Local Commentary

Editorial: Falls Church’s Crossroads

With the Washington Area Music Association’s annual “Wammie” Awards coming to the State Theatre in downtown Falls Church this Sunday, we’re happy to report that the Economic Development Office at City Hall has assembled a flier designed to inform the more than 800 Washington, D.C. area movers and shakers of the great restaurant and other options the City of Falls Church offers.

But as has been pointed out, it’s not only on “Wammie” night that the State Theatre is packed to the rafters. The most popular draw there is a group known as the “Legwarmers,” and they’ve done so well there that they’ve made a point of frequent returns, selling out the house every time. The fact is, perhaps to the chagrin of some who’d like to think Falls Church’s handful of historical landmarks or the reputation of its schools are its biggest draw, the State Theatre is by far the most famous feature of the City in the eyes of the surrounding region. It has earned that position through owner Tom Carter’s hard and dedicated work to develop and maintain a successful business model. The reality is that the State Theatre is an existing, not envisioned, classically-defined “anchor” to the City’s commercial corridors. So what’s lacking is not the “anchor,” but glue connecting the anchor to what surrounds it.

We advocate a low-cost, effective way to provide the kind of connectivity needed to realize the potential of such a vibrant anchor for the rest of Falls Church. It involves an inexpensive, virtually cosmetic upgrade of the Rt. 7 and Rt. 29 intersection, a half block away. Using colorful, mosaic-style inlays in the center of the intersection, create a large circle that touches all four corners. On each corner of the intersection, place park benches and landscaping. On the corner in front of the Ireland’s Four Provinces restaurant, there is a particularly-spacious sidewalk area that could host a fountain, or piece of public art. At non-rush-hour times, lights at the intersection could be coordinated to stop traffic in all directions, giving pedestrians the ability to criss-cross the intersection diagonally for brief periods. A huge component would be adequate lighting, including the use of color floodlights at night illuminating the fountain. Every vehicle passenger arriving at that intersection would know they were in the center of Falls Church, and the intersection would become almost like a mini-park.

At the same time, there needs to be major improvements to the sidewalk connecting the State Theatre, just up the street, with the intersection. A wider, safer sidewalk, very well-lit, would be a natural invitation to State Theatre patrons to wander down the block to encounter the restaurants and City-maintained kiosks that would provide information on what a great place Falls Church is, not just to eat, but to live, work and raise families. This could all be accomplished within months, for almost nothing. It’s an idea whose time has come.