A sweeping and extraordinary review of the remarkable Eden Center, a nationally-renowned cultural and economic center for Vietnamese-Americans located within the City of Falls Church, was provided to F.C. Economic Development Authority this Tuesday by the center’s operations director, Alan B. Frank, general counsel and senior vice president for Capital Commercial Properties, owners of the site.
It was an eye-opening presentation on a number of counts. First was the story of the evolution of the 13.5-acre site, with 230,000 square feet of retail space, since it first evolved from a tiny strip mall in 1963 to become home to 138 retail tenants, including 53 restaurants and food service entities and 18 jewelry stores, serving almost exclusively Vietnamese-American patrons and tourists traveling from far and wide to visit and spend full days shopping and dining. Next was the financial contribution the thriving center makes to the City’s tax base annually, which at over $1.7 million fully covers 2.2 percent of the entire yearly operating budget. Then was the reports of the precipitous decline in the crime rate at the center, a combination of the removal of unsavory nightclub tenants, increased use of security cameras and the highly-visible and sustained presence of the City of Falls Church Police Department. Finally was the report of the opportunity presented by the bankruptcy filing in November of the National Wholesale Liquidators, opening up a footprint of over 77,120 square feet to a wide array of potential redevelopment options that could further add to the site’s tax contribution to the City, even if new efforts will have to await a rebound in the wider economy to be realized.
There were other intriguing features of the Eden Center that captivated the EDA members, and others from the City Council, Planning Commission and City staff, including City Manager Wyatt Shields, in attendance. They included the endless parking pressures there, especially on weekends, caused by the center’s popularity. Frank expressed frustration over an apparent stumbling block he ran into at the Falls Church City Hall when he broached a plan to add 21 new parking places by removing some trees in the parking lot, which would be replaced by even more new trees at other locations on the property. As one citizen commented upon hearing this, many in Falls Church are hopeful that the newly-reconstituted Planning Commission and a new Director of Planning prepared to start work at City Hall, the frustration might henceforth be allayed. Shields suggested that possibility in remarks at the meeting, himself.
One of Falls Church’s finest assets, the Eden Center, was brought to the attention of City leaders Tuesday with a comprehensive presentation that we can hope will better integrate it, and its needs, into the life and awareness of the City that benefits so much from it.