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2 Big Multi-Screen Dine-In Theater Outfits Eying New Project in City

SPECTRUM DEVELOPMENT’S Peter Batten (left) and Dick Buskell (seated) presented their new “Mason Row” plan for W. Broad and N. West Street to the F.C. City Council’s Economic Development Committee Monday night. (Photo: News-Press)
SPECTRUM DEVELOPMENT’S Peter Batten (left) and Dick Buskell (seated) presented their new “Mason Row” plan for W. Broad and N. West Street to the F.C. City Council’s Economic Development Committee Monday night. (Photo: News-Press)

The Spectrum Development Group that wants a massive redevelopment at the intersection of W. Broad and N. West Street in the City of Falls Church showed up with its latest iteration to the Economic Development Committee of the Falls Church City Council Monday, and presented a whole new concept compared to the version that the Council expressed a willingness to preliminarily approve July 28.

Now, the developers want to match their project to Bethesda Row, the Rockville Town Center or Pentagon Row in look, in upscale retailers and restaurants and in its hotel and movie theater options. The also gave it a name: Mason Row.

“We want to create a gathering place for events, for shopping and dining in a modern, pedestrian friendly environment with quality retail,” Peter Batten of the Spectrum Group told a standing-room-only group crowded into a small conference room at City Hall. “This will thrive and be very well received in Falls Church.”

Sensitive to the criticism received at the last work session that the project had a “fortress look,” Batten said his people “went back to the drawing board” and came up with a “retail row” concept that matches other premiere projects in the region. It would be broken into two parts with an open air promenade in the middle, while including all the same basic features including a new-design five-story Hilton Home 2 hotel and 320 residential units.

“This destination could supplant the Mosaic in Merrifield, Clarendon in Arlington and Tysons Corner as the Number One draw in the whole area,” Batten said.

In a subsequent interview with the News-Press, Batten expanded on the interest being shown in the project by two large theater companies who have a national presence in the “dine-in theater” market. “Both are tops in their field and are very interested in this project,” Batten said.

The theater component of the project could include six or seven screens, each with 70 to 100 seats, with the lobby on the ground floor and the screens beneath.
There would be food service in the theater and a total of about 650 seats. First run films would be shown, along with specialty and art films. One or more of the theaters would have a stage to also allow for live music performances.

Batten noted that Bethesda Row in Maryland would actually be somewhat smaller in scale than the Mason Row project he wants to build. He said that the hotel would meet the equivalent of LEED Silver environmental standards.

The proposed open-air new street that would be created in the middle of the project would welcome both cars and pedestrians with an arch.

The new plan is 27 percent commercial and its goal is to attract younger “millennial and Generation Y” demographics of the region who will be attracted by its proximity to the W&OD Trail and the West Falls Church Metro station.

“We are going the extra mile trying to make this as good a project as it can be,” he said. He said that margins are being squeezed to their limit to make this happen.
It is presumed that Spectrum will bring their new plans to the regular business meeting of the City Council this Monday, Aug. 11, where a “first reading” approval is expected from the Council to set the process in motion for a full vetting of their plans with City boards and commissions.