Local Commentary

Editorial: Welcoming F.C.’s ‘Critical Mass’

The long laundry list of incremental improvements to the business environment in the City of Falls Church presented in this week’s report from the City’s Economic Development Office (covered on Page One of this edition) is, taken as a whole, every bit as impressive as another big mega-project proposal for the City to consider.

It shows that a lot of enthusiasm and optimism is being poured into the retail and commercial corridors of the 2.2-square mile Little City, even not counting the spectacular prospects for 36-acre school-and-commercial combined West End redevelopment potential and other new big stuff in the pipeline.

All together, this is adding to the mysterious notion known as “critical mass.” It’s the kind of thing that creeps up on you that you may not be aware of until suddenly, one day, you look out your window and, behold, it is there! A lot of romantic comedies are based on such gradual revelations.

“Critical mass” does not refer to a religious ceremony. It refers to that “tipping point” when almost suddenly, seemingly, everybody thinks you are the cat’s pajamas and can’t wait to pile into your pool party.

Usually it takes a lot of patience and single-mindedness to achieve this result. It is never spontaneous, but it may seem like it. It’s like in that Alfred Hitchcock classic 1963 movie, “The Birds.” For the perceptive observer, at first only one or two birds are seen on those phone wires. Then four or five. Then 10. Then 20. Then 100! Gahhh!!

At what point was the “critical mass” achieved? Was it when Tippi Hedren ripped her first ghastly scream? Or was it when the king of the birds saw it was time to launch an all out attack? It was clear from the final scene that were those birds new people ready to enjoy all the good things in Falls Church that there would be nowhere near enough parking. They would all have to have come by air.

We are seeing the first of such proverbial birds arriving now in Falls Church. The City needs to keep up its concentrated effort. The State Theater continues to be the major draw for people from throughout the region. The sooner the City can arrange a shuttle bus service from both the West and the East Falls Church Metros to the center city, and can ensure State Theater patrons that it will run late enough on concert nights to pick them up after the show to get them back to the Metro station, the sooner this the date of the “critical mass” will come.

That’s one example. It underscores the challenge to the City. With new business and residential developments (you need a lot more of both for the “critical mass”), the City needs to get it on with sidewalk, lighting and other amenities that will augment all the good stuff going on.