New housing to be considered in Tysons

September 26, 2011

Some of the earliest redevelopment projects in Tysons Corner could be apartments, bringing thousands of new residents to the housing-starved business district.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to hold a public hearing Tuesday on permitting the McLean-based Georgelas Group to construct five residential towers near a future Metrorail station.

The company is asking to rezone land that is allowed for industrial uses. But to move forward, it must provide space for athletic fields within Tysons, a condition that is part of Fairfax’s new urban building plan for the area.

County officials say such fields will be necessary to accommodate the recreational needs of Tysons Corner’s future residential population, which is estimated to grow from about 20,000 now to 100,000 by 2050.

If approved, the towers would be part of the company’s Spring Hill Station project, about 32 acres of residential, office and retail buildings near a future Metrorail station at Leesburg Pike and Spring Hill Road. It would give some of the area’s workers a chance to live closer to their jobs, said Aaron Georgelas, a managing partner of the Georgelas Group.

“A lot of them are going home to a townhouse, an apartment, a condo that takes an hour to get to,” he said. “I think people are just eager to live in Tysons Corner.”

The planned residential towers are about a block away from the rail stop.

The Fairfax Planning Commission has recommended that supervisors approve the project.

Finding space for athletic fields is a challenge — although some developers have tried. Most of the area’s 1,700 acres are occupied by successful businesses. To some developers, tearing down a revenue-generating building to construct ballfields is antithetical to good business, and to the dense development planned around the four Metrorail stations being built there.

Redevelopment proposals in Tysons, including Georgelas’s project, feature amenities such as rooftop parks, basketball courts and lawns in urban settings.

“It’s a difficult subject, but everybody is trying to be creative,” said Elizabeth Baker, a land-use planner for a law firm representing Georgelas and other Tysons developers with pending projects.

As part of its rezoning application, the Georgelas Group says it will offer to buy 2.8 acres that could be developed into athletic fields near Raglan Road Park, a wooded area that buffers subdivisions from businesses and roads.

The company’s first proposed building is a 26-story luxury apartment tower that would replace a parking lot on Spring Hill Road. If the project is approved, Georgelas would sell the land to Greystar, a national apartment developer that would build the property. Pending county approvals, construction could begin early next year.

Also on Spring Hill, the other four high-rises are 20 stories each and would replace an area now occupied by a one-story industrial building.

Retail and service establishments would go on the ground floors. Each building would reserve 20 percent of its units as affordable housing, a requirement under Fairfax’s urban land-use plan for Tysons.

The project, which makes up about seven acres of the Spring Hill Station development, also would build additional streets, parks and a new fire and rescue station. The rest of the proposal could come before the Board of Supervisors for approval late this year, Georgelas said.

The McLean Citizens Association, which represents 26,000 households in McLean, Falls Church, Vienna and Great Falls, supports Georgelas’s project and focusing growth around the Metro stations.

But with at least eight other Tysons redevelopment plans awaiting county approval, the group wants to make sure that landowners pay for the majority of road improvements. Tysons landowners already pay a tax to fund the county’s share of the Metrorail extension’s first phase.

Excluding rail, Fairfax officials have yet to adopt a financing plan to pay for an estimated $1.7 billion in road and transit upgrades needed in Tysons through 2030.

“We want to know: Who’s going to pay for this?” said Rob Jackson, president of the McLean Citizens Association. “If the taxpayers are going to get stuck with all of this, I think we may have different positions on some projects.”

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