founders of Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture reportedly have plans to expand their agricultural services at Woodlawn Plantation with proposals for a restaurant that would eventually take over space now occupied by Woodlawn Stables.
Among those plans, Arcadia could be planning to create a restaurant at Woodlawn to make the National Trust for Historic Preservation property more financially feasible for the struggling property. Woodlawn has laid off a number of employees due to budget constraints.
Although the people behind Arcadia would not comment about any possible restaurant plans, Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland told Patch he thought Arcadia wanted to partner with Woodlawn in order to help Woodlawn's bottom line and bring in much-needed revenue.
“Arcadia wants to partner with Woodlawn to help their bottom line, because they need all the revenue they can get,” Hyland said.
In its 2011 annual report, the National Trust states that "lack of funding" is a threat to the historic property, which sits on 126 acres. Woodlawn was opened to the public in 1952 as the National Trust's first historic site. The trust's goal for the property is to provide "a sustainable future for the estate through new and non-traditional uses and development."
Ross Bradford, associate general counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which owns and manages the property and is headquartered in DC, said the Trust has not yet made a decision regarding Arcadia's proposal to add a restaurant to the property.
According to Bradford, the Trust's main priority is focusing on the Mulligan Road construction and Route 1 widening and their impact on Woodlawn.
"We're just getting started on the Route 1 widening, and we don't know the construction schedule," Bradford said. "There are so many different aspects and until we have a better idea of the direction of the project, we're not making any decisions."
Since it was founded in 2010, Arcadia has been successful in its community outreach efforts. Arcadia brought more than 3,500 local students to Arcadia Farm for school programs and launched its Mobile Market to deliver local produce and meat to underserved communities in the D.C. metro area.
The Neighborhood Restaurant Group owns Arcadia, a non-profit, and has 11 restaurants in the D.C. metropolitan area. NRG is planning on opening five new restaurants and a production center within the next year and a half.
The proposed $3.4 million, 100-seat restaurant would be located on the grounds of Woodlawn Plantation, according to plans put forth in National Trust documents. The 4,000 sq. foot facility would reportedly comply with Fairfax County HOD design guidelines and LEED standards.
Arcadia has approached the National Trust for Historic Preservation with plans to expand their services at Woodlawn. The expanded services would include an event space, food hub, kitchen and classroom, and the restaurant.
Plans for the restaurant were initially proposed in 2011. The Woodlawn Annual Report from that year states: “The objective is to create history-based experiences … that will also generate revenue for the site.”
The 2011 report suggests that the southern end of the first floor of the mansion should be turned into a restaurant. The larger room could be the main dining room, and the mansion’s original dining room could become an exclusive dining room. The report also recommends that select areas of the property on the west side of Richmond Highway could be used for fruit and vegetable gardens to supplement the restaurant; the gardens could be expanded to the east side of the road after Woodlawn Stables’ lease expires in 2016.
The farm buildings on the section of the stables’ current property may also be utilized for alternative uses, the report states.
“Upon the expiration of the stables’ lease, Woodlawn will be able to re-assert control of the farm buildings on that section of the property," the report reads. "This would provide Woodlawn the opportunity to expand its educational offerings by establishing a center for sustainable agriculture and historical landscapes. Depending upon the center’s needs, the existing barns and stables would either be restored for their original agricultural purposes or rehabilitated for new uses, such as classrooms."
The 2011 plan also explores the possibility of establishing community gardens, which could be rented by Mount Vernon residents who lack sufficient space at their homes for gardens.
"The community gardens’ per square foot rental rate could potentially exceed the current lease rate for Arcadia’s Woodlawn gardens,” the report states.
Save Woodlawn Stables issued a statement to equestrian groups this week:
"As you know, Save Woodlawn Stables greatly compromised with the Trust, the County and Federal Highways when we agreed to move forward with their alternative bypass proposal that would keep an equestrian center on the approx. 20 acres that will be left after the bypass splits the horse farm," Save Woodlawn Stables asserted.
"We have always felt we can work and partner with Arcadia while sharing Woodlawn’s historic district, but we are terribly disappointed and saddened that Babin and his organization now want to take this tiny portion that we have fought so hard to save too. The one thing about Woodlawn Plantation that has never changed since George Washington has owned Woodlawn’s land was that the property the stables sits on has always been open pastures and a working livestock farm."
Michael Babin is the founder and chairman of Neighborhood Restaurant Group.
(Editor's Note: Michael Babin is the Founder of Arcadia and Chairman of Arcadia's 6 member Board of Directors. The Neighborhood Restaurant Group does not own Arcadia. Arcadia is an independent organization awaiting its nonprofit designation from the IRS. The Proposed Restaurant (nor an entity that would operate that restaurant) would not take over the grounds currently occupied by Woodlawn Stables. We regret this error. At the time this article was written, representatives of Arcadia declined to comment, however, after the article was published, Arcadia sent a letter to the editor. )