The dust has begun to settle from a feverish spring in the City of Falls Church, marked by unquestionably the most difficult budget and one of the most contested City Council elections in its history. We’re left with a 17 cent real estate tax rate increase and three brand new members who will be sworn onto the City Council on July 1, including two who can be described as anti-establishment “outliers.”
Now it’s time for the campaign rhetoric to fade, for the budget pencils (and erasers) to be set down, and for some practical, forward-looking assessments of where to go from here. Here are a couple of observations to fuel these deliberations:
1. The projections of another double-digit decline in the value of commercial real estate in Falls Church and the region may not pan out that way. According to News-Press sources, in fact, there is already a trend for a rise in commercial real estate values going on that could fuel a recovery, in this region at least, much faster than expected.
2. Part of the reason for this lies in the explosive growth that is being projected for Tysons Corner, just to the west of Falls Church. As the four new Metro rail stations are completed in the next few years in Tysons Corner, developers are eager to take advantage of what will be the opportunities to build much more dense residential and mixed-use projects near the stations, with a goal of bringing the population living in the area from 15,000 at present to as many as 100,000, more closely to the number of people already working there. Tysons is already the 12th largest business district in the U.S., twice the size of Atlanta’s and bigger than Denver’s.
The focus of Falls Church’s efforts in this context should be on how to jump ahead of the curve, and to properly anticipate what all this can mean for the optimization of the City’s chances for a sustainable, long-term viability and prosperity for its jurisdictional status, on the one hand, and its community-held values, on the other.
In short: it is our view that as Georgetown is to Washington, D.C., so Falls Church should become to the new Tysons Corner metropolis.
Among other things, Falls Church should assess the viability of its GEORGE bus system in this context. How could it be used in the next three years to connect the City to Tysons, to bring Tysons dollars to the City as Tysons’ chic Georgetown-ish alter ego? Would using the system to rotate people directly from Tysons to downtown Falls Church work best? Or, with great dependency on the Metro a hallmark of new Tysons residents in the future, would using GEORGE to move people from the East Falls Church Metro station (the transfer point for the new Silver Line to Tysons) work best?
Also, playing up the boutique types of restaurants and retailers in Falls Church may make the City optimally attractive to its new, mass influx of neighbors.