As citizens in Falls Church are routinely invited or otherwise subjected to “visioning” exercises that try to divine what the Little City ought to look like in the coming years, even 40 years out, the question arises, “Who cares?”
We don’t mean this in a nasty way, but from the standpoint of recognizing that a minuscule percentage of today’s population in the City will still be around here in 2057. A number of factors contribute to this: 1. the fact that a good percentage of the City will simply fail in efforts to find the Fountain of Youth and will move on by aging out; 2. far too little of the City is, and likely will be, affordable to the children and children’s children of those currently filling single family homes, and those inheriting such homes will probably want to sell them; 3. there’s always been a high turnover rate in the City and the region due to the nature of good jobs in and around the nation’s capital.
So, those most likely to provide content for any “vision statements” are those living in the remaining single family homes, as if they’ll be here forever, and with coaxing from urban planning professionals at City Hall who get paid to do this for fun. Wish lists coming from these quarters are most apt to be skewed in favor of some form of an idealized and necessarily dull status quo.
A more interesting line of questioning might ask what the region will, in fact, be looking like in 40 years, and in the context of that, what Falls Church might become. Then, civic leaders can explore what to do now to improve the answers that result.
For example, on one end of town, Tysons Corner will be a new great American “downtown,” with hundreds of thousands of new high tech businesses and jobs. There will be a huge demand for housing and little interest there in major lifestyle or cultural amenities.
On F.C.’s other end, the Seven Corners are set to undergo a major overhaul with the introduction of high density living and working.
Where does Falls Church fit into this picture? First, the Little City should not devolve into a rich, monotonous gated community. If that happens, there will be no morale to shape its future. Don’t follow the “path of least resistance.” This will lead to more senior-only housing and other deterrents to youth, leaving the City a cookie-cutter soulless duplicate of the wider region.
Instead, provide for its long-term survival as an oasis for a special way to nurture and enjoy life. Jack up hotel and high-end office, condo densities on the edges of the City, and pack in the middle with retail and single-room apartment occupancies too small for little children but welcoming to young, eclectic, racially and ethnically diverse and fun urban populations to share our parks and spend their money here.