It goes without saying that, from the standpoint of any kind of significant economic development, we’re in the midst of a gigantic stall.
Northern Virginia’s numbers, from the standpoint of unemployment, foreclosures and business failures, may be considerably less drastic than in most parts of the U.S., but almost no one, ranging from small businesses to commercial developers, is prospering and most are just trying to hang in there. Certainly, for the City of Falls Church, this is as true as anywhere else, and the pattern that lasted almost a decade typified by a growing queue of new, large-scale mixed use and other economic development projects working their way through the approval process at City Hall has simply been erased.
But this should not mean that economic development efforts by the City, itself, need to grind to a halt, as well. On the contrary, this is just the time when the City needs to be redoubling its efforts at finding small, efficient, and cost-effective means to boost its budgetary bottom line, recognizing that the big bucks from the City Center project or other hefty developments won’t be forthcoming soon. We reiterate the list of such modest efforts, which taken collectively could add considerably to the City’s revenue flow without costing much, at all.
Things like signage can be critical, and very inexpensive, for example. The so-called “branding” study contracted by the City with Smith-Gifford marketing firm has already shown, through a series of professionally-conducted focus groups and interviews, how signage, or the lack of it, has diminished the City’s ability to attract enough from its single biggest existing economic development resource, the one million cars that pass through the City on Routes 7 and 29 each month.
Clear signs welcoming those who enter the City and thanking those who depart it are simple enough. So are signs that clarify where there is free parking and, oh yes, something at the crossroads intersection, where Routes 7 and 29 meet, identifying it as the heart of the City.
In the signage department comes also the issue of low-hanging trees on Routes 7 and 29 blocking motorists’ view of many signs promoting businesses, directions to parking and even street numbers.
Then there is the issue of predatory towing. The City is developing a very nasty reputation as a place where almost lawless towing is condoned. City Hall simply has to weigh in with a much more muscular approach to fixing this insidious practice of self-destruction.
Then there is street and sidewalk lighting, and dirt-cheap sidewalk repairs that can make the trek from the State Theatre to the Rt. 7 and 29 intersection safe and inviting. Finally, there is a re-routing of the City’s GEORGE bus system to function as an economic tool, ferrying dollars to the City and back between the Route 7 and 29 intersection and the East Falls Church Metro. All these ideas will help and are very thrifty.