Local Commentary

Editorial: City Center & Recession

In Monday’s lively public hearing of the Falls Church Planning Commission on the City Center project, supporters and opponents of the project locked horns in one of the more evenly-matched, at least in terms of numbers, such events seen in Falls Church in awhile.

While the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce spearheaded the turnout of the project’s supporters, the Village Preservation and Improvement Society and some neighbors to the site rallied opponents. Supporters also included long-time citizens and neighbors to the prospective site, and opponents included at least one businessman.

There was nothing new said on either side, however, that hadn’t been said in countless hearings over the years leading up to this point, including during the process that led to the unanimous vote by the City Council last month to give preliminary approval to the plan. While both sides made their views known once more, nothing really new was said.

The most credible arguments, on both sides, in our view, focused on the economic impact and implications of the project. Two citizens speaking against the project warned of the consequences in the face of “uncertain economic times,” noting the nation is slipping into a recession that could leave much of what would get built at the City Center vacant. Unlike expressions of emotion and personal preferences, these arguments were credible and worth considering.

However, in our view, their valid concerns should result in the exact opposite of the conclusions they drew. In other words, they’re all the more reason to go “full steam ahead” with the City Center.

The deals have already been cut, conditional upon final approval, and this includes financial commitments among numerous parties. If the project fails to be approved within weeks, all deals will be off, and with a recessionary environment, could not be replicated.

So, the City of Falls Church will be very lucky to get this project in just before things may get worse with the overall economy. This does not mean the City will find itself with a white elephant. On the contrary, when the recession, if it comes, blows over, the City will be perfectly positioned with the newest, freshest developments, to receive the full benefits of the subsequent economic rebound.

Recessions don’t last forever, and in Northern Virginia not only would effects be far less severe here, but the rebound would come far sooner than elsewhere. Among other things, recessions drive businesses to relocate to where they can operate more efficiently, and Virginia, especially its urban portion in the far north, is a highly-attractive, prime destination for business relocations for a variety of reasons.

The fact that Falls Church will be ready with new housing, office and retail space perfectly situated along major transportation corridors will add to the attraction of the region overall, and cause the City to boom.

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