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Fairfax approves Capital One HQ nearly as tall as the Washington Monument

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In the fall of 2012 Capital One received approval to build a new headquarters on its Tysons Corner campus, on the doorstep of one of the new Silver Line stations. It was one of the first companies to get a project approved under Fairfax County’s plan for a new, urban Tysons.

Then the financial giant decided the building it had designed wasn’t big enough.

So Capital One, led by chairman, president and chief executive Richard D. Fairbank, drew up the tallest commercial building in the Washington area. At 470 feet,  it would be the second tallest structure in the area, behind only the Washington Monument (555 feet).

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the project Tuesday evening, with minimal fanfare.

The originally approved plan for the company’s 26-acre campus was no small endeavor. It included 3.1 million square feet of office space, four high-rise residential buildings with as many as 1,200 units and 100,000 square feet of restaurants and retail.

The centerpiece was a 520,000-square-foot corporate headquarters building that would add to the company’s existing 14-story, 480,000-square foot headquarters on Capital One Drive.

Shortly thereafter Capital One scrapped those plans in favor of a much larger, more prominently located 940,550-square-foot headquarters building for itself.

County planning staff referred to the proposed building, designed by District architecture firm Bonstra Haresign, as a “single, timeless office tower.” Capital One also won approval for its own hotel of as many as 350 rooms.

“With this application, Capital One proposes a landmark, iconic office tower that will serve Capital One’s future needs and permit steady growth in employees,” county staff wrote in their analysis of the project.

The company also changed the location of its headquarters, moving it to a parcel overlooking the Capital Beltway, where the Fortune 500 company would enjoy high visibility. Previously Capital One had proposed putting two unrelated office buildings there. The property is adjacent to the McLean Silver Line station

Capital One spokeswoman Julie Rakes said the new tower was anything but a vanity project.

The company has 42,000 employees worldwide and about 1,800 in the area, many of whom she said work in leased space that Capital One would like to forgo to consolidate employees in Tysons. In 2009, Capital One completed the purchase of Chevy Chase Bank, contributing to Capital One’s local growth.

“We didn’t set out to build the biggest building,” Rakes said. “We set out to build a building that would accommodate our growth. We’re leasing thousands of square feet of real estate across the region, so this will help us bring those people together.”

Capital One is doing utility work on its property now but has not set a timeline for construction of its new headquarters.

Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz