Merrifield, Tysons development focused on creating walkable neighborhoods

February 14

Would you love to work out in the morning, walk to work, then head out to dinner with friends, all without traveling more than a few blocks from your apartment?

If so, then you fit the demographic many developers are focusing on in the D.C. area as they make plans to build mixed-use developments catering to young families and millennials who prefer the car-free lifestyle.

Already well-established within the District and inner suburbs, the imminent opening of the Silver Line Metro connecting the District to Tysons Corner and Reston is inspiring the development of more walkable “downtown” redevelopments in areas formerly ruled by the automobile.

The latest model for this type of development is Merrifield, the town between Vienna and Falls Church and anchored by the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro stop on the Orange Line. Next to the Metro station, a joint venture between Mill Creek, Trammell Crow, and JPMorgan is replacing a vast surface parking lot with Avenir Place, consisting of 250 apartment units that opened last year and another 368 units in a second phase set to open this summer. In addition, the project will include a Harris Teeter grocery as part of 65,000 square feet of retail space.

At the Mosaic District, a 531-unit apartment building by AvalonBay and 112 townhouses from home builder EYA are under construction. And over the past year, a Target store, a Mom’s Organic Market, an eight-screen movie theatre, a Hyatt hotel and several high-end restaurants and retailers have opened.

The ultimate test for this redevelopment strategy may be found in the plans underway for transforming Tysons from an auto-dependent metropolis into a walkable town center. With the much-anticipated opening of the Silver Line rail extension later this year, many developers and county planners are betting that easier access to public transportation will spur an increased demand for housing and a decreased demand for cars.

Over 1.3 million square feet of office space and at least 1,200 apartment units are currently under construction in the Tysons area. Altogether, about 14,000 apartment units and another 12.5 million square feet of office, about 650,000 square feet of retail space and 1.2 million square feet of hotels have been approved by Fairfax County. Underscoring the transformative plans, the amount of under construction and proposed office space represents about 20 percent of the existing amount of office space in Tysons, while the new apartments represent 70 percent of the current apartment space.

By 2050, planners anticipate that Tysons will be transformed, with more than 100,000 residents and 200,000 jobs. We’ll just have to wait and see if Tysons’ planners hit the “live, work, play” sweet spot.

Maeve Gallagher is a real estate economist with CoStar Group in Washington.

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