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F.C. EDA, Chamber of Commerce In Strong Support for ‘Mason Row’

IT WAS A PACKED MEETING ROOM at the Falls Church Community Center last Thursday to hear the latest plans and to let its opinions about the proposed "Mason Row" project at W. Broad St. and N. West St.. (Photo: News-Press)
IT WAS A PACKED MEETING ROOM at the Falls Church Community Center last Thursday to hear the latest plans and to let its opinions about the proposed “Mason Row” project at W. Broad St. and N. West St.. (Photo: News-Press)

Falls Church’s two imminent economic development organizations – the Economic Development Authority (EDA) and the Chamber of Commerce – on Tuesday both came in with strong expressions of support for the Spectrum Development’s so-called “Mason Row” mixed use project at the corner of W. Broad and N. West Streets.

The Chamber’s board of directors heard a very positive report from its Legislative Committee derived from a meeting with the developers last Friday. The committee, as reported to the News-Press by the Chamber’s executive director Sally Cole, “was impressed with the changes that have been made to the architecture, the net revenue, traffic calming, surface parking for retail, as well as their interest in working with some of the businesses that will be displaced.”

The Chamber board, she said, “approved the concept of a letter of support that will detail these referenced elements and opportunities that this project would bring to Falls Church, although it was not due to be ready by press time.

The EDA, at a two-hour long meeting Tuesday night, wound up voting unanimously (6-0) among all members present (Barry Buschow absent) to issue a statement of “strong support for the approval of the project,” according to F.C. Councilman Phil Duncan, who was present at the meeting.

“The EDA strongly supports approval of the project” – that’s the top-line takeaway from Tuesday night’s 2-hours-plus deliberation by the citizens on the Economic Development Authority on the Spectrum Development application for a major economic revitalization project at Broad & West St. (“Mason Row”).

Again, a formal wording expressing the sentiment was being crafted by Rick Goff of the City’s Economic Development Office, which also was not ready by press time.
The EDA “strongly supports” approval of the project, Duncan said, for the following reasons:

• It’s a suitable project for this strategic location — high-visibility intersection on a major corridor, near the W&OD Trail;

• The density is appropriate, comparable to, or lower than, the Rushmark (Harris-Teeter) and Lincoln (Tinner Hill) developments;

• It consolidates 11 lots, which the EDA wants to encourage in general;

• It provides a $1.2 million capital contribution to the schools

• It replaces $200,000 annual net revenue from the site currently with $1.4 to $1.7 million annual net revenue;

• It will improve stormwater management on the site;

• It will create a new regional destination for the City; with a second anchor (in addition to a hotel) possibly being a multi-screen “dinner and a movie” theater.

• If this doesn’t get approved, there will be no immediate prospect for lot consolidation and redevelopment.

Some suggestions offered by the EDA included considering creative ways to incentivize local retailers to go into the project, including a firm commitment to Bike Share station location and funding (the project is directly adjacent the W&OD Trail), 20 foot sidewalks on West St. to match the 20 foot sidewalk planned for W. Broad, and measures for preventing the Mason Lane running through the center of the project from becoming a cut-through for drivers.

After winning preliminary approval from the City Council last month, the Spectrum group organized a town hall meeting at the Community Center last Thursday which was well publicized and turned out to be jam-packed.

While citizens with grievances piped up the most earlier in the meeting, a turning point happened when a younger resident, who said he wasn’t quite a “millennial” (younger generation) any more, but “close enough,” stood up to praise the project and to say how much he would love to have it built here.

To the surprise of many, that led to a spontaneous applause from many in the audience and it changed the whole dynamic of the meeting.

Many residents in the area have said they recognize the positive impact the project will have on their property values and contribute to their quality of life in the City.
It is expected to come back to the City Council for a final approval next month.