The Tysons Corner area, site of a major recent rezoning for an office, hotel and shopping complex, already is ripe for redevelopment, according to a preliminary study of building heights in that part of Fairfax County.
The report, prepared at the direction of Fairfax County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert, predicts that some existing structures may give way to taller, denser buildings as property owners realize their land may be underused.
The report found that "there is redevelopment potential in Tysons Corner" for a long list of reasons, including aging of buildings and poor location.
Some land already is planned for a more intensive use than exists on the site, while other buildings over 30 years old "are considered potentially redevelopable if other factors," such as low building value and high land value, are present, the study said.
The report cited poor land use as another condition for redevelopment, pointing to gas stations that have been surrounded by new development in recent years.
The long-awaited height study is expected to be issued in final form by the end of the year. During debates over the recently approved Tysons II office, hotel and shopping center project, county officials came under fire from members of the McLean Citizens Association for being at least two years late in preparation of a height study for Tysons.
After a request in mid-September by the board of supervisors, Lambert managed to have a draft of the document in the hands of board members before their Oct. 15 approval of the Tysons II project. But the general public did not see the report before that vote.
"The Tysons Corner Height Study examines height in the context of urban design parameters that relate height and other design factors for the entire Tysons area," according to Lambert's memo, which is not dated.
For the purpose of the study, the Tysons area as a whole was divided into 20 districts, with the Tysons II site receiving the most scrutiny.
The study, which Lambert emphasized in a memo to the board of supervisors is "a very preliminary version," also extends what have been considered the borders of Tysons Corner to include areas north of the Dulles toll lanes to Lewinsville Road east of the McLean Hamlet subdivision. The added area generally includes land that either has been or is being developed by Hazel-Peterson Cos., as well as the sites occupied by Planning Research Corp. and the Farm Credit Bureau.
Land south of Old Courthouse Road between Gallows Road and Dolley Madison Boulevard also has been added to what the county considers the Tysons Corner area. The Tysons corridor now centers on the intersection of I-495 and the Leesburg Pike, Route 123 (Dolley Madison Boulevard) and the Dulles toll lanes, according to the county report. The Magarity Road corridor also is part of the study area.
The study concluded that the height of future buildings in Tysons should not exceed 730 feet above sea level, and called for taller buildings to be located in generally flat areas. The report recognized that the 25- and 22-story hotels that are part of the Tysons II project will be major visual focal points for the entire region, but suggested that tall buildings be allowed in other parts of the Tysons area to create additional focal points.
"The existing Koons Pontiac site [on Route 7] has the potential of becoming a focal point provided that there is access to Spring Hill Road at the rear of the site and provisions of sufficient public amenities on the site," the study said.
Such a comment about a site where an application is pending is unusual. Developer Michael Hadid recently asked Fairfax to delay action on his application for a 35-story hotel on the Koons site. Hadid reportedly is reevaluating his plans for the property.
The study also warned that all development "should recognize that the radio [Army communications] tower at the [Leesburg Pike and Chain Bridge Road intersection] is not likely to be relocated in the near future." As a result, developers must minimize the impact of their buildings on the "line of sight, particularly for microwave operations," the study said.
The draft study proposed that developers seek to minimize the visual intrusion of tall buildings on existing residential neighborhoods along the Dulles toll lanes and along Magarity Road.
In addition, it proposed the extension of Spring Hill Road to Gosnell Road to tie "all the developments together. Currently, the buildings in this area are all free-standing and unrelated."
According to the report, there are 57 office buildings in the Tysons area today that are at least four stories tall. It does not mention buildings below four stories. As of September, there were 17 new buildings under construction, including the first high-rise tower in the Tycon Towers project on Route 7 adjacent to the Marriott Hotel and the 22-story Sheraton Hotel at Route 7 and the Dulles toll lanes. The lights from the top of its constuction cranes can be seen from nearby residential areas at night.
Another 18 proposed rezonings or special exception requests are pending in the Tysons area, not including the mixed-use Tysons II project approved Oct. 18. Tysons II will be composed of a three-level galleria-style regional shopping mall, 11 office buildings, a 25-story hotel and a 22-story hotel.