At a work session of the Falls Church City Council Monday night, the Spectrum Group, developers of the proposed 4.3 acre Mason Row project at W. Broad and N. West Streets announced it has revised its plans to drop down the number of residential apartments on the site from 340 to 322 in an effort to address “massing” issues especially at the Grove Street section of the site. The height of the apartment building at that point will drop from 73.3 feet to 62.8 feet, and will be 35.4 feet along Park Avenue, Peter Batten, the group’s spokesmen, and Sean Caldwell of its residential development partner Mill Creek said. They said that with the new changes, the project is now 36 percent commercial, double the ratio of commercial to residential at the Harris Teeter project, for example.
The two spokesmen ran one-by-one down a list of 13 issues raised by Gary Fuller of the City Planning Department as the Council took notes and asked questions. The Council is currently scheduled to vote on final approval for the project on Dec. 14 and will need a “super-majority” of five out of seven votes because last week the Planning Commission failed to recommend it. Batten said that the movie theater component has generated a lot of interest from restaurant and retail operators, since it will be a special draw of customers to the area. The theater will run first-run movies on seven screens and the company specializes in the use of demographic alga-rhythms to determine what kind of films its target audiences want to see. The hotel is expected to include 125 to 140 rooms. Council member Karen Oliver said the project “has gotten a lot better in a project that is already good. The question is that in applying for a special exception, is it exemplary.”
Ed Salzberg of the F.C. Economic Development Authority addressed the Council in favor of approving the Mason Row project, noting it is unique for its ability to consolidate under-performing properties, six in this case. The EDA vote, he said, was four in favor, one no, and one abstention for conflict of interest. This suggests the EDA is “strongly in favor” of the project, he said.