The expansion of Metro is the first step in a multi-billion-dollar make-over of Tysons Corner; officials hope to transform what is now a sprawling expanse of corporate headquarters, two shopping malls and some of the most grinding rush-hour traffic in Northern Virginia into a livable, walkable model community for the 21st century.
But while the first phase of the $5.6 billion rail line is set to open around the end of the year, much of the rest of what leaders envision – high rises and walkable stretches of boutiques and restaurants — won’t replace Tysons Corner’s tired landscape for years.
The solution, some say, is something called a pop-up development: temporary shops, restaurants, even art galleries that can fill in the gap between the present and future. Such temporary ventures have grown in popularity and are enlivening corners of London, Munich and even Washington that otherwise might have languished in the wake of the economic slowdown.
“People will be disappointed [ if ] they step off the train and find there’s not much there there,” said Sharon Bulova, chairwoman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. “Pop-ups will provide some vibrancy while we’re waiting for development in Tysons to evolve.”
D.C. has dabbled successfully with pop-up developments since it re-imagined the concept in 2010, converting a vacant library kiosk on H Street into a clothing store and event space. That venture, which generated more than $11,000 in sales from almost 200 customers, spawned other “temporiums.”
Another is the Fairgrounds by Nationals Park. The stadium opened around the time the recession hit, stalling ambitious plans for development around the ballpark. Bo Blair and Jason York launched their temporary initiative on Half Street, across from the ballpark’s centerfield gate. The Fairgrounds was little more than a tent and a few portable toilets at first, but now in its fifth year, it has grown to include a stage for live bands, small retail outlets and a bar. On game days, it attracts thousands of patrons.
A potential pop-up location in Tysons is near the entrance of the Silver Line’s Greensboro Station, at the intersection of routes 7 and 123. Developers say the spot will feature hundreds of thousands of square feet of office space and specialty retail including a gourmet supermarket. There will be a hotel, restaurants — even a rooftop “skypark.”
But now, the stairway from the elevated station leads smack into the parking lot of a strip mall. In the shadow of a giant water tower stands a hodgepodge of retail: a mattress store, a Men’s Wearhouse, a state liquor store and an adult entertainment boutique.
Those grand plans for a high-rise complex are years away. In the meantime, developer Jack Waghorn plans to temporarily install a U-shaped courtyard of “tastefully appointed” shipping containers. The spaces would be leased to small retailers such as designers, a cafe or a dry cleaner; the goal would be to appeal to the estimated 17,000 riders expected to use the station daily and to establish patterns and habits that would feed Tysons’s success.