Major National Developer Joins Team To Build 4.3-Acre ‘Mason Row’ Project

The signing on of the high-powered Mill Creek Residential as co-owner partners for the Mason Row project has been a shot in the arm for the Spectrum Development team, which is now due to resubmit its ambitious plan the middle of next week for the development of 4.3 acres on the northeast corner of the central Falls Church intersection of W. Broad and N. West Streets.

Mill Creek is the new name for the national powerhouse builder the Dallas, Texas-based Trammell Crow, which chose to re-brand itself in 2010 after the post-2006 great recession devastated its business, taking it from 27,167 multifamily units, nationwide, in the 2006-2008 time frame to zero in 2009, according to a report in the Multifamily Executive magazine.

Over the past three decades, Trammel Crow/Mill Creek has participated in the development of over 250,000 apartment units and has executed over $15 billion in transactions since 1993. Its executive management team averages 30 years of industry experience and the company employs over 300 associates nationwide.

Peter Batten of the Vienna, Virginia-based Spectrum Development who has been the face of the Mason Row project since its first submission in February 2014, told the News-Press yesterday that “We’re extremely excited” with how a reconfiguration of the Mason Row project, in response to concerns from stakeholder citizens and City Hall, has turned out, with a big assist from the Mill Creek team.

There will still be a 144-room hotel, probably of an extended-stay variety. There will still be eight movie screens of a more urban style with more compact, 75-100 seat capacities for each, while first run movies will be shown. There will still be 340 rental apartments, and plenty of ground level space for retail and restaurants.

But the newly-configured design offers relief to Park Avenue residences by lowering heights, removing commercial elements facing onto that street and setting more back from the street.

“Our main objectives in the new design,” Batten told the News-Press, is to break up the buildings, to create more open space, to opening it up by reducing the sense of massing with more articulated separate buildings.” There will be more surface parking within it, and open air pedestrian walkways. The hotel is moved to the corner of W. Broad and N. West Street as five stories above a ground floor retail, which addresses a concern by City Hall that there be a “prominent use” displayed on that corner.

“All our changes have been in response to the feedback we’ve received from residents and the City,” Batten said, “and we are very pleased with our result.”

Former Falls Church City Manager and now prominent local attorney representing Spectrum Development David Lasso told the News-Press that the rental units on Park Avenue will look like town houses and will shield that residential street from the parking structure behind it. He said the internal space may work for a grocery or organic fresh food store. He said that traffic impact assessments are being developed adding, “We are planning to make good use of the W&OD bike trail, and will offer bike share at the site.”

Batten told the News-Press he does not believe the new changes will require that the project be reverted back to a first reading by the City Council, because all the changes were made in response to Council and citizen suggestions, and do not represent a desire to change the project otherwise.
He would like to see the new plan, upon submission to the Planning Department at City Hall the middle of next week, get out to various boards and commissions, including the Planning Commission and Economic Development Authority, right away.

Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields told the News-Press yesterday that how quickly and comprehensively the new plans circulate around will depend on seeing them when they come in, and determining if there needs to be additional materials, or not.

He said the City Council may want a look at it during a work session in July “just to get caught up to speed,” but that any final approval vote is unlikely to come before September.