As Fairfax County embarks on transforming Tysons Corner into a walkable community where people work, live and play, it’s the “play” that is causing some of the biggest concerns.
Developers are finding it hard to give up land for athletic fields, and area residents say they are concerned that the county is building a community whose residents will have to drive elsewhere for sports.
“Along with transportation, athletic fields have somehow risen up to be one of the most important issues. [It’s] not really what I had expected, but I think it is because they are so land intensive,” Andrea L. Dorlester, county senior park planner, said in an interview Thursday after a meeting of county officials, developers and community representatives.
A single soccer field or baseball diamond requires two to three acres, Dorlester said.
“We are creating a walkable, dense city, so where do you fit them in?” she said. “If I am looking at this from the perspective of the developer, giving that much land is giving up opportunity to build something. So I think that is where some of the conflict is coming from.”
Developers say it would be cheaper to invest in existing fields outside Tysons Corner.That would improve the facilities and increase their usability, said Keith Turner, a Cityline Partners senior vice president.
“We can turf and light dozens and dozens of fields for the cost of building one or two fields in Tysons,” Turner said at the meeting.
“I am not saying that’s the solution, or we won’t try to build as many fields required in Tysons, but it should be looked at,” he said. “Just from an economic standpoint, it just makes sense.”
Others said they expect developers and the county to build facilities in Tysons Corner.
“They knew this going in, so the expectation is that they would provide these things,” said Mark Meana, vice chairman of the Fairfax County Athletic Council.
Vienna Mayor M. Jane Seeman said a failure to create more athletic fields would increase demand at fields that are already overused and increase traffic from Tysons.
“We don’t have enough fields as it is,” she said. “They need to work harder to find it in Tysons.”
Supervisor John W. Foust (D-Dranesville) said the county plans to work with developers to make it possible for residents and workers to be served at Tysons Corner.
“We can’t lose sight of the primary goal, which is to get as much of the [athletic fields] as we can to serve Tysons,” he said.
Fairfax planning officials are talking about being flexible about the size of the fields, building rooftop fields and the possibility of building a sports complex.
A development plan for Tysons Corner, approved in 2010, calls for 20 new fields to serve the needs of new residents and workers in Tysons.
Since the county adopted the plan, it has collected 15 zoning applications proposing a cumulative 44 million square feet of new commercial and residential development, said Barbara Byron, Fairfax’s director of community revitalization.
Tysons Corner, which is mostly an office and commercial destination, has only about 17,000 residents. But growth is expected to accelerate after Metro’s new Silver Line opens, in late 2013 or 2014. The county projects a future Tysons population of 100,000.
The first wave of development is expected within the next two years, Byron said. It includes the construction of a 25-story, 400-unit apartment tower at Leesburg Pike and Spring Hill Road, near the site of the coming Tysons West Metro station.