Tysons Partnership celebrates a decade of urban transformation

Jeff Tarae, board chairman of the Tysons Partnership, on March 4, 2020, lists the tally of new development, residents and jobs since Fairfax County supervisors approved the new Tysons Corner Comprehensive Plan in 2010. (Photo by Brian Trompeter)

Tysons Partnership officials had plenty of reasons to be ebullient March 4 when celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Tysons Corner Comprehensive Plan.

Formerly just home to two huge shopping malls, auto dealerships, hotels, businesses, strip malls and some apartments, Tysons has seen $17.9 billion worth of investment since Fairfax County supervisors approved the plan in 2010.

“It’s been amazing to watch the evolution of Tysons, particularly over the last decade,” said Barry Mark of Capital One, who serves on the Tysons Partnership’s board of directors. “Spurred on by the completion of the Metro’s Silver Line, Tysons has transformed into a vibrant urban center that Capital One is proud to call home.”

Nearly 9 million square feet of new development, much of it residential, has been built since the plan’s approval and Tysons now has about 27,000 residents and 120,000 employees, said Jeff Tarae, the partnership’s board chairman.

The Tysons plan by 2050 seeks 100,000 residents, 200,000 jobs and a leap in total development from the current 53 million square feet to 113 million.

About 40 million square feet of approved development has yet to be built and, based on current trends, there should be little problem leasing it, said Tarae, who spoke during celebrations held at Capital One’s previous headquarters building in Tysons. Approximately 3 million square feet of newly delivered Tysons office space has been gobbled up completely, he said.

The Tysons Partnership will undergo an exploratory process over the next two years to find ways of making the organization more robust and sustainable, Tarae said.

Tysons is Fairfax County’s “crown jewel,” said Supervisor Rodney Lusk (D-Lee), who previously had helped draw businesses to Tysons during his 21 years with the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA).

Tysons continues to be a major employment hub and has led to some creative transformations, such as the conversion of Capital One’s corporate campus into a mixed-use area with retail and a future performing-arts center, Lusk said. Such amenities appeal to Capital One’s young workforce, whose average member is about 26 years old, he said.

“They’re looking for housing, they’re looking for restaurants and amenities,” Lusk said. “What this site has done, and continues to do, is create a sense of place that’s going to draw younger folks who are going to work at Capital One, but also live in this community.”

Lusk said he hoped that eventually the areas around each of Tysons’ four Metrostations would develop its own character and sense of place.

Tysons is becoming a downtown in the county, bringing to fruition planners’ vision of building a city, said Victor Hoskins, FCEDA’s new president and CEO.

That economic-development body is working to complement the branding effort currently being undertaken by the Tysons Partnership and to attract talent to the region, Hoskins said.

“If you’re going to attract the Millennials and Gen Z, you really have to have a place that’s exciting, dynamic and enjoyable, where they see they can live, work, play, learn,” he said. “That’s something that Tysons is producing.” 

The Tysons plan was designed to be implemented over decades, and the county has come too far not to follow through on those efforts, said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay (D).

Halting the investments midway through would produce a worst-case scenario with ample development, but no sense of community, he said.

“We have come too far . . . not to complete this journey,” he said, adding, “One thing that keeps me up at night is the economic opportunities we might have missed because of lack of commitment.”

McKay also touched on some key priorities for the Board of Supervisors, which has four new members this year. The board is looking to provide affordable-housing options all over the county and address climate change. Those latter efforts need not conflict with the local economy, McKay said.

Sally Horn, chairman of the Greater Tysons Citizens Coalition (GTCC), said she was heartened to hear McKay’s remarks about the need for infrastructure upgrades in Tysons.

Coalition leaders on Jan. 29 sent a letter to county officials that urged them to continue pressing for athletic fields and public facilities, take additional steps to mitigate traffic congestion, ensure sufficient funding to offset school-population growth and not make exceptions to building-height rules.

County officials have provided “very constructive feedback” regarding the letter’s contents and will meet with GTCC on April 16 to discuss those issues, Horn said.

Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville), whose district does not include Tysons but is affected by its close proximity, also favored keeping up Tysons’ infrastructure investments, especially for schools, parks, libraries and transportation.

“It’s very important to me that we move this forward, while considering the established communities that surround Tysons,” he said.

Foust said he hoped the county would continue to invest in the sidewalk and trail network in and around Tysons, and cited several projects in his district that fit that bill.

The Tysons plan also calls for $2.8 billion worth of investment in transportation-infrastructure projects, including a new grid of streets, which will provide additional options for motorists.

“Overall, I think things are going very well,” said Supervisor Walter Alcorn (D-Hunter Mill), who helped craft the Tysons Corner Comprehensive Plan when he was serving on the county’s Planning Commission. “This is a three-generation transformation, so in many ways, we’ve only just gotten started.”

County officials need to review the plan’s implementation to ensure targets for certain objectives, such as athletic fields and public infrastructure, are being met, Alcorn said. But he did not favor a revamping of the entire plan.

“I’m not sure it makes sense to reopen the delicate balance that we achieved,” Alcorn said.

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