Editorial: Mixed Use’s Net Positives

July 11, 2013 4:57 PM5 comments

Early Friday morning, the latest large-scale mixed use project to jump on the City of Falls Church’s conveyor belt will come before the meeting of the City Council’s Economic Development Committee. This one involves consolidation of a number of parcels on the northeast side of the intersection of W. Broad and N. West streets and according to initial reports would be bigger than either the Rushmark/Harris Teeter or Lincoln/Reserve at Tinner Hill projects approved last month.

This plan, whose representative is former Falls Church City Manager David Lasso, would subsume the Shreve Plumbing property, the location of City Sunoco and some adjacent strip shopping buildings. Details, now sketchy, will come to light Friday.

First of all, it must be pointed out that this project has become possible because of recent years’ changes in the City code to deter a proliferation of drive-through banks, which is a very inefficient use of commercial land, from a revenue generating standpoint. It was well known that at one point, such a bank was being considered for the Sunoco location. With that option gone, however, the impetus for a much higher and better use of the property has been proposed.

To some in the City, yet another large-scale mixed use project represents more families with more school age children and more pressures on the school system and the taxpayers that fund it. After all, this will mark the fourth such project in the pipeline, as the Hekemian Northgate project is now under construction on N. Washington, and the Rushmark and Lincoln projects have been OK’d and both have submitted site plans. (A fifth plan, Nova-Habitat’s plan for a senior living residential project on the site of the Burger King, is also in the works, although its chances of adding to the school age population is nil).

The past decade’s spate of such projects, in combination with the spectacular reputation of the Falls Church schools, have already led to the City of Falls Church’s new distinction as the fastest growing, population-wise, in the state, according to a recent U.S. Census Bureau report.

However, it remains the point that from the standpoint of the cost of mixed use projects on the City and its school system, in every case there has remained a significant net positive, with revenues from the projects outweighing the costs. So, with each such project, the City and schools derive a net gain.

This is not the case, by contrast, for the effect of single family detached homes. In each case where a single family home is sold and a family with school aged children moves in, the net effect is a fiscal loss for the City and schools.

So the more the City develops its urban core, whether through commercial or dense residential development, the more it gets ahead of the game. Population growth is a very healthy net positive for the City, its schools and its businesses.

  • FallsChurchCitizen

    Maybe an editorial next week could be entitled “Commercial Development’s Net Positives are Even Greater than Mixed Use’s in an Already Densely Populated Region Inside a Heavily Traveled Portion of the Beltway”

    • Fred Packer

      Shhhh…don’t want anyone to know better!

  • FourQ

    This is one of the most cynical, screwed-up things I’ve ever read. The Falls Church City Council, with their rah-rah chorus the FCNP, are completely in the pockets of developers, and to Hell with everything that makes Falls Church a desirable place to live – good schools, pleasant, family-friendly neighborhoods, local businesses owned and operated by our neighbors, not some corporate headquarters, etc. Yeah, we really need more *$(@$* hotels and chain drug stores. Jackasses.

    • David

      I think we should subject every mixed use development to a referendum vote. People like you would be free to vote against the project. In exchange for your vote, your residential property taxes will be INCREASED to reflect the opportunity cost associated with having run-down restaurants like Anthony’s and empty lots like the one next to Post Office. People like me, who will vote in favor of broadening the commercial and residential tax base, will see no change in our property taxes. How does that sound? Put your money where your mouth is.

      • FourQ

        I think you probably wouldn’t like the results of that vote. See, there’s more to what makes a place livable than identifying the most efficient sources of tax revenue.

        I’ve read your comments for other stories on this and similar issues, and all I can say is your POV is shortsighted and grim. Places like the former Amigo store need to be dealt with, sure, but not at the expense of the entrepeneurs working hard to make a living and provide you and me with goods and services nearby. And Anthony’s, though not a favorite of mine, was a well-loved local institution – Harris Teeter will not improve that space; it will only make it more “convenient”.

        I dunno – maybe stripping Falls Church of every drop of its charm in favor of bland corporate boutiques and cookie-cutter chain restaurants is your idea of a nice place to live, shop and eat, but is most definitely not mine.

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