In a possible presaging of future signage plans in Tysons-area redevelopments, the Fairfax County Planning Commission on Feb. 17 unanimously approved a comprehensive sign program for Capital One’s headquarters site in western McLean.
The plan addresses 13 types of signs, ranging from massive, 1,200-square-foot Capital One logos atop the bank’s future 470-foot-tall skyscraper to smaller building-identification signs and automated signage showing how many spaces are left in the site’s parking garages.
Planning Commission members focused especially hard on a proposed building-mounted video screen, measuring by 15.5 feet high by 69 feet long, which would be located on the skyscraper’s horizontal base.
That screen, placed on a second-story wall above a ground-floor retail area, would face an adjacent park and amphitheater and be used to show movies, sporting events and information.
Some commissioners worried the video display might divert the attention of passing motorists on Capital One Drive.
“I’m glad you’ve given considerable thought to this because, offhand, this seems pretty dangerous to me,” said commission member Earl Flanagan (Mount Vernon).
“If it were in an area where people were changing lanes or making a turn and looking for something, they’re going to be distracted,” agreed Planning Commission member James Hart (At-Large). “If there’s something exciting or shocking that’s on the screen, they’re going to look at that instead.”
Shane Murphy, an attorney representing Capital One, said the screen would be positioned so as barely to be visible to vehicular traffic, and would be blocked from motorists’ view much of the year by a collection of deciduous trees. Measured diagonally upward, the screen would be 88 feet from Capital One Drive, which runs parallel to the building.
The proposed video screen would be similar to one implemented successfully in Merrifield’s Mosaic District, said Planning Commission member Kenneth Lawrence (D-Providence).
Captial One originally proposed two additional, smaller video screens for some buildings at the site, but after consulting with county staff members agreed to seek approval for them later.
The video screen would have to comply with county noise standards. Its hours of operation would be from 6:30 a.m. to midnight Sundays through Thursdays, 6:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Sound would be permitted after 7 a.m. and only when the screen was showing movies, sporting events, concerts, art displays and special events of national or community interest.
Lawrence moved for the plan’s approval and said he especially was pleased at provisions that require the signs be photographed after they all are in place, then inspected by a review board to ensure the final result is not visually cluttered.
“We’re not producing a Guangzhou (China) or a Times Square, and I hope Richmond Highway will never look like either of those,” Lawrence said. “I think we have succeeded in putting together a comprehensive, congruent sign plan the sticks together of itself.”
The Board of Supervisors on Sept. 25, 2013, approved about 5 million square feet worth of mixed-use development at the Capital One site, which is located just north of the McLean Metro Station.
The Board of Supervisors usually acts upon recommendations from the Planning Commission, but this is not the case with comprehensive sign plans, to which the commission gives final approval, Murphy said.