Local Commentary

Make Sure We Get Whole Foods

According to Falls Church City Hall, the Insight Group that is hoping to put a gigantic Whole Foods supermarket at the intersection of Route 29 and 7 (a.k.a. N. Washington and E. Broad) will be submitting a revised special exception application later this week. They’ve been advised by City staff that in the form most recently submitted, it is uncertain it could get Council approval.

We urge the City Council to come to grips with the realities that we are confronting in the midst of this Covid-19 pandemic crisis, including the sharp economic contraction associated with it. It simply must get Whole Foods to do what Whole Foods already wants to do, to locate in the center of Falls Church to create a magnet in a way it’s already been shown no other supermarket can.

The pandemic’s relatively manageable impact that’s been felt so far in the City of Falls Church and environs may be masking an underlying reality that could become wholly ruinous worldwide, nationwide and locally. This is no time to toy with serious offers for such huge financial benefits for all our citizens.

The massively downsized Covid-19 economy has caused many shifts that will perhaps never be get back to the way it was before even just a few months ago. Working from home, limiting travel and huge cuts in discretionary spending are opening the door for a paradigm shift that may not be a bad thing. On the contrary, we may be facing a unique opportunity at a national moral and priorities reset, away from the hyper-consumerist economy to one that is once again rooted in productivity and advances in science and technology applied to bettering the overall human condition. You know, the way it was for a decade or so after the end of World War II.
Falls Church needs to see itself at the cutting edge of this new start, and begin moving that way.

The F.C. Finance Office is reporting that in this current environment, the biggest tax paying winners are residences and supermarkets. The City’s taxpayers are almost 100 percent paid up on their taxes and its grocery stores are making up remarkably well for revenue declines in other areas, including restaurants.

It is wrong to sacrifice a mega-supermarket in an attempt to shore up three local restaurants. No, we need all the parties to succeed. Negotiations cannot be defined as a “zero sum game,” where one side wins and the other loses. It is required that a way be found to “play it forward” to a win-win outcome. That takes leadership.

Remarkably, developers are still really interested in building here. In this context we strongly urge the Council to not look a gift horse in the mouth and make sure that Whole Foods comes into the City with bells on. It would be a catastrophic failure if that wound up not happening.