As you step onto the platform five stories above Leesburg Pike, you look out over an area that Fairfax County officials imagine as a modern American city — a “walkable, sustainable, urban center.”
In other words, nothing like Tysons Corner circa 2011.
If all goes to plan by 2014, a 400-unit apartment building twice the height of buildings in downtown Washington is under construction beyond the tracks on one side. It’s next to an Exxon station, a McDonald’s and other single-use buildings surrounded by parking lots. Off the other direction, a new Wal-Mart sells fresh groceries. Still, when you get off one of those first trains, reaching either side requires shuffling along a pedestrian walkway above six lanes of traffic. And keep in mind that a “block” in Tysons can be a quarter-mile or more, lined with auto dealerships and strip malls. That next street is a long way off, and the only shopping you can expect to do between here and there is for a Honda or a Mercedes.
Tysons Corner today is unincorporated. It has no government of its own, and it didn’t even have an associated Zip code until April.
And yet, there is much to make it the envy of major American cities.
Tysons has 26.7 million square feet of office space, more than the metropolitan areas of San Antonio or Jacksonville, Fla. Five Fortune 500 firms call it home.
With its two malls, Tysons draws crowds of shoppers from the Mid-Atlantic region. There is a Gucci store, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Tiffany’s. If you have a young daughter, you probably know that it has one of the country’s 11 American Girl stores.
Care to dine at the Palm? Tysons has one. Want to stay at the Ritz-Carlton afterward? No problem.
But as the tiny rural crossroads has grown into one of the country’s top corporate destinations, in one sense it’s also become a monstrosity: It is teeming — just absolutely bursting — with traffic. Traffic that carries people from cookie-cutter strip malls to sprawling office parks and past acres of parking lots in between. For each of the 19,627 people who live in Tysons, more than four others drive there each day, which explains all those parking lots.
Enter Metro, which by way of more than $6 billion worth of tracks and cars will connect Tysons with Washington on one end and Dulles International Airport on the other.