F.C. Chamber Pushes City To Launch Marketing Plan

Arts Groups Also Urge Formation Of Arts District

Following on the City of Falls Church’s flurry of activity approving an array of large-scale mixed use projects in its commercially-zoned corridors, the board of directors of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce took action at its monthly meeting Tuesday to spur the City to launch and fund a robust marketing effort to bring outside dollars into the new retail and housing products here.

Noting that while marketing approaches have been “studied to death,” and with lots of accumulated market and demographic data sitting on City Hall shelves, board members noted that it was time for action, and a commitment to substantial funding for a sustained effort.

“There has never been a line item in the City budget for marketing,” one member noted at the early-morning meeting held in the conference room at the back of the Original Pancake House. “City officials are simply not tuned into the world of marketing. It’s time for this to change.”

It was noted that the City could benefit from three major marketing firms located within its limits, including one, Smith Gifford, led by Falls Church resident and Chamber member Matt Smith who has earned a reputation of donating his marketing talents to the City school system and the Chamber, among others.

In unanimously voting on a petition to the City Council, the Chamber board called for the formation of a task force tasked with preparing an action plan and budget to present to the Council within months. At least a half-dozen board members immediately expressed their willingness to serve on such a task force.

In a similar move, the City’s major arts organizations, the Falls Church Arts, Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation and Creative Cauldron, also petitioned the City Council at its meeting Monday to take action on designating the City as an official “Arts and Cultural District.”

City advocates of business and the arts are apparently trying to light fires under the City Council and others at City Hall to take action, one observer noted this week.

The arts groups’ proposal, presented in the form of a draft resolution that the City Council could adopt if it so chose, underscored the positive financial impact of the arts for local businesses and the tax revenues of jurisdictions. Citing a region-wide study, they noted that art and cultural venues contributed $2.5 billion to the economic prosperity of the Washington, D.C., region.

Speaking at Monday’s Council meeting, Laura Hull of the Creative Cauldron, former Falls Church vice mayor Martha Meserve of the Falls Church Arts and Nikki and Ed Henderson of the Tinner Hill Foundation, asked the Council to avail itself of a provision in Virginia State Law that gives specific authority to the City of Falls Church to create an “arts and cultural district,” replete with tax break and other incentives.

Hull and Meserve also reported to the Council on progress toward the development of a 3,000-square-foot arts space on the ground floor of the new Pearson Square mixed use project on S. Maple Street.

“We are delighted to be working now with the team from Transwestern (owners of the property-ed.) which has taken an active role in making the project succeed,” they reported.

They also asked the Council to make good on its promise of a $50,000 grant the groups were awarded in 2006 to help build out the space, which was proffered to the City for $100,000 toward a build out and significantly-reduced rent as part of the original deal to approve special exceptions for the construction of project.

That money taken together will bring the groups’ design and construction budget to $200,000. Meserve noted, “We have engaged an architect who, in conjunction with a lighting expert, has developed a draft architectural design that is guided by the funding available. We will initiate a capital campaign to raise additional funds for equipment and furnishings.”

“We envision a space that will be open and inclusive and a resource for the community, and look forward to working collaboratively with all the other arts and culture organizations in the City,” Hull said.

Meanwhile, with the onset of the fall season, the Falls Church Chamber will have three member events in September, including a luncheon in collaboration with the Merrifield Business Association at the Italian Café next Tuesday that will feature retiring Congressman Tom Davis.