City of Falls Church leaders, including of its local newspaper, saw enough architectural renderings of potential new commercial and mixed use buildings the first two days of this week to make their heads spin. Monday night at City Hall, the City Council and Planning Commission came together to get another look at the project the Akridge Company wants to build on property it purchased on N. Washington Street. Then the Planning Commission marched upstairs in the same building to hear the Young Group’s site plan application for an all-commercial building in the 800 block of W. Broad, which it approved unanimously. Finally, Tuesday night at the Community Center, the City’s Economic Development Authority invited the principals of Atlantic Realty to lay out their latest look for the first phases of the City Center redevelopment project. These all come on top of the numerous large-scale mixed use projects that have already been built or approved for construction in the City’s narrow commercially-zoned corridors in the last six years.
In fact, it is a tragic association, but it was on the Tuesday morning of Sept. 11, 2001 that directors of the Greater Falls Church Chamber of Commerce emerged from a breakfast meeting at the Original Pancake House to a sunny day, hailing the fact that the City Council had, only the night before, given final approval to the first such project, The Broadway. “This is a great day for Falls Church,” one was overheard saying, moments before they learned of the terrible events of that morning that were still unfolding. The point of this recollection is that all the new developments that have been approved, built, designed, or are now under construction in Falls Church, have come in six short years.
These include The Broadway, The Byron, The Spectrum, Pearson Square, the Read Building and the Hekemian Company’s Northgate, not to mention the three discussed this week, one of which was given its final OK. The end is nowhere in sight either. In their Tuesday presentation, Atlantic Realty spokesmen stressed that their giant City Center plan was “only to prime the pump” for what will follow.
There are problems, one developer noted Monday, that come with the transition from a suburban to an urban environment, noting that Falls Church is “right in the middle” of that profound shift. They involve traffic, parking and special issues associated with construction, headaches themselves. Still, the best of all this is not only the promise of revenues that will keep the City and its schools solvent for decades, but the fact that the City’s decision-makers have become more comfortable with the process, arising from greater self-confidence in their ability to negotiate effectively for quality design, significant amenities, generous proffers, decent affordable housing and landscaping features attentive to open spaces and pedestrian movement.