The Spectrum Group, proposing development of the 4.3 acre “Mason Row” site adjacent the W. Broad and N. West Street intersection, announced new voluntary concessions Monday night in a work session before the Falls Church City Council, bringing them up to the level of concessions by other developers who’ve won approval for their projects in the City. The Spectrum Group offered to increase their contribution to the schools’ capital fund to $7,511 per residential unit on the property, and to comply with the City’s desired level of affordable housing units as a percentage of the total housing units. There were also many technical changes to address traffic issues at the intersection areas around the project.
The plan goes back to the Planning Commission now before returning to the City Council for its final vote, up or down, in early December. Council members were mindful of the vote in last week’s City Council election that went in favor of all the candidates who were for maintaining the City’s “smart growth” momentum and against all those who campaigned for a moratorium. All three of last week’s winners — Mayor David Tarter, Councilman Phil Duncan (hooked up via speaker phone from Knoxville) and Council member-elect Letty Hardi were present in the audience Monday night.
Council member Nader Baroukh, who will be leaving the Council in January as he chose not to seek re-election to a third term, said he was concerned that two major “anchors” of the project, a hotel developer and a movie theater company — had not yet been nailed down for the effort. Others said that the massing still seemed too intense, although the net revenues to the City from the project are projected to be very substantial.
Peter Batten, speaking for Spectrum, said the updated plans for Mason Row include 23 retail tenants, nine or 10 of which will be restaurants, which will create a “critical mass” that, along with an eight or nine-screen theater and hotel, will make the project a perpetual draw from surrounding areas. “All the retail and special events, the W&OD Trail on the City’s main downtown street are brought together in this project for a powerful, visual, social and commercial destination for the City of Falls Church,” he said.
He cited the specific elements of adjacency and interaction with the W&OD Trail, sufficient land area for a critical mass and clustering of retail spaces, an open air pedestrian-oriented market place, outdoor cafe seating, the movie theater, a market square with scheduled events and festivals, creative retail with interesting storefront designs, convenient commercial parking and well-designed landscaping and streetscape.