Local Commentary

Editorial: Big Days in The Little City

These are big and exciting days for the Little City. After so many years of being thoroughly overlooked by the wider D.C. Metro development community, the City of Falls Church is now being courted from virtually every quarter, and the biggest plus of it all is that we, the citizens of Falls Church, have complete control of the process.

The “standing room only” crowd at Tuesday’s informational meeting about development of the 34.6 acres recently annexed by the City as part of the deal to sell its water system to Fairfax County is only the latest news (see Page One of this edition). Last week, mega-developer Todd Hitt bared his soul in a lengthy interview with the News-Press bringing a human side to what his abiding interest in Falls Church is and promises to be going forward. Like Bob Young and Ed Novak, who’ve been developing in Falls Church for more than 15 years, Hitt intends to grace the City with quality projects that enhance everyone’s sensibilities and sense of place.

This comes as the Hitt-Rushmark project with the Harris Teeter store as its anchor, and the comparable Lincoln at Tinner Hill project on S. Maple Street have risen out of the ground and are beginning to flex their new-found muscles. One thing is for sure, with these projects will come rising residential real estate property values, and that’s putting it mildly. The Mason Row project on the City’s West End is queuing up and that’s nothing compared to what’s eventually coming onto the school property.

Also, in a memo issued by the City’s Economic Development Office, in the aggregate six already completed new mixed use projects in the City are now yielding an additional net $2.8 million for the City’s tax base (subtracting the estimated cost of services, including education), being the equivalent of nine cents on the real estate tax rate, and $7.1 million in gross revenue.

Compared to what was there before these were built, the amounts are 18 times the tax revenue produced on the properties prior to their development.
That is a staggering statistic, people! On a per acre basis, the six new mixed use projects – all built since 2002 and including the Broadway, the Byron, the Reed Building, the Pearson Square, the Spectrum and Northgate – generate $207,000 in net and $517,000 in gross revenue yearly, 18 times the tax revenue produced by these properties prior to their development.

A total of 13.7 acres has been developed so far for mixed uses, with 4.8 acres now under construction. Moreover, collectively, the first six mixed use projects have contributed, over and above annual tax revenues, $3.4 million in cash contributions to the school system in the form of proffers, and an additional $3.6 million will be contributed to the schools by the two projects currently under construction.

All of this is is taking place in the current, narrow commercially zoned parts of the City.