Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: Mason Row Project Would Displace Many Local Businesses

By David and Rebecca Tax

As the owners of two local restaurants, we love doing business in the City of Falls Church and, even more so, we love being part of this community. But we want the community to know that if the proposed Mason Row project gets off the ground after more than two years of planning and revisions, then Mike’s Deli at Lazy Sundae – along with more than a dozen other successful local businesses – will be forced to look for another location and may end up outside the City or out of business altogether.

We do appreciate the fact that in every meeting we have attended regarding Mason Row, many council members and citizens have mentioned the need to work with the displaced small businesses. But there has been little more than talk. Even if it were economically feasible to stay, knowing that the developer will likely off-load the entire project to some other investor or buyer as soon as possible makes it less than appealing for us to contemplate staying.

Here are some things that we haven’t heard discussed at the City meetings regarding Mason Row. There are approximately 150 workers and their immediate families who will be adversely affected by this development. We all work very hard at our businesses and our jobs. Mr. Shreve has stated that if this project fails, he intends to re-sign all of the leases and rehab the properties. This should be taken into consideration when comparing the lack of current revenue on this corner to the proposed revenue of the new development. The corner is currently under-leased, under-valued and under-utilized, but to gloss over the fact that these businesses and their employees and customers exist is unfair and hurts us after all we have put into building these businesses.

Every day, more than 300 people patronize Mike’s Deli at Lazy Sundae. Those numbers surely pale in comparison to the numbers who frequent Sunoco and 7-11. Our three businesses attract approximately 2,000 people a day combined. If you include Bikenetic and the rest of the lot, over 1 million people per year are served on this corner!

We are not against growth and also have an eye toward the future of this City where we live and work. However, none of the previous City development projects displaced such a large number of thriving, established businesses. There has also been little, if any, discussion of the time and disruption it will take to complete the Mason Row project once it is underway. Lastly, we do not believe the Council has adequately considered the traffic and parking effect on the surrounding residents.

We make every effort both at Clare and Don’s and Mike’s Deli at Lazy Sundae to contribute and give back to the City as business owners and residents in countless ways. For example, David is a founding partner of Decorate a Vet; we host fundraisers for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, Policy Unity Tour, March of Dimes, and scores of others.

Both of our businesses have been members of the Chamber of Commerce since they opened. We support the schools in a variety of ways, including hosting the Byrd Feeder (April 25 this year), provided a work experience for a special needs student; assisted the Mary Ellen Henderson cafeteria with healthy menu planning; and sponsor screen free week. This year, we have begun to provide food and labor to help feed the homeless with First Christian Church once a month. We sponsor many other civic groups and activities as well, from youth baseball teams, to the Columbia Baptist 5k, to clubs and teams at George Mason High School and much more. Additionally, we continue to bring regional and national attention to our Little City in features in print, radio and television and by winning numerous awards.

We have tried do our civic duty by being active participants in this process. However, the lack of a cohesive vision by the developer as well as the Council has been extremely frustrating. If the Mason Row project does move forward, we hope that the City leaders and developers will make a more earnest effort to relocate and help the small businesses that will be affected. Please be cognizant of the fact that the development will displace multiple successful local business without any idea of what kind of business owners will replace them. We seriously doubt any national chain will care a fraction of what we do for The Little City, and that is something money can’t buy.

 


Brother and sister David and Rebecca Tax are the owners of Clare and Don’s Beach Shack and Mike’s Deli at Lazy Sundae in the City of Falls Church.

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