Posts about Tysons Corner
A proposed skyscraper in Tysons Corner will be 435 feet tall, making it the tallest in the DC region, and first to breach the 400 foot threshold. The building is proposed as part of the SAIC redevelopment, adjacent to the Silver Line's Greensboro Metro station.
Traditionally, the tallest skyscrapers in the region have been in Rosslyn. But Rosslyn is in the flight path to National Airport, so buildings there can't rise higher than 400 feet. A bevy of development projects in Rosslyn, Alexandria, Tysons, and North Bethesda are in the 300-400 foot range, but this is the first serious proposal to crack 400 feet.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
Maryland and Virginia will both enact major new transportation funding bills this year. Neither bill says exactly which projects will be funded, but here are the top 10 projects in Maryland and Virginia that most deserve to get some of the funds.
1. 8-car Metro trains: Metrorail is near capacity, especially in Virginia. More Metro railcars and the infrastructure they need (like power systems and yard space) would mean more 8-car trains on the Orange, Blue, and Silver Lines.
2. Tysons grid of streets: Tysons Corner has more office space than downtown Baltimore and Richmond put together. Converting it to a functional urban place is a huge priority.
3. Purple Line: Bethesda, Silver Spring, Langley Park, College Park, New Carrollton. That's a serious string of transit-friendly pearls. The Purple Line will be one of America's best light rail lines on the day it opens.
4. Baltimore Red Line: Baltimore has a subway line and a light rail line, but they don't work together very well as a system. The Red Line will greatly improve the reach of Baltimore's rail system.
5. Silver Line Phase 2: The Silver Line extension from Reston to Dulles Airport and Loudoun County is one of the few projects that was earmarked in Virginia's bill, to the tune of $300 million.
6. Arlington streetcars: The Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcars both have funding plans already, but could potentially be accelerated.
7. Route 7 transit. Leesburg Pike is the next Rosslyn-Ballston corridor waiting to happen. Virginia is just beginning to study either a light rail or BRT line along it.
8. Corridor Cities Transitway: Gaithersburg has been waiting decades for a quality transit line to build around. BRT will finally connect the many New Urbanist communities there, which are internally walkable but rely on cars for long-range connections.
9. MARC enhancements: MARC is a decent commuter rail, but it could be so much more. Some day it could be more like New York's Metro North or Philadelphia's SEPTA regional rail, with hourly trains all day long, even on weekends.
10. Alexandria BRT network: This will make nearly all of Alexandria accessible via high-quality transit.
Honorable mentions: Montgomery County BRT network, Potomac Yard Metro station, Virginia Beach light rail, Southern Maryland light rail, and VRE platform extensions.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
Tysons Corner has more office space than downtown Baltimore, Richmond, and Norfolk put together. It should be the center its own large transit network. The Silver Line and express buses on the Beltway HOT lanes are good first steps, but in the long run Tysons is going to need more routes, connecting it to more places.
In the long run, Tysons needs something more like this:
In recent years, planners in Virginia have begun to seriously consider a Tysons-centric rapid transit network. It doesn't have a name, and isn't officially separate from any of the other transportation planning going on in the region, but it shows up on long range regional plans like SuperNoVa and TransAction.
In addition to the Silver Line, HOT Lanes Buses, and Tysons' internal circulation network, officials are beginning to study light rail connections to Maryland, Falls Church, and Merrifield, and BRT on the Chain Bridge Road corridor.
It will be years before any of these additional routes are implemented, and they could look very different from this map once they finally are. Details don't exist yet, because at this point these are little more than ideas.
But to work as the urban place Fairfax County officials hope Tysons will become, this is the sort of regional infrastructure it's going to need.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
In Fairfax County, some residents are worried about squandering a real opportunity to reduce traffic into Tysons. State officials want to expand Route 7 between Reston Avenue and the Dulles Toll Road, but can't consider transit because of the county's comprehensive plan.
The Virginia Department of Transportation would like to widen Route 7 from 4 car lanes to 6 in a location literally at the western entry to the county's new downtown. 8 months ago, in a bold and uncustomary move, VDOT formed a project advisory group, including residents such as myself.
Since then, agency staff and consultants have presented lots of information about crashes, engineering issues and land use along the six-mile stretch. But having seen the details, we community members have concluded that the big picture needs to change.
It didn't take long to realize that this project is just one piece of a major corridor connecting burgeoning Loudoun county (and beyond) with Fairfax County's biggest jobs magnet. For that reason, no one can afford transportation business as usual.
To simply add more car lanes will only make it easier for traffic to inundate the heart of Tysons. We need a new paradigm to provide more options. That's why we'd like the entire length of Route 7 from Loudoun to Fairfax to offer high-quality mass transit. I'd favor something like Portland's MAX light rail.
But there's a roadblock. The current Fairfax County comprehensive plan doesn't allow for enhancing transit on Route 7. So, with comment time running out on this phase of the project, there's only one thing to do: tell VDOT to work with Fairfax County to change its comp plan so Route 7 is designated an "Enhanced Public Transportation Corridor," just as it is on the east side of Tysons.
Only by doing that can VDOT begin to consider transit options along the route. Ideally, the 2 new lanes should be dedicated from the outset to bus and HOV-3. They should connect to a system of commuter park-and-rides in church and retail parking lots, as well as on public land such as behind the new fire station at Beulah Road.
Time is of the essence. This summer, VDOT breaks ground on an adjacent Route 7 project at Georgetown Pike. In this case, they are widening the road from 4 car lanes to 6 for just one mile, but it will cost $37 million and have no provision for transit. We want to make sure the Reston Avenue project and the remainder of the corridor doesn't suffer the same costly, short-sighted fate.
Within the confines of the District of Columbia, the question of whether to allow tall buildings is a subject of much debate. But in the burgeoning urban centers of Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland, there is no question: more tall buildings are coming.
For many decades Rosslyn has been home to the tallest skyscrapers in the Washington region. The taller of its Twin Towers is 381 feet tall. But soon that building will rank no better than 3rd tallest in Rosslyn alone, with the 384 foot tall 1812 North Moore and the 387 foot tall Central Place in construction or soon to begin.
Even with those new buildings, Rosslyn could soon lose its crown. Buildings as tall as 396 feet could soon be built around the Eisenhower Metro station in Alexandria. They would eclipse Alexandria's current tallest building, the 338 foot tall Mark Center Hilton.
Tysons Corner is in on the action too. It's tallest buildings right now are the 254 foot Ritz Carlton and the 253 foot 1850 Towers Crescent. But at 365 feet, a building in the proposed Scotts Run Station development will soon dominate.
In Maryland, North Bethesda Market I topped out last year at 289 feet tall, beating out Gaithersburg's 275 foot tall Washingtonian Tower and thus becoming Montgomery County's new tallest skyscraper. Its reign will be short-lived, as a new 300 foot tall ziggurat has already been proposed nearby.
And this week, big news is coming to Reston and Crystal City.
Fairfax County approved a 330 foot building in Reston yesterday that will become the tallest building in the Reston Town Center cluster.
Meanwhile, the Arlington County Board is scheduled to vote this coming weekend to either approve or deny a 297 foot building in Crystal City that would tower well above all its neighbors. Tall buildings have long been constrained there by restrictions due to Reagan National Airport, but those rules recently changed, so taller buildings are now allowed.
These aren't particularly tall buildings by the standards of large central cities. Baltimore and Virginia Beach both have buildings over 500 feet tall, and the world's current record holder is a whopping 2,717 feet. But still, the trend in the DC area is unmistakable; buildings are getting taller, and will most likely continue to do so.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
With local governments exercising more caution about investing public dollars in development projects, partnerships among diverse private interests have become increasingly important the financing of the infrastructure improvements needed to support development.
The most prevalent form of public-private partnerships for urban redevelopment has long been tax increment financing (TIF). A TIF agreement sets aside a portion of the future property tax stream from new development activity to fund the public improvements needed to support the development.
TIFs, which we have extensively discussed here, have helped finance many high-profile developments in the DC area, including DC USA, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, and National Harbor. In Fairfax County, where local leaders have been hesitant to make use of TIFs, recent partnerships in Tysons Corner and along Richmond Highway highlight new possibilities for future urban redevelopment.
Although TIFs have proven to be successful in a variety of situations around the country, they have long been criticized as corporate welfare for wealthy developers, politically motivated giveaways, or risky propositions that wager public funds on an uncertain real estate market. In the wake of the national recession the latter argument has come to the forefront. Since TIFs only work if the valuation of the properties within the district rises, declines in property values could lead to financial disaster.
Fairfax County has long been reluctant to use TIFs. The Community Development Authority approved in 2009 for the Mosaic District in Merrifield represents the county's only TIF to date. Although Fairfax County's Board of Supervisors enthusiastically supported the Mosaic deal, county leaders have not expressed enthusiasm about replicating the Merrifield model elsewhere.
The ongoing saga of how to pay for the improvements needed to fulfill the county's plans for Tysons Corner demonstrates county leaders' ambivalence. Though the Tysons issue is not yet resolved, the proposal currently on the table calls for a mix of private developer "contributions," a special tax district, and other as-yet-unidentified public funding. While the public and private sectors will be technically sharing the costs for building the infrastructure to support the new Tysons, this arrangement cannot really be called a partnership, as the public sector is not sharing in the project's risks.
In response to the county's activities, landowners and corporate interests in the Tysons area came together in early 2011 to form the Tysons Partnership. This "private-private partnership" includes representatives from some of the largest development interests in the region, including Lerner, Macerich, AvalonBay, B.F. Saul, General Growth Properties, and Federal Realty. The members of the Tysons Partnership will be coordinating efforts to fund their share of Tysons' future infrastructure improvements.
Elsewhere in Fairfax County a different sort of private-private partnership model is coming to the forefront, as developers team up with longtime landowners to undertake revitalization projects. This trend directly responds to rising land costs for parcels along older suburban corridors, which presents a strong challenge to redevelopment. For example, the asking price for redevelopment parcels in the Penn Daw/Groveton area along Richmond Highway is in the range of $3 million per acre. At this price, the land acquisition cost of an apartment development with a relatively high density of 50 units per acre would average $60,000 per unit, even before considering infrastructure and site development costs. Current rents in the area simply do not justify this sort of investment in the acquisition of a property.
A proposed revitalization project in this section of Richmond Highway presents an excellent test case for this new partnership model. Developer Capital Investment Advisors LLC has signed a joint venture agreement with the longtime owner of a small strip retail center at the corner of Richmond Highway and Shields Avenue in the Penn Daw area. The proposed project, The Grande at Huntington, will include about 300 apartments and 30,000 square feet of ground level retail and dining space. While the developer will not realize as great of a return on its investment due to its partnership agreement, its level of risk will be far lower.
The emergence of these partnership agreements represents a shift in how revitalization is being achieved in Fairfax County. If these models succeed they will likely lead to the formation of additional private-private partnerships for future revitalization efforts.
Metro's online survey about station names for the new Silver Line to Dulles and Reston will be ending on March 21. Have you filled it out?
This is your chance to push for station names that create a sense of place and tie in to the region's history and geography, rather than a boring, long, hyphenated string of road names.
Here are my picks, versus the official recommendations from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors:
|My pick||Fairfax Board pick|
|Tysons Corner||Tysons I&II|
|Spring Hill||Tysons-Spring Hill Road|
|Reston||Reston Town Center|
These names are short, can be used in the names of developments or buildings in the area, and will create a memorable name for the area around the station.
What did you pick?
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