The long-awaited repaving and re-striping has finally occurred this week of the City of Falls Church’s 63 free public parking spaces behind street-fronted businesses and the newly-refurbished pocket park along the east side of the 100 block of W. Broad St. in the City’s downtown.
The work by City Public Works crews results in, among other things, the addition of eight spaces, including two new accessible parking spaces. Coming soon will be special markings to help make clear to drivers which spaces are free to park in for two hours as City-owned spots, and which are privately owned by retailers, where vehicles might be in jeopardy of being towed if not used solely for the purpose of patronizing those businesses.
Confusion and painful towing practices in the area have reigned in the block for many years. Council member Letty Hardi, a key instigator in getting the project done, told the News-Press the project was one of the key recommendations from the City’s parking working group that she heads. “I’m personally thrilled to see it happen,” she said.
In addition to the resurfacing and re-striping, Hardi said the next step will be to paint the City’s public spaces bright green along with lettering to denote the spaces’ two-hour limit. Hardi said the new colored signage should make it easier for visitors to find the public spaces and should be completed sometime in the next few weeks based on paint availability.
The repaved lot was expected to be open for public use Wednesday.
Along with the repaving effort, the City has permanently closed an alley in the middle of the block adjacent the newly-renovated park. The move “will provide safety for the increased pedestrian traffic to the downtown park, as well as provide additional programming and leisure space next to the park,” a City press release stated. Five other entrances to the lot, from West Broad, Maple Ave., Park Ave. and N. Washington St., will remain operative.
More electrical power is also being added to the park which will provide more overhead lighting and power for music and other public events there.
Already, a plethora of free public events are scheduled in the park, including lunches, sprinklers, community chess, “Fit4Mom” sessions and yoga lessons.
The improvements are being paid for with a portion of the City’s hotel taxes and are based on studies and recommendations made by the City’s Economic Development Authority with the aim of “adding to the vibrancy of the downtown shopping, dining and events district.”
A formal dedication of the new downtown pocket park, which eyewitnesses confirm is already being heavily used in the evening hours, is being scheduled for late September, after the City Council is expected to formally designate its name at its Sept. 9 meeting (the front-runner in that regard is “Mr. Brown’s Park,” in memory of the late Hugh Brown and his family predecessors who’ve run the local hardware store in the block for well over a century).
Meanwhile, up W. Broad Street at the City’s west end, a groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for this Monday morning to kick off the West Falls Church and Joint Campus Revitalization District Multimodal Transportation Project that will expend $15.7 million of Northern Virginia Regional Transportation Authority funds in a major makeover of the W. Broad (Route 7) and Haycock/Shreve Road intersection.
The project is part of the larger West Falls Church Economic Development Project that includes the construction of a new George Mason High School and, immediately following that, the dense mixed-use economic development of 34 acres adjacent the intersection known as the Little City Commons.
The multimodal project being launched Monday (the event will be on the high school parking lot grounds at 10 a.m.) will include the construction of intersection and signal improvements, bus stop enhancement, pedestrian and bicycle access improvements. Being near the West Falls Church Metro station, “It is expected to provide expanded travel choices and meet demand and capacity needs,” according to a NVTA statement.
More specifically, they involve intersection upgrades at or near the Chestnut Street and W. Broad/Route 7 intersection, Haycock Road and W. Broad Street/Route 7 intersection, the Haycock Road and the schools’ access road intersection off Haycock, a high-intensity pedestrian-activated crosswalk on Haycock, sidewalk widenings, bus stop enhancements, bicycle access upgrades and utility undergrounding and relocation.
In addition to Falls Church Mayor David Tarter, Councilman David Snyder, the City’s representative on the NVTA board, other City officials and NVTA Chairman Martin Nohe will be on hand, along with representatives of the Little City Commons development team of EYA, PN Hoffman and Regency.
After Labor Day on Sept. 2, the City Council will convene on Sept. 9, and the Economic Development Authority will meet on Sept. 10 to advance its work on wayfinding and parking studies for the City.
An ongoing challenge for the Economic Development Office is the effort to find a tenant to fill the recently-vacated Mad Fox Brewing Company space. That closing, plus the closing of the Locker Room sports bar and plans for Plaka Grill to move further up the street, leaves a “black hole” in the 400-500 blocks of W. Broad, as a tenant of The Broadway mixed-use development described it at this week’s meeting of the City Council’s Economic Development subcommittee.
The City’s Becky Witsman said there is still interest in the Mad Fox site by other brew pub operations, and that her office is looking at options to be able to enhance the prospects for retail in those blocks, such as with parking modifications.
But prospects for such things as “tenant improvement allowances” from the City are not now in the cards.