Local Commentary

Editorial: Thumbs Up for Mason Row

In the manner of the usual “Falls Church Way,” as it is informally known, it has taken an awful long time for the latest large scale mixed-use project to make it as far as the one big final hurdle it needs to clear. The Mason Row plan for the assemblage and development of 13 parcels of land on the northeastern corner of W. Broad and N. West Street will need to garner five votes on the seven-member F.C. City Council this Monday night to secure its final approval.

(Five votes, not four out of seven, because the Planning Commission failed to recommend passage by a 3-3 tie vote, which it took despite one important member being absent last month.)

This project is worthy of a unanimous vote from the City Council. The developers have taken the extra time seriously to listen, mull and come up with an array of changes to help the project fit comfortably into its surrounding area. The numbers have been modified downward, one less floor facing the residential area, fewer rental residential units, and the most impressive ratio of commercial to residential development of any plan that has been approved by the City to date.

Far from being a tolerated mixed-use – tolerated merely for the net revenue it will be bringing to the City to mitigate the residential real estate tax rate – this project is sizing up to be a real jewel. It is unique for the City to have a project with not one, but two major anchor tenants – an extended stay hotel and a movie theater complex. Those anchors will generate high demand, helping ensure that the restaurants and other retailers who will be attracted to locate at the site will be of good quality and successful.

The ratio of residential- to commercial-use on the site will be by far the most favorable for commercial use of anything of a mixed use nature built so far in the City. The location also turns out to be ideal, linking together the City’s main street, W. Broad., with the W&OD Trail and Park Avenue, making it a hub and a connecter, a natural center for everyone to enjoy.

On that score, the public space being provided by the project, a 10,000 square foot public square, will serve to bring the community more together, especially as the developers have committed to work with the City’s CATCH organization, which combines culture, history and the arts, to enable programming to be held at the square.

Of course, what the project will bring to the City in terms of proffers and tax revenues annually cannot be overlooked, either. The cash contribution in the form of proffers will be $2.25 million up front. Then there are the 23 affordable dwelling units that will be provided and the annual yield of $4 million gross, and $2.08 million net will make a huge difference for Falls Church.