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Open House Highlights ‘New Tysons’

County presents plans for “New Downtown.”

Jay W. Klug, principal with Tysons West developer JBG Rosenfeld, points out the highlights of the mixed-use project to Vienna residents Aaron and Jackie Hughes. Daughter Giuliann wasn’t quite as interested as her parents in a new urban-style Walmart currently included in the plans.

Jay W. Klug, principal with Tysons West developer JBG Rosenfeld, points out the highlights of the mixed-use project to Vienna residents Aaron and Jackie Hughes. Daughter Giuliann wasn’t quite as interested as her parents in a new urban-style Walmart currently included in the plans. Photos by Andrea Worker

Westbriar Elementary School in Vienna, located one block off of Old Courthouse Road and just minutes away from the massive Tysons Corner redevelopment project that is being hailed as the construction of Fairfax County’s “New Downtown,” was the venue for the “Transforming Tysons” Open House. Considering its enormous scope, and the media attention that this project had received even before the first jackhammer went into action, it’s easy to believe that there have literally been thousands of pages of documents, reports, graphs, sketches and communiqués generated on the subject—and more keep coming. The June 11 Open House from 7-9 p.m. was one of the county’s efforts to bring the project to the public in a way that would clarify the vision of that “New Downtown,” providing a progress report on actions to date, and a look-see into the developers’ crystal ball at what the future may hold for Tysons Corner.

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Recent graduates Ranee Elter and Julie Evans flank Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova. Bulova thanked the students for their work on “Pop Ups”—lifestyle offerings and activities for the Tysons Metro stations. The study and the suggestions were part of the final project for George Mason University’s Master in Transportation Policy, Operations and Logistics at the school’s Arlington campus.

“We need to have the community at the table with us,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova, during a brief welcoming speech. She thanked the presenters and the public for their attendance and their interest. She also acknowledged one of the number one concerns mentioned at any Tysons redevelopment discussion—transportation. “It’s a key element,” she stated, “coordinating this wonderful vision with the transportation infrastructure to support all of our neighbors.”

TO ADDRESS those infrastructure needs, Fairfax County Department of Transportation Director Tom Biesiadny and staff were among those on hand with their presentation materials. Rather than having an agenda of speakers, the event was designed much like a Show and Tell Day, with county staff and developers manning stations of easels with enlarged displays of planned transportations routes, more than 45 million square feet of residential, commercial and hotel spaces, and even plans for parks, recreation and cultural event venues. The Tysons Partnership group drew continuous crowds, interested in the renderings of the future skyline, detailing the 18 unique development projects that will redefine the new Tysons. With names like Arbor Row, Dominion Square, Greensboro Park Place, Tysons Overlook and The Commons among the 18, the descriptors repeatedly made mention of “easy access to Metro,” “courtyards and parks,” “common greens,” “outdoor dining,” and “walking and biking trails.” The Tysons Central 7 development is intended to be an “urban retail plaza” at the entrance to the Metro station with a “European-style” piazza at the center of the project. The ultimate goal of the “New Downtown” is a 24-hour community, with more than 45 million square feet home to 100,000 residents with 200,000 jobs by 2050.

There was a strong turnout for the event, and while most who signed in were locals, currently living within the immediate Tysons area, a significant number of attendees came from as far away as Leesburg and Rockville, Md. “I work here in Tysons,” said Anthony Peters, from Chantilly. “I wanted to see what’s what. And if even half of all this comes true, I would consider moving here. Imagine,” he laughed, “no more commute. Everything would be right here—including work! And you could do things without getting into your car.”

Members of the public made the rounds collecting information, peering closely at maps and drawings, asking a question or two. Some seemed excited about the planned spaces and amenities. Others came to meet directly with developers and county authorities in order to express concerns, and in a few cases, strong negative feelings, fearing the devaluation of their properties and the transformation of their communities into something unrecognizable from what they had had come to the area for. Asking not to be named or quoted, there was even a group of unhappy area landowners. [The Connection reporter offered to consider their stories for future publication if someone from the group would consent to being identified for an interview].

ANOTHER DISPLAY that drew attention—no doubt in part because of the enthusiasm of the presenters—was the study and resulting recommendations from the May graduates from the Master’s program in transportation policy, operations and logistics at the Arlington campus of George Mason University. Thirteen students, under the direction of their professor, Laurie Schintler, were charged with providing recommendations for Metro station “Pop Ups,” as part of their final school project. Graduate Julie Evans was thrilled to talk about the project. “The ‘Pop Ups’ are meant to be temporary or seasonal offerings at the stations,” she explained. “Our class studied other cities’ activities and installations and conducted a feasibility study on the space allotted here at Tysons. We are talking about things like music and arts offerings, interactive signage to help you plan your trip or find your way around. Partnering with groups like LivingSocial and Groupon and the local retailers to fund installations.”

Evans even described recommendations to incorporate farmers’ markets and pick-up-a-meal vendors at the stations. “And why not extensions of local museums? Or other educational offerings?” she asked. “If the stations are going to be part of the community, with dining and outdoor cafes and plazas, there are so many opportunities to make that space more than just functional.”

Whether you are a current Tysons resident or user or not, if you live or work anywhere in a 10-mile radius—or maybe even beyond that—the sheer magnitude of the Tysons project will more than likely effect you or touch your life in some way. Fairfax County and the developers of the “New Downtown” want that interaction to be a positive one. Board of Supervisors Chairman Bulova has already invited the public to come to the Tysons redevelopment “table.” There is plenty of information available from a number of sources to provide the required menu reading before pulling up a chair. Www.fairfaxcounty.gov/tysons/design and www.tysonspartnership.org are good places to start.