Big Decisions Loom As City Center Set For Transformation
The Falls Church City Council and Planning Commission gather at a joint work session at City Hall tonight to hear the latest assessment of how to best cope with the traffic consequences of the new City Center redevelopment. Ian Lockwood of the consulting firm of Glatting Jackson, working with project manager Clark-Nexson on the study, will lay out the options.
Meanwhile, Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields told the News-Press Tuesday that he wants decisions “sooner rather than later” on how to reconfigure the two to three blocks of West Broad Street (Rt. 7) in the center of the City.
With the south side of those blocks now set for a major overhaul by Atlantic Realty (as reported in the Dec. 14, 2006 News-Press), the City has an opportunity to make major changes to the street before final blueprints for the new construction are approved.
The main issue concerns the widening of the street, but not to allow more traffic. On the contrary, the impact the City is looking for is a slowing down of the traffic, and any widening would be for the purpose of allowing on-street parking.
It is almost certain that this will be the direction the City will go, and the only real issue is whether or not there will be on-street, nose-in parking on both the north and the south side of the street, or only one side.
That will involve widening the street by either 14 or seven feet. The center of the street would be moved south to accommodate parking on the north side, if that’s the direction the City decides on.
There would still be two lanes going either way, plus a center turn lane. Shields said the center lane would also accommodate a light rail system if Northern Virginia transportation gurus ever decide to move ahead with long-term plans for bring such a rail option west from the Pentagon area on Columbia Pike to Bailey’s Crossroads, then north on Rt. 7 (Broad St.) through Falls Church beyond Tysons Corner.
Shields said he hoped the City would make all its final decisions on the widening of Broad Street by March. He said there would be opportunities for public input, including at open public hearings, before any definite choices are made.
Rather than requiring ordinances or zoning changes, the decisions will be handled through modifications to the City’s Comprehensive Plan. But the important thing, he said, was to reach an informal consensus on the Council and Planning Commission. That could come as early as tonight’s work session.
In addition to widening Broad St., the consultants have also indicated that “shorter blocks” are a key to a pedestrian-friendly downtown. On that score, there are decisions which need to be made about straightening the curve on S. Maple south of W. Broad and having that street run right through what is not a small mail services building at the southeast corner of Maple at Broad.
The idea would be that, when the north side of Broad is ready for redevelopment, Maple would cut through the area now a parking lot for a CVS store. In between that road, and the current N. Maple would be the town square area that would mark the center of the new, redeveloped downtown.
The consultants have also indicated that extending Little Falls Street southward across Broad, having it cut through the current Post Office parking lot down past Annandale Road to meet up with Maple Street near Lee Highway would add to the density of cross streets, reduce the size of blocks, and slow traffic.
Finally, there is the idea for a “round-about” at the current intersection of Maple and Annandale Road. That would slow traffic, reduce the need for stop signs, and add aesthetic value.
As the City makes its decisions about these road changes, Atlantic Realty officials will modify their basic plan to fit. Their plans will be brought to a work session of the Council for the first time later this month on Feb. 20.
They include an all-office building next to the current Post Office, a hotel on Annandale Road, a relocation of the Bowl America to the north side of Annandale Road, a giant Harris Teeter grocery store where the Bowl America now is, and ample condo and rental condo construction.