Architect Presents Plans for Commercial Development, New High School

By Stephen Siegel
Falls Church Times Staff
September 28, 2014

An architectural firm hired by Falls Church City officials has prepared four different drawings that show how a new George Mason High School could be relocated in order to allow for significant commercial development on the land housing the City’s middle school-high school complex.

That land, which was in Fairfax County until January of this year, became City land because of a boundary adjustment that was part of the deal to sell the City’s water system to Fairfax. That in turn opened up the possibility of selling some of it for commercial development, which could then be used to increase revenue to the City and help finance a new high school.

The firm, RTKL, presented the four drawings to City officials last week. Each drawing is quite a bit different from the others. But what they have in common is that a new high school would be built and the existing Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School, built in 2004, would be retained.

A new high school, which officials have been dreaming of and planning for some time, is controversial because of the high cost, estimated... [Read more...]

OUTSIDE THE BOX: Just what makes a Little City?

OUTSIDE THE BOX: Just what makes a Little City?

By Stephen Siegel
Falls Church Times Staff
September 21, 2014

It isn’t exactly news that there is an ongoing concern about Falls Church City’s continuing urbanization. But the opinions on that topic took an interesting turn recently in the comments on the Times and elsewhere.

The commenters weren’t expressing some of the time-honored concerns with traffic or density or the impact on our small schools. Instead, they seemed to be more focused on how the City’s look and feel was going to change.

One commenter worried that a redevelopment of both Seven Corners in Fairfax County and the City’s new land where George Mason High School is located would affect our “village feel.” Yet another commenter looked at it in a completely different way, welcoming more density in order to generate more walkable amenities.

And that got me thinking: What make a Little City? More precisely, what makes THE Little City? I’m not repeating myself here; I’m asking what makes a small city generally, and also what specifically makes our Little City, so named by the consultant that several years ago came up with the Little City logo and... [Read more...]

Cavalier Trail Park Gets a Makeover

By Stephen Siegel
Falls Church Times Staff
September 14, 2014

Cavalier Trail Park, a City park tucked between South Maple Avenue and Westmoreland Road, is in the process of getting completely rebuilt from the ground up.

The makeover was funded because the park’s asphalt basketball and tennis courts were in very poor condition; photos taken by a City official show large cracks in both facilities.

To rectify that, officials decided not to simply patch the cracks; they instead bulldozed both structures and plan to build brand new ones in their place with money from the capital improvements portion of the 2015 budget approved last spring.

“Those courts were the worst of all of our courts as far as condition and required a complete overhaul to include milling in place and rebuilding from there,” said Susan Finarelli, spokeswoman for the City. She added that the reconstruction is expected to be completed “in a few weeks.”

Other City basketball courts, at Madison, Lincoln, and Cherry Hill parks, also are being repaired as part of the same project. But those didn’t need a full rehab and are getting crack repairs... [Read more...]

OUTSIDE THE BOX: Is City’s Future Viability Coming into Focus?

OUTSIDE THE BOX: Is City’s Future Viability Coming into Focus?

By Stephen Siegel
Falls Church Times Staff
September 9, 2014

For some time now, questions about whether Falls Church City can survive as an independent jurisdiction have been in the air. These are fair questions; the cost of running a top-notch school system is a challenge, which is why it is generally county governments that do so in Virginia and many other locales. But the path to the City’s long-term independence now seems a bit clearer than before.

That’s because the stars may be aligning on a number of fronts that help the City raise the necessary revenue to survive and prosper.

The first piece to fall into place was the sale of the City’s water system to Fairfax. Not only did that bring in considerable cash, but, more importantly, it brought into the City limits a very valuable piece of land near the West Falls Church Metro station. Development of that land, if done correctly, could bring in significant revenue, and a group of City officials has been meeting since February to discuss the issues related both to that development and to the financing of a new George Mason High School, which could cost as much as $100 million.

No... [Read more...]

Around Town

Trendy Vegan Restaurant Slated for former Pietanza Space

By Stephen Siegel
Falls Church Times Staff
September 7, 2014

When the popular Italian eatery Pie-Tanza shuttered its space in the Falls Plaza next to Starbucks Aug. 28, it came as a great shock. The restaurant, which had been open for six years at that location, was frequently packed.

But the restaurant apparently wasn’t doing well financially, largely because of an expensive lease, so it decided to shutter the City location and retreat to its original Arlington store in the Lee Harrison shops near Harris Teeter, a source familiar with the situation told the Times.

The storefront won’t be empty long, though, because a replacement tenant already is on the way. The trendy restaurant Native Foods Cafe, which offers an extensive menu featuring no meat, dairy, or animal products of any kind, known as “vegan” food, is preparing to take over the space, the Falls Church Times has learned.

Native Foods began in 1994 in Palm Springs, Calif., and has expanded slowly since. Its 22 locations are in five metro areas: Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver, Portland, Ore., and Chicago. Its first two East Coast locations are scheduled to open... [Read more...]

OUTSIDE THE BOX: Will be Posted Monday

Outside the Box, the Times’ regular Sunday column, will be posted by late Monday. Thank you for your interest.

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Broad & West Developer Refines Traffic Plans at Raucous Forum

By Stephen Siegel
Falls Church Times Staff
September 7, 2014

Spectrum Development, the company that has proposed a makeover of the parcel at Broad & West streets, has provided some more detailed traffic management plans to address one of the key concerns residents have about the project.

The plans, which were unveiled at a raucous town hall meeting Thursday night at the Falls Church Community Center, previously had been updated to include a traffic signal at Park and West streets and a realignment of Park that creates a more traditional four-way intersection at West.

But Thursday, Spectrum displayed some new designs for new traffic patterns, which would result in separate left, straight, and right turn lanes on southbound West at Broad; a left turn lane from northbound West to the Wells Fargo Bank across the street from the proposed development; and separate lanes for northbound West traffic and eastbound Park traffic at that intersection.

The left turn lane into the bank would be short and is intended to prevent bank traffic from backing up northbound West Street drivers, which is something that happens now, particularly... [Read more...]

George Mason HS Takes on Concussion Research

Third of three parts
By Christine Kilgore
Special to the Falls Church Times
Sept. 4, 2014

Concussion diagnosis and management at George Mason High School continues to advance, with the Athletic Department set to begin its second school year with a new neurocognitive testing system that it believes is more reliable and comprehensive than the formerly used ImPACT system.

The department also will continue its foray into research aimed at improving concussion diagnosis and the tracking of recovery.

A concussion diagnosis is based primarily on symptoms, but neurocognitive testing is widely regarded as a useful tool to aid in the diagnosis and management of concussions in youth. The computerized tests assess areas of brain function such as memory, thinking speed, and reaction time, all of which can be impaired by concussions.

In high school athletics, the tests are most often used to assess possibly-concussed athletes against a baseline established prior to the sports season. Testing can then be repeated periodically post-injury to help guide recovery. (While not ideal, the test can also be performed in the absence... [Read more...]

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