Tysons Population Growth Outpaces County, But Too Slow to Meet 2050 Goal

(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) Once home to 17,000 people living amid suburban office parks, Tysons has seen its residential population soar in recent years, growing four times faster than Fairfax County overall.

From 2010 to 2018, the population of Tysons grew 39% to about 23,749 people today, and by 2045, Providence District is expected to add roughly 57,000 residents. People under 20 now comprise one area of marked growth, from 1% of the population in 2010 to 21% in 2020.

“Forty percent is a tremendous number,” HR&A Partner Stan Wall said during the Tysons Partnership’s State of Tysons panel last week. “Tysons started off at a fairly low bar compared to some of the other communities in the region, but is outpacing Fairfax County and other areas around the region.”

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik attributed much of the growth to the arrival of more young families in the area, as indicated by increases in children, teens, and 18- to 20-year-olds.

“People have not always thought of Tysons as a place where you can raise a family,” she said in a statement. “The increased investment in green space, affordable housing, and transit has made Tysons an attractive option for a demographic that previously did not consider Tysons as a place to live.”

But neither an influx of 57,000 people or the current growth rate are enough to reach Fairfax County’s goal of 100,000 residents in Tysons by 2050, according to Emily Hamilton, a research fellow and director of the Urbanity Project at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

Fairfax County set 100,000 residents as a target in its 2010 comprehensive plan, which also aims for a population of 44,000 by 2030. Tysons would have to expand at a rate of 8.5% annually — double its current annual growth rate of 4.2% — to hit those benchmarks.

If the lagging growth concerns policymakers, they should consider up-zoning areas slightly farther away from Metro stations and encourage smaller-scale developments, which move more quickly, Hamilton says.

Currently, most development is happening in the one-quarter mile radius around the area’s four Silver Line stations, she said. The lower-density and mid-rise zoning on the periphery of the stations could be amended to allow for more residential growth.

The county is also encouraging large, 10 to 20-acre developments that provide public benefits, such as parks, along with housing, she said. To Hamilton, this approach makes sense, especially if policymakers want to achieve a new grid of streets in Tysons, but it also slows down development.

Tysons relies heavily on the private sector to contribute to and provide public infrastructure as part of developments, Hamilton says, but with land values increasing, it has the capacity to meet the needs of new residents, such as schools.

With a 20% influx in residents under 20, school board members say they area already working to out ways to combat capacity issues at the schools in the Tysons area.

“We are working closely with the community and staff from the school division and Board of Supervisors to better understand and prepare for the impact increasing growth in Tysons will have on school capacity, especially at the high school level,” Dranesville District School Board Member Elaine Tholen said in an email.

Providence District School Board Representative Karl Frisch is proposing to repurpose Dunn Loring Administration Center as a new elementary school, using available bond funds to relieve capacity concerns at Shrevewood and in the Tysons periphery.

“This proposal will bring much-needed, sustainable capacity relief to Shrevewood Elementary School and the Tysons periphery,” Frisch said during a virtual meeting of the Shrevewood Elementary School PTA. “Overcrowding has been an ongoing challenge for the community, and now we have a solution.”

Staff photo by Jay Westcott, image via Tysons Partnership

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