Tysons Growth Spurt Approved

Tysons Growth Spurt Approved

The Orvis Company is not a store. It is an “outfitter” that sells “country living” clothes and fly fishing equipment from a small, dated building on a hill overlooking the intersection of Routes 7 and 123 at Tysons Corner.

But beginning in 1952, before Vienna homeowners had Subzero freezers in their kitchens, it was family-owned Tysons Frozen Food Locker, where Vienna resident Frank Gadell and his 10 children sold refrigerated slabs of prime and choice Grade A beef from Sioux City, Iowa.

He also rented freezer space and dressed out 1,000 to 1,500 locally-harvested deer every year, setting a record of 2,000 deer in 1965.

For Gadell, 82, that was “just the other day.”

The farm called Maplewood, just north of the Food Locker on Route 123, was later to become Tysons Corner. In 1962, it was expected to become world’s largest shopping center, at the confluence of Route 123, Route 7 and I-495.

On Monday, Tysons Corner cleared the last governmental hurdle to building out the 106-acre parcel known as Tysons II, which includes the Galleria and the Ritz Carlton Hotel.

A final development plan that will bring commuter rail service to the intersection of Route 123/Dolley Madison Boulevard and Tysons Boulevard, near the site of the former Maplewood Farm, was approved Monday by a unanimous 8-0 vote by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

The application had been tweaked since it was denied by the Fairfax County Planning Commission on April 3. One change is that buses will offload passengers in a dedicated turnout lane on Route 123 instead of Tysons Boulevard.

OTHER CHANGES PROVIDE alternate funding sources for $100,000 to manage “transportation demand,” to encourage use of public transportation. Pedestrian trails were widened from six to eight feet.

Tysons II Land will contribute $5 million to pay for a fourth through lane on Route 123.

At Monday's public hearing, five of nine speakers did not appear; two presidents of chambers of commerce sent letters instead.

Bill Lecos, president of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, said the plan “is not a choice of great versus nothing,” but a chance to add almost 2 million square feet for “something better” than what is already approved.

The plan will bring the “living, vibrant, vital downtown that this community needs to continue to grow,” he said.

Questions about federal funding, which contributed to the Planning Commission’s nay vote on April 3, were also raised after Monday’s public hearing.

“The great fear is that density comes and rail never comes. I am still skeptical on whether we’re going to get funded for rail or not,” said Dranesville District Supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn (R).

“We’re all trying to shoot for the six-year authorization Congress is going to shoot for this year.”

A Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) from the federal government would have to be in place by 2005 for the developer to proceed.

After that, if rail is not in place by the year 2019, however, the developer could still proceed with the density.

“The FFGA will take care of funding for the “acceptable operable segment required” by the federal government, said Young Ho Chang, director of Fairfax County’s Department of Transportation. “That’s their commitment.”

At present, the Virginia’s share of the cost of building Metro is expected to come from bonds funded from an increase in tolls on the Dulles Toll Road.

FAIRFAX COUNTY’S SHARE will come from a special tax district that is within 4 percent of viability, according to testimony before the supervisors on Monday.

But Providence Supervisor Gerry Connolly said there has only been one time that a transportation project [in Chicago] did not materialize after a FFGA had been issued, and that time, it was the federal government who pulled back, not the developer.

“Tysons is our commercial future,” said Connolly Monday. “We’ve got to get it right.”

“Tysons has had 37 years to evolve,” he said, compared to 370 years for his native Boston, which just completed a transportation project known as “the Big Dig.”

“Since the ‘94 [Tysons Task Force] plan, we have tried to impose an urban feel rather than a suburban office park,” Connolly said.

“What is there now is not a transit-related development. It is an automobile destination,” said Board Chairman Kate Hanley.

“We control whether there is an FFGA, because we are one of the bodies that has to be a party to it.”

“My big concern is whether we get rail or not in the next 18 months, which is the window we’ve got. We’ll have a great development with rail here.”

“This is not just about density. This is about uses,” said Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins.

Supervisors Michael Frey (R-Sully) and Gerry Hyland (D-Mt. Vernon) were absent for the vote. The other eight supervisors voted yes.

Connolly praised the promise of the plan, which includes five acres for an amphitheater for public performances, 4.5 acres for the Metro station, money for public art and fountains, a ground-level pedestrian bridge to West*Group’s recently approved 1,350 unit residential development at Westpark and Park Run Drives.

HE PRAISED TYSONS II Land, which “proffered — on its own — to remove density if the FFGA is not in place by 2005.

At that, Board Chairman Kate Hanley remarked that “The applicant was brilliant to think that up.”

Connolly said the number of jobs to be created by the additional development will be surpassed only by Washington, D.C.

“If rail were to come with the [existing lower density plan in place, we would have lost the opportunity to improve transit-oriented development to improve Tysons that we have today,” Connolly said.

The vote of approval came 19 months after the application was first filed on Nov. 13, 2001. Since then, at the request of Fairfax County’s planning staff, the developer changed “Building J” from office to residential, offering 540 condominium units next to the Metro station.

The plan allows Tysons II Land to build additional density over what would be allowed “by right” without rail, an increase from 1.9 million to 4.1 million square feet of density.

With the increased density, the floor area ratio (FAR) in the plan would increase from the present 1.0 to 1.4.

When rail reaches Tysons, 25 percent of the additional density can be built. When rail gets to west Tysons, considered to be the intersection of Spring Hill Road at Route 7, another 50 percent of the additional density will be triggered.

When rail reaches the Reston Parkway, with bus rapid transit available to Dulles International Airport, the plan allows for buildout to the maximum density.