Letters to the Editor: July 2 – 8, 2015
There is Residential Around F.C.’s New 10 Acres of Land
After decades of stagnation, the “Little City” embarked upon a development phase. The early on, creative approaches to a city center with streetscapes and improved lighting and walkability gave way to several patches of condo canyons throughout the city in an effort to raise the tax base. However, the recent lead article and editorial on the future development of the newly acquired land at the western end of the city (near the middle and high schools) takes the prize for chutzpah and greed.
Both the article and editorial, assert that since there are no residential areas nearby, that land should be developed as high and dense as possible. I beg to differ. On both the north and south sides of Route 7 there are long-established and thriving residential areas, albeit in Fairfax County, but near your newly acquired land. The intersection which will be affected (Rt. 7 and Haycock/Shreve) is the main access for those residents to all the roads in the area and to I-66 and I-495. While F.C. City residents will be less affected, they will surely see an increase in traffic. The development you suggest (hotel, condos, performing arts venue, etc.) may be transit oriented, but, there will certainly be an increase in cars and buses as tourists arrive, condo residents run errands and folks come from afar to that performing arts venue.
The residents of the surrounding area are Fairfax County taxpayers. Nonetheless, for decades they have supported your businesses, paid your city tax to dine, been subjected to your predatory towing policies and paid dearly for water because they had the misfortune to be in the City water district. In fact, they added revenue to your city coffers long before you decided to use recent high-density developments as a means of supporting your schools and city services.
Yes, development of those 10 acres of prime land is to be expected. However, rather than going for maximum height and density with no regard to your neighbors, we ask that you recognize that we exist. Be bold and creative without choking the area around your western border. After all, an occasional privileged Falls Church City resident may need to venture west into our area too. Make it a livable space for all!
F.C.’s 10 Acres Should Be Used For Commercial
Regarding the question of where the 10 acres of commercial development in the proposed redevelopment of the City’s George Mason High School should be located, I see two viable options.
If you want the “super-dense” development to consist of high density residential projects, the rear portion closest to the Metro station and garage is a good choice. This area could provide a secure gated community of attractive high rise condominiums and rental apartments, including high end amenities such as a pool and community building. This would presumably appeal to millennials who constitute a growing market.
On the other hand, if the City desires high-density retail and office uses, then the front portion of the tract at the corner of Leesburg Pike and Haycock Road is ideal. This important corner provides the strong visibility commercial developers, office users and retail business prize, visibility that helps attract customers and clients. It also benefits from being adjacent to commercial activity on two other corners of this heavily traveled intersection. And if one is interested in perpetuating commercial development in the future, these other two corners are potential sites for revitalized commercial growth. That is especially true of the so-named Don Beyer quadrant. This, in my mind, would be the best long range plan for this area of our city.
Also, one could split the difference – using five acres in the rear for high rise residential, and five acres in the front for high density commercial uses. But, that would reduce the critical mass of both, a density necessary to help assure the economic viability of either. I would opt for commercial uses on 10 acres at the major intersection with the intent of achieving the greatest return of tax revenues with the least expenditure for supporting city services.
Paul H. Barkley
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