Local Commentary

Our Howling in 1993 & Today

The news reported on Page 1 of this edition about the action of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors to “green light” moving ahead with ambitious and exciting plans for the school’s space in the larger 40 acre vision for the West Falls Church Metro Station plan is a big deal. It is a major step to realize what will become one of the wider region’s most important and impactful mega projects that will be of powerful benefit to the citizens of the Little City but also far more.

It recalls the quote the News-Press in its earliest days elicited from then-City Manager David Lasso that the undeveloped area around the West Falls Church Metro, including the land upon which the City’s high school stood, constituted “some of the most valuable real estate on the entire eastern seaboard.” It was coined as part of a heated debate in that period about whether or not the City should commit a big portion of that land to a graduate center for Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia for nothing more than a dollar a year for the next three dozen years.

At the time, there was virtually no opposition to this proposed arrangement except for the mighty Falls Church News-Press, which resorted to a Page 1 editorial at the time to plead against the egregious giveaway. No luck, the deal went through. (As an aside, has anybody seen those $1 checks arrive at City Hall each year since then?) It was a 6-0 vote of the F.C. City Council to approve the City’s giveaway 29 years ago this week. The Page 1 News-Press editorial the week before, in the March 25, 1993 edition, entitled, “Stop the Stampede!” was ignored.

Our editor, the same one we have now who founded the newspaper in 1991, wrote, “With due respect to the good intentions of all the parties involved, we are gravely troubled by the apparent willingness of a majority on the City Council, in conjunction with its appointed School Board, to be stampeded by the University of Virginia and VPI into a premature commitment that will foreclose any potential beneficial use of the land to the City in the future.” The editorial cited the Lasso quote.

As wiser minds began coming to their senses after the stampede, the extreme nature of the deal began to sink in, and we contend that the News-Press’ lonely but noisy howling at the time contributed something to a growing consciousness that developed in ensuing years, especially as an appetite for mixed use development all around the 2.2 acre Little City began to manifest.

So, this is an informative look at what is now coming to pass there at long last. The vision for the 40 acres adjacent that Metro station site presently drives a process that is going to be truly transformative, combining education, science and smart development.