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Transit-oriented neighborhood planned for Tysons West

By Kafia A. Hosh
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 12, 2010; 1:21 PM

Plans are underway to transform a bland stretch of office and industrial parks in Tysons Corner into a bustling arts and entertainment district with high-rise corporate and residential buildings, restaurants and boutiques.

The Georgelas Group, a McLean-based developer, is planning Tysons' first transit-oriented neighborhood tied to one of four Silver Line Metrorail stations being built there. The proposed development is a 28-acre residential, office and retail complex centered around the Tysons West stop at Leesburg Pike and Spring Hill Road.

"This is a great opportunity for Tysons to transform," said Aaron Georgelas, the project's lead developer. "It's now time for us to grow around this transit system."

The proposal is based on Fairfax County's ambitious plan to redevelop car-focused Tysons from one of the region's most congested job centers into a network of eight urban neighborhoods, four of which would be designed around the new stations. The plan is going through the county approval process. In the meantime, Fairfax has developed criteria for a demonstration project that could serve as the first example of a transit-oriented community in Tysons.

A demonstration project "helps bring the concepts to life," said Walter L. Alcorn, chairman of the Fairfax Planning Commission's Tysons Committee. "We wanted to have a real site with a potential project that we could explore."

The Georgelas Group beat out two other area developers who submitted proposals for the project. The project, more than 5 million square feet in size, is divided into three neighborhoods connected by an urban street grid. A total of 14 buildings include two hotels and a mix of high-rise residential and office units, with retail and restaurants on the first floor. Courtyards, public parks and other open spaces are scattered throughout as a "green escape" from the urban atmosphere, Georgelas said.

The project would redevelop what is now a mishmash of establishments, such as low-rise car dealerships, an industrial office park and Georgelas's headquarters on Greensboro Drive.

Georgelas said the development would add nightlife to an otherwise dull business district. "Tysons shuts down at five o'clock, there's no place to go," he said. "The goal is to create a destination where there currently isn't one."

Georgelas is working with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to build the station entrance within the development. A glass-enclosed bridge would connect the entrance to elevated rail platforms on Leesburg Pike.

Construction could begin as soon as mid-2011. When the station opens in 2013, Metro riders will be greeted by the first phase of the project: a kiss-and-ride lane, grassy pavilion and a towering office building with retail stores and sidewalk cafes.

"You're dropped into the heart of this vibrant experience where you have things to do," Georgelas said.

The rest of the project would be phased in over time, depending on market demand. How the market turns out remains to be seen. But real estate analysts say one thing is certain: Metrorail will help drive demand for new development in Tysons, the country's 12th-largest business district.

"It will make the area more accessible, and access drives value," said Gregory H. Leisch, chief executive of Delta Associates, an Alexandria-based real estate research firm.

Tysons is expected to grow to include 200,000 workers and 100,000 residents by 2050. Fairfax officials anticipate that other mixed-use developments will pop up around the Metro stations.

The demonstration project "is reflective of what Tysons is becoming as a whole -- a community in which you can work, shop, play and live," said Gerald L. Gordon, president and chief executive of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. "That's something that Tysons Corner has never been before."

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