Together, the proposals cover roughly 240 acres, or 15 percent of land in Tysons. They include a total of 36 million square feet of new development. Three have won the county’s approval, and about a dozen others are on track for rezoning within the next year or so. Most are massive mixed-use projects that include high-rise office and residential buildings, ground-level shops and restaurants, athletic fields, bike paths, parks and plazas.
The county recently finalized a plan for a pedestrian-friendly street grid cut into walkable city blocks, to be built piecemeal as individual landowners redevelop their parcels. The Board of Supervisors is expected to decide next week whether to set up a special Tysons tax district that would raise $250 million over 40 years for transportation infrastructure. The biggest sticking point has been whether to exempt or include residential landowners.
“Sure, this will be great for the future of Fairfax County, but not for the people living [in Tysons] now,” said Michael Bogasky, a Tysons resident and president of the Rotonda Condominium Association.
“We’ve already lived through years of construction hell, and it’s just the beginning. In our lifetime, I don’t see how we’re going to benefit, but yet we’re going to have to help pay for it,” he said.
Although residents and businesses fought over the retrofit’s details, almost no one disagreed with its goals when the plan was adopted.
If all goes as predicted, the residential population of Tysons will grow fivefold by 2050, to roughly 100,000. The number of people who work there will double, to 200,000. At least three-quarters of the growth will take root within a half-mile of a Metro station. Think Ballston or Clarendon, but bigger, greener, more energy-efficient, and with more affordable housing to support residents of all ages and income levels.
What is happening in Tysons is garnering interest far beyond the Washington region. If the transformation is a success, some believe it will serve as a model for rebuilding edge cities across the nation and beyond.
Strong builder interest
Although it will take years to know whether the vision for Tysons is truly achievable, by nearly all accounts what has happened so far has exceeded expectations.
County staff figured that they’d be lucky to see five redevelopment applications right off the bat, said Barbara Byron, who as director of the county’s Office of Community Revitalization is overseeing the transformation. Instead, they got more than twice that.
The first to be approved, in September 2011, was the 30-acre Spring Hill Station by the Georgelas Group, which worked closely with the county to design a demonstration project. The plans include high-rise corporate and residential towers, restaurants, courtyards, parks and retail space.