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Committee to Study Tysons Corner Growth Potential

By Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 31, 2005; Page VA03

The county Board of Supervisors has appointed a 13-member citizens committee to coordinate and oversee a planning study for Tysons Corner that will seek to determine how large Northern Virginia's economic hub should grow.

The study comes as county officials are weighing 21 applications from developers seeking to as much as double the amount of space they can build at Tysons Corner if and when a proposed Metrorail line goes through the area.

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Those applications have been deferred pending the study, which is expected to determine how many people the area's transportation network -- roads, buses and possibly trains -- could handle.

"The question is: How much development should be in Tysons Corner?" said Sterling Wheeler, a county planner, noting that current plans for the area allow for as much as 68 million square feet of building. The study will either "reconfirm what's in the plan or suggest something higher -- or lower."

The $400,000 consultant's study, awarded to Cambridge Systematics and HNTB, will also look at ways of designing the new development to encourage walking and transit in the area, which has long been criticized for its gantlet of obstacles for pedestrians.

Supervisor Linda Q. Smyth (D-Providence), whose district includes part of Tysons Corner, said she views the committee's role as ensuring that the public's views are represented.

"Consultants do need a little help sometimes in getting to the people they need to talk to," Smyth said. "We need two-way communication."

The members of the Tysons Corner committee are: Ken Lawrence (Providence District), Frank de la Fe (Hunter Mill), Bob Adams (Providence) George Barker (At large), Wade Smith (Dranesville), Bruce Wright (Hunter Mill), George Lamb (Providence), Stephanie Mensh (At large), Irv Auerbach (Dranesville) state Del. James M. Scott (At large), Clark Tyler (Dranesville), Michelle Crocker (Hunter Mill) and a planning commissioner from the town of Vienna who has yet to be named.

With the proposed Metrorail link, which would extend from Metro's Orange Line, the rapid changes that have transformed Tysons Corner over the last 40 years into one of the region's largest jobs and shopping centers, seem destined to continue for years to come.

Already, the owners of the Tysons Corner Center mall, the region's largest, have proposed to roughly double the amount building on that property, essentially ringing the stores in office blocks, residential buildings and a hotel.

"Tysons is big and there's a huge amount of interest," Smyth said.

The potential growth of Tysons Corner has divided many in the county, however.

On one hand, some neighborhood groups are urging county leaders to look askance at allowing more development that they say will draw more cars to Northern Virginia's roads. They also note that while the development proposals hinge on train ridership, the Orange Line is already over capacity at rush hour, and that it will cost billions to add another set of tracks for a crossing under the Potomac River.

On the other side of the debate are many developers and some "smart growth" advocates, who argue that it makes sense to target areas around Metro stops for relatively intense building. They say Metro can expand its capacity on the Orange Line by adding more cars, and by rerouting some Orange Line trains to other tracks.

Seeking to harness the potential for growth at Tysons Corner, the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce is convening a meeting of 250 "community leaders and stakeholders" on April 22 at George Mason University to discuss the area's future. Though the meeting includes a range of public officials and business leaders, it is not open to the public.

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