The timing could not have been better. In the afterglow of completing the approval of the transformative $317 million City Center project, arts and culture leaders in the City of Falls Church reached out to the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce this week in hopes of forging a novel alliance.
The opportunity is clear: With the new downtown now approved, the design and ambiance of the nine-acre area now becomes the center of attention. The business and arts communities can now come together to see that the seeds of a true renaissance city are sewn.
This begs the questions of architectural design, public art and streetscape amenities conducive to the display, and appreciation of quality arts of all kinds, including visual and performing. The fact that the City has the capacity, granted by the State Legislature, to forge a specially designated “arts and culture district,” replete with options for generous investment incentives, makes all this even more attractive.
In the interests of ensuring the Falls Church public has its opportunity for input on the look of the new City Center area, City Hall has promised an open design charette to which all will be invited and encouraged to chip in. Of course, this will be advisory in nature only, and the real questions of architectural design, for example, will be rooted in how good an impression the developers, in this case Atlantic Realty, want to make on current and future clients.
But as we’ve noted before in this space, Falls Church has the distinct advantage of an architecturally-innovative new development that has potentially set a new standard for whatever else will get built here. That was the unique Glasgow School of Art Nouveau architecture that went into the construction of Bob Young’s Read Building, at 402 W. Broad St. That new building is one of a kind for the entire Washington, D.C., region, and Young is poised to follow on it with another Art Nouveau-inspired building, this one reflecting the Viennese School, in the 800 block of W. Broad. This one, a four-story office building, will be the new home for the retail division of the Falls Church Post Office.
This kind of unique and tasteful art, in the form of architecture, could readily be augmented by the wholesale embracing of the arts and culture by the City in its new central zone. It would, more than any new retail district, serve to make the city into a regional destination, capitalizing on what the State Theatre, as a regionally-acclaimed live music venue, has already done. The City should cooperate with its existing, fledgling non-profit arts organizations, and with a willing Chamber of Commerce, to make the entire City, its look, its feel, its people, sing.
As a small city that has long prided itself on the quality of its educational system, there would be nothing more appropriate than for the City of Falls Church to gain a regional reputation and a special magnet for the arts at a level where they’re accessible to everyone.