Local Commentary


We were delighted to hear the glowing report given by Falls Church Vice Mayor Lindy Hockenberry about the nine apartments designated as “teacher workforce housing” at the new Read Building on West Broad Street. In the proverbial nick of time, on the eve of the start of the new school year last week, final occupancy permits were granted by City Hall to allow the pre-designated teachers and other school employees to move in. Hockenberry told the work session of the City Council Monday that she, a former teacher herself, had been invited to take a tour of the units, and she was effusive in praise. The apartments, she said, “are all top-drawer, they’re beautiful,” noting they were done with granite and stainless steel appointments.

It’s about time someone, besides us, stepped up publicly to say something good about the Read Building and the extraordinary effort of its developer, Robert Young of McLean, to demonstrate his good faith with pioneering architectural, social and economic initiatives to the benefit of Falls Church. Not only did Mr. Young initiate the idea of proffering nine units in his new mixed-use building for the city’s first-ever so-called “workforce housing,” he did it knowing that the city’s school system needed fresh ways of attracting the best new teachers and other employees. His proposal represented quite an incentive, aimed at becoming a model for more of the same in other new projects.

He put in the many hours over and above his obligations to the project to meet with human resources people at the city school headquarters to learn that kind of apartment layouts and special features would best meet the needs of young teachers.

Finally, he did as we knew he would. He did not cut any corners in presenting to the chosen renters something truly exemplary, as Vice Mayor Hockenberry affirmed Monday night.

He did still more in the case of the Read Building. He gifted the city with a new building fashioning a totally unique and extraordinary Art Nouveau architectural style. At the urging of some socially-conscious folk here, he changed his chosen name for the building from that of an early land-grant family, proposed to him by the local historical society even though the family owned slaves, to that of John Read, a Falls Church-based Civil War hero who died fighting for racial equality.

But for all this, we learned that delay upon delay at City Hall threatened and even soured the good will that Mr. Young worked so hard to generate. When the “teacher workforce housing” units were not approved for occupancy by City Hall, and as bureaucratic feet dragged there with the school year approaching, the blame was misplaced by many on Young. At the eleventh hour, the permits were approved. This done, we hope that in the minds of all in Falls Church, the reputation and good intentions of Mr. Young will be heartily approved, as well.