Tysons Corner is unofficially dropping the ‘corner’ from its name


A westward-looking view of the new Silver Line as it passes through Tysons Corner along Leesburg Pike and turns to run along the Dulles Toll Road on Sept. 24. (Jahi Chikwendiu/WASHINGTON POST)
October 4, 2012

As it turns out, the problem with Tysons Corner isn’t just the traffic. Or the sprawl. Or the acres of parking lots.

It’s also, apparently, the name.

Specifically, the “corner” part. It’s too sleepy, too anachronistic, too evocative of the two-street rural outpost it once was.

And that’s why Tysons Corner is now just Tysons.

One word. Like Cher.

“It’s fresh. It’s crisp,” said Michael Caplin, executive director of the Tysons Partnership, a nonprofit association that represents Tysons businesses and other stakeholders.

If it wasn’t clear before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors was presented this week with a marketing plan for the new Tysons, it certainly was after. The logo of choice is just Tysons, and when the man presenting it misspoke, accidentally adding “corner” out of habit, he was quickly corrected.

“I thought we were dropping the ‘corner,’ ” one supervisor interrupted.

The decision has never been formalized by anyone, but those in charge seem to agree it’s for the best.

“It indicates more than what Tysons Corner has meant historically,” Caplin said. “We want people to recognize that something exciting is happening here.”

For years, Fairfax has been working on plans to transform Tysons Corner from a sprawling office park into a walkable, vibrant downtown. The county’s plan envisions a city that will be home to 100,000 residents and 200,000 workers by 2050, all anchored by Metro and four new Silver Line stations.

But as any Madison Avenue executive knows, the labeling is as important as the product. And so as the planners and bureaucrats went about rezoning the area, the marketing professionals dedicated themselves to reimagining the name.

Sharon Bulova (D), chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said she sees the change as a natural part of the area’s evolution. Tysons Corner is the massive shopping center and corporate high-rises.

Tysons — minus the “corner” — is what she hopes will be its future: a green, bustling urban center where people live and play.

“It’s shorthand for the transformation itself,” she said.

But taking the “corner” out of Tysons may be a difficult task. Dozens of businesses have it as part of their names. The massive shopping mall that it is known for is the Tysons Corner Center. The “corner” is everywhere: road signs, business cards, marquees and even one of Metro’s new Silver Line stops.

Perhaps more important, it’s embedded in the vernacular, if not the consciousness.

“When you say Tysons Corner, people know it as a shopping mecca,” said Marge Cameron, executive director of the Tysons Corner Children’s Center. “We’re very well thought of in the community — we’ve been here 25 years — so I don’t think we would change our name unless we absolutely had to.”

Name changes are nothing new for the area. Before Tysons Corner, the intersection that spawned the region’s name was called Peach Grove. It later became Tysons Crossroads, named after William Tyson, the Cecil County, Md., resident who bought the land in the 1850s. Then in the 1960s, county supervisors approved a massive redevelopment project under the name Tysons Corner.

So who came up with the idea for the latest change? And when did it take effect?

No one, really, and it essentially already has, said Supervisor Linda Q. Smyth (D-Providence), whose district includes Tysons. “It’s just something that sort of happened.”

At first, Smyth said, county staff members began shortening the name out of convenience. Bulova first noticed it about 2009, when planners began working in earnest on the Tysons master plan.

Over time, it stuck, and when Caplin and the Tysons Partnership began discussing a marketing campaign a few months ago, it just seemed natural to forgo “corner,” he said.

Officials said businesses with Tysons Corner in their name shouldn’t feel obligated to follow suit, as the change isn’t official. No one needs to go to the trouble of ordering new stationery or business cards.

Anyone using a Tysons Corner address may continue to use both words. And, yes, Tysons will work, too.

John Tilghman “Til” Hazel Jr., a prominent developer who helped transform Tysons from a rural crossroads into a commercial hub, said he’s “amused” by the change.

“It’s the most successful edge city in America,” he said. “Why do you want to keep messing with it?”

But others said they like the idea.

Joel Garreau, the author of “Edge City: Life on the New Frontier,” said Fairfax officials have been historically cool to the region: “Anything they hated, they would dump it in Tysons.”

Now, he said, it seems that they care.

“Thirty years after Tysons has become this huge economic and job engine, they’re trying to figure out how to wrap their minds around that,” said Garreau, a law professor at Arizona State University and a former Washington Post editor. “They’re trying to create identity, and that’s terrific.”

Lori Aratani, David Fahrenthold and Rachel Karas contributed to this report.

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