If you thought the City of Falls Church has undergone some extraordinary development in the last 20 years, you are right. Since 2001, we’ve added the brand new large scale mixed use projects, The Broadway, The Byron, The Spectrum, Northgate, Pearson Square, the 301 West Broad, the Read Building, the Lincoln at Tinner Hill, and the Kensington and the nearing-completion Founder’s Row, all in our modest 2.1 square miles. Then there has been the new Hilton Garden Inn, the new Flower office building, major renovations and expansions to City Hall, the Mary Riley Styles public library, a preschool, two elementary schools and brand new middle and high schools. All this since the Sept. 10, 2001 late night City Council approval of The Broadway that kicked it all off (the local Chamber of Commerce met early the next morning to celebrate the vote, attended by Mayor Dan Gardner. They were interrupted by news of the 911 attacks and concern for the mayor, who’d left early for his day job at the Pentagon, who turned out to be OK).
If you moved to Falls Church since 2001, you can’t fully appreciate what the Little City was like before all this started. There was still a large grassy field and busted up asphalt lot on W. Broad Street, two abandoned gas stations and a vacant art supply building, two grizzled but beloved old grease monkey auto repair stations, lonely rickety Red Lobster and Burger King restaurants swimming amidst gigantic parking lots, and more. For a decade before, the renovation of an abandoned Exxon station to become a Taco Bell was the biggest thing that happened, made controversial by locals who insisted it would bring crime. “Taco Wars” was the famous headline in the News-Press in the summer of 1993. The population of the City then, shortly after the News-Press arrived, was 9,100. It is now 16,300.
But absorbing all this change, to repeat ourselves, if you think a lot has happened over this time span, we can say with confidence that “you haven’t seen anything yet!”
No, we truly haven’t seen anything yet, and it is Monday’s final if delayed approval of the epoch-altering Insight Property Group’s Broad and Washington project, centered around a mega-Whole Foods, that prompts this exclamation. It will transform downtown Falls Church just as the famous case of the Whole Foods on 14th Streets NW in D.C. led to the total transformation of that corridor a decade or so ago. The same formula will apply. It is ripe and timely for application to Northern Virginia.
It comes as Atlantic Realty is now ready to develop at the same intersection, as the massive West End Gateway partners prepare the huge development that will be joined with Virginia Tech and Metro lands for 43 combined total acres by the West Falls Church Metro, the Beyer Automotive land development, the Rite Aid land development across from Founder’s Row, with its movie theatres, and others still in the works.