Almost three hundred years ago, when Thomas Fairfax was still alive, the county’s first courthouse was built where the “Toilet Bowl Building” now stands. The courthouse is long gone, but it has given its name to the second of Tysons’ eight districts.
“Old Courthouse” is now home to mid-rise offices, but is destined to become a mixed-use residential quarter as the Comprehensive Plan is implemented.
Ironically enough, the Old Courthouse district doesn’t actually include the land where the courthouse itself once stood. Rather, the district runs along Old Courthouse Road and Gallows Road and is bounded by Route 123 to the northwest, Route 7 to the northeast, the Beltway to the east, and the single-family neighborhoods to its south and southwest.
Old Courthouse is today home to a collection of low- and mid-rise office buildings and a few strip-mall-style retail and dining options. Tomorrow, it could be home to many more people.
The Tysons Comprehensive Plan envisions this area as “a neighborhood that supports an active 24-hour environment where people go to restaurants or shopping after work.” and where “residential development will become a dominant use in most subdistricts, which will create the sense of community throughout this district.”
In a sense, this will be the residential counterpart of the Tysons Central 123 shopping area just north of it.
As a mixed-use residential area, planners intend for families living in Old Courthouse to be able to satisfy most of their day-to-day needs with a short walk. Pedestrian infrastructure, like more pleasant sidewalks and safer crossings, will help make that vision a reality.
Perhaps the most major change in the blueprints for Old Courthouse is the extension of Boone Boulevard. Ultimately, this street could triple in length, extending all the way from Kidwell Drive in the south, crossing Route 123 in the north, and leading into the civic center planned for the western part of Tysons Central 7. That extension — along with other proposed new streets perpendicular to it — would create a denser grid of streets, making it easier for both pedestrians and vehicles to move around.
Public transportation will be key to the district’s future. Almost all of Old Courthouse is within a mile walk of the Greensboro Metro station, and some is much closer. The extended Boone Boulevard has been identified as a prime candidate for a circulator line connecting the different neighborhoods of Tysons.
Old Courthouse also stands to benefit greatly from the potential park on top of the Route 123-Route 7 intersection, which would make it much easier for people to get to the Metro station as well as provide some much-needed green space.
Although the vision of the Comprehensive Plan extends for decades, a handful of development projects in the coming years offer us a peek into the future of Old Courthouse.
For the most part, developers will be permitted to construct offices and shops in addition to residences throughout Old Courthouse. However, Fairfax County hopes to incentivize additional housing by letting developers build taller buildings if those buildings are residential — with the requirement that these taller apartment or condo buildings have a light impact on traffic.
In 2015, Fairfax County approved plans for a development including 385 apartments and 129,000 square feet of commercial space to be located in the northern part of Old Courthouse on Rt. 7. This plan, called International Place, would bring a much more urban form, with wide sidewalks and street cafe seating. However, the developer who was to be responsible for the project has since declared bankruptcy, leaving the undeveloped-but-approved project on the market.
A hospital could also be coming to the eastern part of the district as the medical system seeks to be able to serve the increasing number of residents across Tysons.