Local Commentary

Editorial: Don’t Be Afraid Of Heights

It is heartening for us to note the shift in the public mood we’ve observed over the course of recent months of deliberations on a new high school for the City of Falls Church. Namely, the appetite for more and higher mixed use commercial projects has not abated, and if anything has increased.

While we can always count on a small noisy minority that is anti-development and opposed in principle, if not for NIMBY (“not in my back yard”) reasons, the good news is that this faction has become an even more distinct minority, and should not have the same kind of intimidating and unsettling impact on City Hall it used to.

Some, as this newspaper has editorially favored for years, say the “sky’s the limit” on vertical development, because it will ensure that the City can afford the best schools and a reasonable real estate tax rate. In principle, this should be the mantra now, knowing there are limits that economics and the market place will bring to bear before a new Tower of Babel rises too far above the clouds.

There is already a new 35 story mixed use building recently completed in Tysons, and another one coming in that will become the new highest building in Virginia (eclipsing the hotel/condo behemoth in Virginia Beach). Such structures bring an awful lot of new mouths to feed, which is the kind of boost Falls Church sorely needs to fill its retail and restaurant spaces, and the revenues could ease the pressures on local real estate taxpayers well into the future.

Of course, from a developer point of view, the higher the building the more it costs to build. There is a “vanishing point” up there somewhere where profitability may be sacrificed to the point of non-existence. So, Falls Church citizens should not worry if developers are given an open call for their “highest and best” shot. Don’t pre-restrict it for fear of something too immense.

At either end of the little 2.3-square mile City of Falls Church, there’s room for big and tall without seriously sacrificing the unique qualities of the City in its center and its green neighborhoods. The day of reckoning on such things is coming down the pike, with the call for economic development to allay the cost of a new high school soon to hit the streets. If the City leadership is smart and agile, it can can handle the most enthusiastic offers a developer can bring. Fear not.

What the City of Falls Church has as its legacy already, and which it will hopefully carry forward, is the care all of its citizens put into the education of its young, into the preparations of the next generation to lead our shaky world. That, more than low buildings, is what it will be remembered for, with the only caveat being a potential failure to carry on that most noble calling.