Local Commentary

Editorial: Falls Church’s Champs-Elysees

We can only presume that harping on this matter as relentlessly as we have in this space over the many years has contributed in some way to what’s unfolding around the West Falls Church Metro station at F.C.’s west end. We’ve taken recourse to the oft-repeated (by us) phrase that the land there represents some of the most valuable real estate on the eastern seaboard. That mantra began almost 30 years ago, in fact.

It’s taken long enough, but in the period especially since 2010, the City of Falls Church, and now its neighbors at that end of town, have come around to a concept that could reward us all with one of the most identifiable and attractive landmarks of the entire region. No, it is not the tallest building in all Virginia that we suggested might be a good thought a decade ago. It’s more, shall we say, European, and that is a very delightful concept. We’re talking about what we like to call the “promenade” that would traverse three adjacent real estate sites there to flow from Leesburg Park (Route 7) at roughly the Chestnut Street intersection now in a northeasterly fashion to the entrance to the West Falls Church Metro station. In our romantic and visionary spirit, we’d like to call it Falls Church’s “Avenue des Champs-Elysees,” evoking the grand space that connects the Arc de Triomphe (aka Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) at one end in central Paris with the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre Museum at the other.

Among other things, the famous Tour de France bicycle race culminates every August with numerous laps around the space from end to end, welcoming via the miracle of TV the entire world to drink in its incomparable majesty and beauty. It is 1.2 miles in length and 230 feet wide. The Falls Church version will have a 60 foot-wide park commons space in the middle with 20 feet of paved sections on either side to allow easy vehicular travel, one side going one way and other side the other. With plenty of shade trees and park benches in the center, and unbroken ground floor restaurant, outdoor dining and boutique retail spaces against the sidewalks on either side, the overall look of the space could rival any great capital city in Europe. With great schools also flanking it, the best high school in the U.S. and a major expansion of Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia campus, the site will eclipse the quaint Shirlington blocks in Arlington to be the region’s major answer to the urban sprawl that will turn nearby Tysons into a latter-day Manhattan and leave much of the swelling population of the region hungering for something aesthetically and emotionally calming, pleasing and, well, human.

The challenge for our leaders, with public help, is to realize this vision to the fullest. It could, and should, be truly extraordinary.