Tysons, VA

In response to a new wave of public feedback, Fairfax County staff has revised its drafted plan to revitalize the McLean Community Business Center.

The changes include harder caps on building heights, guarantees for syncing development to public school capacity, and more specific environmental requirements — all concerns that some community members and civic associations have recently raised.

Staff discussed the changes during a virtual open house on Saturday (Feb. 20).

The draft plan is currently under review as it winds through county processes. It will go before the Fairfax County Planning Commission for a public hearing on Apr. 28, followed by a May 18 Board of Supervisors meeting when county leaders will vote on whether to adopt the plan.

McLean Citizens for Right Size Development (Right Size McLean), a coalition of local neighborhood associations, welcomed the changes.

“We were encouraged to see the proposed changes to the maximum heights by zone and that the plan would spell out the maximums in linear feet, reducing the allowable height of the land parcels that abut Franklin Sherman Elementary School along Chain Bridge Road to 40 feet,” Right Size McLean member Linda Walsh said.

Walsh says the group was also glad to see that the new draft sets stronger environmental goals, especially for tree canopies and stormwater quality and quantity.

The McLean CBC study process began in 2018 when consultant StreetSense worked with members of the McLean community to draft a 10-year “Vision Plan.” Since then, a task force appointed by Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust has worked with county staff to create a Comprehensive Plan spanning 25 years.

According to Foust, task force members, and staff, downtown McLean will become a vibrant, biking- and walking-friendly downtown that creates a real sense of place. The plan envisions a total of 3,850 residential units in the district as well as traffic pattern changes and streetscape updates.

The community business center will be divided into three zones: Center, General and Edge, with corresponding heights for each. The most recent draft does not change height caps for buildings in each zone, but it does specify maximum heights in feet as opposed to the number of stories.

Buildings cannot exceed 92 feet (or seven stories), although one building in the Center zone will be allowed to reach 128 feet (or 10 stories). The developer who is awarded the tallest building will be responsible for creating the two-thirds-acre public plaza envisioned in the plan.

General zone buildings surrounding the Center zone can reach 68 feet (five stories). The county did not make any changes to the Edge zone in the most recent draft. Read More

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(Updated 5 p.m. — This article has been updated to correct the number of residential units being proposed and to expand the sources of residents’ concerns.)

Fairfax County staff are hosting a virtual town hall tomorrow (Saturday) to present changes to a draft comprehensive plan for revitalizing the McLean Community Business Center and hear residents’ opinions.

The meeting takes place from 9-11 a.m. and will be accessible via this link.

The new draft includes changes that address building heights and environmental guidance, Fairfax County Planning Division Director Leanna O’Donnell says. Many of the tweaks were made in response to concerns raised by community members about a draft of the plan that was released on Dec. 9.

“This is an exciting opportunity to bring forward the vision plan developed by the community, take it and get it into our Comprehensive Plan formally,” O’Donnell said. “We look forward to continued engagement with the draft as we move forward.”

Some residents, including a coalition of local neighborhood associations called McLean Citizens for Right Size Development (Right Size McLean), have developed a laundry list of concerns about the December draft plan and representation on a task force appointed by Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust.

Right Size McLean recently issued a survey that drew about 600 responses from an even mix of young and old, new and longtime residents, group member Linda Walsh says.

While the full results will be released later, Walsh said that 90% of respondents oppose bringing the total number of residential units downtown to 3,850 units.

The increasingly vocal opposition comes as a culmination of three years of work by county staff draws nearer. A recommended new comprehensive plan will be presented to the Fairfax County Planning Commission for a public hearing on Apr. 28, followed by a hearing by the Board of Supervisors on May 18.

The McLean CBC study process began in 2018 when consultant StreetSense worked with members of the McLean community to draft a 10-year “Vision Plan.”

“Everyone was invited to participate and hundreds did,” Foust said of the visioning process. “It was a good process and almost everyone who participated was supportive of the Vision that was adopted.”

Residents shared their visions for McLean and the amenities it would offer. The plan outlined incentives to attract commercial and residential developers to McLean with requirements for contributing toward community benefits such as open spaces. Read More

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Tysons Partnership leaders touted the success of Fairfax County’s initial investment in the nonprofit stakeholder group while making the case for a new round of funding to county leaders on Tuesday (Jan. 12).

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors nominated the Tysons Partnership, which was formed in 2011 to help implement the Tysons Comprehensive Plan, for a $1 million award from the county’s Economic Opportunity Reserve fund on Dec. 1.

The organization previously received $1 million in economic opportunity funds from the county in December 2019.

“The Tysons Partnership has been a prudent investor of those initial funds and are here today to request an additional investment to further advance a community-led vision in conjunction with the county,” Tysons Partnership Chairman Josh White said.

According to White, the partnership raised $630,000 in private funds to match Fairfax County’s contribution between the third quarter of 2019 and the second quarter of 2020, resulting in a total investment of $1.26 million.

The partnership has allocated about $1 million so far, primarily to develop materials that define Tysons as a brand. It has also organized focus groups, community surveys, and virtual events, highlighted by the State of Tysons panel on Dec. 10.

White told the Board of Supervisors during its budget committee meeting that the Tysons Partnership has deferred spending about $250,000 intended to support community events and place activation initiatives that have been put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The partnership is returning approximately $370,000 in unmatched funds to Fairfax County. That money will go back into the county’s economic opportunity reserve fund to be redistributed.

If the board approves a new $1 million investment, the funds will go toward marketing, research and data analysis, transportation and mobility projects, and community events, like holiday markets or craft fairs, Tysons Partnership President and CEO Sol Glasner says.

The organization is also collaborating with Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik on a working group focused on finding ways to make the partnership more effective and sustainable.

Glasner says the working group, which held its kick-off meeting yesterday (Wednesday), will deliver its recommendations to the county board and the Tysons Partnership board of directors by the end of this year, with the goal of implementing all of the proposals by January 2023.

The Board of Supervisors will vote on whether to approve the $1 million in economic opportunity reserve funds for the Tysons Partnership when it meets on Feb. 23.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says investing in the partnership will be critical for the future growth of the Tysons area.

“The activities that the Tysons Partnership will need to be engaged in, while they may not be ideal in this pandemic environment, they will be necessary as a part of our economic recovery when we get to that point,” McKay said. “So, I would make the case that this has never been more important than now.”

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The Town of Vienna has hired the real estate consulting firm Streetsense to conduct a market study and formulate an economic development strategy that the town can use to support and attract businesses.

The Vienna Town Council approved the $100,000 contract last night (Monday). Half of the funding comes from Fairfax County through an Economic Development Support Fund grant.

For the market study, Streetsense will be responsible for analyzing Vienna’s commercial market and proposing policies, programs, and strategies that could improve its competitiveness and address challenges, such as vacancy rates.

The study will be used to create the economic development strategy, which “will provide a roadmap to guide business recovery, better support existing businesses, and bring in complementary new businesses,” the town says in a news release.

“Streetsense has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to retail and other businesses,” Vienna Economic Development Manager Natalie Monkou said. “We’re confident that not only does the Streetsense team have the skill set to complete the market study and strategy development, but that they also understand the need for inclusivity and have the capability to assist the Town in reaching out to Vienna’s diverse businesses and business stakeholders.”

Streetsense was chosen for the project out of 13 teams that responded to a request for proposals that Vienna issued in October. Five finalists were then chosen for interviews by a four-person selection committee that consisted of three town staff members and an economic development professional from the Town of Herndon.

Streetsense will partner with fellow consultant RCLCO Real Estate Advisors to conduct the market study, a process that will include a kick-off meeting, site visits, a survey of consumers and businesses, and conversations with stakeholders.

In its proposal to the Town of Vienna, Streetsense says its analysis will focus on the physical environment of the town’s commercial areas, local economic conditions, demographic and market data, and the town’s administrative capacity and resources.

The need to develop a clear economic development strategy has emerged as a priority for the Town of Vienna after its attempt to encourage redevelopment and mixed-use projects by establishing a Maple Avenue Commercial zone floundered.

The town hired Monkou as its first economic development manager in November 2019, and it is currently working to update its zoning code with Code Create Vienna, a process that is expected to be completed towards the end of this year.

Streetsense says that Vienna is at a “critical juncture” in its evolution, particularly in light of the economic challenges presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Town is in need of a forward-thinking, clear, and actionable roadmap to guide business recovery and resilience efforts, as well as key investment decisions in the coming years,” the consulting firm said in its proposal.

According to the Town of Vienna, the market study and economic development strategy are both expected to be finished this summer.

Staff Photo by Jay Westcott

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday (Dec. 1) to nominate the Tysons Partnership to receive $1 million in additional economic opportunity funds

The funds will help the nonprofit continue wayfinding, business and event promotion, and other initiatives designed to support the growth of Tysons in accordance with the Tysons Comprehensive Plan.

The $1 million will come from Fairfax County’s Economic Opportunity Reserve fund, which goes to projects that are expected to stimulate economic growth in certain priority areas but don’t fall under the county’s capital improvement program or other standard procurement processes.

The county board nominated the Tysons Partnership for the fund in a joint board matter introduced by Chairman Jeff McKay, Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, and Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust.

“Since its inception, the Tysons Partnership has played a key role in the success that Tysons has seen,” Palchik said in the board matter. “…The projected trajectory for Tysons is robust and we need to do whatever we can to ensure that it is maximized.”

According to the board matter, assessed real estate tax values in Tysons have increased from just over $11 billion to nearly $17 billion in the seven years since Fairfax County established the area as a special tax district on Jan. 1, 2013.

The Board of Supervisors nomination is the first step in a review process that the board and county staff undertake before allocating any Economic Opportunity Reserve funds, according to the board matter.

By approving the board matter, the supervisors also directed county staff to work with the Partnership to develop a plan that explains the nonprofit’s role in the Tysons community and identifies governance rules, metrics for success, and a sustainable funding stream.

Palchik says she anticipates any recommendations that come out of the staff and Partnership group to be implemented in the timeframe of Fairfax County’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget.

“Tysons Partnership sincerely appreciates Fairfax County’s support for Tysons as an economic engine for the County and region,” the Tysons Partnership said in a statement.

The Tysons Partnership’s full statement is below the cut: Read More

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After enduring months of construction, Vienna residents and town officials officially welcomed the Cedar Park Shopping Center back to the neighborhood with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a Shop and Stroll event on Saturday (Nov. 14).

Located at the corner of Park Street and Cedar Lane, the 75,472 square-foot shopping center has been transformed by an extensive renovation that introduced new façades for the buildings and a reconfigured parking lot.

“Cedar Park was thoughtfully redesigned with the community in mind and now better reflects the Town of Vienna, which is known for its rich history and small-town culture,” First Washington Reality senior vice president and national director of leasing Wright Sigmund said.

First Washington Realty has owned the Cedar Park Shopping Center for the past 13 years, and much of that time had been spent in conversations about how to update the property, according to CEO Alex Nyhan.

Work on a revitalization began in earnest about five years ago with the goal of creating a more contemporary, welcoming environment for both visitors and tenants. JL Architects designed the new look, which includes new signage and outdoor benches.

However, the most substantial undertaking of the multimillion-dollar renovation project was the parking lot redesign.

In addition to sporting a repaved surface and additional crosswalks, the lot has been reoriented to run parallel to the storefronts, instead of perpendicular, making it safer, more accessible, and easier to navigate.

Nyhan admits that revamping the parking lot was a challenge, but the effort was worthwhile to attract new tenants while retaining longtime Cedar Park occupants like Dollar Tree, McDonalds, and Hunan Delight.

“We’ve had some wonderful merchants with us here at this center for a long time,” Nyhan said. “…In the end, our ability to create this community gathering place has everything to do with the merchants and their ability to invest in their people and their stores and deliver wonderful services to this community.”

Still anchored by CVS Pharmacy, Cedar Park Shopping Center added three new tenants while it was undergoing construction, which started on Jan. 25 and finished on Oct. 15:

  • El Sol Restaurant & Tequileria, which specializes in traditional Mexican street food and has a mezcal bar
  • Simply Social Coffee, a café with locally roasted, gourmet coffee and comfort foods, including salads, sandwiches, and breakfast food
  • Born 2 Dance, a dance studio whose headquarters were previously located on Maple Avenue

Cedar Park’s relaunch comes at a critical time for the center’s businesses after the COVID-19 pandemic compounded the challenges of operating during a construction project that closed off foot traffic. Read More

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(Updated on 11/12/2020) Capital One expects to unveil a 1.2-acre sky park with food trucks, a bar and beer garden, games, a dog run and an amphitheater in time for summer 2021.

Nested on top of the newly open Wegmans grocery store, The Perch is part of the second building to be completed in the 24.25-acre Capital One complex. Two more parts of the project are slated to open in the fall of 2021: the Watermark Hotel and the Capital One Hall.

From The Perch, Capital One Center Managing Director Jonathan Griffith said the public will “view Tysons from a completely different vantage point.”

For him, that perspective applies to the company’s mission to mix employees and Tysons residents.

“We are trying to separate from the notion that this is for only Capital One employees,” he said, citing The Star, a shopping and dining destination inside the Dallas Cowboys’ new training facility in Frisco, Texas, as inspiration.

The Watermark Hotel and two residential buildings will surround the Perch. The 300-room hotel will be managed by B.F. Saul Hospitality, whose flagship property is The Hay-Adams luxury hotel in Washington, D.C.

The Watermark will no longer be one of two hotels on campus, after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a request to change a planned hotel into an office building.

The Watermark Hotel is slated to open next fall, while construction on the residential towers could begin in 10 years, Griffith said.

Until the residential towers go up, semi-permanent installations will “activate the space,” including an old-school double-decker London tour bus and an Airstream converted into food trucks, Griffith said.

From the Sky Park, people can see the glassy Capital One headquarters, completed in 2018, as well as a 30-story office building with two floors of retail.

These developments fit with the trifecta of “live, work and play,” but Griffith said a fourth component, “culture,” is missing.

To fill that gap is Capital One Hall, with a 1,600-seat theater and 250-seat black box theater, as well as vaulted event spaces, large restrooms, plentiful concession areas and an expansive coat room, he said.

Capital One Hall General Manager Jamey Hines described both performance venues as “tight in feeling and room focus, but not uncomfortable.”

“People on the edges have just a good view and the audience won’t feel far away from the performer,” he said.

Having two options impacts the performer, too. “I’ve found that you have to create the room, so people achieve in the room, through seating,” Hines said.

Capital One, Fairfax County, and ARTSFAIRFAX are working together to ensure county agencies and Fairfax County Public Schools get access to 15% of the hall’s bookings at discounted rates. Already, the manager is looking to fill dates for 2022-2023.

Hines has mapped out some events and is gauging what people want to see.

The pandemic has given Capital One Hall more opportunities to be added to a multi-city tour, but he anticipates the Hall will be a bigger destination for one-time shows and productions. Hines encouraged those who are interested in dates to join the email list at capitalonehall.com.

Capital One Hall and The Perch will be open to weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, galas and functions for nonprofits, concerts and speaker series, Capital One Center marketing and community affairs manager Meghan Trossen said.

The coronavirus pandemic has sped up the building pace, now unencumbered by traffic, but the supply chain has been disrupted, impacting shipments of materials and equipment, Griffith says.

Through it all, he said Fairfax County has done “an incredible job” accommodating construction during the pandemic, implementing measures such as inspections via FaceTime to keep employees safe.

Photo courtesy Capital One

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(Updated at 12:05 on 10/30/2020) Town of Vienna residents and visitors are invited to enjoy the crisp fall weather and live entertainment while supporting local retail during the town’s first-ever Vienna Shop & Stroll.

It is the biggest and longest initiative organized by the Town of Vienna Economic Development Office, which will soon celebrate its one-year anniversary after being formed in November 2019. The town’s business liaison committee and the Vienna Business Association are partners on the event series.

Each Saturday through Dec. 12, designated shopping centers will host safe and socially distant seasonal activities and in-store promotions. Locals and visitors are encouraged to meet business owners and learn more about the history of the shopping centers.

“It grew out of the fact that we need to come up with creative ideas throughout this time,” said Natalie Monkou, the economic development manager for the Town of Vienna. “The more creativity, the better.”

The Vienna Shop & Stroll kicked off last Saturday (Oct. 24) at the Vienna Shopping Center (180 Maple Avenue), where seven businesses participated. It featured two pop-up opera concerts by emerging artists at the Kennedy Center’s Washington National Opera. The singers performed two micro-concerts from the Concert Truck, a Maryland-based pop-up truck that aims to make classical music more accessible.

“I’m actually pretty pleased with what happened on Saturday,” Monkou said. “It was set at one of the busiest shopping centers in town, so it was a great place to kick off what we could do for other locations.”

The pop-up concert truck was “a great way to remind people that Vienna is accessible to all,” Monkou said.

Future special programming will remain in the realm of music and art to avoid direct competition with the shopping centers. Concerts are also family-friendly and a great way to manage social-distancing guidelines, Monkou says.

“If we are going to provide something, we want it to be something that we can count on families to enjoy with little ones,” she said.

Because the Economic Development Department is so new, “everything we’re doing is a pilot,” Monkou said. “Depending on the participation from tenants and property managers, we’ll see if the [Shop & Stroll] is an annual thing.”

She emphasized engaging property owners because they have a role to play in the success of the town.

“When their businesses don’t do well, we all suffer,” she said. “We all benefit when we come together to do something that’s off the beaten path.”

Here are the dates and locations for upcoming Shop & Stroll Saturdays:

Correction: This article previously described the Vienna Business Association as the organizer of Shop & Stroll. The VBA is a partner with Vienna’s economic development office as the main organizer.

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A consultant hired by Fairfax County has rounded up some thoughts from regional government, business and non-profit leaders on what was hit most by the pandemic and where the most help is needed.

The feedback is one of the first steps on HR&A’s task of building an Economic Recovery Framework, a recovery strategy commissioned by Fairfax County and the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.

“This strategy will guide the County through stabilization and outline recommendations for fostering an equitable, inclusive recovery,” HR&A said in a report on the preliminary findings of their study.

In the initial findings, county and civic leaders highlighted the disproportionate impact of the virus on Latino and immigrant populations in Fairfax. The pandemic has also affected access to housing, with lost jobs leaving families without the ability to pay rent.

“Continue to invest in programs that support economic mobility and enrich residents’ lives (job training, continuing education, disability support resources) despite budget shortfalls,” said one unnamed County leader sourced in the findings.

Meanwhile, non-profit and health service providers said their capacity has been under-strain and expect further fundraising challenges in the upcoming year. Suggested solutions mainly involved streamlining services and trying to find efficiencies.

Major employers in the region, meanwhile, said decisions about real estate investments are being deferred until more certainty can be stablished, balanced only by hopes for a more efficient permitting process and a doubling down on tourism and leisure investments.

Smaller employers said they are still struggling with a lack of consumer confidence in returning to businesses and negative impacts have rippled along the supply chain. Many small businesses in the area are still focused on survival. Proposed solutions included more clear safety guidelines, streamlined online permitting, and rent deferment for small businesses.

More analysis of potential recovery scenarios is currently in the works, with a final report being drafted after that.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Downtown McLean could see new development over the next 10 years, after Fairfax County adopted a new program last Tuesday making it cheaper and faster for developers to build in revitalization districts.

Developers whose plans meet certain criteria could benefit from real-estate tax breaks, a 10% reduction in site plan fees and a fast-tracked process for zoning applications if they build in McLean, or one of the other five revitalization district in the county.

The Board of Supervisors adopted the Economic Incentive Program on Sept. 15 to give the private sector incentives to revitalize and redevelop properties in a half-dozen commercial revitalization districts, including McLean.

The program was established by an ordinance that amends the county code.

Other qualifying districts include:

To qualify for the lower costs and faster application processes, developments must be commercial, industrial or multi-family residential. Proposals need to be new and should consolidate at least two neighboring parcels of land totaling at least two acres.

Proposals need to align with the county’s Comprehensive Plan for redevelopment, and follow all laws and policies regarding affordable housing.

Developers will only receive tax breaks for their proposals if they act within the 10-year timeframe specific to their revitalization area. McLean’s window for the tax cut starts on July 1, 2024 and lasts through June 30, 2034.

The county plans to make the application process and forms available later this fall. Those who are interested can connect with county staff and discuss their eligibility by emailing Community Revitalization Section Director Elizabeth Hagg at [email protected]

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