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Local Activists Work With Falls Church City Council To Reinvest In Eden Center


Apr 13, 2023

Victor Nguyen-Long, 43, spends a Wednesday in February doing what hes committed a good deal of his time to lately: assembly Eden Centers enterprise proprietors. Nguyen-Long and his partner, Denise Nguyen, 36, were speaking with dozens of proprietors and people on the Falls Church strip mall for months.

Nguyen-Long and Nguyen are a part of Viet Place Collective, a grassroots institution running to make certain the destiny of the Vietnamese industrial hub in mild of a small place plan proposed through the metropolis of Falls Church. Other participants, of no relation to every other, consist of Jenn Tran, Jess Nguyen, Amanda Luo, Ha Nguyen, Binh Ly, a 32-year-vintage metropolis planner, and Quynh Nguyen, a 25-year-vintage virtual organizer for the nearby nonprofit Hamkae Center.

“All folks grew up withinside the place and Eden Center is an area close to and expensive to us,” Nguyen-Long says. “We have an possibility right here to make investments time to apprehend the complexities even as unpacking our very own identities and what this region manner to us now.”

That possibility turned into offered in November 2021 through a Falls Church City small place plan, which “defines a imaginative and prescient for redevelopment” that “is touchy to the places records and responds to the present day and destiny wishes of the Citys citizens, people, and visitors.” The plan encompassing Eden Center and Seven Corners, dubbed the East End, is a part of the metropolis`s followed Comprehensive Plan, state-required steerage for improvement and funding in Falls Church. The East End plan is the ultimate in a chain of 7 place plans advanced over a decade.

Eden Center started out its transformation right into a cultural hub in 1984, whilst Vietnamese enterprise proprietors displaced from a “Little Saigon” enclave in Clarendon spread out shop. The strip mall has swiftly end up a meeting area for the nearby Vietnamese network and the No. 1 visitor vacation spot in Falls Church, with human beings riding from throughout to visit. But to a lot of its regulars, the destiny of Eden Center can be in question.

The clock tower at Eden Center, a Vietnamese buying middle in Falls Church, Virginia.
The now-iconic clock tower at Eden Center turned into delivered withinside the 1990s, at some stage in a redesign and addition construction. Credit: Emily Martin
The starting place of Viet Place Collective
Quynh Nguyen turned into some of the first to begin organizing and informing tenants at Eden Center approximately the plan. They heard a rumor approximately the mall being torn down earlier than coming across the small place plan thru coworkers and have been worried that enterprise proprietors had handiest heard the rumor.

So Quynh went door-to-door with pals in January 2022 to talk with enterprise proprietors; a few have been hesitant, a few didnt recognise approximately the plan, and others werent worried due to the fact Alan Frank, senior vice chairman and preferred suggest of Eden Center, had despatched a announcement refuting rumors of demolition.

Capital Commercial Properties has owned Eden Center for the reason that 1960s, and could do “some thing it takes to preserve it going,” vice chairman and accomplice preferred suggest Graham Eddy says. “Eden Center goes nowhere.”

The subsequent step turned into heritage studies at the records of Eden Center, Quynh says, which commenced with connecting with Ly, who had gathered oral histories of citizens who labored at and frequented Little Saigon as a part of a 2014 task through college students in Virginia Tech`s Department of Urban Affairs and Planning. The institution additionally researched the monetary effect of Eden Center and an unsuccessful 2012 lawsuit tenants delivered towards Capital Commercial Properties over situations on the mall.

Quynh says they felt the metropolis hadn`t sufficiently notified network participants approximately a network assembly in March 2022 following the preliminary kickoff in November 2021.

“It turned into apparent to us that when you have a plan that asserts it desires to have a good time Vietnamese tradition and facilities Eden Center, then you definitely ought to actively consist of enterprise proprietors in that, however they didn`t,” Quynh says.

The Planning Commission moved the assembly to November 2022 because of staffing shortages, City of Falls Church communications director Susan Finarelli says. Before the assembly, Quynh Nguyen determined to distribute fliers in Vietnamese at Eden Center after asking the fee for fifty copies. Finarelli notes the fee felt there wasn`t sufficient notice, however, so a public listening consultation turned into delivered on Jan. 18, the primary to consist of an open public remark forum.

But there has been nonetheless greater to be done, so Viet Place Collective turned into named and grew in staff: Ly, Nguyen-Long, and Denise Nguyen all joined. Since then, the institution has used Instagram to disseminate a network survey and inspire fans to wait the general public listening consultation. The assembly turnout turned into “exceptionally pleasant that each one of our efforts amounted to something,” Quynh Nguyen says.

Diana Nguyen and Cham Keat, the creators of the Hypefoodies social media account.
Diana Nguyen and CK had their first date at Rice Paper, steps farfar from the water fountain at Eden Center. Credit: Emily Martin
Among the ones interested by assisting are videographers Cham Keat and Diana Nguyen, the content material creators in the back of Hypefoodies. The couple, who each grew up touring Eden Center and had their first date at warm spot Rice Paper, say they desire to make bigger the institution`s paintings to keep the colourful middle.

The collective has considering the fact that grown even larger, web website hosting volunteer orientations and elevating price range for organizational costs, and is now running with the making plans fee to satisfy their demands, frequently a paid, Vietnamese-speakme outreach specialist.

Whats withinside the small place plan The Falls Church City Planning Commission, appointed through elected participants of the City Council, has been charged with drafting the East End place plan. Jim Snyder, director of network making plans offerings and monetary improvement, and Paul Stoddard, the metropoliss making plans director, oversee the metropolis`s making plans efforts, and that they emphasize the small place plan ought to be considered as a reinvestment plan, now no longer a redevelopment plan.

“Eden Center is one of the places strengths. Were now no longer seeking to redevelop, were seeking to revitalize and keep,” Snyder says. “It hasnt had a good deal love from the metropolis in phrases of funding or connectivity.”

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