Pocket-Sized Downtown Park Chooses Simplicity in Redesign

SOME PAINTERS WORK on priming the outer wall of Hot N’ Juicy Crawfish on the park’s east side. The wall will serve as the backdrop for music performances at the park as well as could potentially be turned into a massive mural to give the atmosphere some more character. (Photo: News-Press)

The recently revitalized and soon-to-be renamed park located in the City of Falls Church’s downtown has been open to the public for a few weeks now, but will get its ceremonious opening next Monday with a ribbon cutting and concert to inaugurate its music stage.

Tucked into the 100 block of West Broad St. between restaurants Hunan Cafe and Hot N’ Juicy Crawfish, the City’s Economic Development Authority set out to design an inviting communal area that would complement the patronage of local businesses downtown.

The completed park sports a patch of synthetic turf, adirondacks and patio furniture, multiple plant and flower beds where concrete used to be as well as refurbished brick walls adorned with new stone caps to offer formal and informal seating. It’s a subtle tune-up to the once shadowy park which lacked seating and had loose bricks throughout its walkway and side walls.

The City is still tinkering with how it wants to use the park. Music, sans percussion, is already planned, but the City’s director of planning and development services, James Snyder, isn’t sure whether the City will install a canopy to give the stage a more complete feel or instead paint a mural behind it.

City Council member Letty Hardi also noted that multiple programmed events are in the works to bring more attention to the park. Activities include Sunday morning yoga taught by Karma Yoga starting on June 16, a children music concert on June 22 and potentially supplying a bocce ball set as well.

When the EDA originally mapped out the revitalization in 2014, the scope was far more ambitious.

According to Snyder, a base budget of $550,000 was met with bids that would’ve totaled closer to $1 million. Features such as a water sprayground and multiple public parking spots being consumed to accommodate a larger park drove up costs, and even after revisions that shaved down the scale, the cost still hovered in the $700,000 – $800,000 range, per Snyder. So the EDA, in conjunction with the City, decided to provide a simpler facelift, with the hope that less was more.

“Maybe lower-key, smaller scale is more appropriate for us,” Snyder said. “It’s like home-remodeling. Sometimes you wanna tear down your home and rebuild it, but when you think about it some more you decide that a renovation is all that’s needed.”

ENJOYING THE SWANKY NEW CHAIRS located on the park’s west side is this citizen, who is lounging in one of the adirondacks the City is providing in the park, along with patio furniture in the form of tables and chairs that are normally found on the stage when it’s not in use. (Photo: News-Press)

Cost was the primary concern in tightening the project’s scope with the reduction in parking being a close second.

Jeff Jeffrey, who owns Cue Recording Studios as well as multiple locations along the 100 block W. Broad St., said some of his tenants, such as Hot N’ Juicy, were worried about how their customers would make do with less parking when it was still on the table.

It was troubling enough that Jeffrey claimed he and other business owners filed a petition to formally complain about the plans. But not all business owners saw the blueprint for the grander park as a problem. Chris Leftbom, who owns nearby Dogwood Tavern, preferred the expansive design even at the expense of parking.

Leftbom understood he was in the minority and believes the City took the parking pushback into consideration throughout the plans revision process. The City revealed as much in a meeting between local business owners and Hardi with some City staffers back in late March, where the now-implemented design was shown.

Both Leftbom and Jeffrey are enthusiastic about the park in its current form, with Leftbom hoping to cater certain events at the park in the near future and Jeffrey enlisting his studio manager, Dusty Rose, to serve as the inaugural act at the ribbon cutting on June 10. Oshinsky, who owns the lot where Dogwood Tavern is located on, has even had discussions with the City about closing off the cut through lane adjacent to Hunan Cafe to use it for food trucks and other vendors, according to Hardi.

One situation that the City and local businesses sought to address was the Unity Club’s use of the park as its designated smoking area. The recovery meeting place, which sits on top of Hot N’ Juicy, had patrons often hanging around the old park’s edge where cigarette butts would be collected. In consideration of the Unity Club’s needs as well as those of the park goers, the City decided to move the smoking area to a tree strip that gives the club’s patrons a spot to smoke as well as a physical and visual buffer from the park’s visitors.

Snyder mentioned that the park’s maintenance will be funded by the EDA’s budget for the first year with plans to absorb it into the general fund after that. The City intends to use this first year to see which programs work and which ones don’t to refine its use of the park.