Local Commentary

Editorial: F.C.’s Brand New City Hall

Kudos to all those City Hall employees in Falls Church who braved with good spirits and commitment to public service what will become the storied year that they spent cramped into aged and often dysfunctional spaces at 400 N. Washington Street. Those were the temporary digs from which they’ve been liberated this week with their move back to the nearly-completed renovation and expansion of the City’s beloved and welcoming City Hall. Over last weekend, we can only imagine that it was like a slow-motion version of the storming of the Bastille and the escape of hundreds of gleeful prisoners.

Now, the new City Hall has that “new car smell” for people walking down the wide main corridor and into the back offices where the business of government gets done. The new facility will accommodate security requirements for the Arlington Circuit Court that holds forth in the Council chambers. It will have secured means for transporting prisoners to their trial dates and, overall, the number of entrances to the building has been greatly reduced for security reasons. Also, the accessibility of the offices in the building to the disabled has been greatly enhanced.

The Council chambers, themselves, are not quite completed. They will have a lot of electronic features that the old chambers could not accommodate that will make for better access by the public to what public officials are considering in their meetings there. We are eagerly waiting to see what they will include.

We are also eager to see if the shift in the direction of the Council chambers, from facing one way to the other, is going to impact the “feng shui” (you know, the Chinese theory of harmonizing people with their environment) of the space and maybe of the City overall. If everybody starts going crazy in meetings there, the City may have to switch things back, but we doubt that will happen.

Another major “to be determined” subject will have to do with the art on the walls of the Chamber and in the new main corridor in front of it. In the old Council chamber, the walls were filled with portraits of grumpy-looking old white men with wigs. That’s right, the Founding Fathers. Talk of introducing diversity into the portrait selections never gained serious traction, but we expect something new to arise in this regard now.

Such matters can engender considerable passions and we urge the powers that be at City Hall to undertake a process that invites the public to weigh in on the subject. Do people have valuable objects of art they wish to contribute, including, perhaps, some bronze busts or marble statues? They should be asked, and a knowledgeable task force should be formed to make choices subject, of course, to final approval by the City Council. But don’t rush it, please.

We would like to the building transformed into a quasi-museum that will attract families and students from throughout the region.