Letters to the Editor: November 5 – 11, 2015
F.C. Library is Facing Rapid, Expensive Decline
This concerns your very interesting Oct. 15 story, “Shields Adamant: Model Shows Big Net Benefit From Mixed Use in F.C.”
You paraphrase City Manager Wyatt Shields and economic development chief Rick Goff as saying the need for replacing or expanding City infrastructure is caused not as much by population growth as by the naturally-occurring wear and tear of time.
Our Mary Riley Styles Public Library building, which is advancing toward a rapid and expensive decline, certainly attests to the latter. Its mechanical and electrical systems will begin failing within the next few years and replacing them – particularly the 1960s-era elevator, for which replacement parts are no longer made – will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Population growth, however, is definitely a central issue for the library. We outgrew our building six or seven years ago as a surging City population outstripped our ability to accommodate services, public programs, and materials. When our addition was completed in the early 1990s the City population was approximately 9,600. It is now 13,500 and growing. Our new patrons appreciate us and we appreciate them, but definitely play a top role in our strategic planning, and prompt and require us to seek larger spaces.
On a related note, we very much appreciate the beautiful obituary you published on Oct. 15 for our longtime volunteer, Richard T. “Dick” Allan. He represented the best of Falls Church, and truly leaves a model legacy.
Bradley E. Gernand
Where’s the Concern For St. James With Mason Row?
I am a St. James parent – father of four young children – concerned with the mixed-use development projects being built here in the City of Falls Church. I live in the City and constantly hear mixed-use developments are necessary to alleviate the tax burden on the residents, and increase tax revenue for city school and public capital improvements. While these are points for economic development of the city, the concern I have is for the encroachment of these mixed-use developments around St. James.
The Mason Row project is planned to be built only feet from a 100-year old church, and a school with very young children and elderly. Where is there “respect” for a school and church – that has been part of Falls Church City for over 100 years – as it relates to community expansion and economic development? Why isn’t school and church safety addressed with public records for development? Why isn’t the St. James equities anywhere in the Mason Row proposal?
The city boasts civility and smarts, but where is their class? Or is this the Falls Church way?
Development Will Produce A Sterile City
The first item under News Briefs in the October 22-28 issue refers to the Mason Row development. One of the developers, Peter Batten, is credited with affirming that “the project could command the kind of rents that retailers and residents are being charged at the Mosaic complex.” I think he meant this would be a good thing. This is probably the saddest note I have read about this unfortunate development, articulating the spirit of greed that motivates Mason Row and other huge developments in Falls Church.
What a different scenario might have been invoked had the article said that modest rents and local shops would welcome neighbors who do not command six-figure incomes. What do we care about them, though? Unless we do care about them, our development will produce a sterile city and I’ll be sad to live here.
Let’s Keep The Little City Unique & Beautiful
For a longer-term vision of Falls Church City and at a time where land is a scarce resource, let’s makes this project into something unique and beautiful.
I think people recognize the importance of small businesses which make it consistent with the “soul” of Falls Church City. As evidenced by the popularity of outdoor businesses like Clare and Don’s, the farmers market, little owner-operated boutiques and innovative elements like the children’s fountain play area at Mosaic, it’s clear that families, friends, couples on dates like to be together…outside. After all we do spend too much time inside our homes and offices.
So instead of turning three acres of land into one big cement building à la Harris Teeter and Northgate — only bigger — develop a people friendly space. Since the developer has already purchased the land, but the City still owns some of the parking, perhaps we could come to a compromise.
Suggestions include to cut the project in half, add more lower income apartments for teachers and city workers, provide assigned parking spaces for residents, develop a building that has a more creative contemporary architecturally-interesting design, save the trees and the permeable factor, include an environmentally friendly green atmosphere, move the planned outdoor eating space along Broad and Washington to a pleasantly developed quieter outdoor area in back.
The back outdoor area could include lots of shade trees (right now the proposal is to tear down 110 big shade trees); outdoor seating for restaurants and some people friendly elements. Some cost-effective examples could include a small park and benches with a playground, or a piece of artwork from a local artist, a small-dog park or a kid friendly water-jets area to cool off on hot summer days. These improvements would attract a divergent group of shoppers and render the spot a destination to spend time. It would be a lively walk-to destination for Falls Church City residents and drive-to for adjoining communities. It would be a revenue creating project, so win-win for all.
Once the 110 trees are destroyed and every inch of the three-acre land is cemented over, there is no going back.
Let’s keep our Little City unique and beautiful.
Linda A. Kamel
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