Local Commentary

Editorial: Mason Row Remains a Go

The news of the signing of the lease for Mike’s Deli to move into the old Long John Silver’s location on West Broad (actually a few feet outside the City of Falls Church limits, so it has a Fairfax County Leesburg Pike address) is good news for a couple of reasons. It means that not only will this popular business continue on, but it signals that the massive 4.3-acre Mason Row project is still on, as well. That’s because Mike’s Deli is one of the small businesses slated to be displaced by the Mason Row project and the move signals that the project remains a go.

A lot of rumors have been floating around town that maybe after all it took to win Council final approval last January, Mason Row wouldn’t happen after all, or perhaps not for eons. But the new and powerful primary developers, Mill Creek, formerly Trammel Crow, have the chops to get it done and are moving ahead with due speed.

Some of the rumors had the movie theater complex dropping out. But not only is that not true, the company in line to come in is asking for an additional screen or two, and if they bail, there is reportedly a queue of competitor chains who would be eager to step up. Also, the proposed hotel on the site will be a higher brand than originally announced.

All this means that, with its 322 rental units, hotel, movie theater complex and 20,000 square feet for two or more restaurants, 9,400 square feet for service retail for a total of 33 percent commercial to residential use, and ample parking, the project will add to the City’s coffers “net net” (subtracting costs for school children, for example) between $1.1 and $1.8 million a year in tax revenues. That’s compared to the $190,000 the City gets in tax revenues from what’s on those acres now.

It only gets better from here, as well. The City’s 38 acres adjacent the West Falls Church Metro has the potential to link up with the WMATA property, the Northern Virginia Graduate Center, and even Federal Realty with its adjacent West Broad strip shopping centers for something really, really big and prosperous.

All that said, this will remain modest compared to the 34 major projects that are either slated for or under construction in Tysons Corner, including more movie theaters, a big new performing arts center about to be announced, mega-supermarkets and housing to accommodate population growth from its current 20,000 or so to 100,000. A bunch of rentals are already going up, and with a revival of the condo market to follow.

The current slow-down in federal government contracting doesn’t seem to be throwing cold water on any of this for now, at least.

Very rapidly, the biggest challenge is becoming to make all this affordable for the general public. Will Falls Church lead the way in facing that one?