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Northern Virginia skyscraper rivalry has a new leader: Fairfax approves 470′ Capital One tower

Last Friday, Fairfax officially approved a new headquarters tower for Capital One in Tysons Corner. At 470 feet tall the new building will be the tallest in the DC region after the Washington Monument.

Proposed Capital One skyscraper. Image from Fairfax.

If that news sounds familiar, it's because in May of 2013 Fairfax approved developers proposed a 435 foot tall building, then the tallest in the region yet. And when Alexandria approved a 396 foot tall tower, that also would've been the tallest. Meanwhile, Arlington's 384 foot tall 1812 North Moore tower recently finished construction, officially taking over the title of region's tallest skyscraper (for now).

There may not be an explicit competition, but the fact is undeniable: Northern Virginia's in a full-on skyscraper rivalry. And Tysons is pulling insurmountably ahead.

At 470 feet tall, this new Tysons building will be the first in the DC region to officially eclipse Richmond's tallest, the 449 foot tall Monroe Building. Baltimore and Virginia Beach each have towers above 500 feet, often considered to be the breaking point for a true skyscraper.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a transportation planner for Arlington and professor of geography at George Washington University, but blogs to express personal views. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Colorado, and lives in NE DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post


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@Dan - the Meridian (former SAIC) rezoning is still pending approval. Though I doubt that process will lower the building that is proposed at 435' any. You should correct that item. Strangely, no word on WHY that project has taken to so long to approve from the County despite 2 requests I've made for information on the schedule. Just keeps getting deferred to other dates on hearings.

by Navid Roshan on May 20, 2014 10:38 am • linkreport

Fixed. Thanks.

by BeyondDC on May 20, 2014 10:42 am • linkreport

Makes the whole 200' limit in DC seem a little sily

by BTA on May 20, 2014 10:58 am • linkreport

BTA: It's not even 200 feet - not even close. It's 110 feet, or 130 feet on Pennsylvania Avenue.

by David Alpert on May 20, 2014 11:00 am • linkreport

has Monday leased any office space in the new Rosslyn tower?

by charlie on May 20, 2014 11:04 am • linkreport

For those wondering, supply and demand are helping keep prices lower in Tysons. The two new apartments that opened in Tysons already had to cut their rents twice, going from Ballston/Clarendon pricing psf to Reston TC pricing per square foot.

Density, yes in the form of height because that is the best way to provide hundreds of thousands of square feet, means competition between vacant units, means better deals for everyone.

DC doesn't have to address it, but expect negative repercussions to arise from being an exclusionary zoning master plan, ie 50psf annual residential rents, and 100psf commercial essentially killing off small businesses in a double whammy.

by Navid Roshan on May 20, 2014 11:06 am • linkreport

There are only select parts of the city where you can build taller than 70 feet:

Just raising the limit to 200 feet across a lot of places would do a lot of good.

by MLD on May 20, 2014 11:11 am • linkreport

Yeah sorry that was terribly worded on my part, I meant opposition to even the modest and limited 200' proposal that OP was supporting.

by BTA on May 20, 2014 11:19 am • linkreport

That tower in Richmond is ugly, ugly, ugly, and looks to be situated in a concrete wasteland. Ugh.

by JDC on May 20, 2014 11:20 am • linkreport

It really boggles the mind how Virginia Beach's "Town Center"--a pretend "downtown" with more space devoted to parking lots than actual mixed-use development--has a tower taller any Northern Va.

Baltimore had a slew of skyscraper proposals in the 600-800 ft range that were all unfortunately killed by the recession. There's at least 7 new proposals for residential towers in the city now, but they're all in the 300-500 ft range. It would really be embarrassing if a building in a glorified suburban office park like Tysons rivaled Baltimore's tallest, but I guess the height limit will prevent that.

by King Terrapin on May 20, 2014 11:22 am • linkreport

@ charlie

Nope (as far as I know). Large spec office buildings in the DC Area at this time are pretty misguided. Macerich's Tysons Tower is pretty much the only new property to sign tenants successfully, albeit slowly.

Bethesda (which has one of the region's lowest vacancy rates outside of DC) has a class A building that's sat empty for a year and has another one delivering in a few months that will likely suffer the same fate.

by King Terrapin on May 20, 2014 11:28 am • linkreport

@king terrapin, I know because Baltimore has so much to offer *eye roll*. I'll go ahead and ignore your comment about Tysons being no more than a glorified suburban office park because clearly you don't understand this thing called time, and how it keeps on slippin into the future (in the words of Steve Miller.

What it was is as relevant as the fact that Columbia Heights used to be a den of crack smoking and murder back in 1985, or any other area that undergoes reform. I assume you still think Hells Kitchen Manhattan is not a good area because of all those fighting immigrants from the old world starting sectarian riots also then?

by Navid Roshan on May 20, 2014 11:34 am • linkreport

^Ironically, I did not ignore

by Navid Roshan on May 20, 2014 11:34 am • linkreport

And also KT, if you had actually looked at the proposal, you would see this is to house Capital Ones expansion and consolidation plans, ie it is not speculative, it is by owner for owner. So 1812 N Moore and the Bethesda tower mean nothing in this case, other than a lack of proper pricing considering Macerich had no problem leasing their Tysons Tower despite what many would say is a lesser neighborhood in comparison to Rosslyn and Bethesda.

by Navid Roshan on May 20, 2014 11:36 am • linkreport

This building will be used exclusively by Captial One right? So finding tenants wont be an issue correct? And Macerich's Tysons Tower is about 50% leased. Not great but better than Lerner's 1775 in Tysons. That building delayed construction for about 3 years because they could not find an anchor tenant. Now they're going ahead with construction still without an anchor tenant.

by Ervin on May 20, 2014 11:38 am • linkreport

The design is by Bonstra Haresign, with HKS and Gordon doing some of the site and office design.

It's actually a great project in a huge mixed-use district, so it won't be an office ghetto.

by Neil Flanagan on May 20, 2014 11:44 am • linkreport

These buildings belong in Tysons Corner which is our version of La Defense.

But they are as ugly and boring as ones the same developers build everywhere around DC in all sizes. The story on the CU architecture students' proposals underscores how we could have significant architecture in the DC area but don't. All this plain-Jane boring architecture in Tysons will not make it close to world-class.

by Tom Coumaris on May 20, 2014 11:47 am • linkreport

You can be an advocate for Tysons while acknowledging that its current urban form is an auto-dominated suburban wasteland (from the point of view of anyone not in a car). When the Metro finally opens, it will be an auto-dominated wasteland accessible by Metro. Your comment about time would have more relevance if there were any serious initiatives to transform Tysons' urban form into something that actually takes human beings into account. As far as I can see, the only immediate changes Tysons after the opening of Metro will be the addition of high-rise residential and office buildings to the auto-dominated hellscape. Are there plans to shrink Tysons' massive 5-12 lane roads that I'm unaware of? Or plans for human-scale developments that focus on activating streetscapes? Density and transit alone won't undue Tysons' dystopia-on-foot feel.

by nbluth on May 20, 2014 11:51 am • linkreport

nbluth In fact there is a plan to focus on activating street scapes, with a range of different kinds of actions.

It embodies much of the best urbanist thinking. But no, rtes 7 and 123 will not be shrunk, because of VDOT. While I deplore that decision, it should not cause one to ignore the many other positive things happening in Tysons. Even now, its more than a glorified office park, by dint of its scale and diversity of uses (and even its existing substantianal bus service.) Baltimore need not be ashamed that Tysons has taller buildings, as Tysons is a much stronger office market than Baltimore is. That said, Baltimore is an historica American city with advantages Tysons will likely never have. So there is no reason to diss Baltimore either.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 20, 2014 11:58 am • linkreport

nbluth - your ignorance on the subject is prevalent on those who see Tysons as nothing more than the mall and Rt 123 and Rt 7.

As AWITC already pointed out, yes there are already changes happening to make it less autocentric, but your comment is painted with such massive broad strokes. There are auto centric parts of Tysons and there are pedestrian friendlier areas of Tysons. I suggest you look into it.

by Navid Roshan on May 20, 2014 12:08 pm • linkreport

Is King Terrapin, cpterp on SkyscraperCity? The posts are very similar.

by selxic on May 20, 2014 12:12 pm • linkreport

Where are these pedestrian friendly places in Tysons?

by turtlepower on May 20, 2014 12:37 pm • linkreport

I'm no Tyson's booster. In it's current incarnation I pretty much consider it a asphalt hellscape, but I do think we gotta give them a few years to digest the Silver Line and do some pedestrian level planning before judge it too harshly.

by BTA on May 20, 2014 12:47 pm • linkreport

turtle - the place that comes closest is a couple of blocks of WestPark. I'm not sure I would really call that pedestrian friendly, but that was not my point - its that its silly to call Tysons an overgrown office park - if only because of its mix of uses. And its sheer scale makes it a place of a different kind. It will have walkable places in addition to that block on WestPark when the developments now UC are completed.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 20, 2014 12:51 pm • linkreport

Old Courthouse Road is quite walkable also. No one is saying Tysons is more walkable than DC or Arlington or Alexandria, but its not Centreville, or Sterling or Ashburn either. Its in a state of transformation with a lot of isolated chunks that are decent, and others that arent. Those things, I'd point out are the easiest to remediate, see how quickly Mosaic went from an industrial asphalt wasteland to one of the most walkable areas of Fairfax and a very popular one at that.

by Navid Roshan on May 20, 2014 12:54 pm • linkreport

To quibble, most of Mosaic was a movie complex and its (very large) parking lots. And much of Merrifield remains unchanged.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 20, 2014 12:58 pm • linkreport

Mosaic is as walkable as Potomac Yard is between the Best Buy and Target.

It's a Target on top of a parking garage with a movie theater across the street. It's almost absurdly overrated around here.

by Another Nick on May 20, 2014 1:11 pm • linkreport

The Galleria and Tysons Corner Center are walkable!!! :-)

Also, I don't understand the earlier comment calling the Virginia Beach Town Center a "pretend downtown."

by Rich 'n Alexandria on May 20, 2014 1:18 pm • linkreport

Mosaic is a number of interesting stores on narrow streets with good sidewalks, where the motorists drive slowly and almost unfailingly yield to pedestrians and cyclists - its like you've entered another world from Northern Virginia.

Its actually marvelous urban design, and proof that good urban design does tame traffic. Unfortunately its an island, at least for now. But comparing it to the strip of big box stores along Potomac Yard is silly. Granted, both have a Target and free parking. If parking were free at DCUSA would that make Columbia Heights the same as well?

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 20, 2014 1:20 pm • linkreport

It's a Target on top of a parking garage with a movie theater across the street. It's almost absurdly overrated around here.

What makes Mosaic is the "town square" in the center. It's activated with a good number of events like movies, concerts, outdoor yoga, kids events, etc. It's a pleasant place to be outdoors and Mosaic also has a nice mix of boutique shops and restaurants.

DCUSA is also a Target on top of a parking garage but it's credited with jump-starting the transformation of Columbia Heights.

by Falls Church on May 20, 2014 1:29 pm • linkreport

I'd also point out, that while Route 29 acts as a barrier, it is not impossible to cross, and on the other side of the road is Halstead and all sorts of other Mixed use projects as well as the Dunn Loring metro projects.

If people want to bad mouth things in Fairfax as the boogeyman, thats fine, but realize those of us who actually go to these places and live here find it to be a bit ignorant if you say that a place like Merrifield is like Potomac yards. Its nothing alike, at all.

by Navid Roshan on May 20, 2014 1:59 pm • linkreport

What's wrong with Potomac Yard?

by selxic on May 20, 2014 2:20 pm • linkreport

A: That town center in Virginia Beach is slated to have a light rail stop (it's why it's located where it is, right next to the eventual light rail ROW).

B: Mosaic is small but it's very well designed for what it is. Once VDOT is done with it's staging area and some of the newer residential units get built as well you could end up with a nice line of new urbanist growth from the Dunn-Loring station to almost Unigue Thrift. That's nothing to sneeze at.

by drumz on May 20, 2014 2:28 pm • linkreport

Maybe it's just me but this tower really doesn't look to be 470 FT, nor is it in the most prominent location in Tysons, in terms of existing ground elevation. If they put it up near the government communications and water towers near the Clydes, it would easily appear to be a 600 FT tower from the distance.

I think the podium makes it look a bit shorter and the penthouse is a full 70 FT. This is one tall building for having only 32-33 stories.

Also to note, because of the looser height requirements and cost of excavation, many of the new buildings in Tysons are planned to have above ground parking lots over ground floor retail (and some below ground parking). This is a necessity in places like Rosslyn where you have a Metro station below, but in Tysons its to save cost and get a taller building. I wonder how people will feel about these structures in the future...whether they will age well or look awful.

by xtr657 on May 20, 2014 2:32 pm • linkreport


For a strip shopping center of big box stores plunked into a dense area as a placeholder, nothing. It works fine for what it is.

Its not a walkable urban place in the way that Mosaic is though.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 20, 2014 2:43 pm • linkreport

@ Navid Roshan

Whoa, wasn't trying to insult your beloved Tysons. First of all, my 2nd comment was responding to charlie's post asking about leasing activity at 1812 North Moore in ROSSLYN which is a spec building. I didn't even mention Capital One, which is obviously build-to-suit. I also stated that Macerich's Tysons Tower is the only spec building in the area leasing up, albeit slowly (a fact echoed by Ervin a couple posts down).

In my first comment I was referring to Tysons as it is now, not in 50 years, and not 20 years ago (per your Columbia Heights reference). Look at Tysons, as it is now, and look a few miles east at Rosslyn-Ballston and Alexandria and see if you can make out the differences. Maybe if you eased up on the Tysons cheerleading you would not have misread my post.

btw Baltimore actually does have a lot to offer including a rich culture and a truly urban lifestyle that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, but I seriously doubt you've stepped foot in the city.

@ selxic

Yes, he (I) is (am).

by King Terrapin on May 20, 2014 2:51 pm • linkreport

Thank you Falls Church...very true. Almost all of the new buildings in the urban center of Columbia Heights would be derided as faux-urban if they were located anywhere outside the District (think the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor). Mosaic may not be surrounded by historic row-houses (the new ones they built are pretty nice!) and low rise apartments from the early 20th century, but its way nicer than DCUSA in my opinion and a great new start for Merrifield from the days of the Multiplex, where I spent much of my childhood.

by xtr657 on May 20, 2014 2:54 pm • linkreport

King terp

I've lived in Baltimore City. I still think its silly to call Tysons an overgrown office park. Its the premier high end shopping area in the nation's capital, and has over 10,000 current residents. And its one of the largest employment centers in the nation. Thats how it is NOW, unwalkable autocentric travesty and all.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 20, 2014 2:57 pm • linkreport


To add on, 17,000 residents (though its grown since the last numbers due to the 3 new apartment complexes that are open), 12th largest CBD by sqft, over 100,000 employment positions.

And undergoing one of the biggest urban makeovers since downtown Charlotte grew up.

I didn't deride baltimore, I noted that time changes everything. I do find it ironic you point out my unfamiliarity with Baltimore (and what you perceived as an insult) while clearly being unfamiliar with Tysons... yet making insults about it.

by Navid Roshan on May 20, 2014 3:04 pm • linkreport

What makes Mosaic is the "town square" in the center. It's activated with a good number of events like movies, concerts, outdoor yoga, kids events, etc. It's a pleasant place to be outdoors and Mosaic also has a nice mix of boutique shops and restaurants.

It's also not much larger than the Home Depot and its parking lot across the street. It's tiny. Sorry, I think the whole thing is kinda ridiculous for its hype. That green space isn't really outdoors in my book. It's not a whole lot bigger than the space a gas station or Arby's would take up. I'm pretty sure the yard I had when I lived over there was not a whole lot smaller. It's a start that should be classified as such, not already presented as a shining beacon.

by Another Nick on May 20, 2014 3:24 pm • linkreport

Sorry about how that came off, King Terrapin. The "y" word makes my post go to moderation so I had to use third person.

by selxic on May 20, 2014 3:25 pm • linkreport

Another Nick

Its the nature of urbanist spaces to have a lot of activity on relatively little acreage. That's the point. It is tiny, but packs in a lot - its high quality, and is introducing some suburbanites to urbanist design who wouldn't otherwise get to see it (certainly not of that quality.) While mostly important as a start, it works very very well right now.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 20, 2014 3:47 pm • linkreport

Baltimore need not be ashamed that Tysons has taller buildings, as Tysons is a much stronger office market than Baltimore is. That said, Baltimore is an historica American city with advantages Tysons will likely never have. So there is no reason to diss Baltimore either.

It doesn't look like Baltimore will need to be ashamed that Tysons has taller buildings. None of the proposals on the table are taller than Baltimore's existing buildings.

Increase them by 20% and maybe Charm city will start to sweat, but I imagine Tysons will remain shorter for some time.

by Richard on May 20, 2014 4:12 pm • linkreport

Baltimore had a slew of skyscraper proposals in the 600-800 ft range that were all unfortunately killed by the recession. There's at least 7 new proposals for residential towers in the city now, but they're all in the 300-500 ft range. It would really be embarrassing if a building in a glorified suburban office park like Tysons rivaled Baltimore's tallest, but I guess the height limit will prevent that.

Wait and see, some of those plans are being revived and expanded. Still Baltimore has 3 towers built that are larger than anything on the table.

by Richard on May 20, 2014 4:16 pm • linkreport

@ selxic

No problem

@ Richard

Yeah, I've been optimistic, but there's been a lot of watering down. For instance, the proposed 44-story/485 ft Four Seasons hotel/condo tower (now half-finished at 21 stories) will only go up 6-8 more stories to around 27 or so. The new proposal for the McCormick site in the Inner Harbor is amazing though.

Tyson has a 400 ft habitable height limit (Cap. One's extra 70 ft is due to mechanical floors and architectural elements) which will hinder any building from overtaking the Baltimore's top 3.

by King Terrapin on May 20, 2014 4:53 pm • linkreport

BTW, again people, I didn't put down Baltimore. I actually complimented by saying it has come a long way in the past decade which I think most sensible people can agree about.

It has a lot of things going for it, namely cost of living and a solid (though often considered more blue collar than DC) employment base. I didn't say Tysons is better than Baltimore, nor DC, nor Arlington, nor Alexandria, what I am saying is that the next decade will be transformative and many perceptions today will be rendered outdated by then.

Critiquing plans which implement those changes as a integral component, kind of misses the point. What it is today isn't important when we are talking about Proposed projects. This project will help towards that overall goal, and, oh yes, its also taller than other buildings in Wash metro specific(excluding Baltimore) which is neat.

by Navid Roshan on May 20, 2014 4:55 pm • linkreport

*Edit, ok I did kinda roll my eyes haha. Fair enough.

by Navid Roshan on May 20, 2014 4:55 pm • linkreport

Question: is there *really* "rivalry" between jurisdictions for the tallest building?

I would think the logistics of servicing higher buildings (especially from a fire safety perspective) would preclude localities from wanting skyscrapers in the first place.

by Rich 'n Alexandria on May 20, 2014 5:49 pm • linkreport

Rich 'n Alexandria, no.

I'm mostly with Another Nick regarding Mosaic District in Merrifield. It's a nice development, but the scope and scale of it rarely matches the hype it often receives. I wouldn't call it a significant regional or local destination.

by selxic on May 20, 2014 7:02 pm • linkreport

The Mosaic District is a nice feature for the locals, and that's how I think planning walkable centers should be. Would I travel far by car or metro to get to Mosaic? No. But I definitely found it to be the only pleasant place to get lunch when I worked in an office building nearby.

Also would like to point out that comparing Mosaic to Columbia Heights is pretty futile. Columbia Heights was an existing, dense, walkable neighborhood before DC USA came. DC USA just made it more attractive to people of a broader income spectrum to live. Combining this with the existing urban infrastructure made transformation incredibly rapid. Mosaic, while it may be somewhat similar in concept to DC USA (except for the gross oversupply of parking garage space), its surrounding context is incredibly suburban. Completely different context.

by Chris Allen, PE on May 20, 2014 8:04 pm • linkreport

Does the FAA have a height limit on Tysons? It seems far enough from IAD that there shouldn't be one.

I was out in Tysons today and while the new Intelsat building isn't too boring, the rest of Tysons is. To become a world class location Tysons really needs a signature "staritechure" building or two. And this tower in the parking lot stuff needs to end. But the Monday building still being empty signals Tysons has beat out Rosslyn.

Surprised Cap One needs a new home as the one it has is pretty new and plenty big.

I saw a couple pedestrians crossing Route 7 in the one spot you can get through Metro's Chinese wall-- around the fortress Ernest and Young building and the awful NADA building. They looked like pins in a bowling alley and seemed scared. Making Tysons pedestrian-friendly isn't going to be easy.

In Paris La Defense has extremely few residents. Also in Paris the Greens are about to topple the government over it's plans to allow more skyscrapers just within the city limits for economic development. The Greens are revolting because skyscrapers are environmental disasters. Skyscrapers are good trophy buildings but awful environmentally.

I hope Tysons becomes more residential and gets better transit as I have a number of friends from Baltimore who work and commute there. Tysons has the jobs, Baltimore has the skilled unemployed. Too bad the transit between them is pitiful.

by Tom Coumaris on May 20, 2014 11:37 pm • linkreport

I think instead of trying to be a world class city, Tysons needs to focus on being a habitable one. No need to reinvent the wheel, or create starchitecture for the sake of starchitecture. Sidewalks, streetscape, road grid, and mixed use development (even in drab buildings) is still just fine.

by Navid Roshan on May 21, 2014 8:04 am • linkreport

Yeah, "world class city" is more of a goal for our great great grandkids generation. Tysons goal is to be Fairfax's Downtown by 2050. That will still be a far cry from a world class city.

If they can deliver on a street grid, walkability, 100,000 residents, 200,000 employees, and maybe 1 or 2 LRT lines by 2050, I think they'll have reached their goal. If they happen to get some real skyscrapers that look cool in the meantime, that's a bonus.

by jh on May 21, 2014 9:16 am • linkreport

The shops and restaurants in Mosaic are not only being supported by the folks within walking distance. According to the developer, its market area is about 5 miles in each direction, and AFAICT that is in fact the case. Im not sure how you define local, but I beleive its an attraction to people living everywhere from Annandale to McLean.

Whether thats worth an article in the NYT, I don't know, and don't really care.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 21, 2014 9:22 am • linkreport

"Also would like to point out that comparing Mosaic to Columbia Heights is pretty futile. Columbia Heights was an existing, dense, walkable neighborhood before DC USA came. DC USA just made it more attractive to people of a broader income spectrum to live. Combining this with the existing urban infrastructure made transformation incredibly rapid. Mosaic, while it may be somewhat similar in concept to DC USA (except for the gross oversupply of parking garage space), its surrounding context is incredibly suburban. Completely different context."

That was precisely the point. Someone said it was like Potomac Yards because it had a Target and parking. My point was that having a Target and parking does not make it like Pot Yards, any more than it makes it like Col Heights.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 21, 2014 9:23 am • linkreport

"And this tower in the parking lot stuff needs to end."

Any building built under the new comp plan will follow the new urbanist design guidelines. I believe one building UC was grandfathered under the old plan though.

I disagree with both Tom AND Navid. Tysons is not going to be a world class city. Because this is one Greater Washington. Tysons will be (likely) the second major activity center in world class greater Washington. The ffx folks eager to disavow being part of DC, and the DC folks eager to distance themselves from the suburbs, are both wrong.

And no, Tysons will not rely on Baltimore for its labor force. Because miles. What it will need is denser residences in Tysons, in eastern FFX generally, and a better transit connection to MoCo (and thus, via the Purple Line, to PG County.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 21, 2014 9:28 am • linkreport

The earlier posting causes me to note: "DC USA"?! What a stupid, unappealing marketing name, It sounds like a slogan that Marion Barry came up with.

by Jasper2 on May 21, 2014 9:37 am • linkreport

This Capital One tower will hardly be a tower in a park (or parking lot). They have big plans to develop the rest of that site.

These images are from an older iteration of the plan (without the tower under discussion now):

by Alex B. on May 21, 2014 9:39 am • linkreport

Updated site rendering from my website

No parking to be seen. Again, arguing about the merits of Tysons today is pointless. No one disagrees, which is why the county took on a multi-year massive master plan effort to change the status quo. These new projects are the proof in the pudding that private and public interests finally have a good plan that is achievable.

by Navid Roshan on May 21, 2014 10:03 am • linkreport

@AWITC, whatever you want to call Tysons vs metro area, thats fine, CBD then instead of city. The reality is if Tysons/Fairfax was its own metro area, then

Tysons CBD would be 100,000+ jobs, with several nodes of multi thousand job hubs surrounding it, in a metro area of 1.2 million people.

Yes, Tysons relies on government work for a majority of its business, but less so than the district does, so arguing which is what is not really the point. The government isn't moving any time soon, and the area that is becoming more diverse in business is Fairfax not the district.

If Fairfax were 30 miles further away from DC, it'd be considered its own metro similar to how Baltimore is... if it were 30 miles further away from DC it would not have ever been anything. Chicken, egg, paradox.

by Navid Roshan on May 21, 2014 10:19 am • linkreport


But I don't get the "it needs a skyscraper to be a world class X" Aside from my skepticism about the connection of starchitecture to being world class (what Tysons needs to become a more prominent and diverse activity center is a serious arts anchor for example, or a higher education facility) I think that to the extent startchitecture matters in drawing attention to the metro area, it matters little whether that happens in Tysons, in Rosslyn, or in downtown DC.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 21, 2014 10:25 am • linkreport

@AWITC, re-read what I said... I totally agree.

"I think instead of trying to be a world class city, Tysons needs to focus on being a habitable one. No need to reinvent the wheel, or create starchitecture for the sake of starchitecture. Sidewalks, streetscape, road grid, and mixed use development (even in drab buildings) is still just fine."

I don't care about me-me architecture design, I find most architects who get praise in the world are the antithesis of good planners, see what they have done to walkability in Dubai, Doha, hell even London in terms of super blocks and lack of comprehensive planning. I'd rather have the same old condo that's been built 30 times in Arlington (perhaps with an additional 20 floors on top) than to have some architect use Tysons as a case study on his own glorified portfolio.

by Navid Roshan on May 21, 2014 10:39 am • linkreport

@AWITC, my desire for skyscrapers has nothing to do with it being a remarkable architectural object, it has to do with increasing density along TOD where the jobs are to create a pressure relief on the growth our area continues to have (40,000 new residents whether by becoming 21 or moving here anticipated again this year). We simply don't have real estate to absorb that growth.

by Navid Roshan on May 21, 2014 10:40 am • linkreport

The height limit in Tysons is purely arbitrary. If Tysons is very successful 30 years down the road, I could easily see that limit being adjusted upwards which is a far cry from anywhere in Arlington, where I do not (but wish it would).

by xtr657 on May 21, 2014 10:49 am • linkreport

"The Greens are revolting"

You said it, they stink on ice!

by Kolohe on May 21, 2014 10:50 am • linkreport

Here's an interesting article on Tokyo's massive deregulated construction climate coupled with absolutely no NIMBY opposition. It actually works for bringing down proces, but what you get is questionable.

by Thayer-D on May 21, 2014 10:52 am • linkreport

@Thayer-D its not shocking that when there are more open units, the people who own those units are more likely to negotiate downward to set themselves apart from competition. Its happening already on a micro scale in Tysons where original rental prices for the 2 new towers (Vita and Ovation) have already dropped 10-20% since their introductory price via rental pricing and month off specials. If we want to address the cost of housing in this area we have to... you know... build housing.

And as much as affordable housing units are good at addressing lower income needs, they don't do anything for the vast majority of cases which in this area is middle income with rental ranges of 1500 to 2500. We need more supply so that can creep down to 1200 to 2000 for 1br - 2br units. The same goes for office space, vacancy is healthy for the consumer, wanting 100% occupancy as a goal for either is unhealthy long term. We should be shooting for 80 to 85% occupancy.

by Navid Roshan on May 21, 2014 11:12 am • linkreport

Sorry not Vita, ascent, will be interesting to see what happens on Vita's pricing

by Navid Roshan on May 21, 2014 11:12 am • linkreport

@King Terrapin

The 400ft cap on Tysons Corner buildings is not a strict one. There are already 3 proposals that have been approved by Fairfax County that go over the 400ft cap. SAIC's redevelopment, Clydes and Capital One. Capital One being the only one with extensive mechanical floors.

And all the comments about mosaic being too small to make a difference are a bit premature. The site is still only partially built out. Not to mention all the development going along gallows road leading up to the Dunn Loring metro will (eventually) fill in all the gaps along the corridor.

by Ervin on May 21, 2014 12:09 pm • linkreport

@Ervin, if Fairfax county were to implement a road diet, I think the first place they'd try would be right there where mosaic/dunn loring development is happening. Really all thats keep that area from being unified is the separation that occurs at 29 and gallows. A diet at that location would do wonders and could be accompanied by redevelopment of the properties directly adjacent to Mosaic and on the side of the home depot.

by Navid Roshan on May 21, 2014 12:18 pm • linkreport

Yeah, 29 at gallows is a (unfortunately) crystal clear example of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing.

VDOT decided they needed a wider road section to accomodate the new HOT Lane Entrance while Fairfax County is trying to leverage as much TOD as they can with one of its (at the time) precious few metro stations.

by drumz on May 21, 2014 12:20 pm • linkreport

How is Fairfax proposing to unite the parts of Tysons Corner? What I notice most when I'm there is that 123 separating Tysons and Tysons II is a huge no-man's-land and now with the Metro above ground in the middle of 7 there's practically a Chinese wall between the two sides of that highway. Even with pedestrian overpasses those are long distance divides.

by Tom Coumaris on May 21, 2014 12:21 pm • linkreport

@Tom, For the next decade, Route 123 and 7 will remain obstacles. Theres some superficial changes that can occur but it will remain an issue.

Fairfax isn't proposing much to happen there, what they are proposing is the new grid which will 1) remove a lot of traffic from the major arterials by providing more release points. One example is the Jones Branch connector, which will take people out of Tysons by running parallel to Route 7 to the DTR. The current issue of sizing on Rt 7 and 123 is that it funnels everyone to one point. The grid helps with that.

2) Lets forget Route 7 and 123. Lets look at Tysons as individual clusters. If you look at North Tysons by itself (which has no such obstacles) it is the size of golden triangle, with a proposed pipeline of 8 million square feet in mixed use in the works. Thats going to be 3 or 4 times larger than Reston Town Center at build out.

Over the next 10 to 15 years you'll see 4 distinct quadrants in Tysons, with the proof in the pudding being necessary after that time (15 to 30 year timeline) to get rid of the road barrier stroads.

Try to avoid looking at Tysons from the drivers perspective (route 123 and 7 centric) and see that the development is happening away from these areas anyways. Its like focusing on the waterfront not being viable because its separated from Cap Hill by SESW. Yes its true, but waterfront can develop quite nicely in and of itself. Over time, the hope is, the dependence on Route 7 and 123 will be reduced meaning road diets are more possible, but if not, we will still see significant TOD improvement away from these locations like in North Tysons.

by Navid Roshan on May 21, 2014 12:54 pm • linkreport

I think Navid is mostly right, its essentially 4 different clusters. Though IIUC there will be some kind of circulator bus connecting them?

I am befuddled at the idea that the metro line is a Chinese wll though. I spent extensive time in Tysons in the 1990s, and pedestrians rarely crossed those roads because of the volume of traffic and the sheer width. I don't think the metro rail line makes it worse.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 21, 2014 1:00 pm • linkreport

Took some time to draw it out for people unfamiliar with Tysons

North Tysons is the easiest to implement the changes, and shocker upon shockers, thats where private interest is focusing (Meridian, PS Business Parks, Arbor Row, Spring Hill Station, NV Tysons Central, and I'm sure more to follow).

This will develop as a pretty urban place, much quicker than the other areas by shear size and scope and lack of barriers. The other 3 areas will be more isolated, depend on cars or metro more, and will have more of a Reston Town Center scale at build out (although taller) but still lack cohesiveness between them. So people in the southeast area will likely not traverse over to north on foot very often.

Thats the reality of the existing conditions, but that doesn't mean that massive area of North Tysons isn't prime for correction. The changes will be drastic, and quicker, than other areas in that area based on the many high rises already under construction. Add in a future decking project (which I have been arguing for Lerner and Macerich to undertake as an air rights) and you could see a lot of the isolate mall area absorbed into north Tysons as well.

by Navid Roshan on May 21, 2014 1:10 pm • linkreport

For context, north Tysons is about 800 acres or ~1.3 square miles. Thats approximately the same size as the TOD region of Rosslyn to past Clarendon, but instead of a linear format, it is a more traditional radial shape.

So lets avoid defining Tysons as Route 7 and 123 when there is so much of the area completely devoid of those barriers.

by Navid Roshan on May 21, 2014 1:16 pm • linkreport

Navid, thanks for the map. I still don't fully understand how Metro will properly fit with Tysons as it is (I'm picturing a series of disparate villages, like pearls on a string and like the Red Line north of Dupont Circle); would it be possible to add them to your map?

by LowHeadways on May 21, 2014 1:33 pm • linkreport


There are two stations on 123 (one in the purple area, another on the border between yellow and blue) and then two stations on 7, more or less right on the border between blue and green.

by drumz on May 21, 2014 1:43 pm • linkreport

Taxing me, but I will because I like you.

Image is updated showing the metro station locations. As you can see most of North Tysons will have access to 3 different stations with only McLean being a non choice.

For instance, for me, when silver line starts, I can walk to either Spring Hill, Greensboro, or Tysons Station. SH and Tysons station are equidistant from me at around 0.7mi, Greensboro slightly more at 0.9mi.

That being said, my neighborhood is an older one, the TOD areas are within 0.5 mile (encompasses a proposed 12000 units coming in the works), not to mention the new offices and retail coming with them.

by Navid Roshan on May 21, 2014 1:44 pm • linkreport

BTW, GGWash writers feel free to use that graphic for any future stories.

by Navid Roshan on May 21, 2014 1:46 pm • linkreport

I see now, thanks!

I know you don't want to define the area by those two stroads, but the problem is that the Metro also runs with them, so by default they're going to end up being the "main streets" by which anyone without a car navigates. I know we're all on the same page when it comes to fixing them; it's just crazy that VDOT is such a dinosaur.

Is anything planned for the green low-density area you have planned? Without some upzoning it seems a waste of like, half the walkshed of the new stations.

by LowHeadways on May 21, 2014 1:49 pm • linkreport

Yea, sorry no way to demonstrate this without link can't embed the slider in comment

You can see there that development happens in each area, with primarily north Tysons leading right now with McLean station being 2nd with Cap One and LCOR Commons and Scotts Run.

I think the perception that Route 123 and 7 will be the main street is incorrect, same way that SESW freeway isn't and yet Water Front and Capitol Hill develop around it. Both areas will develop as significant urban clusters, larger than RTC by themselves, but lack cohesion between them in the 1st implementation. It will take serious political will to road diet, and thats atleast 15 years out.

Point being, North Tysons, does have room to grow, and grow in a traditional urban format, and most people who live/work/play in that area will never have to worry about walking along Route 7 or 123, or crossing them. They will be taking the pedestrian friendly routes like Westpark, like Park Run Drive, and future road grid yet to be named as the super blocks get redeveloped into urban blocks.

by Navid Roshan on May 21, 2014 1:53 pm • linkreport

The people who should be worried about that situation, are those who aren't in North Tysons. Those other 3 quadrants won't have the same walkability as North Tysons because of that. So businesses southwest of Route 7, likely will not see any business uptick from all the improvements coming from North Tysons.

I've argued, 2 tysons are forming.

One that will redevelop and be more prosperous, and one that will likely see blight, less investment, less activity, more crime. Route 7 and 123 has split tysons in two, or really in 4.

by Navid Roshan on May 21, 2014 1:55 pm • linkreport

Final note, take a look at the loop in Charlotte. The inner four quads of Charlotte, are essentially the size of North Tysons, and are very much separated from the outside the loop neighborhoods that surround it.

I very much see Tysons developing in that same almost replicated pattern

by Navid Roshan on May 21, 2014 1:58 pm • linkreport

I gotcha, and I do hope Tysons Corner turns into an interesting, walkable urban place.

I would say though that the SE/SW freeway in DC, though, probably isn't quite the right comparison. M St. SE is more apt, since that's what the Metro runs under and that's where riders emerge from the system. Much easier to cross.

The other thing, I think, is that while the freeway definitely rips apart those neighborhoods, you can technically still walk under it to get from, say, Barracks Row to the ballpark, and without having to cross those 8 lanes of traffic or whatever. That will be one of Tysons's larger problems to overcome.

by LowHeadways on May 21, 2014 2:02 pm • linkreport

Valid about the metro not being on it, but the elevated metro has two exits on each side, so people coming off metro wouldn't have to cross the street. In fact I believe that portion of metro will be outside of fare tickets, so it would be open as a crossing point even if you weren't using metro. That being said, elevated walkways are a terrible way to address walkability obviously, so its not a perfect solution, but its a functional one to some extent with needs for improvement when improvement warrants.

Like AWITC has noted, theres not much need to cross 123 or 7 as is, for the most part people stay on their quad wherever they are in Tysons whether to grab lunch etc. You only see Rt 7 and 123 walkers/crossers maybe a handful per hour as opposed to internal streets where you see dozens perhaps in some areas hundreds on peak walking hours.

by Navid Roshan on May 21, 2014 2:18 pm • linkreport

But aren't the current high rises (Intelsat) in the purple or mall zones? Is there anything there or going in besides Tysons II and Westpark in the blue zone?

by Tom Coumaris on May 21, 2014 10:06 pm • linkreport


Thats just one project (in the yellow not purple)

Current projects completed
26-story Ascent (blue)
19-story Ovation (blue)
5 story Tysons West (cyan)

Current projects under construction
26-story Tysons Tower (topped out and occupancy June 1st) (yellow)
30 story Vita by Kettler (nearing top out) (yellow)
17 story Hyatt (nearing top out) (yellow)
12 story LMI HQ (topped out occupancy this summer) (blue)
14 story Mitre Bldg 4 ( under vertical construction/foundations) (purple)
26 story Hanover Arbor Row (under vertical construct/3rd floor) (blue)
18 story 1775 Lerner (under vertical construction/3rd floor)(blue)

Likely to begin by year end
15 story Garfield Parcel by Cityline (purple)
24 story Home Properties Arbor Row (blue)
470' Capital One HQ office (purple)
27 story Spring Hill bldg 2 (blue)

The majority is in blue. I didn't say there wasn't other areas growing, just not as quickly, and in a more disconnected way.

by Navid Roshan on May 22, 2014 8:15 am • linkreport

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