For the Benefits It Will Deliver, Tysons Mall Plan Should Be Passed

At Tysons, a long plaza that would run between buildings and the mall. The plaza would feature an ice rink and sculptures.
At Tysons, a long plaza that would run between buildings and the mall. The plaza would feature an ice rink and sculptures. (Macerich Co.)
Thursday, December 7, 2006

The Post article "Vote for Tysons Corner Proposal May Upset Work on Master Plan" [Metro, Page C3, Nov. 5, 2006] has misrepresented the role of the Tysons Land Use Task Force and the multifaceted process of redeveloping Tysons Corner. Simply stated, the Tysons Corner Mall redevelopment proposal by Macerich Co. does not in any way contradict or "upset the master plan" that is being developed by the Tysons Task Force.

The Tysons Land Use Task Force was created just over 18 months ago and was charged with updating the Tysons Area Comprehensive Plan to promote mixed-use, transit-oriented development in Tysons Corner. Its goal is to give Fairfax County an urban center worthy of its residents. The activities included in the task force's mission -- as instructed by the Board of Supervisors -- are very specific and do not include any role for the task force in reviewing rezonings within the Tysons land area.

As a rezoning filed under the existing 1994 comprehensive plan for Tysons, the Macerich proposal for Tysons Corner Center should not be part of the task force's work. Macerich -- and all other property owners in Fairfax County, for that matter -- have a right to a land-use review process that is explicit, transparent and predictable. In choosing to redevelop their property under the comprehensive plan for Tysons, they have a reasonable expectation that the review process will not be changed midcourse. And that it will not be changed by an additional review process or by arbitrarily stopping the process to accommodate a citizen review entity that was not in place when they began their planning and chose to file under the current plan.

It is also important to reject the contention that moving forward on the Macerich rezoning limits the impact of the new Tysons comprehensive plan.

Doing so would fail to grasp the scale of the Tysons land area under review. While there is no doubt that the Tysons Corner Center is an important piece of property, its 78 acres are less than 5 percent of the 1,700 acres that make up the Tysons planning area. The new comprehensive plan must integrate all of these acres into a cohesive, integrated urban center of several neighborhoods, only one of which will include the redeveloped mall property as its focal point. Were the new comprehensive plan to focus only on the four transit stations and the adjoining properties, the plan would not guide us toward fully realizing the benefits that a world-class urban center can deliver -- and that Fairfax County residents expect from the redevelopment of Tysons.

Speaking of the residents of Fairfax County, it is important to note that plans for the redeveloped Tysons Corner Center are consistent with residents' expectations -- specifically as measured in the recently concluded survey by the Fairfax County Chamber's Fairfax Tomorrow initiative. That shows that the people of Fairfax County want Tysons to become a true downtown. In fact, 82 percent of our residents feel that an urban center would add to the county's quality of life. Asked to rate the appeal of specific traits of urbanized areas, county residents called the following highly appealing: (1) "easy to get around on foot"; (2) "good access to mass transit"; (3) "interesting cultural attractions and nightlife"; and (4) "a good mix of office, retail, entertainment, and restaurants." The plan for the redeveloped Tysons Corner Center meets these expectations.

The plan is for a vibrant mix of residential, commercial and retail uses. It would be a pedestrian-friendly place that encourages connectivity to the Metro station and other transportation alternatives to the automobile. The plans include accessible streetscapes, public spaces, performing-arts areas, recreational uses -- even a dog park -- to create the "sense of place" that defines great urban neighborhoods and is lacking in today's Tysons. Much of the plan's shape is attributable to Macerich Co.'s listening, in more than 25 outreach meetings, to community input concerning design, uses and scale. Furthermore, the resulting plans show a strong alignment with the guiding planning principles developed by the task force after its community outreach. Therefore, it is of little surprise that at the planning commission's public hearing on the proposed redevelopment, more than 40 of the 50 people who testified supported this project.

Since the Macerich proposal meets the current comprehensive plan for future development in Tysons, applies the wishes of the community for a vibrant urban center and was discussed extensively throughout the community, there are no credible reasons to hold up the approval process. Approving this redevelopment is simply a phase in the comprehensive process to overhaul the Tysons area over the next two decades and in no way compromises the mission of the task force or the prospects for an urban Tysons that meets this community's expectations for excellence in its implementation.

Dale Peck is a former chairman of the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce and is chairman of Fairfax Tomorrow, a chamber initiative to bring together various groups to support transit-oriented development to manage growth in the county. He lives in Vienna and offers business development, personnel development and strategic planning services to companies.

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