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Space in the Kingston, one of the newest residential buildings in the growing Tysons East, is disappearing quickly.

Tysons has a residence deficiency, with roughly 100,000 jobs but only 19,000 residents. But the demand is there, with the 319-unit Kingston filling up faster than predicted in the project’s initial lease-up timeline. Currently, 44 percent of the building is leased.

A residential unit in Tysons isn’t cheap either. There are 64 workforce dwelling units on the site, housing required by the county to be set aside as affordable, but the market rate rents start at $2,000 per month for a studio apartment. Two bedroom units cost $3,200 per month and three bedroom units lease for approximately $5,200 per month.

A press release for the apartment community highlighted the “high-end events” regularly hosted by the property management.

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The three-story office building at 380 Maple Street in Vienna, a squat brick structure from the 1970s, could soon be replaced with a new mixed-use development.

At tonight’s Board of Architectural Review meeting, the Board will review a proposal to replace the building with 7,500 square feet of retail and 40 residential condominium units. The new development will include a dog park for residents of the building.

The development is proposed to have one floor of below-ground parking and two floors of structured above-ground parking.

The developer is also proposing to plant a series of trees along the surrounding streets as part of the development’s streetscape improvements.

The building is proposed as part of the Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) zoning, which last year was at the center of a controversy surrounding a new development a block away.

A previous work session on the new development was held on Dec. 14.

Photo via Google Maps

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How is Tysons progressing in its quest to become America’s “next great city?”

A pair of upcoming events are planned to look at the current state of Tysons’ economy and where it should go from here.

The first, a “State of the Market” event next Thursday (Jan. 24), will focus on the development of the local office and retail markets. The event is hosted by Bisnow, a commercial real estate news organization.

The event will be held at 1600 Tysons Boulevard. Tickets to the event are $99.

Breakfast and networking start at 7:30 a.m. A discussion of continuing Tysons’ development boom starts at 8:30 a.m., followed by a discussion of how the new developments around the Greensboro Metro station will impact the market starts at 9:15 a.m.

“As we look at 1.5 million square feet of office under construction, 1,800 multifamily units to deliver, and massive mixed-use developments in the pipeline, the area shows no signs of slowing down,” Bisnow said in the event description. “With a few years of booming development, is the market fully built?  How much more construction does the market need to see? Northern Virginia is poised for growth, but is it growing quick enough to meet the supply being delivered?”

One week later, the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce will host its 27th Annual Economic Conference. The central theme of the conference is a review of the last ten years of development in Tysons and examining economic indicators for the area’s future growth.

The event is scheduled for Jan. 31 from 7:30-11 a.m. in the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner at 7920 Jones Branch Drive.

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Update 4:25 p.m. — Lynne Coan, communications and marketing manager for the Town of Vienna, said the Vienna Town Council removed pedestrian bridges and digital information board from the strategic plan and changed “get rid of planters” to “enhance streetscapes to encourage walkability”

As the Vienna Town Council begins to craft a new strategic plan, one of the largest sections of the document focuses on how to revitalize the town’s economy.

A full draft of the plan can be found in the agenda for the Jan. 15 Town Council work session. The strategic plan’s stated aim is for Vienna to serve as a “location of choice for unique, independent businesses that add to the town’s charm, attract visitors as well as residents and collectively serve to establish the town as a destination.”

So far, that’s been a challenge for Vienna. While there are new businesses, many of the largest additions are retail chains, and the western end of Maple Avenue suffers from rampant vacancies and “blight” like the burned husk of Marco Polo.

The strategic plan points to plans to update the town’s zoning code as one of the largest projects in the next year related to new economic development. The strategic plan says the aim is to start work on addressing the zoning code in spring 2019. The process is anticipated to take 18 months.

Part of the plan to make Vienna a destination also involves making it more walkable. The plan includes a series of recommendations on how to make Vienna more pedestrian friendly:

  • Make wider sidewalks a part of new Maple Avenue Commercial developments
  • Get rid of planters to allow more walking area
  • Enhance traffic-light timing to improve crossing Maple Avenue
  • Add more pedestrian-controlled signals on Maple Avenue
  • Start a local bus shuttle service to walkable destinations in Vienna

To help diversify the economy and bring in non-chain businesses, the plan recommends hiring an economic development consultant or deputy town manager to focus specifically on economic development. One of the recommendations would also loosen some of the sign ordinance restrictions, allowing businesses to get waivers allowing signs and balloons for events on Church Street, as well as additional way-finding signage.

In an effort to reduce the rampant vacancies, the plan recommends providing a link on the website to current vacant properties and opening up those spaces for pop-up arts or other short-term uses.

The plan also says that the current Town Green could be utilized more effectively as a social hub for Vienna, with recommendations for the square including bringing events with food trucks into the area.

Additional proposals in the strategic plan include:

  • Implement campaigns such as restaurant week
  • Celebrate small business week for a whole week, starting on the date of the Church Street Stroll; ask businesses to come up with deals to offer that whole week
  • Create a mobile app with an interactive business map
  • Create an app and printout for a Vienna walking tour focusing on local history and points of interest
  • Publicize where to park off-hours
  • Host more events that draw people to the commercial area
  • Create a Vienna dining and restaurant directory
  • Create a Chocolate Escape event; ask all businesses to feature a low-cost chocolate items as part of event
  • Host a Casino Night; have live music frequently
  • Encourage more dining options
  • Encourage local groups to adopt a spot and keep it clean
  • Create training centers
  • Feature a business of the week
  • Additional free events: dances, dance lessons, senior events.

Lynne Coan, communications and marketing manager for the Town of Vienna, said the strategic plan is still a work in progress with the Town Council scheduled to consider a draft of the plan in the spring.

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Things are getting better for Tysons’ economy, but slowly.

For offices around Tysons, the boom anticipated with the opening of the Metro in 2014 has been more of a trickle as growth continues at a more sluggish pace than initially anticipated.

The Office Submarket Report on Tysons Corner (their wording, not ours) by Ryan Rauner, an associate broker with Realty Markets, shows a market experiencing steady, if unremarkable, growth.

“Despite slow demand growth at the metro level, some has trickled down to Tysons, helping vacancies improve slightly over the past few years,” the report said. “An explosion in the residential population has not yet been matched by strong office-demand growth, despite four Metro stations opening in the submarket.”

While the expansion of the Capital One facility was a welcome boon, the report notes that most tenants are not actively expanding their footprint and there has been a spate of large move-outs, specifically pointing to public affairs consulting group Interel’s decision to leave Tysons for Washington D.C.’s East End Submarket.

Which isn’t to say there haven’t been plenty of new clients coming into Tysons. Apian announced in April it would be moving to Tysons while Cvent announced it would be expanding its local offices. Facebook is also reportedly looking for space at Tysons II to occupy between 75,000-85,000 square feet.

In 2015, office vacancies in Tysons were near 18 percent. Since then, vacancies have steadily fallen to 15.6 percent. Forecasts for the market show vacancies taking a dip in middle-2019 then continuing a steady decline.

The high supply of office and relatively low demand led office rents in Tysons to face a steep decline from 2012-2014. There’s been some growth there, averaging about 2 percent from 2015-2018, but the report also warned not to view that growth as a trend.

“High vacancies could continue weighing on growth,” the report said. “Rents have continued their increase this year but at a relatively slow pace — as of early December, rents had increased by roughly 2 percent for the year. At the metro level, rents surpassed their pre-recession peak in 2015, but those in [Tysons] are just now reaching that point.”

The report did note that Tysons isn’t alone in its lackluster rent growth, that several other locations across Fairfax have also faced similar low rents.

None of this has slowed construction, however. There was 1.2 million square feet of new office space created between 2014-2017. Last year also saw a record high of office space opening with Capital One’s 975,000 square foot expansion.

The report notes that there are two notable projects underway: The Boro and View at Tysons.

The Boro is anticipated to include 582,000 square feet of new office space. Boro Tower, the main office component of the project, is currently 70 percent pre-leased and is expected to be ready sometime this year.

The View at Tysons is further out in development but is expected to include 570,000 square feet of office space and the region’s tallest building as part of a 2.8 million-square-foot mixed-use development.

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Morning Notes

Big Names Among Potential Galleria Tenants — “Tysons Galleria… is in advanced talks with Tiffany & Co., Apple Inc. and gourmet grocer Balducci’s, in addition to high-end movie theater chain iPic, to open in portions of the space, according to two sources with knowledge of the discussions.” [Washington Business Journal]

Possible Money Motivation in McLean Double Murder — “The newly unsealed search warrant reveals why Megan Hargan might have carried out the crime: Megan’s mother discovered someone had attempted to wire ‘large amounts’ of money from her bank account on the day before her slaying. Pamela Hargan notified her bank the transfer was fraudulent. On the day of the killings, a second transfer was initiated to send money to a title company that was handling the purchase of a home by Megan in West Virginia.” [Washington Post]

Huge Tysons Development Still Looking for Office Anchor — “The developer behind Scotts Run had courted Amazon and Apple in hopes of landing an anchor for its planned 8M SF Tysons development, but neither of those panned out. Cityline Partners now continues to search for a tenant to kick off construction on the project’s office component. Cityline is one of several developers with major Tysons office projects waiting in the wings, hoping to sign pre-leases before breaking ground.” [Bisnow]

FCPS Offering Sub Gigs for Furloughed Feds — “Fairfax County Public Schools, the largest school district in Virginia, is offering substitute teaching positions to federal employees furloughed during the government shutdown. The hiring event will take place Friday, Jan. 11, from 2 p.m.-4:30 p.m. at the FCPS Administration Center, 8115 Gatehouse Road, Falls Church.” [Patch]

Senators Press Administration on Tax Refunds — “Virginia Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-Va.) have sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asking how Virginia taxpayers will be affected by the government shutdown, which has left the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) short-staffed and potentially unprepared for the beginning of the 2019 tax-filing season.” [Fairfax Times]

McLean Foundation Sets Grant Deadline — “The McLean Community Foundation has set a deadline of Feb. 1 for non-profit organizations seeking to apply for its next round of grant funding. The foundation recently awarded nearly $67,000 in grants, including funding to McLean Little League and the Old Firehouse Teen Center, among others.” [InsideNova]

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The area around the West Falls Church Transit Station could start to see some major development soon.

A public meeting is set for Tuesday (Jan. 15) from 7-9 p.m. in the Northern Virginia Center at 7054 Haycock Road to discussed the proposed changes. According to staff at District Supervisor John Foust’s office, more information about the proposed development will be presented at the meeting.

The plan is to allow a mix of uses on property belonging to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and Virginia Tech. The WMATA proposal could include 150,000 square feet of office space, 500 multi-family units in townhomes, and 50,000 square feet of retail. Height limits, currently 45-65 feet, are proposed to go up to 65-85 feet.

Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is looking to add new institutional, office, retail and residential uses to the Northern Virginia Center property southwest of the WMATA property.

Plans for the site allow new development, so long as that work doesn’t interfere with the property’s use as a transit hub and the surrounding road network supports the development without diminishing access to the station.

The plans do not include the Village and Pavillion Condominiums to the southeast along Haycock Road.

In the planning documents, staff said the proposals would encourage a mix of uses in a compact, pedestrian-friendly urban form within a 5-7 minute walk of the station while preserving existing stable neighborhoods near the station.

Photo via Fairfax County Government

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It’s not exactly the university regional experts say Tysons needs to thrive, but a local seminary could be moving into a new office across town this year.

Reformed Theological Seminary is currently seeking a permit for a college/university use in an existing office building at 8227 Old Courthouse Road. The new location would be double the size of the school’s current facility at 1651 Old Meadow Road, near the McLean Metro station.

The staff report says administrative staff would be on the site during the day with classes held Monday through Saturday. The site is anticipated to have 45 total full-time students, with up to 30 present at any given time.

The report notes that properties near the site are primarily being developed with office uses. The building is part of the South Old Courthouse subdistrict along the southern edge of Tysons, which acts as sort of a buffer between Tysons and residential neighborhoods on the outskirts of Vienna.

“The vision for this edge is to retain the existing low-rise and low-intensity character, which provides a transition in scale and intensity from mid-rise and high-rise commercial development along Leesburg Pike to adjacent single-family neighborhoods,” staff wrote.

The meeting is tentatively scheduled to be brought to the Planning Commission next Wednesday, Jan. 16, with a review at the Board of Supervisors on Jan. 22.

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Vienna is working on updating its 50-year-old zoning code, but at last night’s Vienna Town Council meeting, the prospect of the code overhaul raised concerns that updating those ordinances could open a new path for a higher density Vienna.

The Town Council voted in favor of a resolution requesting funds from Fairfax County’s Economic Development Support Fund to update Vienna’s zoning and subdivision ordinances.

While new urban areas with comparatively lax zoning codes have sprung up in Tysons and Merrifield, Vienna is still working with ordinances put together in 1969, and many of those relics of earlier zoning codes written in the 1950s. Staff joked that some zoning ordinances are kept in notebooks in a management office.

Councilmember Carey Sienicki, who announced earlier that meeting that she would not be running for reelection later this year, compared the code to an old station wagon.

“We keep replacing parts and fixing the station wagon from the 1960s, but in reality, there’s a lot of cars out there that work without all of the little patches. We have to take a holistic approach to this and I think this is going to be a benefit to the town in the long run.”

But while the majority of the Council approved exploring new zoning codes, Councilmembers Pasha Majdi and Howard Springsteen, who have both frequently opposed higher density developments, voted against the request.

“When we say we’re not changing the zoning, that’s missing the issue,” said Majdi. “We have ordinances that are woefully out of date. OK, but what is the effect of bringing them up to date? Bringing them up to date means a potential developer has the ability to develop on that land financially viable project.”

Majdi said that rather than being a detriment, the town’s arcane zoning ordinances are a source of strength, forcing developers to work closely with Vienna staff if they want to get a development approved.

“I would bet my entire salary, $10,000, that the recommendation is going to result in higher density, which I oppose,” said Majdi. “When you update the code, you get higher density. If you want higher density, you got Tysons. This is a niche market for homebuyers with a niche appeal. It’s brought a lot of success to our town. We don’t have to be everything to everybody.”

But other members of the Council called Majdi’s bet. Councilmember Douglas Noble said he’d match Majdi’s $10,000 that updating zoning codes wouldn’t automatically result in higher levels of density unless that was something specifically sought out by the Town Council.

“We’re not going to be Tysons,” said Mayor Laurie DiRocco. “We’re not going to be Arlington. We’re going to update the code in a way that’s more understandable to residents, developers and everyone… so it’s all written down and not just in a booklet in a manager’s office.”

Majdi and Springsteen voted against the request, but the resolution was approved on a 5-2 vote.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Developer Buys NADA HQ — “The Meridian Group has acquired the NADA headquarters building and an adjacent development site, adding to its growing Boro District near the Greensboro Metro station in Tysons.” [Washington Business Journal]

Police Expanding Dressing Room Filming Case — Fairfax County Police have added Fair Lakes Promenade and Springfield Town Center to the list of shopping centers where they think 39-year-old Mumtaz Rauf secretly filmed women in the dressing room of stores like Forever 21, Gap, H&M, and Old Navy. Rauf was already suspected of filming at Fair Oaks Mall and Tysons Corner Center. [FCPD]

Park Fees May Increase — “Fees for using the Fairfax County Park Authority’s RECenters, gardens, historic sites, rental facilities and trails would increase under a slate of fee changes proposed by agency officials. The fee package would bring in an estimated $656,000 more revenue, officials said.” [InsideNova]

Tysons Startup Moving to California — “Tysons personal data startup Kork… recently got a $5 million term sheet from a New York-based private equity firm for its Series A round that values the company at $15 million… But the growth has also led to another big moment — Kork plans to move to California in the coming months, according to CEO and co-founder Robert Wensley. ‘We tried really hard to raise money here in D.C. but it’s impossible unless you are cybersecurity of some sort,’ Wensley said.” [Washington Business Journal]

Tysons Startup Raises $10 Million — “McLean-based Verato Inc., which provides cloud technology to consolidate medical records, has raised $10 million in Series C financing… Verato has already outgrown its 6,000-square-foot headquarters, so it plans to move in July to another Tysons space totaling 12,000 to 14,000 square feet.” [Washington Business Journal]

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