Ten years into the plan to transform Tysons from a suburban “edge city” mostly known for its malls into a downtown hub to over 100,000 people and 200,000 jobs, the man tasked with seeing it through said he is optimistic about the future.
“I’m very bullish about Tysons over the long term,” said Sol Glasner, president and CEO of Tysons Partnership. “I’m not going to be Pollyanna and say that we don’t have challenging times that we have to get through. We will get through them.”
Glasner spoke to the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority; taking a measure of the ten-year benchmark of a plan that calls for transforming Tysons into an urban and economic hub by 2050. Even with the pandemic and economic downturn it caused, Glasner said he is optimistic about the future of Tysons.
In 2010, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors passed a “comprehensive plan” to bring more development to Tysons to transform it from a suburban “edge city” into a downtown hub.
But for Glasner, who’s group is charged with assisting to help develop and market Tysons, said branding a city, known mostly for its malls, is a challenge.
“So literally as we speak, we are in the process of identifying a visual image for Tysons that will become our brand,” Glasner said. “You’ll see a lot a lot of manifestations of that.”
A key part of changing Tysons is the four Silver Line Metro stations opened in 2014, which the county plans to serve as hubs as development. Glasner said he envisions that two neighborhoods will crop up around each of the four Metro stations each with “their own vibe and their own texture.”
But transforming the “edge city’ that is full of office parks, parking lots and large malls into a livable and walkable downtown for Fairfax County is still a work in progress. Ten years into the county’s plan, Tysons still faces numerous challenges, namely the cost of housing and finding a way to make the city more walkable, Glasner said.
The cost of housing is a county-wide problem with Fairfax County having the highest housing cost in Virginia, according to 24/7 Wall Street.
But even with the challenges and the COVID-19 pandemic and the recession it has caused, Glasner said he has high hopes for the future of Tysons.
“Our ticket to overcoming the transitory challenges we are facing is what I’ve seen among our Tysons stakeholders,” Glasner said. “People have stepped up to the plate in terms of pivoting to make as much lemonade as you can out of the lemons.”
Photo courtesy Ed Schudel
What factors should businesses consider when making decisions on remote and in-person work during the pandemic? Do employers feel like they will be safe in the office or using public transit?
A message from Tysons Partnership President Sol Glasner accompanying the newly released survey results notes that they are meant to “set a baseline of understanding” that the organization plans to track with another survey in roughly six months.
Roughly half of the more than 700 people who responded to the survey live or work in the Tysons area, according to the results.
Drew Sunderland, Tysons Partnership’s marketing director, told Tysons Reporter that the survey indicates a shift from people relying on government and health officials giving guidance on public health precautions to following their own ideas about what’s safe as the pandemic continues.
The survey covered a variety of factors, from working at home to mask mandates to childcare concerns. Here’s an overview of the results.
Roughly 23% of the respondents said they rely on public transit to return to in-person work and less than 10% said they feel comfortable riding public transit right now. Overall, half of the respondents said they plan to wait until there’s a vaccine before returning to public transit.
Whether people want their commutes back is a different question. Analysis in the survey notes that many commenters are hopeful for long-term change that reduces or eliminates commuting.
Tysons Partnership says in the survey that WMATA and other public transit agencies should visibly enforce safety measures and test new initiatives like special fare zones to encourage riders back.
Kids and Work
Of the respondents, 30% were parents with kids under the age of 18.
The survey found that those parents are 16% more likely to have issues focusing on work, and the 10% of parents who don’t have any childcare support are twice as likely to want to send their kids back to school.
Several anonymous comments linked the ability to return to in-person work with classroom learning. Currently, Virginia is in Phase Three, which means teleworking is strongly encouraged.
For the respondents working full-time (491), a majority said they are working from home. Roughly 49% said they are happy with remote work, while 33% expressed loneliness. When asked why they would want to return to in-person work, respondents said they miss a variety of social interactions.
Safe at Work?
While 70% of the workers who responded said they trust their employer to provide a safe work environment during the pandemic, the employers had a different response with 25% saying they think they have the resources to make that happen.
In total, 32 businesses responded to the survey — 18 of which are in the Tysons area. They flagged the availability of personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies along with access to information about how to create a safe work environment as top concerns.
Roughly 58% of the respondents said they don’t want to return to in-person work unless there is a vaccine or treatment for the virus.
Masks and Preventive Measures
The analysis for the survey notes that masks were the “hottest” topic in the open-ended comments section.
Several comments included in the report addressed concerns around masks, like one person writing that they did not appreciate face coverings as optional in the workplace and others saying that businesses should require and enforce masks wearing.
“Right now, masks should be MANDATORY for every business worker and every single customer, inside or outside,” one person wrote.
Live, Work, Play
The final section of the survey results touched on respondents’ attitudes, comfort and ideas about a variety of activities. Overall, they were twice as likely to say they would shop at an outdoor rather than an indoor one or take part in “economic activities” that are outside.
Under Phase Three, non-essential retail, parks, restaurants and places of worship are now able to fully open. Some places, like fitness centers and entertainment venues, have capacity restrictions.
Roughly 23% of the respondents identified themselves as essential workers. “Essential workers are twice as comfortable engaging in non-work social and economic activities outside the home,” the analysis noted.
Respondents noted that protective measures drive their interest in participating in activities more than rollbacks of government restrictions.
A full summary of the results can be found online.
Photo by Michelle Goldchain
The organization aims to create a public database with localized information from Fairfax County, from commuting patterns to how office and retail space are used.
Sol Glasner, Tysons Partnership’s president and CEO, told Tysons Reporter that the database will make it easier to collect and analyze Tysons-specific information.
The financial support for the hub is coming from Fairfax County’s $1 million — an equal match to Tysons Partnership’s fundraising — to help with the rebranding and work to find a sustainable business model, Glasner said.
After putting out an RFP, Tysons Partnership is now discussing the proposal with a prospective consulting organization, Glasner said. If all goes well, he’s hopeful the data dashboard, which will be available to the public, can be put together by the end of this year.
Glasner said that pandemic seems to increase the need for Tysons-centric data as county officials, planners and the private sector look to address affordable housing, walkability, transportation and development issues in the area.
“It’s like this big tapestry with a lot of moving parts to it,” he said.
Unlike the database, the pandemic may delay the group’s rebranding effort for Tysons. While Tysons Partnership aims to have the rebranding, which is being done with the help of Gensler, ready by early next year, Glasner that it’s unclear how the public health crisis will impact the rollout.
“We need to have a public that is receptive,” Glasner said. “Right now, people are preoccupied.”
Tysons Partnership doesn’t want to encourage large crowds in public places to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, he added.
“It’s very hard to know how all this will play out,” he said about the pandemic. “We could be in this mode for another year, another two years.”
When the rebranding does get revealed, Glasner said that people can expect place-making and place activation to help with community building.
Ultimately, the rebranding is meant to get people to think of Tysons’ four square miles as one place, Drew Sunderland, the director of marketing and placemaking at Tysons Partnership, previously told Tysons Reporter.
“We’re trying to create a common sense of community,” Glasner said.
As for the pandemic’s impacts on Tysons’ urbanization and appeal, Glasner emphasized that the creation of the Tysons Comprehensive Plan and completion of Silver Line Phase One years ago have set the area up for success.
“Tysons is a long term project that is measured in decades — not in months, years or even a single decade,” he said.
A new survey wants to find out how people feel about heading to offices, retailers and entertainment venues during the coronavirus pandemic.
Tysons Partnership created the survey to inform Tysons-area businesses and community organizers as Gov. Ralph Northam rolls back COVID-19 restrictions.
Currently, Virginia is in Phase Three, which means that non-essential retail, parks, restaurants and places of worship can fully open. Some restrictions and guidelines are still in effect — teleworking is strongly encouraged, gatherings are limited to 250 and places like fitness centers and entertainment venues can open with limited capacity.
“I’ve been extraordinarily impressed by how Tysons-based employers pivoted from conventional office work environments to virtual workspaces,” Sol Glasner, Tysons Partnership’s president and CEO, told Tysons Reporter.
Now, the survey will help businesses decide what to do about reopening.
“It’s intended to get at people’s perception and give us some flavor of what they are thinking and [their] level of comfort,” Glasner said.
One part of the survey asks respondents to say when they would feel comfortable in various scenarios, like picking up food, shopping at indoor and outdoor malls and flying on a plane.
The survey, which is currently available online, takes five minutes to complete. Glasner said that Tysons Partnership is looking to end the survey next week and hopefully have results available to share in late July.
The event will include local employers, retail and office owners and county staff focused on transit and economic development to talk about how to creatively address transportation issues caused or impacted by COVID-19, according to the event’s description.
Panelists will include:
- Hillary Zahm of Macerich
- Jon Griffith of Capital One
- Alex Iams of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority
- Eric Teitelman of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation
- Andrea Ostrodka of Toole Design
- Michael Rodriguez of Smart Growth America
The meeting is open to the public and set to run from 4-5 p.m. People will receive the link to the Zoom webinar after they register for free.
Previously labeled as a “hidden gem” for travelers, Tysons also has plenty of opportunities for people who already live in the area too — without even leaving their homes.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are seeking ways to practice self-care.
People who choose to make a mini-vacation out of their self-isolation have special packages from local businesses to choose from.
Food and Drink
In addition to many local restaurants offering delivery and curbside pick-up options, several are putting together specialty menus for date nights and other special events or working to come up with craft cocktails for delivery as well now that booze delivery is legal in Virginia.
Blackfinn Ameripub in Merrifield is hosting a “Crab Fest” April 18-19 that allows people to pick up fresh seafood for an at-home feast. The restaurant requests that people submit their orders by Thursday (April 16) by emailing the restaurant or filling out an online survey.
“The Whole Boat” order includes a dozen crabs, three sides, four drafts or a bottle of wine for $85 plus a $10 delivery fee. Customers can also add on other sides such as shareable cocktails for $12 or another side of mac and cheese for $6.
The Fermented Pig in Lorton is offering special meal packages with an option between an Italian dinner box and a Friday BBQ box.
For $70, people can get a complete barbeque meal set that services up to six people and includes multiple sides and the main course, the website said. With the box, people will receive a full rack hickory smoked St. Louis cut spare ribs, a pound of our hand-pulled pork or pulled chicken, a large mac and cheese, a large bacon baked beans, a medium coleslaw and six dinner rolls, along with two sauces.
The Italian box retails for $72 and includes a a pound of herb sausage, a pound of fresh Foggy Mountain Pasta, 32 ounces of fresh marinara sauce, four ciabatta rolls from Great Harvest Bread Co., four ounces of olive tapenade from Dimitri olive oil and one-ounce herb bread dipping mix, the website said.
Beauty and Entertainment
Mienne Beauty Supply in Vienna (1880 Howard Ave) is a locally-owned shop that is still open and helping people safely get beauty products. Though they are operating with unusual hours, they are offering curbside pickup on many products, the Facebook page said.
The shop, which carries hair dye, nail supplies and similar items, will be open every Saturday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. for people to pick up the products they ordered either online or by messaging staff on the Facebook page.
People can order supplies online and have them shipped to their homes, the website said.
Previously, Tysons Reporter also complied a list of local places that will deliver books to the doorsteps of local bibliophiles.
Exploring the Great Outdoors From Home
For people missing outdoor activities, Visit Fairfax coordinated a plan to help people enjoy activities around Fairfax County.
“Virtual reality offers everyone the opportunity to see what they have to offer from the comfort of home,” according to Visit Fairfax’s website.
There are several virtual attractions around the region including Mount Vernon, the Workhouse Arts Center and Gunston Hall.
While local community centers, Wolf Trap and 1st Stage Theatre are temporarily closed, fans of the performing arts can watch artists perform online.
1st Stage has been posting performances by local artists to its social media accounts. Recently, videos have shown singing by the cast members for “A New Brain,” a show that was supposed to open this spring but then got delayed.
On Saturday (April 18), people can tune in for the “One World: Together At Home” to support healthcare workers and the World Health Organization.
The event is set to have appearances by artists, actors and comedians including Taylor Swift, Ellen Degeneres and Heidi Klum.
A rebranding effort currently underway aims to get people to identify all four square miles of Tysons as one place and not just the area by the two malls.
“It’s not about putting a new logo out there,” Drew Sunderland, the director of marketing and placemaking at Tysons Partnership, told Tysons Reporter. “The goal is to create a sense of engagement here that connects people to place.”
Sunderland said that Tysons Partnership has been working with Gensler since 2019 on a multi-phase branding effort.
“We did a very comprehensive intake of opinions and feelings from our members and also members of the community to get a feeling for the pulse here in Tysons,” he said.
In February, Tysons Partnership’s board approved the “strategic foundation” for the brand strategy, he said.
Tysons Partnership aims to reflect Tysons’ diversity in the new brand that can evolve as Tysons does, he said.
“You’re not talking about one monolithic, homogeneous, urban area — there’s a lot of different characteristics in Tysons,” he said.
As for Tysons’ eight neighborhoods, Sunderland said that the brand will let the neighborhoods and micro-communities — like The Boro — to “establish their own identities but within the greater umbrella of this Tysons brand platform.”
While the rebranding is underway, Tysons Partnership is also looking to establish a new business and funding model for the nonprofit association, which currently relies on members’ dues.
Sol Glasner, the president of Tysons Partnership, has called the members’ dues model “not sustainable.”
To help with the nonprofit’s constrained finances, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a $1 million grant for placemaking events, branding efforts, sponsorship and media outreach. Sunderland said that the grant has been matched by private members.
Sunderland said that relying on members’ dues meant that the group had limited resources when it made its “starter brand” about five years ago, which created decals on the water tank and street banners.
While sometimes lampooned, the use of the water tank for branding stemmed from its historical significance as a Civil War signal tower and convenience due to its height, Sunderland said, adding that people can expect it to be a part of the new branding effort.
“The water tower signage was sort of like a bat signal,” he said. “Tysons is more than just a mall.”
Another previous challenge was promoting pop-ups as part of the “Tysons experience,” Sunderland said.
“We struggled to get the word out that things were happening in Tysons and connecting new pop-ups to a bigger picture,” he said. “These things are not happening in a vacuum.”
People may start to see the new brand later this year, he said.
“We do want [people] to start thinking that the area that surrounds these four Metros is one place,” he said.
Updated 3/5/2020 — Corrects date in second graph.
The new annual report from Tysons Partnership expects Tysons to surpass 110 million square feet of development by 2050.
Tysons Partnership, which is made up of organizations and major employers in the area that want to boost Tysons’ prominence in Northern Virginia, unveiled its new report at an event today to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the region’s Comprehensive Plan.
Barry Mark, the vice president of workplace solutions at Capital One, kicked off the event by saying that Tysons is becoming a vibrant, urban center.
“Tysons is become a hub for top talent, especially in tech and continually provides us with the skilled workforce that we need to succeed,” he said.
Since 2012, 8.9 million square feet of new development and 4,500 new residential units have been added in Tysons, the report notes.
“We have over 40 million square feet of approved unbuilt construction still left in the pipeline,” Jeff Tarae, the chair of the Tysons Partnership Board of Directors, said at the event.
Tysons is expected to quadruple its population from 27,000 to 100,000 and boost its employment by 80,000 jobs when 2050 arrives, the annual report and Comprehensive Plan note.
To prepare for 2050, Tarae said that the Tysons Partnership board teamed up with Fairfax County for an “exploratory process” over the next few years that aims to “elevate the Partnership to a more robust, sustainable organization.”
Calling Tysons the “economic engine of the county,” Jeff McKay, the chair of the county’s Board of Supervisors, said at the event that the county approaches Tysons with a focus on long-term results.
“When you make a commitment to do what we’ve done, you can’t stop midway,” McKay said, adding that “scattered high-density, no sense of place” is his worst case scenario for Tysons.
McKay also pointed to concerns that Fairfax County is working to address: the “affordable housing crisis,” climate change, timing infrastructure work with developments and trying to get young people to move to Tysons.
“We’re in this for the long haul,” McKay said. “We’ve stuck to the long term vision, and ultimately we’re in this now to complete it.”
This story was reported by Catherine Douglas Moran and Ashley Hopko.
Tysons Partnership will receive up to $1 million from Fairfax County to help rebrand Tysons and rethink the group’s business model.
Currently, the members of Tysons Partnership pay dues, Sol Glasner, the nonprofit’s president, told the board in September.
The Board of Supervisors approved the funding, which comes from Economic Opportunity Reserve, on Tuesday (Dec. 3).
The funding could get allocated toward placemaking events, branding efforts, sponsorship and media outreach Joe LaHait, the debt manager for the Department of Management and Budget, told the county board in September.
Tysons Partnership aims to have the rebranding study done by the end of the year, which it will share with Fairfax County, according to county documents.
As part of the approval of the funding, the county requires that the recommendations from the final report do not overlap with the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority and that Tysons Partnership consider funding options as part of a new business model that provide long term sustainability, according to the county.
More from the county:
EOR funding will result in an equal match from the Tysons Partnership, who are fundraising their allocation from their membership. The county will request from the Tysons Partnership at the end of each financial quarter a summary of their fundraising amounts.
The county will then provide an equivalent EOR allocation to the Tysons Partnership. This process will continue following successive quarterly reviews up to a maximum county contribution of $1,000,000.
Several Fairfax County supervisors, including Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth, have said that the funding could help revitalize Tysons with a more “sophisticated” branding approach. In the past, branding efforts have included water tank decals and streetlight banners, Smyth said.
A local organization is hosting a charity tailgate to help people who are experiencing homelessness and struggling youths.
The Tysons Partnership event will have live music from the Decades Band, beer and wine tents, a pop-up playground, arcade games, raffles and a speech from Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, according to the event page.
The event aims to raise funds for Second Story, a non-profit founded in Vienna that works to improve the lives of struggling young adults and people experiencing homelessness.
Tickets are on sale for $30 and include two complimentary drinks. The event will be held outside regardless of the weather.
Drew Sunderland, a spokesperson for Tysons Partnership, said that the organization tries to work with local nonprofits in the regional Tysons area or surrounding communities.
“Second Story was identified as a great partner that was in need,” Sunderland said, adding that their work has a real impact on the Tysons community.
The tailgate is part of the Tysons Partnership’s larger Season of Giving, which raised money for similar organizations, like Food for Others. This year’s other events included a 5k and a happy hour event. In years past, the event has attracted over 1,000 attendees, according to the website.
Second Story supports a variety of people including homeless teens, survivors of domestic abuse and young mothers in northern Virginia, according to their website. The organization matches at-risk youth with counseling, shelter, food or other forms of assistance based on their needs, free of charge.
Teens between the ages of 13 to 17 and young mothers can text TEENHELP to 855-11 if they would like assistance from the program.
The party will last from 5-8 p.m. in Valo park next Wednesday (Sept. 25).
Photo via Valo Park