The water tower in central Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)
Fairfax County formalized its partnership with the Tysons Community Alliance earlier this week with a new agreement outlining the community improvement organization’s mission and structure.
Under the memorandum of understanding (MOU) approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday (July 11), the TCA will turn to the county as a primary funding source going forward, even though it will operate independently as a nonprofit.
Tasked with promoting and advocating for Tysons as a community, the alliance will request funding through the county’s annual budget process, but the county has no obligation to fulfill the requests.
The group will also seek supplemental support from grants and “alternative revenue streams,” according to the agreement.
The unique financing model will require the TCA “to show our continued value” not only to Tysons, but also the county as a whole, CEO Katie Cristol told FFXnow in a recent interview. She assumed her position as the organization’s first permanent CEO on July 5.
“There are a lot of competing interests and needs throughout the county,” Cristol said. “…In literal dollars and cents terms, it’s a reinvestment back in Tysons so Tysons can keep delivering even more revenue for the good of the county, but it also, we hope, is going to generate some of these lessons learned that others will benefit from.”
Established last fall with $2.5 million in county funding, the TCA is responsible for implementing the county’s vision for Tysons as a downtown community where people live and work, not just a collection of offices and malls.
As outlined in the MOU, the group’s priorities will be communications and marketing, placemaking, research and business support, and transportation and mobility, including support for infrastructure improvements.
Some of that work is already underway, from community events to an ongoing strategic planning effort. Later this month, the TCA is expected to release an economic market study with data that could help it make the case that Tysons is a worthy investment for the county.
At a Board of Supervisors economic initiatives committee meeting last month, TCA Board of Directors Chair Josh White reported that Tysons brings in 8% of the county’s tax revenue.
“Can we take a small, small share of that and reinvest it back into the Tysons to support that overall growth?” Cristol said. “So, that was part of the idea, and the [TCA] governance is built around really giving government a strong voice.”
Cristol says the local government’s closer involvement separates TCA from similar nonprofit organizations that are typically supported by property or business owners, such Arlington’s business improvement districts.
In addition to potentially providing funding and having representatives on the TCA’s board of directors, the county will require annual reports from the alliance and collaborate on initiatives like public space enhancements, according to Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik, who represents much of Tysons.
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, whose district includes a western portion of Tysons, said he had hoped to see the TCA integrated with the existing Tysons Transportation Service District when it comes to funding road, sidewalk and other transportation projects.
“There’s still some work to be done to integrate those two concurrent activities,” he said at the board meeting.
The service district, which is funded by an annual tax on property owners, could complement the TCA’s funding for those projects, but the money won’t necessarily go directly to the alliance, according to Cristol.
Scott Sizer, a division manager in the county’s Department of Economic Initiatives, said the MOU was “written broadly to accommodate any future changes.”
“We hope it is a pilot that will be successful and will lead to other pilots in the county, but there is always a possibility to amend and to terminate,” Palchik said. “An MOU is a legal document, but I think it’s important that we be able to monitor [the TCA’s activities] and continue to ensure and hopefully see success.”
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