As the fruits of aggressive economic development in the City of Falls Church have resulted in last week’s decision by the F.C. City Council to lower its real estate tax rate by 3.5 cents, the first reduction in 15 years and favorably compared to the single-penny reduction in neighboring giant Fairfax County as its Board of Supervisors voted earlier this week.
But that’s not all. Outside help is also pouring into the Little City, coming mostly in the form of robust federal funding derived from President Biden’s Covid Relief “American Rescue Plan” and, still to be passed, his $2 trillion-or-so “Jobs and Infrastructure” initiative.
In addition, the City’s U.S. Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr. has advanced three City funding requests for $2.8 million that local officials hope can be spent in the next year on multi-modal transportation, electric school bus and stormwater mitigation projects.
In an interview with the News-Press Wednesday, Beyer hailed the achievements of President Biden in his first 100 days, saying he gets an “A+” for being “an incredible healing force in the nation” by bringing such immediate aid to the public in the $1,400 cash checks, in addition to earned income tax credits and child tax credits in the “American Rescue Plan,” and spurring of an economic boom.“This period has been compared to LBJ in 1965, but I think it could also be compared to FDR,” Beyer said.
Overall, these huge infusions of federal help with the domestic economy has spurred a whopping six percent growth rate in the domestic U.S. economy in the first quarter, expected to be even higher for the rest of the year. It demonstrates the underlying strength of the U.S. economy that was stifled by the Covid-19 pandemic, but which has been itching all along to come roaring back as soon as things began to loosen up.
The City of Falls Church, which has been operating with a firmly tightened belt through and since the Great Recession of 2007, is now facing its first real opportunity to catch up with needed expansion and renovation efforts of its basic government operations. These will begin to come as the City enjoys the benefits of its smart investments in economic development, in particular, coupled with big help coming from the feds.
It has been noted that every one of the large scale economic development projects currently pressing ahead in the Little City come with first rate private sector leadership, vastly boosting their chances to reach or exceed their own goals. The team engaged in the 10-acre West Falls Gateway project is a prime example. The combined efforts of EYA, Hoffman and Regency to build and operate that site is top-drawer by all standards, responsible among many others for the amazing. Wharf development in Washington, D.C.
The recent announcement that they’re bringing Trammel Crow on board to recruit top notch retailers for the site is another huge plus.
Likewise, the Mill Creek operation is pressing ahead with its 4.3 acre Founders Row project at W. Broad and N. West streets and with plans for a Founders Row 2 across the street as the site of the vacated Rite Aid and carpet store is highly regarded in the industry.
So is Atlantic Realty, which is finally moving ahead now with its 1 City Center megaplan for the 100 block of West Broad where Ireland’s Four Provinces sits. And there’s nothing shabby about the Insight Property group that’s won a unanimous approval for its 2.3-acre project anchored by a mega-Whole Foods across the street at the City’s central intersection.
There are plenty of other opportunities, too, including the assembled Beyer Automotive property on West Broad, that have drawn some powerful interested parties to take closer looks at the City, including some that have joined in as active participants on some recent Zoom meetings of the Council’s Economic Development Committee.
Coming to the City are not only the federal dollars, which the City should begin to learn as early as next Tuesday the parameters of the first installments of those, but also voluntary concessions to jurisdictions throughout the region from Amazon, the development of whose massive new campus is beginning to take shape (including designs for a centerpiece 350-foot high building in the intriguing shape of a helix).
Falls Church is getting about $3 million from Amazon this year, which is supposed to be dedicated to advancing affordable housing, and another $3 million next year.
In terms of non-emergency federal support, it’s being funnelled through Falls Church’s representative in Congress in Don Beyer., the former F.C. Chamber of Commerce president and former City businessman (he sold his share of the family Beyer Automotive business to his locally-based brother, Mike, last year).
Beyer requested and received six funding requests from the City, according to the City’s chief public information officer Susan Finarelli, and he also put forth three for Congressional consideration for a total of $2.8 million. Finarelli said the requests will head into the Congressional legislative review process and positive outcomes are hoped for within a July timeframe, ideally setting it up for an adoption ahead of the October fiscal year.
In the City’s $2 million request for multimodal transportation infrastructure, funds would be used for repair, enhancement, and construction of bridges, sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian signals, mid-block pedestrian crossings, lighting, bicycle signs and signals, bicycle lanes and shared-use land markings, bicycle parking, traffic calming, traffic monitoring, multimodal management programs and trails.
The funds, the City hopes, will also be used for intersection improvements, such as added bump-outs and curb ramps, the relocation of traffic and utility poles and undergrounding of utility lines, bridge inspection, maintenance and replacement activities, and all phases of the design, engineering, right-of-way acquisition, construction and project management activity.
The City’s two other requests for community projects that Beyer will be forwarding are for an electric school bus and associated electric vehicle charging infrastructure and its Lincoln Avenue stormwater mitigation project.
The electric bus request is for one electric school bus and associated electric vehicle charging infrastructure to provide an increase to four buses after the first year.
It is argued that “the City is an ideal location to demonstrate all the advantages of electric vehicle operation on a small scale and in a challenging environment that can prove the benefits.”
The charging station would be located one block from key existing infrastructure, two City schools, commercial and residential real estate, the 10-acre West End project.
It was noted in the City’s application that its schools offer “curriculum and outreach programs to influence our students to understand the social and technical aspects of our use of energy resources.”
For the Lincoln Avenue stormwater project, it was noted in the City’s application that underground stormwater infrastructure is currently totally lacking, and that the project will add underground detention, piping, regrading, and curb modifications to detain and redirect flows away from homes. It will capture, manage, and treat stormwater originating upstream in Fairfax County as well as provide treatment and water quality benefits to stormwater discharges downstream.