Partnership aims to help Fairfax County transform Tysons Corner

May 22, 2011

A group of employers, landlords and residents has teamed up to help Fairfax County transform Tysons Corner from a suburban office park plagued by traffic to an urban downtown bolstered by a coming Metrorail extension.

The Tysons Partnership is a nonprofit organization working with Fairfax officials and neighboring communities in the county’s long-term plan to redevelop Tysons.

“We’re going to focus on people, place, economy and business,” said Keith Turner, the group’s chairman and a senior vice president of Cityline Partners.

The group is evaluating how to fund a laundry list of transportation improvements needed to redevelop Tysons. Members are also working with Fairfax officials to draft urban design guidelines.

Alleviating gridlock is a major issue for Tysons employers. The partnership and the county will soon study possible routes for a Tysons shuttle bus that would ferry riders among office complexes, shopping centers and the four Metro stations scheduled to open there in 2013.

Sol Glasner, the partnership’s secretary and general counsel at Mitre Corp., said he is concerned that traffic woes could damage his company’s ability to recruit and retain talent.

“That’s an issue that speaks directly to us,” said Glasner, noting that most of Mitre’s 3,000 employees commute from western Fairfax and Loudoun counties. “We are keenly interested in making sure that the area develops in a way that fosters accessibility and comfort.”

With the county approving more urban building rules for Tysons last year, at least a dozen redevelopment proposals are in the works, and the area recently gained its own postal address.

The partnership plans to take these efforts a step further, with hopes of eventually launching a marketing campaign to brand Tysons as it redevelops into a community of eight neighborhoods. Fairfax officials have also asked the group to come up with potential names for the neighborhoods.

The group includes employers, residential organizations, landlords, developers, and members of the retail and hospitality industries.

The partnership is forming its organizational structure but ultimately aims to have a 29-member board of directors. The board is now made up of 21 members — a who’s who of Tysons stakeholders that includes Freddie Mac, SAIC and the owners of Tysons Corner Center. The partnership is reaching out to Tysons residential groups to serve on the board as well, Turner said.

Nonvoting members on the board include officials from Fairfax and two representatives from neighborhood organizations within a mile of Tysons.

Rob Jackson, president of the McLean Citizens Association, is an interim board member representing the association’s 26,000 households in McLean, Falls Church, Vienna and Great Falls. He said that residents, especially those who live on the outskirts of Tysons, will be greatly affected by the job core’s redevelopment.

“If they have transportation problems, we have transportation problems, in terms of traffic and congestion,” Jackson said. “We’re not living in Springfield; we’re not living in Chantilly. This is going to affect our neighborhood.”

Sharon S. Bulova (D), chairman of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors, said the partnership will strive to balance the interests of residents and landowners.

At the same time, she said, it will ensure that redevelopment “stays true to the vision” outlined in the county’s plan to transform Tysons.

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