Next week comes a rare midsummer night’s joint meeting of the two most weighty City of Falls Church democratically assembled bodies, the City Council and School Board. It is the first effort since both bodies decided to revert back to square one on the important issue of how to develop the 38 acres of prime land by the West Falls Church Metro station.
It took almost a year for the bodies to realize the approach they’d undertaken, to work with whomever submitted a bid to develop the land in a series of closed sessions to protect the competitive standings of the two companies that did, wouldn’t bear fruit. The City should have called it off the minute it learned that there would be only two bidders last October.
Still, this is now a unique window of opportunity, and we fear that no one is about to step up to make something magical happen. That much pristine real estate by a major transportation hub in the region should be setting off nuclear reactions of the creatively possible in the minds of our visionary leaders.
Look, it is not just those City-owned 38 acres (and the portion that must be dedicated to educational uses, which can be extended to encompass general educational uses such as with concert halls, great libraries, museums and sporting event venues). It’s the other 35 acres owned by a cash-strapped Washington Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (WMATA), and other big potentially stakeholder entities, such as the Northern Virginia Graduate Center, the owner of the large West End Shopping Center where the Giant Foods now sits, and the significantly assembled properties across the W. Broad and Haycock/Shreve intersection controlled by the Beyer family.
Has anyone sought to engage all of these entities? We see in Merrifield what a vision was able to create. And the Mosaic there is still expanding. A major city downtown has been superimposed onto a plot of land despite the fact that a major driver to its potential success is missing: really nearby major transportation access.
When the subject of Mosaic and other mega-successes arise, the predictable reply is a roll of the eyes and a torrent of reasons why that can’t be replicated here.
Real visionaries don’t want to hear why something can’t happen. They want to know what has to happen so that it can and will.
That all said, we find it unlikely that anyone will take us up on this challenge. Alas. But it speaks volumes to how much vitality, or lack of it, accompanies matters of this kind. It speaks to the real nature of a community, of its zeal or lack thereof to make a better world when the opportunity sits right in its lap.
Nobody is saying “no” to anything the City might want to do at this site. There is no countervailing great authority to veto the vision, except for that inside our own leaders’ heads.