‘We will see vibrancy’ in Tysons Corner


Sharon Bulova, chairwoman of Fairfax County at Dulles Airport, where she is working to complete plans to bring Metro. (Jeffrey MacMillan/Capital Business)

Two years ago this week, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted a new blueprint for Tysons Corner. Since then, landowners have rushed forward with development plans, but progress has been slowed by disagreements over affordable housing, green space and transportation funding. Board Chairwoman Sharon S. Bulova (D) took a few minutes to consider the state of Tysons. Here is an edited transcript of the conversation.

One of the things already on the way to Tysons is high-rise apartments. Who do you think is going to move there?

You’ll probably have a mixture of professionals, couples who are looking for a location where they can live closer to where they work and or live closer to transit. I think that you’ll [also] have a generous population of empty-nesters like myself who are interested in cashing in on the single family detached home with a yard where they raised their family and be able to have a more carefree life where they don’t have a yard to maintain and where they don’t have to worry about painting the exterior.

Is there enough to do in Tysons to attract those people?

Actually there are already a lot of restaurants and recreational attractions in Tysons. There are already some very good restaurants. There are places where young people can enjoy socializing and there will be more of those things as Tysons continue to evolve. We have about 17 rezonings that are in the pipeline right now. We are going to see some [buildings go up] sooner rather than later

Construction will be going on for decades in Tysons. What can you do to lessen the effect on the people who live and work there today?

We’ll do the best we can with making sure we are helping to manage traffic issues associated with development. Development won’t be happening every place all the time, but there will be growth, there will be development. I guess an example would be in the Ballston area of Arlington. Ballston is the result of a plan change, a definitive action that the Arlington board took, I guess, what, 20 years ago, 30 years ago and they have not just survived the pressures of redevelopment but thrived. The result is the traffic impact from that redevelopment has actually been better than they expected.

Exxon isn’t in Tysons, but did you speak with them before they decided to relocate to Houston?

I did not get to talk personally with Exxon about their move. There have been rumors over the years that they were perhaps consolidating their operations in Houston and that had nothing to do with dissatisfaction with Fairfax County, it had more to do with wanting to consolidate their facilities in one particular area. They have been a great corporate neighbor, and we will miss them, but I suspect that there will be others interested in the land that they have there.

Is the FBI headquarters a real possibility for that land?

No comment.

Is Tysons becoming a blueprint for other parts of Fairfax County?

Yes, although I think it’s important to note that every place is not like Tysons. Every area of the county is unique, has its own geographic features, has got its own potential for transit being extended to the area, it also has its own land use patterns. For instance in the Richmond Highway corridor, that corridor is essentially one long shallow strip of mostly retail uses. And the ownership is comprised of many different landowners of small parcels, very different dynamics, very different than Tysons, where you have a few large landowners over a nice wide area that can lend itself to different patterns of development.

How will we know if you have succeeded with Tysons?

I would use the word vibrancy. If we’re successful, we’re going to see vibrant communities in Tysons, because you know Tysons is comprised of a number of different sections. We will see vibrancy.

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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