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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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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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It’s been nine years since Hazleton Laboratories, later Covance, closed the doors of its facility near Wolf Trap, infamous for its testing on monkeys and beagles — but life could soon be returning to the site.

Toll Brothers, a real estate developer, has plans to build 102 single-family homes northeast of the intersection of Route 7 and Towlston Road. The new project, called Grantstone, is a by-right development that has generated concern among neighbors who say the new development could overburden the nearby roads.

“Despite the fact that it is by-right, they’ve been cooperative,” said Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust. “We’ve had two well-attended community meetings to identify issues of concern. They’ve been willing to work with us. There’s not a lot of things we can do as long as they stick to subdivision ordinance.”

One of the biggest items of concern has been the new development’s impacts on Towlston Road, a two-lane street to the west of the property. The Great Falls Citizens Association passed a resolution last summer calling on the Virginia and Fairfax County departments of transportation to reexamine the issue of how much traffic will be generated on the surrounding streets.

Foust said the new housing development aligns fortuitously with a plan to widen Route 7 from four lanes to six lanes, as well as make new intersection improvements.

“The Department of Transportation will not grant access onto Route 7, so they’ll have to access the site from Towlston,” said Foust. “Eventually, that’s going to work very well since we’re widening Route 7 and the plan is to dramatically improve the intersection at Towlston. [That will mean] adding a couple lanes to the dedicated right and left turning lanes. But that’s a couple years down the road.”

While construction of 102 new homes was planned to start in early 2019, as of yesterday (Wednesday) most of the 113,000 square-foot property visible from outside the “do-not-enter” signs remains overgrown, with cracked roads the only sign of the former facilities. Foust said the development is currently in the site plan review process, and county records show the review was approved on Dec. 21.

Foust said the Grantstone development is being done across two phases, and the first home sales are unlikely to start for another two or three years.

“It’s a long process to go through,” said Foust. “That’s another reason the traffic issue is a little less concerning. We are concurrently making progress on Route 7 widening. By the time they’re fully built, I’m confident Route 7 will be widened.”

The Route 7 widening project hit a snag last summer when the costs came in at $95 million more than was originally estimated. In June, the Board of Supervisors voted to approve $40 million to help close the project’s funding gap.

Map via Fairfax County

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An outdated office building in northern Tysons could be replaced by a new mixed-use residential and commercial development called Hanover Tysons if its rezoning is approved early next year.

The new development would be located just west of Jones Branch Park at 1500 Westbranch Drive.

Currently, the site is occupied by a seven-story office building that was built in 1983 and is currently vacant. Redevelopment of the parcel would also require rezoning, and is scheduled for a Planning Commission hearing in February 2019, with a Board of Supervisors hearing in March.

The new residential building would be between 5-7 stories with 350-400 dwelling units. Portions of the ground level along Jones Branch Drive would be designed to accommodate retail and service uses. In keeping with Fairfax County’s efforts to promote more affordable housing around Tysons, 20 percent of the residential units, or 66 of the potential 400 units, would be workforce housing.

“Approval and construction of the proposed Hanover Tysons development will continue the implementation of the Tysons vision by converting a suburban-style office building into a lively residential community and help address the current imbalance between those who work and live in Tysons,” wrote Elizabeth Baker, senior land use planner for the law group filing on behalf of developer Hanover Co., in the application. “Provision of on-site workforce housing will promote Tysons as a community for all.”

The development would also bring street improvements to Jones Branch Drive and Westbranch Drive, widening them to allow parallel parking spaces, bike lanes, and streetscape improvements.

In addition to streetscape improvements, the application also includes new public and private parks for recreational use. The public park would add 1.12 acres of gardens, trees, walking paths and outdoor seating. The private amenity space would include a new swimming pool.

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As we reported last week, senior housing can be hard to come by in Tysons.

Where it is available, outside of public-private partnerships like the recently opened The Fallstead, most of that housing is expensive. But there are senior living options around Tysons and planned for the area, and a few of them are on the affordable side of the spectrum.

One of the largest projects on the horizon is The Mather, a senior living facility projected to open in 2022 at 7901 Westpark Drive in Tysons. The Mather is a proposed facility from Mather LifeWays, a Chicago-based organization. The Mather would feature large floor-plans with one and two bedroom options, with pricing starting at $650,000.

Priority reservations are currently being accepted for the facility, with early reservations allowing priority in selecting apartments and securing pre-construction prices at the cost of a refundable $1,000 deposit.

The senior living units, meanwhile, are part of the larger Arbor Row development east of the Spring Hill Metro station approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in 2012.

On the more affordable side, there are a few options in the Tysons area with options for lower-income residents.

  • Chesterbrook Residences — A not-for-profit senior living facility founded by three local religious communities. Chesterbrook Residences offers housing based on a sliding income scale, and residents who can no longer cover the cost of their housing are eligible to receive support from the Chesterbrook Continuing Care Fund. Apartment types vary in size and include apartments adapted for residents with disabilities.
  • The Fallstead — A senior living facility recently opened at Lewinsville Center. The facility was built as a partnership between Fairfax County, affordable housing developer Wesley Housing Development Corporation and Hamel Builders.
  • Vinson Hall Retirement Community — A retirement community offering independent living, assisted living, long term care and memory care options. Vinson Hall is open to commissioned military officers of all branches of service or their immediate families, or federal employees with intelligence of national security related departments rated GS-14 or above. A non-profit organization supporting the facility offers financial support for residents.

There are also a variety of more conventional for-profit senior facilities. Most of the housing prices are not available online and dependent on the level of care required.

  • Larmax Homes McLean — Assisted living homes in McLean with services benefitting residents with dementia, Parkinson’s, and other chronic ailments. Larmax operates three homes along Lewinsville Road in McLean.
  • Sunrise of McLean — An international senior living operator based out of McLean. Sunrise of McLean offers assisted living, memory care, hospice, and short-term care options.
  • Tysons Towers Apartments — A senior living facility with apartments. The facility is full but a waiting list is available online.
  • Tysons Woods — Assisted living homes with private bedrooms with shared bathrooms and common areas. Tysons Woods includes medical care like on-call nurses, therapy, and care specializing in dementia.
  • Vienna Manor Assisted Living — Three assisted living facilities throughout the Vienna area, these are facilities with private bedrooms and shared common areas.
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(Updated at 5 p.m.) The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has approved new zoning rules to try and make building elderly care facilities easier.

At its Dec. 4 meeting, the board approved a new zoning district and land use category for continuing care facilities.

The change creates a special set of zoning requirements for retirement communities and nursing facilities. Such facilities frequently combine residential and medical care operations, which were previously not allowed under Fairfax zoning code.

The McLean Citizens Association (MCA) expressed support for the new zoning regulations, but also noted that there were concerns that the new proposals could create development incompatible with low density residential neighborhoods.

We recognize the need for more senior housing and related facilities in an aging county, but also insist on rules that reasonably protect the character of low-density residential neighborhoods,” MCA said in a press release press release.

The MCA resolution called for limits on waivers granted to projects with regards to issues like open space and sufficient parking.

The MCA wasn’t alone in its concerns about the added density. The zoning ordinance includes a maximum building height of 75 to 100 feet tall. Clyde Miller, President of the Holmes Run Valley Citizens Association, spoke at the Board of Supervisors meeting to express concern that the density bonuses granted to for-profit senior living facilities were originally intended to be used by nonprofits.

“The proposal jeopardizes single family residential districts with crowding, overall buildings, bulk and congestion,” said Miller. “Proposed density bonuses should be eliminated.”

Continuing care for elderly residents is an issue of particular importance to McLean, where 30 percent of the population is age 55 or older. McLean’s older population is disproportionately large compared to the rest of Fairfax County, where the median age is under 40.

The county has made some progress in providing senior living recently. In October, new affordable senior living complex The Fallstead opened in McLean after a decade of planning and funding challenges.

But McLean also has a history of struggling with the scale of elderly care facilities. In 2017, the Board of Supervisors rejected a proposal by Sunrise Senior Living to build a 73-room facility on a 3.79 acre lot in McLean after three years of arguments from local citizens that the facility would add to local traffic in an area already overburdened by schools, houses or worship and other senior centers.

At the Board of Supervisors meeting, McLean District Supervisor John Foust praised the MCA resolution and said he shared their concerns about waivers for parking.

“I ran some numbers, and it looks like it can work so I’m comfortable enough to vote for this,” said Foust, “but I understand we’re taking another look at all of this as part of a parking zoning ordinance amendment. This will be reviewed and we will look in great detail at this.”

Foust also noted that, depending on public transportation access, the Board of Supervisors can require additional parking for developments.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the zoning change.

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Morning Notes

Tysons East Aims to Keep ‘Creative Class’ Around — “Lots of people come to the glitzy, suburban Tysons East neighborhood to work, but most of them leave as soon as the workday is over. Tysons wants to change that.” [Greater Greater Washington]

USA Today ‘Firmly Entrenched’ in Tysons — “The company split in 2015, spinning off TEGNA as a separate broadcast television and digital media entity that will soon to move to a new home atop Boro Tower in Tysons Corner. Gannett and USA Today remain firmly entrenched on Jones Branch Drive in the impressive, two-tower campus now known as Valo Park, where the news of the nation and world continues to be filtered through a bustling newsroom.” [FCEDA]

Local Companies Making Acquisitions — Two Tysons-based companies are making notable acquisitions. Global IT services provider Avineon is buying Michigan-based InfoGraphics, Inc. while Capital One is acquiring Wikibuy, a “tech start-up used by millions to price-check while shopping on Amazon.” [Citybizlist, CNBC]

Forum on Anxiety in McLean — “The Safe Community Coalition and McLean High School PTSA will host a screening of the documentary ‘Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety’ on Thursday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. at the high school.” [InsideNova]

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(Updated at 12:45 p.m.) A new five-house cluster subdivision is set to be built at 7327 Georgetown Pike, just south of Scott’s Run Nature Preserve, after the project’s approval at the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors yesterday (Wednesday).

Whether a new trail planned for the site will go forward is still up in the air.

The project includes 1.45 acres of open space along Georgetown Pike, providing a buffer between the homes and the busy street. But what had many at the meeting concerned was a six-foot-wide paved trail planned through this open space.

Attorney Keith Martin, representing applicant Peter Fitzgerald Jr., said neighbors feared the addition of a trail would add to the problem of people parking along Georgetown Pike to access Scott’s Run.

Dranesville Supervisor John Foust confirmed that residents he met with had shared those concerns. Foust said construction of the trail would be postponed until either the parking problem could be worked out or the trail could be connected to a broader network.

“This is a community inundated with parking,” said Foust. “It’s become a parking lot for Scott’s Run. The community is very concerned that this will be even more of an invitation to come in… It’s very unsafe and not something we want to encourage.”

But the postponing of the trail spurred a brief but tense standoff between Martin and Foust.

“If the trail never gets built, does my client get the money back?” Martin asked.

According to Foust, the agreement between Fairfax County and the developer was that up-front funding would be obtained for the trail, but Martin said he has seen proposals like this before that never went anywhere and the money for the project was “sucked into a black hole.”

“Not according to the proffer,” Foust answered. “This is not the time to be talking about this, to tell you the truth… Wow.”

The development was unanimously approved, but not before Chairman Sharon Bulova double checked with Martin that the proffer terms were agreed to.

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Finding a place to live in Tysons can be difficult, even outside of the problems with affordable housing.

Jonathan LaCroix from the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce noted that the ratio of jobs to housing units in the area is lopsided, with roughly 100,000 jobs but only 19,000 residents. So for those hoping to live a little closer to where they work the housing market can be scarce and expensive.

To help, Tysons Reporter has put together a list of apartments and condominiums available to rent or buy currently and a look at housing coming down the pipeline over the next few years.

According to apartments.com and other sources, these are the places in Tysons that are available for rent:

Several apartments and condominiums are clumped together at Park Crest just north of Tysons Galleria:

Other existing condo buildings include:

There are several apartment complexes currently in development:

  • Westpark Plaza – Four planned buildings with a planned 1,300 residential units in two of them
  • The Boro – Several mixed-use development buildings — including the “Rise” apartment tower and “Verse” condominium tower — near the Greensboro Metro station
  • The Monarch – A planned luxury condominium building
  • Tysons West Phase III – A planned development hub that will include 669 residential units
  • Residences at Tysons II – A planned pair of 30-story residential towers adjacent to Tysons Galleria
  • Lumen – A 32-story residential tower with 398 apartment units planned for completion by the end of 2018 and open for renting spring 2019.

Apart from the above list in and around central Tysons, there are also a number of other residential options just east of the Beltway with McLean and Falls Church mailing addresses, including but not limited to: Tysons View, Tysons Glen, Eaves Fairfax Towers, the Oaks at Falls Church, PeachTree of McLean, Tysons Landing Apartments, Regency at McLean condos, Encore of McLean condos, the Colonies of McLean condos, the Commons of McLean, the Gates of McLean condos, McLean Chase condosRenaissance 2230 condos, and the Fountain at McLean condos.

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