What’s Up With Mason Row?

By Stephen Siegel
The Falls Church Times

December 17, 2016

The Mason Row mixed-use project was initially proposed to City officials more than five years ago, and made public three years ago. After much controversy and some significant changes, the City Council approved it in January. But there’s still few signs that anything is happening at the northeast corner of Broad and West streets, prompting some residents to ask if it’s still going to be built.

The short answer is: probably. Builder Spectrum Development, after months of further delays, submitted a site plan for the project in September, which is a necessary step to gaining permits to put a shovel in the ground, and they are scheduled for a meeting with the Planning Commission this Monday, December 19.

Several businesses at the site have left for, or have announced, new locations, including Bikenetic, which moved to West Jefferson Street, and Mike’s Deli, which is relocating to the old Long John Silver’s spot at Broad and Shreve. Brits on Broad has closed.

The 7-11 remains open at that spot and is still looking for another location nearby. The Falls Church Times has learned that the convenience store is seeking to move kitty corner to the long-vacant building at the southwest corner of Broad & West that previously housed Falls Church Cabinetry. It doesn’t appear that they will be successful in that attempt, however, a source familiar with the effort said.

But the 7-11 issue has to be resolved for Mason Row to move forward; the convenience store has lease rights that cannot be terminated, so as long as they keep their store open at Broad & West, Mason Row cannot proceed.

So the wheels are still grinding slowly, but inexorably, forward for the project, which covers more than four acres and will substantially change the look and feel of the entire area. It would include a hotel, a multi-screen movie theater, office space, retail, and more than 300 apartments, and would rise much higher than the current one-story buildings on the site.

Yet for those who opposed it, it’s still not yet a done deal: while the City Council approved it by a unanimous 6-0 count after the developer reduced the height on the north side of the project that faces a low-density residential neighborhood and modestly reduced the apartment count, the Council’s approval came with contingencies that the hotel and movie theater have leases in place in order to increase the likelihood that the commercial aspects of the project actually come to fruition.

And despite years of negotiations and discussions, that requirement still has not been met, the Times has learned. Apparently, Hilton has backed out of plans to build a Home 2 extended stay hotel at the site, and a deal with a large theater operator still has not been finalized. Those loose ends will need to be tied up before the project can go forward.

After spending millions of dollars, one would think that the developer would manage to break the tape at the finish line rather than drop out now, especially with Mosaic developer Mill Creek added to the development team. But after years of fits and starts, nothing can be ruled out.

If the project does get built, it could be 10 years from conception to completion.

December 17, 2016 


16 Responses to “What’s Up With Mason Row?”

  1. TFC on December 18th, 2016 3:08 pm

    Good to see you keeping tabs on this…..many thanks.Interesting about 7-11, surely this was not a surprise to the developers so it should have been addressed and checked off before submission.
    Wonder if Spectrum will have to incentivise Southland?

  2. grateful2binfc on December 18th, 2016 9:54 pm

    I agree, TFC, I am glad to see this update as I was wondering what was going on with Mason Row. And ten years to completion…that gives quite a perspective to this project! Thank you for reporting, Stephen, I know folks who will be very interested to read this piece!

  3. Stephen Siegel on December 19th, 2016 7:14 am

    You’re welcome, TFC and grateful. Thank you for reading.

  4. grateful2beinfc on December 19th, 2016 9:18 am

    Stephen, it’s always great to read the FCT. Random thought comes, given that Economy Party Supply is closing end of year, wonder about its potential in the larger picture.

  5. Richard Fredenburg, Garner, NC on December 19th, 2016 9:27 am

    I learned in September at a class reunion that the multi-business building at West and Park is still privately owned, with no resolution on selling the property in sight. Of course, that may have changed by now. There was a lot of frustration expressed about the negotiations (nearly absent) and assumptions of development (premature).

  6. Linda Neighborgall, Falls Church on December 20th, 2016 9:47 pm

    I also wonder what’s the story with the Tinner Hill development. I see that they are now leasing the spartments, but there doesn’t appear to be any activity in the commercial space. What, if any commercial tenants/lease agreements are pending? Is this going to be another debacle like Maple Avenue was for several years with full apartment occupancy but only empty storefronts? What is the effect on the projected crazy-big, exclusionary tax increases?

  7. Lisa Varouxis Falls Church on December 21st, 2016 8:48 pm

    Thanks, Stephen, for the update. I did not know about the 7 Eleven’s lease and the fact they were looking for another space nearby. I thought they were just going to close. I learned at the Planning Commission meeting a new architectural firm has been hired to finalize the design. This is still a project in transition, and interested citizens should keep a close eye on the progress.

  8. Mark Sparkman on December 26th, 2016 4:54 pm

    I noticed today that the parking lot is being re done at the 7-11. That is pretty shocking since the Mason Row project is in place. Perhaps someon can explain what is happening.

  9. grateful2binfc on December 26th, 2016 8:17 pm

    Mr. Sparkman, I too noticed the fellows marking the parking lot this morning and asked them what they were marking for, thinking it was something involved with MR; their answer was as you wrote, they are repaving the lot in front of 7-11 and Mike’s Deli. I was surprised as well, having thought the MR project would be commencing. Cones there tonight with a poised truck…

  10. John Hepman on December 27th, 2016 7:23 am

    Wow, this is very interesting development. Perhaps, they could just build Mason Row around the 7-11. The 7-11 building would look real nice next to the new buildings. I bet the 7-11 would break sales records with all the foot traffic that Mason Row would bring. Southland corp vs a small little development company I would bet on Southland corp. Mason Row may be completed by 2030. What a joke!!

  11. TFC on December 27th, 2016 4:17 pm

    I stopped in there today too. Makes me wonder why redo it now? Don’t know of the landlord is doing this (Shreve family) or Southland is the responsible party. Maybe Southland is making a statement about a future move?

  12. kmc@FC on December 28th, 2016 6:51 am

    Southland Corporation has 2 five year options on this property. Guess the developer and the City of Falls Church didn’t do their homework.

  13. Mark Fellows on January 1st, 2017 3:50 pm

    What a mess!! I think I will take Phil and the gang out for a slupree!!

  14. Kmc@Fc on January 2nd, 2017 4:31 pm

    Such a waste of city resources, 6 years of efforts based on now known restrictions by a solid and very successful corporation. look for the intrusion of leases from those forced to move by the now challenged commencement to building this project. The BZA should have been aware the of this. The developer created intense division within our community because of this planning. Such a shame on process.

  15. LGV – Falls Church on January 4th, 2017 11:19 am

    The site plan is scheduled to be presented to the Architecture Advisory Board tonight. If you are interested in seeing first hand what the latest design looks like, the meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. tonight in Council Chambers.

    6. New Business:
    a. AAB #20131165 Site plan by Mill Creek Residential & Spectrum Development for Mason Row, for the purpose of constructing a mixed-use building, 930 W Broad Street, RPC #51-202-100, of the Falls Church Real Property Records, zoned B-3 General Business

  16. grateful2binfc on May 29th, 2017 11:19 am

    It would be interesting to get an update on this given it is now a renamed project, one that appears to be ever evolving. Always appreciate the Times’ coverage!

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