This is the City of Falls Church’s finest hour. Over the course of the next two months, the City Council will achieve a result of historic and nationally-significant proportions. It will execute the creation of a new City Center, realizing visions and dreams that local leaders were never able to bring to fruition in the past. The first City Center plan, at the same location, was drawn up 35 years ago. The current parameters began to be etched eight years ago, and its current form began to take concrete shape over two years ago.
This project, rooted in a model public-private alliance between the City and the Atlantic Realty Company, including a deal involving the non-profit Falls Church Housing Corporation as an accessory, is a sophisticated, if challenging and gutsy undertaking. But many thousands of local residents, emerging generations and business owners will be indebted to the efforts being executed right now.
The key genius in this effort lies in its “counter-intuitive” nature. As an economic slowdown grips the entire region, and nation, Falls Church is bucking the trend in just the kind of way that could not only save and preserve its jurisdictional autonomy, but be the first spark of a new renaissance for the area. Everyone is in agreement on the need for good architecture, open spaces, wide sidewalks, walkability, public art, a banquet and assembly hall and facilities to promote the arts.
Ironically, the City can thank many of those who helped shape and preserve Falls Church’s village character into the recent era for the opportunity that now exists. It is unfortunate that some of those people look with great disdain on the steps now about to be taken, wrongly concluding that they will ruin that special character. But the very reason it won’t is because of the work they did for so many years to cultivate it, while keeping the City protected from the kind of roughshod development that overtook Tysons Corner.
Falls Church is now going to be the envy of the region, the state, and a shining example for the nation, and a lot of that will be due to the fact that no amount of new construction will be able to diminish the special character of the City. On the contrary, it will only enhance it. Here is where human values will flourish, where young people will gain a first-rate education, where diversity, including of incomes, will be encouraged, and the arts are celebrated for all ages. Maybe the City should follow the example of Renaissance Florence and invite David, the psalmist and giant killer, as its patron and protector. He reflects the image most folks in Falls Church like to attribute to their special place.
There is an optimism and energy stirring at City Hall in Falls Church that hasn’t been experienced before. It’s hard to imagine that the best the City could do for new development only 15 years ago was a Taco Bell, and only after a big fight. We’ve come a long way, baby!