As office development applications pile up, the numbers start approaching Tysons space cap

By Jonathan O'Connell
Monday, August 30, 2010

The new master plan for Tysons Corner is barely two months old and already applications for greater development density are pouring into Fairfax County offices, which could put new pressure on county officials to reconsider recently adopted limits on new office space.

The amended master plan, approved in late June by the county Board of Supervisors, limits the amount of office space allowed in Tysons Corner to 45 million square feet, in an effort to prevent the area from becoming a traffic-riddled office canyon rather than a mixed-use, walkable community.

Though plans to actually start building are far off, developers have already submitted plans approaching the 45 million square-foot limit. The area currently has about 27 million square feet of office space, with another 6 million square-feet worth of plans that were approved before the new plan was completed. About 2 million square feet is likely to be reserved by the county for public facilities.

That leaves 10 million square feet to be had, and three major property owners have already submitted applications for about 4.6 million square feet that would count toward the limit, according to county officials, with many other plans still in the works.

The Georgelas Group, a McLean developer, has proposed a total of 18 buildings (including two existing structures) on 28 acres for the area around the Tysons West Metro station. In all, Georgelas, whose plans were selected by the county to serve as a demonstration project, proposes between 5.8 million and 6 million square feet, including at least 2.7 million square feet that will count against the cap.

Capital One, owner of its own 28-acre headquarters site, has proposed redeveloping its campus to a total of 14 buildings that would be connected to the Tysons East Metro station. It proposes 4.4 million square feet of new development, including 2.7 million square feet of offices, 1.6 million square feet of which would count against the cap.

Mitre has proposed building an additional office building, 367,000 square feet of which would count against the cap. The three applications, if approved, mean that only about 5.4 million square feet of office space remains. Developer Cityline Partners and Science Applications International Corp., which owns its headquarters campus, are also expected to seek approvals for new office space.

"There are four to five people that are preparing applications that have not yet been filed," said Martin B. "Art" Walsh, a Tysons land-use attorney. He said reaching the cap could force the county to restart the planning process. "It's been ruled in the state of Virginia that you can't have a zoning moratorium, so once the 45 million square feet is approved, I don't know what the county is going to do," he said.

Stuart Mendelsohn, a land-use attorney at Holland & Knight, said he had argued that the cap meant county planning was "destined to have a very quick turnaround of a year or two."

"One thing they could do is just say the plan's a guide and move on," he said.

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