Tysons residents brace for redevelopment

September 11, 2011

More than a hundred people had turned out to hear the Tysons Corner developer’s proposal. Munching on cheese pizza and chicken wings, homeowners at Gates of McLean listened as the developer outlined his pitch to buy four acres of the community’s land.

Thomas D. Fleury of Cityline Partners sidestepped questions about a purchase price, telling homeowners that a sale would “create an income event for you.” Fleury’s words got the attention of some people, who looked up from their plates of food. Others sighed and rolled their eyes.

Near Route 123 in Tysons Corner, Gates of McLean is a low-rise condominium complex about a block from a future Metro station that is part of the transit system’s extension to Dulles International Airport. The four stations being built in Tysons Corner are driving redevelopment plans there. But it will be years before Tysons sees a sizable increase in population.

For now, the few neighborhoods near Metro stops are beginning to deal with large-scale redevelopment plans that are taking shape. At least nine rezoning applications are being considered by Fairfax County.

“What people don’t realize is that we’re going to be in a construction zone the next 20 years,” said Lisa Samuels, president of the homeowners association at Gates of McLean, which is next to Capital One’s headquarters, another property slated for development.

Cityline plans to redevelop a 9.4-acre site that is part of the Westgate office park on Route 123, between the Capital Beltway and the Dulles Toll Road. Gates of McLean sits behind the building. The two properties are separated by a four-acre flood plain that belongs to the condominiums.

Cityline offered to buy the land so that it could build a park with two athletic fields. But the company withdrew its offer last month, a few weeks after the meeting with homeowners showed that most would be reluctant to sell, Fleury said.

Many homeowners were cautious about accepting the first offer from a developer and thought “there would be no guarantee that Cityline would do what they promised,” said Samuels, who supported the sale.

Public parks are one of several conditions required by Fairfax County’s new zoning rules for urban development in Tysons. Fleury said the athletic fields would have fulfilled the park space requirement for Cityline’s redevelopment of the Westgate complex, which involves more than 8 million square feet of office, retail and residential space.

“It was a value to me to get our ticket punched on the athletic fields,” he said. “I could have done it in one fell swoop with this plan.” Instead, Fleury said, smaller recreational parks and fields would be scattered throughout Cityline’s development.

Near another of the planned Metro stations, along Route 7, homeowners are excited about the corridor’s car dealerships and low-slung buildings one day being redeveloped into gleaming high-rises with new shops and restaurants.

But lately, they have been more worried about the traffic effects of a planned Wal-Mart about a quarter-mile from the Tysons West Metro site.

The 79,000-square-foot store will be part of a mixed-use development on the site of the former Moore Cadillac dealership on Route 7, between Ashgrove Lane and Westwood Center Drive. The project is being developed by Chevy Chase-based JBG Cos., which owns the adjacent Sheraton Premiere hotel.

Westwood Village at Tysons, a community of condominiums and brick townhouses, is tucked behind the planned development and the Sheraton.

Claudia Diamond, president of the homeowners association for Westwood’s townhouses, said residents were surprised to learn that a Wal-Mart would be opening so near a Metro station.

“I would say it raised a lot of questions all around. Why a Wal-Mart?” she said. “I mean out here, people are going to drive” to the store.

There is only one way in and out of the neighborhood. When the Sheraton holds large functions each month, Diamond said, it can take up to 15 minutes to travel a few blocks from her neighborhood to Route 7. The JBG development will only exacerbate traffic, she said.

In response to residents’ concerns, the company plans to make traffic improvements in the area, said Jay Klug, an executive with JBG Rosenfeld Retail, including a traffic signal at Westwood Center Drive and Sheraton Tysons Drive.

JBG plans to develop the property under its current commercial zoning, instead of seeking to build under the county’s new urban building plan for Tysons. That plan discourages car-dependent projects and allows for denser development in exchange for a developer’s contributions to roads, parks and other public facilities.

The Wal-Mart, a gym and some retail stores will go inside an existing six-level parking garage once used by the former Cadillac dealership. An office building will also be built next to the development.

“What we’re left with is a grocery-anchored traditional shopping center, in terms of its scope and scale, but in a completely urban format,” Klug said.

Construction will begin in the fall with the store scheduled to open in mid- or late 2013, the same year the Tysons West Metro station is to come on line. A future development phase would include 300 to 400 apartments.

When it opens, Klug said, Wal-Mart will probably be just the third grocery store in Tysons, setting the stage for the employment center’s future as an urban downtown with thousands of new residents.

“We think we’re providing a choice, another grocery store, another way to live in Tysons Corner closer to Metro,” Klug said.

hoshk@washpost.com

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