Developer hopes to redefine Tysons West as he makes his mark

"It's about getting people out of their cars," Aaron Georgelas says of his firm's plans. (Sarah L. Voisin/the Washington Post)
By Kafia A. Hosh
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 28, 2010

Growing up as the son of a developer, Aaron Georgelas lived and breathed real estate. He was only 5 when he followed his father to a county zoning meeting. On weekends, the two donned hard hats and checked on construction sites.

Georgelas wasn't sure what developments or zoning rules were all about, but he knew his father was passionate about his work.

"I always grew up believing that as a developer you get to leave a mark," Georgelas said. "You get to build things people are going" to use and enjoy.

Georgelas, 34, will get his chance as managing partner of the Georgelas Group, the lead developer of the first transit-oriented neighborhood in Tysons Corner.

The McLean-based company, which his grandfather started in 1964, was an early office developer in Tysons and will be among the first companies helping to create an urban center that conforms to building rules approved Tuesday by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

The county handpicked a Georgelas project to demonstrate its vision for urban development. The 28-acre residential, office and retail complex is being planned around the future Tysons West Metrorail station at Leesburg Pike and Spring Hill Road.

"There's a lot of pressure," Georgelas said, noting that his project will be the first to use the new rules.

He said he had always wanted to work with his father, Tom, whom he deeply admired. After graduating from the University of Utah with degrees in finance and management, he moved back to the Washington area in 1999 and took a job with Nortel Networks. Within a few years, he was knocking on the Georgelas Group's door.

At the time, the company wasn't hiring, certainly not someone who lacked real estate experience, said Ted Georgelas, the chief executive and Aaron's uncle. "It's not a rite of passage that just because you have our name, you can walk in and be a part of our company," he said.

But Georgelas was ambitious and eager to learn the family trade. He shadowed his father and uncle and turned to them for advice. Before long, he brought in a deal: a mixed-use residential development in Arlington County. The project gained him a spot on the company roster.

"You have to prove yourself," Georgelas said. "I think it's the only way to do it."

Having grown up in McLean, he is intimately familiar with Tysons, its traffic problems, and its transformation from a rural crossroads into a thriving shopping and business district. As a kid, he rode his dirt bike in a sparsely wooded area that locals referred to as "the pits" but is now home to the Tysons Galleria. When he was a young adult, he and his friends visited Arlington or Georgetown after work because "Tysons was not on that menu of places we wanted to go," he said.

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