Guest Commentary

Guest Commentary: Falls Church Forward: A Shared Vision for the Future of the Little City

By Ross Litkenhous, Justine Underhill, Pete Davis, Andrea Caumont and Letty Hardi

Think about your typical day in Falls Church. Do you walk to your favorite coffee shop? Do your kids enjoy exploring the Howard E. Herman Stream Valley trail? Did you run into a neighbor at Mr. Brown’s Park and hear about a great history event happening at the library? Did you see that a rental unit opened up in your building and share the news with a friend who has wanted to move here?

Every building and street, parking lot and tree, sidewalk and storefront has a profound impact on how we interact with each other. They together form an ecosystem that powers our Little City. When people live within walking distance of local shops, it means we can more easily support our community businesses. When we support community businesses, we diversify our tax base, which sustains Falls Church as an economically strong, independent city that provides top notch services, schools, and public places. When we walk to those public places on safe, tree-lined streets, we bump into friends and neighbors, strengthening our bonds with each other. 

Foundational to this ecosystem are housing options that enable all of us to live here.

Affordable and diverse housing, community businesses, people-first streets and spaces, climate resilience, and a welcoming culture — these are the pillars of a vibrant city. To deepen our commitment to them in the decades ahead, we need to think and act holistically, proactively, and intentionally about the design and development of our streets, green spaces, buildings, and culture. There is no standing still — regional trends (like population growth and housing costs), national trends (like remote work and inflation), and global trends (like climate change) present new challenges to our Little City each year. It is up to us to decide if we want to ignore those outside forces — or harness them as opportunities to co-author the future of Falls Church.

This is why a group of neighbors and civic leaders have come together as Falls Church Forward — a coalition to support city policies, projects, and programs that bolster these five pillars of vibrancy, sustainability, and openness. We are working to build a Falls Church that:

Embraces a “housing for all” mentality — supporting a variety of housing options within the city so that neighbors of all ages, incomes, and family sizes can live, work, learn, return, and retire here. 

Nurtures local community businesses by welcoming new neighbors and foot traffic so that Falls Church remains filled with lively and legendary shops and restaurants where neighbors eat, meet, celebrate, create and make memories.

Designs streets and public spaces to be for people, not just cars. Our city should be connected by beautiful, tree-lined streets serving multiple modes of moving and gathering — and accessible to all ages and abilities.

Is filled with inviting green spaces, shaded by mature trees and powered by sustainable energy infrastructure.

Has a welcoming culture, with a community co-created by and for everybody — not just a privileged few.

Falls Church is known for its world class schools, little city charm, and high quality of life. Underpinning it all is our people. We envision a future that puts people first — both residents and visitors alike. Citizen engagement and advocacy are part of the secret sauce that helps preserve this special city that we call home. In our history, we have moved forward as a city and preserved the best of our past when we have come together not only to say “no” to things we don’t like, but also to say “yes” to things we do. Falls Church Forward was formed in this spirit— to provide a platform to discuss, deliberate on, and support the city policies and projects that will brighten and sustain our city now and in the decades ahead. We challenge ourselves to match our progressive values with real action that will benefit the generations to come.

The Falls Church Forward tent is big and our doors are open. We are committed to welcoming a broad cross section of members who have a stake in the future of Falls Church, including both current and future residents, businesses, and neighbors. We invite you to learn more by visiting, or joining us in person at the Community Center this Sunday, May 7th at 4 p.m., for the first public event that we are co-sponsoring. Falls Church Forward, in collaboration with the League of Women Voters and the city’s Human Services Advisory Council (HSAC) will host a speaker from AARP, who will share their recommendations on what makes a “livable community.” In our view, what makes a “livable community” for seniors is also what makes a livable community for everyone — and that’s the Falls Church we are working to build together.