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Residents Plan Tysons' Future

Fresh ideas sought in planning exercise.

A green belt around the triangle, a parking cap and improved signage were among some of the ideas provided to the Tysons Land Use Task Force in a planning workshop on the future of Tysons Corner attended by local community members. The participants had a chance to decide where future residential, retail and commercial densities in Tysons Corner would go, and how to connect them with each other and the surrounding communities.

“We’ve had a lot of interesting ideas so far,” said Clark Tyler, chairman of the task force at last week’s workshop, held at the Capitol One building in Tysons Corner. People with different interests in Tysons Corner development — citizens, developers, planners, experts and employees of local businesses — were placed together at tables and presented with a map to work together on deciding areas of future development. “It is good for all the participants that other people are involved" in the exercise, said Tyler.

Earlier meetings with employees of local businesses led to the conclusion that once they are done with work the employees have no reason to stay at Tysons Corner, Tyler said. There is a lack of bars and gyms in the area, he said. A meeting with the Vienna Town Council — as well as other community groups in the surrounding areas — revealed those communities are scared of the effect future development in Tysons Corner might have on them. Tyler said that future development should be contained within the triangle bounded by Interstate 495, the Dulles Toll Road and Route 7. Tysons Corner, he said, needs a sense of place and a zip code.

“Tysons is a big place,” said GB Arrington, a senior professional associate for transit-oriented development at Parsons Brinckerhoff Land Use Resource Center in Oregon. Arrington said Tysons Corner stretches across two miles at one of its longest points, which is equivalent to the distance between the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial in downtown Washington, D.C. He said walking from the Capitol to the Memorial is much more interesting and safe than walking across Tysons Corner. “As a tourist, it’s historic and memorable; not in Tysons,” said Arrington.

PARTICIPANTS WERE ASKED to assume that Tysons Corner will grow and that metro is coming. “Identify what works and doesn’t work in Tysons Corner today and what needs to be done to make Tysons livable,” Arrington told the participants. “Remember you’re the experts. We’re not the experts, we need that information from you.” Arrington added that ideas presented to the task force would be used in test scenarios to prove how viable they are.

Groups first identified the landmarks at Tysons Corner, and the eyesores in the area. “Most of the Route 7 corridor is unsightly,” Roger Diedrich, a member of the Sierra Club — an environmental advocacy club — told his group. He said the car dealerships in the corridor are handy, but do not belong to metro stations. Diedrich’s group also concluded that the entire Tysons Corner area is not pedestrian friendly. “You almost can’t walk anywhere,” said Vienna resident Catherine McCarthy. The group identified all of the major roads in the area — Route 7, Route 123, Interstate 495 and Dulles Toll Road — as barriers to pedestrian connectivity.

Paul LeValley, a representative of Perspectives Group — a public relations firm managing the workshops — said the commander of the McLean District Station of the police department told him about all of the pedestrian casualties that occur on those roads. “It’s shocking,” said LeValley.

“We need more open space,” said Amy Tozzi, a Tysons Corner resident. “Everything is building, building, building,” she said. Tozzi added that one of the problems is that Tysons Corner does not have a grocery store or a facility for community services. She said the area could be a home to a future school, especially since future residents would bring new students to the area. “We don’t need more trailers in our schools, we need more schools,” said Tozzi.

Diedrich agreed that a lack of public uses is a major deficiency. He said the area needs a performing arts center, or a facility of a similar use, something different than commercial, residential or retail use. “That would definitely be valuable in terms of making it a 24-hour destination,” said Susan Davis.

The Braddock District planning commissioner, Suzanne Harsel, suggested ballparks and nature parks be constructed. “We are always getting surveys coming back to us and people enjoy those spaces,” said Harsel.

The group concluded that mass transit infrastructure needed to be addressed, pedestrian and bicycle access improved and a sense of place created through connectivity and cultural amenities.

OTHER GROUPS HAD different ideas to improve Tysons Corner development and plan for its future. John Weaver, a senior vice president with Capital Automotive, said his group decided most of the future density should be built at the future metro stops. Whatever density is left should be built in neighborhood subsets, which would be served by local shops and services, encouraging the residents to walk to their destinations.

Jackie Smith, an employee with Gannett, said her group agreed that the metro line through Tysons needed to go underground, a sentiment that resonated throughout the room. “In order to build above, we need the metro below,” she said.

Martin Howle, an executive with Post Properties, said his group thought of solutions that could be implemented now, as well as future solutions. “Create an identity for Tysons through streetscapes, architecture and signage,” said Howle. That concept could be implemented now, in order for people to start thinking of Tysons as a place. “Start creating images for signage like you see in Old Town [Alexandria],” said Howle.

Tyler said he had not heard of that idea prior to Wednesday’s workshop. “It would help people find their way around here, while creating a sense of place through design consistency,” said Tyler.

Another member of Howle’s group, John Walsh, thought of an idea of dropping Route 7 and building open space above it. An example of such construction is the Dupont Circle in Washington. “It is safe, but the traffic whizzes through there,” said Walsh.

Arrington said the ideas and scenarios would be tested for land use performance, transportation and fiscal impact. A report is expected back in June.