Tysons’ future success will depend not only on commercial prowess, but its ability to attract residents and employees with cultural amenities and restaurants, panelists said Nov. 10 at the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce’s fourth annual Tysons 2050 event.
The pandemic slowed what had been aggressive redevelopment efforts in Tysons, but panelists were optimistic about the urban center’s future.
“Resiliency is a big thing,” said Jonathan Griffith, managing director of Capital One Center. “There’s a lot of opportunity that’s going to come out of what we’re seeing today.”
Restaurants, which provide a key element of a sought-after vibrant cultural life, have bounced back creatively during the pandemic, said Michael Watley, vice president for state and local affairs with the National Restaurant Association.
Restaurants practically converted into grocery stores during the pandemic’s early days, then changed their focus to outdoor dining and carry-out meals, Watley said. Curbside food pickup has become wildly popular during the crisis, and Tysons was well-positioned to take advantage of the new trend because it has more maneuvering room than, say, the District of Columbia, he said.
Forty-four percent of restaurants’ revenue during the pandemic has come from outdoor dining, a figure far higher than when the health crisis and its related economic downturn began, he said.
The most successful dining establishments during the pandemic have communicated with customers at home via technology, he added.
“The restaurant industry has gotten high-tech overnight,” Watley said.
New habits during the health crisis, such as curbside pickup and patio dining, likely will remain once the pandemic abates, Watley said. Restaurants already are becoming more efficient and re-evaluating their space needs. Some may not reopen their indoor-dining spaces, he said.
Other Tysons businesses likely also will change because of the pandemic, said Tony Hudgins, vice president for partnership and enterprise solutions with TransitScreen. He expects to see an evolution on where companies are located, where they recruit their workforce and how they “right-size” their office space.
One company that won’t be leaving anytime soon is Capital One Bank, which in the 1990s decided to plant its flag in Tysons and develop a campus off of Route 123 just west of the Capital Beltway.
Fairfax County supervisors have approved several million square feet of mixed-use redevelopment at the site, including an already completed 470-foot-tall Capital One headquarters building and the Capital One Hall corporate and performing-arts center, which now is under construction.
Capital One offers employees a choice of work settings, said Griffith, who noted that the bank in March switched from having everyone working in the office to having employees work from home. Griffith said he was “amazed” by how well people have adapted to the altered circumstances.
Leadership Fairfax president and CEO Karen Cleveland moderated the discussion, which was held live at 1st Stage theater and streamed to attendees via the Web.
The arts will serve as an important economic, cultural and social driver in Tysons, predicted panelist Alex Levy, artistic and managing director of 1st Stage. Theatergoers on average spend $24 outside the theater (on restaurants, etc.) for each ticket they buy for a show, he added.
While restaurants and offices have seen some benefits from the new, reduced-contact circumstances, theaters still need in-person audiences for full impact, Levy said.
Tysons might be able to benefit from the dynamic at play at nearby Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, which offers an attractive, convivial atmosphere regardless of who’s performing, Levy said.
Cultural offerings are valuable enticements for companies trying to recruit employees. They also provide a interpersonal connectedness that’s so vital for a fulfilling life, especially for workers who have a hard time balancing their personal lives and work obligations, Levy said.
“The things that matter, our priorities, are time with our families, time with our friends, meaningful experiences that we work for, not the other way around,” he said.
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