By: Jonathan O'Connell
For those who doubted that building four Metro stations in Tysons would lead to a massive construction boom, a ride on the Silver Line — passing through a gauntlet of construction cranes — quickly settles the matter.
As the Silver Line opened, people wondered: ‘Who would want to live in a high-rise in Tysons?’ Even with the Metro running there isn’t a lot to do other than go to the mall and completing most basic errands — picking up groceries, going to the pharmacy — usually requires bearing notoriously bad traffic.
And yet last year three high-rise apartment towers got under way just as another set was being completed and a third was getting ready to begin. About 1,000 people already live in the high-rise buildings and shortly thousands more will be.
On the left as the train car rolls in, 577 apartments are under construction as part of the Commons of Mclean, a complex that ultimately will have 2,500 units by the McLean station.
On the right is a hole in the ground befitting what will be the tallest — and maybe most prominent — commercial building in the Washington area, the 470-foot Capital One headquarters, which the financial giant plans to anchor with a Wegmans grocery store.
Further on, Lerner Enterprises is pressing ahead with 1775 Tysons Blvd., one of the most environmentally advanced buildings in the region and the future home of consulting firm EY. Greystar, the company that built the first Tysons high-rise, is at work on its second, the 400-unit Adaire.
So much construction is underway that it’s hard to keep the stations, nodes and projects straight. Construction is scheduled to begin next year on more than 4.5 million square feet in five projects, on top of seven major under construction now.
There is still hardly anywhere to walk — a central promise of the new Tysons. But a new street grid with blocks that make the place feel more like a downtown and less like a sprawling suburban office park is slowly emerging. Michael Caplin, president of the Tysons Partnership and its tireless booster, said that with more progress on all the construction near Metro stations the area will begin to feel more connected.
“We have 2,000 acres with a lot of vacant spaces and parking lots, which create distance between amenities,” Caplin said in an e-mail. “The new construction is in-filling those spaces with vibrant clusters of residential, retail, recreational and business uses. These new neighborhoods will have internal proximity to all essential services, and THEN Tysons will be more walkable because destinations will be closer at hand.”
What is that new construction? Here are five defining projects that will be starting in Tysons next year:
1. The Residences at Tysons II (first phase)
For more than 40 years Lerner Enteprises founder Ted Lerner has ruled Tysons through retail and office development. With the Residences at Tysons II, Lerner makes clear that he believes wholeheartedly in Tysons as a residential market as well.
Late next year Lerner plans to begin work on what will likely be the largest condominium project in the Washington area since the recession: a 31-story, 225-unit tower adjacent to Tysons Galleria and the office building under construction. Designed by Nadel Architects of Los Angeles, the project is one of two residential towers that will ultimately total 722,000 square feet by the Tysons Corner Metro station.
The project will test the market in a number of ways. First it has no retail in it because it will be walkable to two of the most popular malls on the East Coast. Tysons Galleria — with restaurants including the Palm, Founding Farmers and a Jose Andres outpost — is next-door and Tysons Corner Center will be accessible via elevated walkway.
Second, for all the high-rise buildings that are up or coming up in Tysons, this is the first offering for-sale units. Are empty nesters and others looking to downsize interested in retiring in Tysons? Lerner will find out. And do not be too surprised if Fairfax County Board chair Sharon Bulova takes a look at one of these units.
2. The Boro (first phase)
The Meridian Group developer is building an entire neighborhood in one fell swoop by the Greensboro station, one that well encapsulates the new plan for Tysons.
Two years ago Meridian purchased one of many dated suburban office parks in Tysons, formerly of government contractor SAIC. In its place the company is planning an enormous variety of properties, all of which are connected by a series of parks and other walkable amenities.
The first phase alone, at 1.7 million square feet, is larger than the completed portion of CityCenterDC. Scheduled to start in the second quarter of 2016, it includes six buildings, four parking garages, three new roads, a Whole Foods and a luxury movie theater by Showplace Icon. It is also a true mix of uses: 750 residential units, 443,000 square feet of office space and 252,000 square feet of shops and restaurants. Ultimately the 18-acre campus will have more than double that.
Tom Boylan of the Meridian Group said Whole Foods and the theater will be located on opposite ends of the project, connected by a pedestrian-friendly street lined with retail and a large urban park. “The Boro development will signify a market-changing event away from the area’s traditional single asset-focused suburban sprawl and toward intelligently designed, mixed-use, walkable communities,” he said.
3. Westpark Plaza (first phase)
If you’ve rented an apartment near an Orange Line station in Arlington there’s a decent chance it was in a building by Dittmar, the developer and building manager that has more than a dozen buildings in North Arlington alone. Next summer, the company plans to try its hand in Tysons with a 550-unit high-rise apartment building by the Greensboro Metro station, on a parking lot where a hotel once operated.
The first building will have 13,000 square feet of retail and will be part of what will ultimately be a 5.5-acre development once a second apartment building and a hotel are added. The buildings are planned around an outdoor plaza and above five levels of underground parking totaling 2,267 spaces.
Dittmar’s Greg Raines said being less than a mile from the Metro stop gave the company confidence in the project. “That has worked for us in Arlington, and we think it will work for us in Tysons as well,” he said.
4. Tysons West (second phase)
Another hallmark of the new Tysons — tearing down old car dealerships — set the groundwork for Tysons West, the project that brought a Walmart store and 24 Hour Fitness gym to the site of the former Moore Cadillac dealership near the Spring Hill Metro station. Not to mention a thought-provoking statue out front.
Tysons West is lower-scale than the other projects and, maybe because it is at the far end of Tysons, might feel more integrated with the suburban-style development already in the area.
The second phase will begin in late 2016 and include 389 apartments and 45,000 square feet of retail aimed at serving local residents. It will also include a dog park, recreation area, multi-use court and public plaza with a splash fountain.
5. Highgate at Metropolitan Mile
Tysons-based residential builder Kettler just finished its first high-rise project in Tysons — the Vita apartments, part of the new complex by Tysons Corner Center — and is about to begin a low-rise project on Jones Branch Drive in partnership with PS Business Parks.
Called the Highgate, the complex will have 395 units and be the first step in the redevelopment of more than 40 acres of dated office buildings that are being turned into a loop of new developments and parks under the name Metropolitan Mile.
Kettler says the Metropolitan Mile will differentiate itself through healthy living, with jogging trails, a dog park, children’s play area, a reflecting pool and “zen-like landscape.”
“These amenities will allow Tysons workers more time to relax in a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood and indulge in health-promoting activities like walking the dog, running or taking their kids to the playground or pool,” Kettler says.
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