Tysons Partnership leader finds sense of place after announcing retirement plans

Tysons Partnership President and CEO Sol Glasner will retire at the end of 2021 (courtesy Tysons Partnership)

Tysons Partnership President and CEO Sol Glasner will retire from the organization, effective Dec. 31, 2021, he confirmed to Tysons Reporter.

Publicly announced yesterday (Thursday) in the Washington Business Journal, his departure will mark the conclusion of a decade-long tenure with the nonprofit tasked with transforming Tysons from an office-dominated suburb into the “walkable, green urban center” envisioned by Fairfax County’s Tysons Comprehensive Plan.

Initially appointed to lead the Partnership on an interim basis, Glasner says he agreed to take on the role of president and CEO indefinitely because he found it fulfilling, but he always planned to step back after four to five years to enjoy his recent professional retirement.

“It’s consistent with what I was planning to do from the beginning, or from the beginning of this particular phase of my relationship with the Partnership,” he said. “It’s been a wonderful experience, and I hope that I’ve made a meaningful impact on Tysons, on Fairfax County.”

A longtime general counsel for The MITRE Corporation, Glasner represented the McLean-based nonprofit as a founding member of the Tysons Partnership, which was formed in early 2011. He chaired the board of directors from 2012 to 2014 and became acting president in 2017 after retiring from MITRE.

Glasner says Tysons has become “a huge success story” over the past 10 years, praising Fairfax County leaders for developing a vision for the area in advance of Metro’s arrival with the opening of the Silver Line Phase 1 stations in 2014.

Led by private and nonprofit stakeholders, the Tysons Partnership is dedicated to establishing and promoting Tysons as a distinct brand by supporting community events and other placemaking efforts, economic growth, and transit-oriented development.

“I think we’ve evolved tremendously to have a solid and constructive impact on boosting Tysons as a unified place, tying together what would otherwise be…siloed real estate projects and bringing them together into a cohesive, unified urban community,” Glasner said.

While the Partnership has been mostly funded by member dues, it has also gotten public money in the form of Economic Opportunity Reserve grants from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which first awarded $1 million in matching funds in 2019 for an ongoing rebranding initiative.

A second EOR grant was approved on July 27 to support more branding activities and the installation of a mural outside the former Container Store on Leesburg Pike. The arts project is expected to be finished in October and will help turn the space into “a stage” for community events and activities in conjunction with Celebrate Fairfax, Glasner says.

However, Glasner says the Tysons Partnership will ultimately need a new business model to have long-term stability in terms of both governance and financing.

As the Washington Business Journal has reported, one option is a business improvement district that would be funded by a tax levied on property owners in the area. If that happens, Tysons would be Fairfax County’s first BID, but the concept has caught on elsewhere in the D.C. region, including neighboring Arlington County.

“Tysons is four square miles. It’s the economic heartbeat to the county,” Glasner said. “The Partnership as an organization needs to build itself up as a more robust, deeper capacity, higher performing type [of] organization.”

For his last four months with the Partnership, Glasner says his main goals are to work with the county on a sustainable business model and to keep the organization active in trying to create a sense of place and community in Tysons, which he admits has been difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While vaccinations have enabled the return of some communal activities, such as last week’s Tysons Block Party at the former Container Store, the recent rise in coronavirus cases has revived the unpredictability that has become familiar since March 2020.

“We’re planning things for the next two or three months, both indoors and outdoors, and there’s a lot of uncertainty about what we’re actually going to be able to do, what people are going to be comfortable with,” Glasner said. “This is a moving target, so there’s no question that it’s difficult.”

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