Local Commentary

Editorial: ‘Critical Mass’ Not Here Yet

The unhappy news of the imminent closing of the Mad Fox Brewing Company in downtown Falls Church, after nine years at the location, has certainly come as a blow to many here in the context of all the great news about new economic development plans and the hope that we assign to the big hole that the developers of the Founders Row project on 4.3 acres on W. Broad represents.

People can, and do, point to a lot of ways the management and promotion of the Mad Fox project could have been handled differently, but the bottom line for us lies with the lack of a “critical mass” of potential customers in the immediate area to enable Mad Fox to compete with its neighbor establishments and similar brew pub type places in the wider area.

Citizens in Falls Church are the beneficiaries of many fine restaurants, including an influx of new ones, but there is also a revolving door that results simply from a lack of a large enough pool of potential customers. There may be at least one other significant restaurant closing soon in downtown Falls Church, even as the City eagerly awaits the Thompson’s Italian Restaurant to open at the site of the former Argia’s on N. Washington.

The City Council, we believe, recognizes the problem and is looking to address it by encouraging more residential development (over 1,000 new people will be moving into the planned 9.5-acre development at the West End and hundreds more will be coming into the Founders Row project).
It has been a sad commentary on the City that so many citizens have been opposed to such things on the worry that more people will bring more kids, and will cost taxpayers to educate them. Two points on that:

First, there can be no better purpose to which a community dedicates itself than to the education of its young. It is an awful prospect to contrast the images of children caged and kept in conditions of severe lack at the nation’s southern border, due to the policies of the current Trump administration, on the one hand, and the happy, talented and sharp minded children who are entering the Falls Church City Schools at all levels, K-12, who will become the world’s leaders of tomorrow because of the City residents’ commitment to that, on the other hand.

Second, the type of housing that the City is encouraging, and needs to encourage going forward will not be as conducive to the kind of large families who live in existing single family homes in the City. The new units will be smaller, more oriented toward transit access and amenities that the City will offer within walking or biking distance. The City needs to implement creative new means to accelerate the growth of this type of more reasonably-priced housing that will provide the customers to keep the retail component here booming.