Newsletter

An office building from the 1970s could be demolished to make way for a modern skyscraper along the Capital Beltway in Tysons.

The 11-story, 135-foot tall Park Place I (7926 Jones Branch Drive) is slated for an overhaul. Property owner B.F. Saul Real Estate Investment Trust is looking to replace it with a building with ground-floor retail, a terraced plaza, outdoor seating areas, and “trophy-class office space,” according to application materials.

The developer is seeking a special exception from Fairfax County to waive certain requirements, including an increase in the site’s permitted building height, to make way for the project.

“Compared to the existing building, the proposed Park Place I building will be rotated 90 degrees, thereby opening up views, light, and air through the site and creating symmetry with the adjacent Hilton Worldwide headquarters building,” Mark Viani, a land use and zoning lawyer for the project, said in a July 2 statement of justification to the county.

Viani, who works with the Arlington-based law firm Bean, Kinney, & Korman, noted that the current building remains in operation but “is outdated and is 100% vacant of all tenants.”

B.F. Saul previously submitted plans for an 18-story building in 2018, when it sought to obtain a parking requirement exception. Under its current plan, the redeveloped property would provide 1,842 spaces — more than the 1,506 spaces required.

As part of improvements, the owner would provide 4,040 square feet of urban park space at the property along Jones Branch Drive, which also would be widened to accommodate a new bike lane.

Park Place II (7930 Jones Branch Drive) would not be affected by the redevelopment project. The 147-foot tall office building was built in 2008 and remains home to Hilton’s corporate headquarters.

The proposed construction project is in a C-4 High Intensity Office District county zoning area, which restricts a building height to 120 feet and requires a front setback of 54 feet.

Under the names Tysons Park Inc. and Tysons Park Place II LLC, B.F. Saul is requesting permission for the new building to be 175 feet high and other waivers, including a 41-foot front setback.

The proposal calls for amending a special exception that was approved in 2000 and permitted the Park Place II to reach up to 150 feet in height but maintained Park Place I’s current height, according to the application.

As part of the justification in the request, Viani noted the county’s Tysons Comprehensive Plan calls for buildings up to 175 feet tall in that area based on its proximity to Metro stations. He says that by building “up” rather than “out,” the applicants will better improve pedestrian-oriented spaces and on-site open space.

“Its location along a prominent road makes it a desirable site for additional height to help create a stronger building identity and sense of place in Tysons,” Viani wrote.

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The Boro Tower is going to get a little more crowded in the upcoming months, even as uncertainty persists over the COVID-19 pandemic’s long-term impact on the demand for office space.

The Meridian Group and Rockefeller Group, the developers behind the Tysons office building, announced yesterday (Wednesday) that the law firm Williams Mullen and defense contractor Hanwha Defense International will both be relocating to the tower later this year.

According to a press release, Hanwha will lease 2,768 square feet on the 440,000 square-foot tower’s 18th floor starting in June as it seeks to expand its U.S. presence.

The South Korean conglomerate, which employs approximately 44,000 people across 22 countries, currently has an office in Crystal City, Arlington.

“Hanwha Defense International is excited about the opportunity to continue its growth inside the United States, in particular at Boro Tower in Northern Virginia,” Hanwha Defense Senior Executive Vice President Bernard S. Champoux said. “Our new offices in The Boro offer us the ability to further demonstrate another step in our commitment to our U.S. defense clients. We look forward to joining the already impressive tenant base inside The Boro.”

Hanwha will be joined in September by Williams Mullen, which is leasing 14,950 square feet on the Boro Tower’s 16th floor.

The full-service law firm primarily operates in the mid-Atlantic region with about 240 attorneys in offices across Virignia, D.C., North Carolina, and South Carolina. Its new offices in the Boro Tower will replace its nearby existing office in Suite 100 of 8300 Greensboro Drive.

“Williams Mullen is thrilled to be making the move to Boro Tower,” Woody Fowler, the law firm’s president and CEO, said. “It’s a terrific location and it’s move-in ready with excellent amenities.”

With the new additions, the Boro Tower will be 80% leased with 89,000 square feet of office space still available. Existing tenants include Alion Science and Technology, the accounting firm KPMG, media company TEGNA, and the law firms Hogan Lovells and Womble Bond Dickinson.

Located at 8350 Broad Street, the 20-story Boro Tower was completed in 2019 and includes lobby-level retail space in addition to office space. It is part of The Meridian Group’s 15-acre The Boro mixed-use development near the Greensboro Metro station and Tysons Galleria.

Rockefeller Group Senior Managing Director Hilary Allard Goldfarb says Hanwha and Williams Mullen will make “outstanding additions” to the Boro Tower.

“They demonstrate the kind of interest Tysons has continued to experience from prospective tenants in the DC metro market,” she said. “Companies and organizations are looking forward, especially in the DC metro, to the workplace requirements of the future. Boro Tower, with its ease of access and really exceptional on-site amenities, checks a lot of boxes for organizations in the market today.”

Photo courtesy The Meridian Group

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Morning Notes

Fairfax County School Board Adopts Budget — The Fairfax County Public Schools fiscal year 2022 budget includes funding for 50 new positions for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students, school-based technology specialists, and 18 new social worker and psychologist positions to meet state requirements. It also covers technology support fees previously charged to families and a 2% market rate adjustment for all employees. [FCPS]

Bike to Work Day Is Here — The D.C. area’s annual initiative to encourage people to ride their bicycles to work marks its 20th anniversary today. The Tysons area has pit stops at Tysons Corner Center, the Mosaic District, and the MITRE Corporation headquarters in McLean, where cyclists can pick up a complimentary T-shirt, win giveaways, and in some cases, get a free bicycle tune-up. [Bike to Work Day]

Park Police Chief Calls Ghaisar Shooting “Tragic” — Park Police Chief Pamela Smith called the 2017 shooting of McLean resident Bijan Ghaisar “tragic” yesterday (Thursday) when announcing that the agency will outfit all officers with body-worn cameras by the end of this year. She didn’t comment on Fairfax County and Virginia prosecutors’ recent request that the Justice Department take up the case against the Park Police officers, which is now in federal court. [WTOP]

Scott’s Run Security to Intensify on Memorial Day — The Fairfax County Park Authority will increase the presence of security at Scott’s Run Nature Preserve in McLean starting on Memorial Day (May 31). Security personnel will be on site throughout the week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. to enforce park rules, including the prohibition of alcohol and glass bottles and safety measures in the waterfall area. [Patch]

Mill Street Building Sold for $5 Million — The 23,000 square-foot building at 319 Mill Street in Vienna was sold last week to a local businessman identified as MITCO Mill Street LLC. Zoned for retail or industrial use and occupied by three long-term tenants, the property is part of an effort to revive Mill Street with new retail businesses, including a Cubesmart that’s now under construction. [Vienna Business Association]

McLean American Legion Post Honored — “It took an extra year because of pandemic-related delays, but American Legion Post 270 in McLean and its former commander, W. Glenn Yarborough, on May 19 finally received ceremonial copies of honorary resolutions passed last year by the General Assembly.” [Sun Gazette]

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McLean’s Chesterbrook Shopping Center has changed hands for the first time since the early 1980s.

After managing the property for almost two decades, Federal Realty Investment Trust has now acquired the 89,625 square-foot shopping center at 6244 Old Dominion Drive for $32.1 million, the real estate brokerage firm KLNB announced on Friday (May 7).

The entire transaction took less than four months to complete, according to a press release from KLNB, which represented the previous owner, Chesterbrook One LLC.

“Chesterbrook Center is well positioned for significant growth and perfectly aligns with our Northern Virginia strategy,” Barry Carty, Federal Realty’s senior vice president of East Coast acquisitions, said. “We were thrilled to work with KLNB on this sale and look forward to building on the previous owners’ decades of work to grow Chesterbrook into a destination center for the community.”

According to KLNB, the Chesterbrook Shopping Center had been owned by the same family since the early 1980s and has been anchored by Safeway since 1965.

Other tenants include Starbucks, Walgreens, Bank of America, BB&T Bank, Mylo’s Grill, New Star Asian Bistro, and the dog daycare and boarding facility Playful Pack, which officially opened yesterday (Monday).

Federal Realty has served as the center’s operations and leasing manager since 2002, which will allow for a “seamless transition” in ownership, Federal Realty Corporate Communications Manager Brenda Pomar says.

“With its close proximity to Tysons, Arlington and Washington D.C. along with the impactful amount of daily vehicular traffic on Old Dominion and the strong demographics surrounding the property, Federal is excited to explore opportunities for Chesterbrook,” Pomar said.

Old Dominion Drive gets about 18,000 vehicles per day, according to KLNB.

Federal Realty’s leasing brochure for Chesterbrook states that 137,751 people live within a three-mile radius of the shopping center, and the area’s median household income is $172,080.

The plans for the property going forward are not yet clear, but Federal Realty Vice President of Asset Management Deirdre Johnson says the acquisition supports the property manager’s overall strategy for Virginia, which is fueled by the area’s “strong job growth, desirable demographics, high barriers to entry, and business-friendly climate.”

Federal Realty’s other Tysons-area properties include Tysons Station, Pike 7 Plaza, and the Pan Am Shopping Center on Nutley Street in Vienna, along with Falls Plaza, Graham Park Plaza, and Idylwood Plaza in Falls Church.

Federal Realty sold a portion of Graham Park Plaza last year to the developer EYA, which is replacing the vacant retail space with townhouses. The company is also rebranding Falls Plaza as Birch & Broad as part of a renovation project that’s expected to finish later this year.

“Chesterbrook presents many opportunities to create a unique and special community destination,” Johnson said. “We are currently exploring options and look forward to announcing future plans.”

Photo courtesy KLNB

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Tysons-based Gannett is merging with fellow newspaper chain GateHouse to form what is by far the largest newspaper publisher in the country.

The merger was announced Monday and will result in a behemoth that owns 1 in every 6 newspapers in the U.S., including hundreds of local daily and weekly papers and the flagship USA Today national paper. The debt-financed, cash-and-stock deal was valued at nearly $1.4 billion.

The combined company will be called Gannett and will continue to be based in Tysons, at the Valo Park office complex, at 7950 Jones Branch Drive. Gannett signed a 12-year lease on the space in 2015.

Valo Park was sold by TV station owner TEGNA, which was split from Gannett and is now based at The Boro in Tysons.

Photo via Valo Park

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Relocating is a part of office culture. But when the company moves just a few blocks away, some experts say it could be the sign of a healthy office market.

One of the most notable moves in Tysons was auditing giant KPMG LLP’s announcement last October that it would be moving from 1676 International Drive to the Boro, a project nearing the final phase of development.

On the surface, a move like that would have a minimal economic impact. Some local experts who spoke to Tysons Reporter said that moves like this allow companies to obtain relatively prime office space at low costs.

KPMG LLP not only got a newer, larger office out of the move, but also a $1 million grant from the Commonwealth’s Development Opportunity Fund and other tax credits.

The move also pushed Brandywine Realty Trust — the owners of 1676 International Drive — into a $20 million renovation that currently includes plans for a new flexible office space

Professor Frank Shafroth, director of the Center for State and Local Leadership at George Mason University, said the move could also be a positive sign that the region has a strong standing in the competitive Northern Virginia race to fill office vacancies.

“If they are moving in the same community, it means the community has the right amenities,” said Shafroth, “so I would guess there are certain unique benefits to them — and no harm to the community, because, clearly, in considering a relocation, they would have considered Arlington or other spots.”

Photo courtesy Brandywine Realty Trust

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Morning Notes

Free Rides to Tysons — The new Fairfax Connector Route 467, which runs from Tysons to Vienna to Dunn Loring, is now operating and is free for the month of April. [Twitter]

Law Firm Finishes Move to The Boro — “Womble Bond Dickinson is excited to announce that it has completed its move to the new Boro Tower effective April 1… [The law firm] will occupy the entire 15th floor of the Boro Tower, consisting of approximately 24,000 square feet of office space.” [CityBizList]

New Falls Church Ice Cream Shop — “Falls Church just got a little sweeter with the opening of Kiln & Custard at Lincoln at Tinner Hill, 455 South Maple Avenue. The business will celebrate its grand opening Sunday, April 7 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.” [Patch]

Vienna Named ‘Tree City’ Again — “Vienna has been certified as a ‘Tree City USA’ by the Arbor Day Foundation for the 18th time, and will host a special event on Friday, April 26 at 5 p.m. at the Vienna Community Center.” [InsideNova]

Mamma Mia! in McLean — “Langley High School concludes its 2018-2019 theater season with an international hit sensation: Mamma Mia!. It will play on April 25-27 at 7 p.m., April 28 at 2 p.m. and May 2-4 at 7 p.m. and May 5 at 2 p.m., 2019 at Saxon Stage Theater at Langley High School.” [McLean Connection]

Falls Church Van Break-ins — “Falls Church Police are seeking two suspects for breaking into the same van three times. Video from the latest break-in shows one suspect inside the van.” [Patch]

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Technology contractor Applied Insight is packing up its bags in Ashburn and setting up camp in Tysons.

The company announced earlier this week that it will be moving into 1850 Towers Crescent Plaza, part of the Towers Crescent complex.

The new headquarters will function as a hub for the business as it moves into research and development on cybersecurity and cloud infrastructure projects for the federal government.

“Our move to Tysons is about convenience and collaboration,” John Hynes, CEO of Applied Insight, said in a press release. “It’s a more central location for the leadership team to come together when we need to.”

Hynes said the company already spends a lot of time meeting with customers in Tysons, making the new headquarters a more convenient spot.

“The new space also has great facilities for bringing our people together for training and collaboration on new projects, particularly in technology development and business development,” Hynes said. “It’s part of fostering the creative culture that will be key to our long-term success.”

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At least according to one real estate broker, realtors looking to expand outside Tysons, Reston or Arlington County should be looking into commercial redevelopment in Vienna.

In an article published by the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, Frank Dillow, a senior commercial broker in Long & Foster’s Commercial Division, pointed to 2014’s approval of Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) zoning as a step towards flexible zoning to attract new developments.

“Vienna’s interest in rethinking its downtown comes as suburban communities throughout Northern Virginia react to residents and developers seeking to transform existing retail outlets into more modern lifestyle community centers featuring restaurants and entertainment,” Dillow said.

The approval of MAC zoning regulations are part of an effort by the Town of Vienna to combat rampant vacancies throughout the town. The new regulations allow buildings up to four stories tall and greater density than usual to be considered for Maple Avenue, a primary thoroughfare in Vienna.

But the MAC zoning has also come under fire, from the public and members of the Town Council, for what is seen as too quickly and too radically altering the character of downtown Vienna. Controversy over MAC zoning led to a moratorium on new proposed developments until a review process for the ordinance can be completed. That review is currently ongoing.

But Dillow said in his article that local residents are increasingly understanding the necessity of added density.

“Increasingly, people understand that to achieve their community goals and create a vibrant place to live, the community needs different types of development — different types of density,” Dillow said. “As Northern Virginia continues its rapid commercial transformation, realtors should be looking beyond the current well-publicized developments in Tysons, Reston or Arlington County, to expanded opportunities in the commercial redevelopment occurring in older, more established communities such as Vienna.”

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Weekend Notes

Winter Storm Approaching — Some 2-5 inches of snow are expected to fall on the Tysons area Wednesday. Much of the region is now under a Winter Storm Warning. [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]

FRIT Opening Tysons Office — Maryland-based Federal Realty Investment Trust, which owns the Pike 7 shopping center, is planning to open an office in Tysons to better manage its Northern Virginia properties. [Washington Business Journal]

Sheriff’s Office Alerts ICE — “The Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office notifies U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities when a possibly undocumented immigrant in its custody is scheduled to be released, a written notice given to inmates says.” [Fairfax Times]

Programming Note — For those of you used to seeing Morning Notes on this site, or on our sister sites of ARLnow and Reston Now, we’re changing things up a bit here. Instead of a daily post, we will now be doing a once-weekly roundup of Tysons, McLean, Vienna and Falls Church-related items in the news since last Friday.

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