Local Commentary

Editorial: Holy Mosaic!

It was like a child’s first eye-popping glimpse at Disney World. All those colorful rides! All that appetite-stimulating diversity of class acts! The biggest oyster house in Virginia? Eight screens playing art house films? 4,000 parking spaces? Yes, and a giant Target, 1,000 residences and much more, all jammed into 31 acres in the center of nearby Merrifield.

The Mosaic, as it is called, is in the best spirit of an artificial lake, a man-made urban downtown, and since resuming its construction after taking a blow from the Great Recession is now about to, like the White House Christmas tree, have its switch thrown.

By Labor Day, the movie screen component will light up, and by the end of the year, all the fashionable boutiques and sexy eating establishments will be humming, so the vice president of the principle development group, Edens, told a joint luncheon of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce and Merrifield Business Association this Tuesday.

What is most impressive about this effort is that – despite the cookie cutter-looking gigantic Target logos – it is not just your average suburban mega-shopping mall. As the developers put it themselves, “With an expertly curated selection of retailers, restaurants and entertainment venues, Mosaic will elevate the community experience to a new standard in Washington, D.C.”

It’s been curated like a museum! Indeed, the careful selection of boutique and high-quality stores and eateries was made easier for the developers by the combination of viable “anchors,” the Target and 150-room Hyatt Hotel, and the spectacular demographics of the surrounding area. The area, just outside Falls Church, is home to the highest average household income in the entire U.S., after all.

Unfortunately, news of that demographic, which is not all that new, has not generated the same kind of door-bashing demand for spaces to set up businesses in our Little City, the City of Falls Church, itself, however.

Indeed, it is Merrifield that is going to be the next, and biggest, new urban center beyond Rosslyn and Ballston, the process having leap-frogged right over Falls Church. The Little City sits with dusty, moribund plans for a $314 million City Center project of its own sitting on Planning Department shelves, where people get excited when a new yogurt shop opens.

Well and good, Falls Church can remain a sleepy, residential pass-through. It seems evident over the last two decades that a lot of people living here – the most racially un-diverse jurisdiction in Virginia swimming in enough disposable income to afford high real estate taxes in lieu of commercial development – want it this way. All the talk about commercial development may be just lip service to assuage the concerns of those citizens who can’t really afford those high taxes.

If Falls Church wants to do down a different path, assuming the Mosaic hasn’t foreclosed that for many years, it has to study the Mosaic example, not the preliminary task force, but its implementation.