Tysons Corner, VA

Tysons may soon get a rebranding to encourage economic growth.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is considering investing up to $1 million dollars in the Tysons Partnership, which plans to rebrand the area while establishing a “sustainable business and funding model” for the nonprofit association.

Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth introduced the proposal, which also is backed by Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins and Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, to the board on Tuesday, July 30.

“The Tysons Partnership is implementing a multi-year, place branding strategy and campaign for Tysons. They have engaged with a design firm to develop a place branding strategy to elevate Tysons and create a shared message for the diverse range of stakeholders,” according to the proposal.

Tysons Partnership hopes to have the strategy development done by December, so that it executed next year, according to the proposal.

The board tasked County Executive Bryan Hill to examine the potential use of these funds between $500,000-$1 million before it decides if the investment would be worthwhile.

Any funds granted by the board would also be matched by private donors, according to the proposal.

Image via Fairfax County

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There is a new job opening for an economic development manager in the Town of Vienna.

This opening is part of a larger plan to revitalize local businesses. Responsibilities of the manager will include supporting unique and independent businesses, along with working under the town council to execute a new economic strategy.

Vienna Town Council members began discussing the implementation of the new position two years ago, in order to expand economic development and diversity business, Public Information Officer Lynne Coan told Tysons Reporter. She hopes that the new position will expand the opportunity for growth and bring in residents from neighboring communities to shop and dine.

The Town Business Liaison Committee and Vienna Business Association also support the implementation of this position, she said. Coan said the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors takes the two groups’ opinions on such matters into consideration, especially the Vienna Business Association, which is run by a private group.

Though specific tasks will be required of the new manager under the economic development plan, the manager will have room to “build on their strengths,” Coan said.

According to the job listing:

Bachelor’s degree, with major work in economics, business administration, marketing or closely related field; five years’ experience in corporate or municipal administration, economic development or marketing; some experience in commercial real estate, site selection process; substantial experience in interacting with and marketing to senior-level executives.

The pay ranges from $79,475-$127,956, per year, depending on experience. Funding for the new position will come from the general town budget.

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(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) Earlier this week, the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority announced that it had poached Arlington’s top economic development official, Victor Hoskins.

Currently the head of Arlington Economic Development, Hoskins recently wooed Amazon and its HQ2 to Arlington County. Come August, he will become FCEDA’s new president and CEO — one year after its now-retired and longtime leader, Gerry Gordon, announced his plans to leave.

Tysons Reporter talked to Hoskins about how he plans to head up one of the largest economic development agencies in the country.

“I’m done in Arlington.”

Hoskins said he entered the process for the FCEDA role back in May during the agency’s second hiring search for the position.

Back in December, he told ARLnow that he planned to work for Arlington County until the office vacancy rate dropped from its then-18 percent rate to 10 or 12 percent.

With a current rate of 16.7 percent, Hoskins said that Arlington County has “nothing to worry about” with Amazon coming in. Hoskins said that the career move is coming at the right time — “Yes, I’m done in Arlington.”

“If you look at my history, I pretty much do what I need to do and move on,” he said. In the case of both his former economic development role in D.C. and his Arlington County job, Hoskins, who describes himself as a person who likes to finish projects, said that he leaves once he’s accomplished the specific challenges of a job.

New Challenges Ahead 

“What I look for in a career change is a challenge,” he said. “This is a different kind of challenge. Just the size of the market is pretty amazing.”

Hoskins said he is looking forward to encouraging companies in Fairfax County to recruit and train more top workers with a talent-focused strategy.

“We already have a lot of talent residing [in Fairfax County],” he said. “We need to keep the people we have.” A part of that will include offering more opportunities to retrain employees with skills like cybersecurity coding, he added.

He also said he would like to see FCEDA get more closely involved with the county’s Department of Housing and Community Development, in addition to continuing work with the Planning Commission, Virginia Department of Transportation and other county agencies to set priorities.

Additionally, Hoskins said that the county could use more work on placemaking.

“The size of Fairfax County makes it difficult to create places — concentrated nodes of activity,” he said, which could include creating more urban villages around the Silver Line stations and making “a nexus between residential and commercial nodes.”

Another area Hoskins wants to work on is making Fairfax County more attractive to millennials.

Some ideas he has: creating places where people want to work and eat outside, offering more housing choices, making “interesting environments” and strengthening mass transportation.

Hoskins was quick to note that many of the challenges he mentioned are not unique to the county, which he praised for its global reputation and competition with places like London and Paris.

“Fairfax is amazing right now,” he said, lauding the county’s quality of life, including its public schools and parks. “Fairfax has it all. What we’re trying to do it to move it to the next level.”

Amazon’s Impact on Fairfax County

While Fairfax County lost its bid for Amazon, Hoskins said that the tech giant will impact Northern Virginia, from adding a plethora of new job opportunities to a “back and forth between employees and employers” with Amazon and local companies.

Hoskins also mentioned a recent report by the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors and the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis, which estimated that roughly 33 percent of Amazon’s workforce would live in Fairfax County, while 16.4 percent would live in Arlington.

“It’s a higher percentage than [Amazon employees who] will live and work in Arlington,” Hoskins said.

On a larger scale, Hoskins said Amazon will transform Northern Virginia into a more innovative environment that will increase the private sector.

“[Amazon will bring an] innovation focus to the region where companies begin thinking differently about how they work,” he said.

Hoskins starts his new role on Aug. 5. Until then, he said he will help with the leadership transition at his current job before having two to three days off.

“Building an economy is more like solving a very complex puzzle,” he said.

Photo courtesy Fairfax County Economic Development Authority

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Funding for two positions to help alleviate two very different crises in Vienna was salvaged by last-minute savings.

Digging around the proverbial sofa to find extra funds for previously unfunded priorities is a time-honored local budget tradition. In Vienna, that took the form of $400,000 recovered from transferring repaving to a cheaper system and changes in the town’s health insurance structure.

In response, Town Manager Mercury Payton proposed $383,000 worth of items that were not funded in the budget that could be financed by the found-funds in the final budget.

The largest item among the unfunded priorities was $144,600 for an economic development manager — a long-discussed idea in Vienna.

Despite more businesses opening than closing in the town, Vienna is still struggling with rampant closures from small businesses. The manager would help assess problems facing local business and develop strategies to help keep businesses in town. Vienna is currently the only locality in Northern Virginia without a person working specifically in an economic development role.

The list of unfunded priorities also includes $50,000 for an economic development and market study.

The other crisis addressed in the list of priorities is handling the town’s massive wave of tree deaths. Over the last few years, every ash tree in Vienna has been killed by the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive parasite that’s devastated North America’s ash tree population.

But the town is also dealing with the still-unsolved mystery of what is killing the town’s Norway maples. The death tally reached 30 earlier this year, and Town Arborist Gary Lawrence said the killings were so similar to the Emerald Ash Borer deaths that at first the deaths were mistaken for that infestation.

The list of unfunded priorities includes $69,364 for an assistant arborist and $20,000 to help handle tree maintenance.

A public hearing on the tax rate is planned for April 29 and adoption of the budget is scheduled for May 13.

File photo

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Despite a large number of vacancies on Maple Avenue and some recent high profile closures, the Town of Vienna’s Finance Department says twice as many businesses are opening in the town compared to those closing.

Last year, 115 businesses opened and 65 closed, the finance department said, in response to an inquiry from Tysons Reporter.

It’s an optimistic note for a town that, economically, could really use a win.

Last year, Vienna’s commercial vacancy rate was 13 percent. Of the town’s 1,095 commercial properties, 138 were vacant and 68 were on Maple Avenue, according to InsideNova.

But it’s businesses off of Maple Avenue that are being hit the hardest by increasing rents and declining sales. Peggy James, executive director of the Vienna Business Association, said a combination of increasing rents and limited parking availability are making it hard for local businesses to stay afloat.

The Town is taking some steps to make commercial businesses in Vienna more viable, including a plan in the town budget to hire a full-time economic development consultant to focus specifically on ways to make life easier for businesses. Vienna is currently the only Northern Virginia locality without staff tasked specifically with economic development.

In the meantime, here’s a look at some of the more recent businesses to open in Vienna:

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Fairfax County is planning to include McLean in a new targeted economic revitalization plan.

The proposed Economic Revitalization and Redevelopment Zones (ERRZs) would allow developers a 5-10 percent fee reduction for site plan reviews and a partial real estate tax abatement for properties consistent with the county’s Comprehensive Plan. A staff report noted that developments approved through the ERRZ pipeline could also see expedited processing.

The plan is the result of legislation passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 2017 that allowed regulatory flexibility and financial incentives to encourage private sector growth.

“An inter-departmental team developed and vetted with industry a proposal for a program in Fairfax County to provide an economic development opportunity to the private sector consistent with the legislation,” Fairfax County staff said in the report.

In order to qualify for the program, developments would need to have two parcels that collectively comprise at least two acres in size. Smaller acreages could be considered with Board of Supervisors review.

The ERRZs would be located in the Commercial Revitalization Districts first established in 2004.

In addition to McLean, new ERRZs would be established in:

  • Annandale
  • Baileys Crossroads
  • Springfield
  • Lake Anne Village Center
  • Richmond Highway Business Centers
  • The Huntington Transit Station Area
  • The Lincolnia Community Business Center
  • Franconia-Springfield Transit Station Area

At tomorrow’s (Tuesday) Board of Supervisors meeting, the scheduling of a public hearing for the ERRZ ordinance is included in the items scheduled for administrative approval. If approved, a public hearing would be scheduled for April 9. If adopted, the changes would take effect on Jan. 1, 2020 and would last until Dec. 31, 2029.

Photo via Fairfax County

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Morning Notes

FCPS on Two-Hour Delay — Fairfax County Public Schools are opening today on a two-hour delay due to dangerous cold and potentially hazardous travel on local roads. [Reston Now]

Metro Delays This Morning — Expect some delays if riding Metrorail this morning, in part due to fewer trains running amid the bitter cold. [Twitter]

Vienna Businesses Want More Economic Development — “Vienna’s business environment flourished in 2017 but weakened noticeably last year, highlighting the town’s need to hire a specialist to improve its commercial prospects, according to the 2018 annual report submitted by the Town/Business Liaison Committee (TBLC).” [InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

Video: Students Brawl at McLean McDonald’s — Cell phone video shows dozens of students from McLean and Langley high schools brawling in the McDonald’s at the corner of Old Dominion Drive and Dolley Madison Blvd. No one was reported injured from the fracas, which happened Friday night after a basketball game between the two rival schools. [Fox 5]

McLean Community Center Closing Early — In addition to the early dismissal for Fairfax County Public Schools, other weather-related early closings are being announced today. Among them: the McLean Community Center is cancelling all classes that begin at or after 1 p.m. [Twitter]

Fairfax No. 2 on Va. Net Worth Rankings — “Fairfax County is ranked #2 in a SmartAsset study showing the top 10 Virginia counties with the highest net worths. Despite having the highest per capita income on the list, Loudoun County came in only at #7 due to also carrying a significantly higher per capita debt burden, also the highest on the list.” [Fairfax Times]

Potomac School Student is Top Science Talent — “Carolyn Beaumont, a senior at the Potomac School, has been named a Top 40 Finalist in the 78th Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and mathematics competition for high-school seniors.” [InsideNova]

FCEDA Touts New Businesses, Jobs — “In 2018, the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) worked with 143 businesses that announced the addition of more than 8,900 jobs to the Fairfax County economy.” [Fairfax County EDA]

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The cost of living in Tysons is high — most of the new residential developments around Tysons advertise their new living units as “luxury” — and there’s a good reason why.

And as developers fight over the last few pieces of prime real estate near Metro stations, some are admitting that the cost of setting up shop in Tysons is unlikely to go down anytime soon.

At Bisnow’s Tysons State of the Market event yesterday (Thursday) at 1600 Tysons Boulevard, developers met to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the region over the next few years.

“Costs have risen,” said Gary Block, chief investment officer for the Meridian Group, developers of The Boro. “It’s tough to underwrite new residential development today. Rents have to be very high to justify development.”

One of the biggest drivers of cost in Tysons is also one of the biggest draws: nearly unlimited density. Speakers at the State of the Market event said a high capacity for density means developers are looking to get more out of each plot of land, which means building up, and that means using more expensive steel frames rather than wooden frames.

“Wood frame is an option,” said Jim Policaro, senior vice president of Lerner. “But you’re giving up potential density. You’re going to have more noise issues with wood frame construction, but the net effect is rent that might be slightly lower. If you’re willing to give up some density and sacrifice the height you can get, it’s definitely a viable option.”

But the market for residential development in Tysons is focused on areas near Metro, areas where density is king.

“Residential coming into the market is driven by density, “said Mark Carrol, executive vice president of Skanska Commercial Development. “These locations are within walking distance of the Metro.”

Developers said a boosted demand for higher-end residential development will likely be one of the main impacts of the new Amazon headquarters in Arlington.

“Not everyone can live in Arlington, or wants to,” said Policaro. “Employees who are married with children might see Tysons as a laudable option for residential.”

Carrol added that from a cost perspective, developers have seen an escalation of almost 7 percent in this market. If there are residential developments that are more affordable than the new luxury developments, they will have to be in places further away from Metro access.

“Those further away from the Metro are going to have to make certain changes and accept the fact that their rent streams are going to be significantly lower,” said Brian Tucker, managing director for JLL.

As for who is moving into these high-end residential developments, Bob Kettler, founder and CEO of Kettler, said half of the people moving into condominiums in the area are “empty nesters” — older couples whose children have left their home. The other half is split between professional couples and affluent single professionals.

Kettler also noted that the demand is still very present for high-end residential, with prices on units moving up three times over the last four months.

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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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