Here’s the dilemma: For all the ruffled feathers and cawing around town these days taking developers to task for a variety or real or imagined transgressions, the only losers in the event these developers are made to fail are the City’s kids.
That’s right, the loss of revenue that will accrue should either of the projects now being subjected to a new wave of citizen opposition — the cottage colony development on Railroad Avenue or the long-suffering Founder’s Row (formerly Mason Row) project at the intersection of N. West and W. Broad — will cause either a massive real estate tax rate increase or a catastrophic decline in the quality of the City’s public school system.
There is no denying this. For those to argue the solution is for the City to liquidate its independent jurisdictional status and merge with Arlington, or Fairfax, let us break the news to you: the conditions in those places are not significantly better and are likely to move even faster toward region-wide mediocrity.
Right now, ironically enough, the independent City of Falls Church stands a better chance of withstanding a numbing, slumbering stumble toward mediocrity than most of her regional neighbors. That’s for a number of reasons, but especially because the City has the potential to leverage commercial development to a much higher degree than its neighbors do right now. The neighbors have more real estate and higher populations, but concerning commercial development, as a percentage of what goes into annual operating and capital improvements budgets, the City stands to gain relatively more, and by a wide margin.
But this is not a situation for faint hearts, much less for small minds or narrow selfish self-interests. The City needs a lot more commercial density and a lot higher population to maintain its sustainability and relative viability. In the mix must come more diversity in its population.
Spearheading the commercial development must be the growth of educated young families, singles and ethnic and racial minorities. While there needs to be some, as a rule we do not favor age-restricted housing pandering to the phobias of a handful of people in town worried about school costs. The younger, more diverse the demographic, the more vitality and small business, including retailer, success stories there will be.
Our community can and must be a true cross-section of humanity, with its specialty being its public school system and its creative ability to merge aspects of that with higher education, such as the opportunities that exist with the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech programs already here.
Commercial and retail development needs to be, and will benefit from being, robust and diverse, itself. A new unique Falls Church will derive from this. Things like the cottage cluster now proposed will tend to flourish along with abundant new workforce and efficiency housing.