Local Commentary

Editorial: F.C. Should Open Up Parking Now

All of a sudden, watch out! Falls Church is about to endure what could quickly become an embarrassment of riches when a number of new retailers and restaurants open their doors this month, and wind up leaving a critical element of downtown commerce woefully short of parking.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to appreciate what’s about to happen to the Broaddale Shopping Center in the 300 block of W. Broad Street, now that Famous Dave’s is about to open, to join the recently-opened, highly popular Chipotle outlet, and now comes news that the Honey Baked Ham store will be sandwiched in between those two.

That shopping center is already choked with cars, and in a desperate attempt to relieve some parking pressure, a number of parking spots near the Starbucks have been designated for short-term parking only. However, quick pickups do not characterize the average sale at Starbucks, which is generally for those who wish to linger over a latte and read the paper.

But what is already a pressing problem is about to get worse, knowing the popularity of Famous Dave’s at its other locations, and of the Honey Baked Ham store, moving down from its long-standing Idylwood Plaza location to fill the spot vacated by the sparsely-occupied Jerry’s Subs.

Nothing would be more disastrous for Falls Church in its struggle to gain some traction in the commercial retail business than to have these news businesses find they are squeezed to under-perform for lack of parking.

It’s one thing to encourage “kiss-and-ride” and other forms of social engineering aimed at reducing vehicular traffic at Metro stations, where people can be dropped off for long trips. It’s another to find hungry patrons frustrated and eventually discouraged by an inability to park anywhere near where they would like to eat.

What can be done about this? Fortunately, there’s what could be a satisfactory, if temporary solution in the property that the City of Falls Church and its Economic Development Authority owns across and just a little up the street. The old post office parking lot and the adjacent old vacant Podolnik site could become at least temporary auxiliary surface parking options. Maybe even their current plans for development as part of the City Center, if that ever gets off the ground, could be revised to accommodate what is clear a newly-developing but very real need.
A bird in hand is worth two in the bush, and with some highly-popular food businesses moving into Broaddale, maybe the City should reconsider where its first structured parking garage should be located.

In conjunction with making the City-owned sites available for parking at the numerous restaurants and food establishments in the immediate area, of course, better signage and pedestrian-friendly means of crossing W. Broad would also be required.

Time is of the essence. Once these new establishments open, there will be a narrow window of time when “first impressions” will determine their eventual popularity.