It seemed a pretty tall order nine years ago, when Fairfax County supervisors sought to turn Tysons from a mostly commercial area with 17,000 residents and 100,000 jobs into a bustling, mixed-use urban center with 100,000 people and 200,000 jobs.
As a skyline full of new skyscrapers and construction cranes attests, that vision is taking shape. Chris Caperton, director of the Department of Planning and Development’s Urban Centers Section, hopes the county will commemorate the first decade of Tysons’ transformation.
“There really is a lot to celebrate,” Caperton told the Board of Supervisors’ Community Revitalization and Reinvestment Committee on Oct. 8. His annual report was the ninth mandated under the new Tysons comprehensive plan, approved by supervisors in 2010.
Tysons has 53.1 million square feet of existing development and likely will have 57-million-plus by 2021. Much of the new development is concentrated as intended, around four Metro Silver Line stations.
From August 2018 through July this year, developers delivered 990,000 square feet of space in Tysons, represented mainly by a 20-story office building and three-story theater in The Boro and a 33-story residential structure, the Lumen at Tysons, Caperton said.
Another 633,000 square feet of space in Tysons has been approved by site plan, but not built yet. This includes 390 dwelling units and about 200,000 square feet of office space. About 3 million square feet of development now is under construction and likely will be finished in 2021. This includes 10 new buildings and 861,000 square feet of residential space.
“Residential is hot in Tysons,” said Caperton, adding that about 750 affordable-dwelling units have been built there to date and about 4,200 more have been approved or proffered, but not constructed yet.
From a transportation perspective, one of the biggest achievements in the last year has been the partial opening of the new Jones Branch Connector, which spans the Beltway between Capital One’s campus and Jones Branch Drive in Tysons. All lanes of that bridge should be open by the end of the year, officials said.
Caperton noted that a developer of property near the Jones Branch Connector has, at county staff’s suggestion, offered to provide links to the bridge.
“I really believe the developers out there understand the sense of importance we place on connectivity and pedestrian/bike access, not only within Tysons, but to the Metro stations,” he said.
Transit use is on the upswing in Tysons, Caperton said. Between April 2018 and April this year, Metrorail ridership jumped 8 percent at all four stations in Tysons, despite the Silver Line’s having been single-tracked for part of that period, he said. Bus ridership has been increasing in Tysons, too, despite the advent of the Silver Line in July 2014.
The last year also saw a 41-percent jump in Capital Bikeshare trips in Tysons, Caperton said. The bikeshare facility at Metro’s Tysons Corner station as of May this year was the county’s busiest, surpassing the one at Metro’s Wiehle-Reston East station. The latter station’s ridership likely will jump as redevelopments continue to spring up around it, he said.
County officials also gave positive news regarding developers’ Traffic Demand Management (TDM) plans, which seek to reduce the number of single-occupant vehicles accessing their properties. So far this year, single-occupant-vehicle usage is down in both morning and evening peak periods and the number of vehicles with more than one occupant has increased, Caperton said.
All 10 Tysons developments that are required to report their TDM efforts have exceeded the reduction requirements of the past year, he said.
Recreational amenities also are starting to spring up in Tysons. County officials in April dedicated the nearly half-mile-long Vesper Trail, which connects Tysons with Vienna. It is the county’s first lighted trail. In addition, Scotts Run Trail, which will connect the Pimmit neighborhood with Tysons, and a trail along Dolley Madison Boulevard that will do the same for McLean, are under construction, said Tom Biesiadny, director of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.
There also has been progress in bringing Tysons toward its eventual goal of 20 athletic fields. In June, the new Quantum Field near Route 7 and Interstate 495 opened, and in September, supervisors approved plans by PS Business Parks LP to build a field at 8229 Boone Blvd.
PS Business Parks LP also has agreed to build a 5-acre signature park at The Mile, a 38.8-acre development approved by supervisors July 16. The park will be a “significant” contribution to Tyson and will affirm supervisors’ wisdom in encouraging land consolidation, Caperton said.
“It will be unique,” he said. “It will be a space for people to congregate, relax and enjoy open space.”
Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence) noted a “44” flag on the public-facilities slide of Caperton’s presentation and said it represented the new Scotts Run fire station. Officials have broken ground for that project, which should be finished by the end of 2020, Smyth said.
Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) said future reports also should highlight Tysons’ gains in assessed-property values.
“That is so critical to the importance of Tysons to the future of Fairfax County,” he said.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) said community engagement has been the greatest element in Tysons’ success so far.
“It was everybody, all of the stakeholders,” she said. “It’s fun to see things coming into place. We need to create seamless opportunities as Tysons starts to fill out.”