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Metro-oriented neighborhood is planned for Tysons Corner

By Kafia A. Hosh
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 15, 2010; B01

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

The Georgelas Group, a McLean-based developer, is planning the area's first transit-oriented neighborhood tied to one of four Silver Line Metrorail stations being built in Tysons. 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 plan to transform car-focused Tysons, 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 Metro stations.

The plan is in 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 bested two other area developers to win the contract. Its project covers more than 5 million square feet and is divided into three neighborhoods connected by an urban street grid.

It has 14 buildings, including two hotels and a mix of high-rise residential and office units, with shops and restaurants on the first floors. Courtyards, public parks and other open spaces are scattered throughout as a "green escape" from the urban atmosphere, Georgelas said.

The project would redevelop a mishmash of establishments, such as 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 rail station entrance within the development. A glass-enclosed bridge would connect the entrance to elevated rail platforms on Leesburg Pike.

Construction could begin in mid-2011. When the station opens in 2013, Metro riders would be greeted by the first phase of the project: a kiss-and-ride lane, grassy pavilion and an 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, depending on market demand. Real estate analysts say one thing is certain: Metrorail will help drive demand for 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 have 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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