Tysons Corner, VA

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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The long-awaited Tysons Technology Park near Leesburg Pike is about a month away from opening.

The athletic field just south of the intersection of Leesburg Pike and the Beltway will replace a surface parking lot with a five-level parking garage and a full-sized athletic field. The athletic field includes amenities like LED lighting, bleachers and bicycle racks.

The project was built as part of a proffer — an accommodation from a developer to qualify for zoning exemptions — from the Meridian Group for the nearby Boro project. Once opened, the field will be operated and maintained by the Fairfax County Park Authority.

Mike Killelea, a communications manager with construction contractor L.F. Jennings, said the project is a few weeks from completion.

“We should be turning it over to the Park Authority by the middle of May,” said Killelea “We should be done with construction by May 1.”

Killelea said after the handover to the Park Authority, the project will likely have to go through some paperwork and review before the it opens. Staff at the Park Authority said that until the park is handed over, it would be difficult to determine exactly how long that process will take, but that ribbon-cutting for the park is still tentatively planned for mid-late May.

Image courtesy L.F. Jennings

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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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If you were thinking of getting your head shaved, doing so tomorrow (Wednesday) at the Boro will net $5,000 to be donated to the Boston Children’s Hospital.

Granite Telecommunications, a communications provider based in Boston with an office in Tysons, will set up a shaving booth for the company’s Shave to Save campaign. The fundraiser will be held in the Boro’s tenant lounge on the first floor of 8255 Greensboro Drive.

The fundraiser will run from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

“Granite will donate $5,000 for every head shaved,” according to a flyer for the event. “Hair grows back! Make a difference in someone’s life on April 3! No experience necessary!”

This isn’t the first time the company has hosted this kind of fundraiser. The “Saving by Shaving” event dates back to 2014 after Granite CEO Rob Hale jokingly dared a colleague to shave their beard.

Photo via Twitter

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The Whole Foods in The Boro is officially scheduled for a launch sometime in late summer or early fall, and several restaurants and smaller retailers are waiting in the wings to piggyback off that launch.

The Whole Foods is part of Boro Place, which has commonly been dubbed the retail spine of The Boro.

Furniture retailer Ethan Allen is set to form another entrance to the Boro Place, filling a two-story location at the corner of Boro Place and Westpark Drive.

Caroline Flax, a senior analyst for the Meridian Group, told Tysons Reporter that the restaurants and retail of Boro Place are planned to launch alongside the Whole Foods.

The idea of the development phases being brought online together rather retail than trickling in one-by-one as they were completed is part of a broader strategy to make The Boro feel like a commercial sector to rival the Tysons Corner Center mall.

Flax said a few contracts are still being finalized for the development, but here’s what we know is opening along Boro Place:

  • North Italia — A full-service Italian restaurant planned to occupy 6,200 square feet
  • Flower Child — A fast-casual restaurant with a focus on healthy food
  • Fish Taco — A D.C.-based taco chain
  • Tasty Kabob — The brick-and-mortar location for a popular local food truck
  • Tropical Smoothie Cafe — A national smoothie chain
  • Colour Bar Studio — A second floor of The Loft building on Boro Place
  • Akira Ramen & Izakaya — A soba noodle restaurant offering a variety of ramens
  • Poki DC — A Hawaiian-inspired cuisine with counter-serve style poke bowls.
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The developers behind The Boro — a sprawling project scheduled for staggered openings throughout the year — have filed paperwork for a plan to work with the company WhyHotel to turn unleased rental units into temporary hotel rooms.

“Given the large number of units in the building, the applicant anticipates that the initial lease-up period for the Rise will be at least 18-24 months,” Elizabeth Baker, senior land use planner for the developers, said in a report on the project. “During this period not to exceed 24 months, the Applicant proposes to temporarily utilize up to 150 market rate units throughout the building for short-term residential or hotel stays.”

The report notes that the stays would be coordinated and managed by WhyHotel, and the guests would have access to the residential parking garage in the building and amenities like the fitness lounge, club room, yoga studio and rooftop swimming pool.

As a bonus, the report says the short term residents would be more likely to use transit or alternate modes of transportation, resulting in a temporarily reduced demand on parking and single occupancy vehicles trips around the site.

There are no architectural design changes resulting from the proposal and at the end of the 24-month period, the temporary use would be terminated.

“The request represents a modest and relatively short term change in use for the property that will be positive for the Boro project and the county,” Baker said in the report.

A staff report and Planning Commission hearing are both scheduled for May.

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(Updated 2:40 p.m.) — The Boro, the Meridian Group’s 1.7 million-square-foot development that aims to compete with Tysons Corner Center Mall as the commercial heart of Tysons, is inching closer towards completion.

The first opening is Boro Tower, which has already started opening to tenants.

“As of right now, we’ve delivered the Boro Tower,” said Caroline Flax, senior analyst for the Meridian Group. “Tegna moved in January.”

The Boro Tower is part of Block C, which includes the Showplace Icon theater building. Flax said the movie theater building is complete, with tenants finishing their build-out inside the space.

The residential and retail towers of Block A at the development’s northern point are scheduled for an opening later in the summer. Flax said the 25-story luxury condominium “Verse” tower, a collaboration between the Meridian Group and Kettler, is planned to open this fall. Pre-leasing for residential units for “Rise,” a 27-story apartment tower, will begin in the spring with move-in scheduled for the summer.

Much of the site’s premier retailers are located along Boro Place, the pseudo-main street of the Boro development. The street is currently undergoing its final round of paving.

Flax said many of the openings on Boro Place hinge on the timing of the region’s largest Whole Foods opening.

“Boro Place is going to open in coordination with Whole Foods, which is looking at late summer, early fall,” said Flax. “A lot of tenants don’t want to open until they do.”

Flax noted that most of the restaurants and retail in the development have already been announced, but that the company is still working on a couple contracts for retail occupants.

“We’re excited to get everything open and ready for the general public,” said Flax.

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Tech company Cvent announced an expansion in Tysons last year, and now that expansion is bringing a host of new jobs in the Tysons area.

Cvent creates software for businesses to organize meetings and events. The company signed a 72,000-square-foot expansion that will see the company occupy three floors of Boro Station at 1765 Greensboro Station Place.

The company is advertising a total of 67 jobs. Among those, the company is looking to hire:

There’s a handful of internships with the company available as well:

Photo via Facebook

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A brand new suite of retail options has just been announced for The Boro, a large development near the Greensboro Metro station planned to compete with the Tysons Corner Center mall as a commercial hub.

The largest of the new tenants is a two-story Ethan Allen furniture store, according to a press release from the Meridian Group. The store is relocating from a Route 7 location and opening a 11,500-square-foot location at the corner of Boro Place and Westpark Drive.

Six other new retail locations were also announced, including:

  • Colour Bar Studio: a hair salon offering a variety of services including coloring and haircuts. The 3,400-square-foot salon, Colour Bar’s second in Northern Virginia, will be on the second floor of The Loft along Boro Place.
  • Paris Baguette: a French bakery offering an assortment of breads, pastries and cakes baked daily, as well as chef-inspired sandwiches and salads. Paris Baguette’s second location in Northern Virginia, the 2,600-square-foot café will be located on the ground floor of Boro Tower at the corner of Broad Street and Solutions Drive.
  • Akira Ramen & Izakaya: a restaurant that makes its own Soba noodles and features an open kitchen. This is Akira Ramen’s second location and they are opening a 2,000-square-foot restaurant on Boro Place, across from Whole Foods Market.
  • Tysons Nail Lounge: the lounge will be an expansion of Mint Nail Lounge, a premier manicure, pedicure and waxing lounge in the Mosaic District. The 1,600-square-foot location on the second floor of The Loft.
  • Poki DC: a 1,400-square-foot location offering poke as well as freshly-brewed bubble tea. Poki DC will open on Boro Place, adjacent to Akira Ramen.
  • Verizon Wireless: will offer phones, accessories and support services. Its 1,400-square-foot store will be on Greensboro Drive.

The new stores are scheduled to open alongside the 69,000 square-foot Whole Foods Market, ShowPlace ICON Theaters, and other retail sometime later this year. The exact date has not been announced.

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The Boro, one of the largest new developments transforming Tysons, almost didn’t happen — at least not in the form that it’s coming together now. More startlingly, it was also a fight to keep the nearby Tysons Biergarten alive for a transfer to a new site.

At Bisnow’s Tysons State of the Market event last week, several of the developers working on the Boro and surrounding projects met to offer a behind-the-scenes look at the project.

According to Gary Block, chief investment officer for developer The Meridian Group, some of the earlier development plans would have brought new developments online as soon as they were completed, but Block said they decided it was more important to open the development in a series of larger-scale phases.

“We knew we had a tiger by the tail,” said Block, “so after buying land, we tried to combine best of Reston Town Center and Fairfax City center, and we had to globalize and create a phase one that was all things to all people, a different type of retail that would compete favorably with the [Tysons Corner Center] mall. It had to be a different kind of office and a different kind of residential.”

The project also has funding support from the Rockefeller Group, though there was some initial hesitation about investing in Tysons.

“This was the first venture by Rockefeller in Tysons,” said Hilary Allard Goldfarb, regional development officer for Rockefeller Group. “We were nervous, but there’s a lot of office stability here.”

Several developers at the event recognized that developing in Tysons can be a gamble, especially with a portion of the site dedicated to costly residential units.

“It was tough looking at this initially to look at the numbers and justify development,” Bob Kettler, founder and CEO of the construction company Kettler. “But fueling the next wave of vertical construction was the right choice. Greensboro Drive is the Gold Coast of Tysons. It’s the highest land and you now have your core environment, and that is priceless. Now people have to deal with construction costs higher than when this project was priced out. If it was $850 million when [the Meridian Group] purchased it, it’s $1.1 billion today.”

Block said the announcement that Whole Foods would be moving in as a ground-floor retail anchor was a turning point for the development, one that cemented confidence from other investors.

“Whole Foods was a game changer,” said Block. “It’s [going to be] the largest in the country. It’s such a great place and people are going to be so happy with what they’re seeing.”

Now, Block says the final retail spots are starting to fill up.

“It’s like planning a wedding,” said Block, “and we’re down to the last few tables.”

But one of the pieces that almost got lost in the shuffle was the Tysons Biergarten, one of the few bright spots of Tysons’ nightlife. Donna Shafer, managing director for Cityline Partners, said finding a new home for the Biergarten was more of a challenge than she expected.

“There came a point when construction was advancing that [the Biergarten] was looking for a new home,” said Schafer. “We are firm believers in pop-up activities and the Biergarten did a good job of capturing that market. We don’t want these guys to leave Tysons, so we raised our hands and said, ‘We’ve got a lot of real estate, we’re happy to make a home.'”

The Biergarten would eventually land at Cityline Partners’ Scotts Run development, but the permitting for finding that new space was more of a challenge than Schafer had initially expected.

“We thought it would be an easy process, but while we have a fantastic comprehensive plan, there are moments where I think everyone’s heart is in the right place but this plan is operating like code or black letter later,” said Schafer. “So the flexibility has dissipated. So for us, it meant eight months of work, tens of thousands of dollars, and a hundred-page staff report for a pop-up Biergarten. I hope it becomes a pivot point… to help facilitate a good conversation without sacrificing goals.”

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