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Air rights could tie together Tysons Corner

Tysons Corner owes its existence to the many important highways that intersect nearby. Ironically, by dividing Tysons into fragments, these same highways now threaten its future success as a cohesive urban place. Air rights development at key locations could reunify Tysons.

One problem with the otherwise impressive Tysons Corner redevelopment plan is that the two main streets, Route 7 and Route 123, will continue to function as suburban arterial high­ways. They'll be so hard to cross that the neighborhoods on either side will be effectively cut off from each other. Rather than main streets, they are de facto freeways, barriers that divide the community in two.

Route 123. Image from Google Maps.

Fairfax County proposes to address this problem by adding 4 pedestrian bridges. But a better solution would be to deck over these roads wherever possible, and then stitch together the neighborhood fragments with air rights development.

Imagine grand pedestrian plazas, lined with a grid of narrow local roads and high-rises with ground-floor retail, all elevated above the main roads below carrying vehicular traffic from the Dulles Toll Road and I-495. Decks could transform barriers into true urban places. Roads that waste vast amounts of land could be converted to more productive use.

An air rights development similar in concept is advancing in the District of Columbia, and is an example of how this idea can work. The Return to L'Enfant plan (PDF) will deck three blocks of I-395 in downtown DC with new buildings.

The High Street deck over I-670 in Columbus, OH is a successful example of an air-rights development that was implemented a few years ago, although it is smaller in scale.

Route 123

The best opportunity for a deck may be along Route 123, where it passes the Tysons Corner Center and Tysons Galleria malls.

Route 123 during construction of the Silver Line. Image from Google Maps.

Top: Route 123 as proposed in existing plans. Bottom: Route 123 as it could be, with a deck and air rights development abutting the elevated Silver Line. Images by the author.

By my estimate, it would cost $120 million more to develop a deck with air rights buildings on top than it would cost to produce those same buildings under normal circumstances.

In order to make this profitable, Fairfax would have to give developers some significant concessions. Developers may need the right to build larger, more profitable buildings in order to cover the high initial costs. Parking requirements will have to be changed, since below-grade on-site parking will be impossible.

The sale of 10 acres of land to developers would likely yield somewhere around $60 million, based on previous land sales nearby. Fairfax could rebate some or all of this money to the developer to help cover the cost of the deck. Once the development is in place, the county would receive tens of millions of dollars per year in added tax revenue, which could help underwrite a TIF for a period of time to help fund the deck as well.

Even if the county gives up much of the direct revenue, doing this would still reap tremendous rewards. Route 123 would be a unified urban corridor. The most valuable land closest to the Metro station would be the center of the community, rather than a gaping hole. The local street grid would continue across the highway, and pedestrians would not be faced with a dangerous and daunting crossing.

This concept could provide an urban heart to the functional center of Tysons Corner, and provide Fairfax County with a strong revenue stream in the long term. There are many challenges, but if it can be made to work the payoff could be huge.

Air rights development over the Dulles Toll Road has been discussed for the Silver Line's future Reston station for over 10 years. Although a study found that the proposal was infeasible in the current economy, it may make sense in the future. If it's on the table in Reston, it makes sense to consider it in Tysons Corner, too.

Navid Roshan is a civil engineer who works and lives in Tysons Corner. He has a degree in civil engineering from Virginia Institute of Technology, has worked in the Northern Virginia land development field for 10 years, and has been a resident of Fairfax County for 27 years. Navid blogs at The Tysons Corner about reforming poor land use and design practices in the Northern Virginia region. 


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Very cool ideas, and certainly technically feasible - but not exactly the low-hanging fruit. Like in DC, I think this kind of air rights development will happen, but only when most of the other avenues and sites for development have been taken.

by Alex B. on Mar 8, 2012 10:26 am • linkreport

I've wondered if you could build any buildings on top of the Rosslyn Gateway Park. The BID has cleaned it up, but the homeless people still abound and the space is wasted.

Even something like building a "rosslyn market" -- like eastern market, and no deep foundations, would improve the area tremendously.

Is this article trying to wake the Willinger?

by charlie on Mar 8, 2012 10:31 am • linkreport

I don't disagree that this isn't the easiest of sites to develop moving forward, but if you look at the plans adjacent to this, Macerich and Lerner they are both moving forward speculatively. These guys are big time players and have been for a long time in Tysons. They have essentially been left out of the new plans due to a lack of land in comparison to Cityline, Georgelas, and Capital One. They do have a few acres between them of developable land, but those few acres in conjunction with this 10 acres could give them the opportunity for a Spring Hill Station like project that creates an entire neighborhood, not just a couple buildings.

I think because of Lerner and Macerich's adjacency to 123, it could be something that would achieve instant interest.

by Navid Roshan-Afshar on Mar 8, 2012 10:34 am • linkreport

Charlie: My understanding of Rosslyn Gateway Park (which is admittedly incomplete) is that it isn't structurally strong enough to accommodate large buildings. It might be able to hold something small (like 1 or 2 stories), but would have to be completely rebuilt for tall buildings.

by BeyondDC on Mar 8, 2012 10:43 am • linkreport

@BeyondDC; that is why I was propsing a market-style structure like Eastern Market. The vibrations from the traffic, however, must be terrible.

by charlie on Mar 8, 2012 10:46 am • linkreport

Basically, in this concept, we are not putting buildings ontop of a deck. We are constructing the highrise buildings with their typical structural columns through the decking and down below the current 123. These highrise columns would therefore already be designed for the extreme dead and live loads of the 500' structure above them and could handle in most cases the additional decking load we are talking about. This is a much more efficient way of creating these plaza's because now you dont need to disperse the weight of the building over the tunnel, the tunnel itself is designed around these columns.

Sorry I just got a bit too engineery there.

by Navid Roshan-Afshar on Mar 8, 2012 10:47 am • linkreport

My first thought is that decking is more realistic than the alternative of stopping the planned 123 lane expansion. It also seems like the financing could work, although I'm not clear. When you say $60M could be raised by the sale of 10 acres, are those the 10 acres that decking would create? If that's the case, sounds like you're only $60M short to cover the incremental cost of decking and that could be covered through TIFs that are funded by the additional development.

The location of the deck between Tysons I and II makes a lot of sense as people want to be able to walk between those malls and want to walk from the 123 Central station on the T2 side of 123 to T1. Arguably, the decking would create the best located and most valuable land in Tysons.

I think the big problem with this plan is that it totally gives up on the idea of making walking along 123 reasonably nice. The current plan has wide, set back sidewalks along 123 with a double row of trees between the sidewalk and cars. However, no one is going to walk along 123 if it involves walking under a deck that creates a dark, scary space. So, you gain easier access to crossing 123 but you give up nicer walking along 123.

by Falls Church on Mar 8, 2012 11:00 am • linkreport

Well Falls Church, you know me (Tysons Engineer) and the fact that I have started a petition on de-widening route 123. But to date, more people think I am a crack pot than agree with my view that 123 shouldnt be a freeway.

I couldnt agree with you more, the simplest, most urban, and cheapest solution is simply returning 123 to a 6-lane road maximum (if not 4). The problem I have with the FFX plans for the streetscape of 123 is, sure it has nice double set trees and wide walks, but no legitimate developers are going to build retail along an 8-lane freeway. Instead we will continue to get Mitre like construction in that corridor, which no one will want to walk along anyways.

I would say in order to merge both concepts, as you approach the tunneled area, the plazas could slowly rise (with an ADA ramp) and maybe some nice unique stairs up to the plaza level. It could be a nice feature instead of a impediment.

by Navid Roshan-Afshar on Mar 8, 2012 11:06 am • linkreport

A good transition between 123 and the plaza is probably the key to ensuring that in the effort to eliminate one barrier in the city (crossing 123) you don't create a new one (crossing the decks).

by Falls Church on Mar 8, 2012 11:17 am • linkreport

Great idea, but is this something that will actually be proposed? Or just a flight of architectural/urban planning fantasy?

by jj on Mar 8, 2012 11:19 am • linkreport

As far as the economics of this, the basic idea is simple. If the combined cost of the air rights and the cost of building the deck is equal or less than the cost of buying raw land in the same location, then decking makes sense.

Of course, such decking can be extraordinarily complicated to do, yet alone do well and provide the seamless sort of integration with the surrounding cityscape.

by Alex B. on Mar 8, 2012 11:19 am • linkreport


I am currently working with a talented landscape architect who has a much better rendering and conceptualizing skill than I do to create some poster boards of this concept. My ultimate goal would be to bring up the concept to the Tysons Planning Committee to simply note that it is an option and should be something that county should be open to if the private interest is available.

The decking can definitely be a phasing nightmare, I don't disagree. The impact to traffic will likely be about 3-6 months of direct commuter impact (lane closures), and upwards of 2 years of hit or miss impacts (night time closures and detours).

But other projects have shown that the freeway can continue in operation while construction goes on. By now most of us Tysons folks have become quite use to traffic :P Atleast there will be metro if this were started after 2014.

by Navid Roshan-Afshar on Mar 8, 2012 11:30 am • linkreport

If 123 could be repurposed into a complete streets grand boulevard (complete boulevard?), there ought to be more than enough space for a pastiche version of the Champs Elysee, as long as the construction were done right along the wide sidewalks. There would be space for dedicated transit lanes, as well as separated cycle tracks, without dramatically altering traffic flow.

Decking is giving up on this segment of 123, though perhaps that is politically easier than just fixing the road.

by David Edmondson on Mar 8, 2012 12:08 pm • linkreport

Has anybody suggested splitting the routes 7 and 123 into two separate one-way streets with 3-4 travel lanes in each direction?

This could be done similarly to Route 1 through Old Town Alexandria. Outside of old town, it is one road as Jefferson Davis Hwy, but inside old town, a city block separates the two. Three lanes provide sufficient capacity, plus the parking lanes on the sides allow for traffic calming, and regularly spaced city blocks provide the quintessential grid. Light-timing provides reasonable through-put, with non-rush hour allowing all cars in a given block to make it through the entire stretch without hitting a red light, and rush hour only needing 2-3 extra cycles to get through. And if the road becomes too congested, regular access to the grid allows for additional capacity on parallel streets.

This will give Tysons the necessary grid, allow for "wide" highways with 3-4 lanes of capacity and throughput for each direction, but allow the blocks and intersections to be walkable. With efficient light timing, stopping at traffic lights would be minimized if cars continually hit lights at 25 mph (as in Alexandria) or 35 mph (if Tysons wants traffic to move more swiftly).

The highways are already budgeted for expansion, so the funding and the land acquisition are already in place. The project would just need to be re-engineered to place a city block (or the aerial metro structure at those points) in between the now split roads.

by Dan on Mar 8, 2012 12:18 pm • linkreport

I'd like to note that the portion of the Champs which are 8-lanes are municipal sections and no real business occurs there. These are near the Louvre and Modern Art building. When actual retail shops reappear the road is downsized to 6 lanes.

The issue with separating the directions of traffic is it wastes sooooo much land space in order to do so. The central island goes unused except for the fact that its separates the two directions of flow. Currently Route 7 is already doing this (the metro is in the median). Route 123 is not proposed to do this, but I just dont think that it will help remove the scar of land space that is caused currently.

These are the hearts of the city, they shouldnt be made into solely utilitarian transportation needs, this is where the big bucks of a city should be coming from.

by Navid Roshan-Afshar on Mar 8, 2012 12:27 pm • linkreport

Efficient, cheap decking requires significant ground elevation on either side of the road. Why I-395 works - it's sunken.

Decking surface roads is not that feasible.

The costs of decking have killed projects before (Poplar Point). Unfortunately, the zoning and density that's already been awarded in Tysons Corner is so high that there really isn't anything left that might incentivize significantly higher construction costs.

The only place that decking makes sense is in a place where costs can be kept minimal and high land costs/scarcity make it feasible.

by Jonathan on Mar 8, 2012 1:12 pm • linkreport

"Efficient, cheap decking requires significant ground elevation on either side of the road. Why I-395 works - it's sunken.
Decking surface roads is not that feasible."

There's 25' of vertical rise on either side of Route 123 between the Beltway and Tysons Boulevard. Thats why this project is feasible. Additionally this area is already sunken and rises at 5% in order to meet the intersection grade at International Drive.

by Navid Roshan-Afshar on Mar 8, 2012 1:16 pm • linkreport

Engineery. *teeheehee* Also, I like this plan.

by Dimo on Mar 8, 2012 1:46 pm • linkreport

I've seen no evidence of a deck killing Poplar Point, Jonathan. I'm going off of memory, but I do believe there were issues about land ownership (or perhaps some other issue), but the deck was a fantasy item originally in one bid.

by selxic on Mar 8, 2012 2:12 pm • linkreport

In theory, this is an excellent proposal. However, I don't this is practical for several reasons. First, the landowners located right at the stations have unlimited density. So long as their proposal is otherwise consistent with the Comp Plan, those landowners can propose FARs of 10.0 or even higher. So there's no more density beyond unlimited to give to provide an incentive to build over 123 and 7.
Second, those landowners at the stations have no incentive to seek more density than they already have, but have good reason to oppose anyone else getting to build on top of the stastions and the roads.
Third, while there is unlimited density at the four stations, there are various caps on total square feet that can be built. These caps are at, or close to, the public facility failure points. So giving density at new locations means someone else must lose the right to build.
Similarly, adding more density and square footage to Tysons would accelerate the bill for more roads and transit. The bill is already at $5.46 billion through 2051. No one knows how this amount will be funded. I don't think anyone would seriously consider amending the existing plan to trigger more infrastructure needs.
The Tysons Plan, while far from perfect, is a good plan. It recognizes limits in infrastructure, tries to take best advantage of rail, HOT Lanes, better pedestrian and bike access, and high-quality mixed use development. It puts high density at the four stations, but not elsewhere and encourages landowners to build, rather than flip parcels. I don't believe that any of the key decision-makers or stakeholders would want to reopen the Comp Plan in a major way, such as this. But as I wrote, it is a great theoretical proposal.

by tmtfairfax on Mar 8, 2012 3:31 pm • linkreport

Oh TMTFairfax, how I have missed arguing with you.

1) There is a density limit because Tysons Comp sets a height limit. This height limit could be released to anyone building this particular case.
2) Clearly by concessions, it means that items listed in the comp plan such as maximum build out floor space would be relieved for any developer who foots the bill for this.
3) By building this pedestrian and bike accessible system directly next to the metro and connecting the 2 retail hubs I am suggesting that fewer people would drive to Tysons. Now you and I have had some epic arguments over this, and I'm not trying to start one now, but the fact is TOD does work for reducing traffic empirically. I don't know if it would work in Tysons because I am not a fortune teller, but empirically in other jurisdictions including Arlington when they restricted horizontal growth and forced vertical corridors the traffic to the region began calming.
4) You aren't going to make Tysons any different if you keep conceding every tiebreaker to people who don't live in Tysons. If you want people to live in Tysons you have to actual change something, and right now, I wouldn't even think about trying to cross 123 and I live 1/4 mile away from it.

by Tysons Engineer on Mar 8, 2012 3:52 pm • linkreport

Similarly, adding more density and square footage to Tysons would accelerate the bill for more roads and transit.

If you don't build the square footage in Tysons and build it say in Herndon, wouldn't you just be accelerating the bill for more infrastructure in and around Herndon? Or, if you didn't build the square footage in NOVA at all and built it in DC, wouldn't you be accelerating the bill for more infrastructure in-and-out of DC, like a separated Blue Line or an expansion of I66?

by Falls Church on Mar 8, 2012 4:33 pm • linkreport

Great point Falls Church.

And on a final note on the "increase in infrastructure cost" I did a nice article with you in mind TMTFairfax, (sorry for linking to my site again on GGW),

If you remove all the crap that has nothing to do with Tysons we are talking about 500-700 million dollars over 30 years which is chump change when you consider the fact that by approving an urban core like this project alone, FFX could get upwards of 15 million dollars in revenue annually. For those of you doing math, that's between 16-23 million in cost FOR ALL OF TYSONS, versus 15 million in revenue (from just 10 acres of real development). Whatever costs come up from added traffic impact will more than be covered by the economic gain of a real downtown. Otherwise why in the heck are commercial capitals in the world in places like London or NYC. By your theory the most commercially powerful place in the world would be Akron Ohio or Tulsa Oklahoma. WOW! look how little infrastructure cost they have! Oh and they have nothing for revenue, but seriously look at that reduction in infrastructure cost!

Numbers get big when you deal with cities, but the revenue benefit almost always counteracts the upfront costs as long as you have a solid economic foothold and don't try to create a disney world city where one wasn't before. Tysons has the economy, its time for it to have the city.

by Tysons Engineer on Mar 8, 2012 5:54 pm • linkreport

Good to hear from you Tysons Engineer. The height limits are as high as 400 feet, which I believe would tower over everything else in the Greater D.C. area. I've never heard any landowner in the TOD areas complain about height limits.
The Planning Commissioners, including Ken Lawrence, who has Tysons within his district, have said they are not open to any more density at Tysons.
I don't dislike your idea. It put density even closer to rail - on top of it to be exact. But if you move density closer, you would need to take it from somewhere else and create losers out of winners. In theory, you could argue this not necessary, but the reality is decisions are made by political bodies. And those political bodies are making decisions based on traffic studies.
Fairfax County is working with landowners and consultants to complete additional traffic studies. The one for the East Tysons area has discovered some additional traffic problems. Fairfax County is likely to put an additional road improvement in Table 7 to the Comp Plan. No one in a position of decision-making in Fairfax County is going to walk away from the studies and move on the basis of planning theories. No disrespect intended.

by tmtfairfax on Mar 8, 2012 6:07 pm • linkreport

Philosophical difference. What you think is a theory I believe is proven by empirical evidence. What you think is science I believe is a model which has HUGE assumptions (factors of 50%) and should not be used for a region which is going from office park to urban core.

The fact is, politicians aren't real scientists and engineers, and they are being told numbers from engineers and believing this to be the only case. Those engineers are not communicating how varied their assumptions are, which should be step one of any report study, and creating a false sense of foresight.

Build it, if its gridlock guess what, more people will want to live in those brand new high rises. If they dont, then they can find a job elsewhere, last I checked there are thousands of people in this area looking to find a job. If Ashburn Joe thinks Tysons is a nightmare then I say, stay far far far away. I wouldn't want his beautiful brand new BMW to run out of gas waiting in traffic along side the brand new metro.

I respect your opinions, but to think that my side is a theory and yours is not is inane.

by Tysons Engineer on Mar 8, 2012 6:20 pm • linkreport

"Is this article trying to wake the Willinger?"

Damn GOOD article.

Good to see those that realize that the big roads and urbanity fit together as proven a century ago when the railyards north of Manhattan's GCT were decked over.

by Douglas Willinger on Mar 8, 2012 6:43 pm • linkreport

When the whole "Over/Under" aspect of the Tysons Metro project was , I replied to several Washpost articles and blogs, even wrote Gerry Connolly (and included similar images to yours above) advocating that the Metro itself be laid at grade on the 123 median due to the area topography (as you have pointed out, this existing portion of 123 is sunken). Conceivably, the money saved to build the metro viaduct along this section could have been used to create 2 platforms for development (Tysons Blvd up to I-Drive and Old Meadow to Scotts Crossing), with long term land leases to developers. In addition, if the Metro had been laid on the ground between from the Toll Road to International Drive (before boring through the hill at 7/123), the resulting metro would have been "underground". Also conceivably, had each platform been a stoplight type interchange with 123, highway funds could have been used to build a very expensive part of the Silver Line.

I like your idea as well, but as I see it, with the viaduct in place any new platform would then be at the same level, resulting in a new entries for each metro station (you'd have to go up and down to get over the train tracks on the viaduct). Also, the metro trains would require a fence (probably a sound proofed barrier) separating the new platform).

by stevek_fairfax on Mar 8, 2012 8:58 pm • linkreport

Tysons Rail...AT GRADE combined with selling "Tysons Air Rights"Saturday, October 28, 2006 1:22 AM
Chairman Connolly,
I'll keep this brief as I am sure your email box is clogged even more than most of ours...

Has the concept of rail "at grade" through Tysons - particularly on Route 123 - ever been suggested? The entire stretch of Route 123 in the area of proposed rail is far lower than the properties along the stretch, so much that for most of the stretch there is a steep embankment along each side of the road. Furthermore, the right of way for the stretch of Route 123 between Route 7 and the Dulles Toll Road is very wide, as wide as most expressways.

I represent no developer or political party, I am merely a concerned local citizen, but I could not help but think recently that the possibility exists to redevelop Route 123 from Route 7 to the Dulles Toll Road as a grade separated expressway with rail in the median, and sell air rights (exactly like Reston is doing along the Dulles Toll Road). The construction of the ground-level railway itself would be far less expensive than either an elevated structure or a tunnel, and dollars saved in rail construction could be used to construct 4 interchanges between Route 7 and the Dulles Toll Rd. The county may even be able to recoup the money for the 4 interchanges throught the sale of air rights/platform structures over Route 123 at the Tysons Central Station and Tysons East Station.

The result?
-An asthetic at those two rail stations that would appear to be below ground rail, with a mini-city on a platform to bridge the far-too-wide Route 123
-An additional expressway to further relieve traffic in the area
-Possibly something LESS EXPENSIVE than the either current proposal.

I commend your recent effort to pursue a competitive bid for the project, and realize that a 180 degree turnaround proposal is not something any local politician could simply inject into the debate without breaking a lot of the eggshells being walked on - especially with the likely risk of the loss of federal funding for the project. If you had a chance to read this, thankyou for your time.

by stevek_fairfax on Mar 8, 2012 9:04 pm • linkreport


You make really excellent points, and I commend your activist pursuit going to Gerry who sometimes makes mistakes but is a really good congressman when it comes to community discussion compared to others, imho. I want to note one thing, you mentioned that the rail would because an issue with this platform.

From my calculations (and based on the fact that both 495 and westpark bridge go under the metro here, the metro is well above the truckline in this portion all the way through the current elevation, at the intersection, of Tysons Boulevard and 123.

The Landscape Architect I am working with is currently conceptualizing a very unique and landmark concept for the metro corridor which will create a separation of use between the deck and overhead system by gradually rising landscape on the west end as to create 2 effects.

1) When riding on the metro into Central Tysons you would have the effect of riding on a system that is at the canopy treeline. This will be offset in the background away from the metro by the towering urban core that you find yourself at the heart of.

2) When walking under the metro lines, we wanted to remove the feel of being enclosed, so on the east side the treeline will diminish to lower understory and decorative park style plantings. These trees will be able to thrive as they are separated from the taller trees horizontally with enough space to allow proper sunlight. This way people who walk between Tysons 2 and Tysons 1 will only momentarily feel as if they are under the metro.

The pedestrian exit from the metro station therefore would be simplified to come down the rail level and unload to the deck level. I think we need to come to terms with what became approved. Do we all wish it was a below grade system, yes, but there are lots of beautiful and well integrated above ground systems in the world too. The key will be who can make this work.

by Tysons Engineer on Mar 9, 2012 7:57 am • linkreport

@stevek_fairfax: What about buildings with entrances directly onto the Metro platform? As I recall the old El in New York used to do something similar in places.

I like the way this idea sounds - and I would encourage the county to look into it. If it can be made to work, then perhaps a similar option could be considered for some other sprawl centers which need to be fixed up...Bailey's Crossroads, Seven Corners...

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Mar 9, 2012 10:05 am • linkreport

@Tysons Engineer: I a glad someone is thinking about this, and your point is well taken about the precise levels of the viaduct verses the potential platform. I COMPLETELY agree that, well designed, above ground mass transit can be incorporated in a pleasing way (both functionally and aesthetically). I admire your enthusiasm for it, but I do wonder about the economics of it any time in the next 50 years or so. The existing Tysons plan almost doubles the work population and takes the residential population to something over 100K in the vicinity just by, basically infilling parking lots. I would guess all those hundreds of acres of build-able lots would be long built before any potential investment would touch something as complicated as this.

Six years ago I would argue they had the chance to make the economics of it work (by saving money by not building the metro "el" and incorporating the start of a continuous platform system into the road/metro design. Now, you'd basically be starting from scratch.

by stevek_fairfax on Mar 9, 2012 8:37 pm • linkreport

Well see, I gotta disagree about "other sites" being developed first. Here's the interesting thing about Tysons Corner. Its basically owned by 4 or 5 big interests and is now being sold off to actual developers like greystar and Home Properties from the property holders like cityline and Georgelas. The uniqueness of this corridor is that Lerner and Macerich have always been involved, but they have rarely expanded their holdings. With this opportunity they could show what they really can do with their capital

The recent statement by JP Morgan about the Spring Hill project notes the fact that financial and investment firms believe in the idea of Tysons Corner. When you look at Tysons compared to Manhattan, you have 1/10th of the up front investment cost (because you are not buying a built lot) but you have similar profit possibilities(within an order of magnitude). An investment firm in Tysons could basically get in at the bottom floor, almost cornering the market on residential at this point. With a a few hundred million of capital(combined with an interested financing company) in Tysons you could command 80 million to 120 million dollars of profit every year by building commercial/residential properties. For that kind of profit you would need to spend closer to a billion dollars in a developed metropolitan area to interest a capital investment company.

So why Tysons? Because Washington Metro is the 4th largest economy in the US, which defacto makes it an international economic power. Compared to all other economic powers of the world, Washington Metro is the most suburban and least dense region of the world, which means that these investors could gain early Manhattan type development money from a city which has released controls on height restriction in this market condition. The problem so far is that Fairfax County refuses to release the constraints of the suburban 20th century by setting an artificial height restriction, which as opposed to Arlington, has no aeronautic or district impact. If these height restrictions were negotiable, you would find out just how much investment interest would be available in a region which boasts such a commanding economy.
This is theory of course, and would have impact to infrastructure in the short term, but the upside could catapult our area into a legitimate commercial region independent of the federal government, which I believe most Virginians want the comfort of.

by Tysons Engineer on Mar 9, 2012 9:30 pm • linkreport

Fascinating idea; I'd never noticed the grade change there, and it would be a choice location for infill retail. Yet overall, I'd agree with tmtfairfax that Tysons land just isn't scarce enough yet to justify either air-rights development or, perhaps just as likely, some kind of decking option. That would be even though such a development would also improve the value of immediately adjacent land. A 2000 study for Boston, which has established a "Civic Vision" for decking over all of MassPike (besides the considerable amount already decked), estimated a cost per square foot of $250-350 for decked land -- well above current land prices in Tysons.

@Ser Amantio: "What about buildings with entrances directly onto the Metro platform?" The Chicago "L" platform mockup at the Smithsonian American History Museum includes a sign for a direct entrance to an adjacent department store.

by Payton on Mar 11, 2012 3:53 pm • linkreport


I have seen that study. Unfortunately that study views the idea of decking from only one direction. How much would it cost, and then how much would it cost to build on top of it?

The flaw of this concept is, that it doesnt analyze what would happen if the deck was built integral to the actual high rises themselves. In this way the massive cost for structural columns would already be accounted for by the cost for the buildings.

By using the 250-350 number you get to the same number I attained (approximately 120 million). The reason our number is just as high (even with out the columns) is due to the high level of finishes proposed for the tunnel entrances to create a landmark, as well as the high cost of landscaping proposed. The total cost per that Boston study would again, return a cost of 120 million dollars. At that price you are talking about 10.9 million per acre. For reference the Lerner property for 1775 sold for 10 million an acre (30 mil total).

Last note, typical 50+ story building is financed in the hundreds of millions, for just one building. This gives you a scale of cost comparison. If you suddenly have the chance to build 8-12 of these type of structures in the heart of a retail center which is world renowned, the 120 million for the defacto land becomes almost negligible.

by Tysons Engineer on Mar 12, 2012 8:12 am • linkreport

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